Monday 28 November 2011

In Other Worlds

Finished November 27
In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood
This book was a thoroughly enjoyable read. This is a book that while discussing speculative fiction, science fiction, their definitions and histories, also discusses Atwood's personal experiences around them. Atwood's reading, writing, and reviewing of these forms the core of the book.
Atwood has broken the book into three parts. The first part deals with her personal experiences and consists of her previously unpublished Ellman Lectures from 2010. The second part collects several of Atwood's reviews of works in the speculative and science fiction genres. The third part has tributes by Atwood to the genre in form of short pieces. She also includes a letter to a school district where her book The Handmaid's Tale was challenged in favor of intellectual freedom, and a discussion of cover art from a book series in the 1930s.
I found this a very personal experience, full of Atwood's usual openness and humour. She is a writer who knows her stuff and this book shows how she thinks about these genres. She looks at the history and gives examples and different points of view, and continuously uses her own experiences as a reflective tool. Her humour comes through again and again, and I found that made it even more personal. While the issues brought to the fore through speculative and science fiction are often serious ones, and need to be taken seriously and addressed, there are also things we can do to lighten the load. I love her sense of humour and also loved finding out about works I hadn't come across before. One line she quoted from Visa for Avalon by Bryher stuck with me "If an individual's right to a place of his own were not respected," Robinson muses, "it was the first link in a chain that would ultimately lead to the elimination of the unwanted by any group that happened to be in power." If that doesn't speak to the current Occupy movement, what does!
I also loved her take on works I was familiar with, and enjoyed nodding in agreement or wanting to go back and take a second look.
Well worth the read, and although I read this as a library book, I think I shall have to go buy my own copy now.


  1. I've been wondering about this as I was told this was like no othe Atwood book.
    One of the loveliest things about Margaret Atwood is how open she is about writing and her views on the world, I guess this is like a break the 4th wall kind of book.

  2. She is open, and so smart it is kind of scary.