Saturday, August 31, 2013

FatLand and Fatropolis

FatLand and Fatropolis

When an idea is in the air, authors who seemingly don't know each other or have not contacted each other in any way will often come up with ideas that seem similar.

Fatropolis, by Tracey L. Thompson, and FatLand, by yours truly, have this in common:  they both put forth the existence (fantasy) of a land in which fat people are able to live their lives in peace and harmony in a welcoming environment in which the words "diet" and "scale" are either not mentioned or forbidden.

Beyond that, they are rather different. Thompson's Fatropolis is in a dimension which can be reached from several portals in Manhattan, NY. My FatLand is an islet of people surrounded by Colorado, reachable by ground transport and air.

The origins of Fatropolis itself are not specifically noted (although they very well might be in Thompson's next Fatropolis book), but Fatropolis has been around for many many years. FatLand is a recent creation, founded officially as a territory in 2014 as a result of a reality TV show which aired in 2010, and aided materially by the anti-fat Pro-Health and Diet Laws which were passed in 2012 and 2014.  Fatropolis maintains no official relations with any other nation because it is, after all, in a different dimension. FatLand has relations with many nations which recognized it officially as a territory during and after 2014.

Both Fatropolis and FatLand boast flourishing night lives and superb restaurants.

One clear difference is that in FatLand, the curve seems to be spread very thoroughly among people with different shapes and degrees of fat,with little discussion among FatLanders about being fat,  whereas in Fatropolis, a lot of discussion seems to go on about how desirable being fat is. FatLanders may be a bit more hypocritical on the subject; one of the daughters of a Board Member defects to The Other Side/USA. However, she subsequently regrets it. Coming and going between the worlds of Fatropolis and New York is fairly common. I was amused to see that in both books, rebellious teenagers often cross between the countries and worlds. Teenagers will be teenagers, I guess.

In FatLand (the book), the emphasis is on decisions derived by Board Members about  financial and political issues. In Fatropolis, discussion treats mostly food, weddings, festivals and self-discovery. (Weddings in FatLand, up to now, have been mostly arranged in homes or at City Hall.)

This may change in FatLand III.  And yes, as Thompson reminded me, there are gay characters in both FatLand and FatLand: The Early Days.  There are a few marriages/partnerships in FatLand; there are lavish discussions of weddings and weddings themselves in Fatropolis. I admit it: I have a penchant for alternate lifetstyles, and toward the end of FatLand: The Early Days, there is a scene in which one man and two women go into a hot tub, with the implication that they will frolic in bed after.

Much more detailed discussion goes on in Fatropolis about how seating in doctor's offices, seating in theaters, bathtubs and bathrooms are made comfortable for fat people. Much more detailed discussion goes on in FatLand about its infrastructure.

Tracey and I are so very different, as are our books. But make no mistake: the Fat Acceptance Community needs both of our approaches,  and so very many more.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Stadium, FatLand growing up

Now that the Health and Diet Laws have been rescinded by the USA/Other Side, and it is 2046, bands from the Other Side are very eager to play FatLand. But they must be screened by the FatLand Board to make sure that their members don't have any records of anti-fat actions or behavior.

So many venues to play in FatLand, including coffeehouses, of course. But the coffeehouses work better for smaller concerts. And now FatLand has to figure out whether to take a very big step and build a stadium that would furnish a venue for sports events and concerts.

I would probably say a reluctant "yes" if I were on the Board. I guess FatLand has to become more than a post-hippie cool fat persons'refuge. Oddly enough, Vesta, who is kind of a foil for all the earnest and probably correct speeches made concerning FatLand's territorial status, may have had the right idea in some ways, which was that FatLand needed more roads, bridges and infrastructure, the kind befitting a state and not only a Territory. She was right - just at the wrong time.

I may try to do her justice in FatLand III.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lesleigh Owen/Elle Hill interviewed me

Constantly brilliant Lesleigh Owen/Elle Hill, author of the Hunted Dreams series, interviewed me by email.

Here is the interview. Note that we both like to work with different worlds and create them.

I should also add that Lesleigh was one of the Fat Poets in Fat Poets Speak: Voices of the Fat Poets' Society (Pearlsong Press, 2009.) You can see her lovely face on the cover. She will also be featured in the second volume of Fat Poets Speak: Living and Loving Fatly, to be published in early 2014.  (I was/am the editor. Oh yeah, I have a few poems in each..)

