World-renowned author Margaret Atwood visited St. Cloud State Thursday for a book lecture and public signing in Ritsche Auditorium. Atwood’s book, “Oryx and Crake,” was chosen as the Common Reading Program novel for the 2015-2016 school year. The dystopian novel was published in 2003 and focuses around a post-apocalyptic universe told by the vantage point of the protagonist, Snowman.
The Common Reading Program at St. Cloud State was created to implement a common academic experience for all the first new-year students during their first year on campus. Each new student to the university received a copy of Atwood’s Oryx and Crake during their advising and registration day in the summer.
The night began with a briefing from Provost of St. Cloud State Ashish Vaidya, filling in for President Earl H. Potter III. Vaidya thanked the audience and introduced Dr. Christine Metzo, professor and Director of Academic Incentives at St. Cloud State.
The book was chosen, but not without controversy, Metzo mentioned. Professors incorporate the book into their curriculum to create some common ground in the material. The book is the first book in the MaddAddam trilogy, and focuses around Atwood’s experiences in real life.
“Everything in it [Oryx and Crake] is possible and everything in it came from something in the real world,” Atwood said.
Atwood first began with a 20-minute briefing over Oryx and Crake, succeeded by a moderated discussion with the Chair of the English department Glenn Davis. The floor was then open to the audience, allowing for any questions they may have for Atwood.
Atwood’s content was diverse, ranging from personal tales from her childhood to being awarded a Swedish humour award that she never received due to it being stolen. Atwood’s quirky sense of humor often garnered chuckles from the audience and created a joyful atmosphere for the entire night.
A big question proposed was the difference between speculative fiction and science fiction, and which Atwood would classify her writing falls under. Atwood stated that it was a “matter of truth in labelling,” and classifies her works as speculative fiction, not science fiction.
“If it says science fiction on the outside, then it should involve something that doesn’t already exist,” Atwood stated.
Another big component of Atwood’s writings is the use of genetically-modified organisms in her novels. Atwood shows the potential for severe effects if genetically-modified organisms aren’t used correctly, including hybrid animals called pigoons and wolvigs, and genetically-modified food.
“We’ve opened the biggest Pandora’s box in the world by being able to genetically modify organisms,” Atwood said.
Atwood was also asked about her large online presence, including a Twitter following of over 900,000 to which she stated “Like most things I get myself into, I got into Twitter by accident.”
The MaddAddam trilogy is in the works to become an HBO television series, directed by Darren Aronofsky, who also directed the award-winning film Black Swan.
Atwood also recently released another dystopian novel, The Heart Goes Last, in late September.