DeepMind 5, Humanity 0

Hello all! Fear not: despite some extended breaks, I’m still in the game of reporting anything I hear regarding Chung Kuo, Roads to Moscow, or anything else from the pen of Mr. David Wingrove. A couple of days ago, when I saw in the news that a computer had finally beaten a human champion at Go (otherwise known to us Chung Kuo fans as wei chi), I made a mental note to post about here. And then, out of nowhere, a post appears from David in my inbox.

Without any further ado, here are some reflections from Mr. Wingrove about the significance of the event and its repercussions on AI in general. Full text after the break. And hopefully more news soon!



Anyone who has read CHUNG KUO over the years will understand the significance within the work of the Chinese game of Wei Chi (known in Japan and more commonly in the West as Go), the most ancient and probably the world’s most complex and difficult game.

As Major DeVore says in Chapter Twenty Eight of The Middle Kingdom, “A Game Of Static Patterns”

“He glanced at the machine again. It was a complex game, and he prided himself on a certain mastery of it. Strange, though, how much it spoke of the difference between East and West. At least, of the old West, hidden beneath the levels of the Han city, the layers of Han culture and Han history. The games of the West had been played on similar boards to those of the East, only the West played between the lines, not on the intersecting points. And the games of the West had been flexible, each individual piece given breath, allowed to move, as though each had an independent life.  That was not so in Wei Chi. In Wei Chi once a piece was placed it remained, unless it was surrounded and its ‘breath’ taken from it. It was a game of static patterns; patterns built patiently over hours or days – sometimes even months. A game where the point was not to eliminate but to enclose.

East and West – they were the inverse of each other. Forever alien.”

The quality – or suzhi – of certain characters in the books is often measured by their mastery of (or failure to master) the 19 by 19-space Wei Chi board. And for good reason. Since we have entered the age of computers – that is, effectively since the 1950s onward – no one had managed to come up with a programme which came even close to defeating the greatest Masters of the game. Indeed, it was believed that it would be a long time yet – estimates were given of ten to thirty years – before we finally broke through that barrier.

Only… yesterday, Nature magazine published an article called “Mastering the game of Go with deep neural networks and tree search”, claiming to have done just that. Just as Gary Kasparov lost to DeepBlue in 1997, so, it seems, Fan Hui – European Wei Chi Master – was beaten in five straight games by the latest challenger to the ‘Go’ crown, DeepMind, using a new software called AlphaGo. Continue reading DeepMind 5, Humanity 0

Crash Landing in China

New blog entry from David about the recent turbulence in the Chinese stock market. Full text after the break.


Crash Landing in China

Or, China, Burning.

For a long time now there’s been concern over whether China’s long-sustained economic growth could continue, and many China experts have been asking openly whether, if things did go wrong, it would be a soft landing or a crash landing, and, if the latter, then how it would affect the rest of the global economy.

Well, now we –partially – know. China’s growth can’t be sustained, and we don’t need China experts to tell us that. It’s finally happened, in Hong Kong’s Hang Seng, as well as in other stock markets throughout the world. Continue reading Crash Landing in China


Mr. Wingrove checks in. And yes, a plan is in the works to roll out something exciting. More to come.

Full text after the break.



Sue’s up in Manchester, at a short term conference for Coronation Street, leaving me down here in London, furiously self-motivating myself to get Book Three of the time travel trilogy – THE MASTER OF TIME – written. And?

Well, it isn’t easy. I think I have the rough shape of the ending, but I have a problem. ROADS TO MOSCOW isn’t an easy book to end. Continue reading Backwards

News bits and a happy birthday to David!

David’s sent along some updates, including some upcoming projects. Wishing him a happy birthday! Full text after the break.


It’s been busy here in North London these past few days, but nothing to do with writing. Monday last was my sixtieth birthday – and yes, I was surprised, too! – and we all enjoyed celebrating it. I saw a lot of old friends and was given some wonderful presents – including (from, my darling Susan) a one week holiday on my favourite Greek island, Poros, which we’re off on in a week or so’s time. Continue reading News bits and a happy birthday to David!

Gaza response

…and a quick response from David to all the Gaza talk going on in the comments from Blood On The Rooftops.


Gabe, I’m sorry. It was totally remiss of me not to comment on Hamas, and to assume that you (out there on the web) should know what I think of terrorism. Living in London in the seventies and eighties, I grew up in a society that feared going out socially – visiting city centre pubs, for instance – because we were likely to be blown to bits by IRA bombs.  All we learned from that was that terrorism achieves nothing.

Put simply, I have no time for Hamas. However, what I think or feel about Hamas does not stop young Arab men from joining the ‘cause’.  Quite the opposite, in fact. What Israel are doing in Gaza is making it easier for Hamas to recruit more and yet willing young men. Martyrs to the cause. Just as the IRA did during the Troubles.

A hard line is not what is called for here. Like Kaneda, I really do think that a policy of restraint would achieve far more for Israel. It would get the western world on its side, for a start. But things will never change if current policies are maintained. They will just escalate, year by year. Added to which, the provocative measure of taking over Palestinian land and building new settlements really, really does not help.

Reading through Kaneda’s comments, I cannot but agree with him. I’m sorry, Gabe, but I think Netanyahu’s got it wrong. That said, it’s no excuse for some of the anti-semitic behaviour that has broken out. A bit of reasoned thought is what we need, and a lot more understanding… of both sides of this argument.

That’s it for now.

David  22 August 2014

Of Worldcons And Other Matters

As promised, David’s sent along an update from Worldcon. Sounds like a blast — wish I could’ve been there. Full text after the break.



Of Worldcons And Other Matters

Okay, I did promise to blog during the World Science Fiction Convention, but sheer exhaustion kept me from the task. Travelling across London in packed trains – Highbury to Stratford (with a ten minute wait), to Canning Town, to Prince Regent and back – ain’t no fun, and after a day spent wandering about the gigantic aircraft hangar that’s the ExCel centre, I had little energy for anything when I got back here. Mike (Cobley) was staying with us for the duration, and he can vouch for how tiring it all was. Oh, and if you haven’t read Mike’s books then do. It’s big screen space opera of an intelligent and humane kind. The Humanity’s Fire trilogy.

So. What can I say? I both enjoyed and didn’t enjoy it – it all depended on what time of day it was, what was happening about me, and lots of other factors. I didn’t watch as many panels as I planned, but I did meet a lot of old writer friends, and even got to shake hands with George R R Martin. Of which more later. Continue reading Of Worldcons And Other Matters

Blood On The Rooftops

It’s been a little while since we’ve heard from David, but he’s just checked in with this piece about the situation in Gaza, plus some news about appearances and the next book in the Roads to Moscow series. Thanks to David for sending this along; full text appears after the break.


Blood On The Rooftops

It’s a rainy Sunday morning in North London, and on TV they’re discussing the Gaza situation in the usual kind of ‘tolerant’ fashion we have in this country, with both sides trying desperately hard to see and acknowledge the other’s point of view. Only on topics like Gaza it’s pretty hard to keep a dispassionate, tolerant opinion. Right now, Gaza itself seems like some absurd and horrible (and inhumane) mix of concentration camp and shooting gallery. I can’t remember where it appeared, but one woman wrote in to one of the major papers to argue that if we (us Brits) had reacted in the same way that Israel has, during our “Troubles” (back in the seventies), then we’d have been bombing council estates in Belfast and having our snipers pick off anyone they fancied, man, woman or child, on the pretext that they’d been acting as human shields for the IRA. Continue reading Blood On The Rooftops

Barcelona and Back

Thanks to David for sending along this tidbit! Full text after the break.


Blog – Barcelona and Back


Okay, so the World Cup is finally here, and, after last night’s 5-1 thrashing of Spain by Holland, I’m well and truly hooked. I’m not really an Eng-er-land fan, and you won’t catch me in an England shirt (though you will, regularly, find me in an Arsenal strip). No. What gets me is the sheer range of talent on display, and I do tend to support those teams (like Germany) who have several Arsenal players in their line ups. I’m hoping that over the next four weeks there’ll be more games like last night’s spectacular… the world champions being beaten 5-1! Astonishing. Continue reading Barcelona and Back

A Quiet Week

David’s sent a long a brief update piece. Full text after the break. Enjoy!


A Quiet Week

The chaos that is Easter is fast receding, the relatives have gone home, and Sue and I are back to work – she on her Corrie scripts (which have a lot of rewriting to do), me on completing the first draft of ROADS TO MOSCOW, Book Three.

Before the shut-down happened, I was struggling with the final section – 3 scenes – of Part Thirteen, “Pretzel Logic”. And by struggling, I really mean struggling. What was emerging onto the page was certainly not up to my usual standard, nor was it properly focused in terms of story.

In fact, I might as well have hired a chimpanzee for a week. Continue reading A Quiet Week

Past, Present And Future

David sent this over the American Thanksgiving holiday, when I was holed up visiting relatives with no internet or computer, so my apologies for the last post. Full text after the break.


“Past, Present And Future”

A blog in three parts

By David Wingrove – Saturday 30th November 2013


One – And The Evening Sings In A Voice Of Amber…

I was just nineteen years and one month old when Al Stewart, the English singer-songwriter, put out his classic album, Past, Present and Future. I was captivated, at first, by the long, (nine minutes fifty seconds) track, “Nostradamus”, which ends the album. But as the years passed, there was one single track that I kept returning to time and again, “Roads To Moscow”, itself a lengthy song, at eight minutes, its subject matter ‘Operation Barbarossa’, Hitler’s invasion of Russia in June 1941. It’s a great song, wonderfully lyrical, a poem set to music. And some while later, while listening to the song, I launched out on a lengthy short story, called “When The Snows Come”, about Hitler and the campaign, and a time traveller who tries to change things and help the Nazis win the war.

We’re talking about the early eighties here. I was sharing a flat with my darling Susan in Islington, and though I was perceived by most people to be only a critic/editor/reviewer of the genre, I had been writing science fiction – SF stories, that is – for the best part of eleven years. As an unpublished writer, I was very much one of the lesser members of our writing group, which we called WRITER’S BLOC. The other writers were all published, and one – Rob Holdstock, had even won the World Fantasy award for his novel, Mythago Wood. The others? Garry Kilworth, Lisa Tuttle, Chris Evans, Simon Ings, Bobby Lamming, Dave Garnett and Geoff Ryman. It was Geoff who, when I presented my far from short 65-pager to the group, suggested that I develop a larger framework to my story and turn it into a novel.

It was a good idea, only I was working on this wee little Chinese-oriented project, and so I left it as it was, a big, sprawling second draft which, in a much rewritten form, now forms Part 2 of the first volume of the trilogy, “In The Footsteps Of Napoleon”. Continue reading Past, Present And Future