I just saw on boingboing that Octavia Butler, one of my favorite SF writers, just died on Saturday. I just finished teaching her amazing novel Kindred two weeks ago in my seminar at Cornell; I taught it in the fall, too. One of my students told me Friday -- the day before Butler died -- that it was the first novel she'd read in a long time that she really enjoyed every word of and was never bored by. One of the reasons I began the seminar with it both semesters is because, in addition to being a literarily rich novel with a wonderful portrayal of life in a slave society, it is simply so damn gripping. I always had several students who read through the entire thing the night they began it (they're only required to read a third the first week). It was a great way to get students into the class. It's simply a wonderful, wonderful novel, and I recommend it unreservedly.
Her other books are wonderful, too. Besides Kindred, my favorites are her short stories, particularly the horrifying, unforgettable "Bloodchild". But I've enjoyed every book of hers I've read (not quite all, but close -- I hope to read her most recent (and, I suppose, now last) novel Fledgling soon.)
I even had the honor of meeting her once, briefly, at the SF convention Readercon in 2002. She was polite and charming, although she seemed a little shy.
What's heartbreaking is how young she was -- she was only 58 when she died. It sounds like a simple, horrifying accident.
A wonderful writer has left us far too soon. Rest in peace.