Octavia Butler was one of the first woman science fiction writers I discovered. I started reading her work when I was in high school and really enjoyed the fact that this was honest-to-goodness science fiction . . . not just romance or family drama that happened to involve living in the future or on another planet like most of the speculative fiction that was aimed at girls during my young life. Octavia Butler was one of those rare authors who could not only examine the human condition, but do it from inside and from outside, and from perspectives the reader wouldn't necessarily expect.
The story starts when Hell breaks loose in her own "safe" neighborhood, and Lauren and her family have to become strong and venture off to safety in search of a place for herself and her kin to replant themselves. She keeps a journal of little revelations which include her life philosophy, including what she has planned for humanity's future among the stars. The sequel, Parable of the Talents, is about Lauren's daughter, and what happens during a religious backlash after society has seriously started going down the toilet. Lauren Olamina and her Earthseed community are pretty much considered heretics and aren't allowed to practice their lifestyle of fostering change toward mankind's growth, and we get to follow the story of her people.
I love that so many of her stories include the voices of women of color, and that her books can make your stomach hurt with the heavy issues and dilemmas her characters face. She didn't forget the fear and the sacrifice that people who defy authority have to deal with, and none of her characters' extraordinary situations have their advantages presented without making their disadvantages really felt. It's heartbreaking that Octavia Butler died so young (at age 58); it's hard to believe that those works of hers currently existing in the world are all we'll ever hear from her.