MaxBarry.com
if you were him you'd be home now

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 09
May
2006

My Favourite Author Went To Bedford And All I Got Was This Lousy Blog

Max I’m in England. Huh, when I say it like that, it’s as if I just breezed halfway around the world during my lunch hour, instead of undergoing 30 hours of torture inside a metal tube with an 8-month old baby and a planeload of people conspiring to prevent her from sleeping.

Jen’s family live in England, and occasionally we fly over to visit them. We usually stay for at least a month, and—since the purpose of the trip is to spend time with them—visit absolutely no tourist attractions or places of interest. We just hang out in Bedford. For that reason, I have the general impression that all of England is a barely habitable crap-hole full of people who look like they’re about to stab you for your mobile phone, then use it to call their dealer.

Well, that’s not quite true; I have visited a few other places in England, and with one exception (Milton Keynes, I’m looking at you) they have been quite beautiful, or at least interestingly history-soaked. But Bedford is neither. I am told that Bedford’s heyday was in the 1950s, when the local brickworks was the town’s main employer, and you can tell this is true because every single house is constructed in the exact same style from the exact same red brick. Other Bedford attractions include the River Ouse (pronounced “ooze”), which is exactly as charming as it sounds and patrolled by highly aggressive ducks, and… no, actually, that’s it.

Most English people I speak to are hazy on where, exactly, Bedford is. The answer is you don’t care. I think you’re better off not knowing how close you may be to Bedford. If, in your ignorance, you do happen to stumble onto it, well, just hurry on before any of it gets on your clothes.

I have no publicity plans while I’m in England; for some reason my British publisher has always been reluctant to expose me to the public, like a girlfriend embarrassed to introduce me to her parents. I know what you’re thinking: at first I thought it was the hair, too. But no: apparently you just don’t do bookstore events in this country unless you are sufficiently famous. More sufficiently than me, I mean. I’m not sure why, exactly. Maybe it’s considered bad manners.

The police just chased some guy down the street right outside my window. I’m not kidding. Ah, Bedford.

Comments

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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: 4882 days ago

Yep. Exactly. This is England, you can't expect anything less or anything more. I know where Bedford is, it's near Hertfordshire and basically, towards the South-East. Many miles from me, in Shropshire, which, I can assure you, less people know the whereabouts of than Bedford. At least with Bedford, most people have actually heard of it. Shropshire? Salop? Not a chance.

And about the book thing..
yeah, that's also true, though I thought you knew by now. Even so, I would still come if you did a book tour in say, Wolverhampton. Get the civic, it's nicer than the wulfrun in my opinion.

I bet the guy was dressed in trakkie bottoms, trakkie/trendy hoody, had short hair, a cap that wasn't even on properly, crappy nikey shoes that look like they give him an extra 2-3inches in height and had his jogbottoms tucked into his football socks, no?

Well Max, welcome to England.

Ben (#677)

Location: Miami, USA
Posted: 4882 days ago

Max,

Get yourself into London or to Cambridge or Oxford and down to Brighton. It's poor form that your hosts aren't entertaining you properly or at least letting you free of the confines of Bedford. My God man! I feel sorry for you.

You know what, make up publicity plans to get you away. It's your only hope.

Machine Man subscriber Danni (#357)

Location: England
Quote: "Eagerly awaiting the European Tour."
Posted: 4882 days ago

I know where both Bedford and Shropshire are. They're down south. Now, unless you like sword dancing or are interested in which village was awarded the most VCs during the first world war, you won't have heard of High Spen. Even people who live in a close town have never heard of High Spen.

I'm very annoyed you're not doing publicity here. How am I going to get you to sign my copy of Jennifer Government? You're just a hundred miles or so away from me and yet that's still to far.

Anyway, not everywhere is like Bedford. We have trees here, and lots of them :)

Welcome to England :)

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: 4882 days ago

Shropshire is West Midlands and next to Wales. =)

Cassandra (#2046)

Location: Bedford, England
Quote: "Well behaved women rarely make history."
Posted: 4882 days ago

It could be worse, you could live here...just like me....

Machine Man subscriber Alex (#237)

Location: London, England
Quote: "We're today's scrambled creatures, locked in tomorrow's double feature (Bowie)"
Posted: 4882 days ago

Darn, and here was me looking forward to you signing my copy of 'Company' with the missing pages and writing some witty comment or something.

Ho hum...

Will (#2384)

Location: In the depths of Yorkshire.
Quote: "You can only be young once. But you can always be immature."
Posted: 4882 days ago

Well you just stopped me ever visiting Beds... Cass i'm meeting you and Max in London or in my neck of the woods ^_^

But really you should come to Yorkshire while your in the UK, at the very least see the Lake District man! Any National Park! For the love of God see one!


