Of Gifts and Stones: A Retrospective… and Moving Forward

I’ve been doing some soul searching lately. This site has been around since February 2011, when the re-release of Chung Kuo was announced. A lot has changed since then. The re-release has been cut off at the hip, but Roads to Moscow is now a thing (a thing you all should be reading if you’re not already). I originally created this site to archive of the old essays that were floating around the internet for a fear that those sites would disappear and we (the relatively small and disconnected Chung Kuo fanbase) would lose that content forever. It grew into something I never would have expected… a community. A small one, yes, but there are regular readers and commenters (that’s you!) who also care about these works and want to see them continue and grow and succeed. And on top of that, David Wingrove, himself, became an integral part of the site, regularly supplying the community with updates and special content. Hell, the man dedicated one of his novels to me. This site has been

I first read Chung Kuo as a freshman in high school. Here I am now, 30 years old, starting a doctoral program this year, and I can’t help but look back and reflect on the effect Chung Kuo has had on my life. Small influences, but influences nonetheless. I took Mandarin in college. I visited China. I feel like the lessons in Chung Kuo about hierarchy, control, culture, and diplomacy have enabled me to approach the real works with a more critical, nuanced eye.

Having reflected on these things recently, I’ve decided to dedicate more effort into this site and this community.

Starting with… Twitter. I’ll be semi-live-tweeting as I read from @giftsandstones, starting with The Ocean of Time, which I’ve just started now that I’ve finished a re-read of The Empire of Time. Expect the first of these tonight or soon. I’ll be including the chapter number in parenthesis and a hashtag for whichever book I’m on.

I have other goals in mind for the site – some big, some small. A redesign is in order, perhaps. For sure, I want to get off horrible GoDaddy and migrate to a better web host. That might include some downtime, but hopefully not much.

I’ll leave you with two questions. First, has Chung Kuo, Myst, Roads to Moscow, The Trillion Year Spree, or any other Wingrove work left an impression on you to the degree that it has me? Second, what would you like to see out of this site? Return of the forums? A Kickstarter to re-re-publish the books? Let me know, and we’ll make it happen,  hopefully together.

Zaijian for now…

-Matt

 

34 thoughts on “Of Gifts and Stones: A Retrospective… and Moving Forward”

  1. You wrote, “The re-release has been cut off at the hip.”

    What is the status of the re-release? Couldn’t Wingrove just publish the eBooks himself?

    1. My understanding is that Corvus/Atlantic, publishers of the re-released books, discontinued the series after book 8 (The White Mountain). However, they still retain publishing rights to the book, at least in the UK. I believe David is in the process of negotiating for reverting the rights back to him so the he can explore other options, maybe like what you’ve described. I’m not 100% sure of these details, though.

  2. I would absolutely back a kickstarter for the whole series! I was very disappointed when they stopped publishing the ebooks.

  3. Chung Kuo has had a significant impact on my life. It was around 1997, and I was stuck in a job I hated. I spent probably a year and a half reading the series during my lunch breaks, and those lunch breaks were the highlights of my days. I was regularly awed by the ideas the books dealt with about the nature of art and beauty. To have those kinds of moments in the midst of the mindless drudgery of my job got me through those bleak days and reignited a love for reading in me that has continued for the last eighteen years. And as if that wasn’t enough, I talked my brother into reading the books and the good times we have had discussing them around the fire at the cabin has strengthened our relationship in surprising ways. I have greatly enjoyed reading the new releases and can’t wait for the last dozen to find their way into the published world.

    I have been a regular visitor to this site, and like it just how it is (but would obviously like more frequent postings). If a kickstarter happens, I’m in. Good job all around!

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. I can definitely relate. And thanks for being a regular visitor! Definitely going to start working on more frequent postings. 😉

  4. I thought the eBook release was a safe thing and already more or less on the way? So there are still clarifications outstanding? uugh, I was already counting the days until the ebooks come (and I finally have to get a eBook reader).

    So count me in for a kickstarter… I tried the first time to read it in German where it was never fully published, so I got screwed already twice in this series.

    Otherwise, great site. Keep it up!!!

    cheers,
    kaneda

  5. I have to say when I saw the title of this entry and read the first few paragraphs I was starting to get a feeling of trepidation. Has Matt had enough of this site? Or maybe news has come through that Chung Kuo is gone for good and is not coming back?

    I was thinking this is news that the site is going to be discontinued. You can imagine my delight when I continued to read and find it is the in fact quite the opposite.

    I may not always post comments, but I make a point of checking this site regularly, and it has become something of a habit for me now. I enjoy and appreciate reading the updates provided by Mr Wingrove, the entries by Matt and comments from other fans like myself.

    I would be all for a Kickstarter campaign or whatever else it takes to get Chung Kuo back off the ground. Just name it and I will support it. A brand new forum sounds great as well.

    1. Nope, I’m not going anywhere! Thanks for the kind words. Keep up the habit (haha)! And I’ll see what I can do for a forum. The other one just got too spammy to be of any value.

