Reading and writing, like everything else, improve with practice. And, of course, if there are no young readers and writers, there will shortly be no older ones. Literacy will be dead, and democracy - which many believe goes hand in hand with it - will be dead as well.
Religions in general have to rediscover their roots. In Hinduism and the Koran, animals are described as equals. If you walk into a cathedral and look at the decorations of early Christianity, there are vines, animals, creatures and birds thriving all over the stonework.
Vampires get the joy of flying around and living forever, werewolves get the joy of animal spirits. But zombies, they're not rich, or aristocratic, they shuffle around. They're a group phenomenon, they're not very fast, they're quite sickly. So what's the pleasure of being one?
Communications technology changes possibilities for communication, but that doesn't mean it changes the inherited structure of the brain. So you may think that you're addicted to online reading, but as soon as it isn't available anymore, your brain will pretty immediately adjust to other forms of reading. It's a habit like all habits.
The society in 'The Handmaid's Tale' is a throwback to the early Puritans whom I studied extensively at Harvard under Perry Miller, to whom the book is dedicated.
Sooner or later, I hate to break it to you, you're gonna die, so how do you fill in the space between here and there? It's yours. Seize your space.
You will always have partial points of view, and you'll always have the story behind the story that hasn't come out yet. And any form of journalism you're involved with is going to be up against a biased viewpoint and partial knowledge.
If I pick up a book with spaceships on the cover, I want spaceships. If I see one with dragons, I want there to be dragons inside the book. Proper labeling. Ethical labeling. I don't want to open up my cornflakes and find that they're full of pebbles... You need to respect the reader enough not to call it something it isn't.
Before the Civil War, Canada was at the top of the underground railroad. If you made it into Canada, you were safe unless someone came and hauled you back. That was also true during the Vietnam War for draft resisters.
The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation. I don't think I solve problems in my poetry; I think I uncover the problems.
If it's all instruction, you get annoyed with it and bored, and you stop reading. If it's all entertainment, you read it quite quickly, your heart going pitty-pat, pitty-pat. But when you finish, that's it. You're not going to think about it much afterward, apart from the odd nightmare. You're not going to read that book again.
We have to rethink our whole energy approach, which is hard to do because we're so dependent on oil, not just for fuel but also plastic. If plastic vanished, there would be total chaos. We have to think quite carefully about using oil and its derivatives, because it's not going to be around forever.
Our problem right now is that we're so specialized that if the lights go out, there are a huge number of people who are not going to know what to do. But within every dystopia there's a little utopia.
I began writing at the age of 5, but there was a dark period between the ages of 8 and 16 when I didn't write. I started again at 16 and have no idea why, but it was suddenly the only thing I wanted to do.
I was once a graduate student in Victorian literature, and I believe as the Victorian novelists did, that a novel isn't simply a vehicle for private expression, but that it also exists for social examination. I firmly believe this.
You could tell 'The Handmaid's Tale' from a male point of view. People have mistakenly felt that the women are oppressed, but power tends to organise itself in a pyramid. I could pick a male narrator from somewhere in that pyramid. It would interesting.
If you're put on a pedestal, you're supposed to behave yourself like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.
I've never bought into any sort of hard and fast, this-box/that-box characterization. People are individuals. Yes, they may be expected to be a particular way. But that doesn't mean they're going to be that way.
You can examine the whole 19th century from the point of view of who would have maxed out their credit cards. Emma Bovary would have maxed hers out. No question. Mr. Scrooge would not have. He would have snipped his up.
I'm a strict, strict agnostic. It's very different from a casual, 'I don't know.' It's that you cannot present as knowledge something that is not knowledge. You can present it as faith, you can present it as belief, but you can't present it as fact.