Bubbleheads, Crumblies, Specials, rejoice! The world of the Uglies is back with Scott Westerfeld’s Impostors! We Book Smugglers were lucky enough to join Scott Westerfeld in a conversation about his newest book, set fifteen to twenty years after the events of Extras, the last book in the prior quartet (which Thea loved). Here’s a highlight regarding hoverboards from the conversation!
Scott Westerfeld: In 2010 or so, I got invited to a rural school in Indiana and they were doing an Uglies all-school read. As you know, communities reading a book is very different than just you reading it alone, even if it’s just a community of kids at your cafeteria table who you make read the books you like.
They flew us out and when we got there, it was so cool and so amazing. The art class had done pictures of the characters and they’d done some costumes. The math class had done sort-of maps of Tally’s journeys but using real cartographic skills. The shop class had made hoverboards. That was actually the coolest part because the hoverboards in my head–because of who I am, where I live–are very much Apple hoverboards. You know, sort of white extruded plastic, tyrannically minimalist, no features, no stuff, just this really smooth shape. But this was Indiana, so these were NASCAR hoverboards. Like, they had spoilers on the back. Not spoilers in the sense that you guys talk about, but those things like air intakes. They had the stripes. They had STP stickers. And not only were these hoverboards local, but they were also very personal.
They had lots of stickers of people’s favorite cartoon characters, and manga eyes on googly eyes. They had random Sharpie, like when you get bored and draw on your shoes in school. These hoverboards looked like a kid’s backpack about two weeks before the end of the school year, covered with buttons and stickers and just crap.
When we made the trailer for the new series, I said that’s something I really want to include, because that was how I realized that the Uglies readers know stuff about the book that I didn’t know when I wrote it. They know stuff about the reality of that world because they’ve lived that reality in a way that I haven’t, because they read it as kids. I wrote it as an adult. They embraced it in the community of other children, other readers, other teens, and that created the world in their head to a level of detail and realism that never had existed in mine. And that’s happened in a million different ways and a million different settings. I have been taught by my readers the way Uglies should work and the way Uglies really should look.
On the Aftermath of Revolution
Scott Westerfeld: If the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed–no stability is forever. And I was writing this, actually, when Brexit happened.
I’ve always been interested in, you know, what happens after. You know, what is the happily ever after? Because there are no REAL happily ever afters. Nothing is ever solved, nothing’s ever easy. You have to work at everything. You have to work at freedom. You have to work at relationships. There is no ultimate success. There is no ultimate safety, which is also a very Machiavellian.
I feel like what the Pretty regime achieved–for all of its terribleness and constraints–was a kind of stability. There is a line in Uglies: “Freedom has a way of destroying things,” and it might get quoted in Impostors somewhere. But yeah, I think that’s what we’re looking at in Impostors, this sort of breaking down of norms, of the old world.
On Returning to Tally’s World
Scott Westerfeld: I think that any good science fiction novel feels like it’s the fourth book in the trilogy, because there’s time between. You know, if you’re really in the deep future, like 300 years or so, once you get out there, a lot of stuff has happened. And if you don’t sense that, it doesn’t work. I always try to do that. I’m always trying to make it feel like stuff has happened in the past.
There’s the old trick they always did on Star Trek where they would–it was called the Star Trek Rule of Three, where they would say, “the Magna Carta, the Constitution, the Humanoid Chronicles of SETI 4.” They would always list three things, moving in time, two of which you’d heard of, and one of which was in between then and now, and so it was their past and our future. I always try to sort of generate that stuff in my work.
But it was weird in this case to actually have the documents there and for it to be a real thing. I remember when the first draft went to my agent, she had one of her junior agents who hadn’t read Uglies read it and they just kept a list of everything that was completely unintelligible. So I went through that list this time around and was pretty careful and cautious about not just assuming everybody’s read Uglies, because that’s bad, but also, obviously, people read it 10 years ago. I didn’t remember half of that stuff.
At the same time, I didn’t want it to feel like exposition, or a “Previously on…” segment–I wanted it to feel more like the first trilogy didn’t exist, and you were reading a book whose culture succeeded this other culture. It’s not just that Impostors is a different place or it’s not that it’s just tacked on. It’s a place that’s coming out of a revolution.
I liked being back in that world, getting back into the world, but also not being of that world–I re-learned the language, but I had to break the rules as well.
About the Book
Frey and Rafi are inseparable, like two edges of the same knife. But Frey’s very existence is a secret.
Frey is Rafi’s twin sister, and her body double. Their powerful father has many enemies, and the world has grown dangerous as the old order falls apart. So while Rafi was raised to be the perfect daughter, Frey has been taught to kill. Her only purpose is to protect her sister, to sacrifice herself for Rafi if she must.
When her father sends Frey in Rafi’s place as collateral in a precarious deal, she becomes the perfect impostor, as poised and charming as her sister. But Col, the son of a rival leader, is getting close enough to spot the killer inside her. As the deal starts to crumble, Frey must decide if she can trust him with the truth, and if she can risk becoming her own person.
With Impostors, master storyteller Scott Westerfeld returns with a new series set in the world of his mega-bestselling Uglies, a world full of twist and turns, rebellion and intrigue, where any wrong step could be Frey’s last.
About the Author:
Scott Westerfeld is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Uglies series, which has been translated into 35 languages; the Leviathan series; Afterworlds; Horizon; and many other books for young readers. He was born in Texas and alternates summers between Sydney, Australia and New York City.
We are giving away one copy of Impostors to a lucky reader! The sweepstakes is open to all addresses worldwide, and will run until October 7, 2018. To enter for a chance to win, use the form below. Good luck!