Thu 30

Idea Me

Writing I’m almost finished the final round of major rewrites on the new book. That’s what I’ve been doing, if you’re wondering. It has been more fun and less like pulling my brain out through my nostrils than usual, so that’s good. I am feeling productive.

In a few weeks, I’ll be ready to start my next book! That’s exciting. Except I have no ideas. None. I don’t even know which genre it’ll be. By now it seems like I should have some sense of my own place in the literary marketplace, but I don’t. Apparently I do a kind of comedy-sci-fi-thriller-satire-romance thing. But I don’t know where you shelve that.

I mention this because it occurred to me that I have this web site, and you read it, so I should data-mine you for ideas. There is possibly a less exploitative way for me to say that. But I mean, if you’re on this site, I bet we have all kinds of things in common. Like favorite authors. And being interested in what kind of book I’m writing next. You’re basically me, with more perspective.

I don’t want story ideas, because those are personal. You could have the best story idea in the world and I wouldn’t like it because it wasn’t my idea. I’m very small like that. Also, imagine the legal ramifications. Nightmare. But I would like to know the very broad reasons you might pick up a book with my name on it. Is it for yucks, is it for a page-turner, is it to snip out the author photo for identity theft? You know. Broad strokes. Then the next time I think, “Hey, how awesome would it be to write a comedy about a sentient toaster,” I might remember your comments and think, “Mmmm, not that awesome.” This would be more efficient than my usual process, which is going ahead and writing the book and nine months later having my agent explain why it’s unpublishable.

In other news, I have been playing a computer game, Diablo III. This is one of the few games I’ve put significant time into since my first child was born seven years ago, just as an FYI for anyone thinking of having kids. The game is pretty fun, but what’s fascinating to me is how much video games have changed. When I was a kid, they were coin-munching sadists designed to ruthlessly punish anything less than autism-grade concentration. But now they are colorful piñatas for the easily bored who will rage on Twitter if anything is too hard. If I finish this rewrite and don’t have an idea for my next book, I’ll post a review.


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!

Omar (#6012)

Location: UK
Quote: ""I hate having to write quotes""
Posted: 2948 days ago

I know it's not an original idea, but I'd love to revisit the world of Jennifer Government. Or a similar world.

I loved the way you painted the dystopian society of JG's world also reading JG is what made me read Company and Syrup.

Alternatively a novel about an online game where the economy (or some other aspect) of the online game has a real effect on peoples lives. You could release an online game as a tie in like you did with Nation States.

Hmmm that might have been covered by Piers Anthony's Killobyte though

Still worth exploring from a modern point of view as that was almost 20 years ago.

Idea came to me because you mentioned that you are playing Diablo 3... Which lead World of Warcraft.

This is getting incoherent, I'm going to go order Machineman off Amazon...

Allina Dither (#5996)

Location: Fort Worth, Texas
Quote: ""Mostly, this an attack on me from previous statements I've made.""
Posted: 2948 days ago

Max, I love your books and the fact you're asking us to do this is, to me, awesome. That out of the way, I pick up your books for their witty and insightful observations and musings and imaginings (if that's a word) about the paths we humans appear to be steeling ourselves up to hop onto and travel a ways, and how the characters deal with making those decisions and with their consequences. From "Jennifer Government" to "Machine Man," I think that's both their common thread and their strength.

For me, the plotting in your novels always takes a back seat to the ideas, not that there's anything wrong with your plotting. I just say that to explain that I think you're asking what's the first thing I get excited about when I buy your books, and for me it's that I anticipate you'll be exploring some cool and scary and complex ideas. Oh, and I figure it'll be funny, too, which I also get excited about.

Omar (#6012)

Location: UK
Quote: ""I hate having to write quotes""
Posted: 2948 days ago

Social networking is big too, you could probably write a dystopian novel where social networking is government controlled and your value as a citizen is directly related to your social Klout.

Upvotes/likes as currency.

Followers = Political office.

Presidential race decided by who has the most friends on facebook? then there is scandal as it's revealed that half of one of the contenders followers are fake accounts.

Omar (#6012)

Location: UK
Quote: ""I hate having to write quotes""
Posted: 2948 days ago

Why am I giving you ideas when I could be writing them myself...

Last one, a seemingly harmless cult with some really whacked out beliefs is actually running the world, ordering hits on people who speak out against it... Oh wait that's scientology.

I want you to fit tupperware parties in as the number one method of recruitment though. Bet tom cruise never thought of that!

Jenifer (#1868)

Location: Suwon, South Korea
Quote: ""I'll try everything once. If I like it, I'll try it again.""
Posted: 2948 days ago

I want to hear your take on AI. Lately I've been really interested in what it will really be like when Artificial Intelligence happens. I don't think it will be one of the robots in a lab, where someone is trying for AI. I think it'll be an accident, like Google becoming sentient. I am sure this has the potential to be hilarious and scary all at the same time. Just a thought...

Omar (#6012)

Location: UK
Quote: ""I hate having to write quotes""
Posted: 2948 days ago

One more. Mix the matrix with the Truman show. Children are bought from mothers who don't want them and are wired into a virtual sitcom that they have no idea why they are living in.