      1. Matt,

        If you’d like help getting a forum up and running, I’m willing to help. However, I’m not sure that it is the best way to engage a community. In my experience from managing multiple forums over the years, forums are really tough to manage for both the site and the members, and there is a fine line between an active forum and a dead one.

        I think running things through the post comments may be a better option. This does require a fairly high output of posts, so there are still concerns on any side of things.

        Whatever you decide, please let me know how I might be able to help.

        Reid

        1. Hey Reid. Thanks for the offer of help, which I may take you up on. I’m also torn about the practicality of forums. Thanks for the Twitter follow, too. 🙂

  6. I first started reading Chung Kuo when I was still in school, I’m 30 now. I wouldn’t say I was a big book reader back then and still not, even now, if truth be told.

    I found The Middle Kingdom whilst randomly browsing/loitering in my local library, and was instantly intrigued by the book cover and the Chinese sounding name ‘Chung Kuo’. I’ve always been fascinated by the Far East, Japan especially, you see, so this seemed like something right up my street.

    The impact was immediate. I become gripped by the intricate storyline threads all of which intertwined beautifully. There was always something going on. Most of all I loved the characters within the stories. They weren’t your typical one dimensional good guy or bad guy. The characters have desires, passions, fears, hatreds – they are alive! Even Devore had his moments!

    I didn’t have a library card at the time so I found myself returning most days so I could read the next bit of the books. I even remember hiding the books away in some hidden shelf where I didn’t think anyone would look so they wouldn’t get loaned out to somebody and would always be there when I returned lol. I know, I know, it would have been easier if I had just got myself a library card. Yep.

    Even to this day David Wingrove remains my favourite author eventhough his catalogue of works is nowhere near as extensive as some other writers. For better or worse, whenever I read a sci-fi or fantasy epic I’m always subconsciously comparing it Chung Kuo. I try not to, but I can’t help it. It’s just how it is, I suppose.

    1. Looks like we had the same reaction and around the same time (I’m 30, too). I can’t imagine having to go to the library to read them, though. Yikes!

      1. Are we all 30 year-olds who discovered Chung Kuo in high school? …because, you can add me to that list.

        I actually discovered the series through my dad. He discovered the series some time in the mid 90’s and that lead to him reading the Myst books. I was playing the Myst game on my computer at the time. That got me interested in reading the Book of Atrus, which was a bit of a difficult read for me at that age (I was 10 or 12 maybe?). A few years later, in high school, I was looking for something sci-fi to read. I think my dad didn’t let me read Stephen R. Donaldson’s Gap Cycle because of some of the adult themes, but he didn’t hesitate to hand me a copy of The Middle Kingdom. I quickly became hooked.

        By the time I finished high school, I had read the first 7 books, but couldn’t find a copy of book 8. A couple years later, after re-reading the whole series (and returning them to my dad as I finished each book), I finally bit the bullet and paid, I think, $90 for a beat up paperback copy of book 8.

        So these days, I have copies of books 7 and 8 of the original series on hand, as well as the Book of Atrus. I’ve been asking my dad if I can have the rest of his Wingrove books, but he hasn’t gotten around to it yet. But hopefully that’ll change soon, as he slowly clears out his house in preparation for a move.

        1. Wow, I guess we are all 30 year-olds who discovered CK in high school. I started with Myst: The Book of Atrus, too. It came up in the book fair flyer at school (remember those!?) and I picked it out because it was based on a game, even though I’d never played it. I absolutely loved the Myst novels, and when I saw The Middle Kingdom at my local Barnes and Noble, I had to try to it. I had no idea what I was in for!

    1. Your posts were neither. Thank you for adding to the conversation and making this site a community! 😀

  7. I discovered Chung Kuo when the re release of Son of Heaven was reviewed in Interzone. Since then I have read each new re-release and gotten deeper in the story.

    I was massively disappointed when the re-releases were stopped, and zero in on any postings that pop up on here in case there is some news.

    I would definitely support a kickstarter or other croud funder if that’s what it took.

    1. Wow, it’s great to find someone who is relatively new to the series. Since the re-releases were stopped, have you ever considered going back to used copies of the old versions to finish out the story?

      1. Hmmm, I haven’t really considered that as I became aware that the conclusion wasn’t considered to be as good as it should have been. I think I would rather wait and hope that the re released version see the light of day, rather than potentially spoil those… Always an option though… where should I pick up in the old versions if I finished the White Mountain re release?

        1. Books 1-6 in the original series are great. Book 7 is pretty good too, but it lacks some of the cohesiveness that the earlier books have. Book 8 is a bit of a mess.

          Given all that, I would recommend going back to the beginning and reading the original release books 1-6, but hold off on books 7 & 8.

          I’ve been planning to go back and re-read both releases side by side and write up a series of comparison articles for this site. But unfortunately, as I’ve said in my previous post, the only two volumes of the original series that I have on hand are books 7 & 8. So I can’t tell you an exact break point between the new and old volumes. However, the original series also has a book titled “The White Mountain”, so it is probably a safe bet that the crossover point is somewhere around there.

          Having said all that, I don’t recommend reading the beginning of the new series followed by the end of the old. If you are going to read the original books, read them from the beginning, as there may be more changes that have been made to the story than we’ve noticed.

