Matthew has lived in seven states and has worked in advertising, film and commercial production, and information management. He has been publishing fiction since 1990. When not writing, he is a musician and sound engineer in Minneapolis, where he lives with his daughter.
Q: What is the hardest part of writing for you?
A: Is The Entirety of the Revision Process an acceptable response?
I was famous in my workshops for being a “Blank Page Reviser,” meaning I stripped my stories down to nothing when even the fewest amount of revisions were suggested. Even this story, “The Memory Dresser,” has been rewritten from a blank page at least five times. I thought this strategy demonstrated my dedication, my perfectionism, and a mind brimming with new ideas. While all of those might be true, I feel it also speaks to a deeper truth: revision requires an objective form of self-analysis which is difficult to practice. It means knowing the difference between writing a bad scene and having low self-esteem, or a good scene and an inflated ego.
I think a lot about the Dunning-Kruger Effect, or: “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.” For me, this is the crux of the paradox of revising. The more I write, the more keenly aware of my writing deficiencies I become, the less confident my writing becomes, the worse it gets. Essentially, my self-confidence was much higher when I was much worse. This, I don’t think, is fair.
And so I tinker, I dabble, I erase, I re-write and the more I do it, the worse I feel. Yet, here I am. Bulldozing and sawing and reimagining a perfectly acceptable painting of a shed until it looks like a boat, which is not better or worse—just different. Have you seen my boat? I ask. What happened to the shed? they ask. One moment, I say as I begin painting for them a fresh pterodactyl.
But, occasionally, in a moment of unexpected glory, I realize that the pterodactyl, not the shed or the boat, was what I had been trying for so long to create.
Danos is an artist based in Athens, Greece. He has created art and illustrations for children’s books, editorials, and comics, and created stop-motion and 3D animation videos. He has participated in many anthologies, most notably the anthology To End All Wars from Soaring Penguin Press that was nominated in two Eisner awards categories in 2015. In 2017, he completed his MA degree in Design.
Danos Philopoulos‘ image “Escape” is the cover art for our June 2019 issue.
Q: What book or books inspired you as a child?
A: At some point in my childhood reading, I came across the science fiction of Isaac Asimov. I loved those novels about time travellers and robot detectives and far-future galactic empires. Then in the local library one day, I came across an anthology of science fiction stories, each of which had a little personal introduction by Asimov and suddenly it was as if he was not only telling me wonderful stories but speaking directly to me. I’d never met any writers at that point. There were no websites or internet. But here was Isaac Asimov reaching out to his readers and chatting with them about anything and everything as though we were firm friends. More than anything, that proximity to someone that I admired so much convinced me that one day I wanted to be a science fiction writer too.
Later I discovered Asimov’s books of science essays gathered from his monthly column in “Fantasy and Science Fiction” magazine. They, too, began with some personal note or chatty introduction. His writing style made every difficult concept seem accessible. Suddenly I was convinced I wanted to study science and be a science fiction writer,
something I still aspire to today.
Nicholas M. Stillman is a writer, teacher, and reluctant service worker living in the east bay in California. He received his MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California in 2018, where he currently teaches English. He desperately wants to live in the woods, raise crops, write eight hours a day, and play an unhealthy amount of PS4. He shares this impossible dream with his girlfriend, Sabrina, and their cats, Gnocchi and Fusilli, who all insisted on being part of this bio.