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These are stories that ambush the reader with Elison's signature style: a drolly disturbing admixture of dry irony and simmering rage. 'El Hugé' reveals how small-town, small-time teens can accomplish Big Ugly Things on their own. 'Big Girl chronicles the media’s fascination with the towering anxieties of a sixty-foot tall teen. 'The Pill', the collection's previously unpublished centerpiece, celebrates a “miracle cure” for obesity that sends society to a grimly delightful new utopia. 'With Such People in It', also new to readers, welcomes us to a brave new world where cowardice is a virtue. 'Gone with Gone with the Wind' is a non-fiction analysis of privilege, denial, literary classics, and personal honesty. 'Afterimage' is a one-way trip into a VR world that’s more “real” than our own.

Also included is 'Guts', which is about just what its title suggests, as well this volume's characteristically frank and thought-provoking Outspoken Interview.

128 pages, Paperback

First published May 21, 2020

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About the author

Meg Elison

41 books986 followers
Meg Elison is a science fiction author and feminist essayist. Her series, The Road to Nowhere, won the 2014 Philip K. Dick award. She was a James A. Tiptree Award Honoree in 2018. In 2020, she is publishing her first collection, called “Big Girl” with PM Press and her first young adult novel, “Find Layla” with Skyscape. Meg has been published in McSweeney’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fangoria, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and many other places. Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley. Find her online, where she writes like she’s running out of time.


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5 stars
148 (48%)
4 stars
103 (33%)
3 stars
43 (14%)
2 stars
10 (3%)
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3 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 76 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
743 reviews11.8k followers
June 5, 2021
This review is only for Hugo and Nebula Awards nominee for Best Novelette The Pill:
“She wanted what everybody wants. Respect.”
It’s no secret to anyone that fat people are rarely taken seriously in our society — it’s that completely undeserved stigma of being not good enough, lazy, weak-willed, unintelligent that hangs over those with BMIs out of socially accepted range. Meg Ellison takes showing it to a new level in “The Pill”, imagining what is very likely to happen if there’s an easy cure for being fat - a new weight loss pill that lets you shed all the extra pounds (and even the extra skin from all that weight loss) quickly and permanently. Even if you have a 10% chance to die. With even thin people taking the pill just so they would never run a risk of gaining weight. And the world would quickly make it impossible for fat people to continue to exist.
“One in ten kept dying. The average never improved, not in any corner of the globe. There were memorials for the famous and semifamous folks who took the gamble and lost. A congressman here and a comedian there. But everyone was so proud of them that they had died trying to better themselves that all the obituaries and eulogies had a weird, wistful tone to them. As if it was the next best thing to being thin. At least they didn’t have to live that fat life anymore.”

This is a very well-done horror story that can easily become reality. If you think it can’t, you’re kidding yourself. It’s so bleak and uncomfortable in the way it rings true — and quite effective at conveying loneliness and ostracism from the “greater” society. I do not necessarily love this story - not sure why, but it just doesn’t hit that “love” button in my heart - but I respect the hell out of it.

3.5 stars.

My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2021: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,147 reviews1,119 followers
September 27, 2021
Rating for The Pill only, a nomination for the Best Novelette for the Hugo Awards this year.

WOW. Story like this is what makes me love speculative fiction. It's not just well written with an engaging main character but it is chilling, profound, and terrifyingly possible. There's very, very few representation for fat characters in SFF and this one is probably my favorite so far since it does focus on body image, filial and societal dynamics, and of course a certain brave-new-world scenario. Imagine if your world and everything in it literally shrinks and you just don't fit in anymore either physically or communally, you can't even study or work since the office spaces can't accommodate you anymore from chairs to doors, and you have to make your own bed literally since no stores sell your size anymore. And that's not the worst.

I will definitely try to read the other stories in this book.
Profile Image for Kristenelle.
225 reviews28 followers
May 26, 2021
This is a collection of short stories, a novelette, an interview, and essays. It was a quick read and my first experience reading anything by Meg Elison. What a treat! I officially have a new author on my radar. Her prose is edgy and poetic. Her work is immensely readable and engaging. This collection mostly focuses on the topic of being a fat woman, although not exclusively. She approaches her exploration through speculative fiction and autobiographical essays. I found it all very valuable and insightful given how fatphobic our society is. I appreciated her honesty and wisdom.

