Back in the sepia-toned days of early 2005—before Twitter, T-Pain, or even Twilight—I published a book called Uglies. Of course, back in those days, we didn’t call them books. We called them codexes, but it was much the same object: a quantity of papyrus that told a story.
Anyway, back then, book trailers weren’t really a thing. Trailers were for movies (which we called flicker-shows) or sometimes for videogames (which were collectively known as Pong). So Uglies was unleashed into the world with only the whispers of a few score Simon & Schuster sales reps (or bookmongers, as we knew them) to guide its passage.
By the time my next big series, Leviathan, hit bookstores in 2009, trailers were all the rage. So this beautiful example was created, and has since been viewed over half a million times. And yet Uglies remained untrailered.
But the time has come for Uglies to have its own official trailer!
So here it is at last: Uglies, the trailer!
If you know any other unofficial Uglies trailers, please link to them in the comments!
As the guy who wrote Uglies, there are certain kinds of news stories that are forwarded to me by everyone. Hi-tech tattoos, bizarre plastic surgery, stuff that hovers, and of course anything having to do with beauty. So it was no surprise that a recent story about the Miss Korea contest flooded my inbox.
The basic story went like this: Plastic surgery is so prevalent in South Korea that all the contestants in their national beauty contest look freakishly alike. Look, we haz proof!
And yes, I will admit that this is a somewhat chilling image. With a few exceptions, it looks like twenty photos of the same woman dressed and styled a bit differently. And yes, the South Korean appetite for plastic surgery is large. According to this NY Times article, about 20% of women there have had some sort of cosmetic procedure. These are true facts.
But whenever you run into a story like this one, that depends so heavily on a telling photographic image, please remember one simple rule: photographs aren’t real.
Photographs are artifacts of technology, records of specific combinations of light, lens, and angle. Photographs are easily manipulated. Photographs are two-dimensional representations of a 3-D world. Photographs can be more or less accurate, but they are never the whole story.
Take the worst photo ever taken of you and compare it to the best ever taken. Do they look even remotely like the same person?
For that matter, pick up your phone and take a photo of yourself right now. Then walk to a different part of your room and take another. Same place, same hair, same clothes, but often these two photos will look completely different. Not because you photoshopped them or cheated in some other way, but simply because the living, breathing, moving reality of you got sliced into two different tiny moments of time.
The forces of light, shadow, and expression morphed you into two different versions of yourself. Neither of which was real, because photographs aren’t real! Using a single image to reflect a real human being is like describing a lush, complex novel in a sentence. Sometimes you can tell which which book someone’s talking about, but a whole lot goes missing.
Back to our Korean beauty queens. Here are two of them before and after hair, make-up, and photoshopping got involved:
I say again: photographs aren’t real.
Korea doesn’t have some mass convergence of facial phenotypes caused by cosmetic surgery. Maybe they will one day, and maybe in certain social circles there one can spot noticeable similarities. But all we have proof of here is a particular aesthetic of hair, make-up, and photoshoppery associated with a particular beauty contest.
There is no emergency. Return to your homes, Crims.
So whenever you read about a scientific study on beauty that relied on people rating photographs (as I did while writing Uglies), or see a story about how bloated or haggard some poor celebrity has become, or come across at photos that make you feel bad about yourself, just remember . . .
Photographs aren’t real. But you are.
On a COMPLETELY UNRELATED NOTE, here is my new author photo! I haven’t done one in ten years, and given that I just turned fifty, I figured it was time.
In the interest of full disclosure, I offer you the image before and after it was slightly retouched by my sister-in-law, noted visual effects artist Niki Bern, and include my notes to her.
Please do not actually USE that one as my author’s photo.
Instead, go with this version:
Everyone has permission to use this in all media forever. A bigger one can be found here.
When I was at Adelaide Writers Week last month, I did an extended interview with Sean Williams, who writes the Trouble Twisters series with Garth Nix. The ABC was kind enough to film the talk and put it online.
