We are proud to announce the creation of the Infinity Award, with its inaugural presentation honoring the works and career of Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) at the 58th Annual Nebula Awards® Ceremony on May 14.
The SFWA Board voted to create the Infinity Award to posthumously honor acclaimed creators who passed away before they could be considered for a Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award. This new award aims to recognize that even though those celebrated worldbuilders, storytellers, and weavers of words are no longer with us, their legacies will continue to inspire.
Upon its creation, it was also unanimously agreed that Octavia E. Butler would be our first recipient. Beginning with her perseverance in the face of the prejudice she encountered early on in her career, including claims that African American writers–especially African American women writers–could not write science fiction, Butler ultimately went on to earn a MacArthur Grant and a PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award. Butler did more than prove such naysayers wrong. Her works offered prescient critiques of societal issues and visions of what might be possible in different and future worlds. They are now being taught in over 200 colleges and universities nationwide.
SFWA President Jeffe Kennedy remarked, “Establishing this new award is very important to me. Over the years, so many creators have been passed over for the Grand Master nod, for one reason or another. Some died tragically early. Others were not recognized for their work during their lifetimes because of cultural prejudices and blind spots. Others were simply ahead of their time. When we look back at the nearly sixty years of SFWA celebrating SFF creators, there are some who stand out as ones we deeply wish had been given our highest awards. Being able to recognize Octavia E. Butler as our first recipient of the Infinity Award is an inspiring and gratifying first step toward correcting past omissions.”
Courtesy of the Octavia E. Butler Estate
Butler wrote sixteen novels and novellas, multiple collections and chapbooks, and many published essays. Her award-winning work during her lifetime includes “Bloodchild,” “The Evening and the Morning and the Night,” and Parable of the Talents. After her death, the #1 New York Times best-selling graphic novel adaptation of her book Kindred, created by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, received the Eisner Award for Best Adaptation.
In media, her novel Dawn is being developed for television by Ava DuVernay, an opera by Toshi Reagon based on Parable of the Sower was part of The Public Theatre “Under the Radar” festival and toured worldwide in 2018, and Amazon Studios and JuVee Productions are developing a drama series from Butler’s Patternist series, beginning with Wild Seed.
Jules Jackson, directing manager of the Octavia E. Butler Estate, shared the following remarks: “For those who have chosen to pay attention, there is one thing that has become clear and apparent…. Octavia Estelle Butler, the mother of Afrofuturism, has literally written herself into history. And now the Estate is tasked with the honor of archiving, diagramming, and extending the reach of Octavia Estelle Butler’s cherished body of work. Octavia taught her readers to imagine relentlessly, our collective figures…Octavia painted the ‘least respected of us’ into the center of every narrative, re-framing a genre…I am beyond excited to accept this inaugural Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association award, for and on behalf of Octavia Butler, The Octavia E. Butler Estate, and all of the incredible storytellers who are, and continue to be inspired and those who follow in Octavia Estelle Butler’s prescient wake.”
Jackson will receive the award on Butler’s behalf at the Nebula Awards Ceremony. The award will be presented by Chinaka Hodge, writer and showrunner of the upcoming Wild Seeds television series.
Rather than a physical award, SFWA will make a donation to a cause that an Infinity Award honoree supported or that their loved ones request. For this first award, and in future years when a specific charity is not requested, that donation will go to the Octavia E. Butler Scholarship to the Clarion West workshop, which is administered by the Carl Brandon Society.