After enough years in fandom there are certain arguments you learn to steer clear of because they are futile and never end. Genre definitions are one of them and I really should know better by now, however…
“could happen (speculative fiction), couldn’t happen yet (science fiction), could never happen at all (fantasy).”
No, much as I respect both Atwood and Le Guin, this is just nonsense.
Firstly, speculative fiction is absolutely and definitively a catch all umbrella term for all imaginative fiction. It is not any kind of distinct genre in itself, and it was ABSOLUTELY NOT IN ANY WAY begun by Jules Verne as Atwood claims. That’s the kind of thing an ignorant but intelligent observer, which is exactly what Atwood is, would say knowing that its credible enough to sucker people in.
Secondly, this falls in to the tired old rut of defining science fiction and fantasy as different things. Which in turn is just pandering to the beardy science fiction fans and their group delusion that they aren’t just indulging the same fantastical tendencies as everyone else because they happen to base their fantasies on New Scientist magazine instead of germanic mythology. Science fiction is one among many brands of fantasy, and that’s the end of the matter.
THERE WILL NEVER EVER BE ANY POINT IN THE FUTURE HISTORY OF MANKIND WHERE WE CAN UPLOAD OUR CONSCIOUSNESS TO COMPUTERS. IT’S A FANTASY METAPHOR EMPLOYING TECHNOLOGY IN A PURELY SYMBOLIC WAY.
Taking that metaphor literally makes it absurd and meaningless, which is the generalised effect of forgetting that science fiction, while possessing a number of distinguishing characteristics, is nonetheless still a form of fantasy.
That is all.