Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s the UK science-fiction scene was reinvigorated by an influx of young writers whose short fiction started appearing in Interzone magazine, and in anthology series like Other Edens, Zenith and, then going through one of its occasional revivals, New Worlds. These writers included the likes of Eric Brown, Nicola Griffith, Stephen Baxter, Charles Stross and one Simon Ings, an author who, apparently effortlessly, managed to combine striking innovation with the slickest literary style (it’s no surprise that Ings has collaborated with one of British SF’s most stylish authors, M John Harrison). Ings went on to write novels ranging from smart post-cyberpunk thriller Headlong to the quirkily different fantasy City of the Iron Fish. This year UK publishers Gollancz are re-launching Ings’ backlist in what they describe as ‘a collectable set of paperbacks designed by award-winning illustrator, Jeff Alan Love’ – the same artist responsible for the striking cover to Ings’ new novel Wolves (Gollancz, January 2014).
KEITH BROOKE: Your novels show a clear career path over the course of fifteen years or so, moving from genre heartland (be it SF or fantasy) to psychological, literary thrillers. With Wolves you’re back in SF with a novel that leads us into a near future on the brink of collapse, with reality increasingly overlaid with augmented reality veneers. Is that a fair overview? Is this return to SF a deliberate move, or merely the sign of a writer following the muse?
SIMON INGS: Well, much as I would have liked to have followed a grand plan, I’ve pretty much spent my life scrabbling around looking for venues that won’t completely misrepresent me to an audience. I’m not slagging off publishers here – I do think I’m a genuinely hard sell. I tend to write difficult, read-em-twice books – and then stick guns in them. With readers gobsmacked and driven up the walls in roughly equal measure, necessity has meant that I have pretty much hurled myself down whatever rabbit-hole has presented itself to me at the time. And because I find writing hard, I counter that by trying not to repeat myself. It completely foxed me that some people thought my last novel, Dead Water, was a work of science fiction. I didn’t mind – I was just disconcerted, as though I’d spent a day walking up a hill only to find myself within earshot of that morning’s campsite.