The Sitcom is seeded with comedians who make sure the funny happens but the core cast are all full timers

If a characters ratings get too low they are killed or ejected from the sitcom.

One character escapes during a power outage or someone trips over a cable or something and he makes it his mission to free his co-stars.

Machine Man subscriber Michael Crider (#3054)

Location: Colorado, United States
Posted: 2948 days ago

Max, there are a lot of reasons why I read (and re-read, and recommend, etc.) your books, but two elements of your writing stand out. One, your dialogue is second to none - it's sharp and entertaining, while always feeling true to your characters. I get the feeling that if you've got an awesome idea for an exchange, but just can't find somewhere organic to place it, then you leave it out.

Two: your female characters are always great. They're smart, confident, funny, occasionally ball-busting, and always compelling. I feel like a lot of male writers struggle with female characters (I certainly do) but you do a great job. I only wish you had more than one or two to play with in each book.

Travis (#3416)

Location: Box Hill, Melbourne
Quote: "Would I do a Thing like that?"
Posted: 2948 days ago

Well, You are playing a online game, why not do something about games or the people that play them. That way Diablo III isn't time-wasting, it's research ;-) think of all the games you could play, no, I mean, research you can do.

Kalle (#1278)

Quote: "Sex is herital. If your parents never had it, chanses are you'll never have it either."
Posted: 2948 days ago

I read the books for the brisk tempo and suspense - some parts of JG, for example, reads like a nice action movie. Whilst being suitably cool and distant about itself, I suppose. So, find a nice concept(which you are not asking for), add some original characters(watch out for the Neal Stephensoning characters, IE using the same in many books) and then let them fall over eachother in adventure and hijinx. Should do it.

Tommy Mandel (#2554)

Location: nYc
Quote: ""You want me to sign this now?""
Posted: 2948 days ago

just so long as we don't know whether we are crying or laughing, that's good.
also a surprise after we thought we were all surprised out.
and maybe a lucid & delicious description of a salad that we've never experienced.

Karan (#1376)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Quid Quid Latine Dictum Sit, Altum Viditur - Anything said in Latin sounds important"
Posted: 2948 days ago

I too would love to see us revisit the world of Jennifer Government, perhaps before the events of JG go down... or with the added spin of Facebook and Twitter factoring in?

We've seen you lampoon the corporate world repeatedly - any chance you could take a shot at In The Loop style politics?

Or you could give Diablo 3 a real story, instead of the flimsy excuse for a barely-there spiderweb of a tale that takes about 20 minutes to tell. I mean, that world has potential.

Paula (#4728)

Posted: 2948 days ago

I second another Dystopia. To me Jennifer Government was the reason I started reading you and it is the book I've re-read the most. I'd pre-order a sequel just as much as I'd love a new concept. It doesn't even have to be so modern/anti-capitalist etc, just a mind-blowingly clever dystopian twist. Not to put any pressure on you, though.

towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 2948 days ago

I think the corporate satire element that Karan mentioned and the strong female characters that Michael Crider mentioned are what stands out most for me in your novels. And they're just clever, and funny.
I suppose ultimately the thing that most keeps me buying you novels is the fact I absolutely loved Jennifer Government and also liked Syrup quite a bit. You'd have to write a pretty awful novel to make me give up hope of reading something that good from you again (which should not be taken as a challenge).

Machine Man subscriber Adam (#24)

Location: Morristown, Indiana
Quote: "Why do I blog? Simple, because Max Barry blogs."
Posted: 2948 days ago

A world where everything is patented or trademarked. And. I mean everything.

Machine Man subscriber Arnab (#3918)

Location: Brisbane
Quote: "Now, I don't know Max, I've never met Max, or know anything about him, but I have it on good authority, that he is, in fact, a werewolf."
Posted: 2948 days ago

For the yuks, sir. For all the yukks! Damn hard thing to find in books, and harder to find done right.

metalbiteme (#1495)

Location: WALES UK
Quote: "Welcome to nowhere fast. Nothing here ever lasts."
Posted: 2948 days ago

When i first bought one of your books, it was in a book shop. But now, i buy books mainly by amazon recommendations, 'if you like this book, you will love....' etc...
J.Government was the first book i purchased of yours, and the reason for choosing it was the cover and synopsis alone. The cover stood out from the other books in the store, it was young and fresh, and the synopsis deemed interesting.
The main reason i keep on picking up your books is that they are modern, the characters are like-able and the stories are different, they are not plainly romance or mystery.

Jennifer M. Dambeck (#3061)

Location: NJ, USA
Quote: "Rock on"
Posted: 2948 days ago

Write something about video games or a company that develops video games

I'll buy anything with your name on it. Well maybe not anything, I saw a sketch book in Barnes and Noble that had Harry Potter on the front. A SKETCH BOOK! 200 BLANK PAGES! I won't buy a blank book with your name on it.

I forget how I picked up Jennifer Government, (the first of your that I read) but I love that ultra-capitalist dystopia.

I thought you writing live was cool too. I wish I could have seen that. Maybe another time on the East coast of the US?

gnomesnow (#5755)

Location: santa fe, nm
Quote: "nasty, brutish, and short"
Posted: 2948 days ago

I met you through Machine Man. Started it on the plane to an IT conference and couldn't put it down (which meant a lot of people at the conference met you that week as well). Came back home and devoured your back catalog.

