When I chat on IRC, sometimes I wonder about the personalities behind the screen names. (Of course I do; you wouldn't be reading these interviews otherwise.) Along the way, I've encountered many different kinds of people and I often find myself surprised by what I find.
Take Matt Nute, for example. A former explosives expert for the U. S. Army, you'd never expect him to worry about things like characterization, plot and the like. However, Matt's contributions to the comic fanfic world have included very moving and very real portrayals of such comics stanchions like Captain America and Nightwing. He's also the man in charge of wrangling together the 2000 Comic Book Fan Fic Awards and the keeper of the #subcafe FAQ. With so many irons in the fire, it's a wonder he still has time to chat.
Much less blow anything up on the weekends.


*** Matt has joined #spotlight!
Trisha waves to Matt and offers him a chair
Q: Okay... let's go ahead and begin... Standard question #1: How did you get into comics?
Matt: Ah, how I got into comics. Probably as a small kid, Donald Duck and Archie comics. I remember reading Swamp Thing issues in the barbershop as well, that'd probably be the first "serious" comic I read.
Q: Who did you find yourself gravitating towards?
Matt: As in which comics?
Trisha nods
Matt: As a kid, GI Joe comics. <smile> I was your standard 10-year-old boy, liked nothing more than to go out and play war with the neighbor kids. I didn't get into superhero comics until a few years later, around Fall of the Mutants. I'd have to say I was an early New Mutants fan back then.
Q: What did you like about the comics you read?
Matt: That's easy. It was a way to, at least in imagination, get out of the little tiny mountain town I lived in as a kid. I was a voracious reader, everything from TIME magazine to the classics. Comics were just one of the things I devoured.
Q: I picture you as this tought little s.o.b. carrying a toy gun, roughhousing with your friends... how far off am I?
Matt: Pretty far, actually. I was a little frail kid. Constantly sick, and rarely allowed outside. Which is why I got my habit of reading everything set in front of me.
Trisha makes a "hmmmm" sound.
Matt Nute... now with kung-fu grip! Q: So how does a sick frail kid get into the Army?
Matt: I got better. Once I started high school, I moved down to live with my dad's family on the family ranch. Farm living can change a lot. Once I got a lot more physically active, I ended up a lot healthier, but never lost the desire for intellectual pursuits. I was still a pretty frail skinny kid when I went into the Army after high school, though.
Q: What was the Army like? Where were you first stationed?
Matt: Spent all 4 years of my active Army career at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. It was definitely (and still is) a growing experience. I learned a lot about myself, and a lot about my capabilities and limitations.
Q: Tell me 'bout a typical day for you while you were in the Army.
Matt: Well, wake up at [5:30 am], head down for P.T. (physical training) at 6 am. Run a few miles or something of the sort, then shower and to work around 8:30 or 9. I was a 12B Combat Engineer in the 27th Engineer Battalion (ABN). In layman's' terms, I got to jump out of airplanes and blow stuff up.
Q: Hence your proclivity towards explosives? <smile>
Matt: Exactly. Hence all the infamous stories.
Q: About when did you start writing?
Matt: I've been writing ever since I could work a typewriter, actually. As for fanfic, my first story ("Final Exit", which shall remain forever unfinished) hit A.C.F.F. [alt.comics.fan-fic] around August of 1997.
Q: What kinds of stories do you like to tell?
Matt: I like to tell what I call WHAM! stories. No relation to George Michael, of course. I want to write stories that make people jump back in their seats, even for the second or third time reading it. When I write, I try to envision it not so much as putting words together, but visualizing a scene, and "directing" the characters and the action.
Q: Which of your stories do you think illustrate this the best?
A real 'American' hero Matt: One of the first stories I wrote, and still one of the ones I get the most feedback on, was "Five Minutes Longer", an answer to a self-insertion challenge in which Captain America comes to the aid of a wounded soldier in WWII. Although I wasn't trying for the deep emotional impact in that one, it seems to have hit a lot of people close to home. One of my favorites, though, is "Water and Stone", a Nightwing story I put out last year. All my stories, among others, can be found on my archive, which is currently closed for renovations. It should be up sometime around the end of February, though.
Q: Ah, yes, I remember "Five Minutes Longer". Why did you pick Captain America to write about?
Matt: Cap's always been a personal hero of mine. Small frail farm kid decides to try his best to give his all for his country, and ends up becoming its greatest living legend. I guess as a kid, I dreamed a few parallels.
Q: And Nightwing?
