Blue Mountains

We had a great time in the Blue Mountains, so I thought I’d share some snaps and movies with you guys.

The Blue Mountains’ most famous landmark is probably the Three Sisters, which are not in fact siblings but three sticky-uppy rocks. Early-rising tourists are rewarded by seeing them backdropped against the awesome mist coming up from the Megalong Valley.

Yes, it’s called the Megalong Valley, but not because it’s mega-super-duper-long. The name is derived from an Aboriginal word meaning “Valley Under The Rock.” (Well, it was thought by early European explorers to mean “Valley Under The Rock,” but early European explorers don’t really have a good track record with this stuff. Megalong could also mean, “Why are you asking me all these stupid questions, easily sunburnt invader?”)

In any case, the Three Sisters are cool:

As you can see, the valley is almost completely unspoiled. No roads in, so you descend into it with a vertiginous walk down among the Sisters.

Yes, that walkway looks crowded, but the valley below is huge. Even mega-huge. So it’s easy to find yourself completely alone after walking down a few paths. Well, alone except for the ubiquitous bellbirds, so named for their bell-like cries.

Turn up your volume and put on headphones for this video, the bellbirds make a strange and awesome sound. This is only two singing here, but when the whole forest is full of their cries, it makes for a mesmerizing soundscape.

This is my new iPhone wallpaper, because I love me some Australian bark:

We also saw a lyrebird. They are excellent mimics, but this one was quietly digging for grubs, and so did not mimic, or even taunt us.

For those of you who worry about such things, the collective noun is “a musket of lyrebirds.” They have cool tails.

As we climbed out of the valley, I got this shot, proving that the Blue Mountains is beautiful. Not bad for a place only 90 minutes from Sydney.

Click here for the bigness!

That’s it for now. See you on Friday.

New Uglies Covers

I’m headed out to the Blue Mountains for a weekend of birthday fun, so there will be no Fan Art Friday this week. Instead, allow me to belatedly roll out the new Uglies covers!

They’ve been around on the internets for a while, but I haven’t shown them here. The new covers are finally leaking into stores, though, so now is a great time to show them.

Click here for the bigger and zoomable version.

Of course, whenever new covers appear online, they create dissent and controversy. Fans mostly don’t like new looks for books, because the old covers are the ones they’re used to. If you’re a fan, after all, that old look was probably the reason you picked up the books in the first place!

So really, the new covers aren’t for fans at all. You guys already HAVE my books, after all. These are for all the people who’ve never picked up Uglies because the old covers looked boring or stupid to them. Maybe they never even noticed the series on the shelves. It’s for non-fans (who probably don’t read this blog) that this new look exists.

So feel free to complain!

For me the Original Style covers are still classics, but I get why S&S has to hit the refresh button after, what, six years? And you have to admit that these new covers are very lovely indeed, and are unified in a way the Original Flavor ones weren’t. (Pretties had a different designer than the other three, in fact. You can tell.) The new ones also have a cool, clinical feel that nails a lot of what the series is about.

But I will take this opportunity to express my appreciation to Rodrigo Corral for his awesome work on the first cover of Uglies. Covers matter, and a lot of you, possibly many thousands, would never have seen the Uglies series without his strokes of genius. And that would mean less food, clothing, and shelter for me. And I like food, clothing, and shelter.

So, thanks, Rodrigo. The rest of you should click here for an archive of his other work. I think you’ll agree that the dude rocks.

ZvU at Sydney Kinokuniya

The Zombies Versus Unicorns debates have spread around the world! Next Thursday, March 31, at 6PM we will be having one at Kinokuniya Bookstore here in Sydney, Australia.


Join us at Kinokuniya as Justine Larbalestier and Scott Westerfeld (Team Zombie) face off Margo Lanagan and Garth Nix (Team Unicorn) to determine who reigns supreme, the zombie or the unicorn? This is an event not to be missed!

Edited by Holly Black (Team Unicorn) and Justine Larbalestier (Team Zombie), Zombies Vs Unicorns is a unique short story feud that pits horned beasts against the shuffling undead.

Contributors to this unique collection include bestselling teen and YA authors Garth Nix, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson and Margo Lanagan.

Zombie Vs Unicorns challenges you to pick a team, and stick to it. But be warned, these are stellar story-tellers, and they can be very convincing…

The event is free to attend, but please register your interest at the Information Counter or on 9262-7996.

