Read In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination by Margaret Atwood Online


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 thaAt 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  This book brings together her three heretofore unpublished Ellmann Lectures from 2010: "Flying Rabbits," which begins with Atwood's early  rabbit superhero creations, and goes on to speculate about masks, capes,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....

Title : In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination
Author :
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ISBN : 9780385533966
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 255 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination Reviews

  • BlackOxford
    2019-03-19 00:46

    Archetypal ExplorationThere are two fundamental principles in Jungian psychology: 1) The unconscious part of the mind is indistinguishable from reality, and 2) The self, composed of the conscious and unconscious mind, is indistinguishable from God. As a self-confessed Jungian, Margaret Atwood, undoubtedly unconsciously, employs these two principles wonderfully in her commentary on Science Fiction, In Other Worlds.Science fiction as a genre is of course a Jungian playground in which primitive archetypes from ancient myths to childhood fears can be given free rein. The constraints of existing technology, social conventions, time, and even fundamental physics can be done away with to form an alternative world which, as long as it is consistent within itself, can be a satisfying experience. For me, and I think perhaps for Atwood as well, the best alternative sci-fi worlds don’t necessarily have a dystopian or utopian edge, even if they communicate a political or social message. They just are. And what makes them interesting is how a sensory, reflective entity (not necessarily a human being) makes its way in some fundamentally altered set of conditions. The archetypes bend and twist to accommodate these conditions, but ultimately, since they are at the limits of our imagination, they remain identifiable; hence we are able to comprehend and even empathise with otherwise alien creatures from other planets, other times, other eruptions of the multiverse.So in a sense sci-fi is therapy, a non-threatening exploration of the things crawling around at the very bottom of our collective unconscious, the existence of which is of course confirmed by the worldwide success of works like Star Wars and Harry Potter, not to mention Frankenstein and Superman. The technique is simple: we allow Jungian principle 1 to operate without any of the usual epistemological worries that we carry around with us as a matter of course; then we perform an act of imaginative blasphemy by employing principle 2 - not to make too fine a point, we play God and re-create creation. Why? I suppose the best answer, and the answer implied by Atwood, is because we can. No, that's too passive: because we must. We are, as social as well as conscious beings, programmed to explore the alternative arrangements of relationships in creation that are contained in sci-fi. Perhaps our myths of origin in sacred scriptures, as ancient as history allows us to recall, are expressions of the same facts of human existence as the superheroes of Marvel comics. (Such a comparison isn’t intended to be disrespectful. In fact, it might be a key to re-invigorating interest in a sacred literature that appears simply incomprehensible to most people).Atwood identification and sifting of the sci-fi archetypes is masterful. She takes the reader from Inanna, the life and sex goddess of Mesopotamia through the Greek messenger-god Hermes and Shakespeare's Puck to the Wizard of Oz and Plastic Man of the 1940's. And that's just on the topic of flying. For Atwood the classic Beowulf has a clear association with that truly terrible 1958 British film, The Creeping Eye, aka The Trollenberg Terror. This is an association which, once made, is burned into one's literary psyche - to the benefit of both works I think. Similarly, it's not an enormous leap in imagination from the talking trees of the film Avatar, to the Burning Bush of Genesis. Every connection enhances appreciation the things connected. This might well be the primary spiritual function of literature, of any sort but particularly that in which the tropes used point beyond themselves in the manner of Russian Orthodox icons. In other words, sci-fi.Atwood's case for sci-fi as the modern continuation of Renaissance humanistic thinking is interesting. Works like Bladerunner, The Island of Dr Moreau, and Star Trek force a consideration of what it means to be human. As does any purported change in technology or even fundamental physics, as in The Matrix.The theological import of much sci-fi needs hardly be argued. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Perelandra are popular enough examples to make the point. Less obviously, theology also pervades books like Atwood's own The Handmaid's Tale, not least by exposing the inherent sexism and rationalisation of power by the powerful in much of what passes for talk about God.There's no doubt that Atwood does both Jung and Sci-Fi proud in this little book of almost throw-away, thought-provoking thoughts. After all, what else can you do, if you've read virtually everything important ever written, but connect it, probably involuntarily, to everything else? She does it with such ease.

  • Tatiana
    2019-02-22 06:32

    This is basically a collection of previously published bits and pieces of science fiction and science fiction-related writing of Atwood's. The first (and the most interesting) part of the book is more or less a transcript of the author's lectures which include notes on the evolution of her interest in and understanding of SF, her musings about the connections between science fiction and mythology and religion, and some insight into the intentions and inspirations behind her own speculative fiction - The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. Part two consists of a series of critical reviews of significant SF works. I admit to skipping all of these essays but two - Atwood's responses to Ursula K. Le Guin's The Birthday of the World and Other Stories and Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. Both are insightful, affectionate and complementary.And, finally, in part three are presented Atwood's 5 very short SF stories, which are mainly unremarkable, except the one that is an excerpt from The Blind Assassin. What left the most impression on me, however, is the introduction to this collection. In it, Margaret Atwood responds to Ursula K. Le Guin's very harsh critique of Atwood's choice to call her works speculative fiction and not science fiction. Now, if the whole brouhaha was only about semantics, I wouldn't even care. Just a glance at how books are shelved here, on Goodreads, is a proof enough that what one person understands to be SF, another might categorize as fantasy, etc. But Le Guin goes further and accuses Atwood of deliberately refusing to call herself a SF writer "to protect her novels from being relegated to a genre still shunned by hidebound readers, reviewers and prize-awarders" and assuming that "she doesn't want the literary bigots to shove her into the literary ghetto." I have a very high regard for Ursula K. Le Guin, but this attack of hers left me disappointed. It is unpleasant to see two of my favorite and undeniably feminist female writers to be a part of this squabble. Atwood, however, handles these accusations with class, explains her position and even goes as far as to dedicate this book to Ursula. Evidently, they have this conflict resolved, but the bad taste in my mouth still lingers...

  • Cynthia
    2019-03-04 02:44

    Margaret Atwood is a bit like my friend Lil--she is both right AND left-brained. She writes like a dream and knows her way around science and technology.Many people ask Atwood why she does not like the term "science fiction" for her work. She calls three of her works "ustopias." Of one, "The Handmaid's Tale," she writes that she "would not put into this book anything that humankind had not already done, somewhere, sometime, or for which it did not already have the tools."Later in the book in an essay on H.G. Wells, Atwood notes that science fiction "as a term was unknown to Wells; it did not make an appearance until the 1930s, in America, during the golden age of bug-eyed monsters and girls in brass brassieres." In a different essay she expands on the topic of women in metal bras, referencing Maidenform, Norse mythology, Bugs Bunny and Madonna.I love how Atwood regards schlocky pulp fiction, myth, history and comic strips all with an equally analytical eye, taking us with her on a journey through her life as a reader and a writer.

