Margret Atwood, in literary circles, is a rock star. The success of her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, was enough to secure her place in the literary canon. Now she’s trying out a new form of speculative fiction and claiming that the Al Qaeda terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks were inspired by Star Wars.
Atwood was recently interviewed by Variety. During the interview she spoke of how what once seemed like science fiction has now come to pass.
“Just to give you a very creepy feeling, there was an opera of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ that premiered in Denmark in 2000. It started with a film reel going across the top of the stage and showing various things blowing up. And one of the things that blew up was the Twin Towers. But it hadn’t blown up yet. They did the opera again, and they had to take it out, because it was no longer in the future. Does that give you a creepy feeling?”
The image of the Twin Towers, though, didn’t inspire the terrorists. They weren’t seeing much Danish opera in the years preceding the attack.
“They didn’t get that idea from my opera,” Atwood says, “don’t worry. They got the idea from ‘Star Wars’.”
“Do you really believe that?” the interviewer asks, somewhat incredulously.
“Remember the first one?” Atwood replies. “Two guys fly a plane in the middle of something and blow that up? The only difference is, in ‘Star Wars,’ they get away. Right after 9/11, they hired a bunch of Hollywood screenwriters to tell them how the story might go next. Sci-fi writers are very good at this stuff, anticipating future events. They don’t all come true, but there are interesting ‘what if’ scenarios.”
Atwood’s answer is interesting on so many level. First, and most troubling, is the dubious summary of the Battle of Yavin. Luke blew up the Death Star, not “two guys,” and it wasn’t in a plane.
Perhaps she was referring to Lando Calrissian and Nien Nunb who flew the Falcon into the rebuilt Death Star in Return of the Jedi.
“Right after 9/11, they hire a bunch of Hollywood screenwriters….” What? The terrorists? Certainly not Lucas.
The problem with Atwood’s statement is clear. The premise itself requires some factual backing in order to be believable, yet Atwood can’t even articulate her theory clearly. As she points out, though, sci-fi writers, and Atwood, are often time seen as prophets of what is to come.
The interviewer for Variety, appropriately enough, let Atwood’s 9/11 theory go and simply changed the subject. “Do you ever get writer’s block?” he asked. Probably after an awkward silence.