My moneys covering some sort of Nike/Addias wear for the kid on the run... Also beware of the damned swans, they're worse than the ducks <_<

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 4882 days ago

Despite what my outdated and lying 'location' tab says, I actually live half an hour away from Bedford.
Please let me stalk you ... I promise I won't attack you for your mobile phone or demand to construct you a house out of red brick.
And everyone is else is right when they tell you to go to London or Brighton or Cambridge or Oxford or Bath or ANYWHERE but the east midlands.

Gregor (#1182)

Location: Toronto
Quote: "The righteous man is beset on all sides by the tyrannies of evil men."
Posted: 4882 days ago

You can write so much now. Since there is NOTHING ELSE TO DO!
Book tour? Are you a footballer? No. There is nothing else of interest about you then. Culture is not a British word, as its probably not an Australian word either. A geek is a respectable person most places, but is usually picked on by the hooligans in England. Your an easy slap.
But England has very green grass my friend, and no black widow spiders! What we'd call friendly nature!
The locals though, well, you ARE in Kansas Dorothy!

Katy (#2345)

Location: Los Angeles
Posted: 4882 days ago

GO TO LONDON. Do it now.
As a respectful reader of your books and blog, I would like to order you to go to London.
It's inconceivable that you could have been to London in the past. If you had been, you would worship the very thought of England.

Pfft.

Grace (#1225)

Location: Melbourne aka The Cliffs of Insanity
Quote: "I refuse to have a battle of wits with someone who is unarmed."
Posted: 4882 days ago

Is it just me or does Bedford sound just like Ankh Morpork in (sorry to mention another author on your blog) Terry Pratchett's books?

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 4882 days ago

Tuesday May 9, 2006

ENGLAND...I THINK THAT I AM THE ONLY PERSON NOT FROM THERE COMMENTING ON THIS BLOG.

I am just curious. How did you end up with family in England. Seriously, you are from Australia. If my geography skillz are correct(and they are), you can't just drive your car to Enland from Australia. Do Australians randomly get annoyed with Australia and say, "Hey. This place sucks. I'm moving to England!"?

IN OTHER NEWS

Don't eat super glue. It may kill you.

-adam

PS Do you have any family in the Mid-western United States? If so, you should visit them more often.

Hobbie (#1359)

Location: Cornwall, England
Quote: "There was a little man in his hair!"
Posted: 4882 days ago

Bedford is a dump... and I wouldn't recommend London as readily as some others here either.

Come to the South West, where green things still exist.

Peter Emuss (#1630)

Location: England
Quote: "Before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Then, when you criticise, you'll be a mile away and you'll have their shoes."
Posted: 4882 days ago

Adam - Every Australian moves to England at some point. Although very few of them settle on Bedford as their choice of destination...

Max - I'll second the recommendation to come to the South West. Or the South East. Or London. Or the North. In fact, I'd recommend you go anywhere but Bedford. Keeping you there is verging on cruel and unusual punishment.

You can come and do an event in the bookstore at my university, if you like. We'd be delighted to host you.

Peter

Helen (#362)

Location: UK
Posted: 4882 days ago

Hey Max! If you're in England nearish to London you should check out the London geek dinner thing: http://www.geekdinner.co.uk/

There's not a new one up at the moment, but if you're going to be here a month the geeks of London tend to meet up that often. It's usually a pretty fun night.

jamieo (#2386)

Location: Bedford / London
Posted: 4882 days ago

Cockney Stuck In Bedford.

Yeh, I came to Bedford 18 years ago after leaving my beloved Kentish Town.

Mate, for the last 18 years, I've been trying to get the fuck straight outta here again.

This place is absolutely marvellous if you happen to be either 17 or braindead, or better still, both, as most of the population is generally one or the other. Some do happen to be both.

Bedford is painfully interbred + stuck up its own arse looking for drama in amongst the other people's 'lives'.

I may be bitter, but at least I'm not a local.

David de Ugarte (#2387)

Location: Madrid
Quote: "Tout ce qui n'est point nouveau dans un temps d'innovation est pernicieux ~ Saint Just"
Posted: 4881 days ago

OFFTOPICs:

1. I read this http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/custom/tourism/la-et-mcdonalds8may08,0,3286421.story?coll=orl-home-headlines
and I thought about you :-D

2. Would you like to come to Spain for giving a conference in Madrid. We [www.lasindias.org] are really interested, if you are too we would like to know dates it could be possible for you

Thanks
David
www.deugarte.com

Peter Emuss (#1630)

Location: England
Quote: "Before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their shoes. Then, when you criticise, you'll be a mile away and you'll have their shoes."
Posted: 4881 days ago

Just off that article that David mentioned. Was anyone else really, really annoyed by the constant use of the 'word' healthful in that article? It's *healthy*, not healthful! I'm trying to work out if it's a new Americanism or marketing speak. Or possibly both.

Peter

Keely (#1602)

Location: easy-peasy-24.livejournal.com of course!
Quote: "I always wanted to see the lights of Broadway... but then you get there and they're really kind of annoying."
Posted: 4881 days ago

I know this has nothing to do with England, but I just wanted to mention that I managed to get my school's book fair to order about 5 copies each of J.Gov and Syrup. There are 4 books left, total (I got my best friend to buy one). And isn't a 60%, uh, sales rate supposed to be amazing? Furthermore, the book fair just opened today.