  • Madeline
    2019-03-09 01:29

    "In Other Worlds is not a catalogue of science fiction, a grand theory about it, or a literary history of it. It is not a treatise, it is not definitive, it is not exhaustive, it is not canonical. It is not the work of a practising academic or an official guardian of a body of knowledge. Rather it is an exploration of my own lifelong relationship with a literary form, or forms, or subforms, both as reader and as writer."I'm still kicking myself for not being able to make it to Margaret Atwood's Ellman Lectures at Emory University a few years ago, where she lectured on science fiction and her relationship with the genre. Luckily for me, Atwood decided to do us all a favor and put those lectures, along with other essays on science fiction, into a single volume for fans like me to buy on the day it came out (Prompting a minor panic attack when I couldn't find the book on the New Releases shelf at Barnes and Noble, which resulted in me getting a staff member to retrieve the single copy from the back. Do not get between me and a Margaret Atwood book, is the lesson).As the introduction states, this is a very personal collection, detailing Atwood's own interest in science fiction and how her interest began as a child, continued into her college years, and culminated in her writing three science fiction/speculative fiction novels. She describes reading Animal Farm as a child without being aware of the symbolism, escaping her literature thesis by going to cheesy B-movie showings as a college student, and the process of creating the futuristic worlds for The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake. And then just for fun, she throws in a few short fiction pieces at the end that are inspired by what the book discusses. I loved this, not just for how thoughtfully Atwood discusses and dissects such cheap B-movie tropes like mad scientists and sexy demon women, but for how broad the scope of these essays are. She discusses Never Let Me Go, the relationship between devils and evil aliens, 1984, Brave New World, Avatar, fictional maps, superheroes, gene splicing, and HG Wells. Did I mention superheroes? Because oh my god, you guys, Margaret Atwood discussing superheroes is my new favorite thing. She does a Jungian analysis of Batman using the three big villains - the Joker, the Penguin, and Catwoman - and does such a good job analyzing Robin that for the first time I didn't utterly hate the character:"Then there's Robin, the Boy Wonder, who is Bruce's ward. Is Bruce gay? Don't even think about it. From the point of view of we mythosophists, Robin is an elemental spirit, like Shakespeare's Puck and Ariel - note the bird name, which links him to air. His function in the plot is to aid the benevolent master trickster, Batman, with his plans. From the point of view of we Jungians, however, Robin is a Peter Pan figure - he never grows up - and he represents the repressed child within Bruce Wayne, whose parents, you'll recall, were murdered when he was very young, thus stunting Bruce's emotional growth."I'll be honest: I never thought I'd see the day when a multiple-award-winning Serious Author was discussing Batman with a completely straight face. And that, I think, is the central idea behind this collection: that the stories of aliens and mad scientists and superheroes and magic, so frequently dismissed as pulpy trash, deserve to be regarded with just as much respect and thoughtfulness as traditional Great Literature. Stories of aliens taking over the world and sexy vampires have a rich and far-reaching literary ancestry, and many of the tropes that define science fiction can be found in the kind of books that are taken much more seriously than anything involving monsters and made-up worlds. Summary: Science Fiction is legit, guys, so you best respect. The Atwood commands it.

  • Kayıp Rıhtım
    2019-03-03 06:31

    Başka Dünyalar: Bilimkurgu ve Hayalgücü, Atwood’un da belirttiği gibi bilimkurguyla ilgili teorik bir metin, bilimsel bir çalışma ya da açıklayıcı bir eser değil kesinlikle. Atwood eserinde bilimkurguya hayatı boyunca kurduğu ilişkiyi keşfe çıkıyor ve bu yolculukta bizim de kendisine eşlik etmemizi istiyor.Başka Dünyalar üç bölümden oluşuyor. Kitaba da adını ve ağırlığını veren ilk bölüm Atwood’un bir çocuk, bir lisans öğrencisi ve bir araştırmacı/yazar olarak bilimkurgu ile kurduğu ilişki üzerinden türe ait değerlendirmelerini içeriyor. İlk bölümle birlikte kitabın “yeni” kısmı da sonlanmış oluyor.İkinci bölümde Atwood’un daha önce çeşitli bilimkurgu eserleri hakkında yazmış olduğu eleştiri, giriş yazısı veya konuşmalardan oluşan bir derleme ile karşılaşıyoruz. Son bölüm ise yazarın beş kısa bilimkurgu öyküsünden oluşuyor. Açıkçası bu iki bölüm doğrudan bu amaçla kaleme alınmamış olmalarına rağmen Atwood’un bir okur/eleştirmen ve yazar olarak türe yaklaşımı konusunda ilk bölüme nazaran daha doyurucu bir bakış sağlıyor.Kitabın ilk bölümü olan “Başka Dünyalar” yazarın 2010 yılında Emory Üniversitesi’nde vermiş olduğu Ellman Dersleri’ne dayanıyor. Üç kısımdan oluşan bu bölümü Atwood “bir nevi şahsi tarih” olarak tanımlıyor.Yazarın çocukluğunda süper kahramanlarla kurduğu ilişkiden temelini alan “Uçan Tavşanlar” adlı ilk kısım Atwood’un süper kahramanların ortak özelliklerinin kökleri hakkındaki düşüncelerini içeriyor. Süper kahramanların ortak özelliklerinden ve bu özelliklerin kökenlerinden bahsetmeye kostümler üzerinden giriş yapıyor Atwood. Süper kahramanların çift kişiliklerinden bahsederken ayaküstü de olsa Batman’ın Jung’cı bir çözümlemesini yapmaktan da geri kalmıyor. Atwood, uçuş ile dönüşüm ve hile özelliklerine değinerek ilk kısımı sonlandırıyor.İkinci kısım olan “Yanan Çalılar” ise Atwood’un özellikle lisans döneminde antik çağ mitolojisine duyduğu ilgiye dayanıyor. Bu kısımda Atwood bilimkurgunun öncülü ve habercisi olarak gördüğü mitler ile bilimkurgunun benzerliklerini tartışıyor. Bunu da; dünya nasıl ortaya çıkmıştır, insanlar nereden geldi, tanrılar ne istiyor ve erkeklerle kadınlar arasındaki ilişkiler nasıl olmalıdır gibi bilimkurgu ve mitlerin ortak olarak ortaya koyduğunu düşündüğü sorular ve bu soruların cevapları üzerinden anlatıyor. İlk bölümün son kısmı “Melun Kartografyalar: Üstopyaya Varan Yollar” olarak adlandırılmış. Yazarın hiç tamamlanmamış doktora tezini temel alan bu bölüm Atwood’un ütopya ve distopya kavramlarına bakışını içeriyor. Aynı zamanda yine yazarın ifadesiyle bu kısım Atwood’un üç romanı; Damızlık Kızın Öyküsü, Antilop ve Flurya ile Tufan Zamanı hakkında.Kitabın Başka Tasarılar adlı ikinci bölümü Atwood’un yıllar içinde kaleme aldığı giriş yazılarından eleştirilere uzanan çeşitli yazılarından oluşan bir seçkiyi içeriyor. Piercy’nin Zamanın Kıyısındaki Kadın’ı hakkında bir yazıyla açılan bölüm, Wells’ten Orwell’a, oradan Jonathan Swift’e on ayrı yazarın eserlerine ait yazıları bir araya getiriyor. Bu eserleri Atwood’un gözüyle incelemek okura ilginç bir deneyim sunarken aynı zamanda yazarın daha önceki bölümlerde anlatmaya çalıştığı kavramlara açıklık getirmeyi de kolaylaştırıyor. Kitabın son bölümü Beş Hediye’de yazar sunduğu beş kısa bilimkurgu hikayesi ile bu bölümü Atwood hayranları için gerçekten bir hediye haline getiriyor. Atwood’un kimi zaman fazlasıyla karmaşık hale gelen kimi zaman ise aşırı basit görünen bilimkurgu anlayışını doğrudan inceleme fırsatını da tanıyan bu bölüm kitaba da noktayı koymuş oluyor.Sonuç olarak tekrarlara düştüğü kadar sürükleyici de olan, kimi zaman bütünlükten uzaklaşsa da güçlü ifadesini kaybetmeyen, adındaki iddianın hakkını vermekte zorlansa da hayal kırıklığına uğratmayan bir kitap Başka Dünyalar: Bilim Kurgu ve Hayal Gücü. Özellikle bilimkurgu, fantastik, ütopya ve distopyalar hakkında düşünen, okuyan, yazan, çizen hiç kimsenin ıskalamaması gereken bir kitap.- Barış ATAİncelemenin tamamı için:

