Award-winning author Margaret Atwood calls her latest novel “speculative” fiction. The book is the third in a dystopian trilogy about what happens to a small group of survivors after a plague wipes out most of humanity. Like her other novels, “The Handmaids Tale” and “Oryx and Crake,” her book is a cautionary tale about the future. Atwood creates a world rooted in environmental decay where a huge corporation acts as the government, with its employees living in fortified compounds while the vast underclass is overrun with violent gangs. Diane talks to Atwood about why she doesn’t consider her latest novel science fiction.

Guests

  • Margaret Atwood conservationist and author of more than 40 books of fiction, poetry and essays. Her internationally best-selling novels include "The Handmaid's Tale," "Cat's Eye" and "The Blind Assassin," winner of 2000 Booker Prize.

Read An Excerpt

Excerpt from “MaddAddam” by Margaret Atwood. Copyright 2013 by Margaret Atwood. Reprinted here by permission of Nan A. Talese. All rights reserved.

Transcript

  • 11:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Award-winning author Margaret Atwood has published more than 40 books of fiction, poetry and essays. Her latest novel is the third book in a post-apocalyptic trilogy. After a pandemic wipes out most of humanity, a group of survivors ekes out an existence while defending themselves against terrifying bioengineered animals and vicious gladiators known as painballers.

  • 11:07:28

    MS. DIANE REHMThe title of the book is "MaddAddam." Author Margaret Atwood joins me from a studio at WGBH radio in Boston, Mass. I hope you too will be part of the program. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email drshow@wamu.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Margaret Atwood, it's so good to see you again.

  • 11:07:59

    MS. MARGARET ATWOODLovely to see you.

  • 11:08:02

    REHMThank you. Margaret Atwood, as I was finishing your book, I thought once again how prescient you have been with your books because the Centers for Disease Control had just come out with a warning about the overuse of antibiotics and how we could be hit by some strain of something or other that could be very dangerous to humanity.

  • 11:08:41

    REHMAnd here you have written a book about how most of humanity gets wiped out by a plague. You call this speculative fiction, talk about why.

  • 11:09:00

    ATWOODWell, Diane, when you see a book that says on the outside, science fiction, do you think about spaceships and other planets?

  • 11:09:11

    REHMDo I?

  • 11:09:12

    ATWOODYes, do you?

  • 11:09:12

    REHMI do. I do, sure.

  • 11:09:15

    ATWOODSo do I, yes. So I like truth in labeling and therefore I like to use the word speculative fiction because that doesn't mean spaceships and other planets necessarily. It means speculation about what could actually happen.

  • 11:09:32

    ATWOODAnd just to throw in a little statistic, when Europeans hit North and South America, the death rate, because the people here had no immunity to those European diseases, the death rate was 95 percent, which is pretty staggering.

  • 11:09:51

    ATWOODWhen you compare it with the great mortality or Black Death of the 14th century, it was only tops 50 percent. And even that was pretty devastating to the civilization of that time, although it had a plus, Diane, because jobs for women opened up and the feudal system was destroyed because people started being able to move from one place to another in order to sell their labor.

  • 11:10:25

    ATWOODSo these events were pretty horrible at the time, but humanity did make it through in both cases. We're also told that long, long ago, probably about 70,000 years ago, humanity was reduced to a mere nub because of an ice age. But again, we did make it through.

  • 11:10:50

    ATWOODSo you'll notice that I have left some people alive and there's the novelist's reason for that. If I had killed them all off, who would be the narrator?

  • 11:10:59

    REHMExactly, you have a number of figures in this story, some who are humans, some who are combinations of various types of animals. And what you say in the acknowledgements is that the book does not include any technologies that could not exist. So talk about some of the creatures you have put forward here.

  • 11:11:41

    ATWOODOkay. So first of all, we now have the ability to make viruses from scratch and people have, in fact, done that. That's number one. Number two, the glowing, green rabbits already exist, possibly not quite as glowing as they are in the book, but they do exist.

