In Which Margaret Atwood is Poised to Become a Tech Mogul & Muses on Writing, Riding & Higgsteria



Literary Legend Margaret Atwood regales the crowd at DisC’s Gateway to Bohemia 2011 event.

As the saying goes “The best way to predict the future, is to invent it.”

The grand dame of literature, Margaret Atwood, is probably best known for inventing the future through her works of speculative fiction [The Handmaid’s Tale, Oryx & Crake, The Year of The Flood], however, she has now taken it a giant leap further by inventing an actual futuristic artist/fan experience called Fanado.

Fanado is an artist/creator’s distance promotional tour using the internet, with the added awesome element of the artist’s fan receiving an actual, authentic, personalized signature.

Here’s how it works: An artist/creator hosts a media signing [albums, books, DVDs, etc] via Fanado’s technology and fans have an interactive video chat with the artist/creator, at the end of the chat the fan receives an actual signature on their item.  Cool, right?

In our digital age, many artists already have ongoing social media connections with their customer base [Facebook, Twitter, G+ chat, etc], which allows them to interact with fans from a distance. But, Fanado is the only service that can offer authentic personalized signings with a video chat.  And yes, Margaret Atwood invented it. [I KNOW, right? Totally awesome.]

Fanado is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise capital – they are in the last week homestretch and very close to their goal – Different Is Cool believes that Fanado is the future of the artist/fan experience and as many DisC’ers are creative types and fans of creative types, Different Is Cool has already pledged $5,000 to Fanado.  (Many of our Ambassadors of Cool have also pledged: way to go McLean!)

We can’t wait to offer fans the chance to interact with some of our Patrons of Cool [Margaret Atwood, Daniel Lanois, Nikki Sixx] and receive their own, personalized Backstage/VIP experience via this service.

We’re so stoked that we’re upping the ante: for every new “Like” on our Facebook page, between now and July 28, DisC will donate a dollar extra.  So, One Like = One Dollar.  Please spread the word, this ain’t no secret. :)

Please also consider pledging to Fanado yourself – after all, whether you’re an artist, a fan, or both, Fanado is the future of the artist/fan experience.  To view Fanado’s Indigogo campaign, please click here.



If you can’t interact with Margaret Atwood in person, you can now have a personal experience with Fanado!


We recently asked Margaret to muse on her processes for writing, inventing, and just for kicks, the recent Higgs Boson discovery [which, oddly, she didn’t find].

Here’s our little interview with our munificent Patron of Cool herself: 

DisC: What motivated you to make the leap from writing “speculative fiction” to actually “inventing the future” through a project such as the Fanado initiative?

MA: Writing SpecFic of the real-world it-could-happen kind I mostly write, and the Fanado initiative, come from much the same place:  What is the problem? What might “fixing it” look like?  (Or not fixing it, in books such as Oryx and Crake.) In the case of the planet and the more negative behaviours of the human race, we know what the problems are but we don’t know how to fix them.


In the age of “virtual”, there’s a hunger for “physical” …


Fanado came from listening to my fellow writers and creators, and watching what was happening to business models in publishing and music as the internet kicked in. All new technologies have a dark side, and the net is no exception.  It can enable but it can also disable. How to create something that would help those in the creative area to help themselves, by allowing them to replicate and augment the in-person tour via the net?

(Not to mention the fact that some creators can’t tour, some don’t want to, and some are not offered the opportunity.)

In the age of “virtual,” there’s a hunger for “physical.” A virtual presence can in fact increase the demand for a physical one, and vice versa, Neither is a substitute for the other, when it comes to people. Nor are virtual experiences “unreal” – they exist. What we wanted was to bring “physical” as close as possible via the net. The signatures via Fanado are, for instance, real. It allows on-off originals to be created here, but to exist there. 

Examples: A children’s author can visit a classroom, read to the kids, sign and draw for them – without leaving her kitchen. A band can take the fan backstage, talk to that person, sign the album — although that fan may be on another continent. An author of a book in translation can meet with readers while remaining in the country of origin. Norman Mailer can appear in Scotland – which he did – while remaining in his living room. That was his last public appearance.  Yes, he was “there”!  In fact he was very much there! He burst into full Normanhood as soon as he saw the 700 enthusiastic Scots assembled…


Daniel Lanois & Margaret Atwood: artists of many hats.

DisC: Have you found any major similarities in the process of creating a great work of fiction as compared with the process of bringing a technology vision such as Fanado to life?  Major differences?

MA: When you’re writing a novel, you are working alone, though of course you then work with an editor later in the process. The closest thing to the Fanado experience was writing screenplays: you work as a team, you toss around ideas, you try it this way or that, you revise.

With tech startups and novel writing: both are rollercoaster experiences: highs of elation, depths of despair. There’s improvisation involved in both. And chasms and challenges, sleepless nights, moments of impasse, the feeling that you’re wandering around in the dark. And the sudden bursts of help or insight that arrive from nowhere.  When there’s a block, “Take a walk” and “Go to sleep” are both useful.

DisC: What was the most risky decision you have made in your life?  What made the risk so great?

MA: Well, I shouldn’t have done that solo white water canoe run in Lady Evelyn Park thirty years ago. That was foolhardy, though I did scope out the rocks ahead of time.


One of my academic advisors said
why didn’t I just forget all that writing stuff,
find  myself a good man, and get married.

Bigger picture: the riskiest decision I ever made was to choose writing back in the 1950s. It was risky because there was no evidence to suggest I could actually succeed at it. But I didn’t know that at the time.

And the next one would be the Fanado technology, the latest iteration of something I’ve been beavering away for some years. Will it succeed? You never know these things until you try. I may lose my socks, but on the other hand I’ve met some people, become involved in some other tech ventures, and had some experiences –both good and bad — that I never would have had otherwise. I’ve also caused some concern to family members, but it’s not the first time for that either.  (“Come down from that tree!”)

A lot of people told me I was delusional, though they didn’t put it quite that way. What’s a little old lady writer doing in a swimming pool full of sharks?  But then, they told me much the same thing when I said I wanted to write. One of my academic advisors said why didn’t I just forget all that writing stuff, find myself a good man, and get married.  So I suppose I could always do that. :D   I’ve had a number of Twitter proposals…

DisC: Even after all of the accolades, awards and accomplishments that you have earned over your life, it would appear to us that you remain incredibly curious, inquisitive and plugged-in.  What do you have left to do to be FULLY satisfied with your life?

MA: Life isn’t something you accomplish. It’s something you live. Awards are lovely –they are like people cheering during a marathon – they encourage you, and I can’t say I don’t get a thrill out of them – but it’s not why you’re running.


Life isn’t something you accomplish.  It’s something you live.


As human beings, I think we have a built-in desire to see what’s around the next corner – whatever it may be. Or what’s inside people – because people are not limited to their outside casings, though they are sometimes limited by them.

If you look around the corners and listen to people, you will see and hear some surprising things.   As for being more satisfied, I should probably work less and garden more. But I like working. And I like gardening.  So, decisions.

Also I would like to tidy up my study. But I’ve had that wish for decades.

DisC: And of course, from a current events perspective … what would you “speculate” to be the outcomes for humanity and science, resulting from the recent discovery of the Higgs boson or God particle?

MA: 1) Those who postulated its existence will be proven right. 2) Nice to know there’s something holding the universe together; otherwise we’d fall off our bicycles. 3) But to think of God as a particle is a contradiction in terms.

As for whether this will help us make better toast – I’d be surprised. But I am often surprised.


Margaret Atwood & team explain how The Future is Fanado: