Max Barry is the author of six novels and the creator of the popular online game NationStates. He also once found a sock full of pennies. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife and two daughters. Sometimes he coaches kids' netball.

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In retrospect, there was a pretty great few weeks in February when everything wasn’t on fire and you could buy food.

Spotted this near my house: pic.twitter.com/cMI4bip4dN

My US book tour is canceled :( maxbarry.com/2020/03/14/new…

Sat 14
Mar
2020

My US Book Tour is Canceled :(

Providence Well this is a bummer. The book tour is off: I will no longer be touring the US for Providence in April.

So as fun and dangerously sexy as it would have been to travel from American city to city, meeting people in flagrant violation of government medical advice, it’s not going to happen. I’m really sorry for everyone who had already made plans. Let’s try this again in 2021.

You can still buy the book, though. And you should. I recommend pre-ordering now, so you have something to read while you’re self-isolating. It’s perfect, because when reality is this bizarre, you need to go to that next level for a decent hit of escapism, and Providence has space battles with aliens that spit out black holes.

Take care, wash your hands, look after each other.

Max.

This is why I got out of satire. twitter.com/davidmackau/st…

*right-clicks “coronavirus”
*highlights “Add to dictionary”
*left-clicks
*sighs pic.twitter.com/UaZ5xJ2UIC

Wed 11
Mar
2020

US Tour: Coronavirus update!

Providence Short version: It’s still on, as far as I know, but the situation is evolving, so who knows.

I remain totally willing to fly to the US and get infected if that’s what it takes. Book tours are great fun, and I don’t want to miss one just because the world is in the grip of a major pandemic. I will come to America and shake hands with anyone who lets me. And you know I’m virus-free because this will be the first time I’ve left the house in years.

But as I write this, the US has closed its borders to Europe, and Tom Hanks has tested positive for coronavirus in Australia. Which aren’t great signs. If this were a movie, and in the early scenes Tom Hanks was coughing weakly into a handkerchief, I’d feel pretty certain that before long a large number of people would be dead. I just hope that number doesn’t include Tom Hanks. The moment Tom Hanks keels over, I’m barricading myself indoors with tinned food and a shotgun.

So for now: tour is on. I believe in you, Tom. You can get through this.

Fortunately I have been self-isolating since 1999.

Enjoy some escapism by leaving that book you’re reading and going out into the world where people are panic-buying toilet paper.

From what I can figure out, my blogs are auto-posted to Twitter & Facebook by Google Feedburner, a service I set up… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

Sun 01
Mar
2020

Book Tours and NationStates

Providence

What are the chances of you adding more cities to your book tour?

Christine

Zero, I’m sorry to say. I have to point out that I don’t get to choose my own tour. It’s organized by a publisher who has to try to extract some kind of value from my time that exceeds what I’m going to order from hotel room service. Also they have to find bookstores that want to host me on the exact date that works with my schedule. So it’s harder than it seems.

Will you be blogging the book tour, like you did a long time ago?

Anonymous

I think I will acknowledge that the world has moved on from blogs and use some kind of social media instead. I’ll have my daughter with me this time, so instead of cooling my heels alone during my down-time, I’ll probably be exposing her to the wonders of the United States, like how power points don’t have switches on them.

How many of your books is too many to bring to one of your readings?

Anonymous

I’m treating this as a serious question because I know sometimes people have strange ideas about what might be considered rude at book readings. For example, people have apologized for asking me for a photo. In reality, I love being asked for a photo. That makes me feel super famous. I mean, I’m not Chris Hemsworth here. I understand that if you ask Chris for a photo, sure, that’s probably the thirtieth time he’s been asked that day. But I only get to do this occasionally. I will stand for photos all day long.

Similarly, there is no number of books you could bring to a reading that would be too many. If you backed up a truck full of my books, I would sign them all, then spend the rest of my life telling people about the time someone backed up a truck full of books to a reading.

Why did you choose to create Nationstates?

Anonymous

I’ve come to realize that I didn’t choose to create NationStates. NationStates chose me as a vessel to bring itself into the world. But at the time, I just thought it would be fun, and help to promote my novels, and not consume my life. Two of those things turned out to be true.

I cannot create nation on nation states, and I’ve never played it, and no one has ever played it on my network, so I’m having a hard time understanding why it refuses to let me do anything. I’m even blocked from sending help requests since someone in my neighborhood spammed it.

Matthew

Yes, this can happen: You can get IP banned from NationStates even though you are a perfectly lovely person who never hurt anyone. That’s because we’re not yet at that point in the future where everyone is required to prove their identity before being allowed online. I mean, obviously that future is coming. Google and Facebook already know who you are at all times. I signed up for Instagram a while ago, not because I planned to post anything, but just to follow my kid’s school, and even though I didn’t tell anyone and didn’t connect it to anything, within 24 hours I had friend requests from everyone I’d ever met. I think Facebook fingerprinted me and then told all my friends.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that NationStates, which is not Facebook, can’t be sure who you are. We have to guess based on the data we have, like where you’re connecting from. So if there’s someone we want to keep off the site, because they’re a terrible person, you might get caught up just because you look similar.

Obviously this isn’t great. The general idea is to let people into the site, not keep them out. But sometimes it’s important to keep them out, because they’re terrible, and in that case, I would rather accidentally block some good people for a while.

I’m a big fan of NationStates, I’ve just been wondering… How was your day?

The 11-Pointed Leaf

It was great, thanks! I finished another book recently, so I’m feeling super productive and proud of myself. I have exercised the dog. I posted an app online to generate efficient netball rosters using a genetic algorithm. Everything is pretty swell.

A new short story! Read it here 👇 twitter.com/futuretensenow…

Wed 19
Feb
2020

Max in America April 2020

Providence

Coronavirus Update #2 (March 15): And it’s off. Stupid global pandemic. Details here. Sorry everyone. :(

Coronavirus Update #1 (March 13): This is now looking super shaky. Powell’s has officially canceled and there may be more to come. Please check newer posts and/or my Twitter for updates.

A lot has happened since I was last in the US. The world became a dark dystopia ruled by corrupt oligarchies. Data-driven marketing companies sucked up our fears and turned them into products. The book publishing industry fell into crisis.

Ha ha! I’m kidding. It was all like that already.

If you’ve never seen me in person, boy, are you missing out. I mean, the accent alone, you can’t even imagine. So what happens at these things is first I talk about whatever’s on my mind. I’ll be traveling with my daughter this time, so, you know, brace yourself for some insights on what it’s like to take a 14-year-old Australian around the US on book tour.

Then I read from the new book a little. But not for long, because, really, you can read it yourself. That’s why we printed all these copies.

Then comes my favorite part, where people ask questions about whatever. Writing, NationStates, why Australian Rules Football is the greatest sport in the world: you name it. This is really the bread and butter of the bookstore event for me. Any kind of situation where people will sit and listen to my opinion on things, that really works for me.

  • San Diego, CA

    7pm @ Wednesday April 1st, 2020

    Mysterious Galaxy

  • Beaverton, OR

    7pm @ Thursday April 2nd, 2020

    Powell’s Books — Cedar Hill Crossing

  • Seattle, WA

    7pm @ Friday April 3rd, 2020

    Elliot Bay Book Company

  • San Francisco, CA

    3pm @ Saturday April 4th, 2020

    Borderlands Books

  • Mountain View, CA

    2pm @ Sunday April 5th, 2020

    Books, Inc.

  • Denver, CO

    7pm @ Monday April 6th, 2020

    Tattered Cover — Colfax Avenue

  • Chicago, IL

    7pm @ Wednesday April 8th, 2020

    The Book Cellar

  • Washington, DC

    7pm @ Thursday April 9th, 2020

    Politics & Prose — Union Market

I also sign books. The new book, older books, you name it. I will sign anything not nailed down. Although if all you want is a signed Providence, you can contact one of the bookstores and we’ll arrange that without you having to leave home. I mean, that’s not my preference. But I want you to know that option is available.

Wed 05
Feb
2020

I Updated My Site

Providence Well, I finally did it. I updated my web site. It sounds so simple when I put it like that. Let me tell you, it wasn’t. It was not simple. I’ve been tinkering with this website since 1998 and each time I just slather more code on top of the old stuff. How it still works is a miracle.

The problem with doing this, instead of biting the bullet and making something new and modern from scratch, is that it becomes increasingly difficult to do anything without causing weird side-effects, like when you try to move a jigsaw puzzle, or colonize the Americas. It’s a real house of cards at this point.

But I had to update it, because the previous site was built around a photo of me from 2007, and it was feeling more and more like deceptive advertising. I mean, I wouldn’t be the first author to use an old picture. There’s one guy, I don’t want to name names, because I thought it was Tony Ross but then when I went to check maybe I was misremembering, he looks mid-thirties in his author photo, but in reality, he was born in the mid-thirties. I know this kind of thing does happen.

And I doubt anyone has been buying novels because of the vibrant youthful beauty of the author—in my case, I mean. I am guessing no. But either way, it was just too dated. It was a nice photo but I want people to be able to recognize me at book readings. So here we are.

You know what’s hard to research: parking garages. No-one ever posts pics online or writes about them.

I’m so excited; first visit to the US in 5 years! Anything happen while I was away? pic.twitter.com/ahGSe0IyR9

Just quietly, I am killing it in US-based Australian & Oceanic Literature. pic.twitter.com/a1YO6cuXyo

Here’s a piece I wrote for @CNN on the Aussie bushfires. edition.cnn.com/2020/01/02/opi…

Writing about dystopias was more fun before I was living in one. This is Sale, Gippsland, Australia at midday. Rain… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

First reviews are so nerve-wracking. A “terrific sci-fi thriller,” says this starred review of “Providence” in Publ… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

Thu 21
Nov
2019

Just Write a Bad Book, They Say

Writing Writers are sometimes told to JUST WRITE, even if they know that what they’re writing is bad. I think this can be good or awful advice depending on who you are.

It’s good advice if you’re the kind of writer who gets stuck agonizing over sentences and scenes until they’re perfect. If that’s you, you can benefit by postponing a lot of that self-critique until you have a first draft. Because otherwise you won’t have one.

And first drafts are always bad. Reaching the end of a first draft and re-reading it for the first time is like waking up in bed with a stranger who seemed dazzling and irresistable last night, when you were drunk, but now it’s daylight and oh my God what were you thinking. But that’s okay, because now you can take care of all the other stuff that got overlooked when you were trying to invent an entire populated world with a compelling narrative through-line in your head.

So if you tend to endlessly re-read what you wrote last week and mentally compare it to the greatest novels of all time, you’re asking for trouble. It might be a red flag that your story isn’t working in some fundamental way—in which case you need to strip it down to the part you like best and start over—but you might also simply be operating under the mistaken belief that your first draft has to be excellent.

On the other hand: Your first draft does have to be excellent. I mean this in the sense that I don’t think it’s possible to write a good book you don’t like. Those stories of authors who found every sentence excruciating but their pain and toil created something magnificent—those didn’t happen. I don’t believe those at all. It’s the other way around: You think you’re creating something magnificent and only when you re-read the first draft do you realize, boy, I still have a lot of work to do.

It is possible to crank out a novel that no-one really likes, including you. I know this because I did it, right after I started writing full-time and mistakenly believed that the job was all about discipline. Since then, I’ve written four or five novels that will never be published, but none has been a bigger waste of time than that one, which was bad in every way, and I knew it at the time, while I was working on it. Each day, I was happy to finish writing, and I didn’t think about it again until I had to the next day. That is no way to write a novel.

Delusion is key here. You don’t have to write a great first draft. But you have to believe it will be a great book. You must know in your soul that it’s going to be great when you’re done. Not because you’ve re-read your first chapter a hundred times and every line is perfect, but because the story is in your head and it thrills you to think about. Write that book.

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