Interview with the Vampi- with Frannie Zellman, author of the Fatland Trilogy
I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Frannie Zellman about the 2nd installment in her Fatland Trilogy:
Tracey L. Thompson, author of Fatropolis (Pearlsong Press), has done a dynamite job of providing some really interesting and provocative interview questions. I'll try to do them justice.
Q. What inspired you, or gave you the idea, to write FatLand?
I spoke elsewhere, maybe even someplace in this blog, about the fact that one of my dad's hobbies was reading about and going to places where utopian ideals were present. The first utopian novel was Utopia, by Sir Thomas More, published in 1518. So for a long time, people have been seeking, whether in literature, reality or both, places that they consider will provide perfect living conditions. If you think about it, though, they had to have leisure and enough freedom from want even to write and think about utopias. FatLand is in this line.
Yet another, related strain of utopianism was present in my upbringing - that of Socialists and union organizers, people forever trying to improve the conditions of workers and poor people in the USA and in the world. I grew up with the motto "a shenere, besere velt" (ah shen-er-eh, beh-seh-reh velt), "a lovelier, better" world," in my head, and the anthem of the organization in which my grandparents and parents were active, the words of which are these (Workmen's Circle Hymn): "Un ale far eynem un eynem for al, baloyktn in eynem fun eyn ideal/Dem groysn, dem sheynem, fun arbeter klal." "All for one and one for all, joined together in one ideal/the great, the beautiful from workers united." (Sounds a lot better in Yiddish..)
So in a way it was natural that I would seek a utopia in fiction for people whom I believe are some of the most oppressed in this country and in much of the world at this time, a group of which I am a determined member - fat people.
Q. Why is the story of FatLand set in the future?
It actually begins in 2010 with the first passage of the first of the so-called Pro-Health and Diet Laws. As more restrictive laws pass, more people seek an escape from the USA. I figured that in thirty years, it would be a thriving, going concern. Which it is, in the story.
Q. What made you pick Colorado as the place where FatLand was established?
Hehe.. I guess I've always liked the idea of Colorado, mountains, hiking, sunsets, and thought that there would still be enough land left to be able to provide for a territory of 400,000 - 500,000 or so. Probably also, that there would be lumber and water resources enough for such a venture.
Q. Who is your favorite character in FatLand?
Oh, probably Winston Stark, the ultra-corporate villaiin who has a love-hate relationship with fat people and FatLand. He seems to be investing in it somehow much of the time, then aiming to destroy it the rest of the time. Part of him seems to yearn toward fat people and especially the fat woman he adores, but can't bring himself to marry. (In these feelings he is not alone. Many men seem to feel the way he does.)
Q. Your latest book is the second part to the Fatland Triology. Are you finished writing part III? When is it scheduled to be published?
Part III - FatLand: To Live Fat and Free- is slowly taking shape. I have a lot of ideas about what will go into it.
Q. What inspired the political intrigue in your books?
When we would sit around the dinner table - especially at my grandparents' place- politics and political intrigue were often the chief items of conversation. Of course half of my grandfather's (mother's father) life was lived with political intrigue - from the time he had to escape from Philadelphia because of the Palmer raids after World War I (raids in which Communists and Socialists were arrested and often deported at the behest of Attorney General Palmer) up to and after the time he fought factionalism as a Socialist in the 1970's. (He died in 1985 after an eventful and very interesting life.) Just hearing about it and about the lives he and his friends lived were enough to get me fascinated by political intrigue.
Q. You are very skilled at writing sex scenes, if you don't mind me saying. What do you think makes a good sex scene in a book? Are there any books that have inspired you in this area?
I take that as a high compliment.
Ah. What makes a good sex scene: slow seduction. Each time. Not the same kind, but the same pace. Slow. But also feelings must be present. Physical moves without intense wanting and without conversation and sounds and yes, smells or other sensual involvements, and moistness, are rather lackluster. And I think the reader should know the history of the lust or love or both, somehow.
My inspiration was not a book, but a person. I've never seen anyone as talented as he was at seducing. All I have to do is ask myself how he would do something, and I then derive the inspiration and order for a scene.
Q. I noticed that the streets of Fatland are named after famous Fat/Size Acceptance Activists. What gave you this idea?
The streets of Coop City and to an extent, the Amalgamated Housing Area, both in the Bronx, are named after Socialists and Progressives. I thought it would be a good idea to do something similar for FatLand - to name streets after Fat Acceptance and Liberation Activists.
Q. What is the take away message that you meant for readers to get from reading your books?
That they deserve to live their lives in joy and not in fear of the anti-fat police, whatever their size.
Q. What books have inspired your writing style?
This is trickier than it sounds because one can love certain books but not necessarily have one's writing style influenced by them. I know which books had the strongest effect on me: Villette, by Charlotte Bronte, Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. I would like to think that they have had some kind of formative influence on my own writing, but I would not dare to claim them as such.
Q. 100 years from now, what do you hope people will say about you and your books?
She was crazy, but she was the first to write about a land where fat people could live proud and free.