MaxBarry.com
lol omg he is so 1337

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.

  • Syrup: movie tie-in
  • Jennifer Government: US hardback
  • Company: US hardback
  • Syrup: US hardback
  • Jennifer Government: German large paperback
  • Company: US paperback
  • Syrup: US paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Italian paperback
  • Company: German paperback
  • Syrup: Australian paperback (Scribe)
  • Jennifer Government: Spanish paperback
  • Company: Dutch paperback
  • Syrup: Chinese paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Dutch paperback reissue
  • Company: Brazilian paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Brazilian paperback
  • Company: Polish paperback
  • Syrup: Australian large paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Taiwanese paperback
  • Company: Spanish paperback
  • Syrup: US Audio
  • Jennifer Government: Swedish paperback
  • Syrup: Australian small paperback
  • Jennifer Government: Swedish paperback
  • Syrup: German large paperback
  • Syrup: German small paperback
  • Syrup: French paperback
  • Syrup: Israeli paperback

New book! » Lexicon now in paperback

New movie! » Syrup

Tue 16
Dec
2014

Australia gets closer

What Max Reckons On September 11, 2001, the city of Melbourne, Australia evacuated its World Trade Center. This is a short building on the banks of the Yarra River, a short distance from Melbourne’s central business district, a little over ten thousand miles from New York. It used to have a casino; before that, it hosted an exhibition of waxworks from Madam Tussaud’s. If you ran a line from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan through the center of the Earth, you would exit the planet not so very far from here—closer, certainly, to Australia than to any other country in the world.

Australia is a long way from everywhere. A flight to Sydney takes 15 hours from Los Angeles, 21 hours from London, 14 hours from Johannesburg, and 10 hours from Tokyo. There is no stopping off in Australia on the way to somewhere else, unless you’re headed to Antarctica. You can’t take in Australia as a side-trip while visiting somewhere else nearby. It is an island continent that you reach only by making it your ultimate destination and exerting a concerted effort.

This isolation is the core of Australia’s identity: it is the reason the country has an aboriginal population that existed undisturbed for 40,000 years, and some of the world’s strangest and most inimitable flora and fauna, and why, indeed, it was chosen to be a penal colony by the British in 1788. It is a place you go to be removed from the world.

But on 9/11, terrorists were attacking World Trade Centers, so Melbourne evacuated hers. This didn’t seem silly at the time; that day made all horrors plausible. No precaution was too extreme when yesterday it had been inconceivable that terrorists might take thousands of lives in New York and across the US, and today it had happened. So for a while, Australia forgot it wasn’t part of the world. “We are all Americans,” Australians said on 9/11—September 12, actually, on antipodean time, since Australia is so far away it is usually a different day altogether. And we meant it: we were deeply shocked to see acts of foreign terrorism, always previously associated with unfamiliar people in unfamiliar places, happening somewhere Over There, become suddenly intimate and recognizable.

Over time, though, the War on Terror became the War on Iraq, and the American flags on TV reminded us that although 9/11 affected the Western world, at its most pointed and personal, it was an American story. Australia, as usual, was watching from afar. We sent troops to Afghanistan and to Iraq, maintaining solidarity with our American cousins, but ultimately, we came to realize that the US was Over There, too.

In 2002, 88 Australians were killed by a radical Islamist group bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali, a popular holiday destination. Bali is a mere six hours from Sydney, and only two and a half from Darwin, the closest Australian city. It was a traumatic event, but again, it wasn’t quite Here. More recently, there have been police terror sweeps in Australian cities, with arrests made and, apparently, plots foiled. The federal government warned us that groups had developed with the motivation and ability to carry out local attacks.

You live a charmed life in Australia. The streets are safe; the weather is terrific; the people are friendly. The ocean keeps everything out. Or, at least, slows it down. We complain about that, when a car costs thirty thousand dollars, or a TV show won’t hit our screens right away, but it’s the ocean that has allowed Australia to stay Australia in the face of relentless globalization. It’s given us more than a decade in which to rethink our ideas on society and our way of life, and the trade-offs between freedom and security we’re willing to make, without having to do so in the immediate aftermath of a national tragedy.

