I am the author of more than forty books of fiction, poetry, and critical essays. My novels include The Handmaid's Tale, The Blind Assassin (winner of the 2000 Booker Prize), Oryx and Crake (short-listed for the 2003 Man Booker Prize), The Year of the Flood, and—my most recent novel—Hag-Seed.

Hello: Now it is time to say goodbye! Thank you for all your questions, and sorry I could not get to the end of all of them... save for next time! Very best, Margaret

Comments: 1564 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

Oryx_072632 karma

Thank you so much for writing The Handmaid's Tale. It was the book that got me hooked on dystopian novels.

What was your inspiration for the story?

me_atwood2950 karma

Ooo, three main things: 1) What some people said they would do re: women if they had the power (they have it now and they are); 2)17th C Puritan New England, plus history through the ages -- nothing in the book that didn't happen, somewhere and 3) the dystopian spec fics of my youth, such as 1984, Ray Bradbury;s Fahrenheit 451, etc. I wanted to see if I could write one of those, too.

myeyestoserve1269 karma

The Handmaid's Tale gets thrown out as your current worst-case scenario right now but I read The Heart Goes Last a few months ago and I was surprised how possible it felt. Was there a specific news story or event that compelled you to write that particular story?

I have to say- The Handmaid's Tale changed my life when I read it in high school. I was raised in a conservative town by conservative parents and it challenged so much of what I believed to be true and steered me towards a completely different path. Thank you so much for everything you've shared with the world and continue to share. You're an inspiration.

me_atwood787 karma

Thank you. The Heart Goes Last -- yes, came from my interest in what happens when a region's economy collapses and people are really up against it, and the only "business" in which people can have jobs is a prison. It pushes the envelope (will there really be some Elvis robots?) but again, much of what was only speculation then is increasingly possible.

pickledkitten1264 karma

What is a book you keep going back to read and why?

PS, Thank you so much!

me_atwood2384 karma

This is going to sound corny but Shakespeare is my return read. He knew so much about human nature (+ and minus) and also was an amazing experimenter with language. But there are many other favourites. Wuthering Heights recently. In moments of crisis I go back to (don't laugh) Lord of the Rings, b/c despite the EVIL EYE OF MORDOR it comes out all right in the end. Whew.

tomharcourt1097 karma

Thank you so much for everything you do! I don't even know how to give you a compliment that sums up everything I want to say about your writing and your existence.

I do especially want to thank you for the sophisticated presentation of feminism in your literature. As feminism goes through its latest identity crisis, I find myself also struggling with what it means to me.

My question(s): How, if at all, has your feminism changed over the last decade or so? Can you see these changes taking place throughout your literature? Lastly, can you offer any advice for feminists of the millennial generation? What mistakes are we making/repeating? What are our priorities in this political climate?

Thank you again :)

me_atwood1662 karma

Hello: I am so shrieking old that my formative years (the 40s and 50s) took place before 2nd wave late-60's feminist/women's movement. But since I grew up largely in the backwoods and had strong female relatives and parents who read a lot and never told me I couldn't do such and such because of being a girl, I avoided the agit-prop of the 50s that said women should be in bungalows with washing machines to make room for men coming back from the war. So I was always just very puzzled by some of the stuff said and done by/around women. I was probably a danger to myself and others! (joke) My interest was in women of all kinds -- and they are of all kinds. They are interesting in and of themselves, and they do not always behave well. But then I learned more about things like laws and other parts of the world, and history... try Marilyn French's From Eve to Dawn, pretty massive. We are now in what is being called the 3rd wave -- seeing a lot of pushback against women, and also a lot of women pushing back in their turn. I'd say in general: be informed, be aware. The prioriies in the US are roughly trying to prevent the roll-back that is taking place especially in the area of women's health. Who knew that this would ever have to be defended? Childbirth care, pre-natal care, early childhood care -- many people will not even be able to afford any of it. Dead bodies on the floor will result. It is frightful. Then there is the whole issue of sexual violence being used as control -- it is such an old motif. For a theory of why now, see Eve's Seed. It's an unsettled time. If I were a younger woman I'd be taking a self-defense course. I did once take Judo, in the days of the Boston Strangler, but it was very lady-like then and I don't think it would have availed. There's something called Wen-Do. It's good, I am told.

