Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from non-fiction to literary and he is currently reliving a boyhood passion for science fiction. He has published more than a hundred speculative stories and poems, and is building up to longer pieces as he learns more about the universe. Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these in Hong Kong.
Why do you write?
Because I can! No, it's a bit deeper than that, there's an awful lot of things around that are crying out for expression, and no one is expressing them. So I try. First I wrote stories about the clash of international and Chinese cultures in Hong Kong where I live. Then I came across Borges' The Library of Babel, and I realised that science fiction can be dramatised philosophy. So, having been a science fiction fan in youth (as well as a pub philosopher), I reconnected with the genre, and started writing SF stories, and latterly poems and articles. Some of these are satires or social commentaries; others explore problems of AI, alien life, technology, and our place in the universe - which is a small place, really, but very rich and interesting.
What other creative activities are you involved in?
Painting. I had the good fortune to have a teacher who, after I had 'done my best' to render a likeness of something, would say, "Come on, that's not right...," spurring me to try harder. Although painting is quite different from writing, the striving for perfection, or at least the ironing-out of obvious faults, is common to both (to all art, actually), so I find it helpful to my writing in a way. It's also nice to tackle a subject that is physically right in front of you and kind of driving itself - no worries about 'painter's block'!
Who is your favorite author and why?
Joseph Conrad for his tumultuous prose and profound visions of the Earth and of mankind upon it. Gerard Manley Hopkins for his poignant insights into the individual spirit. In science fiction, Masson for the urgency and realism of his world building; Borges for the thought-provoking philosophy; Bradbury for the atmospheric visualisations that linger in memory.
Tell us about the mechanics of how you write.
Having had an idea - a glowing aura around some conjunction of people and things - I leave it for a while, and if it grows warmer, I jot down some notes in longhand, not an outline but just snatches, some key points or how it would begin. Then, if it's still glowing, I type it out as quickly as I can, not actually referring to the notes. If I get stuck, I try to work out the plot, although this never helps very much because plotting is a completely different thing from writing. Then I edit it, going through again and again until every bit feels as good as it can be. And then if there is a word limit, say 60 or 70 percent of that, even better.
Finally, what do you think about Carp, the fish, not our website?
Carp look rather helpless and floppy, but of course in their element they are as competent as we are in ours, probably more so. As vehicles of the sublime? Maybe - as much as any creature is. If Blake could see the world in a grain of sand, we should be able to see a great deal more in a carp. And if we do look, close up they're ugly with those feelers around their mouths, but from a distance, the colours and patterns are marvelous, and collectively, a pond full of carp is little universe of delight.