Margaret Atwood’s latest novel, Oryx and Crake, is not, she insists, “science fiction” but “speculative fiction”. It is a distinction she has also made about her earlier dystopian book, The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), currently being staged as an opera in London. “Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen,” she explains. Her work is always researched: Oryx and Crake, a novel blending a biological apocalypse with a genetically engineered genesis, acknowledges a number of personal debts in terms of research and background, but also scrupulously offers a list of documentary sources at a web address. “We have a big box, called The Brown Box… it’s a brown cardboard box – in which all the research clippings are filed: so there’s nothing I can’t back up,” says Atwood. Nor are her researches limited to the cutting edge of contemporary genetics: her 1979 novel, Life Before Man, set partly in the dinosaur department of a natural history museum, received a positive review in a paleontological magazine (“I was flattered. I like to get things right”). Her interests are broad: “Pop science – usually life sciences – is my casual reading,” she laughs; “I don’t have to review it or… Read full this story
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