MaxBarry.com
writes things for cash

Bio

Max signing books
Photo by Lauren Thomas

Max Barry is an Australian who pretended to sell high-end computer systems for Hewlett-Packard while secretly writing his first novel, Syrup (1999). In fact, he still has the laptop he wrote it on because HP forgot to ask for it back, but keep that to yourself. He put an extra X in his name for Syrup because he thought it would be a funny joke about marketing and failed to realize everyone would assume he was a pretentious asshole. Jennifer Government, his second novel, was published in 2003 with no superfluous Xs and sold much better.

Max's third novel, Company, was published in 2006, and his fourth, Machine Man, in 2012, was based on a real-time interactive web serial written and delivered in real-time one page per day from this web site. It made more sense than it sounds.

Max's fifth novel, Lexicon, was named one of the Best 10 Books of the Year by Time Magazine.

Max also created the online political game NationStates, for which he is far more famous amongst high school students and poli-sci majors than his novels.

He was born March 18, 1973, and lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he writes full-time, the advantage being that he can do it while wearing only boxer shorts.

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Max Blog

Displaying personal blogs. View all Max's blogs.

Wed 23
Dec
2009

A Better Max

Max Lately my Google Alert emails have become polluted with other Max Barrys. I guess I knew it had to happen. I couldn’t have the web to myself forever. But all of a sudden there are three of us. The first guy to show up was okay. He writes about NFL. I gather that’s some kind of football. Not the good kind. But still. I was just glad he was doing something. I didn’t want some whiny, self-obsessed blogger Max Barry confusing everybody. I have that base covered.

But now this third guy. I’ve been worried about the wrong thing. Because this Max Barry, he’s better-looking than me. He models. He’s younger. More hair. I guess that goes without saying. But really: tons of hair. He cooks. Plays tennis semi-professionally. Works as a personal trainer. Posts workouts-of-the-day to his website. Workout-of-the-days? Whatever. He’s a god, is my point. A toned, buffed, let-me-whip-you-up-a-filet-mignon god. He makes me look like crap.

At this point I haven’t decided whether to break into his house in the middle of the night and stab him or become fast friends and use him as my body double for TV interviews. That’s a decision for the new year.

Speaking of which! That’s it from me for 2009. Thank you so much to everyone who cared enough to follow what I’m doing this year. Double thanks to everyone who made this the year of Machine Man. Triple—wait, this is getting ridiculous. But thank you, thank you to those who emailed me feedback on the serial, because that is incredibly helpful as I turn this thing into a novel.

I hope your year was a good one, and your next is better. And may I leave you with this: my daughter Finlay’s first ever appearance on stage, at her four-year-old ballet concert. They are dressed as kangaroos, if you’re wondering. This was one of the most terrifyingly beautiful moments of my life. I’m not talking about the dancing. I’m talking about what happened next.

(Link to video.)

Thu 27
Aug
2009

Stranged

Max Finlay loves to strangeOne morning recently I climbed the stairs to my study, coffee in hand, and found a pile of books on the top step. There was a Swedish Jennifer Government, a Polish Company, and four or five others. The front panel of my computer case was missing: I eventually found it inside the roofspace, along with my Richmond Tigers scarf.

I went back downstairs and confronted my daughter. “Have you been moving my things around?”

She grinned, one of those ridiculously beautiful ear-to-ear smiles, and said: “I stranged your room.”

Since then, Fin has stranged my study several more times. Once I heard movement up there, called out, “Are you strangeing my study?” and she giggled and admitted yes. She loves to strange.

Today she turns four. Happy birthday, bunny. Thank you for strangeing my life.

Mon 13
Jul
2009

Me in the Media

Max As I write this, my intestines are trying to crawl out of my body. They’re very determined. No, no, I don’t want your sympathy. Well, all right, then. Maybe just a blanket. And my feet are kind of sore. You could rub those.

But I’m not writing to let you know of my gastrointestinal issues. That’s just a bonus. I’m writing because I’m doing stuff:

  • Me on Australian TV: I’m a panelist on “Jennifer Byrne Presents: Brave New Worlds,” discussing Utopian/dystopian fiction. This is my first ever TV panel, and the more time that’s passed since it was taped, the surer I’ve become that I was A TOTAL DICK. But I’m hoping they edited those parts out. To find out, tune in to ABC TV at 10pm Tuesday.

  • Me speaking: I’m delivering two talks on “Risk” as part of the PEN Lecture Series, in Sydney (Wed 15th July, with The Chaser’s Julian Morrow) and Canberra (Tue 21st July, with Genevieve Jacobs). This will eventually be available on the web somewhere too, possibly here. Relatedly, here is me being interviewed about the upcoming lecture. Notice how carefully I speak while trying to hold my bowels together. That’s professionalism.

Thu 09
Apr
2009

Memory Bones

Max Finlay with artificial limb augmentationI don’t want to freak you out, but MY DAUGHTER’S STRUCTURAL INTEGRITY HAS BEEN BREACHED. Her bones have bent. One has cracked. She has broken her arm.

It happened at an indoor play center, one of those technicolor places with dizzying heights and terrifying drops, trampolines that launch children through the air like patriot missiles and treacherous plastic balls that sneak out of pits to slip beneath tiny sneakers. Naturally, Fin navigated these with contemptuous ease, then tripped over her own feet on a stretch of flat carpet. Exactly how you break an arm falling two and a half feet onto shag pile, I don’t know. But she wailed like… well, like she’d just broken her arm. When this didn’t abate, and I noticed her arm dangling at her side like a wet noodle, I began to suspect something was wrong. I sprang into action, demanding a refund from the play center. Well, it was five bucks. And we’d only just arrived. I don’t see why I should have to pay five bucks for eight minutes of fun, followed by a broken bone. They gave it to me, too, plus a voucher for a free coffee my next visit, in 4-6 weeks.