One of the essays was about her relationship with Gone with the Wind and how her perceptions of it have changed over many rereads throughout her life. It was a really enjoyable and insightful essay.

Sexual violence? A little. Other content warnings? Fatphobia, death.
Profile Image for Otiggerifico.
2 reviews
May 25, 2020
There's something magical about reading a book about fat, by a fat author, talking to their fat audience. I love this book.

The stories aren't happy, and there's probably some triggers needed for just acknowledging what life is like for fat people (and our nightmares of how it could become worse) but there's such a fierce and angry joy in the writing.

My favourite in the collection is The Pill, it hints towards my favourite theme (found family) and the protagonist is so confident in knowing herself and seizing happiness where she can.

For nothing else though, I'd love this book for some of the lines in Guts (the last piece),
Profile Image for Mare.
52 reviews
July 15, 2020
If you liked Mona Awad’s “13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl”, you’ll love this. If, however, you cry white lady tears when one of your friends dares to point out that they’re fat when you rail against your own thick ankles or soft belly and say shit back to her like, “I don’t mean YOU,” “I don’t think of you as fat,” or “I didn’t mean it like that, why are you being so mean?” — well this probably isn’t your cup of short stories. Unflinching, authentic, and proves once again that the best way to tell the truth is through fiction.
Profile Image for John Wiswell.
Author 39 books404 followers
April 22, 2021
Meg Elison is a powerhouse writer, and this collection is her monument. The standout for me is "The Pill," which is the best piece of fiction I've ever read about society's many different (and often contradictory) biases against fat people. But every piece in this collection has a sense of fearlessness; of both pain experienced and a refusal to submit to it.
Profile Image for William Tracy.
Author 18 books93 followers
August 18, 2021
Read for 2021 Hugos
I felt like this story was exactly what Hugo-worthy SFF should be: thought provoking, true enough to life to make you squirm, and with elements of both sadness and hope. The story revolves about a pill to almost magically make people thin, but with some side effects. The protagonist's inner thoughts about how being fat is regarded by society is spot on, and I was happy to read a solid stance on how all people can be regarded as beautiful. The last section of the story got a little weird, but I think only because we don't normally see stories about very large people and how they deal with the world when it's not made for them. For the protagonist to be able to enjoy what some might consider a restricted position was a very mature and resonating result.
Profile Image for alexis.
152 reviews22 followers
November 24, 2021
Sci-fi with an actual fat politic feels SO exciting and rare, but unfortunately the back half of this collection really suffers from the post 2016 US election trend of white women creatives feeling WAY over-inspired to make art about their own experiences with racism. “Such People In It”, which speculates on what would happen to the United States if trump won a second term, was like. Especially cringeworthy to get through.
Profile Image for Dan Trefethen.
762 reviews22 followers
March 17, 2021
Meg Elison is a big girl. She's fat. That's not an insult, it's how she describes herself, and it infuses her fiction.

People who are very overweight suffer the scrutiny of strangers and the indignity of a world not sized for them. (Don't get her started about airplane seats.)

While there are other types of stories in this short book, the two that stand out are her essay on her mother's weight-loss surgery and her resistance to it, and her story about a pill that causes drastic weight reduction. The topic is examined further in the interview she does with series editor Terry Bisson.

“The Pill” causes people to violently excrete over half their body weight over a period of weeks until they reach a height/weight proportional size (which is similar for all people). One drawback is the violence of the reaction causes a 10% mortality rate. Would this be acceptable in our world? Meg speculates that people will jump at a 90% chance at attaining a 'normal' weight. Of course, this means that over time fat people disappear from public view. What happens to the few fat people who resist taking the pill?

This is what science fiction can do: It takes an issue (drastic weight reduction through surgery, fat shaming) and reshapes it through a sharp lens to examine the ramifications and assumptions that a society can make.

