Margaret Atwood: Queen Of Devious Ideas
|72 min read
techgnotic's avatar
By techgnotic   |   Watch
127 26 13K (1 Today)
Published: April 9, 2015
Img-og by techgnotic

George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury…

Names like these get tossed around as examples of writers whose dystopian predictions of the future have come true in one way or another. Of possible candidates from our own time whose names might be added to this list, surely none is more worthy than Margaret Atwood. Atwood starting writing when she was six years old, despite not being enrolled in school full-time until she was eight. At age 75, and with a novel set to be released in September of this year, the Canadian author shows no sign of stopping. Despite not receiving a formal education during her early years, Atwood had a creative spark, reading whenever she could, deciding to pursue writing professionally as early as the age of 16. She now holds honorary degrees from Oxford, Cambridge University, and The Sorbonne among other notable institutions.

Atwood has a reputation for being a bold, forward-thinking writer. She recently agreed to be the first writer to make a contribution to The Future Library Project, a group seeking to collect original stories by prominent writers every year until 2114, at which point all of the material collected will be published in one volume. It’s an ambitious, interesting project, and Atwood’s involvement is (hopefully) a sign of good things to come.

But more than this, Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale demonstrates why Atwood has more than earned her place next to history’s most influential sci-fi and speculative fiction writers. The novel is set in the Republic of Gilead, which was formerly the United States of America. After a staged terrorist attack — blamed on Islamic extremists — incites a national panic, the constitution is suspended and the government is replaced by a fundamentalist Christian theocracy. Atwood penned the novel in 1985. It’s important to note that politically salient science fiction usually exaggerates the circumstances it seeks to make a point about. That is to say, Ray Bradbury probably didn’t actually believe that reading would one day be outlawed, but by writing about a world where that was the case, he was able to stress the importance of books and free-thinking.

To be clear: we aren’t saying that Margaret Atwood predicted 9/11.

And more so, we aren’t saying it was a government-staged attack. What we are saying is that Atwood’s clairvoyance as a writer has been well-established by less extreme examples of the things she wrote about actually happening in the U.S. in the wake of a major national tragedy. Atwood’s novel explored the consequences of a society’s decision to trade freedom for safety, and in less pronounced ways, America has made the same gambit by allowing increased surveillance on the citizenry, the Patriot Act and its attendant NSA spying programs being prime examples.

In the grand tradition of books that contain dangerous ideas, schools all over the U.S. and Canada have banned or attempted to ban The Handmaid’s Tale. In 2006 a superintendent in Judson, Texas unilaterally decided to remove the book from the school’s curriculum after a parent complained about the graphic material contained in the novel. In the end, he was overruled by the school board, who restored the book.

Of course, The Handmaid’s Tale is hardly the only quality work of fiction penned by Atwood’s prolific hand. For her work she’s been nominated for and won myriad accolades. In 2114 when The Future Library is opened and readers get to set eyes on the story that Atwood wrote for that project, her reputation as a writer could be based on any number of her accomplishments. But those of us fortunate enough to live and breathe alongside her would do well to consider the parallels between even the most “speculative” elements of her writing and the world we actually live in. Through this, we may become more aware of our surroundings and therefore more capable of improving them.

Your Thoughts

  1. Are you comfortable with the idea of sacrificing some personal freedoms for the sake of safety from outside threats?
  2. Does the idea of writing something that won’t be read for 100 years intrigue you? Have you ever considered taking part in a similar project?
  3. Does knowing a book has been “banned” make you more or less likely to read it?