I talk about Uglies, Leviathan and the history of illustrations, living with another writer, from whence inspiration comes, my other books, and pretty much everything else writerly. It’s a whole hour long!
Hope you enjoy it. Thanks to Adelaide Writers Week for having me, to everyone who asked questions, to the ABC, and to Sean for being a great interviewer.
A few notes:
1) For you USians, note that “the ABC” (Australian Broadcasting Company) is not the same as “ABC” (American Broadcasting Company).
2) At 13:15, I meant to say “Book 2″ instead of “Book 3.”
3) Justine, in the audience, is caught tweeting at 26:45.
4) My pronunciation of “manga” is weird sometimes. I’m from Texas.
5) At 36:00 I briefly confuse Miyake with Miyazaki, because I was wearing the former. #humblebrag
Still traveling, but here are some things you might want to see:
That’s right, there is now a paperback boxed set of Leviathan! Collect them all, or just throw them at people. (Very heavy, with sharp corners.)
Part 2 of the Uglies graphic novel is out December 4, and I haz cover flats!
I am excited.
And finally, Leviathan is out in Brazil . . . with subway ads! I am fancy in South America, it seems.
Note that Justine and I will be down in Brazil next weekend! A rough schedule follows:
4:00 pm – Presentation at Cine Livraria Cultura (room 2). About Leviatã and books with pictures. With simultaneous translation.
5:00 pm – Signing session at Livraria Cultura (ground floor), with Scott Westerfeld (Leviatã, Ugly and others) and Justine Larbalestier (Zumbis x Unicórnios)
Address: LIVRARIA CULTURA – Conjunto Nacional – Av. Paulista, 2073
2:30 pm – Debate at Livraria da Vila with the public about Zumbis x Unicórnios. With Justine Larbalestier and author Fábio Yabu. Moderator: Ana Lima. With simultaneous translation.
3:30 pm – Signing session
Address: LIVRARIA DA VILA – Rua Fradique Coutinho, 915 / 11 3814-9954
7:00 pm – Signing session at Livraria Cultura/RJ with Scott and Justine.
Address: Livraria Cultura – São Conrado Fashion Mall Shopping Center, 2nd floor
More details following, including (maybe) another event in Rio!
At last it is time for Fan Art Friday Tri-Weekly plus Fan Tea Friday!
You may have noticed a paucity of blogging lately here. That’s because I’ve been either ill (much better, thank you), lazy (incurable), or working hard (new novel!). But I haven’t forgotten you guys, I’m just trying to get stuff done and letting you talk amongst yourselves. Which you are good at.
Speaking of talking, I’m having a meet-up over at the Westerforum. I’ll be there to answer your many, many questions. Here are the details:
October 20, 2012
7PM Eastern US Time/4PM US West Coast
I’m actually not sure about the Australian or UK time for this meet-up, because the clocks are all changing these days. But Sunday morning in Oz and around midnight in Greenwich Mean. Hope to see you there!
Okay, it’s been too long without any fan art. But let us start with some fan tea.
That’s right, there is now a line of Leviathan teas by Callie Segotta. It’s from Adagio, a site that lets you mix your own teas. Like Cafe Press, but tea. Here’s the label for Dr. Emma Nora Barlow Tea:
There are also teas for Alek, Volger, Deryn, and Lilit:
Click here to check them out.
Continuing with the Leviathan theme, here’s a young boy (who’s name I don’t know, because Twitter sent it to me) with the self-confidence to cosplay Deryn! Awesome, dude.
And here’s a great redux of one of Keith’s illustration from book 1:
And here are a couple of very vivid Uglies images, complete with hoverboards, by Laura Ramie:
Okay, that’s it. Hope that you’re all enjoying getting back to school, or just the end of summer in general.
Ciao for now, and hope to see you at the meet-up.
