Katherine Wootton reviews Margaret Atwood’s new work of non-fiction which explores the importance and vast potential of science fiction – a much ridiculed and underestimated genre – in the literary canon, and delves into the significance it holds for Atwood as both a reader and writer
Margaret Atwood dedicates her latest work, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination to doyenne of science fiction and fantasy, Ursula K. Le Guin, an author one could easily imagine writing a book of the same title. In her introduction, Atwood mentions a review Le Guin wrote of her novels Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood, in which she chides Atwood’s unwillingness to have these works categorised as ‘science fiction’, observing that books labelled so are often consigned to the ‘literary ghetto’.
In Other Worlds can be read as a response to that critique. While Atwood quickly explains away Le Guin’s criticism of her as a matter of differing definitions (“no Martians”), she uses this as a launch pad to write a personal defence of the quality of work and ideas that fall under the SF umbrella against the “literary bigots” Le Guin mentions. Atwood looks at the genre through the lens of her personal relationship with it as a reader, academic and writer.