I actually think your plotting is great - well-paced to pull you through the book.

I follow your work because I like the themes you explore and because you're smart and funny - a wry observer of the slow motion train wreck that is modern civilization.

Machine Man subscriber Tim Coffman (#4604)

Location: Nashville, TN
Posted: 2948 days ago

The games you've been playing from the coin-ops through Diablo 3 are a Battle School, and you, God help us all, are Ender Wiggin. Just imagine the horrendous mission drift that is going on at the highest levels!

OK, that's exactly the kind of idea you asked not to receive, but, well I wouldn't be the kind of person who reads this blog if I respected rules like that.

Machine Man subscriber Warpig (#4534)

Location: Texas
Quote: "The key to war is not to die for your country, its to make the other poor dumb bastard die for his."
Posted: 2948 days ago

Political satire would be funny with a scifi twist! Also can wait till syrup is out!

Muthalovin (#6014)

Location: Austin, TX
Quote: "I loves me some internets"
Posted: 2948 days ago

Right now, I am really into "hard-boiled detective" novels for some reason. An idea would be a detective novel set tangentially to Jennifer Government.

Also, all the video game ideas above are great. Whatever you write, I will end up reading.

Jeremy (#3401)

Location: Behind you
Quote: ""...and that's why you should eat fried lettuce.""
Posted: 2947 days ago

I agree with Jennifer (#3061), write about video games. Either about game developers, or perhaps from inside a game. At the very least it'll give you an excuse to sit in your underwear and play.

By the way, Diablo III represents a stagnation in game development. I highly suggest you play some of the newer classics such as:
Mass Effect (RPG/adventure) [PC/PS3/360]
Journey (platformer/all the feels) [PS3]
Uncharted (action/adventure/indiana jones) [PS3]
Bioshock (Ayn-Rand-ian horror) [PC/PS3/360]
Half-Life 2 (shooter with story) [PC/360]
Super Mario Galaxy (good to play with the little one [she can even help in simplistic co-op]) [Wii]

There are many more great games as well. These are only some that show how video games have evolved for the past decade into great things.


syrup6 (#1224)

Location: Arkansas
Quote: ""Truth always rests with the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because the minority is generally formed by those who really have an opinion" - Kierkegaard"
Posted: 2947 days ago

I have to say, Syrup is still my favorite. I love how you wrote exactly how I think. In spurts. In "...". I loved the unorthodox style of it. Even though you changed style after Syrup, I kept reading and stayed interested because your thought concepts are clever and informed. Or, at least they sound informed, either way, it's a win until I meet a pro on the topic ;)

I like the idea of a sentient Google that Jenifer from S. Korea mentioned, that sounds awesome.

I'm sure it helps to know who your loyal readership is - I'm a 29 year old mom of 3, high end waitress and coffee roasting hobbyist. I first read Syrup in high school and have gotten each book as soon as they were released. I don't know if I'm your 'demographic', it seems like you get a lot more male feedback? My husband is also a loyal reader of yours (I converted him), and he's into It seems like if you don't get lost in it, that would be a wealth of ideas, and it's some place to bitch about Diablo III getting too hard. Win win!

Nikki (#4720)

Location: Canada
Posted: 2947 days ago

Write Syrup again.

Syrup is by far my favourite of your novels. Company is a closeish second, but I feel like in your more recent novels your satire is getting more heavy-handed and your plots are less able to carry it. Don't worry though, I will still buy everything you write.

Syrup is amazing because you place this one average guy in the midst of a handful of batshit insane characters and we get to watch him adapt. He's quick on his feet and he struggles with morality and whatever, but it's not cookie-cutter struggles because everyone surrounding him is next-level weird. 6 and @ are probably two of my favourite characters in contemporary fiction. Eve is similar in her unattainability, professionalism, and ambiguous morality, but she's more predictable than your Syrup women. I would love to see some really, really bonkers characters again, because your characterization is stellar and, as such, your characters really hold up your stories. If your characters become too predictable, so too does your satire.

Pumped for your next book!

Kristy (#4441)

Location: Baltimore, MD
Posted: 2947 days ago

Everyone gave you specific story ideas anyways.

I won't.

I read your books because they make me think about possibilities that are - on some level - plausible, given near-future technology, and some of the ramifications, possible edge cases, and what might result. It's a way of thinking through the possibilities more thoroughly. You always pick the most interesting intersections of "some situation that we are thinking about/concerned about as a society now" plus "near future technologies that add really interesting complexity to aforementioned situations"

I'm a game designer.

Jak (#2464)

Quote: "The Straight-Jacket makes it hard to type."
Posted: 2947 days ago

I also agree with seeing some more dystopia, or possibly post-apocalyptic distopia.

Also as another commentator mentioned, play bioshock, you'll like it, just don't read too much about it as there are spoilers everywhere due to the age of the game.

Kristy (#4441)

Location: Baltimore, MD
Posted: 2947 days ago

Here's where I'm going to break the rules a little:

Have you checked out the Gartner Hype-cycle on emerging technologies?

