Whether through their art or actions, these Canadians helped to define this country (and the world at large).

(Heather Collett)

Whether through their art or actions, these Canadians helped to define this country (and the world at large).

If you had to pick one theme for 2017, revelations and reckonings could be it. From the sexual misconduct allegations and their aftermath shaking the very foundations of Hollywood to, closer to a home, a country celebrating 150 years by trying to come to terms with the injustices of the past century-and-a-half, the public conscience became unequivocally aware that things aren’t as they appear. At the centre of all this were the artists, there to help us tear down the facades and cast them aside through their music, their paintings and sculptures, their writing and their words. Whether they were subverting the status quo or inspiring millions, these are the Canadians that helped to define 2017.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood
(Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press )

When Margaret Atwood released her groundbreaking novel The Handmaid’s Tale in 1985, she made clear it was not meant to be science fiction. Rather, it was a work of speculative fiction — an imagined forward trajectory of events that actually happened somewhere at some time, from forced childbearing to group-activated hangings and the forbidding of literacy.

Little did she know that, more than 30 years later, the book — which has never gone out of print — would be more popular, more timely and more chillingly close to reality than ever. After the U.S. election, sales of the novel jumped 200 percent, and people dressed in Handmaid’s Talecostumes began to appear at protests and in legislatures. Fiction appeared to mingle with reality at a time when Trump — known for his attacks on women in politics, media and entertainment, as well as his boasts about sexual assault and an anti-abortion stance — was stepping into the world’s most powerful office.

What gives me some optimism is the fact that people in the United States are not sitting still for attempts to limit them– Margaret Atwood

Coincidentally, a hit TV series based on the novel was also being shot and was in the middle of filming when Trump was elected.

“It’s surprising. And who would have suspected it?” said Atwood, who was a consulting producer on the show, even making a cameo. “On November ninth, they woke up and thought, ‘We’re in a different show from the one that we thought we were in.'”

The series has been renewed for a second season and will take the main character of Offred past the end of the original novel. But does Atwood see the current political situation becoming as dire as her dystopian tale?