MaxBarry.com
all things to some people

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 04
Mar
2009

This is the something

Machine Man I’ve never loved the idea of reading a novel online, because novels aren’t meant to be read that way: they are designed to envelop you. Anything I see on the web, by contrast, I give my attention for a maximum of eight seconds before checking Reddit for videos of laughing dogs. Don’t say that’s just me. It’s how the internet trains us.

So rather than trying to shoe-horn a novel into a web-friendly format, I thought I’d write you a real-time serial. That means a continuing story that turns up one tiny page at a time in your inbox. It is titled “Machine Man.”

I say “real-time” because I will write it as you read it. I’m warning you about this up-front because it’s going to be a little chaotic, and Hemingway was right. Also there is the possibility that it will go so badly I nuke this part of the web site and pretend it never happened. But it’s the web, right? So I will release early and release often.

Right now you can sign up for free. If it goes well, I’ll turn it into a subscriber thing where you can buy the whole thing for $6.95.

Pages start Wednesday March 18, 2009. You can find out more here.

I hope you like it.

P.S. I’m not sure if anyone’s done anything quite like this before. If they have, and it was a disaster, please don’t tell me.

P.P.S. Special thanks/blame to Ian for haranguing me into doing this.

Comments

This is where site members post comments. If you're not a member, you can join here. There are all kinds of benefits, including moral superiority!

Machine Man subscriber Danni Brennand (#357)

Location: England
Quote: "Eagerly awaiting the European Tour."
Posted: 2060 days ago

Oooh :)

Is it bad I've subscribed to the feed, asked for emails and bookmarked the page? :P

Machine Man subscriber Danni Brennand (#357)

Location: England
Quote: "Eagerly awaiting the European Tour."
Posted: 2060 days ago

BTW: Your link http://www.maxbarry.com/2009/02/17/news.html doesn't come up with anything here (your thanking Ian). Did you mean http://www.maxbarry.com/2009/02/16/news.html ?

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2060 days ago

Oh yeah. Thanks Danni!

Machine Man subscriber Glen (#3844)

Location: Sydney
Posted: 2060 days ago

More than one page possible? Just want to read more!

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: 2060 days ago

how do i subscribe to upskirt shots of 'Six'? :)
jk.

Jane (#321)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "Which is worse: Ignorance or apathy? Who knows? Who cares?"
Posted: 2060 days ago

Thanks Max! Looking forward to reading this. And it has another advantage -- I won't have to wait years for a US-based publisher to release it locally. Yay!

Machine Man subscriber Stygian Emperor (#2947)

Location: Austin, TX
Quote: "Hope is but the first step down the path to disappointment."
Posted: 2060 days ago

The title intrigues me. It had better not be a metaphor.

David (#1848)

Location: Texas
Quote: "Delighted!"
Posted: 2060 days ago

Very cool something, Max, thanks!

Joe (#2270)

Location: Campbell, CA, USA
Quote: "I'm subverting the system from the inside. I think."
Posted: 2060 days ago

Well, the approach worked for Charles Dickens. Why not? I signed up.

Rene (#2458)

Location: Austria
Quote: "To live is to die - Cliff Burton"
Posted: 2060 days ago

There was something maybe similar. It was done by Stephen King years ago. It went well until he stopped it. Something with a plant. I'd have to look it up on my old computer.

Anyway, I think it's a great idea and I am looking forward!

Dan Hope (#3822)

Location: Wordsley, UK
Posted: 2060 days ago

Excellent! Finally something to read while wasting away during those long working hours!

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2060 days ago

Yeah, King released in big chunks, though. Wait, that sounds gross. You know what I mean. It was more like ye olde magazine serial, a couple thousand words a shot.

Also he abandoned it because enough people weren't paying for it. It had some pretty bad delivery mechanics, I remember.

