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!

Understaning China Through Wei Qi

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.

Of Death

As promised, another short piece by David regarding Thatcher and Banks. Thanks to him, as ever.



Of Death

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

How Not To Write

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.

Tsai Chien!

David Wingrove         Friday 22nd March 2013

Halfway Done

Another short piece from David. No breaking news here, but definitely worth the read. I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few relevant links. Thanks, as always, to David for sharing.


Halfway done

I’m sitting here, just across from Sue, listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash (Suite Judy Blue Eyes) on the headphones and feeling in a damn sight better mood than I’ve been in for several weeks. I guess partly that’s to do with the fact that our builders are halfway through their schedule of works and we’re on the downhill slope. And so, as ever when I’m in a good mood, I dig out my i-pod and just indulge.

Another reason for celebrating is that all the contractual stuff should be sorted by tomorrow and I can get working again – by which I mean writing. Today I was working – breaking up the ‘island’ surface from the old kitchen, which was made up of £500 worth of oak blocks glued together. I’ve bagged them up, and got rid of the rest of it. It took me three hours – a lot less than I thought it would. Counter-entropic, I always think of it as. Striking back against the universe in the name of Order.

As “Wooden Ships” (the Woodstock version) plays in my head, let me tell you about an encounter I had – with two guys who work with my brother Ian, before the recent Kraftwerk concerts in London – at the Tate Modern.  Now, I’m fifty eight, and my brother’s seven years younger, so our music comes from a very different era. How different we discovered while having a beer or two with these guys, who were in their twenties. Both were interested in experimental music. One of them sung in a medieval music choir that was practising Thomas Tallis’s Spem In Alium, perhaps the most complex choral piece there is, but when Ian and I started talking about the music of our time, there was a complete blank, almost as if – in true CHUNG KUO fashion – it had all been erased from history. We name-checked a dozen, two dozen bands and musicians, and… nothing. Like it had never existed. Van Der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant, Egg, Amon Duul II, Magma… all of it gone without trace. That whole realm we call Progressive rock. Forgotten. Unplayed and therefore non-existent. And why? Because it’s hard to keep a handle over such creative stuff.  Much easier, then, to create a Justin Beiber (is that how you spell the little toe-rag’s name?) or a boy band or… any old shit that sells a million or more copies to the kindles consumers out there.

But… what it gave me was an idea, for a new and very different kind of novel, that uses some of the strengths of our time and its new technologies. A book that referred the reader, at every chapter break, to the piece of music they ought – at this stage in the tale – to be listening to. Mood music. Weird esoteric shit that opens minds and sends shivers up your spine. Like the piece I’m playing now – Amon Duul’s long  {30 minute)improvisation “Yeti” from 1969. All pounding drums and organ chords and fuzzed electric guitars and choir voices and… well, why don’t you go away and look it up on YouTube. I’ve just checked. It’s there.

Yes, and what was also mind-blowing during this encounter, was sitting there, overlooking the Thames and St Paul’s on the far side of the river, and watching my Brother, who is far more technologically with-it than me, call up item after item on his i-phone and tinnily playing them to his bemused friends. Sounds from an era so totally different from this we now inhabit that it’s hard to think how we got from there to here.

My theory is that we’ve been thoroughly manipulated by the big multi-nationals. That we’ve surrendered our creative souls to them, sold off our culture and let them give us back a worthless substitute – a placebo culture… a world of chalk tablets and drugs that numb us to the point where we actually believe that most of the shit they’re feeding us is truly inspired. Okay. At which point in our new novel form we play “Coma White” by Marilyn Manson

“A pill to make you numb, a pill to make you dumb, a pill to
make you anybody else, but all the drugs in this world won’t
save her from herself.”

Go play it now. Then play Nine Inch Nails “Fragile”

“She shines in a world of ugliness,
She matters when everything was meaningless.
Fragile, she doesn’t see her beauty…”

then go play “Aenema” by Tool

“Some say the end is near,
some say we’ll see Armageddon soon,
Certainly hope we will.
Sure could use a vacation from this
Bullshit, free range circus sideshow
… What creature in this hopeless fucking hole we call LA,
The only way to visit is to flush it all away.
Any fucking time, any fucking day,
Learn to swim, see you’ve done it, Arizona Bay.”

Okay. It kind of argues against my thesis. There is good shit about. Brilliant shit, if the truth be told. Written by genuinely creative people. BUT… we’re still being manipulated. Any fucking time. Any fucking day. Learn to swim…
So. Halfway done. And listening to the glorious Maynard James Keenan. And contemplating another evening on an uncomfortable sofa, which has been my ‘home’ these past few weeks.  Knowing that the way forward always involves two steps backward. That progress – in all things – is never smooth.

But more tomorrow. For now, goodnight.

David Wingrove     21.07 on this Sixth day of March 2013.

