Margaret Atwood Shares Some Of Her Favorite Speculative Fiction
The "Handmaid's Tale" author has just released, with Audible, an updated edition, complete with new introduction and extended ending. Here she explains the difference between speculative fiction and sci-fi, and recommends some of her favorites.
There is still some fuzziness around the terms “speculative fiction” and “science fiction.” Some say that “speculative fiction” includes such things as horror and reality-based dystopias and vampire stories, with “science fiction” being a subset. Others make a distinction between “science fiction” — hard and soft, but involving other planets and universes accessed by devices we do not currently have and cannot realistically expect to have — and “speculative fiction,” located on this Earth and containing no devices that we cannot currently foresee.
Let’s just say that there is a difference in nature between stories set in a universe far, far away (some call these “science fiction fantasy”) and those set on this planet, in a future we can plausibly describe, though not infallibly predict. (No predictions are infallible.) All fictions both entertain — otherwise nobody turns the pages — and also instruct, because stories will inevitably be given a moral interpretation by readers, language and people being what they are. But the far, far away galaxy kind — let us call them “zucchinis” — will inspire less immediate fear than the other kind — let us call them “beets.”
Below is a list of “beets.” There are many more, but these are some of the books I have read and enjoyed. They concern this Earth and what is possible on it, given the knowledge available at the time of their writing. They are mostly dystopias — they describe a world we would rather not have. But some are utopias — they point to improvements. Every utopia contains a little dystopia, and every dystopia contains a little utopia, or at least a better world.
Isaac Lidsky began to go blind at age 13, losing his sight entirely by the time he was 25. But when he could no longer read the words on the pages of his beloved books, a different sense opened up those worlds for him.