MaxBarry.com
not as edgy as you'd think

Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 31
Aug
2006

Closer, my pet. Closer…

Company My publisher just made a big mistake. They e-mailed me a list of the places they’re thinking of sending me on my 2007 US book tour, and I said, “How about I put this on my web site and ask what people think?” And my publicist, Martin—I think he must be new; it’s the only explanation—said, “Good idea.”

What Martin fails to realize is that I have just cleverly arranged for everyone who will be upset that I’m not coming to their town to be angry at him instead of me.

What Martin should have done is what all my previous publicists did: present the schedule only when it’s nailed down. That way I’m left helplessly trying to explain to irate, neglected fans why I’m visiting four cities on the west coast but none between L.A. and New York.

Instead, what we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a tentative schedule. And the publisher wants to know what you think. So go ahead! And remember: there’s no reason they couldn’t send me to every town in America, if they cared enough!

Okay, that’s not true. I was exaggerating for comic effect. The number of cities is probably fixed, due to financial reasons and the fact that I’m not that famous. But if you’ve got a good reason why they should send me to one place and not another, post in the comments here and Martin will read it.

Here’s the list:

  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Ann Arbor
  • Dallas
  • Austin
  • Denver/Boulder
  • San Francisco
  • Either Madison or Los Angeles

It is actually very cool for a publisher to do this. In fact, I’ve never heard of one asking fans where they’d like an author to visit before.

Update: Whoa! That’s a lot of comments. I found out that Martin is on vacation this week, so I guess he’ll come back to a nice surprise. Wait, I mean, “violent argument.” That’s it.

Wed 23
Aug
2006

Inscrutable Germans

Company German edition of CompanyIn the comments of my last blog, member Ralf observed that there’s a German edition of Company coming out, and they’ve posted the cover online. I’m glad I have people like Ralf to tell me these things. He’s more up-to-date with what’s happening in my career than I am. From now on I’ll get him to write my blogs.

The German cover is very interesting, because I have absolutely no idea what it means. Now, I’m used to foreign publishers making inexplicable changes that I can only hope make more sense in their native language and culture. Especially if it’s the Germans, who are yet to publish a book of mine with anything even vaguely resembling the original title. (Syrup became “Fukk” and Jennifer Government is “Logoland”.) Because “chefsache” does not, as you might assume, mean “company.” It means “top priority case.”

My guess is that it must be common German management-speak, like “action items” or “Let’s take this offline” or “We’ve outsourced your job to India.” But the cover is more perplexing. I honestly can’t figure it out. And I’m usually good at this kind of thing. Once in high school I sat for an IQ test where they gave me sets of cards with pictures on them, and I was asked to arrange them to make logical stories. I scored lower on that test than anyone. My problem was that I kept seeing logical stories that weren’t there: I would arrange my cards in a sequence that made perfect sense to me—that spun tales of pathos and drama, of tragedy and triumph—and look proudly at the teacher only to see her eyes flick down to the answer sheet, and return, sympathetically, to meet mine. After that, they wouldn’t let me near sharp objects.

But this one is a mystery to me. Is that guy exploding? Why? And why is he wearing sunglasses? Help me out here: what do you think this cover means?

Thu 17
Aug
2006

It gets worse

What Max Reckons At first I thought that people tattooing themselves with logos might represent a cultural bottoming-out; a sign that we had reached the flattest part of our ongoing subjugation to corporations. But now I realize you can sink lower: you can tattoo yourself with a stupid logo.

I guess it makes sense; if you’re the kind of person who thinks it’s a good idea to imprint your body with a company’s logo, you’re probably not that discerning about which logo you choose. Or about anything, really. I offer into evidence the choice of Peter McBride, who is the proud new owner of a Polo pony logo just above his left nipple.

Now, I don’t want to come right out and say that Pete is the low point of human civilization—I mean, there was Hitler. But looking at that photo… gee, it’s a tough call.

Apparently Pete made his choice while waiting in line at the tattoo parlor. This reinforces my belief that it’s always a mistake to try to execute a plan before you’ve thought of one. I mean, if Pete had woken one morning and thought, “Yes, I want to create permament, physical evidence that I’m so desperate to find an identity that I’m willing to suck at the watery brand image run-off of P.R. companies and marketing consultants,” that would be one thing. A disturbing thing, sure. But at least you could admire the fact that he had a vision and carried it out. But that is not what Pete did. Pete decided, “I want to permanently mark my skin with… oh, whatever. I’ll think of something when I get there.”

According to the article, logo tattoos are getting more popular. And “requests range from Chanel and Gucci to Windows and PlayStation.”

Chanel and Gucci I understand, even if it’s a little like calling your daughter Porsche. But PlayStation? If you’re getting a logo tattoo, don’t you perhaps want to avoid products that will be obsolete this time next year? And Windows! Windows, the McDonald’s of technology! Why not just tattoo “I don’t know that much about computers” on yourself? Any self-respecting computer geek who saw someone with a Windows tattoo would fall about laughing. And then punch them in the face. Which is really saying something, because we are not a violent people.

At least the end of the article offers a glimmer of hope:

A tattoo artist who goes only by the name Ennis says a man recently came in with a Lacoste crocodile on his neck. “He wanted it off,” says Ennis. “He didn’t say why. He just said get rid of it.”

Fri 11
Aug
2006

Retrospective #8: Nothing Happens, Film at 11

Max It’s probably time for a big update on what the hell is going on with some of projects I’ve mentioned in the past. On the one hand, the reason I haven’t posted any news is because I have nothing to report. But on the other, it’s probably annoying of me to post some big announcement then go quiet for months about it. So here’s the latest.