  • 11:12:06

    ATWOODThe combination of spider and goat that makes a bulletproof vest silk already exists and did even in 2003 when the first book in the series was published, "Oryx and Crake." The pigs growing human kidneys, they were working on that back in 2003, but now it appears that they could actually do that now.

  • 11:12:37

    ATWOODAnd the lab meat, as we famously know because I'm sure you saw that item about the first lab meat hamburger?

  • 11:12:45

    REHMIndeed.

  • 11:12:45

    ATWOODPeople said it needed a bit more salt.

  • 11:12:47

    REHMRight.

  • 11:12:48

    ATWOODSo the first lab-grown animal protein hamburger has now been manufactured and eaten. So these things are not a big stretch. I think that the Mo'Hairs that grow human hair for transplant would be quite a commercial success. Think about that, any color. And...

  • 11:13:09

    REHMYou might just talk about the crakers.

  • 11:13:14

    ATWOODThe crakers, yes.

  • 11:13:15

    REHMThey seem to be one example of such beings and technology.

  • 11:13:23

    ATWOODYes, they have not been -- they're not a blend of human and something else, but they have been tweaked by their creator to avoid some of the problems that we ourselves are always having.

  • 11:13:36

    ATWOODSo he's thought about the kind of things that get us into trouble and he's eliminated the desire for those things. For instance, they've got built-in sun block and they've got built-in insect repellent and they don't need clothing. So therefore you will never have to have a big cotton-growing industry or a big fashion industry or indeed any clothes at all.

  • 11:13:58

    ATWOODThe self-heal through purring, which I was told when I first proposed it that it was a bit of a stretch, but that seems to be borne out by recent scientific studies. And they're completely vegetarian, not only that they can eat leaves and grass so they will never have to have agriculture.

  • 11:14:16

    ATWOODThey're not aggressive so they won't have wars and best of all, they don't suffer from romantic rejection because they mate seasonally and in groups, unlike us.

  • 11:14:29

    REHMAnd talk about the pigoons, the grolars and liobams.

  • 11:14:35

    ATWOODWell, the grolars are with us already. Some people call them pizzlies and they are due to the fact -- and we haven't made them, they're just happening, of polar bears being, experience, I mean, difficulty in their traditional territories are moving south and (word?) with grizzlies.

  • 11:14:55

    ATWOODAnd some examples of those have already been found. So that's not a stretch. The pigoons are pigs. The name comes from pig balloon and they were developed to grow multiple human kidneys for transplant and as we know, we now can grow human kidneys in pigs.

  • 11:15:20

    ATWOODA man told me the other day that he has a pig valve in his heart, but that wasn't grown, it was just transplanted. So what were the other things?

  • 11:15:30

    REHMThe liobams.

  • 11:15:31

    ATWOODThe liobams.

  • 11:15:33

    REHMLiobams.

  • 11:15:34

    ATWOODYes, they were developed by a religious cult devoted to the premise that the lion should lie down with the lamb and that the best way of ever getting that to happen without the lion eating the lamb was to combine the two into one animal. So they have a strange thing between a bleat and a roar.

  • 11:15:55

    ATWOODThey do look quite frisky like lambs, but they are carnivorous.

  • 11:16:00

    REHMYou know, Margaret, you and I have talked many times about your wonderful books, including "The Handmaids Tale" which certainly had a look forward at the banning of abortions. There are hanging figures at the outset of that novel, doctors who have performed abortions who have been hanged for their acts.

  • 11:16:36

    REHMWe've since, of course, seen doctors who carry out abortions murdered by guns, not so much by official hangings so I find myself wondering whether you are, in fact, looking ahead and seeing the kind of society and makeup which includes a government controlled by a huge oil company. Are you seeing these things looking ahead?

  • 11:17:17

    ATWOODAh, no, Diane, I do not make crystal balls.

  • 11:17:22

    REHMI know you don't.

  • 11:17:22

    ATWOODAnd there is no, "the future." There are multiple futures and what sort of a future we end up in is going to depend on the kinds of choices that we are making today. So it's interesting to look at different futures and see if that is the one we, in fact, wish to live in.

