There is nothing demure or understated about Margaret Atwood's writing—her literary roots are more H.G. Wells than Jane Austen. The author of more than 50 books (including the provocative best-seller The Handmaid's Tale), Atwood is a legendary creator of dystopic universes in which the Earth has been ravaged, mostly by humans who can't help messing with nature and each other.

Her new novel, MaddAddam (Nan A. Talese), completes the trilogy begun with Oryx and Crake, using "speculative fiction" to explore cosmic "What if?" questions. The books are set in a world that's been devastated by a pandemic, leaving the survivors to fight it out—will the MaddAddamites, the Crakers, the Painballers, et al., find a way to coexist, or will they self-destruct?

In real life, Atwood is as committed to protecting this planet as her characters are to saving imagined ones. Her environmental passions include the Pelee Island Bird Observatory in Canada, which she helps fund through an eponymous blend of organic coffee. The publication of her latest work gave O books editor Leigh Haber the chance to ask the iconic author how she keeps it all percolating.

Read the full interview


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