Meg lives with this everyday and has thought this through carefully. The conclusion of her story may be chilling, but not that far-fetched based on our society's ability to belittle and denigrate those who don't fit in.
Profile Image for Rachel.
21 reviews
February 25, 2021
This is a little mix of everything, showing off Meg Elison's range. As someone who enjoys dystopian stories, I especially loved The Pill, which is actually what prompted me to buy this book. Although, loved doesn't seem like the exact right word for something so heartwrenching. But like all her stories in this book, The Pill is nuanced. It contains small moments of triumph and joy amid the despair.

I can't wait to see what Meg Elison comes out with next, and I've already pushed The Book of the Unnamed Midwife to the top of my TBR list.
Profile Image for B.
210 reviews33 followers
February 20, 2021
This is a book of short fiction that made me horrendously uncomfortable. That is to say it set out to do something and then did it extremely well. The short stories are a sharp dystopian look at our present society where is is better to be dead than fat to most people and where any deviation from the cishet thin white affluent norm is punished. It's a very good book but it is very bleak
Profile Image for Michael Howley.
324 reviews1 follower
June 3, 2020
I've seen Meg read El Huge and it was possibly my favorite of her performances. Instead of the mountaintop, this book uses it as a launchpad and takes off from there.
Profile Image for Sarahjane.
Author 4 books9 followers
September 29, 2020
I read this all in one sitting and might do it again before the end of the night.
Profile Image for Amanda.
1,469 reviews65 followers
July 5, 2021
Summer 2021 (June);
2021 Hugo Nominee

This story is such a well-done horror story that could so easily become a reality. The world looks down on overweight people, while they are encouraged and required to search after miracle cures and diets to solve it, or to live in the enraged/disgusted of the eyes of others, with no true and happy middle ground to be found especially in America. The ostracism and wrestling with self is so painful clear and honest.

It's chilling how easily this could come to be in the current-times, with the erasure of over weight people (even the point of skinny people taking "the pill" in the story to make sure they could never gain weight), but so was the point of everyone suddenly looking the same, becoming carbon copies of each other, and how society would brand together to suddenly outlaw being fat. How it would suddenly become this riskque, speakeasy fetish of the rare and impossible.

2,330 reviews
November 1, 2021
Short stories, an essay, and an interview with the author

I loved "The Book of the Unnamed Midwife" so I decided to listen to the 'Eating the Fantastic' podcast in which Scott Edelman interviews Meg Elison (and I liked that, too). After hearing the author talk about her work, I immediately got hold of "Big Girl" even though short stories are not typically my jam. So good!

In order of how much I enjoyed them, I'd rank the contents as:
- 'Such People in It' (what the world might be like if Trump or someone like him had gotten another term in office)
- 'The Pill' (a 'miracle pill' is created that allows people to lose all the weight they want with 'only' a 10% chance of dying)
- 'Gone with Gone with the Wind' (essay about the author reading and re-reading this book and changing what she sees in it)
- 'Big Girl' (about a teenager who turns into a 350' tall woman)
- 'Guts' (about a mother who gets weight loss surgery)
- the interview with the author
- 'El Hugé' (a group of teenagers blow up a giant pumpkin)

I will definitely read the other two books in the Midwife trilogy and look forward to whatever Meg Elison writes.
Profile Image for Aldi.
1,110 reviews86 followers
January 17, 2022
So I guess Meg Elison is great at short stories too - I am not surprised. These were fantastic. Dark, razor-sharp, dystopian, insightful, emotionally devastating (so, totally on brand, lol). "The Pill" especially hit the mark, it wasn't so much holding a mirror up to our fatphobic society as cutting said society's smug face to ribbons with smashed mirror shards. Incendiary.

The only reason this isn't 5 stars is "Gone with Gone With the Wind", a kind of a short essay on critical reading of problematic favourites - which, nothing wrong with that, it just felt a little out of place in this collection.

