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In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination Audiobook, by Margaret Atwood Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Margaret Atwood Narrator: Margaret Atwood, Susan Denaker Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2011 ISBN: 9780307943941
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At a time when speculative fiction seems less and less far-fetched, Margaret Atwood lends her distinctive voice and singular point of view to the genre in a series of essays that brilliantly illuminates the essential truths about the modern world. This is an exploration of her relationship with the literary form we have come to know as "science fiction,” a relationship that 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 ancestor of the form, and continuing as a writer and reviewer.  This book brings together her three heretofore unpublished Ellmann Lectures from 2010: "Flying Rabbits," which begins with Atwood's early  rabbit superhero creations, and goes on to speculate about masks, capes, weakling alter egos, and Things with Wings; "Burning Bushes," which follows her into Victorian otherlands and beyond; and "Dire Cartographies," which investigates Utopias and Dystopias.  In Other Worlds also includes some of Atwood's key reviews and thoughts about the form. Among those writers discussed are Marge Piercy, Rider Haggard, Ursula Le Guin, Ishiguro, Bryher, Huxley, and Jonathan Swift. She elucidates the differences (as she sees them) between "science fiction" proper, and "speculative fiction," as well as between "sword and sorcery/fantasy" and "slipstream fiction." For all readers who have loved The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake, and The Year of the Flood, In Other Worlds is a must.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Atwood is a perceptive and enthusiastic literary critic, dryly funny, and eclectically curious.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “Fascinating…Vibrant…Compelling…Not only is In Other Worlds powerfully readable and mentally refreshing, it’s also one heck of a joyride through the limitless imagination of a national (and international) treasure.”

    BookReporter

  • “Interesting, entertaining, and thoughtful…Atwood fans, sci-fi fans, indeed fiction fans, have reason to rejoice. In Other Worlds is a delightful read full of Atwood’s well-honed prose and sly sense of humor.”

    Miami Herald

  • “Margaret Atwood is a valiant champion [of science fiction]…Her prose is addictive…She crafts sentences with grace and pitch-perfect highbrow humor.”

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “A smart and often playful book.”

    Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

  • In Other Worlds is an eminently readable and accessible clarification of [Atwood’s] relationship with SF and the SF tradition…The lectures are insightful and cogently argued with a neat comic turn of phrase…[Atwood’s] enthusiasm and level of intellectual engagement are second to none.”

    Financial Times

  • “It’s a delight to see Atwood revisit Mischiefland, both because of the lovely details she remembers (the flying bunnies kept cats as pets and ate only ice cream), and because this retelling leads Atwood to speculate on the origins—cultural, literary, mythic, religious—of the science fiction genre…In Other Worlds reminds us that all genres are capable of deepening and developing this one human story.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Atwood gives us a bracing tour of the writers and books she admires (like Ursula Le Guin and ‘She’ by H. Rider Haggard), her interest in ustopia (a mix of utopia and dystopia) in her fiction, as well as some autobiography…[In Other Worlds] explains how the genre fits into a continuum dating to the world’s oldest myths and continuing today with authors who use the genre to examine social ills, not run away from them.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “Atwood certainly has read a fair bit of and thought deeply about science fiction, and she shares generously with her readers.”

    Christian Science Monitor

  • “A witty, astute collection of essays and lectures on science fiction by the acclaimed novelist…Wholly satisfying, with plenty of insights for Atwood and sci-fi fans alike.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • Deeply thoughtful, deftly argued, sometimes unexpected—[Atwood] shows readers how science fiction fits into a long, venerable tradition. . . . Bracing, provocative. Los Angeles Times
  • Eminently readable and accessible. . . . Atwood revels in all aspects of the SF genre, both high- and low-brow, and her enthusiasm and level of intellectual engagement are second to none. Financial Times
  • Atwood is a perceptive and enthusiastic literary critic, dryly funny and eclectically curious. San Francisco Chronicle
  • A witty, astute collection of essays and lectures on science fiction . . . It’s clear that [Atwood's] affection for the genre is deep and genuine . . . Wholly satisfying, with plenty of insights for Atwood and sci-fi fans alike. Kirkus Reviews, starred
  • Atwood's prose is addictive. . . . She crafts sentences with poise and grace and pitch-perfect highbrow humor. Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • Atwood fans, sci-fi fans, indeed fiction fans, have reason to rejoice. In Other Worlds is a delightful read full of Atwood’s well-honed prose and sly sense of humor. . . . Delving into her personal origins as a sci-fi writer as well as the social and literary origins of the genre in its broadest sense, Atwood offers interesting, entertaining and thoughtful insight into both. For anyone interested in the genesis of fiction, science fiction, or the authors behind either (and of course Atwood in particular), In Other Worlds is a worthwhile and rewarding read. The Miami Herald
  • Atwood archly and profoundly delves into her ‘lifelong relationship’ with science fiction in a collection of glimmering essays. Booklist

