From Di: I had the pleasure of meeting Nicole briefly at the Minneapolis Indie Expo last month. When I saw Fat Ladies in Spaaaace I just couldn’t breeze on by – I had to stop, and ask for an interview. Nicole quite graciously agreed.
Tell me about your coloring book, Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace.
Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace is a body-positive coloring book with 18 pages of kick-ass fat women embodying sci-fi character roles, trekking across time and space, having grand adventures, and saving the day. The book is aimed at grown-ups who like crayons (or markers, colored pencils, nail polish – whatever floats your boat), but there’s nothing in it over a PG rating.
Why Fat Women? Why in space? What inspired you to make a coloring book?
When the idea for Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace first came up, I was just starting to get into fat acceptance but hadn’t yet found the guts to speak up about it. I was at a panel on depictions of fat bodies in sci-fi at WisCon (a fabulous feminist sci-fi convention in Madison, WI), and one of the panelists asked, “Where are all the fat butches in space?” That question caught me off-guard. Where were the fat queer women in space? Why were depictions of characters in science fiction so limited?
I had my sketchbook with me, so I drew Sincerity, the butch astronaut who appears on the first page of the book and on the cover. When I showed her to the panelist who’d asked the question that inspired her, she said, “Oh my god, you need to do more of these.” The next person who saw the drawing said, “I need a coloring book of those.” I’d done a couple of small, DIY coloring books for fun before, and it seemed like a natural next step.
Why aren’t there more fat characters in the media we love? That’s an important conversation to have. Fat Ladies in Spaaaaace is my way of adding something to that conversation while encouraging people to have fun with it. (A friend called the aim of the book “joyful subversion.” I like that.)
What would you like to see happen with your coloring book?
The reactions I’ve already gotten to this book have made me want to do so much more with this idea. I’ve gotten some amazing emails and reviews from women who shared feelings of inclusion and empowerment at seeing depictions of awesome female characters with bodies like theirs. One woman told me she started crying over the coloring book in Starbucks because she’d never seen people who looked like her depicted positively before. That slayed me. There’s a need for images like this.
I have plans to do at least one more Fat Ladies coloring book (probably two – there is, after all, still the entire fantasy genre to play with). I’d love to see the book get more exposure. I don’t have any high aspirations of being a trend setter, but I’d love to see other artists run pick up the idea of fat characters in traditionally Hollywood skinny roles and run with that.
If there is a single message you were sending to your readers, what would it be?
It’s right there on the back cover: There’s a whole universe of body types out there, and they all deserve to be represented.
Who would you consider your personal “fat lady” heroes?
[Note from Di: Lesley also has recently published a book via Feminist Press. Through weirdly circuitous life, I have her book on deck for review because I know someone at the book’s distributor.)
3. Camryn Manheim’s Snow White from The 10th Kingdom, because as a chunky sixteen-year-old growing up in a household with literally dozens of diet books stacked in the dining room cabinet, the idea of a fat woman being “the fairest of them all” was totally revolutionary. It was the first time I remember thinking, “Maybe someone like me could be called pretty, too.”
Aside from Marianne and Lesley’s blogs, I’m an avid follower of Definatalie (definatalie.com), and I’ve been loving a lot of the content on XOJane (xojane.com). As an artist, I take a lot of my inspiration from comics – I’m an illustrator and comic artist at heart. In terms of body image, Girls with Slingshots (girlswithslingshots.com) includes relatively diverse body types in a positive light, and Godseeker (godseekercomic.com) has a badass belly pooch-havin’ fertility goddess among its strong female leads. Just like in sci-fi movies, you don’t see a lot of fat female characters in comics – especially in mainstream print comics – but I’m starting to see more positive body image stuff creeping into webcomics, and that’s encouraging.
There's a whole universe of body types out there, and they all deserve to be represented. This coloring book features eighteen fat scifi heroines doing what they do best: trekking across the time and space, blasting off into adventure, and saving the day.