At 73, Margaret Atwood remains as innovative as ever, said Audie Cornish in NPR.org. For several months now, the Canadian author has been writing her latest novel, Positron, as a serialized e-book for Byliner.com, a process she likens to performing improv. “You don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen, and you have to make a story right in front of everybody while they’re watching,” she says. While creating the four-part Positron, set in a near future when people agree to short prison terms as a way to banish unemployment, she has used the instant feedback from readers to shape the story. “You get an idea whether or not you’ve grabbed people’s interests,” she says. “People will write in and say, ‘We love Sam Weller.’ And you will make Sam Weller have a bigger part.”
Atwood doesn’t consider her new medium revolutionary, said Lily Rothman in Time. “Going back to Dickens, they made maybe three chapters or something and they put it out in a pamphlet form, and if the readers’ response to it was vigorous enough, they continued it.” Serialized fiction continued to be popular until about the middle of the 20th century, when, she says, “publishers for some reason stopped doing it.” She scoffs at the idea that the novel might be a dying form. “Every prediction—radio would kill books, it didn’t; television would kill movies, it didn’t; e-reading will kill books, it hasn’t—these predictions have all been wrong. You’re never going to kill storytelling, because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.”
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