  • 11:17:44

    ATWOODSo in the future of "MaddAddam," there is, because people make religions for all kinds of reasons, there is a religion that is quite frank about what it worships. And what it worships is oil and it bases that on a text. You can base it on a text because the word Peter means rock and it's the same root Latin word that gets into petroleum and oleum means oil. And as we know, oil is holy in the Bible. It's used to anoint people.

  • 11:18:20

    ATWOODAnd so they've founded a cult on the word Petroleum and therefore, they've made it into a holy thing that you can worship.

  • 11:18:28

    REHMI'm glad to know how to pronounce that word. You've given me that clue. For those of you who'd like to speak directly with Margaret Atwood, give us a call now, 800-433-8850. Short break here, we'll be right back.

  • 11:20:03

    REHMAnd if you just joined us, Margaret Atwood is my guest. She has a brand new book, which she does not call science fiction. She calls speculative fiction. It's a book that looks at what happens to the human population after most of it is wiped out in a plague. The book is titled, "MaddAddam." And, Margaret Atwood, tell us what happens to the MaddAddamites after the plague wipes out most of humanity? What do they do? And how do they survive?

  • 11:20:56

    ATWOODAnd this is amazing, Diane. If you've ever been in a flood or, say, an ice storm or anything like that that turns off the electric lights and our sources of cheap energy how quickly people revert to earlier stages of human technological development. So we very quickly go back to using fire, hopefully not inside the too extensively. It's good if you don't actually set fire to your house.

  • 11:21:29

    ATWOODFire candles and any other of our earlier technologies that we have, for the moment, abandoned because we've got really cheap supplies of energy. So I think probably a lot of listeners have been through such events, maybe only for a couple of days when the lights went out and everything in the freezer melted. Or, you know, they had to -- apparently during the New York flood recently, people were rushing uptown to anybody who had their lights on with their cell phones hoping to plug them in.

  • 11:22:03

    REHMRight.

  • 11:22:04

    ATWOODWell, in this future world, of course, there are no longer any of those communications networks. So there may be a lot more human beings left alive than we know about that they cannot communicate with one another. I remember what happened in Cuba right after the oil got cut off. So right before that moment, it was very prestigious to have a car. Right after than moment, it was very prestigious to have a horse.

  • 11:22:34

    ATWOODSo we go back pretty quickly at figuring out how to live if we don't have those other technologies. And that is what they are doing. For the moment, of course, they have a supply of stuff because they can go into the city, which is however falling down, as it would, without us to maintain it. They're going into the city and finding stuff that they can use. Sometime in their future, they will run out of the bed sheets and t-shirts and they will have to figure out something else.

  • 11:23:05

    ATWOODLuckily, they do have mohairs and they're not at a loss for food. There are a lot of things around them.

  • 11:23:11

    REHMTell us about the mohairs and who they are.

  • 11:23:15

    ATWOODThe mohairs are sheep that grow human hair. But apart from that, they're sheep, so you can eat them. And you can make sheep milk using their milk and you can keep them in herds. They're somewhat more colorful than sheep are today. Some of them are redheads, others have blue hair. But they are indeed sheep so they have all the advantages of sheep. And there are a lot of kudzu in the future. So they aren't at a loss for things to eat.

  • 11:23:48

    REHMAnd what about the painballers?

  • 11:23:51

    ATWOODThe painballers are left over from world before the pandemic. And in the future, they're doing gladiatorial combat in which people have been convicted of criminal offenses can elect to go into painball and chase each other around and eliminate one another. It is the Roman gladiator idea. And you probably saw it in the time between year of the flood where it occurs and now you probably saw a variation of it in "Hunger Games."

  • 11:24:31

    ATWOODBut these people are in fact criminals and once they've been through a couple of sessions of painball, any morals and ethics that they might once have had have gone out the window.

  • 11:24:43

    REHMWould you...

  • 11:24:43

    ATWOODSo they're pretty ruthless.

  • 11:24:45

    REHMWould you for us a passage from the book?

  • 11:24:51

    ATWOODWould you like a kindly, friendly -- actually, why don't I just read the beginning?

  • 11:24:56

    REHMWhy don't you just read whatever you like?

