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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.


Thu 09

Feel the Love

Max I was starting to get worried: it had been almost two weeks of near-constant praise. That’s just not natural. Fortunately, this morning a breath of fresh air blew into my Inbox: a letter from Mike.

Dear Max,

I have played NationStates for quite some time and, after listening to your interview on NPR this morning, my assumptions about you were proven startingly correct. I assumed that you were a pretentious snob who is an ego-aggrandizer because your book reviews are consistently negative yet you continue to produce such infantile drivel with such a delusionary sense of accomplishment and self-importance. What you fail to realize is that your “insights” are nothing more than a few whiney complaints of a mal-adjusted mal content who has failed to cut it in the real world. Your comments on NPR, which in my opinion coddles this approach to life, were nothing short of predictable.

I like how Mike’s assumptions were so accurate that even he is startled by just how on target he was. He must have even nailed my accent. His next sentence is a little less clear; I’m not sure how “consistently negative” reviews would lead to me being an egomaniac. That would work work the other way around, wouldn’t it? And I can’t back him on “failed to cut it in the real world;” I mean, I’m not living on government subsidies, here, Mike. But I am impressed that he listens to NPR even though he doesn’t like it. Put this together with his willingness to write to authors to tell them how bad they are, and you have a man who isn’t afraid to confront what he disagrees with and set it straight. I appreciate that kind of directness, and I’m sure Mike does, too.

Let me make a connection between this attitude in your book and this attitude in nationstates. You have created a game in which, much to the difficulty of many Americans (such as myself) to comprehend, the game operators such as yourself rule as their judges of themselves and of their own actions…

This goes on for a bit and after a while even I lost track of what he was talking about. But I gather it’s his main point, because he starts writing IN ALL CAPS and swearing. Most of my hate mail is from NationStates players, which is something I’ve never been able to work out: if anyone is entitled to yell at me, surely it’s the person who shelled out twenty bucks for a book she didn’t like, not the guy who has spent the last year playing my web game for free. But for some reason it doesn’t work like this.

Mike closes with:

I strongly suggest that you get it together, Max. Time for a change, perhaps?

Mike US of A

Mike! Thank you for your e-mail. It’s been so long since someone roundly abused me for nothing in particular that I was starting to get nostalgic. I appreciate your advice, although I am not sure what you are recommending. But in any case, it brightened my day, because now I feel as if a little balance has re-entered my life, and I didn’t have to be hit by a bus to get it. Take care, Max.


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!

Phill Sacre (#1822)

Location: London, UK
Quote: "Computers are like air conditioners. Both stop working, if you open windows."
Posted: 5031 days ago

Flame mails are great. I quite like The Register's article about how to write a Flame of the Week. Although it wouldn't apply in your case, it's still amusing:

Wenke Li (#1208)

Location: near NYC
Quote: "Procrastination is not laziness."
Posted: 5031 days ago

I almost suspect the guy is doing this as a joke. Almost. Still, funny stuff.

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: 5031 days ago

Hate mail is quite funny because usually it's either people swearing and cursing to get their point across or it's people who sit in front of a dictionary and thesaurus with the email open for a couple of hours whilst they search for big words and all sorts to make their mail sound clever and witty and big. Consequently they both result in patheticness and the hate mail seems quite.. pointless in the end.

I never really understood hate mail. It's only for laughs.

Scott (#354)

Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Quote: "Max Barry tastes like awesome"
Posted: 5031 days ago

Dear Max,

You're mean and I hate you and you smell funny and make people bad and feel bad you suck and should die because I hate you and you suck so much your writing sucks and you're bad and I HATE YOU because you are bad!


(Ok, this post isn't at all meant to be taken seriously. But it was kind of fun to write... you should be worried Max)

the-tine (#472)

Location: Pennsylvania, USA
Quote: "Coming soon to a planet near you."
Posted: 5031 days ago

I love it when people enjoy hate mail. That's the best way to piss off the sender ;) Methinks you handled this one nicely. Say hi to Fin for me :D

Tim Ashwood (#595)

Location: Sydney
Posted: 5031 days ago

Mike US of A = Johnny Yuma = Todd Bunker

What? You can't see the connection?

