Would you eat a brick if I told you it would cure the cancer of anyone afflicted?
Of course. That would be the most effective cancer treatment in the world. We’re currently shooting people full of poison and it doesn’t even work most of the time. Brick-eating would be a major technological breakthrough. You would win the Nobel Prize for discovering a treatment method as relatively simple and painless as brick-eating.
I would also kill an innocent person with a brick if that would cure cancer worldwide. I mean, I wouldn’t enjoy it. But cancer is the worst. In fact, I would let you kill me with a brick.
I knew someone who worked on The X-Files during its original run and when they were shutting down after nine seasons, she said, “It’s not like we were curing cancer.” Because occasionally in the arts & entertainment industry you can stop and realize that you’re making up stories while other people are doing important things like saving lives or growing food or building houses. I said, sure, but the people who are have probably been watching The X-Files. I hope that is true.
Hey Max, why do you hate Windows?
No one you ever heard of
I’M GLAD YOU ASKED. From the last time I whined about Windows:
But what really bothers me is the feeling that you must constantly fight for control of your own computer, because your aims are apparently in conflict with those of Microsoft and half of everyone else who writes Windows software. They want your computer to report information about you, keep ongoing watch over what you’re doing in case you turn pirate (activation, registration, and validation?), show you ads, and lock you out of protected media. If you lose this battle, six months later you find yourself with a computer so clogged with malware that the only way to make it usable again is to reinstall the operating system and begin the fight again.
Written in 2007. Windows today is that times a thousand.
At least Apple is up-front about how you’ll shut up and take what it gives you. I appreciate that honesty. On my phone, I’m happy for it. I don’t want to configure my phone. I just want to read email and look at photos. You make that happen, Apple.
But Windows! Windows is sneaky. Windows is the shady salesperson telling me it’s my decision but if I don’t want to upgrade it’s going to keep asking and then just go ahead and do it and say it was my choice.
I use Ubuntu Linux, which is part of an open source ecosystem where people make good software just because. That used to be only mildly notable, but the digital world has become so hard-nosed that whenever I switch to Windows, I’m a naive farm boy who just arrived in the big city: 15 minutes later, I’m bankrupt, naked, and everyone has my email address.
Oh, and the Start button. THE START BUTTON. The perfect symbol of everything that’s wrong with Windows. Well not everything. But a lot. Every edition of Windows for the last 20 years has breathlessly pushed one of two selling points:
We added a Start button
We removed the Start button
YOU’RE ADDING AND REMOVING THE SAME THING. How can your main feature of Windows 10 be something you introduced in 1995? Why is nobody talking about that? “Oh yes, I think Windows 10 is actually a significant improvement; it brings back the Start button.” That’s like someone was punching you in the face for a while, then stopped, and now you think things are better than ever!
And it’s just a button! While you’re dreaming up new features, how about the one where you don’t need to reboot the entire freaking machine every time it wants to update?
So it’s mainly that: the sneakiness, and the sales campaign stuck on a loop.
What’s your age?
A lonely man
I’m 43. It’s a problem because the main photo of me on my website
is from seven years ago and I designed the site’s whole color scheme around it.
So now it’s about time to update that pic but I don’t want to have to restyle all the
menus. It’s a real dilemma. They say age brings unexpected challenges
but I didn’t see this coming.
Another problem is I have more trouble suspending disbelief.
So where in my youth I would read a line like, “Commander Zorko strode onto
the bridge, his brows furrowed,” and thought, “Yes, excellent, you
have already impressed me, Commander,” now I’m more like, “That is some pretty cliched writing.”
You might think this is a positive, raising my standards, but when your workflow is
blasting out a terrible first draft and reworking it from there, it’s not.
I have to drink a lot more coffee to delude myself into thinking that pearls are dripping
from my fingers whenever they touch the keyboard, that’s for sure. And that’s
a pre-requisite belief for any novelist hoping to complete a first draft,
as far as I know.
It also means I finish fewer books. I used to finish everything, even books I hated.
I would grind my way to the end, my hate for the author burning brighter with
every page. Because once you check out of a story, there’s no coming back.
