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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

Wed 12
Dec
2007

New Fiction: How I Met My Daughter

Writing Creepy doll's head pic from How I Met My DaughterI wrote another short story! I know, it’s crazy. It’s like I’m just pumping these things out. Anyway, it’s in stores now in Australia as part of The Bulletin’s Summer Reading Edition, in a super-cool layout complete with creepy doll’s head pic. I tell you, there’s something about a creepy doll’s head pic that just works with my writing, you know? Maybe I can get them to print some in my next novel.

If you’re not in Australia, this would be the time when you start to get annoyed. I mean, Australia was already pretty ace, but now it’s also got new Max Barry short stories with creepy doll’s head pics? That’s just too much. But I say would, because The Bulletin said I can post their spread here for your online enjoyment. Which is damn cool of them. So here it is:

How I Met My Daughter: pretty PDF version (120KB), layout and images copyright The Bulletin, or plain web version.

This story is quite different to my usual groove, and I’m interested in what you think—whether you prefer this or Springtide, for example.

Comments

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austin (#2462)

Location: rhode island
Quote: "hmmm...bleh..."
Posted: 2324 days ago

~*~*~*~*~*Amazing~*~*~*~*~*~*

Although, it might just be the less-pretty web version, but there was a lack of a few open quotation marks and it said 'friend chicken' instead of fried chicken. Teehee?

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2324 days ago

Heh, thanks. Fixed.

Machine Man subscriber Bushra (#36)

Location: Fremont, California
Quote: "www.caffeinatedmuslim.com"
Posted: 2324 days ago

Great story Max. Really. I think I prefer this one to Springtide.

Picto (#64)

Location: United Kingdom
Quote: "Who is more foolish, the child afraid of the dark or the man afraid of the light? - Maurice Freehill"
Posted: 2324 days ago

Just read it in the .pdf file. Had me gripped into the very end. These days I'm just so busy that I never have time to sit down and read a full book that often, so short stories are always fascinating reads. Great story, hope you churn out some more in the near future.

Gregory Rubin (#72)

Location: Seattle, WA
Quote: "SSIMB!"
Posted: 2324 days ago

Max,

I think that's the first story of yours that I've read that actively disturbs me. Beautiful and left me wanting just a paragraph more. (Oh, such temptation.)

Joel (#3353)

Location: Michigan, USA
Quote: ""Sweet, flakey gods!""
Posted: 2324 days ago

The idea that there are people who might actually think this way is terrifying.

That said, gripping and well-told. I particularly liked initial pages, about the monotony of trying to conceive. More people need to come to that realization.

Colette (#324)

Location: Boise, Idaho, USA
Quote: "What's popcorn made of?"
Posted: 2324 days ago

This was quite possibly the most well-told short story I've read recently. I had to read the last paragraph at least five times. Not because I didn't get it, but because it was so beautifully disturbing.

blab (#1632)

Location: The Sandwich Isles
Quote: "Adventure is just poor planning"
Posted: 2324 days ago

They're both good -- slide the reader along like a wet dream and then -- the plunge into the abyss. I suspect you've found your form: Max the Marvelously Macabre.

Josh Kinal (#3354)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posted: 2324 days ago

Max,

If creepy dolls' heads are your thing, can I present to you the work of the very talented Peter Milne: http://www.m33.net.au/prints.html

Josh

Josh Kinal (#3354)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posted: 2324 days ago

Can I also include a question mark in that last comment?

Machine Man subscriber Katie Ellert (#207)

Location: Calgary AB Canada
Quote: "Where's Lola? WHERE'S LOLA?!?!"
Posted: 2324 days ago

I really enjoyed this.
It's completely different than any of your other work, which impressed me.

You have great talent. Keep up the amazing work.
--Katie

Robert (#1730)

Location: Tampa, FL
Posted: 2324 days ago

Great story!

I love it when authors try out something different from their own norm.

