Transcript: Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake | Apr 16, 2003

Margaret is in her mid sixties and has shoulder length brown curly hair. She wears a button up purple blouse with a black shirt beneath and earrings.

The interviewer is in her mid forties and has short brown hair with fringe. She wears glasses, a blue blazer and a black turtleneck.

Both women sit in a studio.

The female interviewer says MARGARET ATWOOD,
WELCOME TO
“IMPRINT.”

Margaret says THANK YOU.

The female interviewer continues THIS IS A VERY SOBERING BOOK.
AND THERE IS A QUOTATION I
NOTICE AT THE VERY BEGINNING
FROM JONATHAN SWIFT, AND
I'LL JUST PARAPHRASE IT.
BUT ESSENTIALLY, IT SAYS, I
COULD HAVE PERHAPS ASTONISHED
YOU WITH STRANGE AND PROBABLE
TALES, BUT MY PRINCIPLE
DESIGN WAS TO INFORM
YOU, NOT TO AMUSE YOU.
I MEAN, THIS IS VERY SERIOUS
WORK YOU'RE ABOUT HERE,
ISN'T IT?

The caption reads “Margaret Atwood. Oryx and Crake.”

Margaret says ALISTAIR MACLEOD HAS SAID,
QUITE RIGHTLY, THAT WRITERS
WRITE ABOUT WHAT WORRIES THEM.
SO THE ISSUES IN THE BOOK, OR
THE THINGS THAT GO ON IN THE
BOOK ARE THINGS THAT WE HAVE
THE CAPABILITY TO DO NOW.
AND SOME OF THEM
WE'VE ALREADY DONE.
SO THESE ARE THINGS THAT WORRY
ME, AND THEY SHOULD WORRY
ANYBODY WHO'S LOOKING
AT THE GLOBAL PICTURE.

The female interviewer says CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE
WORLD OF “ORYX AND CRAKE”?
I MEAN, IT'S IN THE
NOT-TOO-DISTANT FUTURE.

Margaret says NOT-TOO-DISTANT FUTURE.

The female interviewer continues THERE ARE THINGS IN HERE
WE RECOGNIZE IMMEDIATELY.
THERE'S GENE SPLICING.
THERE IS ALL KINDS
OF CLIMATE CHANGE.

Margaret says FIRST OF ALL, THERE
ARE THREE CHARACTERS.
AND THE MAIN CHARACTER IS A
PERSON WHO STARTED LIFE AS
JIMMY, BUT HE HAS
NOW RENAMED HIMSELF.
AND HE'S NAMED
HIMSELF SNOWMAN,
WITH THE 'ABOMINABLE' SILENT.
AND AS THE BOOK OPENS,
HE'S LIVING IN A TREE
AND WEARING A BED SHEET.
AND THERE'S NOBODY ELSE AROUND
EXCEPT SOME WONDERFUL PEOPLE
WHO ARE NOT ONLY VEGETARIAN,
BUT THEY EAT LEAVES.
THEY DON'T NEED CLOTHES,
AND THEY'RE NOT
IN ANY WAY AGGRESSIVE.
WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?
SO THIS IS WHAT YOU'RE GOING
TO FIND OUT IN THE BOOK.

The female interviewer says THIS BOOK CAME TO YOU, I
THINK, ALMOST IN A VISION,
DID IT, IN AUSTRALIA?

Margaret says OHI'M NOT A COMPLETE
WACKO, BUT…
[Laughter]

The female interviewer says WELL, THAT'S GOOD TO KNOW.

