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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Monday, July 07, 2003 - 01:28 pm:   

Is Atwood really this annoying in real life, or is this simply her "public persona" that she uses to ensure her books will not be dismissed as "genre"? Here rhetoric, reproduced below, strikes me as incredibly vain, egotistical, and dismissive of anything outside of what she does ("Horror is what Stephen King does..." for example). Is this a misconception on my part?
-jl


Atwood's three-book sale
(reprinted from http://members.ozemail.com.au/~claw/frankenblogger.htm#20030522-01

22 MAY 2003 | source Publisher Bleatings

Canadian author Margaret Atwood has announced the sale of her next three books to Singlenight Modern Fiction for a six-figure sum.

"I really wanted to stretch my wings and experiment, and given the success of Oryx and Crake, the publishers were willing to go along with me," said Atwood today. She has already drawn up strong outlines which were very persuasive to her editor at Singlenight.

The first book is set in 1860s Texas. A young woman is stolen by Native Americans and raised as one of their own. The girl's uncle, a hardened Civil War veteran, undertakes a quest to recover her. The quest becomes an obsession that threatens to destroy them both. "This is not a Western," Atwood explained. "Westerns have sherriffs and quick-draw gunfights. I am more interested in racial hatred and the way obsession can take hold in an unforgiving landscape."

The second book follows the moving relationship between a bitter older man and a young woman whom he employs to tutor his illegitimate daughter. The story takes place in a remote manor. Said Atwood, "This is not a romance novel. The key issues in this novel are attitudes to women and the treatment of the mentally ill. Romance novels are about sloppy kisses, formulaic hurdles for the lovers to leap, and coy sex scenes. This book will be far too Gothic for that."

In the third book, an American couple visiting India face their worst fears when their baby is stolen from them. According to Attwood, the ending is the most emotionally confronting scene she has ever written. In reply to a question about whether she was branching into horror, Atwood replied, "This is not horror. Horror is about zombies and werewolves and is written by Stephen King. I'm not Stephen King, ergo the book is not horror."
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Mastadge
Posted on Monday, July 07, 2003 - 02:30 pm:   

Hmm. . .this sounds like a joke to me. He sci-fi comments were real, and this just sounds like a riff off that.

But I guess I could be wrong.
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Monday, July 07, 2003 - 02:36 pm:   

I think these particular comments are just a gag, dude, but are based on her recent comments about SF and F v. what she calls speculative fiction. In a recent New York Times article, Atwood "explained":

Although some reviewers have categorized the book as science fiction, Ms. Atwood considers it speculative fiction, and to clear the air she defined those two forms and also defined fantasy fiction.

Fantasy, she said, is "largely mythic and Celtic in inspiration" and deals with "dragons, magic swords and chalices that glow in the sky." She offered "The Lord of the Rings" and the "Harry Potter" series as examples. Science fiction, she said, deals with "technologies we don't yet have, other universes," as in "Star Trek" and "Star Wars."

In contrast, speculative fiction is "this planet," she said. It doesn't use things we don't already have or are not already developing. `Beam me up, Scotty' is not speculative fiction. We don't yet have the ability to disintegrate people and have them reassembled in some other place."

Then she said about "Oryx and Crake," "Had I written it 20 years ago, I would have called it science fiction, but now it's speculative fiction, believe me."


The distinction between near-term extrapolation with a veneer of rationalism/scientism and, say, space opera, is a useful one, but I think Atwood is protesting too much here. I suspect her publisher holding her in a hammerlock as she says this stuff though.
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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Monday, July 07, 2003 - 04:54 pm:   

Ahh. Thanks for clearing up the gag. Her supposed comments seemed rather outrageous, but I guess my humor detector wasn't running this morning.

-jl
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Cheryl Morgan
Posted on Monday, July 07, 2003 - 08:21 pm:   

According to the latest Ansible, Ms. Atwood explained in an interview on the BBC that science fiction was about "talking squids in outer space". Perhaps she's a victim of a Vandermeer prank.
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Nicholas Liu
Posted on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 03:41 am:   

So that's what the 's' in 'sf' stands for!

Personally, I think talking squids in outer space are quite spiffy.
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Nick Mamatas
Posted on Tuesday, July 08, 2003 - 08:06 am:   

Wait a minute, there's no air in outer space, so how can squids talk there! I'm going to express my displeasure at this technical gaffe on the Internet immediately!

Ah, well. There. I just did.
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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 - 05:19 pm:   

I have always been a fan of John Clute's critical writing, and this review of Atwood's latest is no exception. http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue325/excess.html

From the review: "More to the final point of this review, it is possible to say as well that, insofar as her utterances manifest an interior occlusion of intellect, they help explain the abjectly bad bits of Oryx and Crake, the sclerotic exiguity of its backstory, the miserly belatedness of the future it depicts."

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Lawrence A
Posted on Tuesday, April 06, 2004 - 02:56 am:   

Actually, Atwood has always had that dismissive attitude to SF, so typical of the clueless snobbish pseudo-intellegentsia of which she is so typically representative. A while back when her book "The Handmaid's Tale" won some SF award (I can't remember which one), she was positively embarrassed, she took it as an insult I swear.

Have you read her essays? Purile, superficial and uninformed; junkfood for the brain disguised as caviar by clever language, kind of like a female John Updike, although that's not really fair on Updike, he's not that bad.
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Owen Cox
Posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 - 12:52 pm:   

Imet the woman years ago in France, where she was advertizing The Handmaid's Tale, as far as I can remember. I found the book pretty dull and the author insufferably vain. Which doesn't mean a thing ... although it matches the other comments.
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Robert N. Lee
Posted on Tuesday, March 07, 2006 - 06:58 pm:   

The first quote, I read and went "Oh my God, that's The Searchers." Then I got to the second one and figured this had to be a joke.
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John H. Myers Jr.
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 10:07 pm:   

[To Quote from above]Actually, Atwood has always had that dismissive attitude to SF, so typical of the clueless snobbish pseudo-intellegentsia of which she is so typically representative. A while back when her book "The Handmaid's Tale" won some SF award (I can't remember which one), she was positively embarrassed, she took it as an insult I swear.

Have you read her essays? Purile, superficial and uninformed; junkfood for the brain disguised as caviar by clever language, kind of like a female John Updike, although that's not really fair on Updike, he's not that bad.[end quote]

I met her on one occasion, she was rife with scorn for me and massively overwhelming with condescending intent. That said, it was great to meet her too.

Peter Watts has some great things to say about her averison to admitting she writes science fiction, no matter how her rationalizations sugar coat the issue.

Self loathing SF writer extraordinaire is what she is basically, oh well, she's good, and intellectually brilliant to speak with.

(it's always good to say somepin nice if you can, ya know?)
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Matt Hughes
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 11:11 pm:   

A year or two ago, via the internet, I heard a BBC interview with Brian Aldiss in which he reminisced about having known Maggie in London in the sixties, when, as he put it, she was quite anxious to be known as a science fiction writer.

I suppose her priorities advanced somewhere along the line.

Matt Hughes
Majestrum

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