Book/Author: They Don’t Make Plus Size Spacesuits by Ali Thompson
Age/Genre: Adult Short Story Science Fiction
Preferred Reading Environment: This is the perfect waiting room book.
Reading Accoutrements: your favorite snack- whether it’s considered healthy or not.
Content Notes: Fatphobia, discussions of weight and weight loss, emotional abuse, loss of personal autonomy (further trigger warnings and content notes are listed in the front of the book)
I was planning on doing a rant about annoying writing tropes instead of a review for today’s post, but a book I’d ordered came in and it was such a short and great read that I decided to squeeze it into this month’s schedule! You know it has to be good if I gave up an opportunity to rant!
They Don’t Make Plus Size Spacesuits is a collection of sci-fi/dystopian stories that take people’s theories and ideas about fat people and show what would happen if these were taken to extremes. These are all societies where fatness is demonized and fat people are punished and dehumanized (even more systemically than in our current society).
Thompson starts off this collection with an introductory essay called “Fat the Future” that discusses what inspired her to write these stories. I follow Thompson on Twitter, where she posts about fatphobia, fat activism, and related issues. Thompson talks about being highly visible during day-to-day life, but invisible in the media, meaning that she doesn’t see people with her body type in any media, particularly sci-fi. Utopias in particular are often absent of fat bodies, and Thompson seeks to highlight that, showing the effects these theoretical utopias would have on fat people. These stories are not “fun,” per se, but they are full of awesome characters dealing with shitty situations.
“Nothing Left to Burn” follows a child whose mother is obsessed with being the perfect height. Tallness is frowned upon, and inches are measured religiously. Diets that discourage growth and painful exercises are part of everyday life. The child has internalized the need to be low and places their worth in their size, just like their mother has. They think they can’t be lovable unless they are short, which is what the mother has drilled into them, probably because she has internalized the same beliefs and wants her children to be more lovable than she feels. This was a super difficult read, because it is based on real abuse that diet-obsessed parents inflict on their children, and if height was replaced with weight, this wouldn’t be fiction at all – I’m sure many people have experienced the events of this story verbatim.
“I’m Not Sorry” depicts a reality where citizenship is based on weight. Undesirables (people who weigh more than what is deemed acceptable) can’t get good jobs, struggle to get health insurance, and are strongly encouraged to be subjected to “voluntary” fitness tracker implants that monitor their steps, and limit what eating establishments they can enter. The narrator, unlike the child in the first piece, has not internalized the desire for thinness. They hope they never lose weight, because they know that society is in the wrong, and weight never mattered.
“You Poured Ashes Into My Mouth” is set in another society where fatness is systemically eradicated. The narrator has been limited to one meal a day, and most food seems to be gelatinous nutrition cubes. There are scale plates in the sidewalks that connect to implants that monitor people’s weight. Clothes and other “privileges” are determined based on weight. People disappear when they fail to conform for too long. The line that resonated most with me was the final one, after the narrator wishes to be taken to wherever people disappear to: “There is no fatness in Eden. Those problems have been solved.”
“We Shall All Be Healed, At Last, At Last” is the revolutionary hope needed after the bleak stories that precede it. In this story, “Utopians are natural predators” and the protagonist is part of a group fighting to save fat people from a society with involuntary implants and surgeries meant to control hunger impulses. There is hope of a place where fat people are just allowed to live, to exist, without being monitored, controlled, or changed.
This collection was harrowing. It is short, and every story resonates deeply. There are some awesome sci-fi concepts in here, and I can’t wait to read more of Thompson’s work. I definitely recommend buying this book.
What was the main systemic issue in the last sci-fi story you read? Share below!