Fiction(s), Anthropo-scene(s) and Maragaret Atwood



Is there a boundary between non-fiction and reality? Probably. Whatever it is though, or in what it would be accomplished, I couldn’t say. And yet, this is how I feel about Margaret Atwood’s trilogy, which culminates in the recently released Madaddam, which I will be picking up shortly.

On the one hand, the trilogy is labeled “post-apocalyptic’. On the other, that label masks some important themes that Atwood explores. She gave a great interview on CBC’s Q yesterday, that you can listen to here. She’s quite funny. And her remarks seem apt for understanding the anthropocene precisely because nothing in this trilogy is outlandish – it is all within the horizon of what is currently possible. It doesn’t require new conceptions; so it has a way of blurring non-fictional possibilities with things that are not all realities. Of course, the narrative is entirely fictional; they are novels.

Towards the end of the interview, Jian Ghomeshi, the host of Q, asks about the state of science in Canada – a real can of worms if you saw the recent New York Times piece, or George Monbiot’s essay yesterday, which I think comes out in the Guardian today. Both argue that the current practices of muzzling scientists in Canada is designed to guarantee ignorance. A quick google search should net quite a few more articles on this if you are interested, as well as a recent protest held by Canadian scientists.

Anyways, Atwood makes the argument that, because Canadian science is funded by tax payers, those tax payers should have better access to scientific findings. A good point, but one that is easily undone by diverting tax payer dollars away from research, which is exactly what the Canadian government is now doing by aligning research to serve the economy. So here is another place, in my view, where a boundary arises between non-fiction and reality: economic practices are certainly not fictional, but the overall conception of “the economy” is not connected to reality.  And even though Environment Canada now predicts a 2 degree (Celsius) rise in temperatures by 2050(!) there are no meaningful policies in place that would bring Canadian economic practices into line with the reality of a changing climate.