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In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination [Format Kindle]

Margaret Atwood

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“I’m a fifty-three-year-old writer who can remember being a ten-year-old writer and who expects some day to be an eighty-year-old writer.”
– Octavia Butler.
     In Other Worlds is not a catalogue of science fiction, a grand theory about it, or a literary history of it.  It is not a treatise, it is not definitive, it is not exhaustive, it is not canonical. It is not the work of a practicing academic or an official guardian of a body of knowledge. Rather, it is an exploration of my own lifelong relationship to a literary form, or forms, or sub-forms, both as reader and as writer.
     I say “lifelong,” for among the first things that I read and also wrote might well have the SF initials attached to them. Like a great many children before and since, I was an inventor of other worlds. Mine were rudimentary, as such worlds are when you’re seven, but they were emphatically not of this earth, which seems to be one of the salient features of SF. I wasn’t much interested in Dick and Jane as a child. They did not convince me. Saturn was more my speed, and other realms even more outlandish. Several-headed man-eating marine life seemed more likely, somehow, than Spot and Puff.
     Our earliest loves, like revenants, have a way of coming back in other forms; or, to paraphrase Wordsworth, the child is mother to the woman. To date — and as what I am pleased to think of as an adult — I have written three full-length fictions that nobody would ever class as sociological realism: The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood. Are these books “science fiction,” I am often asked? Though sometimes I am not asked, but told: I am a silly nit or a snob or a genre traitor for dodging the term, because these books are as much “science fiction” as 1984 is, whatever I might say. But is 1984 as much “science fiction” as The Martian Chronicles, I might reply? I would answer not, and therein lies the distinction.        
     Much depends on your nomenclatural allegiances, or else on your system of literary taxonomy. Back in 2008 I was talking to a much younger person about “science fiction.” I’d been asked by the magazine New Scientistto answer the question, “Is science fiction going out of date?” But then I realized that I couldn’t make a stab at the answer because I didn’t really grasp what the term “science fiction” meant any more. Is this term a corral with real fences that separate what is clearly “science fiction” from what is not, or is it merely a shelving aid, there to help workers in bookstores place the book in a semi-accurate or at least lucrative way? If you put skin-tight black or silver clothing on a book cover along with some jet-like flames and/or colourful planets, does that make the work  “science fiction”? What about dragons and manticores, or backgrounds that contain volcanoes or atomic clouds, or plants with tentacles, or landscapes reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch? Does there have to be any actual science in such a book, or is the skin-tight clothing enough? These seemed to me to be open questions.
     This much younger person – let’s call him Randy, which was in fact his name – did not have a hard and fast definition of “science fiction,” but he knew it when he saw it, kind of.  As I told New Scientist, “For Randy – and I think he’s representative – sci-fi does include other planets, which may or may not have dragons on them. It includes the wildly paranormal—not your aunt table-tilting or things going creak, but shape-shifters and people with red eyeballs and no pupils, and Things taking over your body.” Here I would include such items as Body Snatchers—if of extra-terrestrial rather than folkloric provenance—and Pod People, and heads growing out of your armpits, though, as I’ve said, I’d exclude common and garden variety devils, and demonic possession, and also vampires and werewolves, which have literary ancestries and categories all their own.
     As I reported in my New Scientistarticle, for Randy Sci-fi includes, as a matter of course, space ships, and Mad Scientists, and Experiments Gone Awfully Wrong. Plain ordinary horror doesn’t count — chain-saw murderers and such. Randy and I agreed that you might meet one of those walking along the street. It’s what you definitely would not meet walking along the street that makes the grade as SF. Randy judged such books in part by the space-scapes and leathery or silvery outfits on their covers, which means that my speculations about jacket images are not entirely irrelevant. As one friend’s child put it, “Looks like milk, tastes like milk – it IS milk!” Thus: looks like science fiction, has the tastes of science fiction — it IS science fiction!
      Or more or less. Or kind of. For covers can be misleading. The earliest mass-market paperbacks of my novels, The Edible Woman and Surfacing, had pink covers with gold scrollwork designs on them and oval frames with a man’s head and a woman’s head silhouetted inside them, just like valentines. How many readers picked these books up, hoping to find a Harlequin Romance or reasonable facsimile, only to throw them down in tears because there are no weddings at the ends?
     Then there was the case of the former Soviet Union. No sooner did the Wall come down in 1989 than pornography flooded across the one-time divide. Porn had hitherto been excluded in favour of endless editions of the classics and other supposed-to-be-good-for-you works, but forbidden fruit excites desire, and everyone had already read Tolstoy, a lot. Suddenly the publishers of serious literature were hard pressed. Thus it was that The Robber Brideappeared in a number of Soviet-bloc countries with covers that might be described as – at best – deceptive, and – at worst – as a Eurotrash slutfest in flagranto. How many men in raincoats purchased the Robber Bride edition sporting a black-satin-sheathed Zenia with colossal tits, hoping for a warm one-handed time in a back corner, only to heave it into the trash with a strangled "Foiled Again!" curse?  For the Zenia in my book performs what we can only assume is her sexual witchery offstage.