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 @:"
Posted: 5031 days ago

Well I did call you a yenta in one of my recent blog posts,
does that count?
(actually I just said you were yenta-er-ing it up...)

Kristen (#1157)

Location: Jersey
Quote: "Insert quotation here."
Posted: 5031 days ago

Well, that sure is better than getting hit by a bus, bankrupted, and disemboweled...

Rob H (#2200)

Location: Melbourne
Posted: 5031 days ago

Nothing's better than getting disemboweled.

This guy sounds stern. Better pull your socks up, Max.

Emily (#609)

Location: New York
Quote: "When in doubt, fuck it. When not in doubt, get in doubt!"
Posted: 5031 days ago

Wait, did he just call his own people stupid? I played the game until I lost interest (I have a low attention span, sorry) and it was fine with me.

Oh, I get it: Americans, make ethical decisions? Ha! Of course, Max, how very foolish of you. It's just way too complicated a concept for us.

Hate mail is so thrilling. I have only received serious hate mail once, for supporting the political views of Tim Robbins (...), and I am happy to report that I stole unabashedly from Jennifer Government's ScaryJohn (as opposed to CrumpetToasterJohn) in my response, which said: "Fuck off. Emily." Worked quite well, too.

I digress.

Love from us!


Laura (#1040)

Posted: 5031 days ago

I dunno, NationStates members tend to get egos inflated after they manipulate their little world to be as maniacal (or honestly practical) as they choose. Tends to get to people's heads :P. But I don't think he actually read anything about you. He looked at it and supplemented his own words. People like that are so funny cause they never think they're wrong. "To err is human, to fabricate hate funnies is 'Mike US of A'"

Machine Man subscriber Katrina (#847)

Location: SF, CA
Quote: "Good sex is like good Bridge: if you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand." -- Mae West"
Posted: 5031 days ago

Don't you dare change anything. :P Except maybe to write books faster... or post more pics of Fin... or more seriously amusing mail that makes me burst out laughing.

US of A.... why doesn't he just take the time to *spell*

Aaron Doucet (#733)

Location: Canada (Sorry)
Quote: "He'd never seen so many expensive pairs of shoes in one place."
Posted: 5031 days ago

Dear Max. You are awesome. Signed me.

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 5031 days ago

Thurs. Feb 9 2006


I sounds like an oxy moron but it's true. Whenever someone is "famous" they are automatically subject to hate mail and negative feedback. In my opinion, it is totally worth it. Negative attention is better than no attention at all.

Also, negative feedback is sometimes good for you. It helps you get in touch with reality. Even if a lot of the stuff isn't true. There is usually a little bit of truth.


I still have my nation(adam the shrubber) from like three years ago. I have around 6.3 billion people.


Andrew Riley (#1970)

Location: Parker, Colorado, USA
Quote: "Predictions are difficult, especially about the future."
Posted: 5031 days ago

Damn damn son of a bitch. I missed the interview on NPR. Does anybody know what program it was on? Maybe I can stream it or something.

This guy probably thinks you're an egomaniac because your name is "MAX". He is clearly an angry person. But I am glad they're finally getting internet access in trailer parks.

SilverCloud (#2038)

Quote: "Fortune Favors the Brave"
Posted: 5031 days ago

Thanks for sharing your insights, which is far more injoyable
than that twits groping brain cells.
I enjoyed N.S., the only draw back was having to deal with
little schits like what's his name.
It's good to see you have a well rounded sense of humor.

Rod McBride (#688)

Location: Gardner, KS
Quote: ""
Posted: 5031 days ago

As I recall Bobcat Goldthwait telling a heckler, 'learn to hate correctly.'

A 'maladjusted mal content?' Pullleeze!

But to echo sentiments above, I am jealous that you get hate-mail. The best I do is the occasional summons, but a deputy blandly handing you papers saying you'd better find a smaller refrigerator carton to camp in lacks the drama of hate mail.

