MaxBarry.com
will dance for food

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.

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Novel Writing Fear #113: Finish first draft only to realize it’s a poor imitation of a forgotten childhood favorite.

I’m not finished with the new book until I’m ashamed of the old one.

Tue 07
Feb
2017

Spotted in the Wild

Lexicon My favorite thing to happen this year:

Saturday Night Live sketch of Trump vs Turnbull phone call with Lexicon by Max Barry visible on shelves behind the Australian Prime Minister

Eagle eyes by C. A. Bridges. Story here.

That is fantastic. twitter.com/cabridges/stat…

Australian neo-Nazis must be very conflicted right now.

I prefer to call alternative facts by their real name, “novels.”

Hold me.

Day 68: “Well at least he’s saying Nazi Germany is bad.”

Happy New Year everyone! Except you, Owen.

Huh, I’ve done 1,999 tweets. I should make my next one extra specOH GODDAMN IT

Wed 21
Dec
2016

Audio: I Should Buy Some Cement

Writing A 6-minute radio adaptation of a short story I wrote a few years back, thanks to Greg R. Barron.

Greg just noticed it on my site and decided to make an audio version, which is pretty great.

Original story.

A 6-minute radio adaptation of a short story I wrote a few years back, thanks to Greg R. Barron. youtube.com/watch?v=ErRd5R…

Tue 13
Dec
2016

When My Next Book Is Out

Writing

Might we have a new book from you by the end of 2017? I’m jonesing for some new material. I guess I’ll go back through and re-read your old books again.

Anonymous

That is an excellent idea, because no, sorry, there won’t be a new book from me in 2017. It takes about a year to go from a draft I’m not ashamed to show to an editor to something that can sit on a bookstore shelf, and I don’t yet have a draft I’m not ashamed to show an editor.

But 2018 looks good! I’ve been working on multiple books and now they’re all getting close to finished. So one of those should be ready to go. I don’t know which one, though. Sometimes I feel like a book is on track and then I realize it’s horrible and I should burn it and feel bad and go work on something else. Then, a little while later, I realize that other book needs to be burned, and the first one is actually all right. It’s not a linear process, is what I’m saying.

This has been a really great year for me creatively. One of my best. It will take a while before that becomes apparent to anyone else. But I’ve enjoyed it a lot. I still don’t really know where good words comes from or why but I’m grateful for the ones that found me this year.

Fascinating how fast everyone agreed “fake news” is a huge danger while remaining 100% opposed about what it is & where it comes from.

Tue 15
Nov
2016

Four Possible Trumps

Jennifer Government It’s hard to know what to expect from a President-Elect who’s promised a lot of things he can’t possibly have meant. On the one hand, maybe he did mean them, in which case, dear God. But on the other, surely not. This leaves a lot of middle ground for wild speculation, which I now intend to provide.

Also this election has reminded me that however far-fetched I think I’m being, it’s not far enough. So here are four possible Trumps.

  1. Benevolent Dictator Trump

    Beholden to no-one, President Trump dispenses with political bickering, cuts away swathes of bureaucracy and red tape, and replaces it with simple, direct, effective solutions that no-one tried before because they were so caught up in politics or not wanting to offend anyone or reading books or something. I think that’s right.

    Trump crafts an unpredictable yet nimble, energetic, and effective administration, unafraid to make unpopular decisions so long as they’re right. It is happy times for everyone who agrees with Trump’s version of right, which is everyone, by decree of a new federal law. Protesters and other unpatriotic unAmericans are taken to the desert to toil to build a statue of Trump so high it can blot out the sun.

    Term limits are abolished. In his eleventh year of rule, a small band of protestors vandalize the statue by blasting off the toupée and are shot on live national television, their remains displayed outside the city gates. God-Emperor Trump dies peacefully in his sleep in his twenty-third year of rule, surrounded by concubines. After a week of national mourning, the nation descends into bloody civil war as various full- and half-blooded Trump offspring lead armies in a battle for control of their father’s empire. Dragons return. Ivanka rides one.

  2. Robber Baron Trump

    By the time he waves goodbye from the chopper, Trump has vacuumed so much money from the American public that he and his family are the wealthiest people in modern history, richer even than he claims to be today. A drip-feed of revelations of fraud, embezzlement, and cronyism on an unprecedented scale hound him, along with persistent talk of federal prosecution, but none of it goes anywhere, dissipating like waves against the rocky shore of Trump’s now-impenetrable empire of lawyers, cash, and paid-up influence.

    Weakened by pillaging, the welfare system faces a short-term credit crunch, leading to riots among the poor and unemployed. This is held up by Republicans as proof of the fundamental non-viability of the welfare state and the need to abolish it altogether, a view supported by low-skilled male white voters who are shortly to become unemployed themselves as the shock of decreased government spending rolls through the economy. California and Texas secede and close their borders. Nevada falls to roaming biker gangs. The Trump family acquires Manhattan at market-bottom prices and builds a wall around it, a real one, not just a fence.

  3. Capitalizt Trump

    With a businessperson’s win/lose perspective on the economy, Trump abolishes regulatory authorities, slashes taxes, eliminates labor laws, privatizes public bodies, and ushers in an ultra-capitalist paradise in which corporations are free to do whatever the hell they feel like. It is a rich, refreshing new world for the already-wealthy, who find an ever-expanding array of services aimed at them, while the poor die of easily-preventable diseases or in back alleys after muggings gone bad on their way home from one of their three-dollar-an-hour jobs.

    Employment becomes so critical to survival that people revert to the ancient practice of calling each other by their occupation rather than their surname. A shoe company deliberately incites a violent riot to promote a new brand of sneakers. A plucky government agent… ah, you know what, just read the book.

    By mortgaging its future, the US is temporarily awash with cash, creating a false dawn that ushers in a second Trump term. He exits office just as the economy begins to run off the cliff. Via a running commentary of tweets, he blames his successor for the ensuring collapse, depression, and takeover by Chinese real estate speculators, labeling all of the above “sad!”

  4. Commander-in-Chief Trump

    Trump has always been a big believer in the “speak loudly and carry a big stick” approach. To date, his sticks have been lawyers, but starting January 20, 2017, they are stealth bombers and 7,100 nuclear warheads. Carrying his philosophy into office, Trump rattles a few sabers before going ahead and invading someone. It’s an irresistible dynamic: The benefits of military action are largely personal (status, pleasure of defeating an opponent) while the costs are born by an American public and purse he’s only borrowing and is allowed to hand back in any condition.

    Military adventures in Asia, the Middle East, and Alaska breed a host of new enemies for America, ensuring the need for ever-more defense spending and a twitchy, paranoid, nationalistic voting public. Trump exits office calling his military record his proudest achievement, despite the loss of several million citizens on the east coast after an incident that looked a lot like a biological attack but officially was just a bad flu season. Via a running commentary of tweets, he blasts the new President for weakness as she attempts reconciliation with foreign powers. Much of the Western hemisphere is annihilated in a nuclear exchange started by a relatively small rogue nation that nobody was paying much attention to. Trump relocates to Australia and begins to hoard water, leading to a Mad Max scenario where he is killed in a car chase after the escape of one of his breeders.

That’s what I’ve got for now. I mean, there are other possibilities. But these feel the most likely.

Aiming for the “well-off athletic professionals” + “muggers” market segments. twitter.com/BIAUS/status/7…

And then they woke up and 2016 was ALL A DREAM.

Wed 09
Nov
2016

10 Reasons President Trump Won’t Be That Bad

What Max Reckons Like me, you may be feeling a combination of shock, distress, and terror at the news that Donald J. Trump will become the next leader of the world’s largest military and economic superpower.

But it’s all right! It’s all right. It won’t be that bad. I mean, it will be pretty bad. That’s for sure. But we can get through this. To help you through this difficult adjustment period, here are some comfort thoughts:

  1. Many Trump policies range from mutually contradictory to the physically impossible so they can’t all be implemented.

  2. Writers of satire or absurdist comedy need never again be told that their work is too far-fetched.

  3. Reagan was a TV actor with fantastical economic ideas and latent Alzheimer’s and the US came out of that pretty okay.

  4. Exposure of electoral system that weights votes of residents of North Dakota and Wyoming 3-4X greater than those in California and New York, holds elections on a working Tuesday, and uses plurality voting, may prompt actual change, perhaps to “Best Out Of Three” system, or drawing straws.

  5. He is pretty funny, for a President.

  6. Inevitable war with foreign power and subsequent nuclear winter may offer effective solution to global warming.

  7. Nation avoids messy spectre of four years of depressing gridlock where bitter Republicans hold White House hostage and nothing gets done.

  8. Small children can be told that anything is possible with a straight face.

  9. Nation will undergo a great strengthening, in “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” sense.

  10. Shocking the hell out of the ruling class is necessary from time to time in order to avoid a build-up of complacency and corruption, so why not now. And election campaigns are all about demonizing opponents but only rarely are they actual demons.

Also the UK voted to Brexit, so, you know, sucks to be those guys.

On the plus side, this is a real victory for absurdity.

I already live in Australia but if Trump wins I will move here even HARDER. #ElectionFinalThoughts

Fri 04
Nov
2016

Fresh Eyes

Writing

Max, I hear a lot of authors talk about “fresh eyes”. How long is it after finishing a first draft until you go back and begin the process of revision?

David

Fresh eyes are very important. I like to wait between one and three minutes. Not really. That was a joke. I actually don’t wait at all. I go back and re-read and revise everything all the way through while I’m writing a first draft. By the time I finish, my first chapter is actually draft thirty-nine, my fifth chapter is draft twenty, and so on.

I don’t recommend this. The better method is to bang out a first draft without looking back and only then discover how bad it is. Then at least you have something to improve. You can’t abandon that thing. You’ve invested too much.

But I can’t do that any more because I know it’s bad. I mean, I like to think of it like I’m developing higher standards. But really it’s just that there’s too much counter-evidence to maintain the delusion that I’m capable of writing brilliant first drafts. I’ve seen them. They are not great.

This exacerbates the “fresh eyes” problem, of becoming too close to a book and losing touch with how it appears to a new reader. That’s definitely a real thing, and critical in rewriting. If I could truly re-read drafts through fresh eyes, I could make them a lot better.

But I don’t think the solution is to put it aside for three months. It’s helpful—I have a couple of unpublished novels that I go back and re-read every few years and the fallow period does show me things I didn’t notice before. Usually how something I thought was pretty great actually isn’t. But it’s not enough.

Most writers, including me, need to think about how what they’re writing will play to a new reader all the time, every sentence. There’s some small technique there, clearing your head and forgetting what you already know for a moment, that you need to develop in order to write well. You’re scratching marks on a page; you need to consider what those marks will do inside other people’s brains. It’s better to become good at this and do it often than to wait until you have a finished draft and hope a few months away will do it for you.

The hardest time I have is during feedback from early readers. These are people who are reading something like a fifth or sixth draft, before it goes to my agent or editor. Often I find someone’s feedback truly mystifying, and it won’t make any sense at all until I manage to crawl out of my head and into theirs. That process of figuring out how someone might feel a certain way about the book is tough and confronting but always valuable, even if I do then decide that they’re insane and we should stop being friends. Because at least I’ll have fresh eyes.

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