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.

8 thoughts on “Halfway Done”

  1. Hello,I have all of the first series.What I would like to know is whether apart from the first two new books are the rest the same but just broken up into shorter volumes? i.e. do I have to buy the whole lot or just a few ( you can tell I am Scottish )Jim

    1. I’m going to copy and paste what another reader of this site, Goonda, has explained about this, because I think he says it best:
      “I don’t have my copy of the original to compare side by side, but from what I remember the majority of things are the same. The only thing I think that has changed is he has gone through and tweeked some of the wording here and there which makes it a slightly easier read than the original. Personally, I think it is worth it. Plus, we don’t know exactly when the real new content will start being added and where that point will match up with the original series. So, I think it is definitely worth picking up the new books so that the flow of the whole series doesn’t need to be interrupted by switching back and forth between the old and new editions.

      But all of that aside, the new editions are only about $10-15 per volume. That seems like a small price to pay to ensure that the sales are strong enough that the series doesn’t get canceled again. Fool me once, fool me twice.”

      1. Thanks Matt for your reply.Have just read Book 2 and discovered this website.i.e. I had no idea where my first comment had landed up. What is it? 19 books? That is a lot of money for this retired guy. I have all the original books so think I will wait now until near the new ending. So if anybody can comment further that would be great.Regards, Jim

        1. Hi Jim. We’re looking at 20 books in total, including the new prequel books. I certainly understand that a not insignificant amount of money to spend on books. When we get there in a couple years, I’ll try to report on when it looks like there are starting to be significant changes, especially as the series winds up. In the meantime, hopefully I’ll be able to provide some free short stories that David has provided in the Chung Kuo universe like Paperhouse, which he’s already sent and is worth a read if you haven’t yet.

    1. Good question. I haven’t heard anything. I would assume that there wasn’t enough demand for these versions and that it’s cheaper for them to print and distribute just the trade paperback. If I hear any updates, I’ll post them on the site.

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