MasterClass.com has funny, wise Margaret Atwood teaching a series of classes on writing. I didn’t realize she loves dystopian stories. But of course, what is A Handmaid’s Tale? Although I’ve never been interested in reading or writing such fantasy stories, she taught me how, in fact, they’re not really fantasies. Rather all of her dystopian novels, she explains, are based on extensions of what already is or has been in some part of our universe. So, she does extensive studying… sometimes of the Bible or other ancient stories … and bases her dystopian novels on themes she discovers that are still true today. If she extrapolates from those, she creates an anti-Utopian story that merely highlights how dreadful things could get if we continue in this vein.
I can think of many stories now based on how our country has become, that if I were to extend that into the future, it would, indeed, be hell on earth. But I think I’ll leave that to the wonderful Atwood. I can understand how she is so intrigued by this process… but it’s also so scary. Children living for months in cages with strange caretakers? No idea where their parents are, or if they’re even alive? Climate change is fake news? So, we drive this planet into zombie-land with no water, people killing one another for a drink? It seems that humans’ appearance would change. That they’d no longer be interested in procreating, not to mention have sex for fun and pleasure. What kinds of jobs would there be? What else happens when the earth warms up, other than losing many animal species, our coastline cities vanishing. Guess we’d only have the Midwest. Guess whom that will benefit.
Although my next novel won’t be a dystopian one, I can see how Margaret’s wonderful imagination and her beautiful use of language and imagery (the uniforms of the handmaid’s e.g.,) drive her to keep writing novel after novel.
Thank you, Margaret, for teaching this class!