     Having thus misled readers twice – inadvertently — by dint of book covers and the genre categories implied by them, I would rather not do it again. I would like to have space creatures inside the books on offer at my word-wares booth, and I would if I could: they were, after all, my first childhood love. But, being unable to produce them, I don’t want to lead the reader on, thus generating a frantic search within the pages – Where are the Lizard Men of Xenor? — that can only end in disappointment.
     My desire to explore my relationship with the SF world, or worlds, has a proximate cause. In 2009, I published The Year of the Flood, the second work of fiction in a series exploring another kind of “other world” – our own planet in a future. (I carefully say a future rather than the future, because the future is an unknown: from the moment now, an infinite number of roads lead away to “the future,” each heading in a different direction.)
The Year of the Flood was reviewed, along with its sibling, Oryx and Crake,by one of the reigning monarchs of the SF and Fantasy forms, Ursula K. LeGuin. Her 2009 Guardian article began with a paragraph that has caused a certain amount of uproar in the skin-tight clothing and other-planetary communities – so much so that scarcely a question period goes by at my public readings without someone asking, usually in injured tones, why I have forsworn the term “science fiction,” as if I’ve sold my children to the salt mines.
     Here are LeGuin’s uproar-causing sentences :
"To my mind, The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake and now The Year of the Flood all exemplify one of the things science fiction does, which is to extrapolate imaginatively from current trends and events to a near-future that's half prediction, half satire. But Margaret Atwood doesn't want any of her books to be called science fiction. In her recent, brilliant essay collection, Moving Targets, she says that everything that happens in her novels is possible and may even have already happened, so they can't be science fiction, which is 'fiction in which things happen that are not possible today.' This arbitrarily restrictive definition seems designed to protect her novels from being relegated to a genre still shunned by hidebound readers, reviewers and prize-awarders. She doesn't want the literary bigots to shove her into the literary ghetto."
     The motive imputed to me is not in fact my actual motive for requesting separate names. (If winning prizes were topmost on my list, and if writing such books would guarantee non-wins, my obvious move would be to just avoid writing them.)  What I mean by “science fiction” is those books that descend from H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds, which treats of an invasion by tentacled, blood-sucking Martians shot to earth in metal canisters  – things that could not possibly happen – whereas, for me, “speculative fiction” means plots that descend from Jules Verne’s books about submarines and balloon travel and such – things that really could happen, but just haven’t completely happened yet. I would place my own books in this second category: no Martians.  Not because I don’t like Martians, I hasten to add: they just don’t fall within my skill set. Any seriously-intended Martian by me would be a very clumsy Martian indeed.
In a public discussion with Ursula LeGuin in the fall of 2010, however, I found that what she means by “science fiction” is speculative fiction about things that really could happen, whereas things that really could not happen she classifies under “fantasy.” Thus, for her—as for me—dragons would belong in fantasy, as would, I suppose, the film Star Wars and most of the TV series Star Trek. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein might squeeze into LeGuin’s “science fiction,” because its author had grounds for believing that electricity actually might be able to reanimate dead flesh. And War of the Worlds? Since people thought at the time that intelligent beings might live on Mars, and since space travel was believed to be possible in the imaginable future, this book might have to be filed under LeGuin’s “science fiction.” Or parts of it might. In short, what LeGuin means by “science fiction” is what I mean by “speculative fiction,” and what she means by “fantasy” would include what I mean by “science fiction.” So that clears it all up, more or less. When it comes to genres, the borders are increasingly undefended, and things slip back and forth across them with insouciance.
     Bendiness of terminology, literary gene-swapping, and inter-genre visiting has been going on in the SF world—loosely defined—for some time, if not forever.  For instance, in a 1989 essay called “Slipstream,” veteran SF author Bruce Sterling deplored the then-current state of Science Fiction and ticked off its writers and publishers for having turned it into a mere “category” – a “self-perpetuating commercial power-structure, which happens to be in possession of a traditional national territory: a portion of bookstore rack space.” A “category,” says Sterling, is distinct from a “genre,” which is “a spectrum of work united by an inner identity, a coherent aesthetic, a set of conceptual guidelines, an ideology if you will.” 
     Sterling defines his term “Slipstream”—so named, I suppose, because it is seen as making use of the air currents created by Science Fiction proper—in this way:
"I want to describe what seems to me to be a new, emergent 'genre,' which has not yet become a 'category.' This genre is not 'category' SF; it is not even 'genre' SF. Instead, it is a contemporary kind of writing which has set its face against consensus reality. It is fantastic, surreal sometimes, speculative on occasion, but not rigorously so. It does not aim to provoke a 'sense of wonder' or to systematically extrapolate in the manner of classic science fiction. Instead, this is a kind of writing which simply makes you feel very strange; the way that living in the late twentieth century makes you feel, if you are a person of a certain sensibility."
     His proposed list of slipstream fictions covers an astonishing amount of ground, with works by a wide assortment of people, many of them considered to be “serious” authors – from Kathy Acker and Martin Amis to Salman Rushdie, José Saramago, and Kurt Vonnegut. What they have in common is that the kinds of events they recount are unlikely to occur. In an earlier era, these “slipstream” books might all have been filed under the heading of “traveler’s yarn” – for example, Herodotus’s accounts of monopods and giant ants or medieval legends about unicorns, dragons, and mermaids. Later they might have turned up in other collections of the marvelous and uncanny, such as Des Knaben Wunderhorn,  or – even later – the kind of You-won’t-believe-this hair-raiser to be found in assortments by M.R. James or H.P. Lovecraft, or – occasionally – R.L. Stevenson.  
     But surely all draw from the same deep well: those imagined other worlds located somewhere near our everyday one. Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Sword and Sorcery Fantasy, and Slipstream Fiction: all of them might be placed under the same large “wonder tale” umbrella.
     This book is arranged in three sections. The first section is a personal history of sorts. Its three chapters have as their genesis the Ellman Lectures I delivered at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, in the fall of 2010. The first chapter, “Flying Rabbits,” explores my involvement with SF and superheroes as a child, with some thoughts on the deep origins of such superhero features as body-hugging outfits, otherworldly origins, double identities, and flying. The second chapter, “Burning Bushes,” is concerned with my undergraduate interest in ancient mythologies, which both pre-date and inform SF. It then goes on to speculate on the differences between realistic fictions and the other kinds, and on the positive and negative capabilities of each.  
     The third chapter, “Dire Cartographies,” is partly about my unfinished PhD thesis, which was about a number of 19th and early 20th century fictions I collected together under the label, “the metaphysical romance.” What intrigued me about the books I was  studying were the supernatural female figures in them,  the realms they inhabited, and the Wordsworthian/Darwinian split in the visions of nature they represented.  These explorations led me to utopias and dystopias, of which the Victorian non-realists and those who continued to write in their traditions were very fond. “Dire Cartographies” is thus also about the three novels I myself have so far written that might be viewed as a continuation of these traditions. 
     The second section gathers together some of the many pieces I have written about specific works of SF over the years. Some are reviews, some are introductions, others were originally radio talks. Why did I choose these particular works of SF to write about, you may wonder? But I didn’t choose them, exactly: in each case, someone else asked me to write about them, and I was unable to resist. 
     The third section is called “Five Tributes,” and it is more or less what it says. These pieces were selected from among the many such that I have written over the decades, and each draws on recognizable memes from the genre. Four are self-contained miniatures, but the last one – “The Peach Women of A’aa” – is from my novel, The Blind Assassin, one of whose main characters is a writer of science fiction during the early years of what is referred to as the golden age.  
     So that is what this book is about. It’s about my somewhat tangled personal history with SF, first as a child, then as an adolescent, then as a one-time student and academic; then as a reviewer and commentator; and then, finally, as a composer.        
     But where does all of this come from – the reading, the writing, the engagement, and especially the wilder storms on the wilder seas of invention? Everyone wants to know this about writers: What is your inspiration, what put you up to it? They’re never satisfied with such explanations as “Because it was there” or “I don’t know what came over me.” They want specifics. 
     So let me try this:
     As a young child, living briefly in the winter of 1944-5 in an old house in Sault Ste. Marie, I used to get up very early in the morning before anyone else was awake and go to the cold but spacious attic, where in a state of solipsistic bliss I would build strange habitations and quasi-people with a bunch of sticks and spools called “Tinker Toy.” What I really wanted to make was the windmill pictured on the box, but my set didn’t have the necessary parts, and it was wartime, and I was unlikely to ever possess the missing items.
     Some say that the art one makes as an adult supplies the absence of things longed for in childhood. I don’t know whether or not this is true. If I’d been able to create that windmill, would I have become a writer? Would I have become a writer of SF? We’ll never know the answer to that question, but it’s one theory.
     Meanwhile – in gravely altered form – here is the windmill. I hope you have as much fun with it as I have had.