David (#1848)

Location: Texas
Quote: "Delighted!"
Posted: 5031 days ago

I hate to say this, Max, but I agree with the flamer. You really do need to get it together.

I kid, because I love.

Keep passing the open windows!

talk less. say more. (#1942)

Location: tampa, florida
Quote: "talk less. say more."
Posted: 5031 days ago

that is all.

Machine Man subscriber Emmaus (#1692)

Location: North Carolina, USA
Quote: "How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges?"
Posted: 5031 days ago

If it makes you feel any better Max, I would bring my bus to a dead stop to keep from hitting you...

PS, reading Company between routes and it definitely makes me wish I had more downtime at work.

Caufman (#1791)

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Quote: "The Game."
Posted: 5031 days ago

Here's Max's interview on Morning Marketplace.

I think Mike just wanted to be in the news. Praise and fanmail is commonplace, but humorously angry hatemail, now that's something special.

Erika Muckerman (#1780)

Quote: ""A witty saying proves nothing." -Voltaire"
Posted: 5031 days ago

Max: You are my hero.

Machine Man subscriber Karen (#2180)

Location: wishing I was at home
Quote: "Question authority, not your mother!"
Posted: 5031 days ago

Cool, your program even asks me by name if I want to leave a comment or not - how could he think you're not together with something like this?
Love the laughs, thanks!

Mick (#2190)

Location: East Coast, Australia
Posted: 5031 days ago

My comment has nada to do with this post; it has to do with the one below. But I'm too lazy to hit "Back," scroll down and click on comments again.

I've been visiting this site for over a year now, without realising Max is a fan of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman's work. I get a Google news alert whenever Kaufman is mentioned in an article, cos I run (about to re-design it, too). So I was mightily impressed to follow a Google news link and discover that a) Max has been compared to Kaufman (in the NY Times piece, if memory serves) and b) Max not only knows who Kaufman is, but happens to be a fan.

Small world. PLUS, like Max, I am an Aussie. And also like Max, I happen to be a writer -- though slightly less successful at the moment. Which makes the world even smaller, in a way.


Anita Heiney (#292)

Location: Richmond, VA USA
Quote: "I came. I signed up. I got an error."
Posted: 5031 days ago

Gee, Max, I heard you on NPR too. But, (now I'm embarrassed to say it) I thought it was a great interview. It was a little strange hearing your voice. You sounded very professional & grown-up. It wasn't what I imagined. I thought you would sound a little more like "Beavis & Butthead" (hee hee .. hee hee.. hee hee hee). Anyway, I've read ALL (3) of your books and love your "infantile drivel." DRIVAL AWAY! (And how about some new pictures of Fin?)


PS How many people from USA actually write "US of A?" What a total hosebag.

Anita Heiney (#292)

Location: Richmond, VA USA
Quote: "I came. I signed up. I got an error."
Posted: 5031 days ago

And it's a good thing Mike didn't know about the whole "MAXX" story. Can you imagine the wrath it would have caused?


Bony Tony (#1343)

Location: United States
Posted: 5031 days ago


...not not not not kidding

joshua beatty (#2151)

Location: west liberty, wv
Quote: "pizza rocks!"
Posted: 5030 days ago

max, it's sad that people like this mike guy actually exist.

Carly (#2091)

Posted: 5030 days ago

Don't listen to the bullshit this guy's spewing. Your books are rediculously funny, and I could actually see things happening like what's in Jennifer Government and Syrup. (I haven't read Company yet, because none of the bookstores in my town have it in.)

I am from the USA, and I totally 'get' the game- and I think it's a riot!

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 5030 days ago

Don't worry mate, now that you've written your "breakout book" you'll soon be rich enough to employ people to insult you properly and generally "keep things real". I'll put my name down for the job in advance as although it would be a difficult gig (wot with you being so funny 'n all) I'm sure it'll pay well and there'll be travel involved. And I'll be able to pick up chicks by saying "I'm with Max, I read his galleys," and other hip writer-type stuff.

