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Interview with...

Scott Westerfeld

El Templo #10 (julio 2009)
Por Gally
4.648 lecturas

In your blog, you talk about some technological advances that approach us to the future you show in Uglies. Do you think that the scientific research difficults the task of the science-fiction writer, because science goes faster than fiction?

I think the real job of the sf writer is to show the effects of technology on human beings. And humans change more slowly than their gadgets. We're still figuring out how to deal with the telephones, in some ways. Is it okay to fire someone by phone? To break up with them? We still have these debates. So sf writers don't really have to stay ahead of the machines, we just have to keep the issues interesting for the tardy human beings.

We have learned that Uglies is a trilogy, but there is another book, named Extras. What's new in this book? Is it going to be published in Spain?

All four books will be published in Spain. Specials is the third in the trilogy, and Extras is a fourth book from another character in Tally's world. Extras actually takes place a few years later than the trilogy, after a lot of things have changed, so it's a fresh look at the situation.

Uglies is about a future in which people want to reach the physical perfection. We can find some signs of this future in the present world. Do you think we will live a similar situation?

Well, we already look different from the way people did a few centuries ago. We keep most of our teeth, have much better skin, are much taller, etc. But those three differences are all about being healthier. Now we have 16-year-olds having nose jobs. Having the cartilage in your nose smashed and then reshaped is on a different level than brushing your teeth.

I think we are moving toward a future with more and more plastic surgery. We all have those super-gorgeous faces on our TVs and computer screens to compete with, and surgery will probably get cheaper and harder to resist. But here's what I think will happen: some people's brains will adapt and realize that faces on TV are simply show business and have nothing to do with the rest of us, and will wear their own face as a marker of intelligence and self confidence. Others will pile surgery on top of surgery as fashions change. And maybe someday two people from these different tribed will fall in love, and all their friends will give them grief about it.

We also know that there is a film of Uglies in project. What can you tell us about it? Will you take part in the making of the script, or in the casting? And what about the actresses? Will they choose "normal" girls to play the rols of Tally and Shay, or will they be pretty girls, like most of the actresses are?

I'm sure Hollywood is very receptive to the themes of Uglies, so we'll see. My guess is that they'll cast girls who are "Hollywood Ugly," which means gorgeous with bad hair.

Luckily, I have no control over the film whatsoever, so I won't have to fight this battle.

 

In the Spanish edition, the terms “Uglies” and “Pretties” have been translated as “Perfects” and “Imperfects”. The titles have been changed as “Betrayal” and “Perfection”. The promotion of the first book doesn't say anything about a science-fiction novel which shows a future in which the external aspect determines people's life; the Spanish publishers sell it as a teenager story about a girl who betrays her best friend. Besides, the publishing house is organizating a contest in which the girls have to send pictures of themselves to be the cover of the next title of the series, Specials. What do you think about this? Do you think that it betrays the spirit of the books, which talk against the tyranny of beauty?

I think the idea of putting a regular girl on the cover is a great one. Of course, as you point out, it will probably be a very photogenic regular girl, but at least it's not a model. As far as not identifying the book as science fiction, there's a long tradition of that in literature. I doubt you'll see the words "science fiction" on any US editions of 1984. My guess is that these small deceptions are a great way of making more sf fans. Besides, the story of Uglies really is about betrayal. More girls write me about the themes of betrayal and friendship than to say, "great sf!"

In Pretties, we learn that life in The Smoke is not perfect, as it was insinuated in Uglies. We see the consequences of the Rusties' way of life, heirs of our own society, which started in a similar way The Smoke does, and also the reservation that Tally finds. Is there an intermediate way, or all the models of society drive us to a dead end?

I don't think that all societies are equally bad. But every choice has benefits and drawbacks. That's simply the way the world works. So you can't forget, even the best way of modeling society probably has something very wrong with it. Somebody is always left out.

One of my big themes in the Uglies series is that every generation's biggest challenge is to fix the mistakes of the last generation, which were usually committed in the process of fixing the mistakes of the generation before that.

In Pretties we meet a new character, Zane, who has a strong personality. We imagine that he has a lot of fans, maybe more than David. How much their physical appearance influences the readers in order to choose their favourite character?

Zane and David are about equally popular, so I don't think that Zane's being a pretty is helping him that much. (Of course, this is a book. If it was a movie, the result might be different.)

We have read about your Midnighters trilogy, that is not publicated in Spain yet. Could you talk about it to Spanish readers? Do you know if is planned the translation into Spanish?

Midnighterswas almost published in Spain, but the editor left just before signing the contract. The series is about a small town where time halts for an hour at midnight every night. For most people, this "frozen hour" flashes past without being seen. But there are five teenagers who can move around in this magic time, while everyone else is frozen. This sounds like fun, except there are also an ancient species of creature who live only in that hour, and they are hungry.

 

Next October will be released your more recent work, Leviathan, in which the main character lives in an alternative I World War, with airships and machines that seem to refer the "steam punk". What are your references and expectations in this new trilogy? Any possibility of publication in Spain- we'd love that!

I'd love to see Leviathan in Spanish too! We shall see. One thing you may not know about the series (a trilogy) is that it's illustrated. Because it's set in 1914, I thought it would be cool to have it actually look and feel like an adventure book from that era. So there are about 50 illustrations inside, in the style of a novel from a century ago. It's been really amazing working with an illustrator. It makes the machines and creatures in the book seem more alive, even to me!

Recently, you took part in an event that congregated 40 writers of young literature. Here in Spain we have never seen something like that. Can you talk us a bit about it?

The community of young adult writers in New York City is very strong. We write together (in coffee shops, usually), hang out together, and send each other our work in progress for help. So it wasn't very hard to get a lot of us to one signing. That signing was part of a whole week of events. My favorite was a "juvenilia reading," where we all read our worst work from our teenage years, and tried not to laugh at each other.

Congratulations for your blog and your website, they are very interesting! How do they help you to keep in contact with your readers? How is the feedback you get from them?

I think it's great that teenagers now feel like writers are their online friends. They follow my blog, comment on my posts, and send me stern letter when I kill their favorite characters. It's a much more personal relationship than when I was young. I think it makes the books themselves more alive, and it also creates a stronger community of readers who interact with each other through my blog. It's certainly a benefit for anyone who wants more young readers in the world, because anytime you can make something more of a social experience, teenagers will be up for it.

We know that you married the writer Justine Larbalestier. We don´t know her work in our country. What can you tell us about it?

Her next book is called Liar, about a girl who is always making things up. It's a dark thriller, because a boy has been murdered at her school, and everyone is starting to think that she (the school liar) may have had something to do with it. Eventually, the reader may start to wonder if they are right.

Justine has been translated into about 20 countries, and is very annoyed that Spain is among the last holdouts, because Spanish the only foreign language that she can actually speak!

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