Overall, I'm taken with this new piece. It was easy to get used to the greatness of your satire and with any luck, there'll be more shorts like this to get used to your serious side.

-Robert

shabooty (#637)

Location: D.C./V.A/M.D.
Quote: "I will shake your foundation. I will shake the f**cking rafters. Nobody'll be the same -Danny Bonaduce ....& go visit my blog @: http://www.shabooty.com"
Posted: 2324 days ago

lets just say my heated dinner is still sitting in the microwave because i wanted to finish reading the story.
i probably liked this better than springtide.
but its shiety asking a fanboy to choose favorites. =]
ps i liked the 'emo' ness of it. heh.

Machine Man subscriber Danni Brennand (#357)

Location: England
Quote: "Eagerly awaiting the European Tour."
Posted: 2324 days ago

That was creepier than the doll's head. I think I enjoyed it...

It was certainly good, but creepy. Very creepy.

Erin (#1296)

Location: Chandler AZ
Posted: 2323 days ago

VERY CREEPY.

At the beginning I was thinking it had a rather Nick Hornby feel to it. And then it got disturbing.

I prefer it to Springtide even though it makes me much more depressed. Great storytelling.

thewylddream (#1191)

Location: Montana USA
Quote: ""Always forgive your enemies -- Nothing annoys them so much." ~Oscar Wilde~"
Posted: 2323 days ago

I just, I don't know. I kind of felt sorry for him.

This was a very compelling read. (And I tend to hate first person.)

Well done.

Nate Spears (#1454)

Location: Dallas, TX
Quote: ""Vengeance. Justice. Fire and blood." -Doran Martell"
Posted: 2323 days ago

Nice. Insightful observations on the different types of familial love and their dynamics.

I didn't know your wife and daughter's names so for a while I thought I was reading an autobiographical story. I was considering unsubscribing . . .

thewylddream (#1191)

Location: Montana USA
Quote: ""Always forgive your enemies -- Nothing annoys them so much." ~Oscar Wilde~"
Posted: 2323 days ago

LOL @ Nate. Yeah I breathed a sigh of relief when it became clear he wasn't talking about Finn.

bob (#2120)

Location: silicon valley
Quote: "they talked in papery whispers."
Posted: 2323 days ago

Springtide was fun, but How I Met My Daughter, struck me as poor and thin, like something dashed off in a few moments of boredom while waiting for a delayed flight.

Phill Sacre (#1822)

Location: London, UK
Quote: "Computers are like air conditioners. Both stop working, if you open windows."
Posted: 2323 days ago

I think this was my favourite line:

"I finished, and it was like plunging a blocked drain."

Almost LOLed at that one!

Very creepy, Max, and yes - I'm very glad it's not autobiographical!

Mats (#1057)

Location: Turku, Finland, Europe, Earth
Quote: ""The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist knows it." James Branch Cabell via Robert Oppenheimer"
Posted: 2323 days ago

Whoa.

When I read "quite different" I didn't expect to be transported to an alternate universe where Max Barry is someone totally different. That was some powerful stuff.
This definitely takes you to a new height as a writer. If this was made into a novel or a movie I'd probably cry a couple of times while reading or watching it.
But I'd say stick with the lighter satire. At least that makes you laugh. Or if you keep writing this kind of stuff, keep it in the short story form, or you might have to expect similar behavior from people all over the world as was caused by Goethes "The Sorrows of Young Werther".

Yikes. That story still gives me shivers. I think I have to go home and give my girlfriend a hug.

Lauri Shaw (#3325)

Location: London, England
Posted: 2323 days ago

I never want my husband to see this story.

It's really, really good.

jjhatch (#2651)

Location: Round Rock, TX
Quote: "Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!"
Posted: 2323 days ago

Wow, this short story was amazing. At first it was funny, but then it got creepy and disturbing. But it was creepy and disturbing in a good way. It does show that you have a more serious side and you're not just about making people laugh.