anonymous's avatar
Join the community to add your comment. Already a deviant? Log In
phoenixleo's avatar
owtoad is her username. :D
It would have been nice if she visited here often. :<
JACAC's avatar
g r e a t . a r t i c l e !
SmallAustrianVillage's avatar
SmallAustrianVillageHobbyist Digital Artist
1. No! And sacrificing liberties is a damnably good way to garentee we never get them back.
2. Not really. My muse is so often encouraged by the feed back I recieve.
3. Most of the time, yes, but then I'm a free thinking adult who questions with boldness everything.
astralmelodic's avatar
astralmelodicHobbyist Writer
1. Confortable? No, but sometimes we must.
2. It scares me!
3. No but if I want to read it, I will.
rawrrockets's avatar
rawrrocketsHobbyist Traditional Artist
Def wanna read more Atwood! Read a short piece by her in college and was fascinated. Loved it.
Paralelsky's avatar
I don't like Oryx and Crake since I couldn't relate to it, but The Blind Assassin is really good, with so many planes of storytelling and surprises until the end. (but, it's not sci-fi, or at least two-thirds of it aren't)
bitteryetsweet's avatar
"Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does." 
~ Margaret Atwood
dxd's avatar
dxdHobbyist Photographer
Back many moons ago when I was a volunteer we used to get people from the arts world to come in and do featured chats, Margaret Atwood was one of those people, good times!
Little-Bacchus's avatar
The Handmaid's tale is one of the most bland and juvenile books it has ever been my misfortune to pick up, overly simplistic and dull.
Sunao17's avatar
Sunao17Professional Traditional Artist
I'm reading "The Handmaid's tale" now. It's the first I read of her and it catched me, it's really wood and very relatable to me in a way.
lilly8neonwaffles's avatar
lilly8neonwafflesStudent General Artist
I love this novel so much, it was the perfect mix of a suspenseful dystopian present-time with a few flash backs thrown into the mix just to let the reader in on the background, along with characters that show many sides to the society in Gilead (If I can recall, that was the name of the cut off area)
dongzhongshu's avatar
I don't particularly like her prose. It seems almost to look down on her characters, as if she were gazing disdainfully at them from a position of assured superiority. Even A Handmaid's Tale is partially spoiled by its framing story, in which Atwood fell for the temptation of satirizing the habits of academia. However, her poetry is superb. Many of the things that seem arch and precious in her prose work perfectly in her poems.
Nyx-Valentine's avatar
Nyx-ValentineProfessional General Artist
Atwood :heart:  She was my very first collection of poetry I ever read/purchased for myself.
Cosmic--Chaos's avatar
Cosmic--ChaosHobbyist General Artist
I loved Margaret Atwood's work for about 8 years now.

As for the questions:

1. No, never.

2. Yes, but I am unsure of how people will react when I publish my stories.

3. Yes.
Although books (thankfully) are not completely banned in the USA, I'll still read the controversial, "challenged" books.
RexfineMutts's avatar
RexfineMuttsHobbyist Traditional Artist
This is amazing! I hope they take their time on it and not struggle a bit (hope I'm not pushy). :)
MadameThibodeau's avatar
MadameThibodeauHobbyist Writer
One of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors :-)
She gets her prescriptions at my aunt's pharmacy, and so my aunt has had a chance to talk to her a bit. I think one of the most interesting things that she told me is that ms. Atwood and her husband take turns writing a book, so that only one of them at a time is immersed in the process.
magnesium-cookie's avatar
magnesium-cookieProfessional General Artist
The Handmaid's Tale is the only fiction book of hers that I have read so far, but she is an excellent writer. If you enjoy non-fiction, she wrote Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, which is one of my favourite non-fiction books.
Cosmic--Chaos's avatar
Cosmic--ChaosHobbyist General Artist
I recommend reading Oryx and Crake next.
TatumDesign's avatar
TatumDesignProfessional General Artist
Wow I JUST did 2 logos from Oryx and Crake, one of the best speculative novels ever
hannahelizabethh's avatar
hannahelizabethhStudent General Artist
Cool lady
antidarian's avatar
good stuff.  Just finished Year of the Flood a couple days ago. :)
TheJokerman95's avatar
Why would ANYONE just jump into the conclusion about 9/11? Seems unecessary to me.:| (Blank Stare)

That aside, interesting indeed!:D (Big Grin)

Wink/Razz -J
anonymous's avatar
Join the community to add your comment. Already a deviant? Log In