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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

Tue 18
May
2004

Hand me my Chewbacca costume

Writing In a few weeks I’m going to my first ever science-fiction convention: Continuum (Melbourne, Australia, 11-14 June). They asked me to write a piece for the program book, so here it is:

I admit it: I am a conference virgin. I’ve never done this before, just about everything I know I got from movies, and I’m hoping it’ll be fun but worried it will be painful. I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do but will be desperately covering this up and pretending I’ve done it loads of times.

At first I wasn’t sure I was qualified to speak about science fiction. Only one of my novels is sci-fi, and even that masquerades as mainstream fiction. But then I thought about it:

  • I use Linux, read Slashdot, and program web games, and yes, yes, there’s no proven link between tech geekery and science-fiction, but we all know the correlation is there
  • I think Neal Stephenson is a god
  • Jennifer Government is being developed as a sci-fi movie by Steve Soderbergh and George Clooney, and I think this is the coolest thing ever
  • I once met Chris Carter and got to hang out with the X-Files people
  • My agent went to college with Joss Whedon, and this deeply impresses me
  • I believe that the Star Wars prequels are not just bad but desecrations
  • I have trouble finding purpose in a world without Buffy

So dammit, I am qualified. I also thought about some of the short stories I’ve written over the years:

  • Plucky crew dock with what appears to be a deserted spacecraft but isn’t
  • Girl’s best friend hits puberty before she does; also becomes werewolf
  • Six-year-old girl sees alien invasion as opportunity to get back at her brother
  • Teenagers hang out on the beach and tell scary stories until they all get eaten by weird bugs
  • Small group of post-Earth survivors defend their homeworld against what is ostensibly alien attack but turns out to be other human survivors
  • High school girl has sex with exchange student, goes nuts, gets hit by a train

Admittedly, most of these were written in high school, and featured my classmates as characters. The last one, for example, was called Jenny, and was very popular with everyone in my year except for Jenny. (I ended up marrying her, though, so she must have forgiven me.) Still, I’ve written my share of SF and H.

Not that you’d know, though, because none of these has ever been published. It is, I’ve discovered, very tough to sell fiction in Australia. The only way I managed it was to get an American publisher, which was not only easier than landing a local one, but made me abruptly more attractive to Aussie publishers. There is something bizarre about having to go to America to impress an Australian publisher, but the fact is new writers require heroic measures to get noticed. I have some experience with this, which I’ll be sharing in my Shameless Self-Promotion panel on Monday.

So if you’re interested, come along. Just remember, it’s my first time. Be gentle.

Comments

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Galen (#1516)

Location: In a land far, far away, sometimes referred to as college.
Quote: ""It is absurd to divide people into good and bad. People are either charming or tedious. " - Oscar Wilde"
Posted: 5032 days ago

You're a Buffy fan too?!?

I thought most of them had died out with Season Six- it's nice to know that at least one other was still around. Now, you're not a Spike/Xander shipper, are you? Because truth be told, they kind of scare me.

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