Matt: That story sprung out of a real desire just to write an action scene, and make it as descriptive as possible. I drew on a lot of background I had in martial arts, and tried to apply a lot of the different styles I figure that Dick (Grayson, Nightwing) would have learned, and compare and contrast them to the water/stone analogy.
Q: You know martial arts?
Matt chuckles.
Matt: I've studied a few over the years.
Q: Which?
The rumor is that Matt dressed up as this fellow for Halloween last year Matt: Mostly in the line of military duty. In high school, I was involved in competitive kickboxing for a few years, and achieved my black belt just before I graduated from high school. Then in the Army I was introduced to Basic and Advanced Combat courses, as well as a year-long experience with escrima, and a few months of pentjak silat training.
Q: And this has helped you write action sequences?
Matt: Very much so. Experience with the human body moving, reacting, and feeling in a situation makes for more realistic writing, I've found. And while I don't go around knocking down buildings or throwing tanks across the Potomac, that's what creative interpretation is for. I always try and advise people "Write what you know."
Q: Let's go ahead and switch topics for a while. When I interviewed Kielle, she said that you were one of the people who'd called for a "best fanfic" type vote. What prompted this?
Matt: Back when I first started on ACFF, I thought up an "Academy Awards" type of concept for fanfiction. I pitched the idea to Hawk (who moderated ACFF at the time), Lori McDonald, Darqstar, Kielle, and some of the other archivists. Kielle decided to pick up the ball and run with it, so to speak, and we got what are now the CBFFAs [Comic Book Fan Fic Awards].
Q: But why?
Matt: Mainly, as I saw it, to give the authors some public recognition. Remember, we didn't have OutsideTheLines in those days, and untold-l was on its last legs. Public feedback was few and far between. I thought it would be a nice, classy way to give the best stories and authors the recognition they deserve.
Q: And now you're the main moderator... Why did you decide to take over?
Matt: Well, Kielle had Real Life hit her hard last year, and that, coupled with a lot of writers really dropping the ball on segments, resulted in the awards being almost a year late. She offered, I accepted. I think it's really grand how Kielle managed to pull it off two years in a row, God knows I'm scrambling to keep up. But I think this year's awards ceremony will be just as enjoyable as the previous ones.
Q: What changes have you decided to implement?
Matt: For one, the mechanism of voting. Instead of using DreamBook, I wrote up an HTML form for voting. Also along those lines, I opened up a month of "nominations", to make the voting more refined and easier to collate. After the nominations were in, I took the top five choices in each category and put together the final ballot.
Q: Have you had any problems so far?
Matt: A few. Some people trying to get away with multiple voting, some people voting for nothing at all, but they're a small minority. People overall seem to be really responsive to it this year. The final voting's only been up for about 2 weeks, and we already have over 70 votes.
Q: When do you expect the ceremony to be up where will it be?
Matt: Hopefully around the first week of April.
Nute and friends at DexCon II Q: <switching gears again> How does it feel to be the only male in the Virginia Vortex?
Matt: Well, it's not as hard as it sounds. No one yells at me for leaving the toilet seat up, I cook when it's my turn, etc.
Q: <smile> Are Frito and Indigo good roommates? Why do you think so many people are in Virginia?
Matt: Well, I moved here for work. As for the high number of fanficcers here, I find it due to the high concentration of technical jobs and internet access in this area. And Frito and Indigo are great to live with.
Q: Time to get a bit serious. There has been some controversy over the fanfic chat rooms that we use here on IRC. You have gone ahead and created a FAQ which some are in contention with. How do you feel about the chat room situation?
Matt: For that, I think you have to go back to when the fanfic chat began. It was a way for writers to get together and get to know each other. As a community began to form, the common bond of fanfiction was still there. We've had problems, but I think on the whole, that bond of community and friendship through common interest is still there.
Q: Go on...
Matt: As for the FAQ, I thought it was necessary to put up a list of guidelines, most of which struck me as common sense, for everyone to treat each other with respect, as members of any community would. There's been a lot of positive response, but I can't take all of the credit. I don't really feel there's credit to be taken, in fact. If you've got to pat someone on the back, give the applause to everyone who makes IRC an enjoyable experience.
Q: Besides the 2000 CBFFAs, is there anything new on your writing plate?
Matt: Oh, just LOADS. Two co-writing projects, a handful of short fics, a few music-themed fics, and an epic Thor story I've been planning since I started fanfic.
