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In Other Worlds: Science Fiction and the Human Imagination

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  951 ratings  ·  199 reviews
IN OTHER WORLDS: SF AND THE HUMAN IMAGINATION is Margaret Atwood's account of her relationship with the literary form we have come to know as 'science fiction'. This relationship has been lifelong, stretching from her days as a child reader in the 1940s, through her time as a graduate student at Harvard, where she worked on the Victorian ancestors of the form, and continui...more
Hardcover, 255 pages
Published October 20th 2011 by Virago Press (first published 2011)
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Margaret Atwood is a bit like my friend Lil--she is both right AND left-brained. She writes like a dream and knows her way around science and technology.

Many people ask Atwood why she does not like the term "science fiction" for her work. She calls three of her works "ustopias." Of one, "The Handmaid's Tale," she writes that she "would not put into this book anything that humankind had not already done, somewhere, sometime, or for which it did not already have the tools."

Later in the book in an...more
This is basically a collection of previously published bits and pieces of science fiction and science fiction-related writing of Atwood's.

The first (and the most interesting) part of the book is more or less a transcript of the author's lectures which include notes on the evolution of her interest in and understanding of SF, her musings about the connections between science fiction and mythology and religion, and some insight into the intentions and inspirations behind her own speculative ficti...more
"In Other Worlds is not a catalogue of science fiction, a grand theory about it, or a literary history of it. It is not a treatise, it is not definitive, it is not exhaustive, it is not canonical. It is not the work of a practising academic or an official guardian of a body of knowledge. Rather it is an exploration of my own lifelong relationship with a literary form, or forms, or subforms, both as reader and as writer."

I'm still kicking myself for not being able to make it to Margaret Atwood's...more
The first part of In Other Worlds feels like you're hanging out with Margaret Atwood drinking wine when she has a bit too much to drink and starts ramblingly postulating on science fiction, mostly focusing on her relationship with the genre. It was interesting but I thought told us more about Margaret Atwood than it did about "science fiction and the human imagination". The best segment was Atwood's musings on the interconnected relationship between dystopia and utopia, which provided an interes...more
A book I'd been hoping to read for a while. It was on my birthday list and my sister, and her husband, were kind enough to oblige. As I unwrapped it (remembering to use my grateful face) my sister shared two thoughts with me. Firstly, she was surprised that I had asked for a Margaret Atwood book as she really didn't see her as my 'type of author', and secondly, why was Margaret Atwood writing a book about science fiction - after all, she didn't really write science fiction.

My sister likes to spe...more
Oct 13, 2011 oriana marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-read-soon
check out how amazing Margaret Atwood is. Per this TreeHugger article: there will be a limited-edition, signed first run of this book (300 copies) printed on a new thing called Second Harvest paper. "This is paper made from the leftover straw after the grain harvest and all other uses are accounted for. It is made without any harm to forests (or food). The straw would otherwise be burnt, causing significant air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions." Of course, the Second Harvest books costs $1...more
This book was given to me by the perfectly brilliant Margaret Atwood when it comes to the subject of writing. Then again, where exactly has she gone wrong, the woman who gave us The Handmaiden's Tale and Oryx and Crake?

In Other Worlds is a brilliant examination of the science fiction genre, that those in charge of the "SyFy" network really should read prior to premiering a film like "Wolf Town" again. In its chapters, Margaret Atwood muses about everything from Flying Rabbits to Never Let Me Go...more
Karen Ireland-Phillips
It’s easy to dismiss Margaret Atwood as the science fiction writer who disses science fiction. But the reality is far more complex, signaled by the highly ironic (and sad) opening quote by Octavia Butler: “I’m a fifty-three-year old writer who can remember being a ten-year-old writer and who expects someday to be an eighty-year-old writer.”
Ms. Atwood eschews any characterization as a “fan”, but she has an impressive grounding in the classics of the field, and an obvious appreciation for current...more
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Original review posted at Layers of Thought.

An intriguing literary critique and more, by Margaret Atwood, based around science fiction. It’s for book lovers as well as fans of the author and the genre.