It just gets worse and worse. Stories are a partnership, a deal between
author and reader, and they don’t work unless both sides hold up their end.
I went to a comedy show once and for some reason
didn’t find him funny, but everyone around me was rolling in the aisles,
so pretty soon I hated that guy with every fiber of my being. Also I felt kind
of psychopathic, because it’s weird to be the only person not laughing. That’s not a great look.
But now I bail out of a book at the slightest provocation. So I’m probably missing out
on some great reads.
I liked The Phantom Menace when it came out in 1999. I really did.
After the 13-minute pod-race scene, all I thought was, “That was a bold cinematic choice,
inserting an action sequence with no relevance to anything else in the story.” All the stupid stuff
I loved. But you just can’t do that at 43. I was unable to enjoy Pacific Rim
because MY GOD WHY ARE THE ROBOTS PUNCHING THE MONSTERS. Like obviously that’s the
point of the movie, why go see it if you don’t want robots to punch monsters, but SERIOUSLY ARE
THERE NO LONG-RANGE WEAPONS, OH WAIT, YES THERE ARE, AND THEY PUT THEM IN THE ARMS OF
THE ROBOTS, WHO ARE PUNCHING MONSTERS.
You see the problem.
Max, I hear you’re Australian. Do you support Australia becoming a republic?
Yes, I do! Australia almost became a republic in 1999 but the referendum was
defeated 45% to 55%. It was interesting because according to the polls, most
people were in favor of the general idea, but against any specific implementation.
So we wanted to be a republic right up until someone said, “Would we have
a Prime Minister or a President, then?” at which point it dissolved into bitter
This seems to be the general case. For example, a couple of months ago New Zealand
tried to change its flag, since, like Australia’s, it has a certain
Beneath-The-Iron-Heel-Of-The-Colonial-Empire vibe to it, and that idea had a lot of
support in principle, which collapsed when faced with a particular alternative design.
That was when the “Classy Silver Fern” people realized they didn’t have as much in common
with the “Kiwi Shooting Laser Beams Out of its Eyes” people as they thought.
I think the lesson is that you should make people to agree to do something before
you tell them exactly what.
What do you do in your off-time when you aren’t writing books?
I think about high schools. My daughter needs one in two years (I KNOW) and obviously the wrong choice will ruin her life forever. I mean, as a parent, you feel like every decision you make might ruin your kid’s life, right from the moment you get them, but this is a big one.
So I’ve been researching schools, and visiting schools, and emailing school teachers asking if I can come and speak to their classes, so I can figure out how good they are. If they say no, I know they have high standards. AHAHAHAHA. No, not really. It’s actually the opposite: If they say no, they suddenly seem terrible, like when you like someone and discover they don’t like you back. So all I’m really doing is making myself super biased.
Another problem is that when I visit a private school, I get a super-slick professional presentation, because that school is a business with an incentive to attract new customers. Whereas there’s a state high school near me that’s in such demand, they won’t even meet prospective parents. They had an Open Day but it felt grudging. So the private school comes off better, but they’re the only one selling.
Plus private schools are expensive. But then if you won’t bankrupt yourself for your kid’s education, what are you doing? But maybe that’s self-defeating because you wind up stressed and limited and that’s not good for anyone, either.
Then there’s the single-sex vs co-educational thing. I’m totally sold on the academic benefits of girls-only schooling, but I wonder about the social side, because there was a girls’ school across the road from my high school, and those girls were crazy. But then they were also Catholic. So that could have been it.
Today I visited a school where all the students seemed happy. That was pretty great. Maybe that’s it.
P.S. Aside from this I also:
write things that aren’t books, like TV pilots that will never get made
Not really a question, but it was really interesting to see your book Lexicon in my local library!
Why, because it’s not a real book? Because I go around slipping self-printed copies of my novels onto library shelves and into bookstores just so I can pretend for a few vain moments that my life and work matter? Because that is PREPOSTEROUS.
I’ve blogged about this before, but the first time I saw my novel in an actual bookstore, it felt a lot like someone put it there by accident. It wasn’t like, “Wow, I have a real book.” It was: “Look at all those real books, plus mine.”