Margaret says I LIKE TO HAVE THESE ROMANTIC
ERA VISIONS, BUT YOU CAN CALL
IT THAT IF YOU WANT TO.
YOU DO GET THESE IDEAS FOR
BOOKS THAT COME MORE
OR LESS COMPLETE.
AND ALL YOU HAVE TO DO
IS THEN WORK IT OUT.
AND I WAS IN AUSTRALIA.
AND I WAS LOOKING AT
ENDANGERED SPECIES
AND VERY RARE THINGS.
I WAS AT A PLACE CALLED
CASSOWARY HOUSE.
AND THE CASSOWARY IS A VERY
LARGE BIRD, ONE OF THE LAST
LARGE BIRDS, FLIGHTLESS
BIRD, LIKE AN OSTRICH.
VERY COLOURFUL.
AND IT COULD KILL YOU.
THEY HAVE GREAT BIG CLAWS.
AND THEY JUST PAD AROUND
CASSOWARY HOUSE LOOKING IN THE
WINDOW, STEALING THE PIES,
AND HOPING FOR BANANAS.

The female interviewer says WELL YOU LIKE BANANAS.
[Laughter]

Margaret says BUT THERE AREN'T
VERY MANY OF THEM.
IT MAY INTEREST YOU TO KNOW
THAT THE WORLD IS PRESENTLY
THREATENED BY A BANANA BLIGHT
THAT MAY WIPE OUT EVERY
SINGLE BANANAS.
AND SINCE BANANAS ARE, IN
ESSENCE, CLONES, THEY DON'T
PROPAGATE BY SEEDS, WHEN THE
BANANAS ARE GONE, THEY'RE GONE.
JUST TO CHEER YOU UP.

The female interviewer says REALLY?

Margaret says YES.

The female interviewer continues YES, WELL, THANK YOU.
THANK YOU FOR THAT.
IN THE WORLD OF JIMMY, THERE
ARE MANY THINGS, AS WE SAY,
THAT ARE RECOGNIZABLE
FROM OUR WORLD.
I'M PARTICULARLY INTERESTED IN
THE VARIOUS GAMES THEY PLAY
BECAUSE, OF COURSE,
IT'S COMPUTER DRIVEN.

Margaret says VIDEO GAMES.

The female interviewer says VIDEO GAMES.
THEY PLAY CONSTANT GAMES.
AND ONE OF THEM WHICH I
THOUGHT WAS SUCH A GREAT
METAPHOR WAS CALLED BLOOD AND
ROSES, WHICH WAS A GAME
WHERE YOU ESSENTIALLY
TRADE ATROCITY, I THINK,
FOR HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT.

Margaret says YES, THE BLOOD ITEMS
ARE ATROCITIES.
AND THEY HAVE TO
BE BIG ATROCITIES.
ONE RAPE MURDER WON'T DO.
YOU HAVE TO HAVE KILLED
A NUMBER OF PEOPLE.
AND THE ROSES ITEMS ARE HUMAN
ACHIEVEMENTS IN ARTS AND
SCIENCES AND CIVILIZATION.
AND IT'S ESSENTIALLY A WAR
BETWEEN THE ATROCITY PLAYER
AND THE ROSE PLAYER.
THE BLOOD PLAYER
AND THE ROSE PLAYER.
AND THESE THINGS HAVE
VALUES, AS IN MONOPOLY.
AND YOU HAVE TO DECIDE WHETHER
YOU'RE GOING TO TRADE IN, SAY,
THE MONA LISA IN ORDER
TO WIPE OUT ONE OF THE
ATROCITIES BECAUSE YOU CAN WIPE OUT, YOU CAN
ERASE ATROCITIES AND MAKE
THEM AS IF THEY HADN'T
HAPPENED IF YOU'RE WILLING
TO SACRIFICE ENOUGH
HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT.
ON THE OTHER HAND, THE
ATROCITY PLAYER CAN CAPTURE
THE HUMAN ACHIEVEMENTS.

The female interviewer says IT'S A BRILLIANT GAME.

Margaret says IF THE ATROCITY PLAYER WINS,
HE'S GOT ALL THE LOOT,
BUT EVERYBODY'S DEAD.
[Laughing]

The female interviewer continues DO YOU THINK THAT IN A WAY
THAT'S WHAT LIFE IS,
SORT OF A BALANCING ACT BETWEEN
ATROCITY AND ACHIEVEMENT?