  • 11:24:59

    ATWOODI won't read any of the parts that are dripping with gore.

  • 11:25:03

    REHMAll right.

  • 11:25:06

    ATWOODI'll begin right at the beginning. "The story of the Egg, and of Oryx and Crake, and how they made people and animals and of the chaos and of snowmen, the jimmy and of the smelly bone and the coming of the two bad men. And this is a story that the Toby is telling to the Crakers who are the new people, who want to know where they've come from. So they're getting an origin story.

  • 11:25:34

    ATWOODIn the beginning, you lived inside the Egg. That is where Crake made you. Yes, good, kind Crake. Please stop singing or I can't go on with the story. The Egg was big and round and white, life half a bubble, and there were trees inside it with leaves and grass and berries. All the things you like to eat. Yes, it rained inside the Egg. No, there was not any thunder. Because Crake did not want any thunder inside the Egg.

  • 11:26:08

    ATWOODAnd all around the egg was the chaos with many, many people who were not like you. Because they had an extra skin, that skin is called clothes. Yes, like mine. And many of them were bad people who did cruel and hurtful things to one another and also to the animals, such as we don't need to talk about those things right now. And Oryx was very sad about that because the animals were her children.

  • 11:26:39

    ATWOODAnd Crake was sad because Oryx was sad. And the chaos was everywhere outside the Egg. But inside the Egg, there was no chaos. It was very peaceful there and Crake watched over you. Yes, good, kind Crake. Please stop singing. You don't have to sing every time. I'm sure Crake likes it, but he also likes this story and he wants to hear the rest."

  • 11:27:11

    REHMMargaret Atwood reading from her new book, "MaddAddam." We've got lots of callers and we'll open the phones, 800-433-8850. First, let's go to the North Shores of Michigan. Richard, you're on the air.

  • 11:27:37

    RICHARDGood morning. Margaret, I think you are a phenomenal author.

  • 11:27:42

    ATWOODThank you.

  • 11:27:42

    RICHARDI've read every one of your books and I saw you in Chicago. My wife and I drove from here in North Shores to Chicago, which is around three hours from here to see you at the university where you did a reading two years ago. And I'm just so thrilled that you're on today. And I'm going out and buying your book today. I think you're just -- you're right up there with Samuel Clemens.

  • 11:28:06

    ATWOODOh, that's wonderful. What a compliment.

  • 11:28:09

    REHMI should say, thanks, Richard, for your call. Elaine in Dowagiac, MI. You're on the air.

  • 11:28:19

    ELAINEHello?

  • 11:28:20

    REHMHi.

  • 11:28:21

    ELAINEHi. Thank you so much for taking my call. And I just want to say, Margaret, that you are certainly one of my very favorite authors. You spoke here in Dowagiac at our fine arts festival some years ago. And I asked you a question and Diane asked you the same question earlier and your answer was a little different. She asked something to effect that do you think that America is headed in the direction of the future that you first wrote about in "Handmaid's Tale."

  • 11:28:59

    ELAINEAnd at that time you said -- when you were here you said, you laughed a little bit and you said, no, America always seems to do the right thing at the last moment. And you had faith enough. But today you kind of answered the question with saying, well, it depends on what we do now. And I just wondered what made you kind of change your mind or how you came to how you feel now?

  • 11:29:32

    ATWOODOkay, so there's two different futures that we were talking about. One of them is "The Handmaid's Tale." And people certainly that I was hearing from online and during the last presidential election were saying things like, please, tell the Republican Party that "The Handmaid's Tale" is not a blueprint. And they felt that we had gotten closer to "The Handmaid's Tale" in some states and among some groups of people.

  • 11:29:59

    ATWOODAnd I think the question that Americans need to ask themselves is how much control should the state have over your body. Now just that very simple question. Should the state be in control of your body? So that's that thing. No matter what you think of abortion or non-abortion just showed the state being in control of your body. And the other question has to do with the future in the "MaddAddam" trilogy and that has to do with the growing power of corporations, not just Americans one but ones everywhere.