This will give you an idea of all of the upcoming technologies and how developed they are.

you've delved into biotechnology, but have you thought about some of the implications of Pharmaceuticals?

Especially with the advent of things like biologic medication....and things like, I just had a dental implant for a tooth I had to have pulled, and I got some corpse tissue used for a membrane to stitch in my bone graft in my jaw.

Tim K (#788)

Location: California
Posted: 2947 days ago

I'm with Syrup6 and Nikki in liking Syrup best. It was honest, unpretentious, a little raw - I connected with it more easily than subsequent works. I would like to see the next novel return to that voice, but I fear such innocence cannot be recaptured.
As to what makes me pick up a book, familiar settings are a turn on. Anything featuring the UK or San Francisco in the thriller/mystery/scifi genre gets my attention. (No help to you, I know.) I read a ton of book blurbs and could make a really boring list of turn offs - idea for a related blog:
What does a one to two sentence book blurb have to say to make you accept or reject the book?
As an ex-avid gamer and moderately responsible parent, I have to say that the example I set my son has had negative consequences for his academic performance. We have bonded over many a role-playing adventure, but don't underestimate the addictive nature of gaming. Some handle it better than others.
If you have not seen it already, watch The Guild. Felicia Day shows us how to turn gaming obsession into a semi-lucrative career.

Josh Bahr (#3129)

Location: Fishers, IN, USA
Quote: ""Yea, i said it...""
Posted: 2947 days ago

Max, love your books and writing style. That being said I read your books (started reading you) because of the satire, but I also love the world you create in your books. Now what I would love to see is you escaping this earth and bring us something completely different. I love the exploration of something completely new and foreign for characters (and readers) there is really knowing what way they will react in situations and it keeps me reading to find out what happens next. Building a new world (or setting, could be a ship, city, heaven, Hell) be it sci-fi or fantasy gives you opportunity to build an epic story and opens the possibility to multiple books, and that's just good business.

Machine Man subscriber tim (#3234)

Location: chattanooga, TN, USA
Quote: """
Posted: 2947 days ago

How much do you think is too much to pay for a dining room table and 6 chairs? That's what I'm currently dealing with, if you can believe it. We're moving back to a house from our condo and are compelled to put a table in the dining room, primarily because it's called a dining room and you can't put anything else in there.
We don't cook and, as quasi-vegans(we still wear leather shoes, we just don't eat them), no one ever wants to eat our food anyway.

I'm telling you, once they figure out that whole holographic projection thing, one of the first things I'll buy is a dining room table projector, so that when you look in the room, you see the table, but you don't actually have to buy one. Plus, when my wife is away, I can turn it off and use the space for anything... say, indian wrestling, for instance.

Maybe you can have eye glasses that change the color of rooms and your perception of the decor without actually having to paint or remove wallpaper. Now that's a future I can buy into.

I guess the fundamental question is: Just because we have the money, does this mean we have to spend it on a huge thing with the sole purpose of filling a space in a large room that we cannot use to create an 'illusion of functional decor'?

Sorry, I thought I would answer your ramblings with ramblings of my own. Is that not what we're doing here?

Lynne D Perry (#5100)

Location: Penfield, New York
Quote: "Resistance to Linux is futile. You *will* be assimilated."
Posted: 2947 days ago

From my first read of "Jennifer Government", I loved the dry humor, and the core subject. I told everyone I knew that it was prophetic. And look where we are in the states today, with private millionaire and billionaires taking over government!

From that book through the next three, I picked them up simply because you wrote them. I didn't even think I'd like "Machine Man", but it was captivating, and made me GOL (gasp out loud) at the end.

Maybe you could think about what might be the next holy grail in another 20 years? I'm thinkin' it'll probably be fresh water.

You're the Nostradamus of the day, Max. Work it. ;-)

...Now when's that movie going to be out on DVD!? I can't afford the movie theaters and don't like crowds, especially in the dark!

Destructa (#5648)

Location: Silicon Valley
Quote: "A triple scoop of rage with giggle sprinkles"
Posted: 2947 days ago

I think I enjoyed Jennifer Government the most out of the lot, because it did what I would like to do with a novel: have an action-packed story with multiple viewpoints that takes place in a fascinating world. The world has its own intricate history and atmosphere that resembles our own, but with startling differences. The trick is to explain this world to the audience so they can start to imagine living in it, but not bog down the story or give extended "history lessons."

Haha, the other books took place in our own reality, didn't they? Company really hit close to home. However, I'm pretty sure my employer makes actual products.

@Tim in Chattanooga, I no longer have a dining room. It is now our library, and packed full of books & movies.

Machine Man subscriber Kyle (#3321)

Location: Burnie, Tasmania
Posted: 2947 days ago

I read your books because they usually contain clever social satire, or a twist on spec-fic or sci-fi. I'm also a pretentious intellectual but lazy when it comes to my entertainment - I like my escapism painless and easily-digestible, but not vapid or stupid. Hope this helps.