1. How did you come up with the idea of the FatLand Trilogy?

I always think in trilogies :)   So when I thought of creating FatLand, I thought that I just had to write a trilogy. I attribute this to no less than having read LOTR during Social Studies in 9th grade, while hiding it behind my textbook. I have a dream that people (of all ages) will hide FatLand (all volumes) behind their "other" books and read it surreptitiously and subversively.

I came up with FatLand because having a land or state or territory (I wasn't sure at first which it would be) seemed the solution to the discrimination and stigma we endured/still endure as fat people in the USA. 

2. Who is your favorite character (in either or both books)?

Oh, Winston Stark, definitely. He is a great villain. He has a touch of panache about him. I did not make him super handsome; I have not seen any really handsome villains. He is quite intelligent, but almost bereft of moral fiber. He is willing to use anyone for almost any reason, but will never admit it to them or to himself. I think he is a good mascot for the 2010's. He believes fervently in corporatization. The FatLand Board is always trying to stop him from carrying out some destructive maneuver. The irony, of, I won't say it. Don't want to spoil things for readers :)

3. If you were giving a workshop, as you have, for writers of fat-positive  fiction, what advice would you give, briefly?

Have fun with writing and with your characters. Talk to them. Have them engage other characters. Engage with them. Yell at them. Fall in love with them. Hate them. Imagine them in multiple settings. Figure out what they eat for breakfast or lunch. What are their views on things?  Interestingly, by the time you do all this, you will be halfway to writing your story/book. As far as fat-positivity, keep remembering that they are very much the same as other people in most ways. One of the most fat-positive things you can do is have them going about their business,  whatever it is. They just happen to be fat.  And if you are writing any sex/love scenes, make love to them yourself (in your mind) before you write these scenes. Get turned on by them.

4.. How does your political mindset intersect with your Fat Acceptance work and beliefs?
                a. Do you think both FatLand novels are political? If so, what messages do you hope they convey?

   I guess most people who read FatLand novels will know that I am inclined to progressive ideas.  I want people to have very strong, deep safety nets. I want them to be able to work whenever they wish, and more or less how they wish. I don't want anyone to go hungry.  I also want fat people not to face any kind of discrimination or stigma or harassment. Just living without those alone would probably be a radical idea for most people and of course most fat people.  I envision a place in which fat people just go about their business, are paid an adequate salary for their needs at the least, and more when possible, and go home at night with some time to have a good dinner and relax. If there is a political message here, it is that when we put the needs of our "country" or "territory" first, we all invest of ourselves, whether financially, morally or nationally. We don't salt away money offshore. We make it easier for people to build and to live. 

I guess that you could say that the other message I hope to convey is that fat people working together can become a community, even if they don't start out that way. We may or may not have a lot in common going into our effort, but we will find that we have a lot of feelings in common about what we want to see improved in our lives.

5.. What kinds of books, fiction and non, do you like to read?

It is a bit embarrassing to say that when I am working on a book or a poem, I only read books I've read before. I feel most easy and content with 19th Century fiction and 19th Century poetry. But when I am not working on a book or poem, I like to read contemporary poetry and anything pertaining to Fat Acceptance. I am weird also in that I will only read contemporary fiction if a friend recommends it. Luckily I have friends who are ready to do so.

6. Summarize FatLand: A Novel briefly.

The first volume of the FatLand Trilogy - FatLand: A Novel actually begins in 2044, thirty years after the beginning of FatLand, which is discussed in FatLand (II): The Early Days.  Much of the novel turns on the fact that Winston Stark,now self-exiled in his fortress in Colorado, on the Other Side, is still looking for a way to break into FatLand commerce. FatLanders simply will not go to his CompleteFitness gyms, so he tries to become partners with Sandor Forman, the creator of the very successful GymNotTrim franchises in FatLand. He also tries to coopt GymNotTrim's message of having fun with food and exercise and tries to imply that GymNotTrim will become more of a weight loss concern. Sandor, of course, is horrified when he finds out and takes measures to reaffirm GymNotTrim's anti-diet message and does so quite successfully - so successfully that Stark indirectly acts to assassinate the beautiful fat dancer, Amiyah, who not only galvanizes people with her dancing and her charm, but also makes the idea of GymNotTrim irresistible to people in FatLand and on the Other Side, as well.

