October 22, 2010

Scott Westerfeld

So I saw YA author Scott Westerfeld last night without even intending to.

Here's how it played out.  My book club, the Guys Read book club, almost always meets on the third Thursday so after school I zipped over to Decatur.  We gather at the Little Shop of Stories, then trundle off to a pub.

As I was walking across the square I noticed some steam-punky looking kids.  I did a double take and smiled because no one else was dressed up.  This wasn't Dragon*Con or anything.  It was the first time I'd seen anyone dressed that way without there being some event.  I was actually impressed.

So I get to the book store and immediately see a friend from the book group.  He was like, "What are you doing here?  The book club is next week."

Well, crap.  Then I notice the store is getting packed and they're gearing up for some event.  My friend was there to get his books signed.  Then the steampunkers come in and I see the stack of Scott Westerfeld books including his new steampunk Leviathan and Behemoth everywhere and I get it.

So this was the first author event I've attended (that I know of) in which I've never read any of the author's books.  I mean I'm no dope, I've of course heard of Mr. Westerfeld and knew most of the titles.  I just don't get around to much YA.

His was a great talk.  He told about where the ideas for his Pretties and Uglies series came from and how they tangentially led to ideas that led to his current steampunk series.  Two of his points were especially intriguing to me.

Apparently Peeps is a vampire story in which the vampires are people infected with a parasite.  Westerfeld has a deep interest in the philosophy of science and has read a lot of Carl Zimmer's books.  Two of Mr. Zimmer's books are on parasites, Parasite Rex and Microcosm and they will, as Westerfeld and I can both attest, blow your mind.  He wondered aloud if Zimmer knew about Peeps.  They share a friend in common with Rebecca Skloot, (who I'm sure you've heard of).  I'm sure Zimmer would be happy to have been an influence and having his books mentioned to young adults around the country!

The other point was about the past dominance and slow resurgence of illustrators for novels beyond just the Wimpy Kid age.  We're talking everything from Austen to Dickens to H.G. Wells, not just kids books.  Apparently the iconic deerstalker hat worn by Sherlock Holmes is never mentioned in any of Conan Doyle's stories.  It was an invention of the first illustrator.  It is now so iconic that many libraries have a book spine sticker indicating "Mystery" that is just a symbol of the deerstalker along with a rocket for science fiction and a heart for romance.  This was all in explanation for his desire to have his new series well illustrated and the process behind this.

A great guy with an equally interesting wife (Justine Lardalestier spoke briefly as well).  I'll have to check out Peeps soon.  A YA book with vampires that sounds good!  Who'd have thunk it?

An email from Carl Zimmer: "Thanks for your email. I am aware of--and grateful for--Westerfeld's interest in my work. I'll have to send him a note to let him know!


Carl Zimmer"

Scott Westerfeld books

Scott Westerfeld blog

Carl Zimmer books

Carl Zimmer blog