When the Artist Is (Omni)Present – 80 years of Margaret Atwood

Tonight, I am taking part in Canadian Week – Marking Margaret Atwood’s 80th Birthday by being part of a panel with two exceptional women, Vanja Polic and Petra Sapun Kuring. The panel – When the Artist Is (Omni)Present – 80 years of Margaret Atwood – will take place at 20:00 today, at Booksa in Zagreb and it is my job to bring the SF fandom perspective to it. 

Margaret Atwood as a brand of Canadian culture would have never occurred to me. Alice Munro, Yann Martel, Emma Donoghue, and Malcolm Gladwell would have, when it comes to books and internationally well known names of literature, or rather writing. 

But as I am, along with my reading, firmly entrenched in the genre of speculative fiction, a brand of Canadian culture for me personally would be A. E. van Vogt, a Golden Age SF author I heard so much about before I had read him, even though I did, in the end, find myself less than enthusiastic about his work. But for his influence on Philip K. Dick, I will think of him when “Canadian SF writers” comes up. 

As a great big fan of Frank Herbert,  I would also think of Robert J. Sawyer, for the science and religion mix, even if I had not just met him in China a couple of weeks ago. (I did not jump up and down for joy, but I did feel like it!). I really like both him and his writing and am delighted to find him one of the GoHs of next year’s Titancon

When it comes to influence wider than that of the genre I love so much, I would certainly go for Boing Boing co-editor and founder Cory Doctorow, for the awesome things he has done in fiction, like writing the phenomenal YA novel Little Brother, as well as in the world of books, like being the first author that I know of to have published a book with a publisher in print and at the same time, as a free e-book under one of the Creative Commons licences. One could get it from his website and could send it to friends freely, as long they were not trying to profit from it. For me, that was the essence of Canadian decency. The book, by the way, was his first novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, published in January 2003. It won the Locus Award for Best First Novel in 2004. (Hell, Wikipedia just educated me> Doctorow had a hand in making the Creative Commons licence!)

The grumpy old lady – as I see her, because I only ever remember what she said about SF and how she said it –  who vehemently denies writing science fiction, while actually writing it, becoming famous on it and making both money and snide comments about the genre along the way, would not. 

But then again, I cannot deny the power of TV. Just like the bearded old dude that was SFeraKon GoH in early naughts has become the great George R. R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones, so has Margaret Atwood, the Canandian writer with a number of literary awards whose work I could sneak into my university reading (I majored in English) due to the number of mainstream literary awards is now known the world over for The Handmaid’s Tale. Both thanks to the immensely successful TV series in an age of high quality television drama. 

I am truly looking forward to examining her work, the TV adaptation of her work and how she is seen from a cultural, academic and fandom perspectives tonight.



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