  • 11:30:38

    ATWOODAnd also the growing power of not just corporations but governments to spy on people through their internet connections. That is why the god's gardeners don't use cell phones and don't use computers because they say quite rightly, if it can see -- if you can see it, it can see you. And we just had a lot in the news about people looking at you and tracking you through your internet stuff.

  • 11:31:10

    ATWOODNow some of those people are criminals but others are governments and not just the American government. So there is a big cyber war going on right now. So which future are we talking about? Let us hope we don't get both of them at once.

  • 11:31:27

    REHMThanks for your call, Elaine. Margaret Atwood, talk about Zeb because a lot of the story revolves around him. He is one of god's gardeners and you might just explain god's gardeners.

  • 11:31:50

    ATWOODYes. God's gardeners is the green religious cult that grows vegetables and raises bees on flat rooftops in slums and they both called the year of the flood. And they are dedicated to attempting to blend scripture, science and nature. And they've got their own group of saints, which includes Saint Robert Burns, for instance, and Saint Dian Fossey and Saint Rachel Carson and all people who have been environmentalists and active in that area.

  • 11:32:26

    ATWOODThey've got their own hymns. They've got their own feast days and they're led by a character called Adam One. Toby wonders in the year of the flood whether there was ever an Eve One. And we find out that there was in "MaddAddam." But I'm not going to tell you who it was. No.

  • 11:32:43

    REHMNo, of course not. You wouldn't want to give that away.

  • 11:32:47

    ATWOODZeb is an activist, whereas the god's gardeners tend to be pacifists. And he splits off from the god's gardeners to go off and form MaddAddam and actively resist this kind of destructive corporate control but it's also based on partly an old friend of mine who's unfortunately no longer alive. He was, in many ways, quite a lot like Zeb. So a rascal but not a scoundrel, if you get the distinction.

  • 11:33:21

    REHMI do indeed. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." What about the destruction of the reverend and the taking of his remains off to a laboratory which threw some sort of cryogenic process. They believe he can be reconstituted.

  • 11:33:55

    ATWOODBoy, it sounds like -- the cryogenics industry is alive and well in the future. But it exists now and those people would get themselves frozen in the hopes that in the future science will be able to develop another body for them and attach them onto it or will be able to reconstitute and renew them. Woody Allen did a satire on this a long time ago and you see him climbing out of a freezer covered with tin foil.

  • 11:34:26

    ATWOODBut the actual thing does exist and in the future it's called cryogenius. And you make a contract so that if the synergy die you get flash frozen and chipped off. So the reverend had such a contract but that is not in fact what has happened to him because he has been melted like the wicked witch of the west by a combination of unknown pills, which Zeb slipped into his martini. They were somewhat more drastic and fast acting than anticipated.

  • 11:35:02

    REHMAll right. Let's go to Fort Worth, TX. Hi there, Charlie, you're on the air.

  • 11:35:11

    CHARLIEHi there. I just wanted to ask you and obviously compliment you on your works. But you call your work speculative fiction and I've seen a lot of backlash in the science fiction community for this. Is there anything to do with (word?) culture in science fiction that pressed you to do -- to call your work speculative?

  • 11:35:32

    ATWOODNo, it's just simply truth in labeling. There are two ancestors of that whole area of what we can call 20th century wonder tales. And one of them was Jules Verne, who wrote about things thought had actually happened such as submarines. And the other one was H.G. Wells who wrote about things that were obviously not going to happen, such as time machines. And nobody their called their work science fiction then because that term did not come in this until the end of the 1920s.

  • 11:36:08

    ATWOODIf they called them anything, they called them scientific romance. They didn't even think they were writing those, they just thought they were writing interesting books. So I think it's a territorial squabble in the people who opt for science fiction think it should contain not only their own pumpkin patch but everybody else's pumpkin patch even if it has a dragon in it. And people who want truth in labeling like to distinguish between, for instance, science fiction, fantasy, sword and sorcery which probably nobody would call science fiction.

  • 11:36:44

    ATWOODDracula stories, not science fiction I take it. So it's a question of whether you want to be accurate. Whether you want to call all trees just tree or whether you want to say this is a birch and that's a pine.

