This Folio Life: Margaret Atwood revisits Oryx and Crake
Following our award-winning edition of The Handmaid’s Tale, we were compelled to return to the works of Margaret Atwood. Never has a plague- and technology-ravaged world been so brilliantly depicted as in her novel Oryx and Crake. For Folio’s edition, we invited the author to revisit her prescient tale as it seems to creep ever closer to reality. Here you can read an extract from her exclusive introduction.
Sophie Lewis, Editor
‘Like The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction – in the line of descent from Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – not a traditional science fiction in the line of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds. It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians. As with The Handmaid’s Tale, it invents nothing we haven’t already invented or started to invent. Every novel begins with a ‘what if’, and then sets forth its axioms. The ‘what if ’ of Oryx and Crake is simply: ‘What if we continue down the road we’re already on?’ How slippery is the slope? What are our saving graces? Who’s got the will to stop us? Might we be able to bioengineer ourselves out of the train wreck we seem already to have set in motion?
‘Oryx and Crake is a jolly, fun-filled romp in which almost the entire human race has been annihilated, before which it has split into two parts, a technocracy and an anarchy. But there is a ray of hope: a group of quasi-humans who have been genetically engineered so that they will never suffer from the ills that plague Homo sapiens sapiens. In other words, they are designer people. But anyone who engages in such design – as we are now doing, and as we will do increasingly – has to ask: How far can humans go in the alteration department before those altered cease to be human? Which of our features are at the core of our being?’
This blog is an extract from Margaret Atwood’s introduction to the Folio edition of Oryx and Crake.