The Syrup Movie

There has been some good stuff happening, but I’m on strict instructions not to talk about it. Essentially, the producers at Fortress are trying to match the script I wrote with some appropriately cool film-makers. At this stage I’m reasonably hopeful that this is going to happen. Which means there is a non-zero chance of seeing a good Syrup movie some time this decade. I know! I’m excited too.

The Jennifer Government Movie

Section 8, the production company owned by George Clooney and Stephen Soderbergh, recently broke up, and I got the film rights back. Clooney and Grant Heslov have formed a new production company called Smoke House, and it’s possible the project might re-form there. Or it might not. If it doesn’t, there are some other good potential homes for it. So while this film is about as far away from production as ever, it has lots of potential.

The Company Movie

Nothing to report here yet; it’s very early in development.

My next novel

I’m working on a book. I would love to tell you how it’s going, but I know if I do it will be the last coherent sentence I ever write. I’m superstitious like that. But I am making plenty of progress. I feel like this time I might end up doing much less re-writing than usual. Of course, I always think that.

This is my top priority by far, and what I’m spending most of my time on.

The Maximum Words strategy has proved difficult to stick to. I keep cheating, like deliberately not checking the word count when I know I’m over. Still, I think it’s helping.

The sci-fi TV series

I wrote up a proposal, which I’m actually quite fond of. It probably needs another polish or two and then my agent will see if anyone but me likes it. This is a very long shot, since it’s insanely hard to get a TV series up. I am not packing my bags for LA just yet.

The Australian TV show with Wil Anderson

Hasn’t progress due to the enormous trouble Wil and I have locating ourselves in the same city simultaneously. We have a good concept, though, so I hope we can get something on paper this year.

Foreign editions of Company

I wish I had something to tell you. This bugs me like nothing else.

Project S

There’s something else I’m brewing up, but I’m not allowed to talk about it. It would be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, though, so I’m seriously hoping it comes off. Yes, you heard it here first!

And I think that’s it. Huh. That was kind of underwhelming. But now you’re up to date! That’s got to be worth something, doesn’t it?

Fri 04
Aug
2006

The Joy of Text

Max (Language warning: Today’s blog contains profanity. And how! There’s tons of it. Not from me; I’m quoting someone else. But if you prefer your computer screens unsullied, you probably don’t want to scroll any further down. Or, as another tactic, you could squint a little and tilt your head to the left. Quotes are italicized, you see; so you might not be able to quite make out the words. Of course, you won’t make any sense of the blog, either. And you’ll look kind of stupid. But it’s up to you. I’m just providing you with sufficient information to make an informed choice.)

Today I stumbled upon some guy’s list of his favorite blogs. All right, when I say “stumbled upon,” I mean I heard about Google Blog Search, and immediately typed in the subject I care about most, i.e. me. Anyway, my site is on this list—which is not a ringing endorsement so much as the anthropic principle in action. But here’s what he said:

Max Barry. Author of several really good books. Seems to be one of the few authors who really maintains a blog just for the joy of occasional communication instead of promoting an agenda.

This pleased me very much. I do love that communication, and while I can’t claim to be agenda-free—not with this many arch-enemies—I’m very happy that, to one guy at least, that’s not what I’m here for.

A lot of my e-mail is indeed a joy. A lot is spam for Viagra and hot stock picks, too, but I get more warm, funny, and fawning e-mail than anyone really has a right to. As an example, here’s one I received a couple of weeks ago. I wasn’t going to post it, because whenever I do that quite a few people e-mail me in a similar vein, presumably hoping I’ll post theirs, too. And in this case, that would be scary. But in many ways it represents everything that’s great fun about what I get to do here.

From Kale:

(FUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCKFUCK… say something witty…. FUUUUCK…. DID I SPELL THAT WRITE? HE THINK IMSTOPID IF I DONT SPELL WRITE!!!!!!!)

Hey Maxeroooooney, ever read Everyone in Silico? Or Torture the Artist?

P.S. I want to marry Six…Is there anyway I can OFFICIALLY marry a fictious character? Because if so…Im marrying that woman.

I don’t usually reply to my email (which is terrible, I know), but I banged out a quick response to this one:

Yes, no, and if you try that, I’m calling the cops.

Max.

Then Kale responded:

OMG YOU REPLIIIEDDDD!!! Ahaha…ahahah…

Your books, Mr.Barry, are incredible. I weep everytime I think on them. When bystanders at the arcade I work at ask me whats wrong, I just cry harder…FUCKING BEAUTIFUL…BRILLAINT…NO MORE WORDS. …FUCK, I would love to meet and help ANY of your characters in WHATEVER way they needed. Do me a favor…and im completely serious… PLEASE… PLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASEPLEASE… name a character Kale. NAME A CHARACTER KALE. KALE…It’s a rare name! It’s the name of a vegetable. It’s hawain…it mean’s strong man. WADDAYASAY??? Just…ANY character at all!!!!! I know the use of “!!!” and “…” can be annoying, but that;s just where im at in this point of my life. Lots’a passion. Im a 21 year old man. I love your books. I love the show Home Movies. I get depressed thinking about life. I have so many questions. I enjoy Jerri Blank and The UCB. I love Lobo. They should make him read Syrup when they UNCANCELL the series. Front cover. I like OINK. Ever read that? JTHM was, at one point, the only thing i ever cared about.

I’ve spilled my gut’s and I still have’nt said anything I wanted to you…the man who’se stories make me happy. THANK YOU. THANK YOU, THANK YOU THANK YOU, THANK YOU…

How awesome is that? I read something like that, I feel like a superhero. Thanks, Kale. And to all of you who write to me or post on this site. I mean, I don’t want to get too mushy here, but—aw, hell. Come here. Yeah, that’s it. Thanks, guys.

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