Thursday, March 31, 2011
Kinokuniya Bookstore

Level 2 The Galeries Victoria
500 George Street
Sydney 2000 NSW
T: (02)9262-7996
F: (02)9283-1055


See you there, Sydneysiders!

Back in Sydney

The postings have been slim here. Justine and I have done our bisummeral relocation to Sydney, where the weather is rather better than it is in New York.

I haz proof:


Yes, this is the view from where I work. Neener-neener.

Check this out. It is TOTALLY FAKE, but cool.

JarredSpekter of Deviant Art.

And it comes with this awesome FAKE poster, also by Jarred:


I quite like the fake movie trailer/poster art form.

But yes, this is me just being lazy, posting random stuff. I GET TO BE LAZY. I’ve been traveling all over the world the last few months, after all. And I’ve spent the last week working on a s3krit project, which I can’t even tell you about. (Yes, so why tell you that I can’t tell you? I dunno. Just to sound cool, I guess.)

Oh, also! Those of you who are e-book readers (or who know one) here’s a cool new thing:


It’s the Uglies Quartet all together in e-book form! Check it out here. And here’s a list of the many reading devices supported.

Anyway, I will get back to more regular postings in the new year. In the meantime, happy holidays to everyone.

Uglies Movie Update (4 realz)

Last week there was a short piece in MTV News’s Hollywood Crush last week about the Uglies movie. Let me quote it:

Industry sources have confirmed to MTV News exclusively that Screen Gems, in the wake of the success of its current release “Dear John,” is developing — and in fact, fast tracking (!) — a film version of “The Uglies” series.

While there haven’t been any decisions made regarding things like casting yet, we can tell you that our source said production of the movie is planned for later this year. That means we will all hopefully know soon enough who could be playing the beloved teen Tally Youngblood in the futuristic, meaningful tale about a dystopian society that places an incredible emphasis on looks.

Emphasis theirs. Here’s the rest.

In the words of my Hollywood agent, fast-tracking means, “it’s on the list of projects that they are hoping to make vs. the ones that will never see the light of day.” In other words, this is not a done deal. But it’s a lot better than being in that other, not-so-fast-tracked pile.

Now, some of you are no doubt asking about casting at this point. STOP! I’m the wrong person to ask. Trust me, if I hear anything I will tell you here on this blog, on FB, and on the Twitter machine. But in the meantime, I have nothing to do with casting movies.

If it were up to me, you would all get to play Tally for exactly three seconds of screen time. (And this would be why it’s not up to me.)

Plus, I doubt it’s as far along as this article makes it sound. Like, the casting isn’t going on right now. Probably.

Watch this space for more.

In other news!
If you live in Sydney, you can catch me at the launch for Foz Meadow’s debut novel, Solace and Grief.

It’s about a girl named Solace who has grown up in foster care her whole life, and who’s always realize that’s she’s kind of . . . different. She doesn’t like the sun, she’s wicked strong, and if she concentrates really hard, she can hear a conversation two blocks over. Then someone starts invading Solace’s dreams, and things get really complicated from there.

It looks like this:


Here’s the launch deets:

Sunday, March 7

Kinokuniya Bookstore
Level 2, Galeries Victoria
500 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000

I’ll be giving a wee speech about how cool this book is. Of course, I’ll be more than happy to see you guys there and say hi. But please remember that this is Foz’s party, not mine, so buy her book!

It comes out in Australia on March 1. When it finds a US publisher, I’ll let you know.

And finally!
Sorry that I missed the latest Forum Meet-Up. It was scheduled for early Sunday morning, Sydney time, and I woke up ill. Too ill to type!

But I hope you all had fun. I’ll try to check out the questions you left me, and answer some of them here on the blog.

My apologies again.

Hairy Fruit

I haven’t done a writing advice post for a while, so here’s one for you.

Rambut = Indonesian for “hair”
Rambutan = a hairy fruit, common in Southeast Asia


These hairy eyeballs are one of the fruits that Justine and I like to gorge on while we’re here in Sydney, because you simply can’t find them in New York. (Or if by some chance you do, they’re both absurdly expensive and half rotten.)

How to describe the taste? Well, the only similar fruit available in the US is the lychee, but I never had fresh lychee until I came to Australia, and the canned ones suck. So the rambutan really is a new taste—less acid than citrus, sharper than melon, darker than pineapple.

Or maybe I shouldn’t use comparisons. Rambutans have their own flavor, so I should describe them in their own terms. And that means really tasting them, then thinking hard, then wondering for a while how words can even capture sensual experience. In other words, describing the hairy eyeball means really being a writer.