(PS. TW for characters being fatphobic and/or fetishising fat characters, plus one story is set in a dystopian fascist US with internment camps for POC.)
Profile Image for Howard Cohen.
180 reviews7 followers
October 9, 2022
A 2020 entry to PM Press Outspoken Authors series. This a a great series of uncompromising authors, generally connected to scifi\horror genres. Books are typically less than 150 pages, and include an interview, bibliography, and some representative works (often one or that are first published in this series. I must have read almost 15 of the books in the series.
Profile Image for Beth Gordon.
1,936 reviews1 follower
April 21, 2022
I’ve never read a book of short stories, essays and interviews. It’s a hodgepodge, but it seems to be a good sampler platter of Meg Elison’s writing.

Many of her stories revolve around being big/fat. The Pill seems science fiction but also plausible.

I also liked her analysis of Gone with the Wind over time.

Interesting collection!
Profile Image for Rachel.
303 reviews12 followers
May 30, 2021
Several hard and powerful stories here. Particularly The Pill and (I think it was) those kinds of people (basically a look at what life would be like had Trump win re-election… and then another…. Really terrifying)
I didn’t read all the nonfiction
Profile Image for Emile.
273 reviews
May 25, 2021
Wow. The kind of fiction *and* essays I'm looking for these days. Definitely reading more Elison.
Profile Image for Sunil.
932 reviews118 followers
June 4, 2020
It's not every day your friend publishes a collection of stories and essays as an indie press's OUTSPOKEN AUTHOR with her face on the cover PLUS another friend's art on the back, so, yeah, I bought Meg Elison's tiny hardcover Big Girl. Comprising four stories, two essays, and one interview, the collection largely (no pun intended) focuses on the experience of being a fat woman, and while we're all rushing to read literature to combat our internalized racism, this is an excellent book for combating your internalized fatphobia. Media representation of fat people, especially women, is pretty terrible, so Elison's is an important perspective.

The collection begins with the weakest piece, "El Hugé," a very short remembrance of pumpkin smashing that feels like the essence of an idea more than something fully developed. While it's great on setting a mood, I didn't get caught up in the story itself. Thankfully, it's followed by the clear highlight, the the titular "Big Girl," a surreal tale of a "giant mystery girl" who appears in the San Francisco Bay and has her story chronicled through the media, for better and absolutely for worse. It's light and biting, absolutely worthy of naming the collection. "The Pill" (original to the collection) takes the idea of a "magic weight loss pill" to its speculative fiction extreme, imagining what would happen to a society that could scientifically eliminate fatness, with Elison's protagonist a staunch holdout who chooses not to take it. This is the strongest Really Makes You Think story in the bunch because as dystopian as the story sounds, it's not entirely unbelievable. Shifting gears, the collection moves to Elison's self-analysis of her relationship with a racist classic of Southern literature in "Gone with Gone with the Wind," and I loved this piece not only for the way she unpacks her experience with returning to the book as she grows older but also for how it celebrates our relationship with books and the way they shape our identity. After such a hot streak, I was disappointed by "Such People in It" (another original), which I couldn't really get a hold on, as it was more of a "travel through a world" story and I didn't get a good sense of what the character was doing and why until the end, and even then, not so much. I did like the bits of worldbuilding I could glean, however. The interview with Terry Bisson is entertaining and more interesting than most interviews both because of Bisson's questions and Elison's answers (when she doesn't decline). (I was particularly amused by her correcting him on when they actually first met because I WAS THERE.) The collection closes with "Guts," which has the best, most powerful prose in the book, but, despite being a personal essay rather than fiction, covers essentially the same thematic territory as "The Pill" and thus comes off as a little redundant. Of course, like I said, we rarely get this perspective anyway, so it's good to have it reinforced.

Big Girl is a slim (okay this time pun intended) collection, but it's still pretty diverse in its content and storytelling. It leans more literary in its stylings than I tend to like these days, though that will be a plus for others. It's a book worth reading to challenge your own perceptions and/or finally feel seen and represented.
Profile Image for Marco.
1,116 reviews48 followers
October 18, 2021
Every year I read all the finalists of the most prestigious science fiction awards (at least in the English speaking world): the Hugo awards. This story is a finalist in the Novellette category. I had previously read another short story by this author, and really liked the world building and writing style. I was quite curious to read this one.
The story is set in a near future, when a new experimental drug is created, to give everyone a perfect lean body. Unfortunately 1 out of 10 patients die in the slimming process.
This is a searing analysis of how society perceive obesity and how it impacts the perceived value of an individual. It's one of my favorites in this category, and it would be a well deserved win.
Profile Image for Rani.
3 reviews
July 9, 2020
This is a fantastic collection of short stories and essays that I devoured in all of two hours. Elison's sharp and enchanting writing took me in and sent me to a place I didn't know I needed. The satire is at once gripping and hilarious, and all too close to home.