On Monday, a man with a gun took hostages in the middle of Sydney in what he claimed to be an attack on Australia by the Islamic State. A self-described cleric with a history of antagonism toward Australian military involvement in Afghanistan, he was, by all reports, a dangerous loner rather than a member of an organized terrorist group. By the time the siege was over, two hostages were dead.

If this man had claimed to be acting for some other cause—disgruntlement at the tax code, or the high price of cars—we wouldn’t call it terrorism. We would call it what it is: a lunatic with a gun. But that would overlook the deeper trend, which is that Australia’s oceans are shrinking. Today technology allows a man to be more connected to militant extremists across the globe—in spirit, if nothing else—than he was to his neighbors in Bexley North. He can latch on to toxic ideas from the other side of the globe and bring them into Sydney, feeling he is part of a global cause.

Whether we call it a siege or terrorism, this is something that used to happen Over There. And now it’s here. It wasn’t unexpected, and arrived more benignly than it could have, and today the country will get on with business as usual. But life is becoming a little less charmed. We are no longer so far away.

This piece was written for CNN.com and an edited version can be found online here. Another piece I wrote for CNN.com a while back on office oppression is right here.

Gotta say, the braid I did on my daughter’s hair this morning is a-maaaazing.

Fun fact: Sharks’ teeth are covered in more teeth! pic.twitter.com/QtRfHz71xM

At daughter’s swimming lesson. Children blindly backstroking toward each other. Many collisions.

The true history of The Pied Piper of Hamelin is TERRIFYING. en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?ti… (first 2 paras)

Welcome to Australia! How are you feeling? pic.twitter.com/PCr9KSbwtt

Clemson University, you rock. Thanks for treating me so nice. #gotigers

South Carolina BBQ acquired. pic.twitter.com/Rv0QWufRYX

There’s always an escalator culture war on stepping off an Aus/US flight… left-standers vs right-standers.

Deodorant confiscated by airline as potential chemical weapon. I think I’ll be okay so long as South Carolina isn’t at all humid.

Giving freshman convocation speech at Clemson University next week. Never been to South Carolina before. What do I need to know?

“Ready Player One” by @erniecline is awesome! It’s pure geek fun.

This is the only rational reaction to learning how life works. youtube.com/watch?v=84DLT4…

Fatherhood achievement unlocked: Burping so your daughter goes, “Dad, EWWWWW.”

Mon 30
Jun
2014

Not Grinning, Not Dying

Max I think I must look like I’m smiling when I’m actually in a lot of pain. Like today, in the middle of a 15km (9.4mi) run, I’m barely keeping it together, so my face is a rictus of agony, my lips pulled back from my teeth in a skull-like grimace, and people running in the other direction are all, “Hi!” and big smiles and eyebrow jiggles. This has been going on for a while. At first I just assumed runners were naturally friendly. But there’s some surprise in their reactions, so I think I must be grinning at them. They are definitely not picking up my real feeling, i.e. that I am moments away from death. If they were, they’d look a lot more concerned.

My Dad would have turned 70 today. He was some kind of runner. I only began running after he died, so I never appreciated this. Now I realize his 2:45 marathons are practically superhuman. I can maintain that pace for approximately 10 minutes, and that’s while grinning.

I’m working on too many books again. Sorry about that. It’s a fast way to finish none of them. In the meantime, though, I am drowning in foreign editions. I love getting foreign editions. I could never throw one away. So I have shelves of Portuguese Jennifer Governments and French Syrups. And now a Chinese Machine Man! This novel gets the most interesting covers:

Machine Man cover. A faceless man with a robotic arm
holds a mechanical skull.

