In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination

Margaret Atwood. Doubleday/Talese, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-385-53396-6
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. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/15/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
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