  • Tudor Vlad
    2019-03-21 03:25

    I’m continuing with my promise of reading more Margaret Atwood, this time with something quite different. If last time I read Alias Grace which for me was a pleasant change of pace from the usual speculative fiction I grew expecting from Margaret, now I’m moving to the realm of non-fiction with this collection of essays, some short-stories and thoughts from the one and only Margaret Atwood.The title of the book, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, says it all. This is a book about science fiction, Margaret’s relationship with science fiction and how it helped transform her in the writer that she is today. It analyzes science fiction as a genre, what is the criteria that a book has to follow in order to be classified as science fiction. “Anything that doesn't fit this mode has been shoved into an area of lesser solemnity called 'genre fiction,' and it is here that the spy thriller and the crime story and the adventure story and the supernatural tale and the science fiction, however excellently written, must reside, sent to their rooms, as it were, for the misdemeanor of being enjoyable in what is considered a meretricious way. They invent, and we all know they invent, at least up to a point, and they are, therefore, not about 'real life,' which ought to lack coincidences and weirdness and action-adventure, unless the adventure story is about war, of course, where anything goes, and they are, therefore, not solid.”When did science fiction originate? When did FICTION originate? What pieces of literature influenced our current science fiction the most? Why do people feel the need to write, and for that matter why do we love reading so much? This book has a lot of question but it also has a lot of answer, answers that are beautifully laid. It was inspiring, it gave voice to some of the ideas and opinion I had about science fiction and books in general, ideas that because I suck at writing I could have never enunciate the way Margaret Atwood did. It also offered me a different perspective and understanding of her books, and some other famous science fiction books. In some of her essays she talks about The Handmaid’s Tale, what inspired her to write it, some of the criticism the book received, how it almost got banned and more. She talked about Oryx and Crake and about The Year of the Flood (too bad this book was released before MaddAddam was published because I would have loved to hear what she had to say about it). Besides her books, she also talks about 1984 (which was the main inspiration for The Handmaid’s Tale), War of the Worlds, Brave new World, The Martian Chronicles, Never Let Me Go and many more. It’s her analysis of Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro that stuck with me, because it made me appreciate the book more by pointing out things that I did notice but never managed to realize what their significance was. In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination is a love letter from Margaret Atwood to science fiction and the only reason it gets 4 point something stars is because I wanted more, there were some essays that felt too short.

  • Chris
    2019-03-07 05:37

    Collection of essays, mostly about science fiction and the struggle to define it. Atwood sets the record straight about how she really sees science fiction. Early half of the book is better, though the best thing is the letter she wrote to a school district that tried to ban Handmaid's Tale.