  • 11:37:02

    REHMMargaret Atwood, her brand new novel, the third and final in her trilogy is titled, "MaddAddam." We'll take a short break here. When we come back, more of your calls, your email, and one email in particular about Margaret Atwood Twitter relationship with comedian Rob Delaney. Stay with us.

  • 11:40:02

    REHMAnd Margaret Atwood joins me from station WGMH in Boston. We're talking about her latest book, the third in a trilogy. This called, "MaddAddam." And here's an email from Kate who says, "Throughout the trilogy, you mention that only the Corsecore (sp?) is legally allowed to be armed. Does this mean you're predicting that possible attempts at gun control would result in a further more troubling disparity in power between individuals and corporations given that since "Oryx and Crake," the first book in your trilogy, the Supreme Court has given corporations the rights of individuals?"

  • 11:41:03

    ATWOODI think they've had the rights of individuals for some time. I think that sort of began quite a long time ago when you look at the history of corporate law, but your specifically asking about who should have guns. All right, if only governments have guns then it's a tyranny, is it not, because citizens have no recourse. In the future, of course, governments as such have lost power and corporations have a lot more power than governments. If you look at who's got the money right now you'll find that there are corporations on the planet already that have a lot more money than a lot of countries.

  • 11:41:51

    ATWOODSo, therefore, if you think of the governments as kings and the corporations as dukes, the dukes have gained power and the kings have been losing power for some time. Corporations already have gone into gated community mode. If you go into one of them you will find that you need a pass identification. You will find that there are guards and you will find that you have to go through a security thing just as if you were boarding a plane pretty much and there are reasons for that obviously. So in the future I'm just showing that trend built out more. I believe there are already more privately paid security people in the United States than there are publicly paid ones.

  • 11:42:41

    REHMInteresting.

  • 11:42:42

    ATWOODWhat happens when the collective public, that is you and me, what happens when citizens, voters, et cetera, et cetera, lose control of their own security forces? You're probably going to get something like a late stage Rome in which it was the Praetorian Guard, essentially, who decided who was going to be emperor. So think about that just for a minute.

  • 11:43:10

    REHMAll right, and here's an email from Leonard in Dallas. And apparently there were several like this. He says, "I'm wondering why it's necessary to have monsters and demons facing the surviving humans. Why not create a world where there is peace? If most of the world is wiped out, what better time to create a peaceful planet?"

  • 11:43:42

    ATWOODWell, read to the end of the book. In fact, read the beginning of the book. There is -- that is in effect what Crake has been attempting to do by making a new breed of human beings who are lacking in aggression. The only problem with that plan is that every time a group of beings lacking in aggression meets a group who have aggression the first group usually gets wiped out. I give you Columbus and the Carib Indians. Actually, you know, the Caribs and the Arawaks both -- all of them, in point of fact -- so superior technologies face to face with inferior technologies, but peaceful people faced with aggressive people.

  • 11:44:35

    ATWOODI was talking to some Mennonites a while ago and they were telling me how the Mennonites had to move from here to there to here to there because they kept getting chased out of these countries. And I said, well, why were they afraid of you? You were pacifists. And they said they didn't want that model around.

  • 11:44:52

    REHMHuh.

  • 11:44:53

    ATWOODYou know, if we refused to join armies they didn't want anybody else getting the idea that you could refuse to join the army because they were constantly threatened by other armies and that would have been the end of them. Anyway, back to the world of MaddAddam. Yes, it would be very peaceful except there are some old style humans left in it with their old tendencies intact.

  • 11:45:19

    REHMOne of the humans is a woman, a lovely woman named Toby who does her best to teach one of the Crakers to read and write. And that young Craker is able to communicate with a Pagoon who wants a more peaceful relationship. Talk about...

  • 11:45:54

    ATWOODWe're not -- yes, we're not going to give away the end of the book.

  • 11:45:57

    REHMNo, of course not, of course not.

  • 11:46:01

    ATWOODThat's (unintelligible) are possible in this world and there are no actual demons in it. It's not a paranormal romance.

  • 11:46:11

    REHMBut Toby is a very courageous woman.