In Stasis

David’s kindly sent along an update with some important news, including a clarification of the upcoming publishing schedule and some info about an upcoming announcement about a new publisher for a new project – a “trilogy.” No titles here, but if you’re familiar with some of his older blog posts, you might make some assumptions like I have.

Thanks to David, as always!


In Stasis – a blog

It’s half ten in the morning and Sue’s up in Manchester, at the regular three-weekly conference for the soap she writes for, Coronation Street; Francesca – my youngest, is in Paris with her boyfriend, Remus;  Georgia, daughter number three, is in Los Angeles with her girlfriend, Georgiette, and Jess and Amy are at work here in London. Leaving me here, in the midst of chaos, awaiting delivery of a new mobile phone (for Amy).

Chaos? Yes, absolute chaos. We’ve planned for a long while to get the builders in to strip out the kitchen and make major changes in the basement, and on Monday last (the 18th) they arrived, to help us in the final stages of moving all of our stuff out of the front half of our basement, into storage, the garden office and… the other half of the basement, wherein I now sit, laptop on my knees, surrounded by piles of “stuff”.

And whilst the builders are pushing ahead with real energy, this is just a bit like suffering advanced Alzheimers (believe me, I’ve seen it up close with my dad) with nothing in its remembered place, and every little search – for a spoon, for certain papers, for… well, ANYTHING – requiring half an hour of frustrating exploration.

It’ll all come good, I know that. Our Polish builders are great and already we can glimpse how it’s going to look (and they’ve been working on the project only two and a bit days) but the three-to-five weeks they’ve estimated for the job does feel like a bit of a prison sentence. Until it’s finished and all the stuff is back in its correct places, my life will be in a kind of stasis.

It’s three to five weeks of sleeping on sofas, of misplacing things, of putting things on hold because attempting to write anything really would result in something unpublishable. That said, the timing is good, because another project of mine, which I’ve been waiting on a publisher about, has now had an official offer, and sometime in the next week or two we’ll be making a big announcement. So it’s best if we get all of this building work out of the way now rather than have it interrupt the writing later on. Because once I get back into this, I’ll be doing nothing else (except, of course, the odd blog) for the rest of this year. By the 31st December, I aim to have this project done and dusted, the trilogy completed, all loose ends tied up neatly, ready for me to start the final four volumes of CHUNG KUO in the New Year of 2014. And boy have I some great ideas for that!!

So here I sit, listening to the builder guys hammer and saw and drill, making their own kind of chaos – the kind that, by the end of the process results in us having a wonderful living area and a great new kitchen (I’ll provide you all with photos when it’s done).

Oh, and just to say… Book Five, THE ART OF WAR, was officially put back a month, so the new publication date is the 1st of March. Apologies to those whose hopes were raised and dashed, but it will be with you soon. Book Six, AN INCH OF ASHES will follow in August, with one more volume, THE BROKEN WHEEL, Book Seven, before Christmas.

More in a few days. But for now, Tsai Chien!

David Wingrove  Wednesday 20th February 2013

Meanwhile In Some Parallel Universe…

I know I’ve been out of the loop for a while, but I also know you all don’t mind since you’re all certainly busy reading Ice and Fire, which has been out for the better part of the month.  Anyhow, David has sent along a short but timely and poignant piece which is worth pausing your current novel for. There are sure to be some interesting opinions and reactions to this one, so make your voice heard in the comments.

Full text after the break.


Meanwhile In Some Parallel Universe…


Imagine this. On the same day – Friday 14th December 2012 – two deeply sick young men, one armed with an assault rifle, the other with a kitchen knife, each launch a homicidal attack on a group of frightened and unprotected children, most of them aged six or seven, the two attacks happening on either side of the globe, the two attacks being on an unprecedented scale, with their victims being numbered in the twenties. Continue reading Meanwhile In Some Parallel Universe…

The Final Two (from Seven)

David’s rundown of the last two members of China’s real-life version of the Seven.

This is Part 4 of a series. If you missed them, go back and read Part 1, Part 2, or Part 3.

Full text after the break.



The Final Two (from Seven)


According to the BBC’s sources there are two more candidates for the Standing Committee of the Politburo who are, as like as not, going to form the Seven who’ll be ruling China in the decade to come. One of these – and reported to be about to become Vice Premier – is Liu Yunshan. Only let’s leave him until last. Just why I’ll come to. Continue reading The Final Two (from Seven)

Another Two Towards Seven

Full text after the break.



Another Two Towards Seven


Next on my list is Wang Qishan, born in Qingdao, in Shandong province, up in the north east of China, facing Korea across the Yellow Sea, though, like Xi Jinping, his family hail from Shanxi. A historian by training, he was Governor of the China Construction Bank from 1994 to 1997, but is best known for being the Mayor of Beijing from 2004 onward. Now, as far as the USA is concerned, Wang Qishan is one of the most important of the Seven, because its Wang Qishan who was appointed as special representative to chair the Economic Track of the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue – from the Chinese side, of course. Continue reading Another Two Towards Seven