Episode 71: Live with Gary K. Wolfe and Ursula K. Le Guin!

This week saw the publication of Margaret Atwood’s new book of essays, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, which discusses her thoughts on science fiction in some detail.  We invited Ursula K. Le Guin to join us on the podcast to discuss Atwood, science fiction and her new book.  As always, we hope you enjoy the podcast.

Note: As mentioned at the end of the podcast, this will be the last newly recorded episode until mid-November. The next three episodes will be interviews with Alastair Reynolds, Ian McDonald, and Kim Stanley Robinson recorded in Reno at WorldCon.


9 thoughts on “Episode 71: Live with Gary K. Wolfe and Ursula K. Le Guin!”

  1. I’m only about half-way through, but wanted to note this before I forgot. On the subject of what other sf Atwood has read, way back in 2003 she was at an event in Oxford and I got the chance to ask (after she had raised the matter of her speculative fiction vs science fiction) which, if any, speculative fiction authors influenced Oryx and Crake: her answer was Ursula Le Guin, William Gibson and John Wyndham, which I can really sort of see. And in this interview she mentions Riddley Walker as sf she’s enjoyed (plus Bradbury). So my impression is that she probably did read a fair bit in the 70s and early 80s, but not a lot since then, and that a lot of what draws her to sf is the utopia/dystopia dynamic. I’d love it if the Guardian (or somewhere else) started recruiting her to write occasional reviews; it would be fascinating to see what she’d make of, oh I don’t know, the next M John Harrison novel.

  2. I met Atwood at a Canadian Fiction conference that was staged just before the 2003 Worldcon in Toronto, which was basically an event to allow people who wouldn’t be seen dead at Worldcon to meet those of us coming to town for the event. I politely steered clear of talking squid in space, but I figured that The Handmaid’s Tale was safe ground. Then she told me that she didn’t consider it a feminist book. At that point I decided there wasn’t much point talking to her on anything that bordered on taxonomy.

  3. I like how there are some efforts to understand Margaret Atwood. Whenever this topic comes up, I have more sympathy with her than the militant devensiveness of the SF-fanbase. I’m reminded of William Gibson’s attitude towards SF, who also doesn’t want to be lumped together with the mainstream SF tropes. I think these are sometimes very fair and substantial distinctions for understanding the author’s work and style of writing. Even if they’re partly naive, they give an insight into the work’s influences and awareness, the writer’s thinking in the writing, of which sometimes it simply would be reductive to give them an already heavily loaded label. That’s also why Tolkien disliked the term fantasy, to my knowledge. And really, when you compare his style and his influences to the genre’s way of accumulating tropes and formulae, even of looking at “magic” and of what the work is trying to achieve, they are quite different.
    In essence, when you want to insist on the mistake, it is merely a small slip, but not an author’s massive deceiving and betraying attempt of pulling the strings of the literary fields.

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