suaveitguy762 karma

What is your guilty pleasure film that you hate to admit you enjoy?

me_atwood1609 karma

Haha there are so many of them! Just say Miss Congeniality again on a plane -- very funny! Also The Producers and Young Frankenstein. Also Singing in the Rain when depressed. In the World O Vampires, I am a Christopher Lee fa; but also Let The Right One In, Swedish version. Night of the Living Dead, first one... a classy low budget horror film I could go on... :D

thewhitejaycutler579 karma

Mrs. Atwood, I have only read A Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake, but I really love how you change the rules of the utopian genre, particularly in Oryx and Crake. I wrote a short research paper for one of my classes comparing Oryx and Crake to Thomas More's Utopia, essentially arguing that neither work truly conforms to the utopian/dystopian generic distinction that we try to make so often.

My question would be then, do you think there ever has been a true distinction between utopias and dystopias, or is this just a result of superficial readings of these texts due to their broader categorization as science-fiction?

me_atwood780 karma

Hello: I have an essay on this in In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination -- in which I coin the term Ustopia to describe the Yin/Yang relationship between them: every Utopia contains within it a little Dystopia, and vice versa. It's one of my literary interests and I have read a lot of them, even some boringly-written now obscure 19th C ones like Bulwer Lytton's The Coming Age. Always fascinating to see what people come up with as a desirable state of affairs.

jordanex7564 karma

How does it feel knowing America is basically on the road to becoming Gilead?

me_atwood1041 karma

I cannot tell you how strange this feels. I wrote the book hoping to fend it off, and I believe it will be fended off: America is very diverse, a lot of people have been jolted out of political slumber and are paying attention, and the Constitution still stands. The upcoming Hulu TV series of which I;ve seen 3 episodes is even more up-to-date and chilling than the book, so let's see how that may impact. Support your leaders who are standing against unconstitutional laws; keep informed, as best as possible. Everything is "as best as possible" right now.

Crisc0Disc0313 karma

What was your involvement in casting of the Hulu movie as an executive producer? I love the choice of the highly underrated Elisabeth Moss for Offred.

me_atwood477 karma

Hello: I didn't have any involvement in the casting -- not my forté! But very happy the way it has turned out, and they are all giving it their every ounce of energy. Elizabeth Moss is herself a producer on this film. She is a very good choice, as Offred is an everywoman -- not an exceptional brave resistance fighter or anything -- caught up in this world and just doing her best to get through it without cracking up or getting killed, and Elizabeth can show that quality very well. And she has to perform without makeup. Many actresses might shy away from that...

suaveitguy313 karma

How did your experience with the 2017 version differ from the 1990 version of The Handmaid's Tale?

me_atwood521 karma

Different times (that world is closer now!) and a 90 minute film is a different proposition from a 10 part 1st season series, which can build out and deep dive because it has more time. The advent of high-quality streamed or televised series has opened up a whole new set of possibilities for longer novels. We launched the 1990 film in West and then East Berlin just as the Wall was coming down... and I started writing book when the Wall was still there... Framed it in people's minds in a different way. Also, then, many people were saying "It can't happen here." Now, not so much....

number_1_swimfan270 karma

I'm a male in his 30s, and I listened to the audio book version of The Handmaid's Tale performed by Claire Danes just this last month. What an incredibly thought provoking piece of literature, one I think all genders should read. How do you feel about the audiobook platform in general, and what concept in the story plaguing the narrator is most terrifying to you?

me_atwood268 karma

Hello: I grew up in the age of radio, so I am very comfortable with audio versions. Claire Danes does a wonderful job! A good one can add a whole other dimension. Looking forward to the Special Edition now underway at Audible.

Which concept is most terrifying? All of it, I guess. Not being in control of any part of one's life.