Margaret says NO, I THINK IT'S HOW WE JUDGE
THE WORTH OF HUMAN BEINGS
AS A SPECIES.
YOU KNOW?
WE'VE DONE ALL
THESE ATROCITIES.
WE'VE ALSO MANAGED ALL OF
THESE ACHIEVEMENTS, INCLUDING
MANY LIFE-SAVING INVENTIONS,
AND VACCINES, CURES FOR
DISEASES, ALL OF THESE
VERY GOOD THINGS.
SO ON BALANCE, WHAT
KIND OF PEOPLE ARE WE?

The female interviewer says THE CHARACTERS ARE DISCUSSING,
THERE'S THIS FABULOUS PILL
THAT THEY INVENT NEAR THE
END CALLED BLISS PLUS.
AND NOT ONLY DOES IT GIVE
YOU ENDLESS SEXUAL PROWESS,
IT KEEPS YOU YOUNG
AND KEEPS YOU FREE
FROM SEXUALLY
TRANSMITTED DISEASES.
AND THEY'RE DEBATING WHETHER
THIS IS GOING TO GO ON NOT.
AND ONE OF THE CHARACTERS
SAYS, OH, THERE'LL BE SOME
INITIAL OPPOSITION.
HE SAYS, BUT IT'LL BE DRIVEN
BY HUMAN DESIRE, THAT, YOU
KNOW, AS EVERYTHING IS,
HUMAN DESIRE WILL OVERWHELM.
DO YOU THINK THAT'S
WHAT DRIVES SOCIETY?
Margaret says ABSOLUTELY.
I DON'T MEAN JUST SEXUAL
DESIRE, BUT HUMAN SOCIETIES
ARE DRIVEN BY WHAT THEY WANT
ON THE ONE HAND, AND WHAT THEY
FEAR ON THE OTHER.
AND YOU CAN TEST THAT OUT
AGAINST ANY POLITICAL DECISION
THAT HAS EVER BEEN MADE.

The female interviewer says AND WHAT WE FEAR IS WHAT?
DEATH?
Margaret says RIGHT NOW?
WELL, LET'S TAKE
THE UNITED STATES.
WHAT THEY WANT IS FOR THEIR
LIFESTYLE TO CONTINUE AND TO
HAVE PEACE AND SECURITY.
WHAT THEY FEAR IS
ENEMIES ATTACKING THEM.

The female interviewer continues IT SOUNDS SO SIMPLE WHEN
YOU PUT IT IN THAT EQUATION.

Margaret YES, BUT HUMAN BEINGS ARE NOW
SO POWERFUL IN RELATION TO THE
REST OF THE PLANET, THAT THAT'S
WHAT IS DRIVING EVERYTHING.
IN THIS WORLD WHERE TECHNOLOGY
IS KING, WHICH AGAIN IS SO
MUCH LIKE OUR WORLD NOW,
IS THERE ANY STOPPING IT? I MEAN CAN YOU STOP-
Margaret says IS THERE ANY STOPPING IT?
WELL...

The female interviewer says BECAUSE PEOPLE SAY, YOU KNOW WE'LL DO
IT, WE'LL CLONE BECAUSE WE CAN. OR WE’LL-

Margaret continues CLONING IS NOT
BIG IN THIS BOOK.
WHY?
BECAUSE I'VE WATCHED THE
FATE OF DOLLY THE SHEEP.
CLONES ARE NOT CREATED
BY SEXUAL REPRODUCTION.
AND THEY TEND TO BE SICKLY.
THEY TEND TO DIE EARLY.
WHAT DOES THIS TELL US?
THERE'S A REASON FOR MEN.
[Laughing]
NATURE DOESN'T SEEM TO
LIKE THE IDEA OF CLONING
COMPLICATED ORGANISMS.

