Atwood says ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ got much closer to reality, prompting sequel

© Reuters. Author Margaret Atwood holds up her new novel The Testaments during the launch at a book store in London, Britain © Reuters. Author Margaret Atwood holds up her new novel The Testaments during the launch at a book store in London, Britain

LONDON (Reuters) – Canadian author Margaret Atwood said a deterioration in women’s rights in some parts of the world including in the United States prompted her to write a sequel to her best-selling 1985 novel “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

The novel, made into an award-winning television series in 2017, presents a totalitarian future in the state of Gilead (NASDAQ:), where the few remaining fertile women are forced into sexual servitude as “handmaids” to repopulate a world facing environmental disaster.

“For years and years people were saying will there be a sequel, please write a sequel, tell us what happened, and I always said I can’t do that,” Atwood told British broadcaster the BBC in an interview.

“But then a couple of things happened. Instead of going away from Gilead as I thought had been happening in the 1990s, we started going back towards Gilead in a number of places in the world including the United States.”

Recent moves to curtail access to abortion in the United States have caused huge division and galvanised women’s rights activists.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who was elected in 2016, has said he opposes abortions in most cases and he has joined many of his fellow Republicans in seeking to limit them.

Many doctors and rights groups are fighting these efforts as harmful to women’s health and in breach of a constitutional right to abortion.

Atwood said she was already conceptualizing a sequel to “The Handmaid’s Tale” when Trump was elected. At the time, the television series based on her novel was being filmed.

“The frame around the show changed, and we knew at that moment it would be viewed differently, which it was. So instead of fantasy — ha ha it will never happen — it got much closer to reality, because of the kinds of people backing Trump,” Atwood said.

The series helped the original novel shoot back up the bestseller lists, and made the handmaid’s uniform of a long dark red cloak and large white bonnet a symbol of female protest and resistance.

Fans gathered in London at midnight on Tuesday to hear Atwood read from her new book, hailing it as a timely and necessary response to an increasingly menacing world for women.

“The world in some ways is becoming a worse place for women and particularly in the United States and so this is very current, and very relevant and very necessary,” said Anne Enith-Cooper, 57, who attended the launch.

Another fan, 40-year-old Stacey Morris, said: “My daughter is 12 and she’s just starting to understand feminism and the importance of being a woman… I’d really like for her to read this in the future and to be able to share this with her.”

Asked if she was nervous about the huge anticipation of her new book, Atwood told the BBC: “There is that feeling that you have – a lot of fanfare, the mountain roars and out comes this mouse. Will they say “what?”, “is that what all this fuss has been about?”

“You do have to point out it is a book, it is not regime change, it is not something that is going to physically impact the lives of many people, it is not riots in Moscow.”

“The Testaments” has already landed Atwood a nomination for one of the publishing world’s top accolades, the Booker Prize.

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NFL notebook: Bell inches closer to return to Steelers

© Reuters. NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers © Reuters. NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers

At least holdout running back Le’Veon Bell is in the same area code as the Pittsburgh Steelers, two days after posting a farewell message to his offseason home in Miami on social media.

Bell, however, has not yet reported to the Steelers, who play Thursday at home against the Carolina Panthers. Instead, he was spotted Wednesday playing basketball at an L.A. Fitness facility in North Pittsburgh. Opponents and onlookers shared their encounter with Bell on social media, and the facility manager confirmed to ESPN on Wednesday that Bell was present.

He’s holding out after the Steelers failed to meet his contract demands, sacrificing more than $ 8 million in salary during the ongoing stalemate. Reporting after the July 15 deadline to sign a long-term deal, but before Week 1, would have assured Bell the entirety of his $ 14.5 million franchise tender for 2018.

Bell is facing the latest deadline in the off-field-drama next week. He must report by Tuesday or will become ineligible to play this season.

–Former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant agreed to a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints, according to multiple reports, and he won’t have to wait long for a chance to show his old team what he has left. The Saints (7-1) play Dallas (3-5) on Nov. 29.

Bryant will sign the deal on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Bryant has been a free agent since he was released by Dallas in April. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, he has 7,459 receiving yards and 73 touchdowns in his career. Last season, he notched 69 catches for 838 yards and six touchdowns in his eighth NFL year, all with the Cowboys.

–New York Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold has a significant right foot injury and will miss Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, according to a New York Daily News report.

The report, which called the injury a sprain, added the Jets hope Darnold will return after the Week 11 bye to face the New England Patriots in Week 12, but they are not overly optimistic. Head coach Todd Bowles told reporters the injury is a strain and deemed Darnold "day-to-day."

–Defensive end Bruce Irvin landed on his feet and reunited with his former defensive coordinator one day after clearing waivers.

Irvin signed with the Atlanta Falcons, joining head coach Dan Quinn, who coordinated the Seahawks’ defense when both were in Seattle. Irvin cleared waivers and became an unrestricted free agent on Tuesday.

–Buffalo Bills first-round draft picks Josh Allen and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds each practiced, giving both a chance to return Sunday at the New York Jets.

Allen was limited again like he was on Friday, his first practice since spraining his right (throwing) elbow in Week 6 against the Houston Texans. Head coach Sean McDermott said the rookie quarterback has had no setbacks and "has done a good job so far."

— Dallas Cowboys standout linebacker Sean Lee reportedly will be sidelined four to six weeks after injuring his left hamstring during Monday night’s loss to the Tennessee Titans.

"We anticipate him to be out for a little bit, no question about that," Dallas coach Jason Garrett told reporters. Lee missed three games with a pulled hamstring earlier this season. The 32-year-old has 27 tackles in five games this season.

–Philadelphia running back Darren Sproles could be back on the field for the first time since Week 1 when the Eagles play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

Sproles, who will retire after the season, had five carries for 10 yards and four catches for 22 yards in an 18-12 win over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 but has been sidelined by an injured hamstring since. Eagles coach Doug Pederson said that Sproles should be in the lineup Sunday night.

–Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill will miss his fifth straight game on Sunday at the Green Bay Packers, head coach Adam Gase confirmed.

With the Dolphins taking their bye in Week 11, Gase said the goal is to have Tannehill, who has battled weakness and discomfort in his right (throwing) shoulder, ready for a Week 12 trip to the Indianapolis Colts. Brock Osweiler will make his fifth consecutive start.

–Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette appears ready for a return after practicing in full for the first time in six weeks.

Fournette has not played since Week 4 because of a hamstring injury and has appeared in only two games this season, rushing for 71 yards on 20 carries.

–The Minnesota Vikings claimed running back Ameer Abdullah, two days after he was placed on waivers by the Detroit Lions.

Abdullah, 25, was a second-round pick by Detroit in 2015 but was active in only three games this season and carried the ball just once.

(Field Level Media)

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