Robert Belton (#3176)

Location: The best city in australia.
Posted: 2947 days ago

Um, I actually was thinking about you yesterday. Or more correctly and importantly I want to know when we see 6!

ryandake (#2199)

Location: scenic monterey, ca
Quote: ""The rest is not our business.""
Posted: 2947 days ago

hi max!

i recommend your books most to people who are into really sharp satire--Company and Jennifer Government in particular. your observations about how people adapt to what is absurd are so, so funny.

so, i recommend you a lot to Vonnegut fans looking for a read.

Machine Man was a little different, i thought--i was taking it just as a very geeky sort of satire until you got to the eyes, and i realized, wow, i want those eyes. your books have a way of absolutely pegging a possible future. so i read them also for that--that read on a potential/likely future.

plus, everything that people have said above: you write superb dialogue, you do excellent plotting, you just pretty much rock as a writer.

i still want the unpublishable ones, tho! what happens to them? it's too sad to think that they just inhabit (digital) drawers until a better world dawns...

Machine Man subscriber Toby O (#2900)

Location: Sydney
Quote: "You can't sell your soul to the devil if he's not buying"
Posted: 2947 days ago

First of all while the other kids are telling you which of your books are their favourite, I have to go with Jennifer Government. And I agree with Paula, you could revisit that 'world.'

But my other suggestion is to write with time travel. This is never done right, so you'll get it wrong, but aside from that, there's usually some fun thing you can make happen because of the time travel thing. Plot something like this: Guy travels in time, meets chick, hilarity ensues. Go.

P.S. What about that short story you did with the dolls that made the girls go nuts... can you weave that in somewhere??

Machine Man subscriber Adam Willard (#4231)

Location: Madagascar
Quote: "What unseen pen etched eternal things in the hearts of humankind... but never let them in our minds?"
Posted: 2947 days ago

When I read a modern book (i.e., in the last 20 years or so), I like it to have some sort of reflection on modern-day events, trends, ideas, etc. That's what I love about your books, and since the mode of your reflections is satire, I appreciate it all the more. PLEASE do not write a book without some satire, but I think I even appreciate strong satire all the more. Not necessarily strong in the "obvious" sense, but in the way it under-girds the entire plot and action and maybe even the identity of the characters. I think Company was my favorite book of yours, just for that overwhelming satire coursing through it, and because it was quite a bit more subtle (almost believable!) at the same time. The other thing I love about your books is that they ARE page turners, but then I hate you for finishing them early, like only 200 or 300 pages? Awful! If you're going to make them so exciting and funny and interesting so I don't want to sleep at night without reading the next chapter and the next and the next, etc., then you should make it at least 400 or 500 pages, so it lingers with me longer! Consider you're giving us a "bonus" or "pandering to fans" or something... but we wait so long for your next book to come out, and then I'm finished reading it in 1-2 days tops! It leaves me just as disappointed as satisfied.

Also, I'm a sucker for science fiction. That's pretty simple, I'm just a sucker. I like pretty much all science fiction ideas. I don't know if it's good or healthy or wise marketing or anything else, but I'm inevitably drawn towards clever or unique (or even normal) science fiction ideas. So most of your books are great at that too.

But at this point I'll just read the next thing you publish no matter what. So if you just publish something, anything, I'll be happy.

Also, is there no way to buy e-books direct from you? I hate all that DRM stuff, plus, I would think if it was direct from you, maybe the cost would be slightly lower, but you'd get a bigger profit? You know, bands nowadays usually have options to buy stuff direct from them, or through distributors, so I usually choose direct. Seems more honest. Plus I like saving a buck.

Keep writing!

Karan (#1376)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Quid Quid Latine Dictum Sit, Altum Viditur - Anything said in Latin sounds important"
Posted: 2946 days ago

Back for another go... Some of the comments here made me reflect on which of your books was my "favourite", if I had to pick, and I struggled; JG I read first, and tore through it - I had actually been drawn in by NationStates, so I'd love to see another quirky tie-in like that. Syrup I discovered after reading about it on your blog, and it's probably been the one I've re-read most; I am still head-over-heels for 6 and can't wait for the movie. Company made me laugh the most, recognizing all too easily the same aspects in my own company...

But in terms of ideas: how about a new take on the Victorian novel? Let Dickens, Bronte, Austen et al be your spiritual guides, as Susanna Clarke pulled off with Johnathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I'm sure it would stick out like a sore thumb next to your other work, but I like that it'd be a stretch, and I'm sure you could have a Twain-like twinkle in your eye the whole time :)

Machine Man subscriber Ben (#3924)

Location: Alberta, Canada
Quote: "I don't wanna ride the elevator."
Posted: 2946 days ago

Ok. I buy your books because you have a sense of humour with a level of insanity that if I had to compare it to another author, I might say Douglas Adams. Nevertheless you also seem to have a good grasp on humanity and stay in touch with you fans through your website, making you personal to us. Also I like reading sci-fi and fantasy.

I also like authors with strange ideas like:
1) Blog format subscription to a book, as it happens, with full comment ability.
2) taking 10 minutes out of their time to personally call their fans as a thanks for the support type thing.
3) having crazy ideas like naming their children based on which web domains are available.

