In an interview with Simon and Schuster's book newsletter, author Scott Westerfeld talks about the inspiration behind the series. Westerfeld thinks that the future will allow people greater control over their appearance: "We are definitely heading toward a world in which lots of people will get to decide how they look. That will change what we think of as beautiful, and what beauty means to us." In light of this Westerfeld "wanted to write a future in which these technologies were fairly common."
Westerfeld also cites "Liking What You See: A Documentary" by Ted Chiang as an inspiration.
Additionally, the series shares many of its themes with the 1964 The Twilight Zone episode "Number Twelve Looks Just Like You."  In a blog posting, the author of the books notes that he had seen the episode in his childhood and had forgotten all the details.