Shay’s Eyes, etc.

Thanks to everyone who came to the NYPL reading last week. It was totally awesome and packed, which is how we authors like it. For those of you who weren’t there, I read a bit of Chapter 2 of Leviathan, the part that goes with the image I posted last week.

And now a message from our sponsor, Swarovski Crystal.

Tally took a steadying breath, the room spinning again, but in a good way. She gestured for the windows to transpare a little more, and in the sunlight she saw the new additions.

“Ooh, pretty-making.”

Bolder than all the other implanted glitter, twelve tiny rubies ringed each of Shay’s pupils, glowing softly red against emerald irises.

“Bubbly, huh?”

shayseyes

No, I didn’t photoshop that, and it’s not a prank. It’s the second-place winner of a competition co-organized by designboom and Swarovski Diamonds, by Anthony Mallier. It’s kind of amazing how close this design is to Shay’s eye surge.

Not that I’m complaining. I doubt I’m the first to come up with this idea, given how long people have been saying, “you’ve got a sparkle in your eye.” It’s only a matter of time before diamond-laced contacts are real, and not just a prototype. Read more here in Mami Magazine.

Of course, there’s no time-telling feature with these, so Shay still wins!

Thanks to Twitter-pal @13stars_above for spotting it.

In other news, the Leviathan trailer has almost 60,000 views on YouTube! Thanks to everyone who watched it, and told your friends about it. (Clearly, some of you did.)

Sorry I haven’t been posting much, but there is a book to write—Behemoth, sequel to Leviathan! That’s right, I have to finish Book 2 before I go on tour for Book 1 at the beginning of October. Speaking of which, I’ll be posting the tour info soon, once I get a few details sorted.

Watch this space for details!

Update:
Click here to read the Romantic Times’ blog entry about the reading last week. Complete with this picture of me, Lauren McLaughlin, E. Lockhart, and Bennet Madison.

A Visit to Diego

One of the themes of the Uglies series is transhumanity. In other words, how we humans change when we use technology to alter our minds and bodies in radical ways. Throughout the series I tried to juxtapose the good (special reflexes and pretty health), the bad (being bubbleheaded or cutter-brained), and the ambiguous (manga heads and Radical Honesty) changes that our species is capable of.

At this year’s TED conference athlete Aimee Mullins spoke on that very subject. Aimee has no legs, or rather, she has many legs to choose from. In Uglies terms she is a Diegoan, someone who alters her body at will for practical and aesthetic reasons. She’s also good at talking about these alterations in awesome ways.

So check her out in this very brain-rewiring video.

Go here for more about this talk.

Or here to hear a much younger Aimee talk about running.

Manga Heads Horror!

Over at at the Photoshop contest site Worth 1000, someone has taken the concept of manga heads a bit too seriously.

Behold these classic movie stars in horrific manga form:

mangahead21

mangahead1

Anyway, Justine and I are moving into new digs today, so we may be internet-missing for a few days. So don’t expect much in the way of blogging by me for a bit. (Not that I’ve been very good this year so far . . . )

Instead check out the new Westerfeldian roleplaying board!

Morphos in the News

Remember that scene in Uglies with the morphos? When Tally and Shay play with a digital version of their face to see what they’ll look like as pretties?

Well, a group of Israeli computer scientists have developed something similar: a “beautification engine” that automatically renders photos of faces into (supposedly) prettier versions of themselves.

I’m particularly happy with the name “beautification engine,” which is kind of steampunk sounding. Here’s an example of its work:

Interestingly, the software doesn’t smooth wrinkles or blemishes. It changes only facial geometry, while trying to keep the face recognizable. (Being faithful to the original is not something they’d worry about in Tally’s city, of course.) And really, like a lot of these attempts to reduce beauty to numbers, it’s more bland-making than anything else.

Here’s the article about the software in the NY Times, and here’s a slide show of celebrity faces altered by it.

What’s intriguing is how many faces are less pretty after they’ve been run through the software. (Especially Marlon Brando.) This may be because we “know” the celebrities involved, and don’t want them changed.

Or maybe it’s because some of these celebs are already pretties, and “there is no beauty without some strangeness in its proportion.” But the software, which looks kind of bland-making to me, removes that strangeness and actually makes certain people less pretty.

It’s cool that this came out now, though, because one of the biggest sections in Bogus to Bubbly is about the science of beauty. I tried to distill a lot of the research that’s been done, and to explain it in psychological and evolutionary terms in ways relevant to the Uglies series. And frankly, I think my explanations are better, or at least more complete, than those in the Times.

You’ll be able to judge for yourself in less than two weeks, because Bogus comes out October 21! (And yes, some school book fairs are already selling the book.)

Thank you for spotting this article, Sophie and Hiroki!

And one last shout-out from the tour bus: Tonight Justine will be in Kansas City, MO to talk about How to Ditch Your Fairy, with me in tow!

Thursday, 9 October 2008, 7:00PM
Kansas City Library

4801 Main Street
Kansas City, MO

Manga Heads!

Sorry for being so long between posts. There’s a good reason, as Justine explains here, we’ve been hiding out at an undisclosed location to finish our next books. In fact, the only reason I’m taking a break is because Leviathan just crossed the 75K word mark!

Pause for woot.

And no sooner do I turn to the internets for relaxation, and what do I see on BoingBoing but manga contact lenses! They’re so totally like the manga heads in Extras that I had to interrupt my fierce writing schedule to show you:

Ahhh!

Okay, my manga heads probably aren’t that scary. But still, I’m glad someone’s trying already. And yes, these are a real product:

Read more about them here at Inventor Spot.

I will be posting more soon . . . promise

Flash Tattoo Watch 02

The realization of Uglies technology continues!

First, engineers at the University of Washington have developed an eyescreen-like contact lens:

linza1.jpg
Thanks to Erin-la for this catch!

