The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood
The Handmaid's Tale Cover

What if Margaret Atwood were a science fiction author?


This is not a review. There are several very good reviews on this page, so I decided to do something different. This is a speculation.

Margaret Atwood is famous for claiming that she does not write science fiction. Her "talking squids in outer space" statement earned her the approbation of SFF fans everywhere and demonstrated her dismissal of genre. To be fair, Atwood has recently diminished her vociferous denials, claiming that she does write social science fiction. I'd like to put the argument of whether The Handmaid's Tale is a science fiction novel aside, and instead look at if from this angle: what if Atwood had been considered a science fiction author in 1986, when she wrote The Handmaid's Tale?

If she had a published with a SFF publisher and had a SFF agent, there would have been sequels. SFF writers usually don't create such wonderful and plausible worlds and then leave them behind.

After The Handmaid's Tale, Atwood could tell us Moira's story in The Jezebel's Tale. Much in the way that Orson Scott Card wrote the Ender's Shadow series, the readers could follow many of the events of The Handmaid's Tale from Moira's perspective.

Afterwards, there would have been The Wives' Tales. This book could have been written in first-person with alternating chapters, showing the lives of the "daughters in white" after they married one of the Angels. One of them could have had a biological child, the other would require a handmaid.

Following the success of The Wives' Tales, Atwood could have written The Aunt's Tale to demonstrate the lives of the older women who "choose" to indoctrinate the Handmaids. Obviously, the Marthas, the Unwomen, and the Econowives also deserve tales of their own. Each of these books could contain a similar historical note, which places the tale within the context of another Gilead Studies Conference.

This world Atwood created is so rich with possible stories that reflect the lives of women (both today and when she wrote the book in the 1980s) and that warn against complacency and anyone taking his or her freedoms too lightly.

Atwood does write sequels now. In 2013, she published the third novel in the Oryx and Crake series. How I wish she'd written sequels then because now, a day after finishing The Handmaid's Tale, I would be very excited to read the all the others.