The FatLand Board, through whom much of the story is told, also find out that their own children are indirectly involved in this heinous plot and are forced to understand how their children view FatLand, which turns out to be very different from the way they imagined.

At the end of the book, the Pro-Health and Diet Laws that caused many FatLanders to flee to FatLand from the Other Side/USA are rescinded by the USA. Americans tear down the Re-Education Centers to which fat people were often forced to go.  American citizens all over the USA start to claim their freedom again, with help from FatLand and FatandProud, the group from the USA with whom FatLand has been working in secret. 

7 .Do you believe that an actual FatLand should exist?

Oh, I so wish it did. In other words - yes, yes, yes.  I dream about it sometimes. But -and here is the difficult part- I wonder where it should be. I don't wish to displace anyone or any group already living in any land or place. Very difficult these days to find a place not previously claimed by others. 

But I keep wishing and dreaming.. Of course an ideal solution would be for the entire USA to become FatLand,  a place in which no one has to undergo discrimination or stigmatizing, no matter what size they are.

8. How do you write?: By inspiration, trudging through, making an outline beforehand, etc.?

I do something I now know a lot of writers do:  I get an idea. Then I flesh it out some in my head. I kind of sleep with it or on it for a while, slowly adding things in my mind that I want to include. Usually, around this point, I kind of start to know where I want it to go and how I want it to end, but I'm not quite sure of how it will get there. It is then that I start writing.  I will find out  more of what it wants to be as I'm writing. So I steer, but slowly and not necessarily directly, toward the end I have in mind, but it becomes clearer as I write. I take the scenic route, as it were. The book will tell me. Sometimes the book disagrees with me, and I have to figure out if what I want or what it wants is the best way to go. Usually the book wins. It knows.

Thanks for these wonderful questions. I enjoyed them.

Hugs, Frannie

Monday, August 26, 2013

Vacationing in FatLand

It is fun to make up ads for FatLand.

After all, there is a lot of night life - restaurants, bookstores, concerts, movies, street shows, music, art openings, sports, theaters. The Adult Playground and GymNotTrim have a whole lot going on, but not everyone knows about it.

And of course there are the magnificent mountain vistas. Skiing, climbing, hiking, tobogganing are all available. Lakes for swimming.  Fishing, too. No hunting, though. Since the climate change, the lakes are not quite cold enough for ice fishing. You can sometimes walk across, though, on the coldest days.

The colleges and universities also have quite a bit going on, and not just for their students. There are night sports, concerts, plays,  ridiculous treasure hunts and ice sculpting during the winter.

Some day soon there will be a train that runs all night..

Sunday, August 25, 2013

After Midnight in FatLand

Once FatLanders started to feel secure that no one would ever belittle or degrade or make fun of them (third time, they toss you out of FatLand and you cannot get back if you are charged and indicted for hate crimes), they began to create and attend all sorts of events at night. They liked traveling to them as much as attending because they would bump into people they knew on the way. (Reminds me of Cambridge, MA in the very early 1970's.)

So more restaurants were started near concert and coffeehouse venues...which caused more venues to spring up..which caused more restaurants to get the picture.

Going out after a concert or movie became as much fun as attending the event itself, as well. And there were also all-night bookstores one could go to if one didn't feel like attending a concert. (Hmm..this also reminds me of Cambridge, MA in the 1970's.)

Sometimes, when FatLanders would get a bit juiced, FatLand patrols and security people at events would give them rides home. Getting a bit drunk was not deemed an arrestable offense. Even getting more than a bit drunk was not considered "actionable" if the drunk person didn't bother anyone.

The only problem, FatLanders believed, was that there weren't quite enough trains running after midnight (and that too reminds me of Cambridge, MA in the early 1970's..).

Trains and Dress Laws/Chunky Dunking

I did not cover two (at least) areas in FatLand:  train travel and dress/exposure laws.

I love trains. FatLand is not a very large territory, but it does have trains. In FatLand II, the three archivists do take a train at one point. However, there should be more descriptions of train travel. I must remember to put at least two in FatLand III.

