Six questions to…
Mata Haggis is a multi-media storyteller, academic, and games designer who was recently appointed the Associate Professor of Creative & Entertainment Games at NHTV University in The Netherlands. Outside of university, he is collaborating with SassyBot Studio to create the PINE (Playable Interactive Narrative Experience) game ‘Fragments of Him’. At WORDfest 2015 and will also be running a Games Writing Workshop on Get Stuck In Day (25/4/15) at 2pm, Crawley Library.
What was your first job?
After delivering free newspapers that no-one wanted to read, and progressing to delivering newspapers that it was probably advisable that no-one should read, my first job with structured hours was working in a butcher’s shop after the school day was finished. I went there several days a week when I was in my mid-teens, and sometimes worked Saturdays too. I would often spend my time in the freezer room (the kind of places that people die in horror movies rather than facing the zombie hordes outside). In the room I would wash the blood off of the walls in sub-zero temperatures, and having staring competitions with pig heads on hooks. Butcher shops are odd places to work; if you feel far too normal and well-adjusted, and want to become a little stranger, then I can highly recommend it as a profession.
Which author has inspired you most?
That’s too hard to put down to one person, but if I had a top pick it would be William Gibson, who is best known for inventing the word ‘cyberspace’. I personally was very inspired by his type of science-fiction where the tech did not need to be explained, but instead was flashed at the reader in a verbal montage. He has a very powerful and textural style of writing, somewhat akin to beat poetry, and it hit me at just the right age to get under my skin.
Of course, there are other greats who have inspired me: Douglas Adams had an astonishing control of the English language to create images in the minds of his readers that are both comic and melancholy, Neil Gaiman’s work on The Sandman inspired me to look beyond only traditional prose media for storytelling experiences, Terry Pratchett showed me that you can have fun and still stick a knife into the gut of serious issues at the same time, and finally I have huge admiration for the far-fetched fiction of Robert Rankin for the sheer silliness of it all. Of course there are more, but I have to stop listing somewhere.
Interestingly, I rarely read books in the horror genre, but that is my preferred writing style.
What are you reading now?
I’ve been on a bit of a non-fiction binge, and I’ve just finished Everything Bad Is Good For You by Steven Johnson. It’s an argument for how pop culture is making us smarter. I don’t fully agree with it, but it’s interesting nonetheless. I’m currently listening to Robert Rankin’s Brightonomicon on audio book too, for a bit of light entertainment. I’m also playing Valiant Hearts on the PlayStation4, which has a lovely way of combining real-world stories of World War I with an Amélie-esque French whimsical style. I like to consume stories in many ways, and traditional reading is only one of them.
Which is your favourite fairy tale?
The Soup Stone. It’s a story about the power of words to shape the world, and I also enjoy the moral ambiguity in it.
Which fictional character would you most like to spend time with — and why?
I’m going to pick two, but they come as a couple: both Romeo and Juliet. I’d like to sit down with them and a nice cup of tea and talk through their options.
Who would you like to play you in a film of your life?
Tilda Swinton. I’m a man, but she’s an astonishing actress and incredibly handsome. It probably wouldn’t be a very interesting movie though: Mata worked really hard, people liked his things, he kept on working hard, and has lived happily ever after so far.
For more information and to bo0k tickets for Mata’s events art Wordfest hit the link: http://wordfestcrawley.org