  • 11:46:16

    ATWOODI think (word?). I knew people who were in the resistance, Diane, in World War II and one of them said a very good thing to me, and she was a woman. And she said, "Pray that you will never have the opportunity to be a hero," because, of course, heroes emerge in times of crisis.

  • 11:46:40

    REHMIndeed. Let's go now to Rochester, N.Y., hi, there, John, you're on the air.

  • 11:46:47

    JOHNYeah, hi -- hi, Diane and hi, Margaret. I just want to run this by you, Margaret. I come from a family of five boys and one girl, you know, growing up in the '60s and '70s. And my mom had her hands full, but now I have three daughters. I mean my ex-wife, you know, traded me in for an 18 year old way back. And my -- I got one brother who's got two daughters. I have another brother who's got two daughters. I have one brother who's got...

  • 11:47:26

    REHMJohn, John...

  • 11:47:27

    JOHNWe're matriarchy.

  • 11:47:28

    REHMOkay, tell me what the question is.

  • 11:47:31

    JOHNWell, what I just want to say is I never tried to -- I never put my kids -- my gals on a pedestal or tried to pull their teeth. And they're all doing really well right now.

  • 11:47:47

    ATWOODGood.

  • 11:47:47

    JOHNSo tell me...

  • 11:47:53

    ATWOODSo what...

  • 11:47:54

    JOHN...What you think about that.

  • 11:47:55

    ATWOODOkay, so what I think about that is that, yes, a lot of opportunities have opened up for women and young men are sometimes at a loss as to what they are going to do in life. And I think you see quite a bit of this. You even see -- you see them dropping out of school, you have them wondering what their place is. And I think people are going to have to give more thought to that. You know, we've improved things for women, now we're going to have to start thinking about young men and what -- what are we going to provide for them and possibly the educations system has to take that into account.

  • 11:48:35

    REHMTo Miami, Fla., Carlos, you're on the air.

  • 11:48:39

    CARLOSHi, ladies, really enjoying the show.

  • 11:48:42

    REHMGood.

  • 11:48:43

    CARLOSJust wanted to let you know that and so over time, you know, my idea of technology has changed, you know, it's a double edged sword. It could be used for good and for bad. I think mainly it's the intention behind which you use it, but lately I've been under the impression that it's more good than bad seeing as, you know, when the things we could do with energy if we really applied ourselves. And I just wanted to know if -- at least get an idea of what your speculative nonfiction, kind of, would be like. What you would imagine actually happening for us in terms of just technology and it might be used in the future.

  • 11:49:23

    ATWOODOK, the most important thing for us to do right now is to discover a source of cheap energy that isn't going to kill us. And the other important thing for us to do is to avoid killing the ocean because if we do kill the ocean we will stop breathing. It is the ocean that makes 60 to 80 percent of the oxygen we breathe through marine algaes. So I think it's a race, you know, it's a race between the bad effects of our presence on the planet and the good effects that we're going to have to put a lot of thought and work into if we wish to remain a viable species on the planet. We're not going to be able to kill all life, but we might do a pretty good job on ourselves.

  • 11:50:08

    REHMI'd be interested since you happen to live in Toronto I'd be interested in your thoughts about the XL Keystone Pipeline.

  • 11:50:23

    ATWOODWell, this is the oil question and this is why we have to discover a source of cheap energy that isn't going to kill us. You know, this is all carbon-based sources of energy are contributing to climate change and as things get warmer what comes up must come down and you're going to have a lot more rains and floods, as you've just been seeing in Colorado.

  • 11:50:48

    ATWOODAnd you're also going to have stronger winds because hot air rises and then other air rushes in. And you can measure the effects of climate change just by measuring the average height of waves in the ocean. So this is part of the question and why we have to think in terms of cheap, viable new forms of energy that aren't going to kill us.

  • 11:51:16

    REHMAre you talking about alternative forms of energy or are you talking about gas, for example?

