Sunday, July 12

Bogus to Bubbly - Scott Westerfeld

Subtitled An Insider's Guide to the World of Uglies, Bogus to Bubbly is Westerfeld's explanation of how he came up with the ideas underpinning his best selling Uglies quartet. In essence, from the age of sixteen body modification surgery, in conjunction with cognitive modification that the majority of the population are unaware of, is a societal norm - young people in particular push modification to its limits. The first three books follow Tally Youngblood, a young girl who looks beyond the superficial and in the process changes her society irreperably. The final chapter, Extras (reviewed here), takes up events three years alter and on another continent, where Aya Fuse's society has also been affected by Tally's actions even though fame is more important there that the cliques that dominated Tally's city.
Westerfeld begins with the event that started him thinking about the concept that underpins Tally's world, a friend's encounter with an LA dentist. Not unlike a concept journal, Bogus to Bubbly covers aspects like technology (mag-lev boards and trains), cliques and sub-cultures, and slang.
I found this last aspect particularly interesting, in part because it's not something I've gtiven much thought to apart from wondering what causes language to change. It turns out there's a whole linguistic field exploring this aspect of language about what takes off and why. Westerfeld writes about why he chose the words and phrases he did, following a concept Allan Metcalf, in Predicting New Words, calls FUDGE: frequency of use, unobtrusiveness, diversity of users and suituations, generation of other forms and meanings, and endurance of the concept (though Westerfled thinks this last is fairly obvious and substitutes euphony or pretty-soundingness).
Bogus to Bubbly is less absorbing that the novels it's based on, and of no interest at all to those who haven't read the series, but I found it rounded out some aspects of Westerfeld's Uglies universe for me, and made me think more about authorial world building. Lynn believes that knowing more about how an art is created, the bones and structure and evolution of a mystery novel, for example, detracts from her ability to appreciate and immerse herself in it. I to some extent agree - though it may add a layer of technical appreciation, it seems as though a greater awareness of the how must perforce decrease the ah of the experience. In this case, however, I found reading Bogus to Bubbly added to my appreciation of Westerfeld's world. - Alex

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