Monday, October 17, 2011

Margaret Atwood on SF, HG Wells, and Martians

I finally read “The Road to Ustopia,” a piece written by award-winning Canadian speculative fiction author Margaret Atwood that was published last Friday on the website of UK-based newspaper Guardian and which generated quite a bit of discussion within the SF community. As you are probably aware, Atwood, who wrote the classic dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale (1985), is notorious for refusing to label her books science fiction. Here is a snippet:
What I mean by "science fiction" is those books that descend from HG Wells's The War of the Worlds, which treats of an invasion by tentacled 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 hadn't completely happened when the authors wrote the books. 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.
Image: Margaret Atwood, by Daniel Hertzberg for The Wall Street Journal.

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