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Scott Westerfeld Biography

Personal, Addresses, Career, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights

Born in TX; married Justine Larbalestier (a researcher and writer).

Addresses

Agent—Jill Grinberg, Anderson Grinberg Litrary Management, 244 5th Ave., 11th Fl., New York, NY 10001.

Career

Writer, composer, and media designer.

Honors Awards

Philip K. Dick Award special citation, 2000; New York Times Notable Book citation, 2000; BBYB Best Books of the Year selection, 2004; New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age selection, 2004, Aurealis Award for Best YA Novel (Australia), 2004; Children's Book Council of Australia Best Teen Book of the Year listee, 2004.

Writings

FOR CHILDREN

The Berlin Airlift, Silver Burdett (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1989.

Watergate, Silver Burdett (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1991.

Blossom vs. the Blasteroid, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.

Diamonds Are for Princess, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.

Rainy Day Professor, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2002.

So Yesterday, Razorbill (New York, NY), 2004.

The Secret Hour (part one of "Midnighters" trilogy), Eos (New York, NY), 2004.

Uglies (part one of "Uglies" trilogy), Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2005.

Touching Darkness (part two of "Midnighters" trilogy), Eos (New York, NY), 2005.

Pretties (part two of "Uglies" trilogy), Simon Pulse (New York, NY), 2005.

Peeps, Razorbill (New York, NY), 2005.

SCIENCE-FICTION NOVELS; FOR ADULTS

Polymorph, Penguin (New York, NY), 1997.

Fine Prey, Penguin (New York, NY), 1998.

Evolution's Darling, Four Walls Eight Windows (New York, NY), 1999.

The Killing of Worlds, Tor (New York, NY), 2003.

The Risen Empire, Tor (New York, NY), 2003.

Also author of short stories.

Sidelights

Spending his early career as a composer whose musical compositions have been performed in dance productions both in the United States and in Europe, Scott Westerfeld moved into writing as a ghostwriter and creator of educational software programs for children. Now, as a fiction writer working primarily in the science-fiction genre, he pens novels and short stories for both adults and younger readers. Westerfeld's work is characterized as "space opera," which Gerald Jonas defined in the New York Times as "far-future narratives that encompass entire galaxies and move confidently among competing planets and cultures, both human and otherwise." In an interview on the Penguin Web site, Westerfeld explained that he is attracted to this form of fiction because it is "a way of writing (and of reading) which utilizes the power of extrapolation. It expands both the real world … and the literary. In regular fiction, you might be alienated. In [science fiction] … you're an alien."

Westerfeld began his fiction-writing career with the novel Polymorph, which explores identity and sexual issues via a title character who is able to change gender and appearance. The plot was inspired by the author's move to New York City in the 1980s and his awe at the layers of diversity created through successive waves of immigration and the range in city residents' wealth, values, and cultures. Also for adults, his novel Evolution's Darling earned Westerfeld a Philip K. Dick Award special citation, and Notable Book status from the New York Times. Evolution's Darling, which tells the story of an artificial intelligence that evolves into a sentient being through its relationship with a teenage girl, was praised by Trevor Dodge, who wrote in his review for the Review of Contemporary Fiction that the author challenges readers to "ponder if a machine can be made human, and if so, what purpose humanity would serve."

Westerfeld reshapes his sci-fi for a younger readership in several trilogies, including "Midnighters" and "Uglies." "Midnighters" takes readers into a parallel world where hidden dangers lurk for a group of Midwestern teens, while in the "Uglies" books he creates a near-future world where cosmetic surgery is a required process for everyone at age sixteen. Uglies follows soon-to-be sixteen Tally as she discovers that there are options to the government-sponsored surgery sceduled to make her beautiful and a future life in New Pretty Town. At an outpost that is home to a group of renegades called the Smoke, she learns that a world in which everyone is equally beautiful has a terrifying down side. Praising Uglies, the first novel in the trilogy, Kliatt reviewer Samantha Musher wrote that in the work Westerfeld "asks engaging questions about the meaning of beauty, individuality, and betrayal."

The Secret Hour is the first volume in the "Midnighters" trilogy. The novel focuses on fifteen-year-old Jessica Day, a new student at Oklahoma's Bixby High. While feeling predictably out of place in her new town, and coping, as usual, with a bratty younger sister and flaky parents, Jessica begins to find other things strange. The water tastes a bit off, and her dreams are becoming increasingly vivid and unsettling. Eventually, Jessica bands together with four other students as one of only a few "midnighters"—people born at the stroke of midnight who are able to live in the day's hidden twenty-fifth hour. In this special time she is able to move about in a world where time has temporarily stopped: the only creatures capable of motion are the midnighters and a species of predator known as a darkling. Jessica and her new friends are forced to band together to discover Jessica's special power after it becomes clear that an evil darkling force is bent on her destruction.

Reviewing The Secret Hour, Kliatt contributor Michele Winship praised the work as a "unique and fresh fantasy setting," while a Kirkus critic dubbed the book a "thrilling series starter." In addition to noting what a Publishers Weekly reviewer described as an "inventive" plot, critics praised Westerfeld's writing, School Library Journal contributor Sharon Grover noting the book's "intriguing characters" and describing the plot as "exciting "and the author's prose style "compelling."