From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

“Atwood is a perceptive and enthusiastic literary critic, dryly funny and eclectically curious.” —The San Francisco Chronicle

“Interesting, entertaining and thoughtful. . . .  Atwood fans, sci-fi fans, indeed fiction fans, have reason to rejoice. In Other Worlds is a delightful read full of Atwood’s well-honed prose and sly sense of humor.” —The Miami Herald

“Margaret Atwood is a valiant champion [of science fiction]. . . . Her prose is addictive. . . . She crafts sentences with grace and pitch-perfect highbrow humor.” —The Plain Dealer
“A smart and often playful book.” —Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
In Other Worlds is an eminently readable and accessible clarification of [Atwood’s] relationship with SF and the SF tradition. . . . The lectures are insightful and cogently argued with a neat comic turn of phrase. . . . [Atwood’s] enthusiasm and level of intellectual engagement are second to none.” —Financial Times
“It’s a delight to see Atwood revisit Mischiefland, both because of the lovely details she remembers (the flying bunnies kept cats as pets and ate only ice cream), and because this retelling leads Atwood to speculate on the origins—cultural, literary, mythic, religious—of the science fiction genre. . . . In Other Worlds reminds us that all genres are capable of deepening and developing this one human story.” —The Boston Globe
“Atwood gives us a bracing tour of the writers and books she admires (like Ursula Le Guin and ‘She’ by H. Rider Haggard), her interest in ustopia (a mix of utopia and dystopia) in her fiction, as well as some autobiography. . . . Explains how the genre fits into a continuum dating to the world’s oldest myths and continuing today with authors who use the genre to examine social ills, not run away from them.” —Los Angeles Times
“Atwood certainly has read a fair bit of and thought deeply about science fiction, and she shares generously with her readers.” —The Christian Science Monitor
“Fascinating. . . . Vibrant. . . . Compelling. . . . Not only is In Other Worlds powerfully readable and mentally refreshing, it’s also one heck of a joyride through the limitless imagination of a national (and international) treasure.” —Bookreporter

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 9266 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 273 pages
  • Editeur : Anchor (11 octobre 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B004KPM1KI
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°527.880 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Amazon.com: 4.0 étoiles sur 5  23 commentaires
24 internautes sur 25 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A bit disappointing 25 octobre 2011
Par B. Capossere - Publié sur Amazon.com
I confess to being somewhat disappointed by In Other Worlds, Margaret Atwood's collection of essays (along with a handful of fiction shorts) dealing with science fiction. She has long been a favorite author of mine, and her science fiction (or speculative fiction as she'd prefer) works my favorites among her books: The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, the science fiction elements of The Blind Assassin. She's also an insightful critic and a sharp non-fiction writer. So I was looking quite forward to seeing her thoughts on the field I've been reading in for so long.

The problem may have been one of expectations, therefore. I come to the collection as both an Atwood fan and a science fiction fan and it's the latter part that may have been the issue. Someone who comes to the collection merely as an Atwood fan, one not well versed in the genre, might find this a moderately illuminating collection of essays, but I'm not sure there's much here that a science fiction fan hasn't already seen. Even for those relatively unfamiliar with science fiction, though, I fear the essays are a bit slight.

