Welcome to our new interview series, “Contributors’ Corner,” where we open the floor each week to one of our contributors to the journal. This week, we hear from Matt Sailor, whose story “Crisis on Infinite Earths” appears in 3.2.
Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?
Early in my MFA program, I was trying hard to write a short story … about what I can’t even remember. But I was struggling to make the characters and narrative work. Instead, I wrote a little story about the E.T. Atari game, because I’d been procrastinating from real writing by reading about and watching YouTube videos about Atari games. That story went on to be my first publication, and grew and expanded until it became a chapter in my novel. That moment of realizing that I should be writing about things I am deeply interested in, whether or not they seem like they fit with what fiction “should” be, has shaped my work ever since.
What are you reading?
At this moment, I’m about one-third through Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, which I absolutely love. It’s like a contemporary Charles Dickens novel, and I wish more novelists these days attempted works of that scope. I’m one of those people who is always indecisively working on several books at once—so I also have a volume of John Berryman’s Dream Songs on my nightstand, and I’ve been flirting with David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest for a few weeks, but have yet to take the full plunge there.
Can you tell us what prompted “Crisis on Infinite Earths”?
“Crisis on Infinite Earths” is actually one of the most closely autobiographical pieces of fiction I’ve ever written. At first, I only knew I wanted to write about the D.C. comics story arc that is dealt with in the story, and from which the story gets its title. I was thinking it would be something of an essay, but I was having trouble explaining my thoughts about it in that form. At the same time I wanted to write about my relationship (or lack thereof) with my father, and my memories of him. Those parts of the story are ninety-five percent true, with some fictionalizing to round off the rough edges. I don’t exactly recall when it occurred to me to combine these elements, nor when I had the idea that the concept of parallel universes was an apt metaphor for conflicting memories of shared experiences. But once I came to that realization, the first draft of the story came out quite quickly—a very cathartic experience.
What’s next? What are you working on?
“Crisis” comes from a novel, 1985, which I’m in the midst of writing now. It deals with the narrator of “Crisis” and his family, and other characters struggling to stay afloat in mid-Michigan in the nineteen-eighties.
Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?
If you read my story and are curious about reading the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” comic book story arc, I would beg you not to. It’s much more baffling and entertaining to read the Wikipedia article summarizing it, and marvel that this is what passed for epic narrative in the mid-eighties.