A very good story.

kitty (#1326)

Location: Upstate NY
Quote: "sweet"
Posted: 2323 days ago

You write very well. I bought and loved your books and passed them amongst my friends. But this is different. This story was amusing in the beginning and then veered into depressing, but the ending was very disturbing. As a mother, I didn't like it.

Robert Silliman (#1845)

Location: Phoenix, AZ, USA
Quote: "He who dies with the most toys - is still dead."
Posted: 2323 days ago

It's different - in that it doesn't have anything to do with;

a) near future
b) advertising

But - still has a signature 'Max' element - in that it swerves on you when you least expect it.

Linnea1928 (#2654)

Location: Rosemount, MN
Posted: 2323 days ago

I liked it...it's hard to compare to the other stories because it's a completely different genre from your other stuff. I thought it was really powerful.

Erin Tams (#2127)

Location: Sacramento, CA
Quote: "Buy Max Barry Books Today!"
Posted: 2323 days ago

Max,

My husband and I never had a problem getting pregnant. In fact he would complain that we didn't get to "try" enough. I think the story was excellent and touched my heart. Many fathers are intimidated by their children and your storyline seemed very real.

Great job. I love reading your words.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2323 days ago

Thanks for all this feedback! Very useful.

Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 2323 days ago

ACK. Dear god that was an unsettling start to the day. But so good! And VERY different indeed... it was hard to get my head around a narrator I automatically associated with you acting this way about his wife and daughter, when I know how you really feel about them. It's a relief to know you're not really that creepy.

Very well done, though, I loved it.

Lottie (#3093)

Location: Sheffield, UK
Posted: 2323 days ago

Thumbs up. :)

Should I have laughed at the very last line? 'Cause if not, I need some help.

towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 2323 days ago

Quite good. And a noticeable lack of anything to do with marketing ;)
I can't really say whether I prefer it over springtide or not. Springtide is cleverder in a way, this one is more .. dramatic, I suppose.

Machine Man subscriber Roger (#1653)

Posted: 2323 days ago

Wow.......

Prue Meehan (#3306)

Location: Australia
Quote: ""I intend to live forever. So far, so good." Steven Wright"
Posted: 2323 days ago

Felt my heart rate rise as I got closer to the end! And now I sit here feeling so disturbed... so offended on behalf of Lisa and like I want to seriously hurt the husband... p.s. just finished Company (or Donut as I keep accidentally calling it) and loved that too!

Caleb Crotzer (#1461)

Location: California, USA
Quote: "Breathe!!"
Posted: 2323 days ago

A powerfully brutal and honest ending. I think I enjoyed this more than Springtide, but I'm biased as I am a new father myself. I love how you took a tiny, whispered, subconscious notion and threw it in the readers face. Quite refreshing.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 2323 days ago

Very good. It's a little dark...kind of like a Palaniuk short story, except with less sex.(although the conceiving part came close.)

-adam

Jennifer M. Dambeck (#3061)

Location: NJ, USA
Quote: "Rock on"
Posted: 2322 days ago

I liked it!

Mid-way through I thought, why isn't he using his wife and child's real names? This story is so sweet . . .

The I got to the end and my heart breaks for the characters, what a great read, Max! Creepy and sad but still cool and "you"

Machine Man subscriber Joe M. (#3183)

Location: Texas
Quote: "Grooviness is essential"
Posted: 2322 days ago

Wow. That was great, Max! I much prefer it to "Springtide," which was a little too much of the same for my taste.

Very disturbing. It's been a while since a story was so discomforting to me. I think the last was Cormac McCarthy's "Outer Dark."

If I were to criticize: the paragraphs in which the character hears about the accident and goes to the hospital struck me as a little ham-handed, the sex was funny and sad, and the ending was perfectly horrible.

Thanks for sharing.

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 2322 days ago

That's one sick and twisted tale. Please sir, can we have some more?

And you'll be letting Fin read this at about what age? Oh I see. Yes, therapy is expensive at any age...