As soon as that was taken care of, I carried my screaming three-year-old daughter straight out of there. I didn’t have a car, so I bore her in my arms to the nearest hospital. I don’t want to claim I was a hero, but if anyone wants to make a movie of my life, that would be a really moving scene. I think there could be an operatic sound track at that point. That’s just a thought.

Fin stopped crying the second we stepped into the Emergency Room, which was a shame, because they decided she wasn’t urgent and told us to go to another hospital. I was tempted to pinch her, in the interests of securing prompt medical attention. But that might have been a difficult moment to explain in the movie. So off we went to the Royal Children’s Hospital, where they X-rayed her, pulled her bones straight, and encased her arm in plaster.

Let me tell you about this process. I’ll tell you the same way Dr. Elliot explained it to me, right before he began to inflict excruciating pain on my daughter: “We’ll give her some gas. It’s not for pain relief. What it does is block the formation of short-term memory, so when it’s over, she won’t remember what it was like.”

Now, I don’t want to criticize Dr. Elliot. He is a smarter, better-educated guy than me, and no doubt across the many excellent medical reasons why this is the optimum course of action for children. But if they suggested this idea to an adult patient, that person would PUNCH THE DOCTOR RIGHT IN THE MOUTH. Is this not the most horrible concept you have ever heard? “We won’t block your pain. We’ll just make you forget it afterward. It’s basically the same thing.” NO IT’S NOT. Option A: no pain. Option B: TONS OF PAIN. That’s the difference.

Fin sucked on that gas like she was drinking it. Dr. Elliot pulled her bones straight. “Daddy,” she cried out. “Daddy, I want you.” I squeezed her free hand and told her it was all right, and a few seconds later she had forgotten all about it. When they were finished, she smiled and said, “I like this hospital.”

I hope that creeps you out as much as it did me.

P.S. Sorry to everyone who was mailed an old blog the other day. The gnomes who live in the web server and hand-address all the emails got into the alcohol cupboard and—oh, it was a real mess. I have replaced them with goblins and everything should work fine now.

Fri 06
Feb
2009

The Dark Moustache of the Soul

Max I got into big trouble with my brother for that anti-ginger blog. “You’re just like Hitler,” he said, or might as well have. “It’s not 1935, you know. Demonizing people for aspects of their appearance they can’t control: we’re not doing that any more.”

“Steady on,” I protested. “It was just harmless good fun. Besides, the point was I’m a ginger when I grow a moustache. That’s what made it funny.”

“I suppose you think Auschwitz would have been fine, if only Hitler was Jewish,” my brother argued, more or less. “I suppose you think it would have been hilarious.”

I suspected that my brother, or at least this version of him I was exagerating for comic effect, was getting carried away. But he did have a point. “Redheads are one of the few remaining groups it’s still socially acceptable to ridicule,” he said, and dammit, he was right. I had been so enraptured with the possibilities for jokes when I started sprouting gingers, I didn’t stop and think. My moustache was gone, but the dark moustache on my soul would not be shaved so easily.

“History is full of red-headed achievers,” he said. “You just never hear about them. Thomas Jefferson. James Joyce. Galileo. Malcolm X.”

“Malcolm X!? Are you sure?”

Check it out for yourself.”

“Wow,” I said. “Maybe that’s why he was so angry.”

“You’re doing it again.”

“But I’m a ginger.”

“Let me explain this to you one more time.”

But seriously. Redheads rock. I love you guys. If I could grow long, amber locks, I’d be all over that. I’d let my beautiful red hair flow down to my shoulders and smell it every night before I went to sleep. Right now, I’ve got nothing. The difference between a red-haired guy and me is that he has options.

Wed 12
Nov
2008

Mo Bad Blues

Max Max develops horrific moAt first it wasn’t too bad. In the right light, my mo looked fairly legit. It was rough and tough and ready to rumble, just like you might think I am, if you don’t know me very well. Seven days in, I could even be considered debonair.

Then the gingers came in.

Now, I don’t have anything against the ginger peoples. Some of my best friends—well, no, all right, that’s not true. I shun them. But I have several close ginger relatives. Lovely people. Really courageous. Also, there’s no problem with ginger if you’re a woman. For chicks, red hair means: “I am so aflame with animal passion, I could burst into fire at any moment.” I think we can all agree on that. But on a man, ginger hair is not popularly translated as “fiery, dangerous love beast.” It’s more “weird pervert from Accounting.”

On top of that, I keep accidentally cruising for gay sex. I don’t mean to. I just haven’t adapted to the signals my mo is sending out. For example, on my run this morning, I jiggled my eyebrows in greeting to a runner passing by. Usually, this means, “Nice morning.” But now, apparently, it means, “Nice thighs.” At least, that’s what I’m getting from the look of terror that crossed the guy’s face.

I’m beginning to catch glimpses of it in my peripheral vision. When I have a drink, it gets there before I do. The other day I blew my nose, and three hours later realized my upper lip was hoarding bits of tissue. Also, despite my private hopes, Jen has not been harboring a secret passion for circa 1970s tennis stars. Hairy, scratchy, ginger lip caterpillar: apparently not a turn-on.

It’s just as well I’m doing this for a good cause. Thanks so much to everyone who donated. I just want you to know, it’s because of you that I’m stuck with this thing until December.

[ Sponsor Max’s Moustache! ]

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