The first few essays are a mix of memoir and an examination of fantastic stories. I say "fantastic" because the focus isn't yet on science fiction per se. Atwood covers myths, superhero stories, romances, and utopias/dystopias. Clear, succinct and informative, it's also pretty well-trod ground, and at times pretty quickly covered ground, as when she zips through various superhero elements such as costumes and secret identities in a page or two or offers up questions the new "mythos" of science asks and then answers the questions in a paragraph or two. The section on utopias/dystopias covers the expected ground (Brave New World, 1984, etc.) but is probably most interesting toward the end when she examines her own dystopic novels and how she came about to write them.

After the three more personal essays, we're given some more focused pieces, introductions to works or reviews or brief critical looks. Included in this section are examinations of Rider Haggard's She, Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, a collection of short stories by Ursula K. Leguin, Brave New World again, and a few others. Again, it's all well written, the connections are smart and sharply drawn, but to someone already aware of these authors, there's nothing that's really much of an "Aha" moment. As an introduction to a less aware reader, this section will probably pique their interest and give them something to think about. My favorite piece in the entire book appears here, and is entitled "10 Ways of Looking at The Island of Dr. Moreau". I thought this piece stood out for two reasons. One was the structure and the other was that it was one of the few pieces that offered up a feeling of fresh stimulation. This section is followed by five very slight science fiction shorts, the best of which is the excerpt from The Blind Assassin. The others are quickly read and as quickly forgotten. Finally, the collection closes with some appendices, including a letter from Atwood to a school district that considered banning The Handmaid's Tale and a piece about Weird Tales' covers, which was probably my second favorite selection of the book.

I'm not sure what to make of the collection, to be honest. To someone well steeped in the genre, there's really nothing here that won't make them nod their head not just in agreement but in familiarity as well. To someone who is a fan of Atwood, there isn't all that much about her or her writing, and most of what is in here will probably sound familiar. For instance, she writes of The Handmaid's Tale that she put nothing in the story that hadn't happened somewhere somewhen in human history. Which is an interesting piece of information about the novel, save that I've read that many times over. To someone relatively new to the genre, the early essays are a nice historical overview, if brief, but the middle section has such a singular focus on particular books that I'm not sure it offers much to that reader. Finally, though Atwood has made an attempt to rid the book of repetitive lines or themes, always an issue when previously published works are collected, several such instances remain, such as a few mentions (more than two) of how the 20th century was a race between two dystopic vision--1984 and Brave New World--and how BNW seemed to win until post 9/11.

In the end, I'd call it a good library book. Take it out, satisfy your curiosity about a few points, come to a better understanding of a favorite author's point of view on the genre and on some of the authors working in or employing the genre. But I wouldn't call it a book you need on your shelf, unlike, say, Oryx and Crake or The Handmaid's Tale. And when her promised third book in the Oryx/Flood series comes out, I'll make room for that one, even if I have to give up my copy of In Other Worlds to do so.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 SF and the Human Imagination 24 novembre 2011
Par Clint Schnekloth - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
You can always expect Margaret Atwood to come at a topic sideways, and this collection of essays is no exception. It opens with a series of three evocative pieces on the relationship between the human imagination and the development of a genre many only begrudgingly title and shelve as "science fiction."

What sets these early essays apart is Atwood's considered interpretation that the lines between genres are not nearly as hard and fast as we might think. Furthermore, she sees origins of the drive to write science fiction and fantasy differently than other authors, because she sees it a natural outgrowth the habits and activities of childhood. One theory she offers from her own childhood, that since she kept failing to build a windmill from her Tinkertoy set (she missed some of the necessary parts), she built fantastical structures and creatures instead.

Atwood continues this (might we call it Jungian?) analysis of science fiction writing throughout. She sees archetypes washing between the various genres--comparing superheroes to Greek mythology and modern fantasy. She sees her own early imaginative world influencing what she writes as an adult.

And in one of her most intriguing theses, she coins the term "ustopia": "A word I made up by combining utopia and dystopia--the imagined perfect society and its opposite--because, in my view, each contains a latent version of the other" (66). I find this incredibly helpful, because as we know certain individuals thrive in dystopias and find their place there, whereas every utopia is only the perfect society for those who belong to it, certainly not those who feel excluded from it.

Finally, Atwood in this early section helpful defines "myth": Myths are stories that are central to their cultures and that are taken seriously enough that people organize their rituals and emotional lives around them, and can even start wars over them" (55). Atwood offers this definition in a wide-ranging essay that considers origin myths as well as contemporary sci-fi movies, and everything in between. It's really a lovely essay.

