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on 14 March 2012
I remember reading a very negative piece somewhere that claimed Margaret Atwood didn't want to be labelled as a science fiction writer and thought `that's a bit snobby' but this was taken out of context. Then came the Ursula K. Le Guin review of Atwood's last novel `The Year of the Flood' in which she quoted from (are you keeping up) Atwood's essays `Moving Targets', which I now really want to read, saying that Atwood didn't believe her books were science fiction because the things in them were possible and may be happening, therefore they are speculative. Longer story shorter, `In Other Worlds' is Margaret Atwood's response to this and is even dedicated to Le Guin. It is so much more than a simple SFF vs. the rest of the literary world book though.

The book is set into three sections. In the first `In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination' we are treated to three long essays. The first of which Margaret Atwood discusses her love of science fiction, based on the fact that growing up in rural Canada she would read anything and everything and this meant a lot of her father's science fiction, comic books, pulp, noir, you name it. She went on to draw and create stories of her own superhero's... flying rabbits, and looks at the myth of the superhero and compares it to science fiction. The second looks at the myths and religions that make up science fiction in varying ways and the third how Margaret Atwood created `ustopia's' based on merging utopias and dystopias. I loved this section, in part because the way Atwood writes makes it feel like you are sat having a conversation about these things with her (if only), there is a humour and knowingness as you go along, secondly because it shows the forming of a writer which I always find fascinating and thirdly because it made me think. A lot. This isn't writing you can rush, you need to read it, pause, think a bit, make some mental notes, read on, have a bigger pause, think more. I loved that this was the effect it had on me.

The second section entitled `Other Deliberations' is a selection of reviews and essays about novels or writing that people see is either definitely science fiction, definitely literary fiction with a science fiction twist or seen as speculative fiction. One of the books she covers is `Never Let Me Go' by Kazuo Ishiguro (another book I love) and it's here I think she shows that really does it matter what genre or pigeon hole books are pushed, good and thought provoking writing is what matters. "Ishiguro isn't much interested in the practicalities of cloning and organ donation... Nor is this a novel about future horrors: it's set not in a Britain-yet-to-come but a Britain-off-to-the-side." Not only did I want to rush and read that again, I found all the books she discussed which i hadn't read such as H. Rider Haggard's `She' and `Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley are going to be racing up the TBR and being borrowed from the library.

The final main section of the book 'Five Tributes' are works of Atwoood's which she believes are truly SF works of fiction, they are all slight but all wonderful, I loved everyone of these. I also thought it was particularly clever of her to choose `The Peach Women of Aa'A' from `The Blind Assassin' as the final one. This is a fictional tale written inside her fictional tale at the heart of `The Blind Assassin' and not only reminded me of what an incredible writer she is but how diverse, I smiled to myself that a book which won the Booker does indeed have a science fictional twist in it's heart and then felt a little cross people forget that. It also reminds the reader that reading shouldn't be about boundaries people confine them to, in fact all literature should celebrate the fact that the boundaries are endless full stop, so why are we so obsessed with defining it?

I hope that you come away from this long ramble that forms a `review' or set of `book thoughts' with an inclination to pick up this book when you can. It's a book for book lovers in the fact that it's overall theme is the celebration of writing, and then looking at the way we take writing in and pass on our thoughts. It also shows once again what a wonderful writer Margaret Atwood is regardless of whatever genre of writer you might feel the need to put her in. `In Other Worlds' is certainly one of my books of the year without a doubt.
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on 26 December 2012
Rather like some of Atwood's own literary creations, Science Fiction is quite hard to pin down. Is it techno-fantasy, reinvented myth or legend, crystal ball gazing or all of these combined? There is no short answer.

In this remarkable, sometimes autobiographical work, Atwood takes the reader on an anthropological journey , a history of science fiction if you like, delving as far back as the time of cave paintings before turning, reluctantly perhaps, towards our present era. And taking in - as you will - Ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, and the Industrial Revolution along the way.

Were the Mayans there too, with their alleged end-of-the-world apocalypse (or five thousand year hoax) or did I just imagine that bit?

