MaxBarry.com
will dance for food

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.

  • Syrup: movie tie-in
  • Jennifer Government: US hardback
  • Company: US hardback
  • Syrup: US hardback
  • Jennifer Government: German large paperback
  • Company: US paperback
  • Syrup: US paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Italian paperback
  • Company: German paperback
  • Syrup: Australian paperback (Scribe)
  • Jennifer Government: Spanish paperback
  • Company: Dutch paperback
  • Syrup: Chinese paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Dutch paperback reissue
  • Company: Brazilian paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Brazilian paperback
  • Company: Polish paperback
  • Syrup: Australian large paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Taiwanese paperback
  • Company: Spanish paperback
  • Syrup: US Audio
  • Jennifer Government: Swedish paperback
  • Syrup: Australian small paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Swedish paperback
  • Syrup: German large paperback
  • Syrup: German small paperback
  • Syrup: French paperback
  • Syrup: Israeli paperback

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Thu 30
Jul
2015

Crooked

Writing

How significant is it that Austin Grossman re-tweeted your ASK MAX tweet and has he had any input into the computer game you allude to, and if not, why not? And, can we expect more writers to turn their hand to computer games unaware that indie computer games creation is about as profitable as indie novel writing?

Dan

This is a timely question because Austin Grossman has a new novel out about Richard Nixon fighting demons. Literal demons, that is. No, actually, both kinds. It’s very fun and does that Austin Grossman thing of taking someone you’d think was totally cool and together and tearing them apart with insecurities. If you enjoyed Soon I Will Be Invincible or You, or you are intrigued by the idea of a Cold War fought with intercontinental necromantic missiles, take a look at Crooked.

But no, I haven’t consulted with Austin on the computer game I’m fooling around with. I probably should have, since he is excellent at writing both novels and games. That would make a lot of sense. But the only way I know how to be creative is to take the thing away somewhere private and smash my brain into it until it’s done. So I’m doing that.

The crossover between fiction and games… on the one hand, there are more similarities than people might think. In both cases you are world-building, one way or another. And I like that I can dive in to either and build something all by myself. This is handy because I lost the ability to work with other people sometime around 2002.

On the other, the mindset is very different. I’m kind of horrified by how programmers can spend so much time focused on the tools: choosing and tweaking their IDE and plugins and language and platform and agonizing over the process. It’s like what writers do but times a thousand. And that looks like a lot of busy-time spent Not Writing to me. You can tell me this attitude will come back to bite me hard in about twelve months but I say it never will.

Probably indie game design is exactly as profitable as indie novel-writing, as you say, Dan. But it is interesting. And in gaming, people aren’t debating whether their industry is dying, which is nice.

Thu 23
Jul
2015

Lexicon Foreign Covers

Lexicon Today I went looking for Lexicon covers. Usually I’m sent a copy when a foreign edition comes out, but not always. In those cases I just get surprised to discover that something like this exists:

Russian book cover of Lexicon by Max Barry, depicting young woman with white hair shouting a magical word while a gun fires a bullet from her mouth. Yes, seriously.

This is Russian. I actually thought it was awesome until I noticed the handgun poking out of her mouth. That kind of took it over the line for me. It reminds me of a terrifying poster for some werewolf movie that used to hang in the window of a video store I had to walk past as a kid, where a wolf’s snout is poking out of the man’s mouth. That was really scary. I was about fifteen but even so.

Turkish book cover of Lexicon by Max Barry, on which is the Moon

This one is from Turkey. I didn’t remember any Moon references in Lexicon, so I checked. I did actually use the word “moon” twice and “moonlight” once, in sentences that were about something else.

Taiwanese book cover of Lexicon by Max Barry, showing a young woman's partially obscured face while Taiwanese writing dissolves around her

That’s pretty great. Good job, Taiwan.

Greek book cover of Lexicon by Max Barry, showin an eye with writing around it

What? Come on, Greece. It’s like you tried to redraw the American paperback cover from memory.

Israeli book cover of Lexicon by Max Barry, depicting the back of a man in a suit walking up steps

This is from Israel. It strikes me as the philosophical opposite of the Russian cover. It’s funny how the same book says to one person, “Man in a suit walking up a flight of concrete steps,” and to another, “Woman shooting bullets out of her mouth.” And neither of those things happens in the story.

Tue 21
Jul
2015

Terriergate

Syrup

I loved the Syrup movie, but who would have been your dream casting choices for the main characters?

Anonymous

I’m not sure I get to answer this after the movie is made. That seems like it would be rude. Probably no-one wants to have people come along and look at a job you did and discuss who would have done it better.

