Damian Duffy and John Jennings, Parable of the Sower (2020)

Octavia Butler’s gift for examining the nuances of human processes shines in the graphic adaptation of her novel, Parable of the Sower. Damian Duffy and John Jennings have exceeded the standard of excellence that they established with their historic bestseller, Kindred. The new text delves into a layered experience of collapse as a human process. Structured as a ‘future history’ that examines the period from 2024 to 2027 in suburban California, PotS drags its readers through a dystopian landscape too similar to the world we see around us today.

The characters move from a stable fragility behind temporary barriers through stages of social change that reflect common experiences of the twentieth century often obscured by the emergence of global consumerism. The action rapidly accelerates as terrorism consumes the suburban remnant that Lauren Olamina calls home. A physiological disorder forces her to experience the pain she perceives around her. Butler names the condition, hyperempathy. Today, billions of people empathize with Olamina’s experiences due to the ongoing trauma of autocratic revolutions in Europe and North America.

In the graphic novel, Olamina’s syncretic faith in pursuit of an escape from the planet brings survivors of the apocalypse into her migration tale.  By the end of the story, against considerable odds, Olamina and her adopted families find a rural settlement and begin to adapt to a more difficult and unstable reality. The concepts that sustained her crystallize this community around a belief system called “Earthseed.” It offers a transplanetary animism that pursues a balance in the aftermath of national terror.

Duffy and Jennings provide a crucial tool to negotiate the apathy and nihilism that threatens to destroy the liberal state in the present day. In the classroom, the multimedia adaptation challenges teachers and students to engage images, text, and sound simultaneously. So much of the twenty-first century world has turned to data, specifically numbers in attempts to make sense of our lives. The danger posed by data aggregation firms from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica to Amazon and Google represent a digital catastrophe with untold consequences for human freedom over the next century. PotS helps its audience to escape these potential traps by seeking refuge in relationships with other people and the natural environment.

If you have expressed a concern about the possibility of social collapse, Butler, Duffy, and Jennings give you a detailed portrait of resilience to focus your efforts to maintain family and community.

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