By the time the phrase was coined (sometime between the world wars) the fiction that now is preceded with the word 'science', was already many millennia old. Woven into this fascinating story are the modern era pioneers: Wells, Huxley, Haggard, Swift, McKibben and of course Le Guin. Piercy (Woman on the Edge of Time) gets a deserved mention too.

And to this list, we must now add Atwood herself, taking SF into a new realm that she terms Speculative Fiction: fiction that might turn out to be true. Or at least, some bits of it.

Having read the blurb for the book, with its mention of childhood superhero rabbits and other odd creatures, I wasn't quite sure what to expect (superhero bunnies not really being my thing). But then, I didn't think 'science fiction' was my bag either, before I read Le Guin and Piercy and leaned they also belonged to this eclectic gang.

As it turned out, I couldn't put the book down. Thanks to Atwood, the superhero bobtails have their place too (even, yes really, if their fur is green and they glow in the dark).
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on 22 September 2013
Margaret Atwood writes so well in everything she does, and this selection of essays, observations, literary criticisms as well as original pieces by the author, is no exception.

I've read an awful lot of literary criticism in my time and - even though I'm an enthusiast and I LOVE my subject, I'll be the first to admit, some of the essays written on the subject are just DULL, DULL, DULL. Indeed, it cannot be overstated enough the wonder, when as a student of the subject you find someone who can actually write about it enlighteningly and do it well. Margaret Atwood does just that in this book. In fact, I've got to say, it would be rare for me to pick up a book like this and not just focus on the area I was studying at the time (for instance, in this selection you can find pieces on Gulliver's Travels and Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go), but I felt compelled to read the entire book. This, I've got to say, is a miracle in itself. She is so funny, so witty and always with such a neat turn of phrase, it was hard to put it down.

I loved the original pieces and I loved the pieces about works I've read (I hadn't read them all). The stuff about Ishiguro I particularly enjoyed, as I did the essay on Mad Scientists. Cannot recommend this enough, particularly if you are studying Lit - merely including a few quotations from this book in your essays is going to liven up any written work and provide those marking them with a treat.
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Pure genius as ever by Margaret Atwood. I read in one sitting. It also has inspired me to get into Ursula k Le Guin. Many casual readers of Margaret atwood may have missed the science Fiction elements. I for one am delighted that the medium of Science Fiction is beginning to be acknowledged as the potentially valueable literary form it can be. Margaret highlights the various differences within the genre very convincingly. If you want 'hard' sci-fi with guns and ship, go for it. However the genre contains many more genuinely questioning authors with serious thought about society and the nature of reality. You can not go wrong if nervous about entering the worls of sci-fi, than read this extremely readeable work.
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on 25 November 2012
This new volume of essays by the great Canadian author Margaret Atwood is dedicated to what she regards as two allied types of fiction, Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction. Her lucid survey of early fiction preceding science fiction is a delight, and her comments on the three novels she has published all of them featuring dystopias and one of which, "The handmaid's tale" has by now the status of a classic, should enlighten those who have read them or attract new readers. Fans of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea quartet and other works of fantasy fiction and science fiction will find much food for thought in her review of Le Guin's "The birthday of the world". I am very glad to add "In other worlds" to my largish collection of works in verse and prose by Atwood.
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on 23 March 2013
I was expecting more of an extended discussion rather than this more broken up work, but it is a good and interesting read nonetheless. I really like Atwood's fiction (apart from Alias Grace, which I call 'Alas' Grace-enough said), and I really like hearing her interviewed or doing opinion pieces, so I am probably a bit biased. I have not read all of it, yet, though, I'm hoping it may turn into a five star-er!
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on 9 September 2014
Atwood: an author defined for me by the dry timbre of her voice. Begins well with the comic strips, or funny papers ('the funny papers raised many questions in my young mind, some of which remain unanswered to this day') and takes it from there with typical Atwoodian pizazz. God, will she be missed
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on 2 January 2014
Was bought as a present (it had been asked for) so daughter was looking forward to receiving it.She was not disappointed
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on 15 September 2015
Fascinating collection of a great writer's essays on Science Fiction across the ages.
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on 8 January 2015
Best author of a generation
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