Yenzo (#829)

Location: Secret underwater pyramid base in the Pacific
Quote: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe (Carl Sagan)"
Posted: 2060 days ago

Great idea, if you ask me. Last time I read a real-time serial it was a weekly thing in a German newspaper, and even though I read it in book form after the fact, it was an exciting thing to read (it was a sci-fi story called Exponentialdrift, if you're interested). It was also discontinued when there was not enough reader interest, but in a time where people are used to daily blogs and regular uploads by lonelygirl15 and whatnot, you might stand a nice chance with your project. Count me in! :-)

Did I get it correctly, $6.95 will buy me the whole story? Or will it be a subscription with monthly payment? Because I have this inner moral barrier keeping me from doing monthly payments on the internet. Something about not accumulating debt in times of a global financial crisis. Just saying.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2060 days ago

I figure you can buy an e-book for fourteen bucks, and this isn't edited so it should be cheaper. Of course, it's cooler. I mean, one page a day: that's not just a story, it's a lifestyle. But if we get to the point where I decide this thing is worth paying for, it'll be $6.95 for the lot. No periodic payments.

P.S.:
> The title intrigues me. It had better not be a metaphor.

Not a metaphor. Well. Not JUST a metaphor. I reserve the right to retrospectively imbue it with deeper meaning, if I happen to stumble across any of that.

Jodi Cleghorn (#3642)

Location: Brisbane, AUST
Quote: "It is by believing in roses that one brings them to bloom"
Posted: 2060 days ago

This is intriguing Max. I write an online rambling novel/series with two other writers. We'd love to do it in real time - page a day, but all three of us hold down either full time jobs or full time responsibilties as parents. So we're limited to around 2000 words a week and we take it in turns. You can find the astonishing adventures of Captain Juan at www.captainjuan.com

It sounds like your own self paced NaNoWriMo project without the November deadline and I'm definitely keen to see how it works for you.And kudos for exposing your first draft to the public light of day. I remember you comment to me at Byron Bay about the 80th draft etc (I'm the chick you spoke to at the Byron Bay Writers festival about The Handmaids Tale and NaNo!)

Best of luck and I will be sharing this with all my writer friends.

David Whetton (#1861)

Location: Hove , England
Posted: 2059 days ago

In Japan they have stories to your mobile - one text a day - so that is fairly similar. Although I can't imagine you can get too much character development in there!

Jennifer M. Dambeck (#3061)

Location: NJ, USA
Quote: "Rock on"
Posted: 2059 days ago

YAY YAY YAY YAYAYAYAYAYA!!!!! I jibber with happiness!

Ajna (#3795)

Location: USA
Quote: "Judge if you want. We are all going to die one day. I intend to deserve it."
Posted: 2059 days ago

Question(s): Will the 6.95 be a catchall price, or will those lucky dogs among us who subscribed early get to keep it free?

Will the 6.95 be in Australian dollars, or American (Please say Australian, because then my price is a measly 4.47)?

Lastly... I forget. I'll replace it with "Hi", because I never thought I'd actually get to talk to a published author. The only person I could talk to who'd beat you in this contest would be Robert Jordan. (No luck there, sadly. What with death, and all...)

Brittany O. (#1688)

Location: Montana
Quote: "My love calls me Boom..."
Posted: 2059 days ago

finally.

Machine Man subscriber Ariel (#3057)

Posted: 2059 days ago

You're not the only one! There are respectable authors who do this, too. Diane Duane has been releasing an unpublishable book in chapter chumks on her website. http://www.the-big-meow.com/How-the-project-got-started

Machine Man subscriber Xpovos (#958)

Location: Washington D.C.
Quote: "Time not important, only life important"
Posted: 2059 days ago

Max, awesome idea. I don't know if it will pan out, but I'm up for it as long as it's free, and I if it starts off good I could probably be convinced to pay. I'd always much rather pay the artist directly than through the middle-man.

Also, let me commend you and/or your web team. Signing up to have the pages delivered into my Google Reader was the smoothest thing I've seen on the web integrating that much across different platforms -- ever. Very nifty.

