Monday, February 27, 2006

Death claims Busch, Butler

Authors Frederick Busch and Octavia E. Butler died this past week.

Butler, the first black woman to gain national prominence as a science fiction writer, died after falling and striking her head on the cobbled walkway outside her home in Seattle. She was 58.

Butler was found outside her home in the north Seattle suburb of Lake Forest Park after the accident Friday, and died the same day. She had suffered from high blood pressure and heart trouble and could only take a few steps without stopping for breath.

Butler’s first novel, Kindred, came out in 1979. It concerned a black woman who travels back in time to the South to save a white man. She went on to write about a dozen books, plus numerous essays and short stories. Her most recent work, Fledgling, a reinterpretation of the Dracula legend, was published last fall.

She won numerous awards, and in 1995 became the first science fiction writer granted a "genius" award from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, which paid $295,000 over five years. She served on the board of the Science Fiction Museum.

Busch, died Thursday at Bellevue Hospital Center in Manhattan. He was 64. His son Benjamin said the cause was a heart attack he suffered in a hotel room where he and his wife, Judith, were staying during a visit to New York. Their home is in Sherburne, N.Y.

Busch wrote 27 books, with another scheduled for publication this October. Among his many prizes were the American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction Award in 1986, and the PEN/Malamud Award in 1991.

His first novel, I Wanted a Year Without Fall, chronicled the misadventures of two young men fleeing troubled pasts. It was published it in 1971.

Among is many books, three that the author particularly liked, according to his wife, were The Night Inspector, A Memory of War and Girls: A Novel.

I especially recommend The Night Inspector, Girls and his final novel, North.

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