Margaret Atwood, In Other Worlds
A peek into the creative landscape of one of our greatest writers
Margaret Atwood’s In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination may be a departure for those expecting fiction along the lines of her Booker Prize winning novel The Blind Assassin, her dystopian masterpiece The Handmaid’s Tale, or her brilliant future-as-genetic-engineering-nightmare diptych Oryx & Crake and Year of the Flood. Combining memoiristic essay with reviews and lectures, as well as several short sci fi-ish pieces, In Other Worlds is best heard as a peek into the creative landscape of one of our greatest writers.
Longtime readers may be able to guess at the breadth and depth of Atwood’s frames of reference. Somewhat predictable influences include Victorian novels, nature writing, the language and feminist literature. However, it might be unexpected to hear that such a “serious” author would also harbor a love of classic B movies, comic books of the 1930s and ’40s (especially those featuring female superheroes), and proto-sci fi-ers H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.
We often expect today’s great male writers to have read and absorbed Stan Lee and Mad magazine along with Hemingway and Melville. Similarly, we might expect our female writers to have absorbed — even channeled — Jane Austen and Vogue (along with Hemingway and Melville). So to hear about Atwood spending her WWII Canadian childhood drawing superhero bunnies in capes, and following her brother’s hand-drawn maps of their island home…It’s not surprising so much as it is gratifying.