Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood (born 1939) is a Canadian SF and fantasy author who also writes mainstream fiction.

She was educated at Victoria College, University of Toronto: BA, 1961; Radcliffe College: MA, 1962; Harvard University (graduate study), 1962-1963, 1965-1967.

Married in 1967 and divorced in 1973, she subsequently lived with Graeme Gibson, the Canadian novelist, by whom she had a daughter Jess.

She was a published poet at nineteen, with an award-winning book of verse, Double Persephone (Hawkshead Press, 1961), two years later. Her first substantial collection, The Circle Game (Contact Press, 1966), won the Governor General’s Award. Her first novel, The Edible Woman, an early feminist treatise, was published in 1969 by McClelland & Stewart. Major critical, non-fiction works are Survival: A Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972) and Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (1982).

She collected her short fiction in Bluebeard’s Egg (1983) [which includes some SF stories], has authored children’s books, and has taught at several Canadian universities. She was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1981.

Honors/Awards: 1st Arthur C. Clarke Award for The Handmaid’s Tale, 1986; other mainstream awards, including Britain’s Booker Prize for The Blind Assassin, 2000. Blind Assassin// is set in the 1940s with an SF novel-within-a-novel involved.

Her mainstream novels include Surfacing (1972), Lady Oracle (1976), Life Before Man (1979), Bodily Harm (1981), and Cat’s Eye (1988). More recently,// Good Bones and Small Murders, a collection of her humorous and offbeat short fiction (many of them SF/fantasy), was published by Doubleday/Nan A. Talese in 1994. //Oryx and Crake, her second dystopian novel, was published in 2003.

Noted for mainstream and slipstream writing that emphasizes her feminism and her Canadian nationalism, Margaret Eleanor Atwood is considered to be Canada’s most distinguished contemporary literary figure and one of the most versatile writers on the international scene. She was made Companion, Order of Canada, in 1981. The Newsletter of the Margaret Atwood Society began publication in 1984. In a 2001 Granta survey of “most enjoyed authors over the past ten years” subscribers to the magazine ranked her #6. In 2003 six of her stories aired on Canada’s W Network as The Atwood Stories.

Gregory Benford reported that Atwood once described science fiction as “childish” and not literature. She has also stated over the years that she writes speculative fiction which “could really happen” as opposed to SF which “has monsters and spaceships.” In 2005, however, she admitted to the Guardian (17 June) that she had written two works of science fiction.

Atwood on writing SF: “You can write well about giant squid that talk, and you can write poorly about giant squid that talk.”