Sorry I’ve been blogging less. Illness sucks. But please enjoy this essay that I wrote for the BookForum Dystopia issue back in summer 2010. A few things in it are a tad out of date, obviously, but the basic ideas still seem pretty sound to me.
Teens and Dystopias
Literary dystopias flourish at the extremes of social control: the tyranny of too much government, the chaos of too little. Every 1984 or Fahrenheit 451 is balanced by a Mad Max or A Clockwork Orange. Or to put it simply, dystopian literature is just like high school: an oscillation between extremes of restraint.
Teenagers, of course, read dystopian novels in vast numbers. (As I write, Suzanne Collins’ post apocalyptic dictatorship novel, Hunger Games, has entered its eighty-first week atop the NY Times Chapter Book list.) This should surprise no one. Within school walls, students have reduced expectations of privacy (New Kersey v. TLO, 1980), no freedom of the press (Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier, 1983), and their daily reality includes clothing restrictions, rising and sitting at the command of ringing bells, and an ever-increasing amount of electronic surveillance. But a few footsteps away from these 1984-like subjugations, the teenage world becomes Mad Max—warring tribes, dangerous driving, and unfortunate haircuts.
Teenagers’ lives are defined by rules, and in response they construct their identities through confrontations with authority, large and small. All this leaves teens highly interested in issues of control.
When I sat down to write the Uglies series in 2003, I didn’t intend to address these matters directly. I thought I was writing a somewhat nostalgic science fiction trilogy about body image and hoverboards. But a few million copies and roughly ten thousand pieces of fan mail later, I feel qualified to speak about teenagers and dystopias.
First a quick synopsis: Uglies is set three centuries after an “oil bug” has destroyed our present-day economy and all but erased our species. The descendants of the survivors live in isolated city states, ambiguous utopias whose citizens enjoy post-scarcity technologies and rigid government control. The title derives from this society’s coming-of-age tradition, in which teenage “uglies” undergo full-body plastic surgery to become “pretties,” simultaneously adult and beautiful. (And yes, there is a Twilight Zone episode along these lines, and about two dozen novels and short stories as well. As I said, this series was meant to be nostalgic.)
The protagonist of the trilogy, Tally Youngblood, is most notable for her shifting identities. By turns she takes the roles of vandal, government informer, outcast, runaway, prisoner, hedonist, enforcer, self-mutilator, and full-throated revolutionary. Her personality is reprogrammed several times, her memories frequently erased, her allegiances always suspect.
And yet the most common line in my fan mail is simply, “I am Tally.”
I think this is because teens recognize all the roles that Tally takes on. Schizophrenia, switching sides, and even betrayal (both of allies and of self) are natural responses to being bounced between extremes of control.
During my last book tour in the UK, the big tabloid story was a grandmother barred from a shopping arcade for wearing a hoodie. The management sheepishly explained that it was just a policy, and clearly not one aimed at grandmas. They didn’t have to say at whom it was aimed. After all, five little kids in a shop is cute. Five adults, good business. But when five teenagers gather, it’s time to make an arbitrary rule, or better yet to install a high-frequency sound device to drive them out.
Whatever teens embrace—whether it’s black hoodies, rap, texting, file-sharing, hoverboards, or fictional vampire boyfriends—is soon decried as a threat to civilization. And trust me, teenagers notice this adult discourse going on around them. They know they live in occupied territory.
They also realize that these social panics and excesses of control do little to protect them from their real problems. Censoring the school paper (or internet feed) doesn’t protect anyone from bullying, or agonizing over every physical imperfection, or from sexual predators (who overwhelmingly come not from the internet but from within teens’ own families). Like Tally’s world, ours is primarily concerned with surfaces, using plastic surgeries for real diseases. Being relative newcomers, teenagers see through this chicanery better than their elders, but at the same time possess fewer skills and resources to escape its power.
