Thursday, October 6, 2011

Kicking the News

It's ironic, in a way.  I was going to post today about a series of YA books that were so intense, so loved by me, that I didn't just read them.  While I was devouring the series, I didn't feel I was just reading them.  I was living in the books.

I read somewhere that a book only truly succeeds if you find yourself living in that world.

If not for Steve Jobs, that series (the Uglies series and the related book "Extras" by Scott Westerfeld), never would have existed, I don't think.  "Extras" certainly would not have.  So rather than post a tribute to Steve, I want to talk about a YA book I recently read - and lived.

I enjoy certain types of YA (Young Adult) literature.  I don't get into the vampire stuff or horror.  Rather, I like dystopias - as a teen and young adult I read a lot of science fiction and as a middle aged adult some alternate history - the dystopias are a logical extension.

A dystopia, briefly, is a nightmare Earth of the future, where everything has gone wrong in society.  They can sometimes combine with utopias, which are the opposite - ideal worlds of the future.  The dystopia genre has taken off among teens - perhaps a reflection of so much going wrong in their lives in the here and now.  But even worlds that seem ideal on the surface....aren't.

In the Uglies trilogy, our society (the "Rusties") has self destructed.  We Rusties have been replaced by what seem to be an ideal, controlled, ecological world wide society-a Utopia. At the age of 16, all citizens undergo a mandatory surgery that strengthens their bodies and makes them Pretty - a type of irresistible prettiness.  And what do the young Pretties do?  They party by night, every night, in a party that never ends.  No wonder every 15 year old counts the moments until surgery day.


Well....there's a dark side to that surgery, too (enter dystopia).  And, by the end of the trilogy, our heroine....well, I am not going to give it away, except to say that that society undergoes a very rapid revolution.  That is where the related Extras book comes in, and is it fascinating. 

In the Extras world, the society of Pretties, in just a few years, has changed tremendously and become a Reputation Economy.  Everyone has a "face rank"  Your ability to get goods, to have a spacious house, to have luxuries, depends on your popularity rank in a city wide type of Facebook.  Everyone is interfaced to that future Facebook and receives feeds from each other through "skintennas".  For those who aren't popular, there are several ways to boost your popularity, your face rank.

One way is to "kick", or to post such fascinating videos (a type of self-journalism, really) that people pay attention.  Our heroine is a kicker and she ends up stumbling on a secret...not that I can tell you what it is.

Absorbed in that world, I found myself miles from home in the middle of my home town being flooded in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Lee.  And, I followed it on Facebook through videos and pictures my son took. (He even tried to take a video of him evacuating where he lives, with a flash flood impending.)

He was....kicking, 21st century version.  He was using a smart phone - not an I Phone, but these smart phones would not have existed without the IPhone.  In fact, his interest in computers can be dated back to when he was around 12, and someone gave him an old Apple IIe. (that's a story for another day).  Without Steve Jobs?  I don't think any of that would have happened, not the way he did it.  He didn't do it to increase face rank but he did it to report and to fill some kind of human need to witness.

A primitive "Extras" was taking place in front of my eyes.  And when I returned home, and was able to get into my neighborhood, I did a little bit of picture taking to bear witness, too.  And I posted some of those photos to Facebook.

In the world of the Uglies there would have been no record of Steve Jobs.  Very little information about the Rusties survived the fall of our civilization.   But his technology lived on in their world, just as it will live on for us.

Steve Jobs may have achieved a type of immortality.  His death impacted everyone.

I end this blog post with the You Tube video of the 2005 Commencement Speech of Steve Jobs at Stanford.  It is autobiographical, funny, and sobering.  If you have 15 minutes of free time, please play it.  You'll be glad you did.

So will the people of the future.


  1. Well worth the 15 minutes...thanks for sharing!

  2. Sounds like some books I need to read!

  3. I will have to see if my son (almost 14 yrs. old) will like The Uglies. Sounds like something he'd be interested in. He and I read The Hunger Games trilogy last winter. Not great literature by any means, but interesting.


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