Most FatLanders may start out not wanting to show any of their bodies because they have been discouraged from showing them in the past. However, once they are encouraged and shown that their bodies are wonderful, desirable and attractive, they may think differently. I cannot imagine FatLanders running down the streets in their natural state, but perhaps near rivers, there may be some chunky dunking (our term for skinny dipping).

Another factor which would cause FatLanders not to be super quick to want to shed their clothes concerns the reports of what went on in the Re-Education Centers on the Other Side in the years right before FatLand was officially a territory. It is one thing to swim about on a peaceful beach without clothes. It is another to be forced to shed one's clothes at the behest of unkind authorities.

So there would need to be some comfort and perhaps PTSD/trauma help given before FatLanders felt free enough to frolic uncovered.

I so do not want them to be shy about or ashamed of their bodies. That may take a while. And a few campaigns and a lot of positive body imaging in schools and workplaces.

It could happen...

Friday, August 23, 2013

No Zoos in FatLand

There are no zoos in FatLand. This is because I sympathize acutely with animals kept in cages so people can stare at them. That is how fat people often feel in our society. Somehow people feel as if they are allowed to stare at them, as if they were animals in cages present for their amusement.

Fat people used to suffer the same fate as these animals. They were told and then ordered to follow certain diets. Animals in zoos don't have much choice as to what they eat, with the possible exception of animals in particular areas in a few zoos. Animals don't have much of a choice as to where they can go. Often neither do fat people, who are mocked when they try to walk or exercise. Luckily fat people do have the option to persevere in their efforts. Animals mostly don't.

Caged animals have very few choices of mates. It is a bit easier for fat people, but sometimes not much. They are often banned from dating sites and clubs. 

Caged animals are often artificially inseminated; breeding is highly managed. Fat people are often told that pregnancy will be very difficult for them or that they shouldn't think of having children (or even sex). Luckily there are a lot of people who disagree with the supposed experts. Fat people find happiness in relationships often when they relinquish the dating sites. And the opinions of supposed experts.

Like caged animals, fat people are happiest when left to choose their own habitats. Sometimes they even find places in which they are relaxed and fulfilled.

Now if that would only happen more often...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Resort for People of All Sizes

It is fun to play with the idea of creating safe spaces for people who don't believe in size-based discrimination, or sizeism/sizism.  That is at least part of the reason I wrote FatLand I and II.

But before FatLand actually begins or arrives or is created, I sometimes imagine a resort that caters to anti-sizists, people who do not believe in sizism.

You have your capacious lounge chairs. You have spacious elevators. Enough space between aisles at supermarkets and movie theaters. Ditto small specialty stores.

You have powered wheelchairs for those who need them, whatever their size. So the aisles have to be large enough to allow for these wheelchairs.

You have restaurants with waitstaff who don't make fun of people, whatever their size. Same thing with stores. Government agencies. Bus drivers. Amusement park staff. Oh, that's another thing. The rides would be safe and wide enough for people of all sizes.

But most of all, you have people who are tolerant. That's all it takes. Not sizist, racist, sexist, genderist or heterocentric.

Is that so much to ask?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Availability and Fatopia

The paperback copies of FatLand: The Early Days (FatLand II) arrived today.

Every time I receive copies of a book I have written or a book to which I have contributed, I feel as if I am holding my baby in my hands. Laugh if you like..

The latest on FatLand: The Early Days (FatLand II) - from Pearlsong Press.

FatLand: The Early Days is available in original trade paperback from Amazon.comBarnes & NoblePowell's &The Book Depository (with free shipping worldwide), as well as directly from the Pearlsong Press store.
For the next three months the ebook is available only from Amazon's Kindle store. You don't have to have a Kindle reader to purchase or read the ebook -- free Kindle reading software for computers, smartphones and tablets can be downloaded from Amazon.
Kindle owners who are Amazon Prime members also have the option of borrowing the FatLand: The Early Days ebook from the Kindle lending library during the next three months, if they desire.
In November 2013 the Amazon/Kindle ebook exclusivity will end and the ebook will sold at Barnes & Noble, in the iTunes bookstore, and elsewhere -- including, of course, the Pearlsong Press store.
Read and share excerpts below from FatLand: The Early Days and FatLand, which is also available at Amazon and other online retailers in paperback, Kindle, EPUB and PDF formats. Keep up with FatLand Trilogy news at Zellman's blog.

