MaxBarry.com
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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

Thu 19
May
2016

My Age

Max

What’s your age?

A lonely man

I’m 43. It’s a problem because the main photo of me on my website is from seven years ago and I designed the site’s whole color scheme around it. So now it’s about time to update that pic but I don’t want to have to restyle all the menus. It’s a real dilemma. They say age brings unexpected challenges but I didn’t see this coming.

Another problem is I have more trouble suspending disbelief. So where in my youth I would read a line like, “Commander Zorko strode onto the bridge, his brows furrowed,” and thought, “Yes, excellent, you have already impressed me, Commander,” now I’m more like, “That is some pretty cliched writing.” You might think this is a positive, raising my standards, but when your workflow is blasting out a terrible first draft and reworking it from there, it’s not. I have to drink a lot more coffee to delude myself into thinking that pearls are dripping from my fingers whenever they touch the keyboard, that’s for sure. And that’s a pre-requisite belief for any novelist hoping to complete a first draft, as far as I know.

It also means I finish fewer books. I used to finish everything, even books I hated. I would grind my way to the end, my hate for the author burning brighter with every page. Because once you check out of a story, there’s no coming back. It just gets worse and worse. Stories are a partnership, a deal between author and reader, and they don’t work unless both sides hold up their end. I went to a comedy show once and for some reason didn’t find him funny, but everyone around me was rolling in the aisles, so pretty soon I hated that guy with every fiber of my being. Also I felt kind of psychopathic, because it’s weird to be the only person not laughing. That’s not a great look. But now I bail out of a book at the slightest provocation. So I’m probably missing out on some great reads.

I liked The Phantom Menace when it came out in 1999. I really did. After the 13-minute pod-race scene, all I thought was, “That was a bold cinematic choice, inserting an action sequence with no relevance to anything else in the story.” All the stupid stuff I loved. But you just can’t do that at 43. I was unable to enjoy Pacific Rim because MY GOD WHY ARE THE ROBOTS PUNCHING THE MONSTERS. Like obviously that’s the point of the movie, why go see it if you don’t want robots to punch monsters, but SERIOUSLY ARE THERE NO LONG-RANGE WEAPONS, OH WAIT, YES THERE ARE, AND THEY PUT THEM IN THE ARMS OF THE ROBOTS, WHO ARE PUNCHING MONSTERS.

You see the problem.

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Michael Crider (#3054)

Location: Colorado, United States
Posted: 550 days ago

As a 28-year-old who freakin' loved Pacific Rim, I'll admit that it took a certain amount of effort to maintain my suspension of disbelief. Once you reframe the movie as essentially a Japanese mecha cartoon that just happens to be live-action and in English, it makes a lot more contextual sense.

That's why I can't do the same for those Fast & Furious movies: the series started as fairly by-the-numbers action movies with a car element, but now they're basically Hot Wheels commercials with a 9-figure budget.

towr (#1914)

Location: Netherlands
Posted: 549 days ago

I suppose I'm fortunate I haven't really started many books I wanted to bail on. But I have some years to go before I'm 43, so maybe it'll come.
It's also possible I have no taste. On the other hand I read your books, so that can't be it.

<blockquote>I have to drink a lot more coffee to delude myself into thinking that pearls are dripping from my fingers whenever they touch the keyboard, that’s for sure.</blockquote>
Have you tried adding booze? Maybe that's an irresponsible suggestion, but as far as deluding oneself, I've heard it helps.

Idan Ben-Barak (#7119)

Location: Melbourne
Posted: 549 days ago


I wrote this a few weeks ago:
"It's a sign of maturity that you do not feel obligated to finish every book you start reading. The trouble starts when you do not feel obligated to finish every book you start writing."

It feels good to know I'm not the only one thinking this :-)

Nalini (#7120)

Location: Canberra
Quote: "Geeks will inherit the Galaxy"
Posted: 549 days ago

Pacific Rim was Sons of Anarchy meets anime robots in a live-action Hollywood film. It wasn't meant to make sense; if it was, the robots wouldn't have had kick-ass swords that they didn't use until the last minute.

I used to finish everything I started reading, so much so that I can still tell you a significant portion of the plot of a novel that I started reading when I was in primary school but didn't finish because my mother returned it to the mobile library.

These days I stop reading at page 50, 20, 2 and even on the first page for various reasons including repetitions of adverbs: how many times can something happen 'instantly'?!

I have just been shattered by reading The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon; it's about 2 kids, one of whom is in an Australian refugee camp being abused by 'security guards' and administrators who think nutritious food and 2 litres of water per day are optional extras doled out when human rights workers visit, just like in real life. Now I'm reading Star Wars: Bloodline for light relief. Leia, now in her 40s, still partakes of Return of the Jedi–esque escapades with relish. It's silly but it's a bit of light reading before I dive into another more worthy novel.

Finishing writing a novel, now THAT is something I struggle with, especially when I read excellent novels. It might be easier to finish writing my novel if I stuck to reading pulp fiction: boredom with reading and no suffering by comparison!

Machine Man subscriber Stygian Emperor (#2947)

Location: the Stygian Empire
Quote: "Flesh is a design flaw."
Posted: 462 days ago

Gods yes, that's exactly how I felt about Pacific Rim. Except it wasn't because I was 43, it was because I liked Mechwarrior and not anime.

David (#7316)

Location: USA
Posted: 218 days ago

Simple solution to the picture problem: spray tan. Don't stress dude, it's all good.

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