Q: What's the Thor story going to be dealing with?'
Matt: Without giving too much away, it branches off just after Onslaught. None of this Jake Olson mess, none of the "fallen Asgardians" mess. Going back to basics, as it were.
Q: What was the easiest thing for you to write? What was the hardest?
Matt: Easiest to write, let me think... "Killing Angels", a Zauriel/Azrael fic. I wrote it basically because I was dealing with writers' block and felt it was "filler".
Q: For filler, how do you think it turned out?
Matt: Pretty well, actually. <grin> As for the hardest, that would have to be "The City Cried", my Jack Hawksmoor solo story. It deals with spousal abuse, a topic that hit close to home at the time, because I was helping a friend through a case. I guess it was my way of dealing with feeling powerless over the situation, you know?
Q: Again, going back to my conversation with Kielle, we talked about why women write fanfics. Why do YOU write fanfics?
Matt: Because I get an idea in my head, and I want it out. Like I said before, I don't see my writing as just putting words on paper. I'd like to be thought of as a "visual" writer. I try to get these images in my head onto paper, and make other people see what I see, but in their own way. If that makes any sense.
Q: Sort of like being a film director?
Matt: Exactly.
Q: What fanfics, or actually films, would you LOVE to write, but don't have the time/energy/research to write?
Matt: I'd love to be able to get into something no one else has, and make it accessible to everyone. The other day, I read the preliminary script for the Spider-Man movie. And boy, does it suck. It really, really sucks. I'd love to be able to take a concept like that, and make it accessible to even non-comics readers, but still stay true to the original concept. That's what I try to do with my fanfic. Stay close enough to canon to keep the interest, but put MY twist on it.
Q: Like what would you do for Spider-Man?
Matt: Exactly what Stan Lee did all those years ago. But make it accessible to the main market. I talk about it with my friends all the time "What would you do if you took over Marvel/DC?". I think that the reason comics are more popular today is that people can relate to them better. People can't relate as well to the stories of the '50's and '60's. Unless you're Darkmark, that is. <grin>
Q: Is there any genre/style that you haven't tried yet that you want to?
Matt: Hmm... what do I want to try? Honestly, (and everyone's going to laugh at this coming from me), I'd like to try a romantic story. Not erotica, not by any means. But something that'll REALLY challenge me. I have my non-comics writing that I work on as well, but that's an original genre.
Q: <giggle> Who would you pick for your romance?
Matt: I haven't the foggiest idea.
Q: Would you go out of the comics fic genre and onto other media?
Matt: I've had my hands in a bit. I've had a few guest editorials in some local papers, wrote for my battalion newsletter back in the Army. I actually sold a song for some money back when I was 16, too. But as for the focus of my writing, comics seem to be what I'm good at.
Q: Who do you read on a regular basis?
Matt: For comics? JLA, Flash, Authority, Young Justice, Deadpool, and whatever Indigo picks up. Lately I've found Garth Ennis' take on the Punisher to be a completely fun ride. As for prose authors? I'm a big fan of Richard Marcinko, Steven Brust, Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston, as well as the classics. Dumas, Hugo, Twain...
Q: Any poetry? <smile>
Matt: Robert Frost. Hands down.
Q: Which fanfic authors do you read and which works of theirs do you like?
Matt: I'm a big fan of Alicia McKenzie's work. Her "Paladin" trilogy is becoming utterly captivating. Also, let's see, Dyce's "Maturity in B Minor" series, as well as her recent "Song Titles" set; I enjoy a lot of Pat Sahlstrom's old New Mutants stories, most anything Abyss puts out, "Crimes of the Heart" by Indigo has always been a favorite of mine. So much comes to mind.
Q: If you were to suggest any work of yours to new readers, what would you suggest?
Matt: Hmm. Probably "The Blaquesmith Chronicles". It's one of my earlier pieces, and still my personal favorite.
Q: Anything else?
Matt: Well, I'm really proud of "Generator", my Authority story. That was my first GOOD attempt at writing multiple characters and giving each of them their own role.
Q: I absolutely loved that story. What was the inspiration for that one?
Matt: Another song, actually. "Generator", by Bad Religion. Good old-fashioned intelligent punk rock. The idea, mainly, that no matter how much we try to progress as a society, there will always be elements we just can't be rid of. We're only human, in the end.
Q: Do you have any advice for anyone who's just starting to write fanfic?
Matt: Two things. 1) Know your characters. I mean, really know them. Nothing kills starting writers faster than bad characterization. 2) Don't be afraid to be original. I'd rather see one Hulk story than ten of "Story X" in my mailbox any day.
Q: Thanks so much for you time, Matt.
Matt: Thanks for yours, Trish. <grin>