Greg Karber (#1568)

Location: gregkarber.com
Posted: 2059 days ago

Yeah, another thing about King: he fucked us.

People were just supposed to pay a dollar if they chose--if less than 75% of the people payed. He'd stop writing. Well, as you can imagine, that happened on like the third installment, but, trooper that he is, the man kept writing.

For one more installment.

And then he just quit, leaving the whole thing hanging in the air. No ending, no resolution, nothing even suggested, not even a quick wrap-up like Fox gives TV shows they axe unfairly. Just BAM. Done.

So, Max, I'm telling you write now: you better not fuck us. If you give up one day, then at least have the courtesy to kill the main character first.

Machine Man subscriber Bushra (#36)

Location: Fremont, California
Quote: "www.caffeinatedmuslim.com"
Posted: 2059 days ago

This sounds really cool, Max. Good luck and I'm sure it'll be great :) (not to add on any pressure or anything...)

AAlgar (#3459)

Location: Seattle
Quote: ""Don't put your lips on anything.""
Posted: 2059 days ago

I'm trying something kinda like this, but I'm doing it as a podcast/audiobook because, like you, I fear people's short attention spans. But I'm not the established writer you are, either. I think this could work well. Good luck.

Oenone (#151)

Location: Konstanz, Germany
Quote: "I don't want to lie to you, but I will."
Posted: 2059 days ago

Woo and on my birthday no less. :) Yes we share a birthday like a billion other people, but how many people start a novel on your birthday and let you buy it for less then $10 bucks? :) Yep, that's right. Just Max :)

Machine Man subscriber coolpillows (#3749)

Location: new york general sort of vicinity
Quote: ""It's not working" -- Joseph Clark"
Posted: 2059 days ago

can't wait...thanks max! but you said if this doesn't work out, you'll take the story part of the site down. this being the web, of course, once it's out in the wild, i'm sure you know the deal. somebody can take a cell phone picture of it and then mash it up into a video and then post it on youtube and then... ah well ... does your agent know about this?

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2059 days ago

The Japanese story-by-text-message is probably closer to what I'm aiming at: bite-sized pieces, not chapters. I did think about text messaging, but the format seems extraordinarily limiting... some Machine Man pages will be short, maybe just a few sentences, but I want to be able to throw in a 400-word scene too. I expect to average around 100 words. A solid hundred-word scene is very satisfying.

> will those lucky dogs among us who subscribed
> early get to keep it free?

Yes, if by "it" you mean, "all the parts I post before I decide to whack a price tag on it." The rest, not so much.

> Will the 6.95 be in Australian dollars, or
> American (Please say Australian, because then
> my price is a measly 4.47)?

American, baby.

> let me commend you and/or your web team

Hahaha! "Web team." This is all me. I'm just that geeky. And thanks!

> I don't know if it will pan out, but I'm up for
> it as long as it's free, and I if it starts off
> good I could probably be convinced to pay.

That sounds perfect. I hope lots of people are just like you.

> So, Max, I'm telling you write now: you better
> not fuck us. If you give up one day, then at
> least have the courtesy to kill the main
> character first.

Deal.

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 2059 days ago

Well you're really doing it. Considering how much you love to procrastinate over an edit, this is a big step for you. I really hope it works for you; I've already subscribed to the emails. This way if it does blow up, I'll have a copy for posterity... *Insert evil laugh here*

No really, I'm looking forwards to this now it's definitely happening. Oh, and I finally got around to importing Company. I felt a little bad/stupid admitting I hadn't yet after being a member of your site for so many years.

Jeffrey (#2286)

Location: Right here
Quote: "Mathematics is a powerful language. Just look at how mathematicians destroyed the housing market."
Posted: 2059 days ago

That's awesome. I can't wait!

Yenzo (#829)

Location: Secret underwater pyramid base in the Pacific
Quote: "In order to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe (Carl Sagan)"
Posted: 2059 days ago

So... will there be a blurb before it starts or will we just have to wait and see?

