enLIGHTened with… Ken MacLeod

We snatched 10 minutes to get to know Ken MacLeod a little better. His piece, ‘Maxwell’s Platter’, responds to the words of Adam Smith, being projected onto the Royal Society building on George Street.

If you could project any words on any building in the world, which words would you choose, and which building?

‘tantum religio potuit suadere malorum’ on the Vatican. They speak Latin there, they’ll figure it out. It’s from Lucretius.

Has enLIGHTen changed your perception of the Enlightenment?

Just reading the list of the fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh was an eye-opener as to how organised and how various it was – you get the sense of advances on all fronts.

How did you tackle your particular commission? What was your starting point?

I guessed I was expected to write something science-fictional, and a bit of science-fictional speculation seemed like a good way of placing Adam Smith in a situation where even he might be susceptible to superstition, or even enthusiasm. I looked at the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s website, scrolled down the list of founding members, then saw a picture of the familiar statue of James Clark Maxwell near the RSE building, and it all came together.

Which Enlightenment figure(s) would you invite to dinner? What would you eat?

David Hume, Baron d’Holbach, and Madame de Pompadour. We’d eat whatever Hume wanted to cook, because he was rather good at it.

What’s next for you and your writing?

Like my latest book, Intrusion, my next is intended to be a near-future story of ordinary people dealing with some really big problem. It’s still very much in the process of formation, though.

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