Nick Antosca’s writing is not ground-breaking or earth-shattering or off-the-charts or any other cliché moniker that you can think of, but it is gobs of fun, and isn’t that all that we want sometimes?
Published earlier this year by Lazy Fascist Press, The Obese is a slim book consisting of two stories: “The Obese”, in which obese people become sick with a zombie-like disease that makes them desperately want to eat people, and “Predator Bait”, a story where a young woman poses as the bait for one of those cover-up shows that entices pedophiles to meet face-to-face with their victims, only to be busted by a self-assured emcee and his camera crew, and later, by a swat team. And while these stories don’t necessarily bring up new concepts or ideas, the fun fact is: what Antosca does with these kernels is build two stories that are quirky, fast-paced, and fun to read.
“The Obese” shifts into its amusements by setting the reader up with New York fashion magazine retouch artist Nina Gilten, beginning the story with her own feasting on the bodies of others: “My name is Nina Gilten, and I’m cutting pieces of hipbone off a beautiful South African girl called Behati van de Velde, a blond girl, a descendant of Boers. She’s sixteen and her hips are bony, so they have to go.” This is how Antosca begins, but in the span of a few short chapters, he brings us here: “For ten or fifteen seconds, helpless, I watch a horrible drama of feint and counterfeit. Finally they get him. They bend his head backward with a crunch. The back of his skull touches the spot between his shoulder blades. His body goes limp. They tear at the corpse.”
Through this transition from exposition to the action of rampaging obese people, Antosca doesn’t seem concerned about “The Obese” feeling transparent, instead focusing his energy on the eccentric fun of setting loose obese cannibals in the New York crowds. My only critique might be that Antosca seems to end the story too abruptly, with no closing beyond our narrator being torn to pieces, but again, this may be by design, letting the story live out its own fantasy but not past its capabilities, ending where it can go no further instead of pressing forward beyond its own strange premise.
“Predator Bait”, described as a “bonus story”, does the same as “The Obese” in taking a unassuming yet peculiar seed and turning it into a nicely paced and fun to devour story where eventually (spoiler alert) predator bait Jane’s previous boyfriend shows up at the sting house door, and we are witness to the fallout of that event:
“He started backing down the steps. Behind her, she heard Dan Roberts say, ‘Hey there, sir—I need to talk to you about something, can you come in the house?’ But Theo was on the lawn now, and police charged around the house to throw him on the ground, a knee on his back. ‘I wasn’t gonna do anything,’ he moaned, a cameraman hovering over him. ‘Ask Jane! That’s my girlfriend—ask her. Ask jane—’.”
Again, it is not the concept or the direction of this story that is impressive. It is Antosca’s willingness (perhaps compulsion?) to tell a story honestly, making the forward momentum and accessible language the focal point of each piece, and the drive behind The Obese, which is most fit for anyone wanting to simply read, without worrying about what it means, what it does, how it works, etc. Sure, we could dissect the use of technology in each story – the inclusion of chat and emails – or we could work on defining the parallel between The Obese and Antosca’s recent move to television writings – his credits on Teenwolf and other upcoming projects – but The Obese doesn’t seem to make that argument or analysis purposeful, or even fruitful, because the intent seems to be solely about having fun with writing, regardless of these potential dissection points. The Obese is saying ‘let’s just have a good time with words for a moment, without worrying about all that goes underneath’, and I, for one, enjoyed that tact.