I came across some information about a new sci-fi novel via a post on Facebook by Naimei Iemian who created the cover art for the book. I was intrigued by the the synopsis of this novel set in a futuristic mega-city called Ntshona. Curious to find out more I got in touch with the author Matthew Robinson and asked him a few questions.
Matthew first came to Taiwan in 2011 planning a three month stopover on the way to Japan. “Soon after arriving, I realised Taiwan was more than I had imagined, so I extended my stay to six months, then went to Japan for three, then returned to Taiwan for another three,” Matthew said. He returned to England for a while before coming back to Taiwan a few months ago.
Matthew said he had not followed a conventional path to becoming a writer. “As a kid, most of my family watched programmes like Star Trek and Star Gate, we enjoyed films like Star Wars… pretty much anything with the word ‘star’ in the title,” Matthew said. He also cited video games and Japanese anime as influences. “My dad was big on education, and would watch documentaries every night, usually about something scientific or history related. It all clearly had an impact on the types of things I enjoy as an adult, and people usually write what they enjoy.”
Matthew’s novel is set in the futuristic city of Ntshona which is described as “the troubled capital of an economically powerful, yet highly introvert state, where disparity, avarice, lies, and political oppression poison social values.” This bears some similarities to Taiwan so I asked Matthew how the time he has spent in Taiwan influenced his writing.
“I used to live in South Africa, a country which has a turbulent and bloody history, in many ways similar to that of Taiwan, especially when you think of Dutch colonisation. During my time in South Africa I found it impossible not to be swept up by politics, something which affects the way in which I think and live my life now, especially in Taiwan, a country that has so many issues with identity,” Matthew explained.
Although Ntshona draws on Matthew’s experience in modern South Africa the novel still contains some elements related to Taiwan. “There is still prominent evidence of my connection to Taiwan within the story, the most apparent being that Eve, one of the lead characters, is from a Taiwanese family. There’s even a dispute in the novel between her and a self-professed Chinese character over the identity of Taiwanese people,” Matthew said. Matthew also pointed out that he used rapidly developing cities like Taipei and Taichung as a basis for how a metropolis might look two hundred or so years from now.