This is of course my blog.
What is wonderful about the growing field of Fatopian books -books that take the reader to a land/utopia in which fat people are valued and happy- is that we all have different takes on what our particular fatopias would look like. Fatropolis, by Tracey L. Thompson, creates a fatopia in another dimension, just this side of New York/Manhattan, in which one falls through special portals in several places to the wonderful land of Fatropolis. 

One day, when fat people are welcomed and not told to change themselves into something else, all of the USA will be a fatopia.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Interview with Lesleigh Owen/Elle Hill: writer, lecturer, Fat Acceptance Activist

As promised, tonight I feature the interview, previously mentioned, with author and lecturer Lesleigh Owen/Elle Hill. She is a friend, colleague and sister activist in the Fat Acceptance/Fat Liberation movement.

Lesleigh teaches Sociology at a satellite college of South Dakota State University. She is an activist in any field and movement she cares about, and this includes: feminism, Fat Acceptance, LBTG rights and Cat Rescue. In the interview she talks about her novel series - Hunted Dreams. Hunted Dreams is in fact the latest novel in the series and I am reading it - am more than halfway through. It has to be one of the most beguiling mixes of romance, horror, thriller and science fiction/fantasy I have ever encountered.  Elle Hill (Lesleigh's writing name) conveys her intensity, sensuality and at times wry, but always strong appreciation of LA, in full in this novel. She also has created a wonderfully sexy and fat female protagonist in Katana.

Lesleigh Owen is also one of the featured poets of the Fat Poets Speak series, the first book of which also includes poets Kathy Barron, Anne Kaplan, Corinna Makris, and me (as contributor and editor). The second book in the series, Fat Poets Speak: Living and Loving Fatly, will be out early in 2014. The series is published by Pearlsong Press.

Hunted Dreams and the other two novels in the series are available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Here, then, is the interview with Lesleigh Owen/Elle Hill.