Kalle (#1278)

Quote: "Sex is herital. If your parents never had it, chanses are you'll never have it either."
Posted: 2322 days ago

Wow, quite a nice story. It lacks the complete cynisism of Chuck Palanhiuk but a good effort! I enjoyed it.

Mark Tran (#3249)

Location: Canada
Quote: "If you lived here, You'd be home."
Posted: 2321 days ago

Wow.. that was wonderful. Much more of a personalish story than Springtide. I enjoyed it a lot. Thanks Max!

Abgrund (#3357)

Location: Atlantis
Quote: ""Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority." - Ayn Rand"
Posted: 2321 days ago

"Springtide" is entertaining, but it leaves nothing behind. It's about things that we already know and acknowledge. "How I met my daughter" reaches deeper, to things that we might prefer not to know. It's more human. "Springtide" fools the reader because the characters /don't/ resemble children; if they were more like children trying to be adults, instead of aduilts in children's bodies, the twist would be lost but the story would be stronger. "How I met my daughter" is altogether more mature, and the ending isn't a twist - you can see it coming a mile away - but it smacks you anway.

It appears, Mr. Barry, that you are staring down the barrel of maturity. Good luck.

Joe (#2270)

Location: Campbell, CA, USA
Quote: "I'm subverting the system from the inside. I think."
Posted: 2321 days ago

Speaking as a father of a daughter, wow. Like the characters in the story, it took me and my wife a very long time to get pregnant after we started trying, and like the father in the story, I never expected the love I feel for my daughter to be so intense. I assume, bob #2120, that you don't have kids, since it clearly doesn't resonate for you.

Although the family in the story is clearly not yours, Max, I do kind of wonder how your wife feels about this story.

Oodge (#2790)

Location: Tas
Quote: "'Ooh look Marge, Maggie lost her baby legs.'"
Posted: 2321 days ago

Exquisitely horrifying. Much better than Springtide and very different from what we usually read from you, but as Robert Silliman said the 'Max-ness' does appear, especially around when you were talking about the changing of clothes. And the fact that's it's just so original and cool.

I thought there were a couple of awkward paragraphs though. I don't know how much you were limited by the magazine, but I though a few more passages between the middle and the end would have added a lot.

Thanks Max

Jennifer M. Dambeck (#3061)

Location: NJ, USA
Quote: "Rock on"
Posted: 2320 days ago

Max, most of the comments here do seem either positive and/or constructive. I have to say you've got a pair of big brass ones to open yourself up and let anybody express their opinion of your work. Kudos to you, I'd never have the courage. :)

Michael Ricksand (#2212)

Location: Terra
Quote: "You do not have a right to be stupid."
Posted: 2320 days ago

The first thing I thought about this story was what Hemingway said about cutting away every word that didn't contribute something to the story, no matter how much you may have liked it. "Kill your darlings", as he phrased it. This story is like that; a lesser writer might have made a boring novel out of it instead of an interesting short story.

The second thing I thought about it is that "Kill your darlings"... Well, you get it.

Ail (#3358)

Location: See that shadow? Yeah. That one.
Quote: "Sometimes it seems like daytime is a re-occuring dream and getting into bed is just how the bad things get me."
Posted: 2319 days ago

Oh my. I am so glad I don't have the need to cling to a loved one. (Not obsessively anyway... Er, well, not AS obsessively. Well... You know what I mean!)

This story, of course, instantly makes me think of my boy. I know he'll make a great father, and I a great mother, but even still, this short story of yours gave me a brain freeze. Owie.

"JAMES, GIVE ME HUGGLES!"

Anita (#405)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posted: 2318 days ago

I am in love with “How I met my daughter” – it’s excellent. I think those first few lines set the scene so well – you could be deceived by the title into thinking that this is some sweet story just like every other, but you soon realise otherwise. Even though the story is overall quite ‘dark,’ you don’t let it fall into hyperbole which for me I think is what made it really gripping. Wonderful – I hope to see more like this!

