ustopia

What we might provisionally call ‘reproductive Afrofuturism’ is, I think, the troubled affirmation of survival we find when we hold Butler’s finished works in juxtaposition with her notes, first drafts, and abandoned projects as found in the Huntington. Hers is a futurism that is never 100% sure, where 'optimism’ always threatens to tip over into 'cruel optimism’ instead. Margaret Atwood sees a similar pattern in her own work, calling it ustopia: utopia and dystopia existing simultaneously, in quantum superposition, each one always threatening to suddenly flip into the other. For Butler, it is not just that 'we were never mean to survive,’ as Audre Lorde once put it—we’re not even all that sure we want to, though we must, and we do. Where the improv comic celebrates the 'yes/and,’ for Butler it was always rather the Trickster’s ambiguously dialectical 'yes—but…’
—  Gerry Canavan, “The Octavia E. Butler Papers”