The female interviewer says ALL RIGHT, SO LEAVING CLONING
ASIDE, ALL THE GENETIC
MANIPULATION THAT'S GOING ON
IN THIS WORLD, AND POSSIBLY
IN OURS, IS THAT STOPPABLE?
I MEAN, YOU KNOW, DO WE JUST
NEED TO BE VIGILANT ABOUT ALL
THIS STUFF WE'VE UNLEASHED?

Margaret says NONE -- ELECTRICITY IS
NEITHER BAD NOR GOOD.
IT'S THE USES TO WHICH
IT'S PUT DRIVEN BY...

The female interviewer says DESIRE.

Margaret says DESIRE AND FEAR, THAT
ARE GOOD OR BAD.

The female interviewer says BUT THEN HOW DO WE KEEP-

Margaret says SO GEN MOD, IN ITSELF,
ISN'T GOOD OR BAD.
IT'S A TOOL.
HOW, HOWEVER, DO YOU, HOW
DO YOU DECIDE WHICH OF ITS
APPLICATIONS ARE GOOD OR BAD?
IN A MARKET-DRIVEN ECONOMY,
WITH NO CHECKS AND BALANCES,
IT WOULD BE SIMPLY DRIVEN
BY WHAT PEOPLE WANT.
THAT'S ALL.

The female interviewer says WELL THEN, IF YOU
FOLLOW THAT LOGIC,
THEN ONE MUST
BE PESSIMISTIC.
THEN YOU THINK, WELL, THE
BOTTOM WILL ALWAYS WIN OUT.

Margaret says I DO BECAUSE I'M A
WRITER, I'M AN OPTIMIST.
YOU DON'T WRITE BOOKS
UNLESS YOU ARE ONE.
AND I DON'T WRITE BOOKS LIKE
THIS BECAUSE I WANT THEM
TO COME TRUE.
YOU DON'T WRITE SCARY
BOOKS BECAUSE YOU WANT IT
ALL TO HAPPEN.
BUT YOU LIKE TO LAY THE
POSSIBILITIES OUT SO THAT
PEOPLE MAY USE
THEIR COMMON SENSE.

The female interviewer says YES.
NOW, YOU HAVE BEEN A SOCIAL
CRITIC, ASIDE FROM THE WRITING
YOU GIVE US, THE WONDERFUL
POETRY AND NOVELS AND OTHER
PIECES, YOU'VE BEEN
A SOCIAL CRITIC.
I REMEMBER YOU WERE IN
THE FREE TRADE DEBATE.
YOU'VE CERTAINLY BEEN A CRITIC
OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY.

Margaret says AND CANADIAN.

The female interviewer says AND CANADIAN POLICY.
IS THAT SOMETHING THAT
WRITERS NEED TO DO? OR IS-

Margaret says YOU CAN'T TELL WRITERS
WHAT THEY NEED TO DO.
TO QUOTE THE AUTHOR OF
“WE,”
ANOTHER FUTURISTIC BOOK,
“I WANT TO WANT FOR MYSELF.”

The female interviewer says SO IT'S WHAT YOU NEED TO DO.

Margaret says YOU CAN'T TELL
THEM WHAT TO DO.
OH, IT'S USUALLY WHAT I
GET DRAGGED INTO DOING.
LEFT TO MY OWN DEVICES, I
PROBABLY WOULDN'T DO ANY OF IT.

The female interviewer says OH, I DON'T BELIEVE
THAT FOR A MINUTE.

Margaret says WELL, THINK ABOUT IT.

The female interviewer continues I MEAN YOU'VE GOT A NAME THAT PEOPLE
WANT TO USE, THAT'S FOR SURE.

Margaret says OKAY, THAT'S THE BEGINNING.
THEREFORE, WHO GETS
THE PHONE CALLS?

The female interviewer says YOU DO.

Margaret says I DO, YES.

The female interviewer says BUT YOU SAY YOURSELF YOU'RE
ONE OF THESE WORRIERS, THAT,
YOU KNOW, THE
WHAT-IF SCENARIO.