Chtorrr246 karma

Have you read any good books lately?

me_atwood362 karma

I am always reading... many good books! I intend to get the Bailey's longlist and read those, and many more that are on my to-read list. There's an app called Reco where I have an account and post recommendations... I must update it! Homegoing is on it, for example.

AnxiousFinch211 karma

Also, a Reddit constant question: would you rather fight one horse-sized duck or a hundred duck-sized horses? Why?

me_atwood501 karma

Hmm. Good question. Are the ducks dead ducks, or are they alive? Are they Zombie Ducks? Is the horse a Pale Horse? Maybe not enough information here. I think I'd pick the hundred duck-sized horses. Easy to stampede, no? ("Scram, ducks!" Opens and closes an umbrella very fast. That's worked for me in the past, against those weeny ducks.)

missfestival208 karma

Hi Margaret! I love your writing. My mother gave the the HT to read in high school... back in 1989 I think. I read it so many times. Did you have any idea it would make such an impact on people? Thanks... I love you!

me_atwood258 karma

Hello and thank you: No, I really did not have any idea. I was pursuing some lines of thought and emotion that interested me... I thought the book might get denounced (which it has, some) or ignored (which happened in the UK at first), but this kind of impact... no, I had no idea.

suaveitguy175 karma

On a scale of 1-10, what would you rate the Hulu film?

me_atwood393 karma

Have only seen (pre-screened) 3 episodes so far, but based on what I've seen it's a 10. My criteria: puddle of goo on the floor my end of Episode 3. Gasp. Shriek. It goes farther than I did in the book...

butterball1169 karma

Where do you get your amazing ideas?

Any advice for struggling novel writers?

Edit: Thanks /u/Hulu_Official for the Gold. I have been here for 6 years and it is my first gilding!

me_atwood300 karma

Ideas... never a shortage! I think my brain just works that way. Not all of my ideas have been amazing. Some have not, NOT worked out! As they say (I think it was Beckett): try, fail. Try again, fail better. Or something like that. We have all had projects that have ended up as smashed eggs on the floor. Struggling writers: check out Chuck Wendig's blogsite/website at www.terribleminds.com. He has SO MANY tips and encouragements! He saves me a lot of time b/c I would say much the same things myself. He's a freelancer, like me. If you have a day job (as I did for I dunno 16 years or something) the advice just has to cover a more challenging time period (i.e 12 midnite). No one said this would be easy!

suaveitguy153 karma

Do you find similar pleasure in the slower more immersive experience of a modern 10 hour television series as you do a novel? Any standout shows that you have particularly respected?

me_atwood318 karma

Hello: The trend got going in the 80s in England with longer series TV adaptations of things like Jane Eyre. Also the amazing The Singing Detective -- I think it was the 90s. I like to get them once the whole thing is finished and then watch back to back. Longer forms allow deeper exploration, series of connected episodes work like old serial fiction, ie Dickens -- a cliffhanger at the end of each! But I'm kind of a sucker for that. Novels are very different in that they are made of words and words alone: the reader supplies everything else. Note: novels can do smells. Harder in TV and film: you can have people say Pee-yew etc but you don't actually get a description of the smell in detail.

suaveitguy147 karma

In interviews, how often do you get asked about being a Canadian writer or being a female writer? How often do you wish you were asked about either?

me_atwood463 karma

I have got asked about both a great deal over time. But nobody ever asks me what it's like to be a canoe-paddling writer, or a writer who gardens, or even a knitting writer. Neglected fields! (I'm going to wish I hadn't said that.)

happilyemployed127 karma

What would you be doing right now if you were an American? Would you run for office? Would you protest? Would you be planning to resist ICE?

me_atwood326 karma

I would make a very bad politician, so no, I wouldn't run for office. But I would support those who were running. I would certainly turn out for protests, as I did here in Toronto, wearing a rather strange pink hat. I don't know what else I would do! We are in a time when reality seems to shift every day...

elizabeth32497 karma

Thanks for opening up this world and new worlds for us all to explore, you inspire me to write.

