Octavia Butler’s novel, Dawn, is being adapted for TV by the director of the upcoming A Wrinkle in Time, Ava DuVernay. This is the first time that one of the award winning science fiction writer’s novels will become a television series.
Butler used science fiction to explore universal truths through the speculative lens of extraordinary circumstances. For instance, in her novel The Kindred, she sent a modern African-American woman to the past, tasked with the duty of saving her slave owning ancestor so that she could be born and her family continue. By having her character time travel, the horrors of slavery are made more apparent through the eyes of someone who had not been raised in a world where owning people was “normal”.
In Dawn and its two sequels, an African-American woman is one of the few survivors of the human race after a nuclear holocaust. An alien race, the Oankali, rescue the remaining survivors from a dying Earth, but they do it because they want to breed with them. The novels examine ideas about sexuality, race, genetics and whether humans are fatally flawed.
Octavia Butler won many awards, including two Hugos and a Nebula Award. She was the first science fiction writer to win the MacArthur Fellowship, nicknamed the Genius Grant. Although nominated, Dawn and its sequels did not win any awards. However, Lilith’s Brood, as the trilogy was published as, is a notable work and contains plenty of material for a television series. It’s not too remarkable that Butler’s work has not been seen on TV before, because of the sensitive nature and physicality of her writing. It is perfect for today’s television, where boundaries are so much wider.
Ava DuVernay and Charles D. King will executive produce. King’s Macro will produce, along with Bainframe. Bainframe purchased the TV rights in 2015, which was our first hint that Butler’s work might come to television. Director/writer Victoria Mahoney will write the adaptation.
It’s an interesting project and hopefully will do the trilogy justice.