Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Science Fiction Weight-Loss Book

Isaac Asimov, George R.R. Martin & Martin H. Greenberg (editors)
The Science Fiction Weight-Loss Book (1983)

I think it was our birthday - that is my wife and myself having both been born on the same day - and we were celebrating at J. Arthur's with the rest of her family. J. Arthur's is a fussy, slightly pretentious San Antonio restaurant of middling standard, more properly known as J. Alexander's but I tend to think of the place as J. Arthur's in reference to the rhyming slang. I opened the present from Bess's mother and it was this book. I experienced a moment of confusion, mistaking the title for an actual weight loss guide and thinking that my mother-in-law was perhaps suggesting I could stand to cut down on the pies, which seemed a little rich given the average girth of everyone else sat around the table. Closer inspection, or more properly actual inspection, revealed it to be an anthology of science-fiction shorts with fatness as the unifying theme. Oh okay, I thought, getting it at last. Bess's mother tends to be quite unpredictable with her prezzies, but she always chooses well so I looked forward to reading the thing.

Unfortunately the theme is followed with varying degrees of fidelity and success from one story to the next, with Stephen King's Quitters, Inc. at the most tenuous extreme with its brief few paragraphs about how packing in the fags can give you a bit of an appetite. Being what might be termed a chubby chaser in so much as I personally prefer the fuller figure or even the considerably fuller figure to the no more lettuce for me, I'm stuffed types, I was hoping for some decent, possibly Swiftian science-fiction examinations of fat as an issue - body image, social conditioning, metabolism, cultural significance, dietary myths, eating disorders and all that sort of thing. Unfortunately, of the stories which actually use those few extra pounds as anything other than plot texture, mostly it's just freakish sedentary fatties failing to stick to a diet written with faint traces of sneering. I expected better because Asimov of all people has ever been - or at least seemed like - champion of the awkward fucker who doesn't fit in, so it's disappointing to find that he too reduces everything to the less cake, more exercise diet.

Oh well.

It's not a bad collection. Vance Aandahl's Sylvester's Revenge and William Tenn's The Malted Milk Monster are decent, and Orson Scott Card's Fat Farm is actually pretty great despite it being by Orson Scott Card, a man who famously knows what's best for the rest of us due to certain unpleasant religious convictions. There's nothing truly terrible here - excepting possibly Stephen King's gratuitously unpleasant offering - but it's all a bit underwhelming. Contrary to the claims of Asimov's introduction, The Science Fiction Weight-Loss Book didn't particularly inspire me to eat less either, so J. Arthur's overly-rich and needlessly salty menu still has the lead on that score.

So there's me with a spunk garnish on my salad next time I'm in the place...


  1. You should check out Fat Girl In A Strange Land (a Crossed Genres collection). It has some great stories about larger ladies.

    1. New one on me but thanks for the recommendation. The blurb at least makes it sound a lot more adventurous than this one was.