The new Lexicon paperback is still selling well, which is great but doesn’t quite free me from the constant terror of thinking my career could end at any minute. I’ve thought about the reasons behind this feeling, because it’s been there essentially the entire time, and have concluded it’s because when you’re an author, your career really could end at any minute. Each year it doesn’t is like a little miracle. I visit my Dad’s cemetery on his birthday, just to say hello and talk about the last year, so that’s what I’m going to tell him today: when I run, it looks like I’m smiling, and holy hell he was fast, and this last year, it has been another miracle.

Lexicon paperback sales (graph). pic.twitter.com/zGl8eQbivo

Tue 03
Jun
2014

Fish Dreams

Writing

A short story.

Her mother drops her at five and tells me what she likes to eat now. There are times I look at this woman and feel an echo of affection. But not today. She won’t eat peas any more, apparently. I am to encourage her to eat peas.

And she’s had nightmares, says her mother. Two.

Nightmares?

Bad dreams. It’s common at this age.

Dreams about what?

Fish, she says. Don’t make a big deal out of it.

I say, How would I make a big deal out of it?

We talk it out, old wrongs flipping and snapping below the surface, and she turns and walks to the car. Then, at last, I have the girl to myself.


There is a puzzle in her overnight bag that she wants to show me. We solve and scramble it four times. Then she says she wants to go to the beach.

Maybe next visit, I say. We can’t go to the beach now.

Why not?

Because it’s late.

Can we go to the beach tomorrow?

Tomorrow I have to drive you back to your mother’s.

Oh, she says.

Next time, maybe you can stay longer. Then we’ll go to the beach. Today, we can do puzzles. And read books. Maybe do some drawing.

She’s disappointed. I don’t blame her. This apartment, it is no beach.


I tuck her into bed and kiss her forehead and she sits up and says, Do you look after me when I’m asleep?

Yes. I look after you all the time.

She frowns. I’m not getting it. I mean, do you look after me in my dreams?

I even look after you in your dreams.

This satisfies her. She snuggles down, throws an arm over Elephant, her faithful companion.

Good night, Daddy.

Good night, bunny.


I wash the dishes, looking out the window at the alley below. The apartment is eight floors up. If you fell, you’d die. Tonight, three men are down there, exchanging a brown-bagged bottle. One shoves the other. The bottle smashes. Profanities are exchanged. I hope she’s asleep, can’t hear this.


I go to bed reluctantly. It’s different with her here. Sleeping feels like a waste. But I need to be rested for the morning.

I rarely dream any more, but this night I do: I dream we’re on a train. She’s sitting opposite, legs tucked beneath her, wearing her favorite top, one with a cat. I look outside and realize we’re going to the beach.

When the train stops, we walk to the shore and build sandcastles. I suggest we stomp them, but she doesn’t want them ruined. We walk along the water and inspect washed-up jellyfish. Her arms and legs are thin as sticks, and I remember how fragile she is, how she needs protection.

A shark comes. Not a real shark, a toy, inflatable, big and floppy, full of plastic teeth. But still a fish, I think, the stuff of nightmares, and I try to pull her away. The shark snaps and wobbles across the sand and begins to gulp her down, until all I can see of her is her feet.


I knock my elbow on my bedside table. I’m cold and wet. She’s standing beside the bed and I sit up, disoriented. Hey, bunny. Hey.

You were shouting.

Was I?

Really loud.

I’m sorry. I had a bad dream.

I have bad dreams sometimes.

I know.

I didn’t have one tonight, though.

Maybe I took it.

She smiles, a big one that lights up her face. Thank you, Daddy.

Can you sleep in here tonight? I ask her. Do you think?

She climbs in without answering. I feel the bed shift with her tiny weight. She snuggles up beside me, this girl who’s keeping me safe.

“Changing a hurricane’s name from Charley to Eloise can triple its death toll.” washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-…

100 8-bit authors. This may be the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. alcreed.tumblr.com/post/859963809…

One of those awesome writing days where I think, “People are really going to enjoy reading that in about two years.”