Congratulations Max. In my school, you're a hit!

Alan Belmore (#258)

Location: UK
Quote: "Cheese Rules dudes."
Posted: 4881 days ago

Hmmmm.... Bedford.... that's in Bedfordshire isn't it?

If you really want to experience England, you should come to Sussex, I'd show you around. :D

Hallie (#2348)

Location: Reading, UK
Quote: "Dancing is the vertical expression of horizontal action"
Posted: 4881 days ago

Most of England is quite bad. Unless they've built a huge shopping centre to disguise it. Or there's a National Trust place nearby. Then it's pretty but fairly boring...

Will (#2384)

Location: In the depths of Yorkshire.
Quote: "You can only be young once. But you can always be immature."
Posted: 4881 days ago

Hallie - Oh sell us to him why don't you =P

Anyone not from England - Stop visting London and venture North! (But not Bradford, goodness no i live near there i don't recomend it). Even south to the New Forest, if your from the States go to the countryside and see a hedge(!) thats older than your Government! =D

Max - Don't listen to these nutters saying the souths good! Come Nnnoooorrrtttthhhh!!

Ruth (#288)

Location: Bath, United Kingdom
Quote: "Only the insane have strength enough to prosper. Only those who prosper may truly judge what is sane."
Posted: 4881 days ago

England is the future. We've managed to tame and sterilise everything just so. Wales and Scotland might offer a little respite, but their wilderness is next...

Sarah Statham (#1573)

Location: Manchester, England, UK.
Posted: 4880 days ago

Where the hell is Bedford?!

Cassandra (#2046)

Location: Bedford, England
Quote: "Well behaved women rarely make history."
Posted: 4880 days ago

Where you never taught ignorance is bliss? That should be applied when dealing with Bedford.

Machine Man subscriber Silke (#968)

Location: Hamburg, Germany
Quote: ""Not only do I not know the answer - I don't even know what the question is..." [Metallica]"
Posted: 4880 days ago

lol... isn't it strange that you would mention Milton Keynes in your blog as not such a beautiful place and only 2 days later a friend of mine talks me into actually visiting Milton Keynes to go to a concert there?

Why is everyone suddenly starting to talk about Milton Keynes? ??

Well... I'll find out later this year when I'll be there... :-)

Tony Quin (#1310)

Location: Plymouth -urgh
Quote: "Yoga is NAILS"
Posted: 4879 days ago

You should see Plymouth.

FatRat (#1554)

Location: England
Quote: "Argh."
Posted: 4878 days ago

Bedford = Chavs. Just like most other English towns these days!

England's best areas are definitely places like Cornwall, The New forest, Lake District...all those pleasant areas that people expect to see when they come here.

Jake Staines (#2395)

Location: Peterborough, UK
Quote: "I'm not going outside! There's carcinogenic space rays out there!"
Posted: 4878 days ago

The thing about the British and bookshops, you see, is that we're a small island, we only have so many of the things to go around! It's unfair for smaller authors, no matter /how/ awesome, to go around taking up valuable bookshop space when that space could be used to stand a large cardboard sign announcing a signing with some larger, more well-known author who will be attending the bookshop in question as soon as next year!

It's also to do with a sense of modesty, of course - the number of books present should be roughly proportional to the number of books you have sold: if the local Waterstones is a suitable venue for Stephen King, then you would probably be more suited to, say, my study. I have a lot of books, but not /that/ many books. You could bring a copy of /Company/, sign it and sell it to me, and after that my neighbours and I could laugh at your hair.


Seriously, though, less-famous authors appear to prosper much more at universities than bookshops in this country; what you really ought to have done, were you in the mood for some self-publicity, was announce a month or so in advance that you were open to tour a few universities in exchange for petrol money to get you there - you'd probably find a few student sci-fi societies would take you up on your offer.

Sophie (#891)

Location: Devon
Posted: 4877 days ago

If you're stuck in Bedford with nothing to do for a month, I'm kinda hoping this shall mean more blogs poking fun at and satirising the desolate Befordshire area. I live over in neighbouring Northamptonshire, but meh, most things that are true for Bedford are true for Northampton. So I'll find 'em just as funny.
I can't offer you any kind of payment for this service, but hopefully now you've seen the depressing wilderness I'm stranded in, you'll take sympathy and want to brighten my days. Pleeassee...? *imploring stare*

Ruth (#288)

Location: Bath, United Kingdom
Quote: "Only the insane have strength enough to prosper. Only those who prosper may truly judge what is sane."
Posted: 4876 days ago

I have to say Jake is probably right, I've seen a number of remarkable people pass through my university of late thanks to them somehow being roped in by various societies to give short talks.

And I hope you're not seeing Take That Silke? :/

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