BlyssPlus is a truly great sex drug. Only problem -- it’s deliberately laced with a deadly virus by a mad scientist who wants to clear the earth for his bioengineered race of Crakers.
Incapable of feeling human malice, greed or jealousy, the innocent new people need evil explained to them.
Roaming the post-apocalyptic world are other gene-spliced creatures: wolvogs, rakunks and smart pigoons with a taste for flesh.
Margaret Atwood invented them all in the trilogy beginning with “Oryx and Crake,” followed by “The Year of the Flood” and now concluded with “MaddAddam.”
We spoke at her hotel in mid-town Manhattan.
Lundborg: The books deal with a bloody global catastrophe, yet they read like a romp --
Atwood: Do people lose their sense of humor just because the human race has been obliterated?
Lundborg: Which parts gave you the most pleasure to create?
Atwood: Thinking up the Crakers, that was good: built-in insect repellent and sunblock. They’re vegetarians and have no human jealousy or malice.
Lundborg: They’re a humanoid species created in a lab, so you gave them huge blue penises waving hopefully and a nice loud purr.
Atwood: The purring has been disputed as outside the realm of plausibility. I hold with it.
Lundborg: You also have fun with the names: the private security force is CorpSeCorp, the drug giant HelthWyser, there’s Church of PetrOleum and the exotic sex club Scales and Tails.
Atwood: What drives the names in a work which has invented products and services is the same as in real life -- copyright law.
I had to change the spelling of the assisted suicide real-time TV show Nitee-Nite since there was an actual enterprise that made children’s sleepwear.
Lundborg: For entertainment in the pre-flood world, there were Mixed Martial Felony Fights, HottTotts kiddy porn, Hedsoff real-time executions. Have you been approached by TV executives to come up with show ideas?
Atwood: Some kids wanted to make a video game of “MaddAddam” and I said the whole thing would be too big and complex, but that they should look at the games in the book.
So they came up with Intestinal Parasites, the game, in which you’re sent on a mission to HelthWyzer to steal some hot bio forms.
Lundborg: There were a lot of porn sites, including historical enactment beheadings of women which gave you the sensation, in your own hands, of what it was like to chop a head off with an axe. You had to pay extra if she were naked.
Atwood: The device was invented for long-distance surgery, so you don’t cut someone’s artery by mistake.
Lundborg: So HelthWyzer sells vitamins which are embedded with germs that cause sickness, and, conveniently, the company also sells the drugs to combat the troubling symptoms.
Atwood: The optimum thing is to have someone who’s chronically ill yet doesn’t actually die.
Information coming out now is that some of the companies knew what the side effects of their pills were, but did not feel compelled to share that.
And all drugs have side effects, so you could also give more pills to combat those, and then that would cause more side effects, so more pills.
Lundborg: Before the catastrophe, the elite corporations control everything, with members of CorpSeCorp as enforcers. Using the internet was dangerous since it “leaked like a prostate cancer patient.” So everybody’s spying on everyone else?
Atwood: Exactly. Anybody who’s had anything to do with the internet knows that. There’s something called the Citizen Lab in Toronto which devotes itself to finding out who’s spying on whom, what platforms and programs they’re using.
It was they who discovered that somebody in China was looking at people through the camera holes in their computers.
And it was they who found out that somebody had hacked the Indian military so knew all their contacts.
Any person who wishes to conduct clandestine activities and not be spied on will not use the internet, but use messages passed from human to human.
Lundborg: What do you make of the NSA spying revelations?
Atwood: Why are they looking? Because they can.
Lundborg: So is democracy a nostalgic illusion now?
Atwood: I haven’t given up hope on that. It’s better than the alternative.
Lundborg: Does it seem to you that someone is pulling the strings?
Atwood: I think there have been people behind the scenes pulling the strings for a very long time. We are still and probably always have been to some extent the world of kings and dukes.
To buy this book in North America, click here.
(Zinta Lundborg is an editor for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own. This interview was adapted from a longer conversation.)
Muse highlights include Greg Evans on movies and Philip Boroff on Broadway.