I never have a dream cast in mind for my own books anyway. It’s like trying to imagine movie stars playing your family. Whoever you pick, it’s going to be weird.

But I do love the cast I got. I especially love that Amber Heard, who plays 6, is right now being pursued by the Australian government for smuggling two tiny dogs into the country, in what has become known as Terriergate. I was fortunate enough to meet Pistol, one of the smuggled dogs, on the Syrup set, and let me tell you: It was no surprise to me when he ended up in the middle of an international incident. Australia has very strict quarrantine laws, being an island, but I don’t think we want to push Amber on this one. She really loves that dog.

Sun 19
Jul
2015

How the Seasons Work

Max

Max… Do your toilets flush in the opposite direction of those in the Northern Hemisphere, or has the Simpsons been lying to us all of these years?

Flushed…

Good question. You are referring to the Coriolis Effect, which influences toilets to flush counter-clockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and the correct clockwise direction here in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a real force but it’s so weak it only works if your toilet is in a climate-controlled, vacuum-sealed laboratory, which is probably not true for both of us.

For me, the real Hemispherical mind-bender is the date the seasons begin. Everyone knows the seasons are backward in the Northern Hemisphere. But DID YOU KNOW they’re not exactly opposite? Countries have different definitions of when each season begins so it can be Winter in the US while it’s Spring in Australia.

Unfortunately you can never be sure if this is true, because it’s one of those things people like to be pranksters about. If you know someone in another Hemisphere, the conversation goes like this:

You: What season is it there?
Them: Winter. Why?
You: Are you kidding me?
Them: No. Why? It’s Summer there, right?
You: No, Summer isn’t until next week.
Them: You’re joking, right?
You: Are you?

Fri 17
Jul
2015

How to Tell Whether the Book is Working

Max

Max! So good to see you back! You’ve been sorely missed… totally can’t wait for your new story. So, question: how do you know a story isn’t going well? Or, how do you know it *is* going well?

ryandake

Thanks for the question! Over the years I have figured out a foolproof process for telling whether a story is working. This won’t work for everyone, but it works for me, 100% of the time. Occasionally I think I’ve found an exception, but then I realize I haven’t.

Foolproof Method for Determining Whether Book is Working

  1. Do you wonder whether the book is working? If yes, it’s not. If no, continue.
  2. Do you ask people to read parts of the book to tell you whether it’s working? If yes, it’s not. If no, continue.
  3. Do you stop to go write other stories? If yes, it’s not working. If no, continue.
  4. When you read the last thing you wrote, do you feel like writing more? If no, it’s not working. If yes, continue.
  5. Are you convinced the book is (or will be) the greatest thing in the world ever? If yes, congratulations, it’s working, for now.

Books that aren’t working can be made to work, though. They may require radical surgery, like removing everything except one scene, but it can be done. Most of my books were Not Working for a long time before they started working.

I thought I would get about three ASK MAX! questions a week, and I would pick one. But there are tons already! Thanks so much. And please forgive what is clearly going to be a terrible question-to-answer ratio.

Thu 16
Jul
2015

Introducing ASK MAX!

Max Okay okay! I have a new plan. From now on, this site is all about ASK MAX!, where people like you post random questions and I post back. This should be a big improvement over the current situation where I wonder if there are any topics that someone needs my opinion on and decide no.

BUT WHY NOT JUST DO THAT ON TWITTER, MAX, you ask. Good question. The answer is: this is my site, crafted with my own bare hands, and one day Twitter is going to become totally commercial and everyone will be like, “Ugh, I hate Twitter but now I’m trapped there,” and I’ll be all, HAHAHAHA. Although I’m probably still going to use Twitter, too. I just don’t want to live there.

So quick update on what I’ve been up to lately! Mostly I’ve been writing many different books that kind of suck. That’s less fun than it sounds. I’ve been trying to fix this in various ways, such as closing down all social networking until I got it right. I don’t know if that helped. It may have made things worse. But anyway, I found a story. And I’m pretty deep into it now and it’s failed to die so I’m a thousand times happier with writing than I’ve been in a long while. So that’s good.

Another thing I’ve been doing is making a computer game. WHAAAT. Yes. I have. I actually can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner. Computer games are story-writing plus programming. I love those things. They’re basically all I’ve done since 1999. And this has been turning out unexpectedly well. I don’t know when it will be ready to show and in the meantime I’m going to keep quiet on what it’s actually about, just like I do with novels, so… yeah. This is a content-free kind of update.

That’s it. Please hit me with questions via the super-cute speech bubble on the site front page. And I’m sorry for going silent for so long! Especially to you guys who have been with me for years and years. You are a big part of what has made my life and career so rewarding. Please forgive me for going off alone until I could find something good enough for you.

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