  • James
    2019-03-22 00:49

    A book I'd been hoping to read for a while. It was on my birthday list and my sister, and her husband, were kind enough to oblige. As I unwrapped it (remembering to use my grateful face) my sister shared two thoughts with me. Firstly, she was surprised that I had asked for a Margaret Atwood book as she really didn't see her as my 'type of author', and secondly, why was Margaret Atwood writing a book about science fiction - after all, she didn't really write science fiction.My sister likes to speak her mind - she might even be thought to sound a bit 'superior' to the untrained ear (she is a university lecturer after all, whereas I am much less well educated), she did also describe my Goodreads profile as a list of books she wouldn't want to read - but she's right, I've never ready any Margaret Atwood before, and feminist literature wouldn't normally be my go-to genre. After my first question as to how she would categorise The Handmaid's Tale left her a little more subdued we got to the reason why I wanted to read this book - Atwood is an author that, according to many science fiction reviewers, clearly seems to write science fiction, yet she's reputed to have voiced a somewhat disparaging view of the genre on at least one occasion - something along the lines of 'science fiction is characterised by talking squids in space'. Obviously, the actual interview is not available online - at least I couldn't find it - so the context of the discussion is hard to gauge. The quotes you can find are, selectively edited down, on the sites that seem to by the hardest on her view. So what to think. Luckily, just in time, Atwood kindly decides to write a book that describes "her lifelong relationship with the literary form we have come to know as 'science fiction'". That should answer my questions ...The book is broken down into three sections - firstly an autobiographical section, the titular 'In Other Worlds', describes Atwood's introduction to books, her obvious love and fascination with science fiction as a genre, with comics, through her university and post-graduate writings. These are more than nostalgic memoirs though, as much as she'd like to sidestep it in the introduction, it is the beginnings of an academic study of science fiction. Her understanding, and biases, of the genre term science fiction, mythologies, theologies, utopias and dystopias. Ending with an overview of her three science/speculative fiction novels - The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood.The second section, 'Other Deliberations', is a collection of some of Atwood's literary reviews. Her reviews of H. Rider Haggard's She, a collection of Ursula K. Le Guin's short stories, George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm, Brave New World, H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau amongst others. Each and insightful detailed investigation of the work. Even the books I'd already read suddenly felt like I'd barely read them at all, I'd missed the point. Great - more books to add to my to-reread shelf.Finally, the third section, 'Five Tributes', contains five works of science/speculative fiction. Each a short story in a different vein. But each more, or less, science fiction (or speculative fiction if that's what you'd like it to be):Cryogenics: A Symposium explores the risks, and costs, of having your head frozen to be woken up in the future. Told from the point of view of a conversation at a dinner party. What happens when it all goes wrong? If you can't afford to have your whole body frozen, maybe you can only afford your head? Definitely science fiction here - there's science - going wrong - and it's in the future.Cold-Blooded explores a first-contact situation. Except they've come to us. And they're insects. Eventually they come to communicate with us, but they don't understand us, we're just too different. Science fiction again. Aliens, space travel, and giant talking insects (no squids though).Homelanding is about an alien tour or an apparently backward world. Where the tour is treated as a museum exhibit. More aliens, possibly not on earth. Again pretty sure this is science fiction.If we left a time capsule for the future. Long after we're dead. Long after the planet is dead. What would it say. Time Capsule Found on the Dead Planet is the letter in the time capsule. Sounds like more far-future stuff, presumably an alien is reading it. Yep, it's science fiction.The last story is more complicated. The Peach Women of A a'A is a short story, told by a character in one of Atwood's own novels, The Blind Assassin. Recursive. While the novel isn't science fiction (I don't think - I haven't actually read it), the character telling the short story is an author of pulp science fiction - asked for a story with a happy ending this is what he produces. It tells the story of two men involved in the defence of Earth against the Lizard men of Xenor. As they are shot down and about to die, they are rescued by the peach women of the title, who heal them and proceed to tend to their every want. Of course, as a true utopia, having everything you want gets pretty boring (eventually) and they (or the protagonists of the containing novel) have to decide if they should stay in the happy world of A a'A or break out of the utopia to almost certain not happiness. Aliens, space ships, morphing peach women aliens, lizard men. All pretty standard science fiction.Two appendices close the book out. A letter to a school district that had tried to ban The Handmaid's Tale, and to the students and teachers that fought it. And a discussion of the impact of pulp science fiction covers, "bountifully endowed" women wearing skimpy chain mail tops, on her characters and her own fiction.Overall, this is an absolutely fascinating book. A real insight into Margaret Atwood's preferences, theories, and biases about the science fiction genre. I entirely understand where she's coming from, the term has become loaded, is restrictive, and makes for uncomfortable classifications for a large number of works. Personally, I think the whole thing is a bit of a storm-in-a-teacup, but I enjoyed finding out a little bit as to why Atwood may (or may not) disagree with me. Which brings me to my two niggles. Even combined they aren't enough to dent the 5-star rating this book deserves, but ... For all the words in the book, it doesn't ever seem to answer the two key questions I went into the book with - why are you writing the book and how does it, specifically, tie into the annoyance that parts of the Internet seem to have with the squid comments? And, if you don't totally like the genre labels that we have do you have a clear idea of the taxonomy that you'd like to see instead? Both of these questions felt, to me, skirted around somewhat and not directly addressed. And secondly, if Atwood thinks that the genre label science fiction is too limited - why does she feel the need to, when discussing The Island of Doctor Moreau, state "... the book is certainly not a novel, if by that we mean a prose narrative dealing with observable social life."? Although phrased as a question, it doesn't read like one, and seems to imply that Atwood would almost like to limit the term novel itself as a kind of genre - one that would not apply to most science fiction (or even speculative fiction). In fact, earlier on in the book she describes her own three SF books as "novel-length ustopias". Aren't they still novels?

  • Jarrah
    2019-02-23 01:39

    The first part of In Other Worlds feels like you're hanging out with Margaret Atwood drinking wine when she has a bit too much to drink and starts ramblingly postulating on science fiction, mostly focusing on her relationship with the genre. It was interesting but I thought told us more about Margaret Atwood than it did about "science fiction and the human imagination". The best segment was Atwood's musings on the interconnected relationship between dystopia and utopia, which provided an interesting framework to look at Atwood's books as well as many other SF works.I felt the second part of the book, in which Atwood shares her reflections on specific works such as Brave New World and the stories of Ursula K. LeGuin, was more interesting and insightful. Though I had expected more gender analysis throughout the book, Atwood does hit on it a bit in this section. For example she points out that most dystopias have been written by men and from a male point-of-view:"I wanted to try a dystopia from the female point of view - the world according to Julia, as it were. However, this does not make The Handmaid's Tale 'a feminist dystopia,' except insofar as giving a woman a voice and an inner life will always be considered 'feminist' by those who think women ought not to have those things."In Part 3, Atwood shares a few of her own SF short stories, and it's interesting to see how they both draw and diverge from the other works she referenced.Overall, this is probably a book more for the Atwood fan than the SF fan who isn't familiar with Atwood.

  • Denis
    2019-02-27 05:41

    I love and respect Atwood's work. She is creative, imaginative and has just the right pinch of cynicism added to her work to give it spunk and spice. The only issue I've ever had with her was, that I read that, she refused to classify her later novels as "Science Fiction". To me, the Madd Adam Trilogy, "A Hand Maid's Tale" and "The Heart Goes Last" fit well into that genre. So this was a really cool collection of articles, book reviews and essays plus short stories and commentaries that made the case for Atwood, It is clear that she had nothing against the genre; to the contrary, she was inspired by it. She loves and respects the work of Ursula Le Guin - seems to believe she does a far better a job at it than she, herself can.I simply loved this book. I think everyone should have a look at it. Atwood has a very clear idea of what a Utopia/Distopia and and what she thinks separated Fantasy from Scifi.There is some repetition here as some of the content are articles and essays that cover the same ground, so I docked it a star for 'editing' reasons, which I though could have been done a little better, but that is just a case of 'nit picking'.A must read - really.And wow, the girl can write a review!

  • Amber
    2019-03-17 04:47

    Margaret Atwood is who I want to be when I grow up.Insight into utopias, how society spins them, weaves them, and records them. Speculative fiction, and a rose by any other name.

  • El
    2019-03-13 07:34

    It's no surprise to anyone that I have a serious girl-crush on Margaret Atwood. There's very little that she's written that I haven't enjoyed on some level, and almost always does her writing make me think on a different level, both aspects of which are pretty important for me. I have some issues with her personality that are similar to others - that in interviews she comes across sometimes as snooty, that she can't seem to get off her high-horse about how some of her own literature isn't SF, or it isn't feminist, or whatever. It all leads to some interesting discussion about writerly types, and it doesn't really bother me if I disagree with her. She's the boss of her own writing, certainly; but if I feel something is feminist, that's on me, and there's nothing wrong with that.I especially dig her essays, and I've long wanted to read her thoughts on SF as a genre, though for some reason I put this out of my head for a long while and only remembered again recently when I saw it on a display table at the library. YOINK.A non-fan of Atwood that might pick this up would probably say something along the lines of this being some disjointed drivel, a lot of mamby-pamby self-inflation, whatever. But for fans like myself, meh. She could write about the history of dirt and I would be excited to read it.I love learning little things about her, and here we learn a lot. She has roots in SF, she's a fan of it, she's read it, she's written it, she's studied it. And now here are those thoughts all in one place, since some of them have been published before. I'm a fan, but I don't have the time or patience to go into the world to try to find every article she's ever written. (Although now that idea sounds really fucking fun.)This is also literary criticism, in which she shares her opinion on a variety of different authors and titles. There's no talk here of some of the more common SF writers - there's no Herbert, there's no Dick, there's no Bester. She does talk about Verne, Wells, Shelley, Jonathan Swift, Wyndham, Haggard, and even one or two people I'm not familiar with. I have a list of books now to read, other lit crit writers, and that excites me.

