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Knowing Margaret Atwood's reputation in sf fandom, you'd expect that putting her in the same room as Ursula K. Le Guin would be setting up The Fight of the Century. The Smackdown in Stumptown. The Blitz at the Schnitz. Instead we got an amiable evening of conversation between two distinguished older writers that ran longer than intended because Atwood was trying to summarize the entire plot of The Brain That Wouldn't Die.

No, I'd never have guessed that one in a million years either.

Contrary to her well-known statements regarding taking squid, Atwood was completely open about admitting that some of what she writes is sf, that she enjoys sf, and that there is much sf that has literary merit. That "Literature" label on all her books? Purely the fault of publishers who aren't as enlightened as Le Guin's, to hear her tell it now.

Nor is she in any way a technophobe. Her current obsession appears to be Twitter, which she likens to having a mailbox on a rural route, and constantly giving in to the urge to check and see if anything has arrived yet. Explaining her method to decide if a book is good enough to read, which is to check the ending first and then read the rest of the book if it looks like a good ending, she stopped to mimic the horrified tweets she imagined were going out at that instant: "Atwood peeks at the ends of books!" At other times in the evening it was, "Atwood talks to dead people!" and "Atwood lies about naked chickens!"

"You're letting them get to you, Margaret," Le Guin admonished her. Oh yes, it turns out they're on first-name terms, even that they've been friends for some time.

I'm not saying much about Le Guin because she was her usual erudite, sometimes hilarious self. The most shocking revelation she had in store was an offhand comment, when talking about how things had changed during her life, that she doesn't "get" thong underwear. What really made the audience gasp was when Atwood recited the list of occupations that her high school career handbook considered appropriate for women at the time. We have come a ways, haven't we?

It was after that that Atwood got to talking about her love of really bad sf B-movies, and thus the long digression on The Brain That Wouldn't Die. "Potential MST3K fan" is another label that I have to admit had never associated itself with the words "Margaret Atwood" in my mind.

I feel, in fact, like I need to apologize for all the unkind things I have thought about Atwood, all these years that I've been hearing about her alleged hatred for genre. And for you con-runners out there: if her publishers don't have too much of a problem with it, she'd be an excellent convention guest.

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