I was not such a fan of ‘Springtide.’ I think the first half especially really lets it down. I started it like 5 times before it broke through for me and I become interested, and I enjoyed it from there.

I’m really glad to hear you are into writing some short stories at the moment – because I love them! So I hope you dish out a few more!

Du'Loque (#3361)

Quote: "duloque.blogspot.com"
Posted: 2316 days ago

Change! It's exciting, and never a failure.

You've always dwelt on the mundane details in your stories, and even while you satirized consumer excess or ridiculous marketing, you never called us (us being the Western society, a willing or not-so-willing character in your story) worthless. Sometimes stupid, sometimes pointless, but never to be ignored or looked down upon.

It's a unpatronizing honesty, and it makes your characters human. Scat and I could not differ farther in philosophy or life goals, but he's my fictive hero and doppelganger because I still can identify with, if not him, all the shit he puts himself through.

Here, your style turns from satire to... something else. The result: creepy, and a little too close to home. I can't comment too much on the mechanics story itself, as I'd feel presumptuous; however, you've created a strange portrait of desire and I'd really, really like to see more of this.

Perhaps more short stories in this vein are to be expected? I can only hope.

Richard (#2051)

Location: Boulder, CO
Quote: "...I may not like you, but because some town in Switzerland says so, you have rights!"
Posted: 2315 days ago

Wow, Max...different indeed. I must say, I enjoyed the sudden turns it took, and the way it hinted at normal feelings of love and attachment that took a turn toward the destructive and, most certainly, disturbing. That last paragraph, as was said before, definitely left me wanting more.

Du'Loque (#3361)

Quote: "duloque.blogspot.com"
Posted: 2315 days ago

As an afterthought, though... the story begins almost like one of your more humorous pieces, before taking a turn to the serious. I'd even go so far as to say it reads like two different pieces grafted together, but the grafting is done so well I can't really be sure.

I'd just feel that the atmosphere (word I pulled right out of my ass, I'm sure there's a better one) of the story could be sustained from beginning to end, instead of the office-party-epiphany to the end.

Jeffrey (#2286)

Location: Right here
Quote: "Mathematics is a powerful language. Just look at how mathematicians destroyed the housing market."
Posted: 2312 days ago

it took me a while to get around to reading this. I really liked Springtide. It had that Max Barry feel to it. But this story, How I Met My Daughter, wow. I mean wow. That's not something we're accustomed to seeing from you. That disturbing twist at the end. Makes me feel like I was reading Palahniuk instead of you. Bravo. I love them both but this really showed me how great you are. So How I Met My Daughter has my vote.

Du'Loque (#3361)

Quote: "duloque.blogspot.com"
Posted: 2312 days ago

Does it make sense that I can't stand Palahniuk but I love Max Barry? (Erm, his writing, that is. Yes, his writing.) Because everyone's always comparing the two, and besides Max's affiliation with that website, I really can't see any connection.

In their writing. Maybe they look alike? I don't know what Palahniuk looks like, so that could be it...

dieyoubastards (#3366)

Location: England
Posted: 2312 days ago

I loved the story Max, but I'm afraid that as a seventeen-year-old the idea of sex being unpleasant was lost on me :P. I know you must have been asked this a load of times, but what did your wife think of it?

Du'Loque (#3361)

Quote: "duloque.blogspot.com"
Posted: 2311 days ago

More importantly, how does your daughter feel about it? =)

Celeste (#2590)

Location: St.L. MO, USA
Quote: "You can't child-proof the world, so world-proof the child."
Posted: 2311 days ago

Confession. I have been a big fan of your writing for YEARS, ever since my son discovered NationStates and I subscribed to your blog. In fact, my computer died and I went for about a year without one, and one of the first things I did when I got a new one was to re-subscribe to your blog.

