Octavia E. Butler is quite possibly my favorite authors ever, and I cried when I learned of her too-early death (she was only 58) on February 24, 2006. Heck, I'm even considering naming my first-born daughter after her. Why? Because while her novels are all very distinctive, they draw upon a common thread of strong-willed, independent, flawed, fantastic female protagonists. Though I was never fortunate to have met Octavia E. Butler in person, I suspect that these female protagonists all reflect her distinctiveness; she was the first Black female sci-fi writer and described herself as "a pessimist if I'm not careful, a feminist always, a Black, a quiet egoist, a former Baptist, and an oil-and-water combination of ambition, laziness, insecurity, certainty, and drive."
For those who are wary of sci-fi and its association with aliens and spaceships, I recommend you introduce yourself to Butler by reading Parable of the Sower, Parable of the Talents, and Kindred first. [i]