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Matt Ruff

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Matt Ruff

Matthew Theron Ruff
Born (1965-09-08) September 8, 1965
Queens, New York, United States
Residence Seattle, Washington
Alma mater Cornell University[1]
Notable work The Mirage, Fool on the Hill
Spouse(s) Lisa Gold (m. 1998)[1]
Website Matt Ruff

Matthew Theron "Matt" Ruff (born September 8, 1965 in Queens, New York) is an American author of thriller, science-fiction and comic novels.


  • Early life 1
  • Background and education 2
  • Unpublished novels 3
  • Published works 4
  • Personal 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Ruff was born in New York City in 1965. His family are Lutheran, and he has German ancestry.[2] His father was a hospital chaplain, and his mother was a missionary's daughter.[3] At the age of 5, he decided he wanted to be a fiction writer. He spent his childhood and adolescence learning how to tell stories.[1] As a child, many adults around him did not take his desire to become a writer seriously, and attempted to persuade him to choose a different career. However, Ruff's mother was very supportive of him and his hope to become a writer, for one of Ruff's birthdays, she bought him an IBM Selectric typewriter.[2]

Ruff's first sustained effort at a novel was a soap opera-like story about a family with a lot of children (as an only child, Ruff was fascinated by the concept of siblings). He wrote it in the 1970s, but never published it. Describing it, Ruff said "Think Eight Is Enough with surreal elements. There was no overall plot, just a series of loosely linked episodes—a chapter about the boys and girls digging competing tunnel systems under the house would be followed by one in which they got infected by some weird flu strain and started passing out in the halls. Periodically I’d set aside what I’d written and start the whole thing over again".[4]

Ruff spent a lot of his time focusing on novel-length fiction. Although, he did write some shorter stories. In elementary school, he wrote a number of short stories, many of them starring his classmates in scenarios cribbed from movies or TV. Ruff has said that reading these aloud in English class was his first experience performing in front of an audience and his first solid evidence that he had what it took to entertain people with his storytelling.[4]

During Ruff's last semester at Cornell, his mother died, and his father died after Ruff's first novel was published.[2]

Background and education

Ruff grew up in New York City. From third to eighth grade, Ruff attended a parochial school.[2] He attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan; one of his teachers there was the memoirist Frank McCourt.[5] He graduated from Cornell University in 1987. Alison Lurie was one of Ruff's English professors, and she helped Ruff find an agent.[6]

Unpublished novels

In the late 1970s/early 1980s, Ruff wrote a fantasy novel. He came very close to finishing it, and even completed thirteen out of a planned sixteen chapters. However, he gave up, deciding it was not that great a story. Between 1982 and 1984, Ruff wrote a semi-autobiographical novel about a Lutheran Minister's son who questions his faith. Part of Ruff's motive for writing the novel was to let his parents know he wasn't going to be a devout Christian, which they had hoped he would. In 1985, Ruff wrote a coming-of-age story set in Queens called "Today's Tom Sawyer", over the summer between his sophomore and junior years at Cornell. It had upwards of 400 pages, and Ruff wrote in three months. Ruff used a female student in his class as a character in the story, and gave her a copy of the finished manuscript.[4]

Published works

The author's first novel, Fool on the Hill, is a fantasy that drew on his experiences living in Risley Residential College at Cornell. It was first written as his senior thesis in Honors English.[7] Published shortly after Ruff graduated from the university, it gained an early cult following which continues to this day.

His second book Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy is postcyberpunk.

His third book Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls, focuses on multiple personalities; while not technically science-fiction, it nonetheless contains significant speculative elements. The novel was long-listed for the 2005 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and won the 2007 James Tiptree, Jr. Award, a PNBA Book Award, and a Washington State Book Award. Ruff is also the recipient of a 2006 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Prose[8]

His fourth novel, Bad Monkeys, received the 2008 Washington State Book Award for Fiction, a PNBA Book Award, and an Alex Award.

His fifth book, an alternate history novel titled The Mirage, was published in February 2012. The Mirage was nominated for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History.[9]

  • Fool on the Hill (1988) – (ISBN 0-8021-3535-8)
  • Sewer, Gas & Electric: The Public Works Trilogy (1997) – (ISBN 0-87113-641-4)
  • Set This House in Order: A Romance of Souls (2003) – (ISBN 0-06-095485-X)
  • Bad Monkeys (2007) – (ISBN 0061240419)
  • The Mirage (2012) – (ISBN 9780061976223; ISBN 0-06-197622-9)


Ruff currently lives with his wife, Lisa Gold, in Seattle, Washington.


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ a b c d
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c
  5. ^ "An Interview with Matt Ruff". Bookslut. August 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-31. 
  6. ^ Retrieved 2013-02-06
  7. ^
  8. ^ "FY 2006 Grant Awards: Literature Fellowships in Prose".  
  9. ^ Sidewise Award Nominees, SF Site News, July 1, 2013.

External links

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