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In Other Worlds: Science Fiction and the Human Imagination is Margaret Atwood’s account of her relationship with the literary form we have come to know as science fiction. This relationship has been lifelong, stretching from her days as a child reader in the 1940s through her time as a graduate student at Harvard, where she explored the Victorian ancestors of the form, and continuing with her work as a writer and reviewer. This book brings together her three heretofore unpublished Ellmann Lectures of ...
In Other Worlds: Science Fiction and the Human Imagination is Margaret Atwood’s account of her relationship with the literary form we have come to know as science fiction. This relationship has been lifelong, stretching from her days as a child reader in the 1940s through her time as a graduate student at Harvard, where she explored the Victorian ancestors of the form, and continuing with her work as a writer and reviewer. This book brings together her three heretofore unpublished Ellmann Lectures of 2010—“Flying Rabbits,” which begins with Atwood’s early rabbit superhero creations and goes on to speculate about masks, capes, weakling alter egos, and Things with Wings; “Burning Bushes,” which follows her into Victorian other-lands and beyond; and “Dire Cartographies,” which investigates utopias and dystopias. In Other Worlds also includes some of Atwood’s key reviews and musings about the form, including her elucidation of the differences (as she sees them) between “science fiction” proper and “speculative fiction,” as well as “sword and sorcery/fantasy” and “slipstream fiction.” For all readers who have loved The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood—not to mention Atwood’s 100,000-plus Twitter followers— In Other Worlds is a must.
A witty, astute collection of essays and lectures on science fiction by the acclaimed novelist.
The motivation for this book is a review of Atwood's 2009 novel,The Year of the Flood, in which Ursula K. Le Guin accused Atwood of rejecting the term "science fiction" in connection to her own work, lest it trap her in a populist ghetto. In the three new lectures that anchor this collection, Atwood shows that such claims are unfounded. She's just careful about terminology, and her close studies of H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley and Le Guin herself prove she's not just playing semantic games. In one lecture, she recalls her obsession with sci-fi tales as a child and studies the ways that the genre's tropes have been the bedrock of storytelling since antiquity. In another, she discusses "ustopia," the term she uses for her own forays into science fiction, The Handmaid's Tale (1985) and Oryx and Crake (2003), in addition toThe Year of the Flood. "Ustopia" reflects her belief that every dystopian tale has a utopian one embedded in it, and vice versa; for instance, George Orwell's1984concludes with a faux postscript that suggests that the grim authoritarian society it depicts ultimately faded. The individual reviews read like rehearsals for the themes she covers in the longer lectures, but they're worth reading in their own right: Atwood is a stellar reviewer who deftly exposes the ironies and ideas embedded in books by Rider Haggard, Kazuo Ishiguro and Jonathan Swift, and her tone easily shifts from rigorous academic to wisecracking feminist. A handful of fictional excerpts prove that she can walk it like she talks it: Whatever name she applies to the work, it's clear that her affection for the genre is deep and genuine.
Wholly satisfying, with plenty of insights for Atwood and sci-fi fans alike.
Excerpted from In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood Copyright © 2011 by Margaret Atwood. Excerpted by permission of Nan A. Talese, a division of Random House, Inc.
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Posted July 8, 2012
These days, it seems like everyone is writing their memoirs. While I agree that some biographies are worth the read, many seem just plain unnecessary. Did the world honestly need the life stories of Flavor Flav? It is not that I don't enjoy reading the occasional autobiography (I recently read and reviewed one that I really enjoyed), but many times, these stories get bogged down in details that are unimportant to the story and boring to the average readers.
In her latest book, In Other Worlds: SF And The Human Imagination, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood has found a way to provide an insight into her beliefs, life, and writing process without following a typical "life story" format. Through personal stories and examples form her works and other influential novels, Atwood argues that there is a clear difference between works of Science Fiction, all of which must take place on some far away planet, and her "Speculative Fiction" novels, which are built upon the idea that everything "could" happen on Earth.
This is not a memoir. Instead, Atwood provides readers with small, essay style insights into her life. Because the book follows no real narrative structure, it can be very choppy at times. The ending section, in which the author provides short snapshots of stories, felt particularly tedious. I wouldn't recommend this book to all readers, but fans of the author, science fiction, and those looking for a history of the genre should definitely check this out. It is by no means perfect, but it is a commendable attempt at redefining the way opinions and histories are presented to readers.
Posted November 13, 2011
This is a collection of short stories, thoughts on other writers, and a few thoughts on her life mixed together in several essays. I was a closet sci fi geek growing up and Margaret Atwood was one of the authors I loved to read. You can find her influences on many young adult authors today, whether they want to admit it or not. This read gives a bit more insight to her writing and her uneasy relationship with the science fiction community at large. This is one of those books that you can easily pick up, read a chapter and come back for more later. It would make a wonderful gift for any Atwood fan.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 20, 2011
This book is an exploration of science fiction. Margaret Atwood splits the exploration into three parts. Part one is more of a foray, analyzing her approach to the subject and some of her works that have been considered science fiction. The second part takes a look at some major contributors to science fiction and the third part is a compilation of mini stories from Atwood herself in the science fiction genre.
Atwood leads the reader on a journey through science fiction as the genre appears to her. It is hard not to enjoy this book if you are, in any way, a fan of Margaret Atwood. The reader rarely gets to see inside an author's head so clearly. This book is highly recommended to adult readers.
Posted October 15, 2011
Imagine being able to pick a really famous author's (like Margaret Atwood) brain. This book is sort of like that. I really like Atwood. Her books are what I would call sort of underhanded science fiction. There are definitely science fiction elements there but the scenarios and the characters have something realistic about them.
The book is divided in a few different sections. Atwood talks about her writing process from when she was a little kid (the story about the flying bunnies was adorable and so funny) to when she wrote some of her bestsellers. Another section covers a lot of books and authors that Atwood looks at as being masters of the science fiction craft. Let me just say that I have a couple more books to add to my already huge TBR list. The final section is a couple of short stories. I wasn't familiar with any of them so I don't know whether or not they've been published before.
I think it's always interesting to see how Atwood got her ideas and her thoughts on a genre that she is a master of. This book is good for both readers and aspiring writers. She's really fantastic. I feel like I'm a bigger Atwood fan now that I've read this book. I think this book is also good for other Atwood friends. Even if you haven't had the pleasure of reading Atwood before, this book will definitely make you want to read more!
Posted October 22, 2011
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