How to write a great sci-fi novel in 7 easy steps: io9.com/how-to-write-a…

It’s mass-market paperback release day for Lexicon in the UK, Australia, NZ, SA. I am now smaller and cheaper than ever!

I feel so awful for missing the Aurealis award ceremony. I’ve wanted to win that since I was 24. Proud/mortified.

Twitter is telling me I just won the Aurealis award for best sci-fi novel!?

Lexicon: read an extract, win a copy at microsites.hodder.co.uk/lexicon/ It’s a microsite. I’ve never had a microsite before.

“Lexicon” paperback is out today (US & Canada)! If you enjoyed it, go ahead and tell somebody. Somebody who buys a lot of paperbacks.

Thu 27
Mar
2014

Before Sunrise

Lexicon I’m trying this thing where I wake up very early, like 5am, or, not quite on purpose, 3:43am this morning, make a coffee, and head straight to work. It’s a good feeling, being up and productive that early, once I’ve stopped feeling like I need to throw up. It’s a quiet, distraction-free time; just me, my words, and my pounding Scott & Brendo tunes. The only downside is that after lunch my brain doesn’t work at all. But I use that time for non-creative work like email and writing blogs, so that doesn’t matter so much.

This year is all downhill for me. It has to be, because in 2013 I had a new book come out that was almost universally unhated, plus a real film based on my first novel. I practically feel like retiring after that. Like maybe I could go make snowboards. I don’t know anything about snowboards. I don’t know much about snow, either. I’m in Australia. But I’m sure there’s a craft there, hiking out to find just the right tree, cutting it down, then, like, sandpapering it into the right shape or something. Actually, now that’s sounding like a lot of work. Forget that. I don’t even like snowboards. My point is that 2013 was a big year.

Lexicon gets a paperback release in… holy hell. Four days!? How did that happen? Last I checked it was coming out at the end of May. Okay. So I just discovered the UK publisher moved up their Lexicon paperback release date, so it was ahead of the US, then the US publisher was like, THE HELL, and moved up theirs by two months. They did actually tell me they were doing that. I just skimmed over the “by two months” part.

So I should have been a lot more active on social media lately. Anyway: Lexicon comes out in beautiful paperback on April 1 in the US & Canada, and April 10 in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

And it has my favorite cover ever!

See, the eye is made from little words. I like it because it looks like a sci-fi movie poster, plus people are saying I’m awesome on it. Those are two big ticks. Also it’s reminiscent of Jennifer Government, which was super-stylish.

Lexicon made some “Best” lists over the last few months, which I’m required to mention. I don’t like doing this. But you’re a busy person; you might not have noticed. And I need to make a living. So here are some of them:

  • Time Magazine Top 10 Fiction Books 2013
  • Kirkus Best Fiction of 2013
  • Chicago Tribune Page-Turner of the Year
  • NPR Best Books of 2013
  • Goodreads Best Books of 2013
  • 2014 Alex Award Winner
  • iBookstore Best of 2013
  • Amazon.co.uk Best Books of the Year
  • Aurealis Award Finalist

The Aurealis one makes me especially happy because that’s the first magazine to which I ever seriously submitted fiction. I only sent them that one piece and was outraged by their rejection, despite it being totally deserved, because I was 24 and the story wasn’t that good. But I vowed revenge, i.e. becoming skilled enough at writing to get a story accepted by Aurealis. Then I got more into novels and kind of forgot about it. But look! I still have my Aurealis rejection letter from 1997:

And I still have the story! As Aurealis noted, it is very short, so you can read it in about one minute. It was never published anywhere, for reasons that may become obvious.

Read: “When the Aliens Came” by Max Barry (PDF)

The brevity might be a selling-point in these days of Twitter novels and flash fiction. But 1997 was a different time, a slower time, when people expected their stories to last longer than a cup of coffee.

Incidentally, I’ve been thinking about publishing more short fiction on this blog. I’m not saying it will happen. Because it’s easier to think about than do. But it’s an idea.

Update: I won the Aurealis Award! I was shocked as hell.