Incidentally what drew me to your site was NationStates. The first of your books I read was the Machine Man serial, a book I paid for because of the method in which it was presented. I wanted to support that creative approach you have to sharing your works with your audience. After thoroughly enjoying it I thought about buying more of your works from my local book store but couldn't find any. When you said you would call the fans who bought 3 books however, I got on my ass and ordered online. Never regretted it.

P.S. what ever happened to coolpillows?

P.P.S. I spent a lot of time at work showing your Machine Man YouTube video to people, that was hilarious.

Jorge (#5668)

Location: Off Burdekin Avenue
Quote: "Ommmmmmmmmmmmm"
Posted: 2946 days ago

G'day Max.

I once had this idea: a book written in such a way that it had neither a beginning nor an end. A perfectly circular book the reader could start at any point and leave at any point they might wish. Ouch!! What was that for?!! It was just an idea, there was no need to hit me! ;)

Satire, satire, satire. Show us what we are really like: despicable, regrettable accidents crowding the earth's crust.

I disagree with the view that the worlds you depict are dystopias. Those hidden shallows are the world as you (and a few thousands others whoe read you, it seems) see it. Jennifer is no futuristic world: what the Olympics if not the dictatorship of BIG business.

Anyhow, whatever it is that you end up writing, I'll read. If I'm still alive when it comes out, of course.

Big sunny day in Ngunnawal land after another frosty dawn. Enjoy the day in Melbourne, mate.

Jane (#321)

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Quote: "Which is worse: Ignorance or apathy? Who knows? Who cares?"
Posted: 2946 days ago

I'd love another dystopia story... whether a revisiting of the Jennifer Government world or something else. And I like Toby O's suggestion about time travel too. Or anything that involves quantum physics and multiple dimensions/universes.

The qualities I like in your books are the humour, satire and the way they make observations about our world and how we live in it. I like reading ideas that make me re-think and challenge my perspective on society. And I like to read about *big* concepts, especially concepts from disciplines that I am unfamiliar with. I just read this blog post recently and found it really interesting:

Also I like novels that are set in locations that I am familiar with. So if you could do a story set in the inner Northern suburbs of Melbourne, or even anywhere in Melbourne, or Victoria, or even Australia, that'd be nice. Feel free to drop in for a cuppa if you're hanging out in my neighbourhood doing some research.

Valerie (#5458)

Location: Chicago
Posted: 2945 days ago

Oh, Maxi, this is flattering and all, but please don't ask us - just do what you do! If YOU are out of ideas, there is really no hope for the rest of us.

However, that being said:
- collection of short stories
I think you should consider writing a children's book, maybe something geared toward your daughter or maybe something for tweens. I'm sure that Finlay can inspire something brilliant and I know that I would read it!

Also, for what it's worth, I appreciate witty graphics (i.e the Syrup nutritional label, the reimagined periodic tables in Douglas Coupland's Shampoo Planet, the GUIs in the movie Stranger than Fiction) to accompany the text. Pushing that a little further to a conceptual/experiential e-book with interactive graphics/audio/gaming.

Egad, forget it...I trust you...just keep writing!

Valerie (#5458)

Location: Chicago
Posted: 2945 days ago

Oh, Maxi, this is flattering and all, but please don't ask us - just do what you do! If YOU are out of ideas, there is really no hope for the rest of us.

However, that being said, consider these:
- a collection of short stories
- a children's book, maybe something geared toward your daughter or maybe something for tweens (I'm sure that Finlay can inspire something brilliant and I know that I would read it!)

Also, for what it's worth, I appreciate witty graphics (i.e the Syrup nutritional label, the reimagined periodic tables in Douglas Coupland's Shampoo Planet, the GUIs in the movie Stranger than Fiction) to accompany the text. Pushing that a little further to a conceptual/experiential e-book with interactive graphics/audio/gaming - ?

Egad, forget it...I trust you...just keep writing!

Valerie (#5458)

Location: Chicago
Posted: 2945 days ago

<Sorry for the double post gaffe but I had a flash of inspiration and accidentally prematurely posted.>

Anyway, exploring the experiential concept:

On an episode of the TV show Chuck, Chuck's sister had been given truth serum and under the influence exclaims apropos of nothing, "Words taste like peaches!" That just really cracks me up and I think of it often. What if you wrote something that was flavored/edible? You know, we could literally eating your (Max's) words! The restaurant Moto (Exec. Chef Homaro Cantu, in Chicago) developed technology to print flavors on edible paper. Humorous sci-fi meets molecular gastronomy - I'm so there!

Machine Man subscriber Roger (#1653)

Posted: 2945 days ago

You should write a Western.

An Australian Western.

Machine Man subscriber Roger (#1653)

Posted: 2945 days ago

But seriously, anything from you would be gold. Just like others have said, I really love your dry wit and humor (seriously, your books are some of the only ones to illicit proper laughs from me. Of course this probably means I need to broaden my horizons and read more...), your characterizations, breezy dialog, etc and all that. I am kinda keen on the short story collection idea that Valerie mentioned. It would allow you to experiment with more story ideas. Maybe step out your comfort zone, like you did with that one short story, "How I Met My Daughter"? Plus, if you do a collection, you can potentially surprise us with some blog posts of short stories that got cut from the final draft...? ;)

Oodge (#2790)

Location: Tas
Quote: "'Ooh look Marge, Maggie lost her baby legs.'"
Posted: 2945 days ago

You're one of very few authors that I pre-order. This makes it hard to be objective. However, we've seen the near future in JG and MM, Syrup and Company have explored the present, I think a book set in the recent past would excite me more than anything else. Great Depression? Weimar Republic?

