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In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imaginationby Margaret Atwood
Synopses & Reviews
At a time when speculative fiction seems less and less far-fetched, Margaret Atwood lends her distinctive voice and singular point of view to the genre in a series of essays that brilliantly illuminates the essential truths about the modern world. This is an exploration of her relationship with the literary form we have come to know as "science fiction,” a relationship that 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 worked on the Victorian ancestor of the form, and continuing as a writer and reviewer. This book brings together her three heretofore unpublished Ellmann Lectures from 2010: "Flying Rabbits," which begins with Atwood's early rabbit superhero creations, and goes on to speculate about masks, capes,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 otherlands and beyond; and "Dire Cartographies," which investigates Utopias and Dystopias. In Other Worlds also includes some of Atwood's key reviews and thoughts about the form. Among those writers discussed are Marge Piercy, Rider Haggard, Ursula Le Guin, Ishiguro, Bryher, Huxley, and Jonathan Swift. She elucidates the differences (as she sees them) between "science fiction" proper, and "speculative fiction," as well as between "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, In Other Worlds is a must.
"Atwood has a long and complex relationship with science fiction, and this mix of essays and short fiction represents her most sustained examination of the genre to date. Famously having refused the label 'science fiction' for such novels as The Handmaid's Tale, she prefers to call her work 'speculative fiction,' though she here reveals herself to be both friendly to and well-read in genre SF. The book opens with three personal essays on her relationship with the fantastic, beginning with a delicious piece on her childhood obsession with rabbit superheroes, followed by a look at the connections between mythology and modern SF, and a useful discussion of her own work as dystopian fiction. Although there is little for scholars of the fantastic per se, these pieces do give significant insight into Atwood's formative influences. Following are 10 more tightly focused essays, on Wells's The Island of Doctor Moreau, H. Rider Haggard's She, and other works. The six short stories are all minor but enjoyable satires on standard SF tropes such as alien invasion and cryogenics. This enjoyable volume, tellingly dedicated to Ursula K. Le Guin, reveals a writer with strong, often fascinating, if idiosyncratic opinions about genre SF." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
MARGARET ATWOOD, whose work has been published in over thirty-five countries, is the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. In addition to The Handmaid’s Tale, her novels include Cat’s Eye, shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Alias Grace, which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy; The Blind Assassin, winner of the 2000 Booker Prize; Oryx and Crake, shortlisted for the 2003 Booker Prize; and her most recent, The Year of the Flood.
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