I’m very pleased to be interviewing Ali Thompson, who got in contact with me to chat about her book They Don’t Make Plus Size Spacesuits! (Thank you to Ceillie for creating the aesthetic!)
1) Could you please describe who you are, as well as the basic premise of your book ‘They don’t make plus size spacesuits‘?
I have a few different ways to describe myself, although I’m quite fond of “internet person” as a catch-all for when people ask me what I do parties.
I’m a long time fat activist, a writer, an artist and a YouTuber. I’m an educator and a semi-professional Twitter yelling girl. I’m a bisexual demigirl queer with ADHD.
I’m the Bill Nye of fat girls.
When I first interacted with fat activism, I began to ask a lot of questions about the culture we live in and how that culture portrays fat people. I’ve been a big fan of sci-fi my entire life, so I wanted to know why we never see fat people in positive contexts in sci-fi. Utopian sci-fi can be used to not only imagine better futures, but to argue that we should be working to bring those futures about. So when I asked the question– where are the fat people in our imagined utopias? I was told, over and over, that in a perfect world, fat people wouldn’t exist. That infuriated me, and that fury drove me to write the stories and the essay that make up the book.
2) I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a book that looks at fatness in a science-fiction setting. Did your purposely set out to buck the trend of only seeing fat people in contemporary novels? Why do you think that there’s a lack of science fiction novels that feature fat people?
I deliberately wanted to shine a light on the simple fact that we do not see positive or even neutral portrayals of fat people in sci-fi. And when we do see fat people, they are either monstrous villains, like the Baron Harkonnen in Dune, or they are a metaphor in dystopian sci-fi for the decay of humanity. That’s a really ugly and negative message to send an entire group of people, and I wanted to shine a light on it. And I wanted to point out that since fat people do exist, that a utopia that is only for thin people would be a terrible dystopia for fat people.
I think we don’t see fat people in a positive way in sci-fi because we don’t see fat people in media very much at all. People either don’t think about including us, or they actively don’t think we should be included because they think that anything that doesn’t punish fat people is “glorifying” being fat. People don’t seem to understand how truly frightening it is to be told that in the “good” future, someone like me wouldn’t be allowed to exist.
3) I absolutely love the cover of your book – I can probably count on one hand the number of gloriously fat people on book covers. Who created the cover? Did you look specifically for an illustrator who can draw fat people?
The cover was created by my very good friend, Jen Lightfoot! Her website is https://www.jenlightfoot.com
I knew Jen would do a fantastic job because she’s just amazingly talented for one thing, but also because she has portrayed fat bodies in her work in the past. I’ve even modeled for her! And she’s familiar with and supportive of my fat activism.
I knew I wouldn’t have to keep going back to her to ask for more fatness, to really show what I wanted to show. I knew she would get it immediately, and she definitely did. We talked about how I really wanted to show big arms and fat belly rolls, and she was excited to be able to draw that for me.
Jen is a dream to work with, and I absolutely recommend her to anyone looking for cover art.
4) Your book is self-published. Can you explain why you chose to self publish? Did you go to any more traditional publishers? If so, what did they say, and if not, why?
I decided to self publish somewhat because I honestly wasn’t sure if this material could find a home with a traditional publisher, because it’s not just about fat people– it’s about angry fat people. But the main reason is that I was a punk kid, so my first instinct is to DIY most things. Although it turned out to be a much bigger undertaking that I had imagined!
I did send a couple of the stories to a few submission calls. I got some really positive and kind responses, with the impression that people liked the stories, but they weren’t a good fit for their specific projects. Which is totally understandable, but it did make me think that self publishing was probably the way to go for this project.
5) What are some other fat positive books (or just media generally!) that you’ve recently enjoyed? I am always looking for recommendations!
You know, Spy is my favorite movie. I think it’s a low key fat activism movie, I really do. The more confident Susan Cooper gets, the better her clothes get!
I also really enjoyed the movie Patti Cake$, which has Danielle Macdonald from Dumplin (which is also great), but I feel like Patti Cake$ hasn’t gotten the love it really deserves, so that’s my recommendation.
Unfortunately, I have been so busy reading books for research for my videos that I haven’t had a chance to read anything for fun in awhile, but I’m looking forward to the YA anthology The Other F Word when it comes out and I get a break. It has a lot of authors I know I already love.
6) Now that your book has been released, do you have any new projects?
I’m currently working on a queer romance novel with a fat protagonist that’s set in a dystopian future where evangelical Christians have taken over the government and instituted theocratic law. But I’m a slow writer, so I have told everyone that it’s illegal to ask me when that book is going to be done, because I really do not know, lol.
I’m also making a video for my YouTube channel Ok2BeFat about the 2008 financial crisis where I dress up as Princess Leia and explain the crash. I debunk a lot of myths people have about it. I also have an ongoing video series where I answer advice questions called Big Fat Questions.
And I stream Stardew Valley on Twitch every Monday from 7-8PM and every Saturday from 4-6PM Eastern, so if anyone wants to chat with me, that’s a great way to have my full attention!