The Pill • 2020 • Dystopian novelette by Meg Elison

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I hope you don’t mind me calling the protagonists in this story “fat” instead of some cultivated term paraphrasing extreme forms of obesity. One, I’m a German guy culturally tending towards direct aggressive terminology. Two, the main protagonists thinks of herself as fat and is happy about it. Three, do you know my weight? 

Synopsis: The Pill follows the narrator Bianca, a fat girl in a fat family, ready to start her life fleeing home in a college at the West Coast. But we are not there, yet. 

 It starts with her mother deciding to take the Pill. Because she hates her obesity, wants to get “normal”. 

 “Why call it a laptop when I don’t have a lap?”
She had me there. I could never sit my computer in my “lap” either. That real estate was taken up by my belly when I sat, and it was terribly uncomfortable to have a screen down that low, anyway.

What follows is a hilarious, horrible scene describing the mother literally shitting out her overweight within a week or two. In fifty pound chunks. What about the surplus skin, you ask? That’s the wonder of the Pill, it goes the same way, like magic. The process stops at an athlete form and won’t ever rebound as long as one takes the Pill. 

The hook, you ask? 10% mortality rate. That sounds a lot, but fat people have huge health risks. That’s why there is a run for the Pill, everybody takes it. 

Only Bianca scares away from it, she flees her home to the UCLA. Soon, she is one of the few remaining fat people, and witnesses a legal and culture change similar to smoking. 

Then, she is recruited to a secret hideaway where the last fat people are glorified like godesses. 

Review: What a great, hilarious story! Or in the author’s words 

“the fattest thing I have ever written”

Looking at the author’s pictures and noticing the title of her collection “Big Girl”, the idea is not far away that Meg Elison transports a serious message behand all the fun. It feels like one of those disco songs with sad lyrics that one doesn’t notice at first but squeezes your heart when you’ve got it (Pet Shop Boys, anyone?). 

This novelette is really about two sides of obesity: the internal view featured in Bianca’s coming-of-age story towards a self-confident, lovable goddess. And the sociocultural demonization of fat people in general.

It’s true that obesity is unhealthy, and I’ve never seen fatter people than in the U.S.; but sugar is cheap, included in nearly every food (try to get an unsweeted Yoghurt in Walmart!), and people aren’t paid enough to afford better quality. It’s a ridiculous, perverse cultural stance of modern culture treating fat people as outsiders. 

These days have seen a huge number of LGBTQIA and BLM texts, and rightfully so. And here I stand, feeling refreshed by reading an Award worthy treaty of a different social topic in my favorite genre. How couldn’t I love it?

Meta: isfdb. Available online at WebArchive. Nominated for the Hugo and Nebula Awards.

This entry was posted in Nebula nomination, Science Fiction, Story and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to The Pill • 2020 • Dystopian novelette by Meg Elison

  1. Jeanne says:

    Only a 10% mortality rate? Almost everyone I know would go for it, with those odds. I probably would, myself. I’ve been fat all my life (when I was 6 months old, a doctor told my mother to give me only 2% milk because I was “too fat”). The other contributing factors about American life are the way doctors are trained to blame any unhealthiness on fat and the lack of affordable health care, with insurance depending on the kind of employment you can get. Thanks for sharing this story!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Andreas says:

      You’re welcome!
      Yes, the ridiculous US healthcare is another factor to count in. Best healthcare in the world, but only for those who can afford it.
      I nearly wanted to criticize the story because 10% mortality would be a threshold few would dare to cross. But who am I to judge that? And now you jump in. Wait, was that meant ironically?


      • Jeanne says:

        No, it was not. I have a friend who is a microbiologist (and award-winning SF writer) who has done some research on implanting gut bacteria from a thin person into a fat person and how it can make the fat person slim down. I told her I’d eat shit anytime (that’s how the gut bacteria are delivered) if that could happen. No irony.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Jina Bazzar says:

    Well, I remember a time when that 10% wouldn’t sound dreadful. I wouldn’t go for it now, but I quit the steroids, so I lost most of that weight I desperately wanted to lose. Thanks for the review, I hadn’t heard about this one before.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds refreshing indeed, and fat-shaming is one of those social issues that are not discussed enough, so a story like this one deserves attention. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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