-As a young poetry writer I often feel overwhelming pressure for my ‘Big Important First Work’ to be perfect. The issue is that it never feels completely done, so I keep it hidden in my desk. I worry that in a few years I will look back and wish I had written it in a completely different way. At what point do you decide to release a work into the wild regardless of potential imperfections or later regrets?

-What is your opinion on self publishing? Is it better to wait to be picked up by a publisher, or to say screw it and self publish?

-Do you have any ‘writing rituals’? For example, a time of day you write best, a notebook of ideas, or a mandatory cup of coffee to get the words flowing?

Also, where can I find your upcoming speaking engagements? It seems like every time I travel you’ve just passed through and I’ve missed my chance :)

me_atwood133 karma

Hello: I too have a desk drawer full of things I haven't finished or that I am not yet ready to publish. But send some of them out into the world - then you will worry less. Self-publishing: pros and cons either way. You might try Wattpad for instant feedback. I hand-set my first book of poems (7 in number) but that was long ago. Try literary magazines and online ones? Writing rituals: I would like to have some, but I don't really. It's grabbing time and staying up late, as it always has been, it seems. Upcoming speaking engagements are usually in www.margaretatwood.ca under Events (when we remember to update. ;) Thanks for your q's.

reusche93 karma

Thank you for doing this!

What book do you believe vital for kids to read before age 18/while still in school?

Also: Stone Mattress is a treasure and I have wondered if you had traveled to the Arctic before writing that piece?

me_atwood194 karma

The Arctic - yes, many times over the years. I started writing the story on a ship there to amuse my fellow passengers, with How-Tos contributed by my criminally-minded partner; there really were 5 men called Bob. Tey got very nervous.

I think kids find books that call out to them if given half a chance. What IS vital is to have a school library + access to a librarian (marks go up by 20% on average) and a home with books in it, even public library books if possible. I don;t like to tell people what they Have to read because it is a very individual thing. I would have to have a convo with a person. Then I might begin to be able to make a recco.

suaveitguy81 karma

Did you enjoy your work with Darren Aronofsky?

me_atwood143 karma

Very smart team! But that is rather in limbo, as HBO changed CEOs and pulled out. They are looking for another venu however. It's a daunting 3 book project, not easy to do.

squishy-panda77 karma

Firstly - thank you for so many wonderful books and being an inspirational woman (HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY!) What has been your favourite part of making the Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid's Tale?

me_atwood75 karma

Haha, so far it's been watching the results -- but talking with everyone too, and seeing the astonishing amount of energy and enthusiasm that's gone into it at every level. I love seeing people do something they're passionate about very well.

constipated_emu62 karma

Congratulations on being a Bailey's finalist. Does the novelty of so many nominations and so many awards ever diminish?

And have you ever considered coming to South Africa to do some talks?

me_atwood125 karma

I would so much like to go to South Africa but as I say, I am screaming old and long travel is becoming more difficult, for many reasons, not all of which have to do with me alone. I have Duties. It's lovely to be a Bailey's finalist, kind of them, but I am in the Gold Watch and Goodbye phase of my "career" (Lifetime etc. -- hey! I only get one?) so this will go to one of the many fine, edgy books on the list, all of which I will read with pleasure (have already read some of them).

Helena__Handbag59 karma

Dear Ms. Atwood,

Thank you for writing THE HANDMAID'S TALE. Is there anything in the series, not included in the book, that you feel could have been?

me_atwood125 karma

Yes I think they've got a few things in there (from what I've seen already) that I wish I'd thought of, but we can talk about those after the series, b/c No Spoilers eh?

notacious53 karma

Hi Margaret, You've been proactive in embracing technology and seem really pleased with the new adaptation of Handmaid's. I was wondering if I could ask you how you would feel about a HMT computer game? Could that work and how would you see it as succeeding or failing?

me_atwood77 karma

I think it could definitely work -- there's one of The Great Gatsby, and one called Plague Inc -- but I haven't given much thought to how it might be done. Not my area but down the line, willing to consider.