Author's Picks:

Maturity in B Minor, by Dyce -- Jubilee has had to endure a lot throughout the years, but she's always been able to count on her pal, Wolvie. But what would happen if he wasn't there for her anymore? Linked to the Wolverine and Jubilee archives.
Crimes of the Heart by Indigo -- Indigo's a very prolific writer and that's not just because she can type 180+ words a minute. This story is linked to her Orbital Anomaly page, which does not appear to be operational. I just tell you where to find them, folks.
This Space(ship) for Rent by Abyss -- A favorite of mine, too, it deals with Generation X in the manner in which they should be written: a little bit of angst, a whole lot of fun. This story is linked to the Danger Grotto archives.
The Paladin Trilogy by Alicia McKenzie -- First-rate writing from the undisputed mistress of Cable/Nathan Summers fan fiction. This story follows a "What If" type concept: What if Cable faced Apocalypse in battle... and lost? This is linked to Alicia's own site, The Dayspring Archives.

Spotlight Picks:

Generator by Matt Nute -- It's rather hard to do ensemble cast fics. However, Matt does a superb job with the cast of "The Authority" and a new and dangerous enemy.
Just Words by Matt Nute -- A short, yet very intense fic starring Peter Nicholas.
Genetic Superiority, World Domination, and a Double Chocolate Mocha Latte To Go, Please Or: Reunion at Starbucks by Matt Nute -- This one gets points alone for its title. The rest of the story is better.
Matt's Theory of Mutant Relativity or Why Iceman is an Omega Mutant by Matt Nute -- This was taken from the CFAN Scratching Post. I thought this would be a good place for it. I'm going to be linking this to the Kicks page once March is over.

Assorted Links:

CFAN button -- This bears repeating. All of the archives mentioned above are linked to this, the largest repository of comics fan fic links. I'm starting to wonder how Kielle, webmistress extraordinaire, finds the time to sleep.
NuteWorldOrder -- When this puppy goes up, this will contain all of Matt's stories, including the ones listed and mentioned above, stories by other authors and some more surprises.
The 1999 CBFFAs -- Just in case you're wondering what all the brouhaha is with this, the largest and most zany awards ceremony ever, here's the link to last year's awards. Once again, I've volunteered to write a segment for the 2000 CBFFAs. Will they be just as late as last year's? Only Heaven knows...

Much thanks goes out to the archives mentioned above and The Star Spangled Site and Dick Grayson... Nightwing for the images used in creating this page.

And lastly, you can e-mail Matt Nute at Nutesfist@aol.com.

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