  • Oriana
    2019-03-21 00:44

    check out how amazing Margaret Atwood is. Per this TreeHugger article: there will be a limited-edition, signed first run of this book (300 copies) printed on a new thing called Second Harvest paper. "This is paper made from the leftover straw after the grain harvest and all other uses are accounted for. It is made without any harm to forests (or food). The straw would otherwise be burnt, causing significant air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions." Of course, the Second Harvest books costs $100 a pop (doing the right thing is so rarely cheap), but for the rest of us, the main run of the book will be printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. Because Margaret Atwood is the fucking best.

  • Mia
    2019-03-03 02:38

    This is essentially Margaret Atwood's musings on spec fic, taking an academic and pensive look at some of the literary titans of the last few centuries (particularly in the dystopian/utopian genres). I use the word "pensive" rather than "critical", because that's what it feels like: Atwood seems to ponder over the subject, making interesting links to mythology, and adding insight into her own SF works. These essays probably won't challenge you but they will provide lovers of SF an enjoyable and interesting read, particularly if you are a fan of Atwood's SF. Lovers of Orwell, Wells, Huxley, Ishiguro, etc. will also find something in here for themselves.

  • Feisty Harriet
    2019-03-09 02:39

    This is a series of essays by Margaret Atwood that discuss her particular views on science fiction as well as a lot of memoir-type information about her growing up, schooling, and studying fairly obscure texts. The only other Margaret Atwood I've read is "The Handmaid's Tale" which she talks about a little here, but it made it difficult to follow other essays that were discussing books of hers I've never read. Also, she narrates part of the audiobook herself, and, uh, audiobook narration is not her strong suit. Like, at all.

  • serprex
    2019-02-22 00:44

    She's definitely literate

  • Hilary
    2019-02-28 08:33

    This book was given to me by the perfectly brilliant Margaret Atwood when it comes to the subject of writing. Then again, where exactly has she gone wrong, the woman who gave us The Handmaiden's Tale and Oryx and Crake? In Other Worlds is a brilliant examination of the science fiction genre, that those in charge of the "SyFy" network really should read prior to premiering a film like "Wolf Town" again. In its chapters, Margaret Atwood muses about everything from Flying Rabbits to Never Let Me Go. Classic authors such as H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are discussed, and there is a particularly brilliant analysis of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four that is making me want to read both books again.While this book is not for everyone, as some people aren't particularly fond of literary criticism, for those looking for a succinct history of the genre and a consideration of futurology in light of it - this is your book. Margaret Atwood is a wry, accessible author who makes what otherwise may be dry essays both insightful and hilarious to all who wish to read them. One wishes that all academics had such supreme talent.

  • Karen Ireland-Phillips
    2019-02-28 05:49

    It’s easy to dismiss Margaret Atwood as the science fiction writer who disses science fiction. But the reality is far more complex, signaled by the highly ironic (and sad) opening quote by Octavia Butler: “I’m a fifty-three-year old writer who can remember being a ten-year-old writer and who expects someday to be an eighty-year-old writer.”Ms. Atwood eschews any characterization as a “fan”, but she has an impressive grounding in the classics of the field, and an obvious appreciation for current anthropological and speculative fiction writers. However, she sets the conflict out squarely in her introduction as she discusses an Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood review by Ursula K. LeGuin, that “caused a certain amount of uproar in the skin-tight clothing and other-planetary communities” (p.5). One of the most skillful writers in the world today didn’t include this belittling reference to people who love speculative fiction, myself included, by accident. Reading on was a bit of a chore after that, but worth it. In this sometimes contradictory collection of essays, Atwood discusses her complex relationship, as a reader and as a writer, with science fiction. She defines science fiction as limited to “things that could not possibly happen” - rockets and rayguns, War of the World-type sf. Since her own speculative fiction does not fit into this category, it isn’t science fiction. Atwood believes she writes speculative fiction, which she defines as “things that really could happen but just hadn’t completely happened when the author wrote the book” p6. [return]But of course, definitions of science fiction and fantasy are far more mutable. She acknowledges this even while continuing to distance her own work from the science fiction “label”.These essays informed me, made me angry, amused me, and set me stalking around verbalizing counter-arguments for days. I may not agree with Margaret Atwood, but I always love reading her work.

  • Charles Taylor
    2019-03-04 01:25

    This is an enjoyable set of essays and reviews, with a few snippets of fiction, that reflect Atwood's lifelong relationship with sf.She has many interesting things to say about Victorian writers of precursors of sf, and the utopian/dystopian tradition - this is clearly where her heart lies. Pulp fiction of the 30s to the 50s gets a little attention - she seems to have been impressed by a documentary on pulp sf by a Richard Wolinsky that thematised illustrations of that era featuring women in brass brassieres, as this links into her interest and involvement with feminism.The writing is personal and light and she doesn't draw hard and fast conclusions, but nor does she avoid saying what she thinks.

  • Stephen Curran
    2019-03-11 03:53

    I'm sure I've read some of these essays and lectures before, possibly in another of Margaret Atwood's books of literary criticism, Negotiating with the Dead. But I'm more than happy to read them again; particularly when she is holding forth on some of my favourite texts: 1984, Animal Farm, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Time Machine, Never Let Me Go ...She has such an engaging style, so witty, so clever, so inclusive. This collection has added a number of new titles to my 'Want to Read' shelf, as well as spurring me on to re-read the peerless The Handmaid's Tale before the TV adaptation comes out. I particularly enjoyed the education I received from the final essay, on the work of the illustrator Margaret Brundage, but it's all good stuff.

  • Max
    2019-03-10 08:23

    Anyone who has read The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood will doubly appreciate this collection of essays on SF writings, especially because of her description of "ustopia", a mix of utopia and dystopia. We are given a closer look into the motivations for Margaret to write this type of story, her own reading history growing up and her "definition" of the genre. She frequently asks questions in her writing, some are rhetorical, others are answered. It shows her penmanship and her concern with humanity and nature, among others. Very recognisable as a real Atwood book.