TotesEichhorn (#4757)

Location: Vienna - Austria
Quote: "marketing IS modern propaganda"
Posted: 2944 days ago

Wow, a lot of JG - talk....
Why not try something the other way? Like a place where things are FREE, corporations that ARE responsible for their actions, and CEO's that actually have to face consequences....
Additionally, that also would lead to problems....

Maybe the fine line that seperates the controlling from the free would become more visible....

or something completely diffrent.... sports?

Aaron the Evil HR Guy (#2252)

Location: Denver
Quote: "'The HR Department is a breeding ground for monsters' Michael Scott"
Posted: 2943 days ago

I pick up your books for the humor aspect. Dry humor and satire and usually one of your characters in each book has a nice streak of cynacism. Keep doing that!

ryandake (#2199)

Location: scenic monterey, ca
Quote: ""The rest is not our business.""
Posted: 2943 days ago

but you know if you wanted to take a flyer on something totally new--sort of like Dennis LeHane did when he set aside his detective series to write "Mystic River" (and look how that turned out, wow)--i would totally read whatever you wrote, cause i think you're just that good.

and it's fun to experiment, yes?

Dave (#3198)

Location: Pennsylvania, USA
Quote: "There is no great genius without some touch of madness."
Posted: 2943 days ago

I've been a fan since Syrup. Love the humor/dialogue. Company is my favorite book.

I'm not generally a fan of 'unrealistic' sci-fi (based on aliens or the supernatural) but I like your novels because I can see them as plausible.

That said, I'd read anything that you write and perhaps have read everything that you've written that is possible to read short of going through your garbage and mail. (I'm referring to your short stories of baby werewoves and such, not long as you put out another book...)

Machine Man subscriber Ben (#3924)

Location: Alberta, Canada
Quote: "I don't wanna ride the elevator."
Posted: 2942 days ago

On thinking further I think a more accurate dissection of my opine is that you are humourous and willing to investigate the truly bizarre in your stories. Nevertheless you maintain a level of realism within the characters that is catchy and realistic for people placed in those situations. I have been told during a 'event' that "these situations are not something that people normally experience but your reactions are normal for people in that situation." This is what you capture, the real reactions for people experiencing the completely unreal, or at least the completely improbable, and it is great

Chris (#6002)

Location: Canada
Posted: 2942 days ago

The best part about your work is that it IS so cross-genre... The je ne sais quoi of being a "comedy-sci-fi-thriller-satire-romance thing" is why I can't put your stuff down once I've cracked that first page. As soon as you being to classify a piece of writing as this or that or some other thing, it gets tied to the pre-existing sterotypes and notions regarding that specific genre. Write what you like, and chances are we'll like it too :)

Uncle Wiggles (#1091)

Location: Vancouver, BC
Quote: "In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry, and is generally considered to have been a bad move."
Posted: 2942 days ago

I simply like books that are easy to read, have a bit of mirth, and suggest a human truth to ponder about.

Dont have a story idea for you but how about a setting where the government and industry are in cahoots, getting people to eat unhealthy things under the guise of being healthy. To the benefit of corporations and detriment of the public.
Ok, that's not your usual genre of fiction but its alright to take ideas from the real world rather than the real world take ideas from you.

(By the way, if you like to read scientific literature, the stuff on human biochemestry its quite interesting)

Pierce (#6018)

Posted: 2942 days ago


You're an excellent writer, but you need serious help in the areas of marketing and promotion. You really don't need to write anything anymore.

I'll tell you what you need to do, it's worked for musicians for no less than forty years, now: YOU MUST RELEASE THE EXACT SAME THING!

What you're going to do is take, Jennifer Government, give her a slightly brighter green eye, and call the book, Jennifer Government Remastered. Money.

If you really wanted to, you could find a low-end pornographic film star and have her pose as Jennifer Government, few naked pictures in the book, expose yourself to a new market of 12-16 year-olds...okay, maybe, "Expose yourself," wasn't what I was going for...but sell books to them anyway, and, BOOM, you've just sold every one of your books to each new fan you get out of that demographic!

The best part is that you will also sell a copy to everyone who first bought Jennifer Government, and since I will not be able to get it used on Amazon, I will have to pay more than a dollar for it this time.*

After that, you wait sixth months, and then release it again with a different cover entirely. The same market buys it again. You wait another six-months and release it with two covers, and maybe some more pictures of that low-end pornographic actress...she might even do it for a little blow...

Your publisher might say, "But, Max, you didn't even write any new material," and you'll reply, "New material, why do I goddamn need to write new material? I've already written material, it sold well, now sell it again!"

I hope you enjoy the profits. Keep me in mind when you hit the one million units sold mark.

*I bought the book new, just for the record.

