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Scott Westerfeld

 

After returning to the Uglies series for the first time in a decade with Imposters, Scott Westerfeld has followed up with Shatter City, continuing the story of body-double Frey, her royal sister Rafi, and their father, the dictator of Shreve. Shatter City continues the explosive action of Imposters while also providing an insight into how the Uglies has changed in the 20 years since the series’ first ended.

 

SpineOut caught up with Scott to see how it feels to return to the Uglies universe after so long, learn more about Frey and the world around her, and whether or not he thinks we’re heading towards a dystopia.

 

Shatter City is your second book after returning to the Uglies universe in Imposters. How does it feel to be back in familiar territory?

It's like going back to a country I lived in ten years ago, but haven't visited since. My language is rusty, but somewhere in the back of my head, I know my way around the place. And it's fascinating  to see how much has changed since I've been away.

The new books take place twenty years after the last book in the Uglies series. What has changed in the world since?

The world has gotten much grittier, as all the cities find their own way into the future. The citizens aren't simple-minded pretties anymore, which leads to more conflict, more new inventions, and more differences between cities. It's a bountiful chaos to set stories in.

In Imposters, Frey was created to be a body-double for her sister, but she soon outgrew this role and carved out an identity for herself. How did you set out to expand her character in Shatter City

Frey is staring to understand how the world works, and she's realized that the alliance against her father is complicated and fraught. Her next task in defining herself is all about picking sides—not just which side to fight on in the big war, but which facet of it fully represents what she wants. She has lots of allies and friends, but they all represent different possible futures for her world.

A major theme in Uglies series is rebelling against authority, yet in Imposters and Shatter City the authority Frey she fights is her own father. How did this idea come about?

Family mythology defines a lot of who we are. As a youngest kid, my upbringing was very different from my older sisters'. The strange situation that Rafi and Frey find themselves in is my way of exploring those family conflicts and differences, so the father makes a perfect foil.

Between the Uglies series and your graphic novel series Leviathan, you write a lot about corrupt authority and dystopian worlds. What is it that draws you to these themes?

*glances nervously at newsfeed*

In the fourteen years since Uglies was first published, have you seen any changes in how society treats beauty and conformity, especially with the rise of social media? 

Instagram is like the Uglies world, but digital. For a lot of people, it's an outer skin that the whole world can see, unblemished and perfect and happy, while their real self is hidden. Sometimes it's like someone read Uglies and decided to create an online version of that world.            

In a way, Frey and Rafi embody that difference. Rafi, the public sister, presents a perfect picture to the world. But Frey is more like our real selves, insecure and uncertain.

With everything happening in the world, many believe we might be heading towards a dystopia – what do you think?

I think we're living in a dystopia RIGHT NOW, it's just unevenly distributed. The same government that protects and supports me can behave like an enemy to other people in my community. Being a fully developed citizen means noticing all the ways that society impacts the people inside it, and not blindly supporting  a system simply because it's working out for you personally.

You live in both Sydney and New York City, splitting your time between the two. What is it you like about both cities?

NYC has a darker, more intense energy that keeps me coming up with ideas. Sydney is more mellow and happy, and has more nature crowding in view between the buildings.

What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming tour of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne?

Seeing my pals Jay Kristoff and Sean Williams, and all the fans! (Also good coffee.)

Most importantly: What is your favourite writing snack? 

CHEESE! (I just had some parmigiana melted on a cracker.)