And also: Is it just a coincidence that you were researching comic book characters for The Exceptionals and that Machine Man is also the name of a Marvel character? (Man, I sound like a brunette investigative journalist confronting some baffled stereotypical LA police chief)

If I got you right, The Exceptionals isn't gonna see the light of day, right? Too bad. I kinda got infected by your enthusiasm for it.

nate (#3848)

Location: A cave somewhere deep within th bowels of Texas
Quote: "<Insert witty dead guy quote here>"
Posted: 2058 days ago

So if I come see you in Austin, TX on 30 March will you sign my laptop so I can say I have a signed copy of “Machine Man"?

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 2057 days ago

Sounds good, but Machine 'Man'? My hopes were raised for something gender neutral and with lots of female characters. Can I guess from the title that my dreams are not to be?

If so, I'll probably still read it on a daily basis, but I will read it with a sense of melancholy longing.

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2054 days ago

@Hobbie:
> Considering how much you love to procrastinate over an edit

I don't procrastinate over edits; I just do a lot of them. But yes, being unable to rewrite this story is surely a good thing for me. I'm not sure if it's a good thing for YOU. But for me: oh yeah.

@Yenzo:
> Is it just a coincidence that you were researching
> comic book characters for The Exceptionals and
> that Machine Man is also the name of a Marvel
> character?

Yes. Well, it's not coincidence in that I like comic books, and "Machine Man" sounds a lot like a comic book superhero. But I didn't know of Marvel's character until I started this. Then I thought about changing it. But if I'd never heard of him, how serious an overlap can it be?

> If I got you right, The Exceptionals isn't gonna see the light of day, right?

Wrong! But it's still under wraps. In my basement. With body parts everywhere.

@nate:
> if I come see you in Austin, TX on 30 March will
> you sign my laptop so I can say I have a signed
> copy of “Machine Man"?

Sadly, only if you go back in time to 2007. I think you're looking at old tour dates there.

@Sophie:
> My hopes were raised for something gender neutral and with lots of female characters.

Because of the War on He! No, I have no plans for a story with a female protagonist at the moment. I don't think you solve sexism by prodding male authors into writing female heroes. I think it works better if female authors write female heroes, and men read their stories. (Currently, male-led stories tend to be read/watched by everyone, and women-led stories mainly by women.)

As extraordinarily brilliant, talented, and handsome as I am, it's pretty hard to convince you that I'm a woman. It doesn't help anyone if I compromise a story in an attempt to do that. There's no shortage of terrific female leads in (adult) fiction.

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 2054 days ago

If you think only female authors should write female heroes, why did you write Jennifer Government?

I’ve never understood why most writers are so uncomfortable with the idea of making characters female. I’d love to find out. Is it because you think men and women are different in so many ways the character wouldn’t be realistic? Cuz if it is, I don’t feel different to alot of male characters I read about in books, can you take my word for it that we’re all teh same?

(sorry for veering wildly off topic ... I'll shush up now)

Machine Man subscriber Max

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "I'm my number one fan!"
Posted: 2053 days ago

I don't think male authors shouldn't write female leads; I just think it's harder to pull off. Particularly so in first person POV--JG was third, so I never had to show you her thoughts.

You're right, of course, that the sexes are more similar than different, and writers should be able to wear a variety of personas convincingly. But the further I reach from my own experience, the more chance I'll screw it up. You know how cops can't watch cop shows, and doctors can't stand medical shows, because all the details are wrong? That's what I fear.

Machine Man subscriber Yannick (#3858)

Location: Heist, Belgium
Quote: "he reads things"
Posted: 2049 days ago

Yet quite a lot of people stuff up at writing their biography themselves.

Anyway, this is an awesome project, you can expect my $6.95 the day after you make it subscription-only!

Comments are now closed for this post.

Built on Blosxom