Jessica's story continues in Touching Darkness, as the five teens learn that something in Bixby's distant past now threatens the community's present. Discovery of her skill as a flame bringer brings no end to her problems; now Jessica realizes that she is being hunted by humans by day as well as by darklings at night, and all five midnighters must work together to understand and develop their special powers in order to fight the growing menace. In School Library Journal Sharon Grover cited Touching Darkness as "far scarier and much more convincing" than the first novel in the series, while a Kirkus critic noted that Westerfeld's "powerful pageturner is compelling as it pits heroes against unspeakable evil both human and supernatural."

In a break from science fiction, Westerfeld has also penned So Yesterday, which a Kirkus reviewer described as a "clever, quirky romp" through the pop culture of New York City. In the book seventeen-year-old Hunter parlays his talent as a trend-spotter in his job for a high-profile clothing manufacturer. He gained his skill after moving to the Big Apple from the midwest; with few friends and a lot of time on his hands, he channeled his powers of observation about the signals people send through their actions and appearances into a blog that soon became a popular read in the city. From trend spotter, Hunter must now become a crime stopper after his boss, Mandy, is kidnaped by a radical group determined to steal a new—and very trendy—shoe design.

Praising So Yesterday, Gillian Engberg described the book in Booklist as a "hip, fascinating thriller [that] aggressively questions consumer culture," and also enjoyed Hunter's sometimes cynical, sometimes enlightening narration about modern consumerism and marketing. The Kirkus critic also praised the novel's main character, describing Hunter as "a charming narrator with an original take on teen life." Roger Sutton drew comparison's to Westerfeld's science-fiction work, noting in Horn Book that while much of So Yesterday focuses on Hunter's search for "the Next Cool Thing," the storyline "emanates an attractive edginess and often feels like it's just about to tip into sci-fi territory." In Kliatt Winship wrote that Westerfeld manages to inject the latest version of "cool" in "a fast-paced, fun novel that's not afraid to poke fun at our own consumerism while at the same time recognizing that cool rules."

Discussing Westerfeld's work within the context of the challenges inherent in writing science fiction, Jonas commented in the New York Times that "to master such
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material and still bring to life characters with recognizable emotions and aspirations is a challenge few writers care to take on. Westerfeld succeeds admirably."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Analog Science Fiction, http://www.analogsf.com/ (July 6, 2003), Tom Easton, review of The Risen Empire.

Booklist, December 1, 1997, John Mort, review of Polymorph, p. 612; February 15, 2003, Regina Schroeder, review of The Risen Empire, p. 1060; September 15, 2003, Regina Schroeder, review of The Killing of Worlds, p. 219; September 15, 2004, Gillian Engberg, review of So Yesterday, p. 235; March 15, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Uglies, p. 1287.

Fantasy and Science Fiction, review of Polymorph, p. 46.

Horn Book, January-February, 2005, Roger Sutton, review of So Yesterday, p. 101.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2003, review of The Risen Empire, p. 118; January 15, 2004, review of The Se-cret Hour, p. 90; August 1, 2004, review of So Yesterday, p. 750; February 1, 2005, review of Touching Darkness, p. 182 and Uglies, p. 237.

Kliatt, March, 2004, Michele Winship, review of The Secret Hour, p. 16; September, 2004, Michele Winship, review of So Yesterday, p. 17; March, 2005, Smantha Musher, review of Uglies, p. 29.

Library Journal, April 15, 2000, review of Evolution's Darling, p. 128; September 15, 2003, Jackie Cassada, review of The Killing of Worlds, p. 95.

New York Times, June 18, 2000, Gerald Jones, review of Evolution's Darling, p. 22; April 27, 2003, Gerald Jones, review of The Risen Empire, p. 23.

Publishers Weekly, April 17, 2000, review of Evolution's Darling, p. 57; January 20, 2003, review of The Risen Empire, p. 61; March 22, 2004, review of The Secret Hour, p. 87; October 4, 2004, review of So Yesterday, p. 89; March 21, 2005, review of Uglies, p. 53.

Review of Contemporary Fiction, fall, 2000, Trevor Dodge, review of Evolution's Darling, p. 151.

School Library Journal, December, 1989, Ann Welton, review of The Berlin Airlift, p. 127.

Science Fiction Chronicle, February-March, 2003, Don D'Ammassa, review of The Risen Empire, p. 54; June, 2004, Sharon Grover, review of The Secret Hour, p. 152; March, 2005, Sharon Grover, review of Touching Darkness, p. 220, Susan W. Hunter, review of Uglies, p. 221.

ONLINE

Baltimore City Paper Online, http://www.citypaper.com/ (July 12, 2000), Adrienne Martini, review of Evolution's Darling.

Penguin Web site, http://www.penguin.com/ (July, 1998), interview with Westerfeld.

Sci-Fi.com, http://www.scifi.com/ (May 8, 2004), Thomas Myer, review of Polymorph, Donna McMahon, review of Fine Prey, Paul Witcover, review of The Risen Empire; (January 1, 2002) Paul Witcover, review of Evolution's Darling; (2002) Steven Sawicki, review of short story "Non-Disclosure Agreement."

Scott Westerfeld Web site, http://www.scottwesterfeld.com (June 23, 2005).

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