          1. I know you’re waiting on getting your copies of the original books back, but I have duplicate copies of a few of the early novels and would be willing to lend them to you if you’re really interested in doing that comparison.

          2. Thanks for the offer. After reading it, I decided that I should bite the bullet and just order additional copies of the original books. The copies I was trying to get from my dad belonged to him anyway.

            Expected delivery is middle of next week.

            Looking at my calendar, I think I might be able to start working on this comparison around early-to-mid June. My wife is going on vacation for almost 2 weeks, so I’ll have some serious bachelor time that I might be able to put towards this project.

          3. Copies of books 1-3 & 6 arrived yesterday, and I’ve already started on book 1. I’m only a few pages in, and there are definitely differences, but they are fairly minor. A word here, some punctuation there, an additional descriptive sentence or phrase either added or removed.

            Its going to take some time to get through it all, and it might take a couple books to figure out how best to break things up into a series of articles.

        2. I agree with Goonda on a few points. I feel that all the books are stellar and uniform until Book 8: Marriage of the Living Dark. I’m actually the odd one out in regard to that – I didn’t mind Book 8 so much. It’s a departure, for sure, but I enjoyed it. Others will tell you to pretend that everything ends at Book 7. An aside: Marriage of the Living Dark was once going for US$90-$110 on the used market, but I see it online for less than $10. Interesting.

          I also agree that finding an original copy of The White Mountain is a good space to start. I don’t have my copy on me at the moment, but I’m sure there’s a section break in there that picks up where the re-release left off. Re-reading the original series might be the more comprehensive way to go, but I’ll respectfully disagree with Goonda that it’s critical that you do that. I think you’d probably be just fine. But without a comprehensive comparison that Goonda is planning, it’s tough to say.

          1. I didn’t mean to imply that re-reading from the beginning was critical. Just recommended, based on a current lack of knowledge of the differences between the two versions of the story.

            Regarding the original book 7… I see the original series as a “trilogy of trilogies” (I vaguely remember that phrase coming from an early interview or piece written by David). And my issues with book 7 stem from that.

            Books 1-3 have a great flow to them and are a complete story arc within themselves, while still leaving you looking forward to the next books. Books 4-6 were very similar in that respect. Book 7 was the start of the next arc. However, the merging of books 8 & 9 into what became The Marriage of the Living Dark, caused the arc to collapse, and despite books 7 being good, I feel that it needs its other parts to fully stand up.

            In the end, I don’t regret for a moment reading any of the books in the series. Despite Marriage of the Living Dark being, in my opinion, a bit of a mess I still enjoyed reading it. And I was glad to have an ending to the series. But at the same time, the rewritten ending is one of the things I most look forward to with the new books.

  8. I am 66 and I hope the ebooks are published soon before memory/eyesight even life fades away!!!!

    Keep up the good work

    1. It’s the series of my life; I read every original book even when the italian editor suspended after book three.
      For the first time ( and for me was a big trial) i buyed the books in english.(Sorry for my poor english i’ll try to improve)Count on me for crowfunding or kick start.Thank for all your efforts to keep the site alive
      Well Done
      Greetings from Italy

  9. I started reading the series long time ago! (I am 50). I started to read the first two books of the original series that were translated into Spanish (1991). Unfortunately (or fortunately …) others are not translated and, by the way…, Amazon was born and in 1997 I can bought the eight books. Today…, I hope to continue publishing the series, as many of the fans.

    I have to say that everyone who I recommended the first two books (in Spanish) bought them and everyone loved him, what a pity that the series to stay there ….; o (

    Thanks for the Web, Matt, it’s nice to come here and see some news.

    Angel L.

  10. I stumbled upon the series in my local specialist book shop in the mid ’90s. I was early 20’s and a big fan of Blade Runner and multi-novel series so reading the tagline “Blade Runner meets Shogun” it had to read. I devoured the series. The characters, situations, world building, and most importantly prose are simply sensational.

    My specialist bookshop proprietor even managed to obtain a pre-sale copy of book 7 and had it signed by David when he visited Australia.

    This series (first edition) will always be dear to me and quickly recommended to anyone looking for a top class story.

    I enjoyed Empire of Time and looking forward to getting Ocean of Time soonish. But first I’m living out a promise I made to myself. I’m currently nearly halfway through Michael Cobley’s The Humanity’s Fire series (and enjoying it) as payback for all those years of supplying the snippets of information on David’s world between this site and Bob Newell’s site.

    Thank you Matt. Thank you Bob. Thank you Michael. And thank you David.

    1. I have just started reading the new series at the library late last year and was very disappointed to find that it finished as it did….

      After 6 months of searching I have found the original series and have started where it had finished. Big call on my part but was desperate for more and so far am happy I did.

      I still have 3 books to go…. Each page provides a new insight into the world of Chung Kuo and for me a whole new world to escape into each night.

      Thanks for the great story David, and for the rest of the community here for making me feel like im not the only one in the world who thinks this is a great read!!

      Part of me does not want the story to end…..

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