Max Barry: taking an online serial to a novel and the big screen

Max Barry's Machine Man has come a long way since its beginnings as an online serial.

The novel, based on the series, is set to be released on August 9, while respected filmmaker Darren Aronofsky is attached as screenwriter and director for an anticipated big screen version.

Barry says Machine Man has always had a close relationship to technological interaction: it was motivated by impatient online readers as well as the novelist’s own desire to deliver fiction over the internet.

“The serial was basically an idea to tell a story in a way that would fit with the web experience," he says. "You’d get a page in your inbox each day and it would take you about a minute to read and you could go back to whatever you were doing. And that’s where I had the idea for the story.”

Machine Man follows the story of a scientist who sees the loss of his leg in an industrial accident as an opportunity to build something better. (The original Machine Man serial can be found here.)

“It had to be quite a plot-driven story, just because it was something that was meant to compete with your email for your attention, and there’s always things happening in every page. And those elements do suit film, but I always feel I’ve written cinematically,” Barry says.

The Melbourne-based writer has an appreciation for the film business: he has previously tried his hand at screenwriting and had a cameo in the film adaptation of his novel Syrup, which is currently in production in New York.

“I’m pretty realistic about the fact that you need to change a lot about a novel to make it work on film," he says. "And I’m a serial re-writer myself anyway so I always like changing things and seeing how they can be made different and hopefully better. [Darren Aronofsky] is a tremendously talented guy.

"I think he’s the sort of guy who might pick one part of the story and then come up with something very different to the book. He has his own visions for the kind of stories he likes to tell. And I’d just love to see what he does, even if it’s taking one tiny piece of it.”

Max Barry is the author of the best-selling novels Syrup, Jennifer Government and Company. All are under development for film. He also created the online nation simulation game NationStates, which has been played by over two million people.For more information visit