Margaret continues WELL, AMERICA IS
OUR BIG NEIGHBOUR.
AND IF THEY GO
DOWN, WE GO DOWN.
THERE'S NO QUESTION
ABOUT THAT.
SO OF COURSE WE WORRY.
AND, OF COURSE, IF WE THINK
THEY'RE GOING DOWN THE WRONG
PATH, IT'S GOING TO
AFFECT US, YOU KNOW?
PERSON WHO BLOWS YOU UP ON
SOME STREET OR OTHER ISN'T
GOING TO SEE YOUR TEENY-WEENY
LITTLE MAPLE LEAF.
[Laughing]

The female interviewer says NO, YOU'RE RIGHT.
AT THE END OF THE
DAY, YOUR BOOK HAS—

Margaret says YOU HAVEN'T ASKED ME THE
QUESTION I THOUGHT YOU'D
START WITH AT THE
VERY BEGINNING.

The female interviewer says WHICH IS WHAT?

Margaret says HOW COME JIMMY IS A BOY?
DON'T YOU USUALLY
WRITE ABOUT WOMEN?

The female interviewer says WELL, ALL RIGHT,
I'LL ASK YOU THAT.
HOW COME JIMMY IS A BOY?
DON'T YOU USUALLY
WRITE ABOUT WOMEN?

Margaret says I GOT TIRED OF PEOPLE SAYING
WHY DO YOU ALWAYS WRITE
ABOUT WOMEN?

The female interviewer says WELL, YOU KNOW, IT
NEVER STRUCK ME AT ALL.
I THOUGHT JIMMY WAS SUCH
A PERFECTLY CREDIBLE BOY.
NEVER STRUCK ME AT ALL
THERE WAS AN ISSUE THERE.

Margaret says I HAD SOME EARLY BOY READERS
JUST TO CHECK OUT THE BOY
QUALITIES OF JIMMY.

The female interviewer says AND WAS HE BOY
ENOUGH FOR THEM?

Margaret says HE WAS.
THEY GAVE ME A COUPLE OF
HINTS ABOUT THE SWEARING.
OH, THEY GAVE ME
SOME SWEAR COACHING.

The female interviewer sats AND?

Margaret says I TOOK IT.
I TOOK THEIR ADVICE.
[Laughing]

Margaret says WHO SHOULD KNOW BETTER?

The female interviewer says PEOPLE, I THINK, WILL COMPARE
THIS BOOK, I'M SURE THEY
ALREADY HAVE DONE, TO
“THE HANDMAID'S TALE.”
DO YOU SEE IT
IN THE SAME...?

Margaret says ABSOLUTELY.
IT'S IN THE SAME GENRE.
IT'S A SPECULATIVE
FICTION SET IN THE FUTURE.
BUT IT HAS SHIFTED ITS FOCUS.

The female interviewer says DO YOU THINK THIS
BOOK IS SCARIER?

Margaret says UMM,EITHER ONE IS NOT TO BE
DESIRED BUT, OF COURSE,
YOU MAY, IN THE FUTURE, GET
A COMBINATION OF THE TWO.

The female interviewer says OH, WOULDN'T THAT BE GREAT?
THAT'LL BE GREAT.
THANK YOU VERY
MUCH FOR THAT.
IT'S A WONDERFUL BOOK.
I DON'T WANT TO ACTUALLY
SAY THAT I LOVED IT
BECAUSE READING IT WAS
QUITE AN EXPERIENCE.
BUT I THINK IT'S
A BRILLIANT BOOK.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH
FOR TALKING TO US.

The book cover for Oryx and Crake is displayed which shows a parched desert with shadow of man on it.

Margaret says THANK YOU.
ORYX AND CRAKE THE NEW NOVEL BY MARGARET
ATWOOD, IS PUBLISHED BY
MCCLELLAND AND STEWART.

Watch: Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake