David’s sent along another update. Big thanks to him as always!
The last few days have seen some purposeful activity going on in this household. This has mainly involved a lot of physical clearing up and reorganising. The place was getting cluttered, to that stage where it was getting hard, once more, to find things. Now that’s been sorted, and both Sue and I can get on with what we’re best at… writing.
Sue’s been working on the usual stuff she does – which mainly involves writing and rewriting whatever TV scripts she’s been assigned to. She’s extraordinarily good at it, especially when it comes to capturing the voices of the various characters, and I have to say that one of her most recent episodes – screened Last Friday, the 17th – was the best she’s done yet. I’ve seen it a few times now – Coronation Street send out early copies on DVD for their writers to see – and I’d not change a word. It really flows, it’s extremely thoughtful and it’s moving, and you’d think you were watching some high class drama and not a soap.
She’s also been working on a few of her own projects – in what little time Corrie leaves her – and they too have something of her distinct style about them, being both funny and poignant at the same time. As you might guess, I’m a real fan of hers.
And me? Well, I’ve some material to add to Chung Kuo, Book Sixteen (DAYS OF BITTER STRENGTH). Two new plot lines that need to be introduced and worked through. I’d estimate another 40,000 words to be added, which will develop aspects of the story that need to be ‘seeded’ in that book so that I can use them in the finale – which encompasses the whole of the last four novels in the sequence. I’m not going to say what they are, because that’d spoil it for you, only that they’re there to broaden the story and to help create a much stronger ending. What I’m aiming for, I guess, is something that’ll not only involve the reader emotionally, but make them finish each volume of those last four on the edge of their seat and wondering what in God’s name is going to happen next.
And I’ll be doing something that I haven’t done since the mid-1990s, when I was working on MYST as well as CHUNG KUO, and that’s working on two very different projects at the same time, as I’m intending to get Book Three of ROADS TO MOSCOW tied up and ready for editing by the end of 2014. Which is no easy task, because each of those ROADS volumes is about 170,000 words… let’s say 450 pages when finally printed up.
I’ve also been reading stuff for the creative writing course I do, on science fiction, and am seriously considering writing a book on the topic. But as that’ll involve adding a lot more material (at least another 50 or 60,000 words) that won’t be a high priority. But I’d really love to do that, a year or so from now, and I know from experience that you need to put in the effort up front (especially the sheer volume of reading involved) before even attempting to write such a work. Especially because I want the book to be the best I could possibly produce on the subject – one that will be a life-changer for those who read it. Ambitious, huh? Maybe… but deeply satisfying, too. I love sharing my enthusiasm about the SF field, and am proud of being part of the great science fiction community, so this – like TRILLION YEAR SPREE – will hopefully be something I can equally be proud of.
Today is also the last day of the football season, and my local team (whom we support), Arsenal, are playing for a place in next year’s Champions League, and the game is on live, so we’ll be watching that as a family this afternoon. It’s one of those things that, unless you’re hooked on it, you can’t imagine how important it is. Life or death stuff. It certainly feels like it.
Oh, and I’ve also started re-reading Patrick O’Brian’s MASTER AND COMMANDER series… all nineteen volumes of it. I’m currently two-thirds of the way through Book Two, POST CAPTAIN, which is exceptionally good. As good, I’d say (and I know my stuff) as some of the real classics of literary fiction. I have to ration myself to two chapters a night, before I go to sleep, but I have to say it reads better second time round. Even more wonderful. It’s a real shame they only made one movie of it. Russell Crowe was brilliant as Jack Aubrey.
Okay. I might add to this later, after the game. But for now, Tsai Chien!
I’m pleased to present the second exclusive Chung Kuo short story sent by David Wingrove: Black Stone, White. The special page will stay up for a week, but will always be accessible via the Pages side menu, like Paperhouse.
Thanks very much to David for sending. I get the sense that he’s eager to get this story out and to give fans this treat between books.
David’s sent along a brief piece, but there are some big updates here – all good news. Big thanks to him, as always, for keeping the fans in the loop. And watch this space for his promised short story!
THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM?
The weather here has been strange. A day’s bright summer , the air filled with birdsong, is followed immediately by a cold, windy day, the hours punctuated by spells of rain. Schizophrenic weather that makes no sense. In the midst of which I’ve been working, copy-editing Book Eight THE WHITE MOUNTAIN for publication later in the year, and putting a trimmed and edited version of Book Sixteen, DAYS OF BITTER STRENGTH onto computer, having lost the original electronic version. Add to that the fact that I’m just about to start the editing process on ROADS TO MOSCOW (mid June sometime) and you might imagine that I’m feeling somewhat harassed. But it ain’t so. I love writing. Love the physical work involved. I’m never happier (nor more distracted).
Sue and I went out last night, to a school ‘do’ over North London, with some old friends, one of whom used to be an international superstar… Paul Young. These days Paul has a country and western band, and to warm everyone up for that, they had… line-dancing. Now dancing of any kind is alien to my geeky nature, so line-dancing… well, it’s out on the edge of things as far as I’m concerned. That said, watching the hundred or so people out on that dance floor, my mind did its usual science fictional trick and did some imagining. I’ve got this whole storyline to write (for Book 18) about the war between the Chinese and the Americans . Well, sat there watching the dance, I imagined the evening before the great battle, the American forces massed, ready for a big push against the invaders. And, dressed up in their heavy armour, what do they do? Like the Midwest boys they are at heart… they line-dance. Imagine it. The way the ground would shudder beneath their weight. And yes, I’m gonna write that scene. And you heard it here first.
Lots of things are happening right now. French editions of Books 1 and 2 are out already, and L’Atalante, my French publishers, are aiming to get three more books – 3-5 – out by the year’s end. At the same time we’re trying to get a German edition, and… wait for it… we have four different LA-based film companies interested in turning CHUNG KUO into quality TV. Six weeks ago there were none, so I’d guess there’s a reason for the sudden interest, and one of these days I’ll find out… right now it’s just great to know they’re looking to do this.
Okay. There’s a lot of Chinese money about, despite their mini-downturn, and now that Game of Thrones has proved itself, the TV guys are looking for something as dark… but in the science fiction vein this time round. Put those three elements together and CHUNG KUO seems ideal for their needs, don’t you think? Working through the copy edit of THE WHITE MOUNTAIN last week, I think that particular chunk of the work got my undivided attention when I wrote it. It flows. And there’s lots to keep the reader (not to say the writer) happy. It’d make great TV.
Oh, and a date for your diary. June 2014. That’s the present publication date for Book One of ROADS TO MOSCOW, which will now be called THE TREE OF WORLDS. Over the next few weeks we’ll be discussing covers, and hopefully announcing a few foreign sales. Fingers crossed. Meantime, even as Barnes & Noble stock copies of CHUNG KUO, we’ll be renewing our attempts to find an American home for the sequence. I plan to fly out to New York in a month or two to meet a few people and pitch the thing. So wish me luck. Oh and one last thing before I settle down to watch the FA Cup Final on TV. I may have said that I’ve written about a dozen Chung Kuo related stories. Well, I’ll be polishing one up this week and getting it to Matt to post on the fan site. Just to keep things ticking along.
All the best, guys!
David Wingrove Saturday 11th May 2013
For those of you who are interested in maintaining a collection of the Special Edition hardcovers, reader Antonio has sent along a handy list of direct links:
The Special Editions can be ordered direct from Corvus here:
Son of Heaven: http://atlantic-books.co.uk/content/chung-kuo-special-edition-prequel
Daylight on Iron Mountain: http://atlantic-books.co.uk/content/chung-kuo-special-edition-daylight-iron-mountain
Middle Kingdom: http://atlantic-books.co.uk/content/chung-kuo-special-edition-middle-kingdom
Ice & Fire: http://atlantic-books.co.uk/content/chung-kuo-special-edition-ice-and-fire
Art of War: http://atlantic-books.co.uk/content/chung-kuo-special-edition-art-war
As more are released you will find them on the Corvus Atlantic Chung Kuo page: http://atlantic-books.co.uk/content/welcome-world-chung-kuo
As you probably know the Special Edition hardcovers are printed in extremely limited quantities and are signed and numbered by David Wingrove. They come in a black slipcase with an embossed Chung Kuo logo.
Breaking news! Several of you have asked about the Chung Kuo-inspired album by UK electronic outfit Tranceport, of which most traces had descended into the bowels of the internet, seemingly never to be heard from again.
Well, original Tranceport band member Peri Urban has recently uploaded all of the tracks to a Bandcamp site. All of the tunes are available to listen for free, or you can purchase a download of the album for a reasonably low price.
David has sent along a link to an article at the Wall Street Journal about how the ancient game of wei chi (wei qi in pinyin) is reflective of the geopolitical strategy of China.
A 2,000-year-old board game holds the key to understanding how the Chinese really think—and U.S. officials had better learn to play if they want to win the real competition.
[...] Learning the ancient board game of wei qi, known in the U.S. as Go, can teach non-Chinese how to see the geostrategic “board” the same way that Chinese leaders do [...]
Very interesting, especially when keeping in mind how the game was used in Chung Kuo. Read the full article at the WSJ here.
As promised, another short piece by David regarding Thatcher and Banks. Thanks to him, as ever.
The last few days have been strange. First came the (for me) shock of hearing of Iain Banks’ impending death from late-stage gall bladder cancer, then, two days ago, the news of Maggie Thatcher’s death.
Let’s talk of the last first. I’ve always claimed – much to my daughters’ horror – that I would throw a street party the day Thatcher died. I didn’t like the woman or her views and feel that she was the most divisive and nasty politician we had in this small country of ours in the whole of the 20th century. Don’t speak ill of the dead, they say, but where do you draw the discriminating line? Do we not speak ill of Hitler, or Stalin or Pol Pot? Okay. You’re going to tell me that she’s not evil in the way those men were evil, and maybe that’s so, only the woman was heartless, and what she did was to bring this tolerant lovely country of ours close to being a police state. In fact, I’d say she used the police force as her private army back in the eighties. Class War was what she waged.
If you weren’t in England (and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) in the eighties, then you won’t quite understand the sheer hatred of so many people for Thatcher. To us she was a lying, two-faced bitch, who served the rich and destroyed the communities of the poor. The sheer weight of suffering she caused is indescribable. Let’s not pussy-foot about. She was a brutal tyrant, in the service of greed. Throughout her ‘reign’ as prime minister we had endless riots, endless angry protests. And the reason for this? Her lack of compassion. She claimed to be a unifier. That was a total lie. She almost brought this country close to civil war at times. To the point where, after the Brighton bombing, huge numbers of us felt not outrage at what the IRA had done, but disappointment that a certain woman had survived the blast.
It had to be done, some claim. To free us from the grip of the trade unions and allow us – as an economy – to grow and compete properly in the world. I don’t think so. I think the same goals could have been achieved through more peaceful, less violent means. Oh, and don’t forget the stock market crashes that happened while she was in power, nor the massive numbers of unemployed (remember cardboard city?). A lot of people are talking about her ‘legacy’. Well there’s a certain truth in that. She did leave a legacy – in those communities she destroyed, where still, thirty years on, they are suffering unemployment and severe poverty. Second and third generation poverty.
So no. I’ll shed no tears for Thatcher. Unlike for my dear fellow writer, Iain Banks, who was never anything but kind and generous to me, and whose company, on those too few occasions I shared it, was much treasured. I’ll grieve deeply on the day Iain finally dies – and I hope it’s not too soon or that he suffers too much. His ‘Culture’ novels are superb, incidentally, and I’m a great fan. Iain is my generation – only a year older than me – and that too makes his fatal illness more poignant for me. There for the grace of god…
Well, that’s it for now. Or almost so. Here’s a prediction. That next Wednesday, when Thatcher’s buried in a state ceremony, there will be huge numbers of protestors out on the streets, and there will once again be riots. Because that cow of a woman was hated by not a few, but by millions. Oh, and you’ve got to be some piece of work to achieve that thirty-odd years after you’ve left power.
Unapologetically yours, David – Wednesday 10th April 2013
Here it is, folks: the cover art for Book 7: The Broken Wheel, featuring a young Li Yuan.
Click for full size.
Soon forthcoming will be another short piece by David, regarding sad news of fellow writer Iain Banks, and possibly something about the recently departed Iron
I also came across this curious item referencing something called Chung Kuo: The Epic Begins, and will see if I can drudge up some more information, since this is new to me.
David has sent over another brief but insightful piece. He discusses a few minor plot points from the later parts of the series, so if you haven’t read though the original sequence, you might want to avoid some spoilers and skip this one. Thanks to David for sending!
How Not To Write
Observations from the front
It’s Friday morning – the fifth Friday morning we’ve had since the builders “moved in” with us, to refurbish our basement and make our lives hell. Oh, and it’s not that they’re not nice people or that they don’t work very hard, with a good end result, but…
As anyone who’s lived through this knows, it’s hard to do anything while you’ve got builders in. And it’s not just the noise, the dust, the accumulation of stuff that you’ve had to move so they can get at things, it’s also a state of mind, a kind of “well, I’ll deal with that once the builders are finished” mentality that stops you functioning as a writer.
Now, knowing this from previous encounters, I’ve tried to keep ahead of things by dealing with all kind of outstanding matters – so that when everything’s finished and the builders have moved out, I can settle down to some quality writing time. After all, I’ve got five books that I’ve got to write (that is, that I have contracts for) in the next three years, so I’d best get on with them, no?
Well, yes, and the one thing that doesn’t stop while all of this chaotic activity is going on, is the functioning of my mind, more particularly of my imagination. Without being encouraged to, my imagination keeps busy, keeps plugging away when all the rest of my brain activity has ground to a halt. Right now it’s working on a female Chinese character – I haven’t a name for her yet – who is part of a small team who surround Kim Ward and follow him everywhere, and jot down all of his valuable little insights and follow up on them – because Kim’s constant musings, his theoretical cast-offs, are umpteen times more important than the most profound thought of any other man (or woman). And my Chinese girl? Well, as I see her so far, she’s a bit of a genius in her own right, with her own area of expertise and her own idiosyncratic way of looking at things. And I know that I want to give her a family, and show how she relates to the other members of this little team that surrounds Kim, and… well, I know that I can’t push things, that I have to let my imagination come to its own conclusions and insights about her. Because only by leaving alone and not pushing will she develop as something special.
On another tack, and completely separate, even if it shares skull-space with the above, is Eridani, and the very last book of the sequence, The Marriage Of The Living Dark. The life forms and eco-system of Eridani are far advanced now, imaginatively. There’s a process at work there – between the newcomers from Earth and the old flora and fauna from Eridani itself, that I can see very clearly. I even have a name for it,… incremental assimilation. Yeah, I made that up myself. But, like my Chinese girl, I’m leaving it alone. Not even making notes on it – which is what I’d usually do – because I want my back brain to come up with this without interference from my super-ego. Because what I did wrong first time out – and the reason why so many fans don’t like MARRIAGE in its original form – is that I tried to control it far too much and keep it neat, rather than allow it to follow its natural shape.
The last three nights, Sue, Georgia and I have started re-watching GAME OF THRONES, series one. It’s quite excellent, apart from one or two small added scene (which seem to be there only to provide mild sexual titillation) It’s such a bleak yet real vision, and just goes to show that ‘bleak’ has a large potential audience, and that the oft-received editorial comment that “it’s too bleak” is really a load of crap. But Martin’s work is truly magnificent , even if, structurally, he slightly lost his way in the last released book. I really care for his characters, and it’s very hard to think of any other major work (fantasy or otherwise) that has such a high standard when it comes to characterisation.
We’ll be starting the second series tonight, like a lot of fans of the show, I imagine, aiming to remind us of just how magnificent the whole thing is, before taking the further journey of series three. Oh, and this time round I appreciated the subtleties of the story far more. Martin really does the job of seeding future plotlines quite perfectly. There’s a lot of what I’d call foreshadowing, and, as a writer who likes the epic, I can tell you how difficult that is to get right.
Oh and next week I’ll be busy sanding. We have a parquet floor (look it up) which hasn’t been sanded and sealed for a good 16 years. Well, that’s what I’ll be doing almost all of next week, with a total floor space of 75 feet by 16 to do. It has to be sealed with a special sealant, then gently sanded, hoovered, sealed again, sanded again, hoovered, and then one last coat of sealant. Fun? Yeah, well it is, actually. I work with a notebook at my side, busily not writing so much as letting my mind go here there and everywhere. I’m good at sanding. Very good. I’ve been writing a Chung Kuo story about it, and, if all goes well, I’ll sit down and finish it the weekend after next… and maybe post it here.
Yes, and once that’s done, the house will be finished for the first time since we bought it. And maybe we can relax for a year or two. And get on with some real writing, and none of this not-writing business. Though, seriously, I like “not-writing”. Like the way the brain goes into free-fall when you let it.
So that’s it for today, apart to say that I’m hoping to see a contract for the time travel trilogy next week. We’ve now agreed on the fine detail so… I may even crack open a bottle of champagne when it comes through. Yes, and I’ll blog a page or two about it. Give you some background.
David Wingrove Friday 22nd March 2013