Derby, Matthew 1973–

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Derby, Matthew 1973–

PERSONAL: Born 1973. Education: Brown University, M.F.A.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Little, Brown/Time Warner, 1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Writer. Brown University, Providence, RI, creative writing teacher.


Super Flat Times (stories), Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2003.

Contributor to periodicals, including Conjunctions, Fence, 5 Trope, Pindeldyboz, and Failbetter; 3rd Bed, associate editor.

SIDELIGHTS: Matthew Derby's Orwellian first book consists of previously published tales that have appeared in print and on Web sites. Booklist reviewer Donna Seaman called Super Flat Times an "unnerving, audaciously intelligent debut collection." The volume contains eighteen stories of "Those of Us Who Have Been Allowed to Remember," after the government of the future kills off a large percentage of the population and erases the minds of most of those who are left. Targets of extermination were men who spoke out, men with hair on their backs, and men named Kevin. Children float, clouds are treated with behavioral drugs, all the food is made of meat, and obesity and fad diets control those who eat it. The clouds have turned hard and now render agriculture impossible, and people face forced retirement at age nineteen. The state controls human reproduction, and women produce twenty eggs a month to move "forever afterward like angry, three-wheeled vegetable carts."

Stories in the collection include "Instructions," a satire about pre-employment psychological tests, and "The Father Helmet," in which a boy's own father is replaced by a robot. In a review for, Bob Howard remarked that the collection "is a thrill ride for those who like to read and are willing to cast aside conventional notions of what comprises writing and the resulting read."

Joel Turnipseed wrote for Rain Taxi Online that Derby "is twisted. Then again, so is our world…. This collection of some ways-linked, some ways-not, stories are all of a theme: a grim, dystopic society constructed of pop-icon tropes and futuristic extensions of the twentieth century's worst horrors that nevertheless finds within itself astonished moments of shimmering hilarity." Matthew Flamm commented on the book in the New York Times Book Review, saying that Derby "writes smooth, tightly controlled sentences, but there's no getting around the book's juvenile sensibility." A Kirkus Reviews contributor called Super Flat Times the "fearlessly wild and weird debut brain fragments from the mind of Derby, creative futurologist," and an "artful social parody in a towering hypercontemporary mode."

Matt Borondy interviewed Derby for Derby told him that he had watched the film Logan's Run while working on the book. He said that he "tried to study some depictions of the future that seem dated and outmoded from a contemporary perspective, because I wanted to investigate the space in which our idea of the future (which is a thing that, by definition, doesn't actually exist—it is nothing more than a conceptual repository for the narrative arcs we make for ourselves) comes up against our actual experience of the future as it crystallizes into the present."



Booklist, May 1, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of Super Flat Times, p. 1579.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 2003, review of Super Flat Times, p. 554.

New York Times Book Review, June 8, 2003, Matthew Flamm, review of Super Flat Times, p. 24.


Baltimore City Paper Online, (June 11, 2003), Sean Carton, review of Super Flat Times.

Bookloons, (February 12, 2004), Sally Selvadurai, review of Super Flat Times., (February 12, 2004), Bob Howard, review of Super Flat Times., (May 9, 2003), Matt Borondy, interview with Derby.

Matthew Derby Home Page, (February 12, 2004).

Rain Taxi Online, (February 12, 2004), Joel Turnipseed, review of Super Flat Times., (February 12, 2004), Patrick Reynolds, interview with Derby.