  • 11:51:25

    ATWOODWell, that's a carbon-based form of energy, again. It may be cheaper, more available right now and on the North American continent so it addresses some problems, but for a while people were pinning their hopes on biofuels, but there's a lot of downsides to those. The thing is, Diane, as you know, that if we turn off the switch tomorrow the most extraordinary social chaos would result.2

  • 11:51:51

    ATWOODSo just telling people that they should -- they should stop having -- you know, they should stop having furnaces and automobiles you are going to see astonishing disruption if you could wave a magic wand and just remove those because our society is set up to run on those things. So cheap source of energy where will it come from, people are working pretty hard on that.

  • 11:52:18

    REHMAnd here, finally, is the email I teased our audience about. It's from Chris who says, "Can you please ask Ms. Atwood about her Twitter relationship with comedian Rob Delaney?"

  • 11:52:38

    ATWOODWell, this is called a Twitter pickup. Mr. Delaney picked me up. He apparently likes my books. Isn't that nice? I am in the granny generation now so I can be harmlessly flirted with without repercussions. So, indeed, I get a number, I assume, younger people of the male persuasion flirting with me. I assume they're younger because just about everybody is, Diane.

  • 11:53:10

    ATWOODSo he's pretty funny and he's publishing a book, by the way, in October. It's about to come out and I have a copy of it because he sent me one.

  • 11:53:19

    REHMOh, wow.

  • 11:53:20

    ATWOODSo I'm reading it. It's no holds barred, I'm telling you. It gets pretty raw, but it's coming out very, very soon.

  • 11:53:30

    REHMI'm sure he'll be happy that you have told people across the country and around the world about his book. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Orlando, Fla., Kristen, you're on the air.

  • 11:53:49

    KRISTINHi, Diane, thanks so much.

  • 11:53:52

    REHMSure.

  • 11:53:52

    KRISTINI'm -- I live in Orlando now, but I actually spent my first 30 years living in Canada. I'm still a Canadian and this is so exciting. Margaret, you're such a superstar to me. I had my English degree in Canada and I think I read one of your books in almost single class that I studied.

  • 11:54:08

    ATWOODWell, that's lovely.

  • 11:54:10

    KRISTINWell, my question for you is in some of your books, for example, "The Handmaids Tale" the mass fertility and then Oryx and Crake some of the things like the Pagoons are really fascinating things that came out of your imagination, but they also really could come true. And I wonder if that ever startled you or even your readers if you get that feedback. But a lot of your writing could almost be taken as a premonition for the future.

  • 11:54:40

    ATWOODWell, I would hope not. I like to say books are -- books are books. They've got these things called covers. And when you bring the covers together, the stuff that's in the book is inside those covers.

  • 11:54:51

    REHMBut, Margaret, you're mind is so fascinating to create what's between those covers.

  • 11:54:59

    ATWOODI was talking to Carl Hiaasen a couple of days ago and he said I pilfer relentlessly from reality. And in point of fact so do I. I pilfer from reality pretty relentlessly. So it's not just me imaging this stuff. It's the human race cooking it up and I'm relentlessly pilfering it.

  • 11:55:23

    REHMDo you have a fairly pessimistic view of where we are now leaving out the future altogether just looking at where we are now.

  • 11:55:37

    ATWOODWouldn't it be wonderful to feel that there was a political system that didn't depend on large injections of money from interested parties, but was really actually representing the common good of its citizens. So that's what I get somewhat despondent about. It's a bit better in Canada because they put a cap on donations, like, where the money can come from, but you do feel that this whole thing is fueled by private interest to a degree that it really should not be in a democracy.

  • 11:56:18

    REHMMoney -- money is power. Money has become the political power in this country.

  • 11:56:27

    ATWOODYes, but this is not what a democracy should be should it, Diane?

  • 11:56:33

    REHMNo, indeed. Margaret Atwood, as always, such a fascinating book and a wonderful conversation. Thank you.

  • 11:56:43

    ATWOODAnd thank you.

  • 11:56:45

    REHMMargaret Atwood, she is the Booker Prize winning author of "A Handmaids Tale." Her newest novel, the third in a trilogy, is titled, "MaddAddam." Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.

Related Links

Topics + Tags

Comments

comments powered by Disqus
Most Recent Shows