An action-packed adventure about a young man who discovers everything he knew about the world is a lie unfolds, in Shaun Barger's brilliant Mage Against The Machine. To celebrate the book, we asked Shaun to let us in on 10 things he'd like his readers to know about him! Here's what he had to reveal...
10. Like a lot of men, I have a bad habit of making everything about me.
I’m working on it.
So: How are you today?
I was once told that “Fine” means “Freaked-Out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional.”
To which I think a lot of us might respond, at this moment:
A little column A, a little column B.
The lights all got turned on at once, and right now everyone with any shred of human decency amongst the privileged are jumping up onto the tables and SCREAMING as the insect carpets of human injustice that have been squirming amongst our feet all along have suddenly been revealed.
So yeah. We’re fine.
The main characters of Mage Against The Machine, a traumatised wizard named Nikolai Strauss and a cyborg ballerina turned soldier named Jemma Burton…
…are also totally, 100% FINE.
Speaking of which:
9. I wrote a book called MAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE.
It’s being billed as Harry Potter meets The Terminator, for adults.
The novel is equal parts fantasy, equal parts science-fiction. It’s the book I always wanted, but could never find. So I had to write it.
Maybe it’s the book you’ve always wanted, too. You should probably check it out. Just in case.
8. I’m writing the sequel, called GOOD KID, MAGE CITY.
Named after Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.
I’m being meticulous with this novel. Slow, and obsessive. Throwing away a lot more than I’m keeping.
Two steps forward, one step back. Or sometimes three.
My incredible editor, Navah Wolfe, has been extremely cool about letting me take my time with the sequel, unlike so many other follow-ups that get rushed out the gate.
I’m writing a lot, these days. Though I have to admit,
7. I don’t read as much as I should.
I’m working on that, too.
Books are my bread and butter. Prose is my craft! And yet, I’ve been picking away at the same novel for the past few months, sporadic chapter by sporadic chapter.
Wasn’t all that long ago that I was reading two books a month. But now? What a struggle! What a chore!
Even though, unlike most forms of passive entertainment: Reading Has Profound Health Benefits.
Whatever ails you mentally, meditation can probably help. It physically alters the makeup of your brain. It strengthens your resilience against the discomfort of boredom, silence, and uncertainty.
Reading is meditation. A specific kind of meditation, with proven psychologic benefits when regular and sustained.
Reading should be treated like exercise. It develops empathy. It works as emotional inoculation. It’s really, really, good for you.
Also, being seen with a book in public is cool now. It’s a mark of devotion to personal growth. Evidence of your ability to get off your goddamn phone, and just be present. You responsible adult you!
It also helps that sci-fi & fantasy covers are way cooler than they used to be. I mean, have you seen MAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE? It’s gorgeous.
6. I talk too much.
Or too little, sometimes. Tongue like a stone in my mouth.
You know how it is.
5. I really hate guys who protest their goodness every time another guy is revealed to have done Something Awful.
The gentleman doth protest too loudly.
Yes, we get it. You would never, could never! My god, to think that other men are even capable of such terrible things!
Yes, we get it. You’re a good boy.
Nikolai Strauss, the titular Mage Against The Machine, is not a good guy, though he spends most of the novel trying very hard to be.
Stop fast talking over your secret fear that you might not 100% be a good guy either. Confront the ugly. Grow.
Stop interrupting. Listen.
What’s that you say, hypothetical protesting guy? I’m doing the same thing I’m accusing you of, RIGHT NOW?
Look. Let’s be real. I’m an American White Boy. And like most American White Boys…
4. …I’m currently engaged in the many-years process of exorcising my Toxic White Boy Ghosts.
Throughout my 20s, I only cried three times.
At 30, I realised that one cannot simply white-knuckle their way to wellness, and began the excruciating process of getting better.
The characters of Mage Against The Machine are all broken, in their own ways. Their quest for some semblance of wellness serves as a reflection of my own continuing metaphorical exorcisms.
My generation is not doing well, psychologically. With Mage Against The Machine, I wanted to re-examine old sci-fi and fantasy tropes with protagonists whose inner lives reflect this.
I’m 34 now. Feeling somewhat bulletproof, these days. Though the process is indefinite.
Don’t let your wounds convince you of their permanence. Do the work. It’s worth it!
3. I read all of my reviews.
Every. Single. One.
2. It's strange to me that I can't feel when people are reading my book.
There’s an old Japanese superstition that when you sneeze, it’s because someone is talking about you.
I’m not a superstitious person. I’m a staunch opponent of pseudoscience and quack-doctory in all its forms.
I don’t know why, but now that Mage Against The Machine is out there in glorious hardcover multitudes, I expected to feel it, somehow. Like a warm rush of psychic energy from every distant reader.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
But don’t worry…
1. I'm fine.
A couple months ago, whilst enduring the exhausting banality of my part-time job, I asked a customer how he was doing.
For context, I work at Erewhon. It’s basically Whole Foods, but for Super Rich People.
With a gentle smile, he looked deep into my eyes and said “I’m living the dream. We’re all living the dream. You’re living the dream too!”
I laughed. “Sure buddy.”
“No,” he insisted, more seriously. “You are. We all are.”
Something about this set me off. I became very agitated.
“Look, honestly man,” I said, “I know you mean well, but please try to remember that some of us are shopping at Erewhon…and some of us just work here.”
His smile persisted. Deepened, even. His eyes twinkled.
“You might not think it. But you are. Living the dream.”
The part of my brain that reminds me “You can’t afford to lose this job!” threatened to turn off. But then, I realized…the insufferably positive privileged man was right. I am living the dream.
My debut novel, Mage Against The Machine, was coming out soon. But more than that!
The world is bigger than ever, and changing – full of wonders and horrors.
Yeah, it hurts. God, it hurts. We’re all so tired and anxious and certain that this is just how it’s going to be from now on. Like a person trapped in the depths of a bad trip, pleading with tears in our eyes for reassurance that This isn’t forever, right?
But it’s changing. It’s changing. It’s ALL changing!
And at the end of it all, you know what?
We’re going to be fine.
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