Genre, definitions, and Margaret Atwood

This morning a friend of mine sent me a link to a Goodreads question and answer session held with Margaret Atwood interview, along with the comment that I might find it interesting because Atwood is often considered a writer of SF. I read it, and, yes, it was interesting.

Here’s the link.

I sent my friend a note back, thanking her for sending it along and added this little bit. I decided to post it here because the whole thing has been resonating with me

I think Margaret Atwood is a remarkable writer because she’s a person for whom boundaries exist but do not matter. I like to think I am that way to some degree, but I’m sure I fail often. [grin]. She is often considered SF, and I think it’s kind of interesting that many in the SF community get upset at her because she doesn’t embrace that label fully. When she does that, they feel she’s giving the genre a forearm shiver–that she doesn’t want to be involved in it. But really, she just doesn’t care about labels (which tend to be arbitrary and also generally tend to cause more trouble than they resolve, even when they are given for the best reasons…but I digress).

I’ve been thinking about this at various times throughout the day–about the clique of SF fandom that tweaks her nose for her position, about the factions inside the SF community who are often more at odds with winning arguments than they are settling problems, and about how that translates to pretty much every element of society. I’ve had several conversations lately with folks who are so firmly in one camp or the other about an issue because of some (arbitrary) definition of “whose side are you on” that they can’t seem to actually talk about the other side with even a bit of civility.

I like Atwood’s perspective, though.

She loves SF. She’s been an SF reader since longer than I’ve been alive. She fully recognizes SF as a genre–in every way that word “genre” is defined. But she doesn’t let it define her.

I’m still thinking about that.

Perhaps you might want to, also.

Or not.

Probably not. [grin]

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  1. Amy – Probably true, though this post was more about how we cling to our cliquey barriers than it was about any specific thematic or social content of a writer’s body of work. 🙂

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