The middle section of this book is a collection of short reviews Atwood has written over the course of her career, all on "classics" in science fiction (H. Rider Haggard, Ursula K. Le Guin, George Orwell, H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, and Jonathan Swift but also a bit more surprisingly Kazuo Ishiguro and Bill McKibben). I found this section very helpful because it introduced me to some important works with which I was unfamiliar, and also expanded my cartography of what I might map as "science fiction." Somehow the full range of what she included is perfectly indicative of the philosophy of science fiction she offered in the first section.

Finally, she concludes with six crisp selections from her own fiction. Although these don't move the argument forward per se, they do illustrate what Atwood has been pondering in her book.

It isn't every day that science fiction readers get the pleasure of reading sustained reflection on the craft by one of its outstanding practitioners. I recommend this book highly for that reason.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Insightful, educational and entertaining 1 novembre 2011
Par Sean the Bookonaut - Publié sur Amazon.com
In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination is a curious book. But to understand some of its raison d'être you need a little background.

Once upon a time...

Margaret Atwood seems to have had tense relationship with some elements of the science fiction community( and vice versa) since her release of the novel The Handmaid's Tale in 1985.

Atwood was awarded the Arthur C Clarke[1] for The Handmaid's Tale , which was also nominated for a Nebula[2] and a Prometheus [3] - all science fiction awards. It was also a finalist for the prestigious Booker Prize for literature.

She has previously distanced herself from the science fiction scene stating that she doesn't consider what she writes to be science fiction, that she writes speculative fiction. Perhaps her early response to praise from the science fiction community, in the form of awards, can be viewed understandably as an impolite rebuff and characterising science fiction as "talking squids in space" as late as 2003 probably hasn't helped either.

She has been accused of protecting her brand as a writer of serious literature of not wanting to be branded or pigeon holed as genre fiction writer. I don't think that there's enough evidence to back this claim and Atwood herself dismisses it within the book.

Answering her critics or simply,"this is me take it or leave it"

In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination is an interesting a mix of biography, essay and fiction.

The first hundred or so pages are heavily biographical, while simultaneously being educative. This section consists of three chapters that grew out of her Ellman Lectures delivered at Emory University in 2010. They chart her development and her changing experience with what many would term science fiction. The Chapter "Flying Bunnies" covers her childhood and the origins and development of superheroes in popular culture.

The second chapter covers her undergraduate years and deals with her interest in the mythologies and metaphysics that were the fertile soil in which earlier science fiction grew.

The final chapter explores the Victorian underpinnings of Utopias and Dystopias, Metaphysical Romances and in terms of biography, covers her writing of the Dystopian fictions, The Handmaids Tale, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood.

Her execution of this section of the book is seamless, like having a conversation with a learned friend, where you gain the benefit of learning about their life and developing a connection, while at the same time walking away with your brain firing on all cylinders due to the intellectual stimulation it's received.

It goes some way to explaining her position i.e. She generally doesn't write science fiction, her lauded science fiction works aren't science fiction they are speculative fiction and I think her argument for her position is sound.

We could argue that in this day and age it doesn't really matter. But I'm inclined to sit back respect her definition of herself and her writing - essentially I don't care, I'd read her fiction regardless of whether its speculative fiction, science fiction or romance - I think at times we get too hung up on labels and squeezing what should be a fluid art form into rigid categories.

The Analytical Atwood

Wherein she turns the analysis outward.

The next section labelled "Other Deliberations" an is a collection of what I suppose you would call her analytical pieces, this is Atwood the Academic/Reviewer, commenting on science fiction.

It was the discussions of Swift, Orwell, Wells and Huxley that really impressed me. I don't know that I am used to the sort of analysis and knowledge that Atwood can bring to the discussion of these writers but she has awoken a desire in me to reacquaint myself with them.

Now this is science fiction

The final section is some selected science fiction that she has written over the years. It's science fiction by her definition and distinct from her speculative fiction. I can't help but think she's being a bit playful here, saying "look I'm not afraid to write science fiction and here it is".

While all the pieces are short they demonstrate the skill that she can bring to bear on the genre. Her short, "Cold-Blooded" about a race of sentient moth like creatures discovering Earth and observing and interacting with us is a truly beautiful piece and as expected full of the wit and cutting observation that Atwood weaves in her fiction.

Who is this book for?

I think it has broad appeal. It is perhaps easier to say who wouldn't be interested. I think if you are too invested in the to and fro between arguing that her work is science fiction then there's not going to be much to persuade you here. If you are an Atwood fan you'll love it, if you a science fiction fan you'll appreciate and enjoy it.

