To promote her new novel MaddAddam, author Margaret Atwood did a Reddit AMA, where she also talked about some of her other books, teaching, reading, science, culture and her life. The following are a few excerpts from that appearance.
Maybe an odd question but one that interests me: have you written anything that you now regret?
Several letters :)
What are your thoughts on the current popularity (which is perhaps on its way out) of dystopian novels, especially in the Young Adult genre?
Lots of thoughts on that! I wrote Oryx and Crake before this wave set in, but there were a number in the 20th C. However, turn-of-century often causes folks to wonder where we're going, and how they themselves might behave if they find themselves in a bad version of There. And Climate Change and the resulting storms and floods, and the threats to the biosphere.. young people are attuned to all of that.
Do you view the dystopian world you created in the Maddaddam trilogy to be a cautionary tale or a an inevitable conclusion?
There is no THE future. There are many possible futures. So, more like a cautionary tale or an exploration of possibilities or what Ursula K LeGuin calls a Thought Experiment.
Hi, I’m a high school English teacher in Northern California who is rolling out a unit featuring The Handmaid’s Tale—we’re starting Thursday! My question: What would you say to a group of students from an affluent community weaned on science and technology to convince them of the enduring relevance of the novel? Thank you so much for your consideration; it’s been an amazing learning and professional experience teaching your novel—my students brought this ama to my attention and I couldn’t be more thrilled at the opportunity as well as the timing!
As they already know some science, show them some brain-science and evo-devo studies - folks studying the inherent human story-telling "platform." We tell stories because we're human. The novel appears to be the most brain-intensive media form - second only to being there.
One time I looked through all your books with a word search thing and found that every time you use the word 'football' it's in association with some sort of oppression. Intentional?
As in "Kicked around like a football?" I never noticed this but thanks for pointing it out. I must look. I've also been asked about the frequency in my work of bathtubs, glass jars, eggs, and mauve; and, more recently, maroon.
The remainder of the AMA is available on Reddit.
To make for easy scrolling, appearances of her username are in blue.
(h/t @VioletGatesy on Groupthink)