As both a scientist and a writer, one of my favorite authors to read is Margaret Atwood. She writes lucid prose that simple yet elegant, and she has a knack for creating fictional worlds that you can just see. Her best-known works speculate about the future of humans and society, and almost all of them are dark and haunting with only the thinnest silver lining. For example, in The Handmaid’s Tale, a disease renders most the world’s women barren while a wealthy, religious, and conservative elite uses the Biblical story of Hagar to justify enslaving the remaining fertile women. In another best-seller, Oryx and Crake, 99.9% of humanity is destroyed by a fabricated plague and replaced with a new-and-improved race of genetically-engineered humans.
In Atwood’s latest book, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination, she further explores the link between science and speculative fiction. She gave a short interview to the premiere science journal, Nature, and she articulated something I thought was interesting. In answer to the question Why does science scare some people?, Atwood said:
Science is attractive to those who like solving puzzles. But it is not so appealing for people who want to be cuddled (or even reprimanded), who want to feel that things make sense, or that somebody’s looking after them. Scientists do not offer certainty, and they do not offer a universe that is centred around humans. Religions offer a world view in which you are important.
Jeez, I hope she lives long enough to write another 50 books. She’s terrific.