(Which also means maybe failing at being a writer.)

These little philosophical diversions are something I love about travel: Going new places reminds you how much bigger the world is than you thought. For every kind of fruit you’ve tried in your life, there are a dozen species you’ve never heard of. No, make that a hundred—there are thirty species of pears, for heaven’s sake.

And it’s not just food. For every kind of social celebration you can name, some culture somewhere has ten more that don’t fall into any of your familiar categories. For every kind of person you’ve met, there are probably dozens of other personality types out there, unknown and unexpected, walking around experiencing entirely different aspirations and fears than the ones you know so well. Even the human emotions we think of as universal and primal sometimes come in very different flavors.

“But all people love their children!” I can hear someone protesting in a whiny voice. Yeah, maybe, but talk about different flavors. In various times and places, people have loved their kids by crippling them, beating them to death, or selling them.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that you need a time machine or even a jet plane to experience difference. I’ll bet that some very different folks live just on the other side of your town, and for whatever reason (social, historical, economic, accidental) you’ve never met them.

Writers need to remember that. I mean, everyone needs to realize that their little sandbox is not the whole world (or a scale model of it, or in any way representative of it). But it’s especially important for writers to keep hitting ourselves over the head with reminders of this simple fact: The world is SO much bigger and humanity so much gnarlier and more complicated than we assume it to be.

And if we forget that, we wind up splicing ourselves and the few people we know best (in my case, college-educated white folks who geek out on sciencey/numbery stuff and music) into every scenario on the planet. We wind up turning this gigantic world into a small one, and wind up writing small books for small readers.

In other words, we become cowards.

(And for us science fiction writers it’s so much worse, because we’re flogging these same, lame photocopies in the distant future and across the universe. Our bigger canvas means a epically vaster Fail.)

So this is my writing advice for today: When the hairy eyeballs look your way, look back. Taste them, swallow them, deal with their weirdness. Then tell stories about them.

Otherwise you’ll suck, both at writing and at life.

Appearance in Sydney

This coming Saturday, Justine and I will be doing an appearance at the wondrous Kinokuniya bookshop. Deb Abela and Michael Parker will also be there, and the four of us are going to have a long, meaningful debate about science fiction.

Or maybe a spitting contest.

Kinokuniya Books
Galeries Victoria
500 George St., Sydney

Saturday, January 20, 2PM

Who: Deb Abela, Michael Parker, Justine Larbalestier, and Scott Westerfeld

To better the world.


About a week ago, Justine and I went to Penguin HQ to record an interview with each other. Thanks to modern editing techniques, we sound halfway clever and like we’d thought about what we were going to say. (Thanks, Ganda!)

We talk about Justine’s childhood in Australia, living between two continents, and how all that relates to Magic or Madness, The Last Days, and Peeps.

Sam Enthoven also reads from his new book, The Black Tattoo.

Here’s Penguin’s podcast page.

And here’s a direct link to the MP3.

I’ll be hosting the MP3 here, once I snag a copy. But for the moment, listen and enjoy.

(I’ll be back with my next installment about character names soon.)

Farewell, Surry Hills

So we lost the internet for two days thanks to a certain phone company being unspeakably lame. Sorry if I haven’t been posting, commenting, and answering email to your satisfaction.

Plus . . . moving!

We just left the Sydney flat, which was sadly empty and smelling of cleaning chemicals. We’re staying at the in-laws’ for two days before flying back to NYC. And now it is time to reminisce.

Sure, Specials may be at number 5 now. And yes, there’s that big news I’ve been promising you and not delivering, because I am a bad, bad man who drops hints and then is told by his agent that certain news is not public yet (grinds teeth).

But instead of discussing these things, I’m going to pause a moment to list all the things I’ll miss about Surry Hills.

The arched-tree promenade of Hyde Park, a mere five minutes’ walk away.

The glorious AMP Tower, seen at sunset out the glorious big window.

The telescope, which is staying here, alas. No more shall the moon be this cratered disk—orbalicious, blinding. Back to the mercury-vapor-pink skies of Manhattan.

The carnivorous plants of the nearby Botanical Gardens. You ate bugs so we didn’t have to, and yet we hardly knew ye.

The mighty Chesterfield, where much of Specials and The Last Days was penned. Plus, I loved that 6.4-meter ceiling.


Last photo by Justine, all others by me.