First of all, Lesleigh, I remember your saying that you were already writing when you were quite young, and that you penned a 200 + page novel. Do you remember any of what it was about?
Oh, yes. I remember it all very well. I was known throughout my school as The Writer. I would write every single day and pass my notebook around my circle of friends. They would comment, and I would sometimes incorporate their thoughts. In other words, my writing was a big event in my world, so I remember my stories very well.
My first book featured a heterosexual couple wrongly accused of murder. They were on the lam and had various adventures as they fled police, tried to maintain a low profile, and of course fell madly in love.
Awwwww... Do you remember what inspired you to write this novel with this particular plot line?
The man had some psychic powers, as I recall. Unbeknownst to me, I was laying the foundation for my future career as an author of paranormal romance.
I wish I could! I was 13, though. I imagine it was a movie I watched, since most of my book or poetry ideas back then came from movies and books. were already interested in the psychic and paranormal even then. What interested you about it?
That's a good question! I'm not sure how I would have answered it then, but here's what I say now, 25+ years later as I look back:
I was born and raised in a very Christian home. We were Pentecostals. Anyone familiar with that sect knows they're pretty fundamentalist and, um, quite enthusiastic about worshiping their god.
Even at 13, I questioned the Christian fundamentalism. It fit wrong, and I was itchy. I wanted desperately to believe in something supernatural, something that would help me define the boundaries of my being and prove something intangible did and could exist.
At the time, my sisters and I were not allowed to watch shows with magic in them (Harry Potter would have been enthusiastically banned), since magic was demonic. Anything supernatural and not God was demonic.
And probably because of this, and because I wanted something so much that illustrated to me magic can really exist, I became quite fascinated with psychic phenomena.
Plus, I was a sci-fi nerd. I can't remember a time I wasn't. Fantasy and sci-fi became another language to me. Luckily, since no one else read recreationally in my family, no one knew I was reading about magic. And science fiction is just magic with technology, right?
All right. I think I'm finally done.
This is wonderful. Actually, what I'm wondering now is if you were creating a world which was a lot more interesting and exciting than the one you existed in at the time - whether religiously, culturally, emotionally, ect.
Well, of course! And, given the extreme scare tactics of Pentecostals ("You doubt God? You must be possessed by a demon! Let's hold you down and pray away the demon!"), certainly a safer world to explore the supernatural.
Everything is demons for Pentecostals, or at least the ones in my little neck o' the woods in Idaho.
This fascinates me because the way it sounds, you were in some ways reinventing the demonic.
In some ways.
Oh my lord (so to speak)...
Reinventing the safer demon. I like the concept.
If we have time, I may try to return to this. Right now I'd like you to list your novels and tell me which one you like the best.
(and why)
I assume you mean the novels I've published.
If you like
(Maybe list the published ones first)
I've written _Hunted_, a novella (maybe technically a novelette? Anyway, it's 15K words). I wrote it first and published it second. Next came _Hunted Past_, which continues in the same universe (probably obvious, given the title). Third and final (for now) is _Hunted Dreams_.
_Hunted Dreams_ is by far my favorite. I gave myself permission to be a lot darker and more psychological in this one. It deviates from a lot of romance conventions, but I let myself do that. As a result, it feels more organic and personal to me.
I read Hunted reading Hunted Dreams now. The idea of dreamscapes fascinates me. Did you yourself ever have dreams anything like this?
As a matter of fact, a couple of dreams I threw into _Hunted Dreams_ came directly from my own nighttime brainworks. The cow scene was one of them. I mean, cows? How random can you get? There's also a scene in which Kat and Reed bob in the ocean, chatting while a monster circles below them. I lifted the bobbing in the ocean part directly from one of my dreams.
Were you scared during these dreams?
Definitely not during the cow dream.
I can't remember the water dream. I think that one was more wistful and alone than scary.
In _HD_, I tried to make the Reed dreams less scary. There's no need to torture Kat during those dreams, since the worst pain she can experience comes when Reed leaves her.
Can you sketch the concept/underlying plot behind the series briefly?
Briefly, the series takes place in L.A.
In this universe, two secret groups fight a centuries-long war. One, the Leeches (they call themselves the Broschi, which is a combo of Greek and Mandarin words that means "eater of the life force," or "soul eater"), feed off the terror, pain, and fear of humans. This is not a metaphor; they honestly eat it the way humans munch apples and pastrami on rye. As a result of their rather voracious appetite (given my own activism and scholarly work, I'm fascinated with the idea of appetites out of control), they sometimes inflict pain on humans in order to have a more immediate supply of food.
The Clan is a group of supernatural beings that exists pretty much solely to thwart the Leeches and protect humanity.
The Leeches are empathic; they literally feel what humans (and one another) feel.
The Clan is broken down by sex. The Hunters are women warriors. Like the Leeches, they're super strong and heal quickly. The Psychics are men. They don't fight; their duties include discerning the plans and whereabouts of the Leeches and directing the Hunters to them. The Psychics have no physical powers. Because they're vulnerable, the Clan tends to tucks them away.
It is rather fun to see that in HD, you present the Leeches as protagonists..whereas in HP, you present the Clan this way.
Obviously, I delight in messing with gender conventions.
I love that you mess with all kinds of conventions!
As you know, I'm not pro-war. I think the war between the Leeches and Clan is unnecessary and ridiculous. Neither groups is inherently evil, although I admit I do make individual Leeches do some pretty awful stuff sometimes. But it's my sincere hope that I successfully mess with the "bad guy" trope.
