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Book Review: They Don’t Make Plus Size Spacesuits By Ali Thompson Explores Fatphobia Through Science Fiction
When Fatness Meets Sci-Fi
By Ghia Vitale
Thanks to fatphobia, fat people still lack meaningful representation in most kinds of media. Science fiction is no exception. Fortunately, Ali Thompson, a renowned fat activist and writer, decided to author They Don’t Make Plus Size Spacesuits, a small collection of sci-fi short stories that describe how fat people suffer in so-called “utopian societies” that are actually very dystopian and fatphobic.
Does the name “Ali Thompson” ring a bell? If so, it’s probably because you've seen her witty tweets. Also, I dedicated a poem to her along with another fat activist (MermaidQueenJude). You see, her and another fat activist were complaining about something I relate to: thin people calling us “mean fat girls” because we stand up for ourselves. I can’t help but think it was Thompson’s “meanness” that motivated her to write this book. And by “meanness,” I mean her compassionate desire to advocate for fat people, a group that people refuse to acknowledge as marginalized.
She describes herself as “the Bille Nye of fat girls” and honestly, this book only further proves that she deserves this title.
I really appreciate Thompson’s imagination throughout this entire book. Even the entire concept is unique and imaginative because unlike most books on fat liberation, They Don’t Make Plus Size Spacesuits has an obvious space theme. Although the context of this book is literally out of this world, the dystopian worlds Thompson builds are highly believable to fat people like me.
In the world of today, diet culture is a toxic fixture in our society. But in Thompson’s dystopian societies, fatphobia is so ingrained that what fat people go through could only be described as body horror. Think implants, extreme food policing, surgeries, lack of access to healthcare, and a plethora of other tactics that value healthism over future fat people’s lives. As a fat person myself, I think Thompson’s storytelling is realistic because she draws upon the real ways people use diet culture and healthism as means of erasing fatness.
Another part of Thompson’s book that resonated with me was her introduction. She talks about how she fell in love with sci-fi as a kid, but goes on to describe something I’m all too familiar with as a fat girl: “But as so often happens in the life of a fat girl, the things I loved did not love me back. These stories didn’t want me, couldn’t hold me.”
Most of my life as a fat person has been spent enjoying fandoms, anime, manga, shows, and other forms of media that don’t have any fat characters. I don’t doubt that the people who create this media want my money because hey, it’s just as green as everyone else’s. But they usually make it clear through silence, fat-shaming remarks, or outright fat jokes that people of larger sizes aren’t actually part of that reality. That’s why I’m so grateful that Thompson wrote a sci-fi book that’s all about being fat in a future fatphobic dystopia. After all, as Thompson claims in the book, many people think science fiction universes couldn’t and shouldn’t have fat people they claim that fatness will be “solved” in the future. Meanwhile, my fat body is not a problem to be solved. It’s a fact of nature.
When it comes to representation, Thompson nails it! Yes, there are fat people suffering in this book, but there are also fat individuals who stand up against the systems of oppression that harm them. I’m also happy to announce that this book contains non-binary characters as well. Overall, this book is a refreshing read because it’s a break from the cis heteronormative scope that’s so prevalent in the worlds of science fiction.
I recommend checking out this book if you want a glimpse at what lies ahead for fat people if we don’t invest effort in ending fatphobia. If you want to learn about fat liberation in sci-fi settings, you’ll also enjoy this book. Thompson’s insights and knowledge are valuable and mind-opening, and this book is a total reflection of that. I suggest following her on Twitter (as Mean Fat Girl or Ok2BeFat) to learn more about her, fat liberation, mental health, feminism, and other crucial topics. Reading her tweets will help you understand why I wasn’t shocked at all when I devoured this book in one sitting and loved every second of it. You could also check out her YouTube channel for more content about fat activism.
Buy a copy of this book at the Amazon link below! If you so, Quail Bell Magazine will get a portion of the profit and it’ll help us continue running this fairy punk publication. Thanks for reading!
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