Margaret Atwood comes to TRU to talk about zombies and hope

Brendan Kergin, Arts & Entertainment Editor Ω

Author Margaret Atwood talked to students and community members about films she's seen in airplanes, her hair and answered audience questions Friday, Feb. 15, but mostly she stuck to zombies. - Photo by Julia Marks

Author Margaret Atwood talked to students and community members about films she’s seen in airplanes, her hair and answered audience questions Friday, Feb. 15, but mostly she stuck to zombies. – Photo by Julia Marks

Zombies are reflective of the concerns of today’s mass society, so says 2013 Common Voices lecturer Margaret Atwood. The 73-year-old Canadian author was brought in by TRUSU to speak to the students of TRU and community of Kamloops Friday, Feb. 15 in the CAC’s Grand Hall.

“I am a mere scribbler, that means I’m a generalist. I’m an omnivore. Sort of like a bear. Read anything, eat anything, not averse to garbage,” Atwood said. “I thought that what you would really like to hear about tonight, was zombies.”

And with that Atwood spent more than an hour meandering through a series of thought processes, often connecting them to zombies in a talk she titled, “An Evolution of Zombies: Their Past and Future.”

Part of the more serious premise she touched on early was the fact that the future has become more concerning.

“The future was once, maybe in the 1930s, very beckoning and bright and filled with the promise of all things streamlined,” she said. “But we’re finding it a little ominous these days, what with hurricanes and climate change and biosphere depletion and those folks that think it would be a good idea to get your brain changed into data and put on a server and shot into outer space where you will dwell forever in civilized realm, minus your body.”

Atwood’s description of the future fit the tone of her talk, often humourous with dark overtones. However, she often drifted into the bizarre as well to keep things lively, such as babies’ onesie pajamas, tin coffins and potatomancy. In fact she spent some time on vegetable divination and the apocalypse.

“Select a new potato. Move your knife around until the point of insertion feels right,” she said. “Cut the potato in two. Gaze into the potato slice until you see a pattern. Dip in dye if this helps. Interpret the pattern according to inspiration.”

Tangents like this often elicited laughs from the full house. The talk continued this way until she finally finished off with a comparison of zombies to past monsters, in particular Grendl, Frankenstein’s monster and Vampires (though not the sparkly Twilight variety).

Despite the darker tones of the talk at times, she finished with a positive, hopeful message.

“Is there hope? There’s always hope, it’s built in. It’s also catching. Where there is hope, there will be more hope, because with hope, people make an effort, which is what, in the future, we will all have to make,” Atwood said. “So maybe that is the true meaning of zombies; they are ourselves but without the hope.

“I wish you hope.”