ALL THAT WE TOUCH, WE CHANGE
A right-wing US presidential hopeful threatens the remaining comfort left to the privileged few, as widespread environmental devastation and economic collapse destabilize imperialist countries like Canada and the US. Families huddle in walled neighbourhoods, keeping organized shift-watch during nights. They work outside the home only one day a week to avoid danger.
This is the uncanny vision of late US speculative-fiction writer Octavia E. Butler, as told in her incomplete trilogy Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998). Butler’s story begins here, but it is by no means where it ends.
In Parable of the Sower, when neighbourhood walls finally fall, people form a community and, together, try to figure out how to survive. There is a shared and ever-shifting understanding of the nature of change, social justice, disability justice and the experience of marginalization and difference. The leaders of a new, emergent “nation” are disabled and BIPOC (black, Indigenous and people of colour), forming an intergenerational collective. Naturally, they come with very different ideas for moving forward, which both aids and challenges their continued survival. They are motivated by the strong words of Butler’s main character, Lauren Oya Olamina: “All that you touch / you Change. All that you Change / Changes you.”
Butler herself experienced a compromised sense of belonging. She was a disabled, black artist, and a woman writing science fiction—a field that remains largely dominated by men and, as Butler often spoke about, can be outwardly hostile toward women and trans-identified writers. Butler’s compromised citizenship inspired her to create worlds in which those of us on the margins could imagine ourselves surviving. She created worlds in which we might storytell ourselves into thriving existence.
Butler seemed to be on the minds of many on November 8, 2016, as they watched in horror as conservative forces swept through the US electorate, taking the presidency and maintaining control of the House and Senate, with at least one Supreme Court appointment to follow. Presidentelect Donald Trump’s slogan, borrowed from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign, mirrored that of ultra-conservative presidential hopeful Christopher Charles Morpeth Donner in Parable of the Sower: “Make America Great Again.” There are other similarities. Donner dismantles the “‘wasteful, pointless, unnecessary’ moon and Mars programs,” and abolishes “‘overly restrictive’ minimumwage, environmental, and worker protection laws.” He gives increasing power to big business,