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I went back to flipping through Reamde, just to see if I could stand it, because I was still interested to see where he took the idea. I got another twenty pages or so before I ran into this exchange:

…Then it all got handed of to…”
“Skeletor.”
“Yeah, but we didn’t call him that in those days, because he was still fat.”

Fucking seriously?

So then, since it’s an ebook and I can, I started searching through it to see how often certain words were used. There were:

27 uses of Skeletor
12 uses of fat in reference to a person
2 uses of obese
and a whole bunch of uses of “weight” in reference to someone as fat, which were a pain to count separately from the other uses of weight.

But here, have some quotes:

“His weight crept up to near-fatal levels…”

“In those days, Devin had been a mere tenant, living alone in a thirty-year-old mobile home that gave and groaned beneath his weight whenever he troubled himself to get up and move around.”

[Devin being the OMGDETHFATS man who later became “Skeletor”.]

“She was struggling with her weight, and was dressed and coiffed in a way that, seen on the streets of Seattle, would have been incontrovertible proof of Sapphism.”

[As a fat queer woman in Seattle: FUCK YOU, STEPHENSON.]

“Jones propped himself up on his elbows, taking some of his considerable weight off Zula…”

“Then she was stuck, sitting on the floor with Csongor’s full weight on her lap. He must have weighed well over 250 pounds.”

“At 190 centimeters, Marlon considered himself unusually tall. But in looking at Csongor, he’d had the unaccustomed experience of seeing one who was taller. And he was tempted to guess that Csongor was twice his weight, but he knew that couldn’t be possible. He carried some weight around his midsection, but none of it was what you’d call flab; his head was big and wide, but it did not support any redundant chins.”

[That makes Marlon 6’3″, which is tall, but not stunningly tall. (About 10% of the male population of the US is over 6’2″ — which means an American should have met dozens of people that height. A “shorter” basketball player is considered anyone below 6’8″.) If Csongor weighs “well over 250 pounds” — lets call that about 300 — then if Marlon were half his weight, he would weigh around 150 pounds. Which is rail thin. 6’5″ and 300 pounds is roughly a football player. A college freshman football player, not necessarily even at the size of a pro player. Like Kent Perkins here. Also, I’ve had 300lb men sit on me. It’s really not that heavy.]

“Its rated strength, he knew, would probably be high enough that two strands of it would support his weight—somewhere north of 250 pounds—in theory.”

[Interesting that Stephenson keeps using that same number, 250 pounds, over and over.]

“During his sporadic, Furious Muse–driven efforts to lose weight, he had been forcefully reminded of a basic fact of human physiology, which was that fat-burning metabolism just plain didn’t work as well as carbo-burning metabolism. It left you tired and slow and confused and dim-witted. It was only when he was really stupid and irritable—and, therefore, incapable of doing his job or enjoying his life—that he could be certain he was actually losing weight.”

[Good to see he’s aware of some facts about weight loss. One wonders, then, why this character works while on a treadmill for hours on end, and why he would want one of his employees — the aforementioned “Skeletor” — to do so even more of the time.]

“Richard, looking behind him, saw that trail and noted its embarrassing width and, even here, heard the voice of a Furious Muse reminding him that he needed to lose weight.”

[The “Furious Muses” are the voices of ex-girlfriends in Richard’s head who badger him whenever he thinks he’s done something wrong or badly. They’re clearly his conception of his inner critic, but he personifies them as his seven exes. Nice. Real nice.]

“According to this morning’s stats, Devin’s body fat percentage was an astonishing 4.5, which placed him into a serious calorie debt situation that in theory should extend his life span beyond 110 years.”

[Again, Devin is “Skeletor”. 4.5% body fat is not fucking healthy. It’s a level pro body builders get down to for competitions, to show off every single muscle and vein, but it is not healthy, and they generally don’t maintain it out of season, because it’s fucking unhealthy and generally requires manutrition. Also, as Stephenson should know if he’d actually done his fucking research, caloric restriction studies a) do not have consistent results, b) are often jiggered and buggered and half-faked every which way, and c) don’t actually give anything like that kind of effect. 110, my fat ass.]

“…the long radio silence suddenly broken by one-word text messages blossoming on his phone (LANDED, TAXIING, STILL TAXIING!, WAITING TO DEPLANE, FAT LADY BLOCKING AISLE)”

“…he was now wandering around T’Rain in the guise of a fat merchant named Lottery Discountz. It was possible to change the name—as well as take care of the fatness—for a modest fee…”

“THE BIG FAT Russian had been trying to create feelings of terror in Qian Yuxia’s heart…”

“Igor raised the fingertips of both hands to his temples, making his huge fat hands into blinders, tunneling his vision at Sokolov.”

“The fat hands became flesh pistols, index fingers aiming at Sokolov’s eyes.”

“…he was making for a head-on collision with a fat man riding down the middle of the road on an all-terrain vehicle…”

“…make it more difficult for Jones to just drill him in his fat ass while strolling along in his wake.”

Yep, there is just no way I can read this book. Stephenson is simply incapable of using fat any way but negatively about a person here. This is way above his usual levels; this is downright creepy. By contrast, Diamond Age uses “fat” for a person three times, “weight” in no negative sense to do with people, and “obese” not at all. There are at least two fat characters in the book, both of whom are on the protagonist’s side, more or less. They get described as “bulky,” “thick,” having a “belly [that] had created a visible divergence between his two rows of brass buttons,” “rather thick around the middle, and evidently in decent health.” No, this is definitely not a constant thing with Stephenson. I cannot begin to fathom what the fuck he was thinking here.

I don’t have e-copies of any of the books published between Diamond Age and Reamde, but the worst fat stigma I can recall is some stuff about chubby geek guys, and an older fat man in the Baroque Cycle who was maybe the object of a little “humor,” but there was certainly nothing like there is in this fucking book.

I just . . . I do not even. How the hell does someone go from being on the high side of average to such nastiness?

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