Pop Culture Gilead?

Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale"So I joined a follow-up reading group on Goodreads which participants in my recent SF/F class created in order to continue discussing fantasy and science fiction books of note in-depth.  The plan is to have one book a month to read and discuss, alternating between works of science fiction and fantasy.  We are starting with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale for April.

Margaret Atwood is well-known for refusing the label “science fiction” for her work.  In fact, three decades later I still have trouble thinking of her work as a science fiction; I grew up looking at what my parents — both avid readers — were reading and my mom had all the early French translations of Atwood’s works.  My mom has never liked science fiction, ergo, Margaret Atwood didn’t write science fiction!

You can view the book online on OnRead.com.  It had the distinction of making No. 37 on the American Library Association (ALA)’s list of 100 most challenged books of the 1990-1999 decade, but dropped to No. 88 in 2000-2009, woo-hoo!

You can read many of Atwood’s works: books, short stories, essays, articles, interviews, as well as reviews or her books, etc. on Unz.org.

The discussion of the book’s motifs on TV Tropes is worth browsing.  I think it’s fair to say that as a place to live in, the Republic of Gilead sits as far as it can from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland.

There is a 1990 movie starring Natasha Richardson as Offred, Faye Dunaway as Serena Joy, and Robert Duvall as The Commander; the link has the entire movie with original English audio but German subtitles on YouTube.

A dramatic adaptation of the novel for radio was produced for BBC Radio 4 by John Dryden in 2000.  Listen online to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of 3.

"The Handmaid's Tale" opera productionThere is even an opera by Danish composer Poul Ruders; you can sample and buy tracks here.  From what I can see, the visuals in the English National Opera’s production were very dramatic even if the music got lukewarm reviews from critics.

Someone used Storify.com to make a sort of visual summary of the book using images from edition covers, stills from the 1990 movie, and images of the opera productions.

I think it’s fair to say that Atwood’s book had far-reaching influence, even in unabashedly entertainment-oriented science fiction.  Gilead is a dead ringer for several dystopias in later books, like David Drake’s Protectorate of Grayson (the redeemable version of Gilead) and Masada (the hard-core version) in his Honor Harrington series; and Elizabeth Moon’s New Texas (known in our household as “the Space Stupids”) in her Familias Regnant universe.

An interesting perspective from a self-described Mennonite feminist, The Femonite: The Handmaid’s Tale – Atwood and Feminism Then and Now.

Once again, I’m going to mention the game Shock: Social Science Fiction (Glyphpress), which is a fiction game of culture and future shock. Based on the works of masters of speculative fiction, the game pushes the players to make stories that matter to them — stories about politics, philosophy, love, and death.  It is a very good way to re-create a story in the style of Atwood’s various thought experiments.

Top illustration by Anna and Elena Balbusso, winners of a Gold Award from The American Society of Illustrators, for the Culture Label deluxe edition.  No copyright challenge intended.

Photo of English National Opera’s production of the opera version obtained from The Guardian UK.  No copyright challenge intended.


Breaking wave, Del Norte County, California.  February 13, 2010.It’s been over three years since I posted on my personal blogs and over two since I posted on my professional blog.  Instead, I’ve been posting to specialized blogs and forums like deviantART or Cartographers’ Guild, and to social media like Google+, Facebook and Pinterest, as well as sharing public docs like my recipes through Google Drive.  I want to try to regroup my scattered writings so I can find and share them more easily, so I’ll start by reusing this old one.  I think I will also copy some key posts from other locations to bring them here and back-date them, so things may look a little confusing, but I think that’s OK.

I’m not all there

I apologize to all the people who I’ve been ignoring in the last few weeks and particularly this past week, since the syndrome is getting worse. And those I’m going to ignore this week…

Not only has work been very busy, but as some may recall, I’m also studying for a couple of exams I have to take on Saturday a week from today. To top it off, I’ve just been hit by the fastest-acting cold I can remember in recent years. I went from sore tonsils in the morning to choked up sinuses, strep-style raw throat, can’t breath, knocked on my ass by midnight.

I have a feeling that I’ve missed some important stuff in the last month, but I can’t catch up until at least another week. This is a lame apology, but just so people know that I’m not ignoring their health news, baby pictures, job search help requests, and neat articles because I’m mad or indifferent.

Tell me who you are, what you do

Copyright 2005 Sophie Lagacé

This is an invitation to all my friends — and they are many — who are looking for a job these day. It’s a crappy, crappy economic climate we’re in, and the year is shaping up to be rough; I want to help those I can.

I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago to talk about the best online resources* I had found for networking, job search, and career planning. Now I’d like my many friends to tell me about their skills and the kind of job they’re looking for, to “give me their pitch.”

If I run across a contact who can help, or an opening that would fit you, I need to know! So please, send me a short summary, say the paragraph you’d put at the top of a good resume, or the core of a good cover letter, so I can keep my eyes open for you. Tell me what I need to tell about you to a contact. Better yet, I’d like to post these summaries on my site, if that’s OK with you.

I don’t know how much it will help you, but at the very least it may make you boil down your ideas to a short-and-sweet summary, and focus your search.    Or if you freelance or have your own business, send me your info too!

* I realise that these are more useful for certain types of jobs than others; if you’re looking for a job in construction, or store sales, or modelling at Abercrombie and Fitch, then you may rely less on resumes and online presence, but give it a thought anyway.

My job search and career planning tips and tools

I have a lot of friends who are looking for a job right now. It’s a crappy economy and a crappy job market. I wish I could be more helpful, but aside from the times when I can help put job seekers in contact with more helpful people, my help is limited. So at least I thought I’d compile the things were helpful to me in my own job search last year, and the things I’ve learned then and since about job search and career planning (two different bu related themes.) You can read them on my professional blog.

Good luck the everyone.