  • Yelda Güzel
    2019-03-04 02:53

    Margaret Atwood’un ince espri anlayışı ve derin bilgi birikimi ile bezeli bir bilimkurgu/fantastik edebiyat sohbeti. Neredeyse her cümlesinin altını çizmek istiyorsunuz. İlhamınızı nereden alıyorsunuz sorusuna verdiği cevap örneğin: “yetişkin olarak ortaya koyduğumuz sanat, çocuklukta eksikliğini çektiğimiz şeyleri ikame eder”. Legoya benzer oyuncak takımının kapağındaki değirmen resmini yapmaya çalıştığı ancak eksik parça olduğu için bir türlü yapamadığı oyuncağına gönderme yaparak: “O değirmeni inşa edebilmiş olsaydım yazar olur muydum?...ciddi ölçüde değişikliğe uğramış olsa da bu kitapta size değirmeni takdim ediyorum…” Carl Gustav Jung’dan yaptığı alıntı, hem kendi hayatındaki “yazarlık” sonucunun sebeplerine hem de bilimkurgu/fantastik türlerinin ortaya çıkış sebeplerine vurgu yapıyor: “bilinç katmanına çıkaramadığımız her şey hayatımızda kader olarak tezahür eder” (karmacıları, evrene mesaj yollacıları daha mı çok ciddiye almak lazım bilmiyorum artık… Jung’da demiş aynını...). Örneğin, insan doğayla savaş halinde olmanın, varoluşunu anlamlandırmanın gayreti içindeyken yüzyıllar boyunca mitler üretmiştir. Alev alan ama yanmayan çalılar, cennetler, cehennemler, hayal gücünün elverdiği ölçüde doğaüstü olaylar… İlk mitlerin etki gücü çok yüksektir, evrilerek insanoğlunun hayatını yönlendiren kurallara dönüşmüşlerdir. Sonra, dünyanın bilinmeyen yerleri keşfedilip giderek bilinmeyen yer kalmayınca, yani Kaf Dağı’nın ardını görünce, dünyanın kıyısına, dipsiz okyanusun dibine ulaşınca, her yere sokak lambaları dikip karanlık köşeler bırakmayınca mitler ve kahramanları yazarın deyimiyle “emlak sıkıntısı çekip” göç etmişlerdir. Nereye? X gezegenine, Orta Dünya’ya vs..Bilimkurgu/Fantastik türlerdeki karakteristik öğelerin toplumsal ya da psikolojik gerçeklerimizle ne gibi bağlantıları vardır sorusunu da tartışıyor yazar. Kahramanlar uçar (uçmak, insanoğlunun en eski arzularından biridir, ulaşılamazlığı ölçüsünde de güç ile ilişkilidir), Wonder Woman’ın alt benliği Diana Prince, aşk nesnesi Steve Trevor tarafından öpüldüğünde güçlerini kaybedip eriyip gider (bence sırf bu tema üzerine bile sayfalar dolusu kitap yazılabilir. Aşkın doğasından girip feminizmden çıkabilirsiniz…) gibi… Neden ütopyalar düşlemeye gereksinim duyuyoruz ve neden giderek daha çok distopya canlanıyor zihnimizde. Ürettiğimiz onca distopyanın, gerçekleşebilme olasılığı nedir. Gibi, cevabını kolayca verebileceğiniz, yazarla tamamen aynı fikirde olacağınız sorular da var. Eğer hayal gücünüz zengin, kaleminiz kuvvetli ve antropoloji bilginiz yerinde ise iyi bir fantastik/bilimkurgu yazarı olabilirsiniz! Bknz. Ursula K. Le Guin, annesi yazar, kocası tarihçi, babası antropologdu! Bu magazinsel bilgi üzerinden antropoloji, tarih ve sosyoloji gibi gerçek dünyaya ait disiplinler ile fantastik/bilimkurgu edebiyat arasındaki sıkı bağlantıyı veriyor yazar. Le Guin üzerinden örneklemelerle tabi...Fantastik/bilimkurgu tarzının belli başlı bazı yazarlarını/romanlarını da irdeliyor. Marge Piercy, Rider Haggard, Bill McKibben, George Orwell, H. G. Wells, Aldoux Huxley, Jonathan Swift, Kazuo Ishiguro ve tabi ki kitabı atfettiği Ursula K. Le Guin… İrdelediği yazarlardan/romanlardan bazılarını hiç okumamıştım, bu bakımdan kitap, iyi bir fantastik/bilimkurgu edebiyat seçkisi sunmuş oldu. Bazılarını (Kazuo Ishiguro-Beni Asla Bırakma) okumuş ama anlamamıştım. Atwood ne anlamamız gerektiğini güzel güzel anlatmış sağolsun...Kısacası, zeki, birikimli ve espritüel insanlarla sohbet etmek zevklidir. Bu kitap böyle bir sohbet duygusu uyandırdı bende. Son olarak, kendi üniversite yıllarını, o yıllardaki edebiyat elitizmini ve yüksek edebiyat, düşük edebiyat algısını anlattığı bölümde yazarı kendime çok yakın hissettim: “benim her seviyeye ilgim var gibi görünüyordu ve bundan gocunmuyordum” diyor yazar. Aynen…

  • Alice
    2019-03-13 08:29

    I've read a lot of Margaret Atwood's fiction, but not a lot of her nonfiction. I was hoping for some insight into why she uses the SF trappings she does in her books, and, in that, I was not disappointed. I also learned some things, along the way, including a whole other way to think of genre fiction, no matter how you label it.Atwood is known for resisting a "science fiction" label, and she explains within these pages why. It's not because she looks down on science fiction, but because she considers her works to be speculative fiction, a branch she considers separate. (I use it as a catch-all for science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, etc.)The book is broken up into personal essays and reviews or commentaries on specific works. The publication of these items is often years apart, and so there's some overlap and repetition. What's interesting is that there is no contradiction. By the time Atwood wrote the first of these pieces, she already knew things she's only grown to solidify.Atwood's higher education background is in Victorian literature. A lot of this book, then, involves themes and novels of that time period, though she does branch out to cover mythology and modern science fiction and superheroes.The result is a surprisingly cohesive package covering several concepts regarding science fiction's role in our lives. She addresses the snobbish literary attitudes toward genre, pointing out that its greatest sin is that people enjoy reading it. She discusses "ustopia," which is neither dystopia nor utopia, or maybe it's both. It's how she classifies her own works that others (including me) have classified as dystopian: The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood. She goes into what influenced these books, and how she feels they distort the modern world, rather than predicting a probable future.The reviews cover an array of classics and modern stories, from Gulliver's Travels to Never Let Me Go. I was amused to find that, with one exception, I'd either read the books in question, or never heard of them in my life. Luckily, with Atwood's commentary, it sounds like I've been spared having to read them for myself. There's only so much sexism, repression, and colonialism a modern reader can take.The essays can be repetitive, but this only serves to underline her main points about the universal truths even pulpy science fiction is tapping into. Through these essays, Atwood helps to elevate science fiction, if not to the same level as literary, at least out of the mud into which many critics have kicked it.If you want to think about your science fiction differently, as part of a greater whole in the history of fiction, I highly recommend you pick this up.I "read" the audio edition, which is narrated by Margaret Atwood and Susan Denaker. I like to hear the author's intonation when I'm reading a book, though Atwood lacks Denaker's polish. Still, they picked a narrator who sounds similar enough to Margaret Atwood that I forgot the narrators had switched until it switched back. Atwood has a slight Canadian accent, and her voice fades every hour or so, but I enjoyed hearing her read her essays, and I wish she'd been able to read it all. I understand why she couldn't, though, and I'm happy with her temporary replacement.

