Author of “The Visible Spectrum” (Soft Science Fiction)
How long have you been writing? Do you write genres other than speculative fiction?
I started writing at the beginning of 2015. Before that I’d been focusing on playing music for the better part of 30 years, but felt in the end that I’d said most of what I had to say in that particular artform – for now, at least. I’d wanted to try fiction writing for years, and it seemed a good moment to move on and do something new. Of course, my initial attempts were dire, but stubbornness won out in the end and here I am!
I only really write various styles of speculative fiction. When I try and write something more “literary” I always end up putting in sentient artificial organs or characters made of dust or whatever, so it doesn’t tend to work out too well. One day I may attempt some kind of move into (the darker end of) the crime genre, but for the time being I’ll be sticking with the weird stuff.
What are some of your literary influences?
I’m not sure what the difference is between admiring something and being influenced by it, but if pushed I’d say Alan Garner, China Mieville, Anna Kavan, Kobo Abe for sure, plus too many contemporary short fiction writers to list. J.G Ballard and Philip K. Dick I guess are old mainstays in my personal universe, as are Ursula K. Le Guin, Jorge Luis Borges, Haruki Murakami and a lot of noir-ish crime authors like Charles Willeford, Jim Thompson and Donald Westlake.
What’s on your to-be-read list right now?
Moby-Dick, as ever. Will 2018 be the year I finally read it? I also stalled fifty pages into Samuel Delany’s Dhalgren a while back, so when that’s done and dusted I’ll probably re-read Diana Wynne Jones’ Dalemark Quartet for light relief then try some others I’ve never actually got round to properly – Robert Aickman, Leonora Carrington, Clarice Lispector and Robert Walser among them. Some strange itch makes me want to dig out one or two Willard Price childhood favourites from the charity shops of London too, although I’m sure the reality would be horrifying so maybe I’ll just keep them as happy memories.
Are there themes that you find recurring in your work?
I tend to find myself writing about characters undergoing some kind of major physical transformation a lot, which is why I was happy to get the brief we did for the anthology. In various different stories I’ve had people growing lengths of gristle between their joints, transforming their skeletons into the form of giant birds, ossifying into stone, fusing with unknowable AIs…Other than that it’s the usual thematic concerns: misery, alienation, guilt, grief. Are they the usual concerns? They are for me, anyway.
What is your typical writing process? Outline or seat-of-the-pants? A quiet room or a lively café? Music and coffee or tea and silence?
Meticulous planning will be my method from now on, as I tend to run into cul-de-sacs if I just write without a clear goal. This includes figuring out the purpose of the story before I write it, otherwise I’ll end up with a muddled statement on who-knows-what which I then have to time-consumingly unravel.
A quiet room is preferable – mandatory, in fact. Not least because my typing is embarrassingly bad so I prefer to do it in private. Music works if it’s instrumental. I’ve found crazy electro-acoustic compositions can be a good writing aid – non-household names like Iancu Dumitrescu, Luigi Nono and Toshi Ichiyanagi have all worked for me.
Much as I’d love to say my writing fuel of choice is herbal tea or some such it’s probably chocolate, which I fully admit is a poor choice indeed.
You can read Matt Thompson’s story in Metaphorosis Magazine, “Luminaria,” for free online.
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