About: This audio version of In Other Worlds is a catalog of Margaret Atwood’s relationship with science fiction and contains a number of her unpublished lectures including those titled “Flying Rabbits”, “Dire Cartographies”, and “Burning Bushes”. In the lectures she gives examples of the books whi...more
Andrea McDowell
Before I get on with the review, I'd like to ask the publishers one simple question: why is the robot-woman on the cover of this book wearing egg cartons on her breasts? I realize the cover is made up of a number of objects meant to be silly and toy-like, but ... egg cartons? Wouldn't that be awfully uncomfortable?


In Other Worlds is about Margaret Atwood's opinions on science fiction: what it is, what it's good for, why she reads and (occasionally) writes it. It's good, if you like both...more
A really engaging read. First off it was very interesting to read, and get a sense of, Atwood's voice and who she is as opposed to read her being channeled through whatever character she had created. Second, it made me quite happy to read her talk about taking a class from Northrup Frye while she was an undergrad, and how it made her happy to have such a heavyweight in that world tell everyone its Ok to read things that arent considered important/classic if you like them. Once a very long time...more
I enjoyed this immensely but wouldn't recommend everyone. Atwood has written several novels that some would classify as SF (The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake, and XXXX) but she says she writes speculative fiction, not SF. That has angered some in the SF community who believe she is denigrating SF and trying to avoid the genre label. This book is a collection of several lectures on the subject that Atwood gave at Emory University; other writings of hers, including reviews, that focus on related...more
This feels like a publisher humping the cash cow over the tornado in a teapot that is Margo’s refusal to call her work “science fiction.” Can I call you Margo? Oh you fuzzy haired f-bomb feminist witch, you are my people. To sniff out the nature of Ms. Atwood’s true crime we have to revisit Thomas Disch’s seminal essay “On SF” which makes two assertions: 1) SF is juvenile literature; and 2) SF is literature intended for the working class. These assertions are indeed true, but for Atwood’s take o...more
I am not a big sci-fi fan, haven't read a great deal and know less so I have no beef with her definition of what is sci-fi.

I did like how she argues that sci-fi derives from classical mythology and creates mythologies and archetypes of its own. I like how she doesn't distinguish between high-brow, low-brow and middle-brow. I like that she also read Animal Farm as a child and was as freaked out by it as I was.

The book is broken down into 3 parts: essays about sci-fi and her impressions and opin...more
Atwood’s desire to write this book stemmed from a book review that was written for two of her books: Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. In the review written for the Guardian in 2009, Ursula K. Le Guin–a well-established author of the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres who has won numerous awards for her work–brought up the fact that Atwood doesn’t want any of her work to be called science fiction. She disagreed with Atwood’s definition of what science fiction is, and accused Atwood of sloughing o...more
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Imagine being able to pick a really famous author's (like Margaret Atwood) brain. This book is sort of like that. I really like Atwood. Her books are what I would call sort of underhanded science fiction. There are definitely science fiction elements there but the scenarios and the characters have something realistic about them.

The book is divided in a few different sections. Atwood talks about her writing process from when she was a little kid (the story about the flying bunnies was adorable a...more
It's no surprise to anyone that I have a serious girl-crush on Margaret Atwood. There's very little that she's written that I haven't enjoyed on some level, and almost always does her writing make me think on a different level, both aspects of which are pretty important for me. I have some issues with her personality that are similar to others - that in interviews she comes across sometimes as snooty, that she can't seem to get off her high-horse about how some of her own literature isn't SF, or...more
My goodness, how often can a book namecheck Ursula Le Guin?

Margaret Atwood's writing is good and compelling, even when she's writing non-fiction -- though I confess to a personal tendency to drift off and stop registering exactly what she's saying, just reading for the pretty words. I had that a bit here, but her ideas are intriguing and the little scrap between her and Le Guin has always amused me. Well, the whole speculative-fiction vs. science-fiction as a genre label actually really tickles...more
Atwood doesn't set out to write a definitive anything about "science fiction" or "fantasy", as she says clearly in the introduction.

Instead, she gives us a collage of readings, reviews and analysis, linked into her lifelong interaction with other worlds, creatures and so on.