“Syrup” out on Netflix!

An Alex Award from the American Library Association for Lexicon! news.yahoo.com/american-libra…

First look at the forthcoming “Lexicon” paperback cover… I love it. mulhollanduncovered.tumblr.com/post/735081805…

The science of “Lexicon:” Time Magazine predicts your politics by asking whether you’re a cat person or a dog person. science.time.com/2014/01/09/can…

Apparently I don’t object to Microsoft’s business practices enough to stop buying their sweet, sweet keyboards.

Decided to try that writing technique of coffee and no food again and so far it’s wow look a bird hey are fingers weird or what

Wait, I wasn’t done with 2013!

I can’t decide whether I’m more excited about the Time list, the NPR, list, or “@neilhimself retweeted a Tweet you were mentioned in.”

“Lexicon” places 4th in Goodreads’ Best sci-fi of 2013, surrounded by brilliant books. That’s amazing! goodreads.com/choiceawards/b…

Things I learned at Jury Duty #3: 10% of jurors think they only have to attend for one day.

The Turkish edition of Jennifer Government is titled “Ironi,” as in “iron-y”, having the properties of iron. pic.twitter.com/QLBs6fKz8Z

My favorite part of Jury Duty: They said, “There’s a door marked STRICTLY NO ADMITTANCE. Ignore that. There’s coffee and cookies in there.”

Jury service in Australia begins with a lecture on how we have our own legal system separate to that seen in US crime shows.

Look what I found! “Syrup” on DVD in Australia! Filed after SHARKNADO! pic.twitter.com/4Gj3gk7AC1

To Jury Duty! (Warning: Next novel may inexplicably contain a courtroom scene.)

Reached the finals of “Best Books of 2013” at Goodreads! Don’t feel compelled to vote for me. It’s only my career. goodreads.com/choiceawards/b…

BWAAAAARP. Kirkus Reviews names “Lexicon” in its Best Fiction of 2013.

“Syrup” is out on DVD/Blu-Ray! Ad in Empire magazine via @bubonicfred: pic.twitter.com/s9eVgP6xz2

I would have been a lot more productive this morning if my neighbor hadn’t hung her bras out to dry. They’re just dangling there.

The Russian “Machine Man” edition is bitchin’. Hardcover and everything. pic.twitter.com/Fnmi3nQSGO

END SOCIAL MEDIA EMBARGO

Wed 30
Oct
2013

I Hate My Books

Writing I’m not sure if it’s like this for other writers, but I have trouble writing something new while I still like my last book. It hangs over me. It makes me feel like I should write that kind of thing again.

Maybe that doesn’t sound so bad. But imitating something you think is awesome doesn’t work. It’s much better to imitate something something you think is flawed. Flawed, you’re all, “I loved THIS PART but it would have been SO much better if THIS.” Then you make something new and interesting. Aping something you admire, though, you only get a photocopy.

Some people who discover me via Lexicon ask which of my books they should read next, and I’m never sure how to answer, because I think they all suck. I had to reach that belief in order to write the next one. A lot of what I do relies on delusion; I also have to convince myself that the new book is THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD, because how else would it make sense to spend a year or two on it. Despise the old, adore the new: I’m sure it’s the same in any relationship.

Lexicon has been doing well, which created a problem I hadn’t really faced before. Usually, when a book comes out, I’m deep into the early exploratory phase of the next one, and I take some time out to return to that little lost world and talk about it on radio or bookstores or whatever. And it’s always slightly fraudulent, because I’m also thinking, this book kind of sucked, you should see what I’m working on now. Again, this is more about delusion than truth. I have to believe that in order to work.

Now, promotion is good fun; people generally say nice things and make you feel like all the work was totally worth it. They even start to convince you, you know what, this book didn’t suck that much. It was kind of great. You used to love it, remember? Then before you know it, you’re flipping the pages, thinking, This was good. Why did I ever leave?