I do find it hard to believe that it's really been a long time since you were "roundly abused me for nothing in particular" however. After all, you are married with children!

Cupie (#1396)

Location: Seattle-ish
Quote: ""You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think." -Dorothy Parker"
Posted: 5030 days ago

Some people can't handle the truth and there is truth in every word of fiction you have written (obligatory LOL) and the truth scares the shit out of people. You sir, ROCK. Fuggedaboutit, once a schmo, always a schmo.

nick (#798)

Location: US
Posted: 5030 days ago

i wonder if our good friend "Mike US of A" has had his books reviewed and published all around the world for millions to read... i think not

(it's great to hear your book is doing well and you're getting good reviews... i finally feel justified in singing your praises to others now that more important people than myself have done the same)

P.S. Company made for an excelent 18th birthday present for myself

Michael (#1299)

Location: Northern California
Quote: "Chugachugachoochoo"
Posted: 5029 days ago

This guy is obviously using a psuedomym... psuedo... ps... fake name. I've met a few guys named Mike in my day, and found them all to be witty, dashing, intelligent and none too hard on the eyes.

I have a hard time trusting anyone that speaks for a whole nation. I don't seem to recall "Mike U S of A" being on the ballot for "National Web Representative" anytime in recent history, but perhaps it was below "county ham and cabbage warden" which was about where I stopped paying attention and simply stared trying to make pretty pictures with my punch card holes.

So I'd like to say I'm sorry if I did vote Mike US of A into office as National Web Rep. It wont happen again.

The Not Crazy Michael who happens to live in, but is not a voted representative of, the USA.

Monkeywright (#1732)

Location: Los Angeles, Californi-YARGH!
Quote: ""China is Here?" I don't even know what the hell that means! - PS - visit scenic"
Posted: 5028 days ago

Can we please, please, PLEASE see the letter in its entirety? Post it as a comment! That would be swell. I mean, it could be as much fun as say, reading Ann Coulter.
But I love to see creative uses of improperly spelled curse words.(see how I avoided misspelling misspell? mispe...AH, CRAP!)

Kalle (#1278)

Quote: "Sex is herital. If your parents never had it, chanses are you'll never have it either."
Posted: 5028 days ago

Adam, you won't go Slobodan on someone for the press, would you? The good thing about negative press(for celebs) is that they get a lot more positive press. Plus, you get beautiful women.

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 5026 days ago

I used to get hate mail all the time (you'd be amazed the amount of wrath inside the average Star Trek online simmer when corrected on a minor continuity point, or a spelling mistake), and I kind of miss it. Mostly because, as in your case, they tend to be foaming at the mouth as well as absolutely certain they and their self-righteous rant are cutting, incisive, and very important. This is almost always not the case, and it can be amusing to point this out in no uncertain terms. Even better when you're endowed with something close to a grasp of the English language, because you also get the bonus satisfaction of imagining them groping with tremulous fingers for their dictionaries, utterly committed to learning how you just rebuffed their original bile so that they can eject a second stream of the stuff at you in a quasi-relevant way. Or, if they're still committed, but not as smart, they'll just attack the font you used in your response.

Lancer Kind (#1547)

Location: Redmond WA
Quote: "Be nice to the man with the gun."
Posted: 5025 days ago

Hey Max, do you have a link to your NPR interview?

chris (#2253)

Location: western hemisphere
Quote: "It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid. - Albert Einstein"
Posted: 5019 days ago

I guess somebody just missed his nappie nappie.

Or maybe he's just jealous of the aussie accent.

Yoru (#732)

Location: Virginia, USA
Posted: 5005 days ago

Atleast he used his real name, or else it'd be illegal. :O

Yubi Shines (#1664)

Location: Canada
Posted: 4985 days ago

Well, over a misunderstanding a guy made a mean comic about me once. I never got to see it though, it was deleted after the misunderstanding was cleared up. Pity.

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