I especially enjoyed Atwood's attempts to define science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, dystopia, utopia. Particularly tied to her ongoing discussion with Ursala K Le Guin about it (and to whom the collection is dedi...more
Mary (BookHounds)
This is a collection of short stories, thoughts on other writers, and a few thoughts on her life mixed together in several essays. I was a closet sci fi geek growing up and Margaret Atwood was one of the authors I loved to read. You can find her influences on many young adult authors today, whether they want to admit it or not. This read gives a bit more insight to her writing and her uneasy relationship with the science fiction community at large. This is one of those books that you can easily...more
3 1/2 stars. I absolutely loved the first part of Margaret Atwood's exploration of the appeal of both sci-fi and speculative fiction. My inner English major was completely won over by her scholarly yet accessible attempts to connect these often overlooked genres with subjects as disparate as mythology, Victorian novels, and political changes from the mid 18th to early 19th century. In addition, Atwood talks about her childhood encounters with science fiction and personalizes the book with charmi...more
Margaret Atwood has to be one of my favourite people ever. Her writing is obviously a part of that, but in this book her personality also surfaces. Her sarcasm and dry observations are great and even her academic pieces read like a novel. This book gives a subjective though broad overview of all sorts of science fiction (both literary and genre) and made me want to read more scifi. Which is pretty impressive, as I've never really had any interest in the genre.
Miquel Codony
#cifituits #IOW Es una lectura muy interesante a pesar de ser un popurrí de artículos. Es probable que se disfrute más en dosis pequeñas, como si fuera un libro de relatos. La primera parte es la mejor. La segunda parte son reseñas y críticas de otros libros. Interesante si te gusta el género (a mi me gusta). La tercera parte son relatos breves y, francamente, flojos.

Lo que he sacado en claro es que leeré las novelas de la autora.
I've never been a particular fan of Ms. Atwood's writing, though I did admire The Handmaid's Tale, but I saw this book during one of my used book shopping sprees and having heard of the recent contretemps regarding her alleged dismissal of the science fiction label for her own works I thought it would be interesting to find out her views first hand. I am glad that I did and in truth, I like her writing about science fiction and, by her definition, it's closely related cousin speculative fiction,...more
Laura Soriano
I thought this book was about Science Fiction but no, this book is about other books mainly and about SF and a bit of cold-war ideologies.

Not recommended even if you just want to learn about Science Fiction.

The only thing I learned about SF specifically was:

“SF is the las fictional repository for theological speculation” and that it might have derived of the non-visible and of our human skills to speculate from the invisible.

I liked to read about utopias and dystopias in Cartogaphies however the...more
I'm not a Margaret Atwood fan girl or anything, but recently I read her Madd Addam trilogy and I am interested in the "SF" genre, be it speculative fiction or science fiction. I had never heard the term, speculative fiction, before but could understand Mrs. Atwood's reasoning for using the term. Lamely, I will direct you to the book if you want to understand the term or the debate surrounding it.

I enjoyed the essays and book reviews covered in this book. It was definitely interesting to know so...more
Kevin Orrman-Rossiter
In other worlds: SF and the human imagination is a very fascinating account by Margaret Atwood of her lifelong association with the literary form generally known as ‘science fiction’. Margaret Atwood is a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, and environmental activist. A novelist of some renown, she has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times, winning once for The Blind Assassin, and is also the author of four novels, The Handmaiden’s Tale (1985), Oryx and Crake (2003), T...more
Andrea Omicini
Mar 14, 2012 Andrea Omicini rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andrea by: Grazia Omicini
Shelves: vudra, english
Wonderful since the intro :)) So many things to enjoy and to think about on every page. Just one issue: you end the book with the strong impulse to (re-)read so many other classic books :))
Margaret Atwood is who I want to be when I grow up.
Insight into utopias, how society spins them, weaves them, and records them. Speculative fiction, and a rose by any other name.
Christina Strynatka
The woman can write, but she's an arrogant blowhard and it shines brightly in every word on the page.
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Boulder Book Club: New Book for Atwood Fans 2 8 Oct 25, 2011 03:46PM  
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  • James Tiptree, Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon
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  • Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed My Life
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Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 in Ottawa and grew up in northern Ontario, Quebec, and Toronto. She received her undergraduate degree from Victoria College at the University of Toronto and her master's degree from Radcliffe College.

Throughout her writing career, Margaret Atwood has received numerous awards and honourary degrees. She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, childr...more
More about Margaret Atwood...
The Handmaid's Tale Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy, #1) The Blind Assassin The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam Trilogy, #2) Alias Grace

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