Of Timelines and Boxed Sets

Wingrove on various TV series, as well as a peek into the short stories to come based in the Chung Kuo universe. Plus: a wholly unexpected and much appreciated shout-out to this site (although he did fudge the site’s name a bit, despite it coming from the books themselves…!) Full text after the break…


Of Timelines And Boxed Sets

Sue and I have been watching THE WEST WING this last month or so. The box set. Seven series, twenty two episodes a series and extras! It’s what we do these days. And not just us. It’s how our generation watches its TV. Next on the list is SIX FEET UNDER, which the girls bought us for Christmas – only five series this time, but 24 discs in all. We’ve seen it all before, of course, when it was first shown, but it’s great seeing these American (and mainly HBO) programmes in their entirety and without the irritation of adverts. Behind us lies THE WIRE, BAND OF BROTHERS, ER (the Clooney years), and – unforgettable – BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. The new one, of course.

The last – watching BATTLESTAR – was possibly the strangest experience we’ve had of box sets. Why? Because, unlike all the others, there were times when all six of us (and usually a minimum of four) would be watching. And Sue doesn’t even like SF!! But it was compulsive. The latest BBC offering, OUTCASTS, though it shares Jamie Bamber with BATTLESTAR, is the palest of pale imitations. Survivors on the Moon, Sue called it the other day. And she’s right. It’s awful. Slow paced and with the cheapest of  budgets. And that bloody kid… “Tiger, tiger…” Why does the BBC always get SF wrong? It makes BATTLESTAR, for all its minor ticks, seem like a work of great passion and subtlety by comparison.

The last few days have also seen a few things arrive through the post. My copies of SON OF HEAVEN for a start, which – the last two days – have been going back out again (signed) to friends and relatives. They look lovely. At the same time – and bearing in mind that one of my US fans, Matt, has opened a really nice-looking fan site about CHUNG KUO called A GIFT OF STONES – What did my great friend John Kavanagh send me the other day, gift-wrapped from the States? A little bowl of sand and polished stones, for the tiny carved beaver he previously bought me as a good luck charm. Yes – a gift of stones, complete with a wonderful little rake – all of six inches long – to smooth out the sand.

I’ve been working, lately, on a whole series of CHUNG KUO stories. So far I’ve come up with ideas for fifteen, which will straddle the timeline of the original, but go off on tangents, showing aspects of the world of CHUNG KUO that were not dwelt upon in the main sequence. I hope to have at least five written by the summer. One, I know, will be a novella.

The sequence so far is as follows –

2041 – The Dragon In The Earth

2068 – The Analects

2196 – One Moment Of Bright Intensity

2202 – The Endless Knot

2203 – The Emperor’s New Clothes

2207 – Clouds And Rain

2208 – Black Stone, White

2208 – A Debt Of Tears

2211 – Wan Wei

2213 – The Girl Who Sold Wine

2220 – Tiger, Tiger

2222 – Flowers

2227 – The Path Through The Grassland

2230 – Starlight And Brick Dust

2236 – Shapeless And Without Form

There will be more, slotted in here and there, as the ideas occur to me, but, as I’ve said, I’ve got a lot of notes sketched out on the above and you hopefully will start seeing them from the end of the year on. The idea is to compile them all as a separate book – IN THE CITY OF ICE – once they’re all written. And I have to say, I am really looking forward to getting started on them.

I always liked the way Heinlein stitched together all of his stories to make a timeline, and I see it as a radically alternative way of telling the CHUNG KUO history. And let me confess something. If CHUNG KUO EVER gets to the small or EVEN THE big screen, it might well be that these stories are a way into doing that. And who knows, in years to come, my children might be watching boxed sets… of CHUNG KUO related tales.

Oh, and a warning. I recently found an old article I wrote, back in 1992, for New Scientist, which they eventually bounced for having too little scientific fact and too much speculation. But, as it’s only just under 3000 words, I’m going to type it up anew and post it here. Because, reading it through, it’s even more pertinent now than when I first wrote it. It’s called “Men Like Gods”, so look out for that.

SON OF HEAVEN – the download version – is hovering between nine and ten in the Amazon ebook SF chart, sitting alongside Iain Banks, George R R Martin, Peter Hamilton and others. Good company, I think. My youngest, Francesca, has it on her I-phone 4. It looks very nice. But I’m now looking forward to the launch of the book proper on March 3rd.  Oh, and the final edit proofs of DAYLIGHT ON IRON MOUNTAIN should be arriving any day now, from my dear friend Oisin, up in Edinburgh. And tonight? Arsenal play the mighty Barcelona in the first leg of the Champions League round of 32. Can’t wait. Let’s hope Nasri is fit and Van Percy is still on fire, along with Song, Wilshire, Fabregas and Walcott. I think that Barcelona will think they’re out for a stroll round the park, but we’re not the team they faced last year. There’s a bit of steel in the mix now. My prediction? 3-1 to the Arsenal.

And that’s about it for the moment. We’ve four episodes of THE WEST WING to go – Matt Santos is President and the old crew are about to vacate the White House. Sad. It was great following the fates of Toby, Leo, Sam, Will, Josh, CJ, Donna and the rest. But we’ll be starting SIX FEET UNDER ON Thursday evening, so… Bye for now.

David 16th February 2011

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