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Interview: Meg Elison on “Big Girl”

Tell us a bit about “Big Girl.”

I’ve always liked stories about scale, both giants and tiny people. I was enchanted by stories like The Borrowers when I was a kid, and I’ve often thought about how we perceive people’s place in the world, their responsibilities and worth based on their size. I have an affinity for things that cannot be controlled simply because they’re so big: I love kaiju movies and disaster porn because we are so relatively small. I love those videos that torture us with the scale of the universe and remind us that we’re like cinders in a chimney in the grander scope of things. I wanted to personalize that hopeless terror by making it a teenage girl, in herself, who is the whole scale.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

“Big Girl” came to me as a reaction to the fact that women are always the wrong size, no matter where they are in life. There is no way to be right, no finish line. The most beautiful women in the world are harangued for any perceived imperfection, any dimple out of place or deviation from the taste or preference of the beholder. Girls and women are told to be smaller, be bigger, be rounder, be flatter, all our lives. I made Bianca grow and shrink with the world’s perception of a woman’s sexual capital, and I think any woman can see herself in that, even if she was never big enough to destroy a city. In telling the story in every voice but hers, I got to explore the ways in which women are often commodified and rarely heard.


Meg ElisonWas “Big Girl” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

“Big Girl” is deeply personal for me. I’ve been fat my entire adulthood. Every day, I have to navigate spaces that weren’t meant to accommodate me. I have a long-standing habit of apologizing, both verbally and with my posture, to people with whom I share space. I learned to make myself smaller, avoid bright colors and the spotlight to escape attention to my size. It has been a great revelation to be seen, as opinions and fashions have changed to allow me to be more of myself in public. I’ve been privileged to live in the age of people like Roxane Gay and Lindy West who have made unapologetic public fatness a part of their art. When I wrote the story of a giant girl, I was taking my own experience and amplifying it, taking it to its most extreme form. I took the dehumanization and isolation of existing at the wrong scale and made it so big that you can’t miss it. Much like me.


What would you want a reader to take away from “Big Girl?”

I hope that readers pick up on the dehumanization in “Big Girl,” which is about size, but also about gender, sexuality, nudity, race, and class. Dr. Seuss said “a person’s a person, no matter how small,” but I don’t know that everyone applied the same thing to “no matter how big.” I hope they see that the choices I’ve made in representing public rhetoric about a woman’s body, a girl’s body, a menstruating body, a poor person’s body, a Latinx person’s body, did not come out of nothingness. They come from my daily reading of Twitter and the New York Times. I hope they see that Bianca’s a person, despite all these things that we let people convince us make her ‘other.’


What are you working on now?

I’m currently at work on The Book of Flora, the third book in my Road to Nowhere series, the first of which won the Philip K. Dick Award. I’m also working on my first horror novel, inspired by a night when I passed out drunk in the back of a Lyft. I’m always working on short stories and essays. If readers like “Big Girl,” they may rest assured there is lots more on the way.

You can keep up with my new stuff by visiting, or finding me on Twitter @megelison.


“Big Girl” appears in the November/December 2017 issue of F&SF.

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Clicking on Ms. Elison’s photo will take you to her website.


One Response to “Interview: Meg Elison on “Big Girl””

  1. Awards Eligibility 2017 – Meg Elison on December 4th, 2017

    […] Big Girl, published in Fantasy & Science Fiction in their Nov/Dev 2017 issue. This is a fantasy story about giants, and it is available only through this magazine. There is an interview about it here. […]

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