So they wind up with the worst of both worlds—too much government and not enough. Is it any wonder, then, that dystopian novels appeal to teens, as do vandalism, cutting, fast cars, shifting identities, unfortunate haircuts, and black hoodies? Next time you read a dystopia that strains belief, just think back to high school, and it won’t seem so far fetched.
Thus endeth the essay. Hope you enjoyed it.
And hey, do you want to help provide classroom copies of Uglies to a junior high school in the Bronx? Just click here to find out how. (Even if you’ve got no money, voting for and “liking” the project helps too!)
Oh, and Keith did an illustration for the essay as well. Check it out!
A few quick things:
It’s the last day to buy the e-book edition of Uglies and Pretties for only $3.99!
Click to find them at the following places:
(Sorry, this sale is US only. But the UK Kindle version of Uglies is £3.99, which is kinda cheap.)
This is the French cover of my adult sf duology, The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds, in its combined format. And it is pretty cool:
Seriously cool, in fact.
And finally . . .
Jessica Valenti chews bubblegum and kicks ass in this essay entitled “The Upside of Ugly.” (And she’s all out of bubblegum.) Click here to read it.
That’s it! Real blogging commences soonish.
Welcome to FAF(FF), my sorta-weekly series of fan art, farinaceous treats, and fun.
But before we start, next Tuesday (August 21) is when The Manual of Aeronautics comes out! On that day I’ll be doing one last art reveal. As per tradition, it will be the endpapers from the Manual, which I think you’ll find quite fabulous.
And now for FAF(FF)!
Let us begin with cake, because the world needs more cake.
This edible artistry comes from the tumblr feed of jaberwockyx, and was made for a school project. (It won first prize, obviously.)
I like that it has both a walker and a whale on it, which brings to mind the book’s tagline: “Do you oil your war machines, or eat them?”
Not to be outdone, Uglies fandom also has a cake this week:
And just in case you think this is a cake with the words “special” and “extra” randomly on it, i have proof of its Uglies-relatedness:
Thanks for sending me the pix, Bea-la!
And now some whale love from Catherine P.
Not cake, but very kawaii.
And here’s some cosplay (and photoshop-play) from both series. First Jennifer B being a Special . . .
And Lauren being Deryn:
Two pencil works from peanutbuttergoddess, of Lilit and Deryn:
I like their half-smiling expressions a lot.
And to round out the lurve triangle, here’s Alek as drawn by sleepy pilot:
He’s not smiling, but he means you no harm!
That’s it for FAFFFFF. See you Tuesday for the book birthday of The Manual of Aeronautics! I am excited to hear what you guys think of the many arts in it.
As promised, and as voted by you all, it’s time to reveal the Dr. Barlow and Tazza portrait from The Manual of Aeronautics!
But first a bit of money talk. For the next two weeks, my lovely publisher has reduced the price of Uglies and Pretties to $3.99, in ALL e-book formats. So now’s the time to replace that copy you loaned out and never got back, or to start a friend off on the series.
Click below to find the Uglies e-book at the following places:
Sorry, this sale is US only. But the UK Kindle version of Uglies is £3.99, which seems pretty cheap to me.
Again, this sale runs out August 26, so act now! (Or act in a week and a half, if you want to push it. That’s what I always do.)
And now, I give you Dr. Barlow . . .
Yes, Tazza is kind of squeezed in there, because that’s how they did portraits back then. It’s, like, symbolic.
I love the Darwinist stylings on the frame. So much life stuff!
Enjoy! See you soon for another art reveal, and for FAF.
They are beautiful, are they not?
But here’s the thing, they left the best for last. Behold the incredibly beautiful new Extras cover:
Love the yellow and black together. Like bees!
Again, these are the covers in the UK, not the US. So you probably won’t be able to find them outside of the Commonwealth. But it’s not like the new US covers aren’t awesome too.
See you later this week, with the next Manual of Aeronautics art reveal: The Uniforms of Clanker-land!