    PRAISE FOR MARGARET ATWOOD
  • A speculative-fiction visionary . . . Atwood has an uncanny knack for tapping into humanity’s uncertain future and predicting mankind’s cultural, scientific and sociopolitical falls from glory . . . Her fiction has peeled back the skin of our disturbing subcutaneous nightmares. Wired
  • “One of the most intelligent and talented writers to set herself the task of deciphering life in the late twentieth century. Vogue
  • Throughout her literary career . . . Margaret Atwood has impressed and delighted readers with her wit, lyric virtuosity, and imaginative acuity. San Francisco Chronicle
  • This amazing woman’s voice, this fine writer’s constant example, is extraordinary. Boston Globe
  • The tremendous imaginative power of [Atwood’s] fiction allows us to believe that anything is possible. New York Times Book Review

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Virginia | 2/17/2014

    " another one of those wonderful books by writers about writers. this is like listening to an extremely witty, not too serious and very interesting casual chat by one that knows and loves her subject. inspires me to read more sf. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Click | 2/13/2014

    " Enjoyable if you love sci fi, though slow at several points. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Dina | 12/28/2013

    " As my crush on Margaret Atwood deepens, I found a book full of her reflections on the sci-fi/speculative fiction genre irresistible! We're given three sections here; the first contains Atwood's recollections of her progressive interest in all things other-worldly up to the publishing of The Year of the Flood, moving on to a collections of essays and introductions she's written for various SF and technology focused books, and ending with a few flash fictiony pieces the dabble in SF tropes. It was terrific getting inside of Atwood's mind as her thoughts on SF develop. I especially enjoyed her thoughts on, broadly speaking, what makes humans human, with their ability to abstract and project their thoughts and feelings outward and eventually upward. The essays that make up the bulk of the book varied in excellence, but this may be in large part due to my affinity for certain reviewed texts (much love for Brave New World and The Island of Dr. Moreau) and ignorance of others (She and anything written by Ursla Le Guin, to whom the book is dedicated). If nothing else, however, I've got a few more titles to add to my 'to read' shelf. The (extremely) short short stories at the end seemed tacked on almost as an afterthought and even though their presence is explained, I still feel as though they were extremely lacking. Familiar SF scenarios are portrayed in familiar SF ways and nothing of Atwood's true talent shines through in any of them, save for an excerpt from her longer work The Blind Assassian, which promptly made it to the aforementioned 'to read' list. All in all, if you have any interest in Atwood as a writer, you'd be doing yourself a favor to pick this collection up. Her ideas and observations are enough to keep anyone coming back for more. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Catherine | 11/29/2013

    " While this was a lovely compilation of both Margaret Atwood's personal history with SF and her thoughts on the subject, the book itself was a bit of a disappointment. The first three chapters include enough of the material covered in the later sections that it gets repetitive. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gail | 9/18/2013

    " Some pretty good essays on science fiction and "genre" vs literary fiction in general. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aerin | 9/14/2013

    " Oh my goodness, I think I shall! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Laura | 5/20/2013

    " Interesting essays on what defines science fiction. Atwood also mentioned many great old classics that I was not familiar with but would like to read now. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Julie | 1/1/2013

    " Insightful history and analysis of speculative fiction as well as Atwood herself. I garnered multiple suggestions for future reads. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Suzette | 11/29/2012

    " If you like Atwood's science fiction, then you will really like this book of essays on the genre. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Angela | 6/9/2012

    " This is a wonderful mix of fiction and analysis by the great creator of sf, herself. This book is witty, intellectual, and brilliant, as well as philophically intriquing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bri | 10/14/2011

    " This is a good read, if you're curious about the history of science fiction or if you want to read some well-thought out criticisms of the genre. "

About the Author

Margaret Atwood is the acclaimed author of more than fifty books of fiction, poetry, critical essays, and graphic novels. She is the recipient of dozens of awards, including joint winner of the Booker Prize in 2019, as well as the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, the Franz Kafka Prize, the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Los Angeles Times Innovator’s Award, among many others.

About the Narrator

Susan Denaker is an actress and Earphones Award–winning narrator. Her extensive theater credits include numerous plays in the West End of London, national tours, many English rep companies, including a season with Alan Ayckbourn’s company in Scarborough. In the US, she has appeared in Our Town and Sweet Bird of Youth at the La Jolla Playhouse and Breaking Legs at the Westport Playhouse.