So the thing with Lexicon is this phase has lasted much longer than usual. It’s maybe not all about the book; it’s maybe social media, too, bringing everyone so close you even can hear their thoughts. And it’s wonderful, of course, everything you dream of when you’re lost in a third draft, trying to stitch plots back together. But after a while I started to feel like I was cheating on the new book. It’s one thing to stay friends with your ex. It’s another to still think about them, talk about them, and open their covers and run your fingers down their pages.

Anyway, this is why I haven’t been on Twitter et al lately. I’ll be back; it’s all good. This book I’m seeing now, wow. We just needed some time.

I feel like if Writers’ Festivals had the session “Things That Piss Me Off About Being a Writer,” that would be popular. @BrisWritersFest

I am the palest man in Brisbane, even allowing for how there’s a writers’ festival going on. bwf.org.au/2013-writers/m…

When *I* wear a bikini and grind on Robin Thicke, no-one even cares.

It’s TRUE, I’m talking comedy at Melbourne Writers Festival Saturday @ 2:30pm with @CatherineDeveny and @spc1965: tickets.mwf.com.au/session2_mwf.a…

Having a sick 7 year old feels like good practice for the listless, uncommunicative teenage years.

All I really want as a writer is the power to force Margaret Atwood to write my book ideas.

Bagging books like a pro at Dymocks Melbourne for National Booksellers Day. #nbd2013 pic.twitter.com/AGyQRQxlWK

“Lexicon” ad in the New York Times. pic.twitter.com/52pXWEd1y5

When I get a cold, I imagine people from the future marveling at how inefficient that was, and I’m like, Screw you, Future People.

In just under 2 hours I’m doing the 3rd & final Twitter Q&A for @penguinusa. Tweet me a question at #readpenguin! us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/f…

Lexicon poets at Comic-Con! imgur.com/a/qDTZl

My daughter enjoying a chicken. pic.twitter.com/TX00TjaM1m

Standing by for YOUR QUESTIONS via Twitter at 7pm EST. Don’t leave me hanging, man. bit.ly/12EeGm7 #readpenguin

Received Lexicon audio CDs in the mail along with a note saying Aussie border control opened them due to suspected “pests and diseases.”

Added 6 new reviews to my Lexicon brag page, incl. The Washington Post, Time Out, & The Australian! maxbarry.com/lexicon/review…

My Aussie publisher Hachette knows how to decorate an office. pic.twitter.com/yBFMNft2wv

Sat 13
Jul
2013

Secrets of the Printer’s Key

Syrup That row of numbers on a book’s copyright page is called the printer’s key and tells you whether you’re holding a first edition or fourth or what. First editions look like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

… and each time the publisher goes back to the presses for a reprinting, they delete a number. So this:

5 6 7 8 9 10

… is a fifth printing of that edition.

This isn’t really a secret. I just thought that was a funny blog title. But reprintings are great, because they mean the book sold more than the publisher’s worst fears. It’s a constant source of joy to me that while the Syrup hardcover was such a commercial disaster that you can more easily find remaindered copies than real ones, the paperback keeps getting reprinted, fourteen years on. Last month, I flipped to a Syrup copyright page and saw this:

20 19 18 17 16 15

I don’t care if they are running off eight books at a time; that’s awesome. It’s so sad when a book goes out of print. It’s like a little death. I hope e-books will save authors from those.

Syrup movie tie-in edition, showing Amber Heard, Kellan Lutz, Brittany Snow,
and Shiloh Fernandez Also, Syrup just got itself a movie tie-in edition! As a reader, I’ve always disdained movie tie-in editions. I’m all, “If I wanted to see the movie, I would, like, see it.” But as an author, it makes me stupidly happy. I mean, movie tie-in edition. Who wouldn’t want one of those. And I’ve never really loved the existing Syrup covers. I don’t hate them. But I don’t love them. The US paperback in particular looks to me like an ironic comment on marketing, only without the ironic part.

Plus, these will make excellent gifts for people who have no intention of reading the book but will be impressed by the fact that it’s a movie.

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