  • Bryan
    2019-02-24 06:44

    This feels like a publisher humping the cash cow over the tornado in a teapot that is Margo’s refusal to call her work “science fiction.” Can I call you Margo? Oh you fuzzy haired f-bomb feminist witch, you are my people. To sniff out the nature of Ms. Atwood’s true crime we have to revisit Thomas Disch’s seminal essay “On SF” which makes two assertions: 1) SF is juvenile literature; and 2) SF is literature intended for the working class. These assertions are indeed true, but for Atwood’s take on them you only have to remember the Alex Thomas character in The Blind Assassin. So she is an intellectual snob that refuses to say her work is for the young or the poor. It’s like she is pointing her long skinny witch finger and saying “you’re immature and poor.” You can never call a snob a snob or they win. By doing so you acknowledge that they have played the class card and you are peeved because you perceive yourself to be 1) young or 2) poor. And, for the most part I love her for it. In this particular case, there is a gender element at the play. There has been much positive work since the 1970s, but a lot SF is still intended for juvenile, working class males. Now here is this woman who can write far better than anyone else in the genre and she isn’t afraid to say it. You go sister! And she is Canadian to boot! Rip that cord on the reactionary hate machine! I have been subject to the same SF fan bile when I dared criticize certain authors on the basis of the literary merit of their prose. I have been accused of not being “a true SF fan.” If anyone wants me to be a fan their writing, they should be good writers. In the meantime, myself and Margo are lounging atop a slag heap of fantastical genre fiction, eating ice cream and espresso, belching, laughing, looking down on the rest of you.Now that that is out of the way. In Other Worlds is a collection of Atwood’s essays about SF and her reviews of SF books. She has a scholarly gaze that is a bit too institutionalized for my liking, but she does paint an elegant arc between ancient mythology and comic books. Indeed, for some Star Trek is religion. I’m not sure she is interested in contemporary SF so much because of the snobbish disregard I mentioned above, but she is right at home with the turn of the century stuff that forms the foundation of the modern genre. You’ll never think about The Island of Dr. Moreau same way again. Her personal insights on the germination The Handmaid’s Tale are of great interest to those in Nashville as the city gears up for the inaugural Nashville Reads featuring none other than the Tale aforementioned.I picked up the audio version and that was probably a mistake. Atwood herself reads half the material, and though she knows her own rhythms best, her voice is terrible and she reads way too slow. The actress reading the other half doesn’t seem to realize she is reading essays not dramatic material, and she slips into racist accents when reading quotes from non-Anglo writers. Horrible. So two stars for the audio version. Print probably would have gotten three.

  • Dinara Tengri
    2019-03-15 07:23

    It has been difficult for me to categorize this book. It's not an autobiography, although it is very personal. Nor is it a school book on science fiction and fantasy, and yet I found it very informative and educational. Atwood herself calls it "an exploration of my own lifelong relationship with a literary form (...) both as a reader and as writer." Atwood is being very open about herself and the life that she has led, and her relationship with science fiction. Her personal accounts inevitably made me think back and wonder what it was that drew me to science fiction. Why was I fascinated by the fantastical as a child (even though I hated to read)?And like I said, this is a very informative and educational book. Not only does Atwood take us through the history of science fiction, but she touches upon religion, mythology, history and the importance that story-telling has had in our own civilization. And she puts these phenomena in a whole new perspective. Her analysis gave me a new understanding for science fiction and the role it plays in the Western world. Atwood's background as an author and academic, as well as her genuine love for science fiction and fantasy make her a good authority on the subject. In other words, she knows her stuff. The second part contains essays on such SF classics like Orwell's 1984 and Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau. I especially like her take on 1984, mainly because it's one of my favourite books, and it's still fresh in my memory. But also because I agree wholeheartedly with Atwood's thoughts on government surveillance and on the controversial laws that have become a hot topic at the beginning of the 21st Century. Long story short: we don't like them. And last but not least, Atwood includes some of her own short stories. I like her prose and her style, so much so that I now have her novel Oryx and Clarke on my to-read list. However, I did find some of these short stories a little preachy. Her observations of our civilization and its shortcomings are no doubt spot on, but the critiquing can get a little tiresome after a while. One thing I feel I have to complain about is that Atwood spoils every book she writes about. It came to a point that I had to skip a few essays. But if I ever want to read H. Rider Haggard’s She, I can’t, because what’s the point? I already know how it ends. Also, I don't really agree with her definition of science fiction. Dragons and flying carpets are not science fiction, unless they were created in a lab. Science fiction - to me at least - has to be grounded in science, and all the crazy stuff that might happen still need to have some sort of a rational explanation, be it genetic mutation or dead tissue revived by electricity. In other words: Star Trek is SF, Star Wars is fantasy. The Martian is SF, The Martian Chronicles is fantasy. In Other Worlds is a very smart, touching and well-written book. I truly recommend it to fans of science fiction and aspiring authors alike.

  • John Park
    2019-02-23 01:48

    Margaret Atwood, as we all know, does not write science fiction (but see below). Nevertheless throughout her career she has periodically written about SF and related subjects. This book, dedicated to Ursula K. Le Guin, samples the results.She starts with an autobiographical sketch describing her affection for superheroes and her discovery of Bradbury and Wyndham, and subsequently her fascination with utopian and dystopian fiction. (Oddly she repeatedly italicises the title of Wyndham's novella "Consider Her Ways" as though it had been published as a novel.) She is clearly not slumming and seems generally familiar with SF as a whole: in addition to the authors discussed, names such as Gibson, Silverberg, Sterling, Butler and Zamyatin are cited with apparent familiarity.The essays reprinted here mostly deal with the classics—Swift, Wells, Huxley, Orwell, but also Haggard, and some interesting borderline cases from Marge Piercy and Kazuo Ishiguro. She has an intelligent and sympathetic discussion of Ursula Le Guin centring on the latter's collection The Birthday of the World.Atwood tends to focus on the literary antecedents of the works she discusses and on implicit themes and the significance of names. In this mode she produces a penetrating introduction to Wells' Island of Doctor Moreau.In her discussion of Orwell she comments on the Appendix to Nineteen Eighty-Four describing the origin and theory of Newspeak. Because this section is written in ordinary English and in the past tense, Atwood interestingly takes it to imply that the regime of O'Brien, Minitrue, thoughtcrime and the rest has at some future date been overthrown.Inevitably the question arises: science fiction or not science fiction? Atwood makes the indisputable point that Nineteen Eighty-Four is not SF to the same extent that The Martian Chronicles is, and by extension her speculative novels are not SF to that extent either. Fair enough as far as that goes, but when she argues her "speculative" novels are not really SF at all, she is defining her own vocabulary: to try to smuggle the terms into general usage as a way of categorising her own works without expecting to cause confusion or misunderstanding seems disingenuous.And though she does not describe her recent novels as SF, she has produced indisputable bits of the genre over the years. Near the end of the book appear five examples dealing with such topics as freezing for resurrection, worldwide catastrophe and (yes) giant insects. As perhaps befits the culminating chapter of this collection they are short, witty and minor. Atwood's style throughout the book is engaging, with a sardonic humour never far below the surface. But despite its flickers of insight In Other Worlds is probably more of interest to an SF reader for what it reveals of Atwood than as a route to any deeper understanding of the genre.