Confession: I only read one of your books, Jennifer Government, about 9 months ago. Thats after it was sitting on my nightstand for three months. I returned it to the library and paid the overdue fine three weeks ago.

I was surprised at the differences between the writing style of your book and that of your blogs. And at first, disappointed. The book seemed, um, so much "shallower". Then I read it again. And then I realized its seductive power. It did "seem" shallower, simpler. And that was its carefully crafted beauty. You dont get bogged down in telling us pages and pages of what is going on behind your characters eyes, like oh, Stephen King. You dont give us exquisite scene directions that put a photo still from the movie in our brains. You give us just enough. And place it pretty much in the world we are familiar with, and let our imagination put it in our own city, on our own block, populate it with people we already know.

And thats why its such very, very good satire.

And Springtide seems to be like that. Oh, sure, you're writing style has matured, you've grown, obviously, gotten very comfortable in this writing thing. Your marketing fiction it looks like, is getting even more creepy, and seems scarily prophetic.

But as everyone else has pointed out, "How I met my daughter" reads like one of your blogs. Its intimate, personal. It is in a way, very much deeper, for that.

Both of them are a bit more, hmm, I was going to say graphic but its not quite the right word, maybe hard core? soft porn? than your other stuff, which I think will appeal to a different, not necessarily wider, demographic. And may lose you some of your original readership.

Don't stop writing. Be aware that you may have more than one audience, though.

I suppose I should go buy some of your books.

Thanks for everything! :-)

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2310 days ago

So many excellent comments here! Thanks again. I'm asking a highly biased audience, of course -- people who like my writing enough to subscribe to my website -- but it's still very helpful.

Yes, Jen was a little freaked out by this story. I probably should have given her more warning than just, "Read this." My mother-in-law wasn't too fond of it, either. I keep forgetting that fiction is never read as pure fantasy. Even my editor at The Bulletin kept referring to the narrator as "you," which was creepy.

Adam (#580)

Location: Hotel Lobbies (with Winona Ryder)
Quote: "I want to be famous. Really famous."
Posted: 2310 days ago

Wow, it's like someone took the glowing ebullient spirit of Max Barry and just beat and pounded and mashed and squeezed until all that remained was the coal-black heart of Bret Easton Ellis.

Coming from him, this would have been expected. Coming from you, it's just depressing.

(Not a bad story, mind you, just shocking considering the source.)

Machine Man subscriber Berkeley (#3374)

Location: Piedmont, SC USA
Posted: 2303 days ago

I enjoyed this. I have an 18 month old daughter, and the story evoked some feelings I may have not been able to put into words myself. I liked the darkness. I, however, really liked "Springtide" and am looking forward to you pushing what you do so well with your satire and combining some of this darkness with it to help yourself grow and do new things. Your fans always look forward to anything new you have to say, so keep it coming. Small doses are fine too.

jessica (#3063)

Location: austin, tx
Quote: "You can't start a fire worrying about your little world falling apart."
Posted: 2301 days ago

both stories were excellent! 'Springtide' was great but i wish it would have been a bit longer for more development. love the sarcasm and irony. definitely something you have done before. i really thoroughly enjoyed 'How I Meet My Daughter.' you're branching out into new territory here. it feel personal. it felt connected. yeah, it's a little dark but unexpected. i like where you are headed on your journey as an author. keep up the good work!

JB (#2465)

Location: Southern Illinoise
Quote: "I love you so much, now let's get something to eat."
Posted: 2296 days ago

Yeah, Max, my fiancee did not like the story.

Here's what I did: I printed it out and gave it to her. We lay in bed and she read it. She was with you 'til the end. You lost her there.

My opinion isn't important. You are published and I have another workshop to attend this Spring.

Nevertheless, we convinced ourselves that the doctor told your narrator something that would justify him telling his wife to go to the light. Thing is, what is that something? I don't suppose we need to know, but the beginning isn't matching with the ending. There's a rift. Regardless of the story, I still plan to buy anything you release, so cheers!

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