Parable of the Sower is a futuristic, dystopian, science-fiction novel. In its reality, the United States has devolved back into states and/or city-states warring for the few remaining resources. Life is cheap, and the economy is becoming reborn as company towns.
The main character in Parable of the Sower, Lauren Olamina, is the daughter of a Baptist minister who serves their walled-in neighborhood. Because of her mother's addiction to a prescription drug, Olamina suffers from hyperempathy, which causes her to share pain or perceived pain with any living creature she sees. When her community is attacked, burned, and looted, seventeen-year-old Olamina barely escapes with her life. She travels, at great danger, into northern California in search of a haven where she and others can build the first Earthseed community.
The beliefs of Earthseed are recorded in the fictional book Earthseed: The Books of the Living. Olamina "writes" in short, poetic passages. Portions of this text are presented at the beginning of each section, some chapters, and occasionally throughout the text. The philosophy of Earthseed also underlies the motivations of some of the characters in these novels.
The word "Earthseed" comes from the idea that the seeds of all life on Earth can be transplanted, and through adaptation will grow, in many different types of situations or places. "The Books of the Living" is chosen in direct contrast to many other religions' use of the phrase "The Books of the Dead". Earthseed is a religion of the present and the future, of the living, not of the dead or the past.
Although Olamina is raised as a Baptist, she does not feel comfortable with "her father's God." Instead, she develops ideas that seem to better fit the reality she knows.
Because "God is Change", humans are able to direct God's malleablity. Believers are enjoined to "shape God". By shaping themselves, they can save themselves. Believers are to accept the central tenet that "God is Change" primarily so that they will recognize their own power to affect and direct Change/God. Only by conscious effort can they avoid being God's victims.
Earthseed also promotes the belief that "The Destiny of Earthseed / Is to take root among the stars" (The Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler). The Destiny is necessary because, eventually, we will outgrow Earth (i.e., use up its natural resources).
The central verse of Earthseed is given in the following:
Consider: Whether you're a human being, an insect, a microbe, or a stone, this verse is true.All that you touch(Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler)
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
The central paradox of Earthseed is:
Why is the universe?(Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler)
To shape God.
Why is God?
To shape the universe.
Earthseed has inspired an actual social movement named SolSeed