And I was also fascinated by the statement you made a couple of questions ago: "As a result of their rather voracious appetite (given my own activism and scholarly work, I'm fascinated with the idea of appetites out of control)
I make the conversations in _Hunted Dreams_ complicated. Are the Leeches evil just because they feed off humans? No one is hurt. Why is this evil? And how is it any different from humans, who eat the life force of plants and animals?
Yep. It's a recurring theme (the voracious appetites) in all my stories.
I agree with one gets hurt! Just as no one gets hurt when humans satiate themselves with food and sex (assuming consent on the part of all partners)!
Btw, I wanted to make the point that wars tend to be self-perpetuating rather than making some kind of deep moral sense. This isn't always true, of course, but it often is.
Amen! I couldn't agree more.
I hope my discussions and representations of voracious appetites unsettle readers, make them wonder if they're as evil and scary as we make them.
It’s important for me to note that I study fatness. Voracious appetites are of course not really a part of fatness, but in the popular imaginary, they’re seen as related, if not synonymous. I find the popular fascination with, and horror of, appetites, as well as the moralizing surrounding the assuaging of hungers, very fascinating. As I discuss in my work, I think it makes us as Westerners deeply uneasy about mouths, appetites, and, because we ridiculously link them to fatness, about supernormative body sizes.
This is all academic. In my fiction work, I like to evoke the imagery of voracious appetites and play with the emotions I imagine it elicits. I also quite intentionally link these appetites to thin people in my novels, just to mess with things a bit.
I see now that I really didn't allow enough time for all the things I wanted to ask you. Could you talk a little now about your scholarly work?
Of course! I'm a sociologist who specializes in gender studies and fat studies. My dissertation addressed fatness: what it means to individuals, how it manifests in their daily lives, how it intersects with other identities.
For anyone who may not know, Lesleigh Owen is also a superb poet. How do your poems relate to your fiction and your scholarly work? What drives them?
Ha! Thank you, my friend.
Interesting you should ask about my poetry and my scholarly and fiction work.
I began and ended my dissertation with poems about fatness. The first one discusses the horror and pain of being treated as a monster because of fatness. The poem that ends my dissertation addresses the politics of smiles and how people expect them as their due from fat people. My fat smile, I say, is more a noose around necks than an admission of subordination. Kind of angry, but it's powerful.
Just so people know, Lesleigh's poems appear in Fat Poets Speak: Voices of the Fat Poets' Society, and more will appear in Fat Poets II: Living and Lovng Fatly (Both are available from Pearlsong Press and on Amazon and Barnes and Noble)
OH! So that poem is actually from your Dissertation!
My poetry very often addresses my own body journey. It's enormously personal. Words solidify the world into something knowable, and by writing my body, I sometimes feel I help delineate its boundaries and construct it in the images and ways I would like.
Well, I included it in my diss.
I think that is a fantastic way to start an end a diss!
Thank you! I agree. If more academic work featured poetry, I wouldn't run screaming from it.
But you manage to write beautifully in all three genres.
Tell us now about your work as an activist.
What does your activism involve? And how does it also relate to your teaching?
Thank you! I'm honored. There was a time when I found myself too scared to write fiction. It's mostly thanks to you and my sister, Lauri, that I finally got up the nerve to jump in.
Now I am honored!
I consider myself a progressive activist, but my three main areas of concern involve fat, feminist, and queer activism. Not surprising, given my own identities.
Of the three, I think fat activism needs me the most, although of course all three are essential. And there are few borders between my scholarly work, my activism, and my art. They're usually the same thing. For example, I'm co-chair of the Fat Studies Area of the PCA. I'm also in leadership in fat pride groups. I write poetry and books featuring powerful fat characters. They all inform one another, as, in my opinion, all good academic and artistic works should do.
Tell us a little about the PCA and the Fat Studies area. (I am afraid that this question will be the last one, for now.)
No worries, my friend! I'm a rather verbose interviewee, so I know my words, like my body, have taken up quite a bit of space thus far.
You are not. I just didn't allow enough time. for all the things I wanted to ask.
I've been co-chair of the Fat Studies Area of the PCA for six or seven years. It's an area of study added by Susan Koppelman one or two years before I became co-chair.
PCA= Popular Culture Association?
I love being co-chair of fat studies. It allows me the most amazing opportunities to read and listen to brilliant scholarship that in some way includes an analysis of bodies, body size, body inequalities, and so on. Fat studies (I can never decide if it should be capitalized), like feminist and queer studies, is a deeply political academic semi-discipline. At the heart of fat studies is a desire to analyze the denigration of the fat body and to brainstorm ideas to upset this system of oppression. Scholars come from many disciplines, but we all have this central tenet in mind. It's humbling and empowering to be part of the scholarly version of what I do as a fat activist in my everyday world.
And yes, PCA = Popular Culture Association.
What an excellent, thorough and yet brief description. I think I am going to have to interview you again at some point because there is so much I didn't get to. But for now, thanks so much for talking to me today about the areas in which you are preeminent. I am so looking forward to seeing your poems appear in Fat Poets II and to reading your latest scholarly work, and of course to finishing Hunted Dreams. You are an activist on so many levels. The Fat, feminist and queer communities are so lucky to have you.
You are beyond kind. I'm honored, Frannie. And my thanks to you, both as a friend, a sister writer, and as a mentor. You inspire me every day.
Thank YOU.
Very welccome, Lesleigh. We will talk again soon. :_
Of course we will! Big, fat hugs.
Excellent. Thanks again and big juicy hugs:)
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