ImageI was very lucky to get a ticket to hear Margaret Atwood speak about her new novel MaddAddam at the Hatchards Bloomsbury Book Club in Bedford Square at the end of August (and of course to get my copy of the book signed). (Apologies for the fuzzy photo!)

I have been an Atwood devotee since I was a teenager but this is the first time I’ve heard her speak in person, and what a thrill it was. She is such a presence, so articulate and willing to engage and debate, and I took piles of notes which I don’t intend to repeat here you’ll be relieved to note.

  • I was interested to hear that she hadn’t originally intended Oryx & Crake to be the first in a trilogy but when she finished it she realised that the abrupt ending would lead to questions and that she would have to revisit the world she had created.
  • She talked about the distinction between speculative and science fiction. She said this wasn’t about one being better than the other but about accurate labelling; when she sees something described as science fiction she expects rockets and planets and feels cheated if they aren’t present. She distinguished between two pioneers – Jules Verne (close to reality, might happen, potentially true) and HG Wells (fantastic, not real).
  • She reads the back pages of science journals to see what people are working on (and encourages us to do so too)
  • One of humanity’s first technologies was telling stories, and the ability to understand stories begins in children at an early stage, within the first year.
  • “We speculate what Spot the Dog is thinking, but he’s probably not thinking about who makes dogs”

All fascinating stuff, and the promise of more to come. I left the event even more of a fangirl than when I went in!

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