In other news, howzabout some blood-powered flash tattoos?

tattoodisplay.jpg
Thanks to Jade Lennox and Temvald for kicking this to me!

This subcutaneous digital display uses the sugar in your blood and turns it into the electricity it needs to run. (And it’s Bluetooth compatible.) The article is a bit unclear about what stage this gadget’s at. The photo caption says the it’s being demonstrated, but the article says, “just a concept.” Well, “concept cars” are prototypes . . .

Anyway, it’s sort of like the flash tattoos in Uglies, because it monitors your bio-signs. Not your heartbeat in this case, but your blood chemistry. Seems to me that if it could control its own energy use, it would be great for diabetics.

If you read the articles for both these devices, they both mention cell phone applications. Like, dude, that is so 1997.

Flash Tattoo Watch 01

Is it just me, or are the flash tattoos out in force these days?

This bit of tat-spotting comes to us courtesy of Gabrielle:

Now I know that facial tattoos have been around for millennia, but I’m seeing a lot these days that seem to look very Special Circumstances-ish. Maybe that’s because my Special tats were based on those of the Maori (the people who got to New Zealand 600 years before Europeans did their “discovering” thing). Maybe there’s just been an upsurge in awareness of Maori culture, or maybe it’s all about henna.

Still, I’d be interesting to know how many of you have spotted sort-of flash tattoos in popular culture lately. Anyone besides Gabrielle?

Number 12 Looks Suspiciously Familiar

Most of you may already know that a Twilight Zone episode from 1964 is an early example of the dystopia presented in Uglies. It’s called “Number 12 Looks Just Like Me,” and is based on a short story by Charles Beaumont called “The Beautiful People.” Some enterprising soul has posted the entire thing to YouTube.

number12.jpg

The poster has set the video to not embed, but click below to watch the three parts:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Until last night, I hadn’t seen this gem since I was a little kid, so I’d forgotten all the details. Especially the phrase “pure perfection of pigmentation” (appearing 15 seconds into part 2), which is particularly creepy given how white everyone in the episode is. (Despite what the US covers for Uglies suggest, in Tally’s world everyone is racially averaged, or at least pushed toward the middle of the bell curve.) Note also the disturbing moment when the protag’s mother says to her braindeadmaid, “I don’t understand why you people have so much trouble with first names.” Hmm.

I’d also forgotten that in “Number 12” people look so much alike that they need name tags (obviously not the case in Tally’s world—my future is bell curvy, not cookie cutter). Here the facial choices are so limited that all fourteen characters are played by four actors. And what is it about the extreme minimalism of sf sets? Get some frickin’ posters for your walls, future people!

And some, um, better clothes.

Of course, compulsory plastic surgery is a venerable theme in sf. Not surprising, given that the first elective nose job occurred about a century ago, about the same time as H.G. Wells was writing War of the Worlds. (Fun fact: the earliest known skin grafts were performed in India 2800 years ago!) Other early fictional examples of compulsory cosmetic/brain surgery include L.P. Hartley’s 1960 story Facial Justice, Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” (1961), and of course Ira Levin’s Stepford Wives (book: 1972; films: 1975, 2004).

But it’s great to see this classic again. Thank you, anonymous copyright-flouting YouTube user!

(And look! The episode’s Wikipedia page mentions Uglies!)

YouTube Extravaganza

Yes, I may be in Thailand, but I’m working terribly, terribly hard on my next book.

No, really. So it wasn’t me who found these videos on YouTube, I swear. I’m working way too hard.

But here they are:

This video for So Yesterday has lots of cool split-screen energy.

And a smooth one for Midnighters. Check out the casting.

And this one, although it’s not really about Uglies, does give you some idea how much work goes into making people in magazine ads into pretties. (In some ways, Photoshopping inspired the trilogy more than cosmetic surgery.)

And here’s another really creepy one about extreme retouching. A must watch. It’s like the operation unfolding before your eyes.

And finally, I mentioned this excellent video review of Uglies in a previous post, but include it here for completeness.

Can you guys find any more? (One link per post, please, or my spam filter has a whole bag of zap with your name on it!)

Retouched Pretties

Since writing Uglies, I’ve been asked a lot whether I think it’s dangerous for kids to be exposed to so many images of beautiful celebrities. Well, yes, comparing your own body and face to “perfect” celebs leads to unrealistic expectations. But what most people don’t realize is how unrealistic these images are, because of this one important fact:

Celebrities aren’t as pretty as we think we are. Their flawless skin, gorgeous bone structure, and radiant faces are mostly the result of technology. No, not futuristic cosmetic surgery: Photoshop.

Here’s a great example from a Swedish site called G!irlpower:

The image on the left is the original photo; the one on the right shows it after typical magazine retouching.

Click here for the entire experience, which allows you to zoom in on all of the parts of the girl before and after the retouching.

But one word of warning: Don’t start thinking that this girl was in any way “ugly” before the retouching. She’s actually quite cute. And frankly, I think the original image is much more attractive and more human, less false and exaggerated. It’s only “ugly” if your eye gets calibrated to accept only flawless skin. (And blue eyes and blond hair . . . hmmm.)

It’s not just magazines that retouch people—films do it too. My sister-in-law does visual effects for Hollywood movies (like King Kong). And believe me, for every hour she spends making sure Naomi Watts and Kong have the same lighting, she’s spent ten getting rid of certain stars’ zits and pores and wrinkles.

For more retouching examples from magazines, check out Model 1 and Model 2. These examples will show you why photographs of you don’t look like photos of models in magazines. Because you don’t spend 20 hours Photoshopping your own image.

And really, why would you want to?

I got the G!rlpower link from E. Lockhart, via Justine, and the last two links from Boing Boing.