TotesEichhorn (#4757)

Location: Vienna - Austria
Quote: "marketing IS modern propaganda"
Posted: 2941 days ago

Oh a second idea scratched the surface of my cortex....

How about taking a shot at a classic story but transport it into a new setting...
Something like Lord of the Rings in the corporate world, where some some "small" workers are the center, just like the hobbits.... well.... anyway, I guess you get the idea...

the squirrel

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 2939 days ago

I'd like to see your take on a Wall Street/GFC/rogue traders satire, probably set in a Lehman Bros.-like firm featuring your uniquely twisted view of the world. Something of a 0.1% vs the 99.9% combined with an Occupy Wall Street on acid vibe. Lots of potential for setting it a few years in the future when algorithmic trading and exchanges-in-a-server-rack have taken over the world's markets and whole economies can collapse and recover two or three times in a day. Billionaires can be made and destroyed before lunchtime, before they even know what's happening to them. When some of the richest and most influential corporations in the world are created almost overnight by slightly demented high-speed trading AIs instead of today's demented press barons and mining magnates.

Richard (#6023)

Posted: 2935 days ago

I would definitely read a novel by Max Barry focusing on corporate espionage. Especially if it includes some elements from rl examples and case studies.

wildeyedtrot (#6025)

Location: London
Posted: 2934 days ago


I've only read Jennifer Government. I enjoyed it, thought I'd see what else you'd written and browsed my way here. This is my second visit and you've sucked me in with this topic. Which is a long way of saying I'm not an avid reader of yours,but am interested enough to find out more.

Firstly, I'd classify you as SF. The kind of SF I like. Well-written, pacy, clever (which tends to go hand in hand with funny), but not literature. I like literature but that's French cuisine. You're Japanese cusine. Just as complex but less fat.

Secondly, I agree on the satire/dystopia thing, based on our current world. I liked some of the ideas above and would only add that I really enjoy the Winston Smith thing in 1984. Someone mired in their world looking at it again through fresh eyes. I also like that it ended badly. I'm a sucker for a happy ending but I'd rather not think one is inevitable. I'd love to see someone explore the consequences of an online and offline existence intermingling, preferably with a really sympathetic character who comes to see the truth of his world. Then kill him.

Good topic and thanks for asking

Yoyodyn (#2480)

Location: TN, USA
Quote: "Yay though I walk through the valley of Gates, I shall fear no Windows."
Posted: 2923 days ago

Would like to see a sequel to Jennifer Government. Or even just another story in the same universe.

How about Isaac Asimov meets Terry Prachett meets Tom Holt. Magic, Robots, and Norse gods slammed together in a commercial satire.

Dustin (#6152)

Location: [email protected]
Quote: "[email protected]"
Posted: 2866 days ago

What's funny is I actually came across your website before your books. I read your blog (like, I seriouly devoured it. For three days, my reading material consisted of your blog, starting from the beginning of it, and getting to the most recent post) and I loved your sense of humor, so I bought your book Jennifer Government. I liked it, so I read your other books. Honestly, I always think of you as corporate satire, comedy, or occasionally sci-fi. Mostly I pick up your books because I like your personality, and it shines through your writing. Funny, witty, clever, fascinating, and even a little spooky sometimes, your writing encompasses so many different genres and subgenres, it's hard to place exactly.

BTW, that story idea about the sentient toaster...brilliant...

Susan Malter (#6209)

Location: Chicago
Quote: "Forbidding sex with ghosts in the bible is like putting recipes for bombs on the internet."
Posted: 2822 days ago

Yes, I do want to leave a comment! Thanks for asking, Max Barry. . . if that's your real name.

I have rewritten my novel about 294 times. I happened upon your writing about rewriting today. Like you, I have experienced the repeated shame of having shown people my book. The shame occurs when I have made it great too late for those readers. Then I find new people to read and edit--after which I repeat the shame at the next level. I have the good fortune of knowing a lot of people, but the shame expands.

Writing is lonely, but it became less lonely a few weeks ago when I started reading blogs.

Now, to your question. At this point, having only read this post of yours and the other republished bit on rewriting, I would pick up any book with your name on it. I think that you write with a voice that sounds honest and thoughtful. Whether I will still think so after I try one of your books is a different story.

Thanks for the conversation.

Arancaytar (#2358)

Location: Frankfurt
Quote: "We are a way for the cosmos to know itself. -Sagan"
Posted: 2804 days ago

[quote]But I would like to know the very broad reasons you might pick up a book with my name on it. Is it for yucks, is it for a page-turner, is it to snip out the author photo for identity theft? You know. Broad strokes.[/quote]

Wait, you write books?!

Anyway, I first picked up Jennifer Government mostly because of NationStates; then I read it in one sitting. So I guess "page-turner" it is. I really like the suspenseful, fast-paced narration.

And +1 for continuing/extending the Jennifer Government setting.

Jamie (#111)

Location: Auckland
Quote: "Anyone still spelling "internet" with a capital "I" is probably struggling with the complexities of their new-fangled electric typewriter."
Posted: 2658 days ago

I know this is a long-old thread, but I'll post anyway.

Your short story How I Met My Daughter is the most powerful thing you've written. Write a book as powerful as that, it's fantastic.

Comments are now closed for this post.