Simon Ings is a science fiction, cyberpunk and nonfiction writer, as well as arts editor of the magazine "New Scientist". Simon Ings has published several novels, writes short stories and screenplays as well as articles on factual matters and occasional reviews. His non-fiction books are "The Eye: A Natural History" (2007) and "Stalin and the Scientists" (2016) and his non-fiction work includes "Wolves" (2014), "The Smoke" (2018) and the forthcoming anthology "We, Robots" (2020), which compiles one hundred AI-focussed short stories from 1837 until today.
How many ideas for potential works do you have in your head?
There are usually about half a dozen areas of interest clouding the sky. An opera based on a Shostakovich fragment. An idiot's guide to fascism. A lot of these linger well past their sell-by date and it's an effort to drop them. There's a project file on my laptop labelled The Venetian Secret: if there ever was one, I've clean forgotten what it is.
When working on a new project, how do you sift through competing ideas in order to move forward?
Most ideas fall apart under the stress of a bit of work. They're unoriginal, or unfocused, or narrower than you hoped, or so ridiculously vast you can't do anything with them. The art, I'm beginning to realise, is in choosing what not to write. There's a twisted sort of satisfaction in that.
What writing habit do you have that you feel is impossible to shift? (That could be a particular snack, writing hours, location, caffeine consumption etc.)
For fiction, absolute silence, and darkness if that's available. For non-fiction, white noise, stray deadlines, pressure. Depending on the week, I'm swapping back and forth between two completely different working methods. There's nothing in common between fiction and non-fiction. Well, okay, there's the spelling ...
The international literature festival berlin (ilb) has become an essential part of the literary calendar of Berlin. What do you connect with the city?
I came late to Berlin, and I've only been here a couple of times, so my impressions are the inevitable combination of the obscure and the crass. Signs for an emergency exit in the Holocaust Museum. Black balloons and the spiders spinning webs in Tomas Saraceno's studio. I need to make one or two friends here before the place comes into focus for me. (If you're at the festival, say hello.)