The thread of female empowerment and body positivity in a misogynist, fatphobic world echoes throughout the collection's strongest works; Big Girl, The Pill, and Guts. (It's also worth mentioning that El Hugé is a remarkable introduction to the anthology, a thought-provoking piece that touches issues of teenage insecurity and class struggle.) The author is unafraid to lay down radical and provocative ideas, and does so in a bitingly honest and visceral way.

The only piece I didn't absolutely adore was Such People In It, as I feel it was trying to say too many things at once, and it struggled to hold my focus because of it.

Nonetheless, Big Girl was a thrilling experience, and a must read for anyone with a stake in intersectional feminism or body positivity, or who wish to understand either more. Tread lightly however, as I feel the descriptions of bodies and weight loss in this book could be potentially triggering for some people.

This was my first exposure to Elison's work and I am beyond excited to read more from this author.
Profile Image for Ethan.
Author 2 books57 followers
October 3, 2021
This is the type of science fiction story that takes a clear premise to its logical (or not-so-logical) conclusions. I found it extremely well-written in the sense that I was reading through the prose rather than being distracted by it (if that makes any sense). What if there was a pill that could make people thin? But what if it had some less than savory side-effects? But what if almost everybody took it, anyway? Would a society be justified in treating people poorly for what is taken to be their own good? What if the US could operationalize its fat phobia, which considering how many of us Americans are fat is fundamentally a type of self-hatred?

While I will admit 100% that being a fat man is way easier than being a fat woman in the US, I could still resonate with a lot of the narrator's experiences about how people judge you and your character based on your body size. I also identified with how difficult it can be to fit in (both literally and figuratively... I am also pretty tall, so fitting in can be an issue).

Lastly, as a science fiction fan I loved how weird (and weirdly plausible) things got toward the end. This is a solid finalist in the Best Novelette category for this year's Hugos, and I expect I will rank it highly.
Profile Image for Kim.
171 reviews4 followers
June 12, 2020
This was good. I'm finding it hard to think of what else to say. It didn't electrify me, but I'm not sure why. Still, I read it through in my reading time without pause, and didn't dislike it at all. I just found it overall okay, which in many ways is the hardest sort of book to usefully review.

One thing I will say is that it was much shorter than I expected, which sat awkwardly with the section of the airport interview where they talked about how prolific she is. The interview itself was also less deep than it could have been. Ultimately, it did little for the book.

But the stories were good, and fine, and just never really transcended that for me. That's likely just me and I suspect many of you would love this book to bits.

As this was my first exposure to Meg Ellison, I'm still very interested in reading more, so in that sense it succeeded.
Profile Image for molly.
31 reviews2 followers
August 27, 2021
This was definitely a horror story.

As a lover of the horror genre and fierce advocate for fat liberation, The Pill gave into every fear I hoped it wouldn't touch as I kept reading. It makes you feel more helpless than if you were drowning.

"Everyone else had that same Pill body.

And it was always the exact same body. No more thick thighs or really round asses. No more wide tits or pointy pecs or love handles rounding out someone’s sides. Everyone’s body was flat planes and straight lines. It wasn’t just that they were thin. They were all somehow the same."
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
12 reviews3 followers
August 2, 2021
As the best of science fiction, it makes you think about things, in this case, obesity and how society relates to it. This story is about what would happen, to individuals and to society, if a pill came out that would cause you to lose all your “unnecessary” weight. The observations are very true to me as an overweight woman. On the one hand, a couple of days with a few hours of pain. On the other hand, “Brrrr!” It hits a little too close to home for me.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 76 reviews

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