We may not have heard our last report from Gilead. After diving deep into the eerily familiar totalitarian theocratic regime that is Gilead in the bulk of The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood ends the 1985 novel by skipping ahead to a symposium presentation on its main character. We learn Offred, who will be played by Elisabeth Moss in Hulu’s upcoming adaptation, recorded an account of her experience on audiotapes, which scholars have since pieced together. The novel ends with Professor James Darcy Pieixoto discussing those tapes, the so-called “Handmaid’s Tale,” and then turning to the audience and asking, “Are there any questions?” In a new special edition audiobook, Atwood has extended her story by providing ten new questions from the audience and their answers.
The questions range from asking about the novel’s structure — i.e., why are so many chapters simply labeled “night”? — to more in-depth inquiries into Gileadean technology — apparently, the scholars of 2195 have figured out how to re-create an iPad. Things get more exciting, however, when the professor reveals that Offred might not have been as passive as she comes across in the novel, noting “our narrator might have been led to conceal specific clues [linking her to resistance efforts] that might have led to others being put in danger should her tapes have been discovered by the regime.” While that answer might just be a way to provide cover for the Hulu series to give Offred more to do, in a later answer given by the professor, Atwood seems to hint that she’s planning new Handmaid’s material herself. A person in the audience asks whether there have been any discoveries related to the Mayday resistance movement, and the professor responds:
“I and my team have made some fresh discoveries, but I am not yet at liberty to share them. We do not wish to rush to publication before we have double and triple checked our material from the standpoint of authenticity. People have been taken in by clever forgeries before. Long ago there were the spurious Hitler diaries and more recently, I have to say, the very well done Aunt Lydia’s Log Book. We wish to be sure of our ground, but give us a year or two, and I hope you will be pleasantly surprised.”
Of course, that’s no promise that Atwood is planning to write a Handmaid’s Tale sequel, but if she were, it definitely sounds like she’s giving herself two years to finish it. After which, you’re free to unleash the full George R.R. Martin–style “whenever you do anything, we’re going to bring up that you’re not writing your next book” treatment upon her. Politely, of course.