Wed 22


Max This has been my last two weeks:

  • I received a copy of the Jennifer Government screenplay.
  • I sold the film rights to Company.
  • I talked to John Cusack.
  • The guy who is probably going to write the Company screenplay e-mailed me to talk about his ideas.
  • I got a bunch of great new Company reviews, including a fantastic piece by Douglas Coupland in The New York Times Book Review.
  • I did a bunch of interviews.
  • The L.A. Times invited me to review a book for them.
  • I wrote a proposal for a TV series for the Sci-Fi channel.
  • Wil Anderson asked me to write a TV series for Australian TV with him.
  • I worked up a final polish of the Syrup screenplay.
  • The Chinese language version of Jennifer Government was released.
  • I made some progress on getting NationStates 2 underway.
  • I got invited to two festivals, one conference, two workplaces to give talks, and asked to contribute writing to four different places.

Ordinarily any one of these would be so cool that I would scamper to the keyboard and blog all about it. But there is just so much cool. To anybody but me, I suspect it is a sickening amount of cool. Plus I’m getting way more e-mails from readers than usual, including many hilarious or scary ones that are also clearly worth blogging about. Basically, there is so much cool stuff happening right now that I could blog about it non-stop, if only there wasn’t so much cool stuff happening right now.

I know what you’re thinking: “Oh, poor Max, I cry fat salty tears of compassion for you; how terrible to have all your time taken up by the realization of all your life’s dreams.” And you’re right; it is poor of me, because when someone, say, takes the trouble to compose a photograph involving my book, one of Stephen King’s, and a monkey, I shouldn’t allow that to pass without comment.

(The best time to write to an author, I have decided, is about two months before his book is published. That’s when most other people have forgotten his existence and he’s feeling frightened and desperate for love.)

Here is my weak compromise: an update in point form. This way I get to summarize what’s been happening without writing 10,000 words, and hopefully also without making too many people sick to their stomachs that so much good stuff can happen to one guy.

  • It feels weird to read someone else’s adaptation of your book. Really weird. Louis Mellis and David Scinto have written a highly stylized version of Jennifer Government—the things they do with dialogue are just amazing—but it’s like seeing your kid dressed by a total stranger: she’s the same, but so different. It’s surreal on the same level as when I read reviews that call me “Barry,” as if I am an Important Person.
  • Company will be developed for the screen by Tom Shadyac and Michael Bostick in conjunction with Universal. And boy are they fast movers! They’re already talking to Steve Pink about writing the screenplay. Steve was a writer on one of my favorite movies, Grosse Pointe Blank, as well the excellent adaptation High Fidelity. Not only that, but he was good enough to drop me an e-mail. What a guy.
  • “Hi, it’s Johnny Cusack.” Only one of the coolest guys on the planet. On the phone. Talking to me. While my wife hyperventilates beside me. (I think Cusack even trumps Wil Wheaton, as far as Jen is concerned. Because he was in Stand By Me and Say Anything. I am a little concerned, though, that I only seem to be meeting celebrities that my wife has had huge crushes on.) John—I mean Johnny—I mean Mr. Cusack—was interested in the Company film rights, and although they ended up going elsewhere, maybe we’ll get lucky and still get his involvement somehow.
  • If there is anything more professionally satisfying than having a absolute titan of the writing scene—a guy who is clearly my literary superior in every conceivable way—write a bunch of flattering things about my work in The New York Times Book Review… then it’s probably illegal.

And some standout e-mails from readers:

  • Kyle, a student in Canada, decided to create a web site for Zephyr Holdings (the company in Company). You know, just because he could.
  • Hobbie wrote to tell me that Russian Coke tastes a lot like Fukk is described in Syrup. My lawyers are just waiting for them to put it in a black can.
  • Christian delayed responding to a fire alarm in his building so he could finish a good bit of Syrup. Nice.
  • Jerry shot me a slightly scary list of websites devoted to barcodes, and the people who love them.
  • Phill says I convinced him to convert to from Windows to Linux, which makes me feel all warm and subversive.
  • Rachel e-mailed me an exhaustive explanation of why American shower faucets work that way and how to master them.
  • Brandon explained that although he loves my web site he is never going to buy one of my books because he doesn’t want to “spoil the mystery.” I was going to ask him to elaborate on this theory, but then I decided this was one mystery I probably didn’t want solved either.

Thu 09

Feel the Love

Max I was starting to get worried: it had been almost two weeks of near-constant praise. That’s just not natural. Fortunately, this morning a breath of fresh air blew into my Inbox: a letter from Mike.

Dear Max,

I have played NationStates for quite some time and, after listening to your interview on NPR this morning, my assumptions about you were proven startingly correct. I assumed that you were a pretentious snob who is an ego-aggrandizer because your book reviews are consistently negative yet you continue to produce such infantile drivel with such a delusionary sense of accomplishment and self-importance. What you fail to realize is that your “insights” are nothing more than a few whiney complaints of a mal-adjusted mal content who has failed to cut it in the real world. Your comments on NPR, which in my opinion coddles this approach to life, were nothing short of predictable.

I like how Mike’s assumptions were so accurate that even he is startled by just how on target he was. He must have even nailed my accent. His next sentence is a little less clear; I’m not sure how “consistently negative” reviews would lead to me being an egomaniac. That would work work the other way around, wouldn’t it? And I can’t back him on “failed to cut it in the real world;” I mean, I’m not living on government subsidies, here, Mike. But I am impressed that he listens to NPR even though he doesn’t like it. Put this together with his willingness to write to authors to tell them how bad they are, and you have a man who isn’t afraid to confront what he disagrees with and set it straight. I appreciate that kind of directness, and I’m sure Mike does, too.

Let me make a connection between this attitude in your book and this attitude in nationstates. You have created a game in which, much to the difficulty of many Americans (such as myself) to comprehend, the game operators such as yourself rule as their judges of themselves and of their own actions…

This goes on for a bit and after a while even I lost track of what he was talking about. But I gather it’s his main point, because he starts writing IN ALL CAPS and swearing. Most of my hate mail is from NationStates players, which is something I’ve never been able to work out: if anyone is entitled to yell at me, surely it’s the person who shelled out twenty bucks for a book she didn’t like, not the guy who has spent the last year playing my web game for free. But for some reason it doesn’t work like this.

Mike closes with:

I strongly suggest that you get it together, Max. Time for a change, perhaps?

Mike US of A

Mike! Thank you for your e-mail. It’s been so long since someone roundly abused me for nothing in particular that I was starting to get nostalgic. I appreciate your advice, although I am not sure what you are recommending. But in any case, it brightened my day, because now I feel as if a little balance has re-entered my life, and I didn’t have to be hit by a bus to get it. Take care, Max.