Atwood is a writer, a brilliant writer of poetry, fiction and non fiction. Arguing that she is a science fiction writer seems to miss the point - that her while her science fiction as other might label it, is well regarded, it is but a small part of her overall body of work. Focussing on that aspect of Atwood alone is reducing her to a very small part of who she is.

This book was provided to me by the publisher.



1. The United Kingdoms best Science Fiction novel of the previous year

2. The American equivalent of the best science fiction/fantasy novel

3. A libertarian science fiction award.

8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Thin but interesting 21 octobre 2011
Par Mick McAllister - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Achat vérifié
I would happily read the scribbling on the pad next to Margaret Atwood's phone. Any time spent with her is time well spent. If you have not read The Blind Assassin and The Robber Bride, fix that lack immediately.

That said, the best thing about this book is the dedication, which made me laugh out loud. The book is dedicated, with whimsy as well as affection, to the reigning queen of the sort of science fiction Atwood is writing about, Ursula K Le Guin. While on the one hand, there is only one novel of UKLG's that I would insist on taking to my desert island (Always Coming Home), there are at least two of Atwood's, and probably, on departure day, I'd be vacillating about two or three more to stuff in my luggage. But Le Guin is the pro, in the scio/speculo fiction realm, and Atwood the gifted amateur. Atwood will justly win the Nobel one of these days and Le Guin probably not, but in her patch Le Guin rules.

This distinction accounts for the great difference between Atwood's book on science fiction and pretty much any of Le Guin's excellent collections of essays. (Try Dancing on the Edge of the World to see what this book could have been.) Atwood comes at her subject with genuine enthusiasm and considerable literary expertise, but the overall effect is somehow rather thin. Ok, the flying bunnies are cute, but we all had flying bunnies and siblings who drew maps and omnivorous reading habits, those of us who became hopelessly "bookish." Those opening chapters feel more like gossip than conversation; maybe the effect is different if you are not of Atwood's generation. For those of us who are, well, we done that. It's nice to know that Atwood's three "speculative fictions" were informed by some familiarity with the genre and that she was consciously engaging in conversation with Huxley, Orwell, etc. when she wrote them, but none of that was any surprise, really.

You will find essays here on Jonathan Swift (Gullivers Travels), Huxley (Brave New World), Wells (The Island of Dr. Moreau), and Orwell (1984) that will tempt you to read or re-read each of these writers, essays on H Rider Haggard and Ursula Le Guin that don't do much except exclaim over an enthusiasm, and the discovery of a book that sounds worth hunting up -- Visa for Avalon. That's, as one's Gran would say, nice. Only the essays on Dr. Moreau and Gulliver do much more than tell you why to read it. Ultimately there's no heavy lifting in this book, no place where you feel as if Atwood is pushing against much. The book ends with the rather self-indulgent anti-climax of a handful of Atwood's shorter sci-fi fictions. Again, nothing terribly exciting if you've read, say, Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences. No, I couldn't do better. But I've read better.

Man, writing this review is a bummer. I feel like the husband who doesn't like his wife's new haircut. If you love Atwood, you'll enjoy this book. If you love science fiction, probably not. I love both.
10 internautes sur 13 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Factual errors take me out of the book 17 février 2012
Par Wayne Wise - Publié sur Amazon.com
Why is it that when outsiders to the world of comic books decide to write about them they can't be bothered to fact-check? I'm only 25 pages into this book and the author refers to the wizard who grants Captain Marvel his powers as "Shazamo" (after outlining what the magic word SHAZAM means), and mentions Wonder Woman's invisible helicopter (it was actually a plane, as anyone who has seen an episode of Super Friends can attest). These may seem like the minor complaints of the prototypical comic book nerd, but these factual errors make me question the authority with which she speaks. I can't imagine that Atwood or her editors would not have fact-checked any statement she made about any other form of literature. It is either laziness, or an unacknowledged disdain for the source material. Comics have a long history of being dismissed as not worthy if critical study (much like Science Fiction), and have only recently started to take their place in academic discourse. Atwood says this is not an academic work, and that's a legitimate approach, but errors in basic information are still errors. (For the record, Deepak Chopra makes the same kind of errors in his Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes).

All I'm really saying here, is authors should take the same care with research into comics as they would any other endeavor.
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