Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Margaret Atwood on aliens and angels

What do flying rabbits and burning bushes have in common? They are both the subjects of upcoming talks by Margaret Atwood, at Emory October 24-26. A poet, environmental activist and novelist, Atwood is the author of the award-winning science-fiction books “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Oryx and Crake.”

Her latest novel, “The Year of the Flood,” imagines a country where genetic engineers have invented hybrid creatures like a lion-lamb mix, but most humans have been wiped out by an airborne plague.

Tickets are free but required for Atwood’s talks, the 10th series of the Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature. Click here for details of the talks.

Atwood once wrote in the Guardian that science fiction often contains theological narrative. “Extraterrestrials take the place of angels, demons, fairies and saints, though it must be said that this last group is now making a comeback,” she wrote.

“Now we’re close to being in control of everything except earthquakes and the weather,” Atwood concluded in the article. “But it is still the human imagination, in all its diversity that directs what we do with our tools. Literature is an uttering, or outering, of the human imagination. It lets the shadowy forms of thought and feeling – heaven, hell, monsters, angels and all – out into the light, where we can take a good look at them and perhaps come to a better understanding of who we are and what we want, and what the limits to those wants may be. Understanding the imagination is no longer a pastime, but a necessity; because increasingly, if we can imagine it, we’ll be able to do it.”

What do you think? Does the imagination of writers and other artists have a place in science?

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