  • Jonathan
    2019-03-16 00:48

    Atwood brings you full circle when explaining the workings of science fiction literature and how it plays a part in the everyday. With historical and cultural ties, she illustrates exactly how some of the most popular science fiction stories got their start and the purpose their narrative serves. Note that this isn't a grand omnibus to explain the entire genera, but rather a collection of articles organized into chapters that break down popular stories along with Atwood's personal reflections.In the first part Atwood describes her personal views of science fiction, including her relationship with early science fiction stories related to monsters and aliens from the 1930-40s. She notes that her view of science fiction comes from the rocket age, which is a bit removed from the contemporary speculative fiction we consider sci-fi today. The difference being that Atwood's science fiction isn't painting a picture of the future, but rather presenting things that will never be possible.The second part of the book discusses a few case studies, including reviews of 'Brave New World,' "Gulliver's Travels,' and 'Isle of Doctor Moreau'. These stories are explained via their subtext, but most of which will be meaningless unless the reader already read these classics.The final part of the book concludes with five specific elements of speculative fiction including cryogenics, contact with alien races, examining alien worlds, and thoughts of the future that use a time capsule as a metaphor. The book closes with two appendices: A letter to a school district that had tried to ban Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale," and a discussion of the impact of pulp science fiction covers."In Other Worlds" is a worthy read, as it makes the fans of genere fiction actually step back and understand the meaning and cultural influences science fiction has. Aliens, monsters, space travel and advanced technology are the vehicles these stories use to allow readers to project themselves into the worlds that will never (or may someday) exist, and how humanity will cope with change.

  • Shellie (Layers of Thought)
    2019-02-28 03:26

    Original review posted at Layers of Thought.An intriguing literary critique and more, by Margaret Atwood, based around science fiction. It’s for book lovers as well as fans of the author and the genre.About: This audio version of In Other Worlds is a catalog of Margaret Atwood’s relationship with science fiction and contains a number of her unpublished lectures including those titled “Flying Rabbits”, “Dire Cartographies”, and “Burning Bushes”. In the lectures she gives examples of the books which are important to her and her perspective around science fiction and more – how each book she describes affected her development, its place in history, and how it helped to create the genre as we see it today. Also included are her personal, respectable, and well thought out definitions for the sub and overlapping genres within the broad scope of speculative literature and science fiction. At the end of the book are two short stories written by the author and read by Susan Deneaker.Thoughts: I devoured this short read/listen, since I adore anything sci-fi and books about books. It was a complete pleasure for me. Atwood has some intriguing ideas about what the genre of science fiction is all about, especially for me considering my obsession with defining genres. That Atwood goes into depth was helpful since I learned many things from this book, which for me is what it’s all about. I now have other ways of referencing and categorizing a book.I am certain that this is not a book for everyone, however, I would recommend it as a must read for any serious science fiction geek. It’s also good for the reference shelf since it contains loads of information on classics, and of course those interesting “speculative” genre definitions that she has provided. In my opinion it’s a great listen. I will be purchasing a paper copy for my personal library. I give this terrific nonfiction book - a big 4 stars.

  • Andrea McDowell
    2019-03-07 06:27

    Before I get on with the review, I'd like to ask the publishers one simple question: why is the robot-woman on the cover of this book wearing egg cartons on her breasts? I realize the cover is made up of a number of objects meant to be silly and toy-like, but ... egg cartons? Wouldn't that be awfully uncomfortable? Anyway.In Other Worlds is about Margaret Atwood's opinions on science fiction: what it is, what it's good for, why she reads and (occasionally) writes it. It's good, if you like both Margaret Atwood and science fiction. I'm having a hard time visualizing someone who likes neither of those things getting much out of this book; particularly if you dislike Atwood, as her personality and perspectives are all over this thing.Fortunately for me, I love Atwood, so I enjoyed it. Even better, it was inspired (as far as I could see) by a conversation she had with Ursula K le Guin about science fiction, and I love le Guin. It reads, in many places, like an extended letter written to her good friend Ursula about what exactly this sci fi thing is that they both devote so much time to. However, Atwood is not a great science fiction writer. She is a great prose writer and I love her novels and non-fiction, except for Oryx and Crake and the Year of the Flood, because I found she took her inventions too far and from poor beginnings. One gets the feeling that her research was composed of reading opinion pieces of new technologies in popular newspapers and magazines, without checking the original sources and research to see if there's anything to it, and then developing them in her novels to an unsupportable extreme, thus causing mass hysteria in her very large audience, who believe that since it's Margaret Atwood she must know what she's talking about. Still, In Other Worlds is a fun book if you like the thought of reading what Margaret Atwood would have to say to Ursula le Guin on the subject of science fiction.

  • Aglaia
    2019-03-02 02:48

    "With every map there's an edge -- a border between the known and the unknown." Atwood explores this boundary in her own life and writing as she discusses what shaped her writing and texts that themselves break boundaries. At once both a collection of reflections upon a life spent amongst stories and an analysis of science fiction, this book allows Atwood's prose and wit to shine.The first section of In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination covers Atwood's analysis of her own writing history. Essays such as "Dire Cartographies" discuss Atwood's move towards writing of and writing about utopias and dystopias. "Burning Bushes" tackles, in a small way, the classic 'what is a story' question.The second half of the book is largely comprised of short essays on particular texts ranging from Haggard's She to Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. The book ends with a collection of five brief fictional vignettes of science fiction and two records of addresses that Atwood gave or wrote.Fascinating for its insight into the history of Atwood's writing life and analysis of science fiction, In Other Worlds straddles the boundary of entertainment and intelligentsia. As always, Atwood's writing is clear and elegant while retaining its accessibility and content. While not ground breaking, this does provide a good introduction of and to science fiction.