The Art of Chung Kuo

Like many of you, I’m also patiently waiting on the Kindle version of Chung Kuo Book 10: The Stone Within. In the meantime, I thought I’d share some details from another book: Transluminal: The Art of Jim Burns.

Jim Burns is widely known as one of the most prolific and influential science fiction book artists, and he has long been involved in the Chung Kuo series. If you’re a reader or collector of the original books, you’ve certainly seen his cover art on several issues; if you’re reading the new Fragile Books releases, you’ve seen the dragon ouroboros imagery that adorns each cover.

Transluminal, published in 2000, is one of a couple books of Jim Burns’s art and the volume that covers the art of the original Chung Kuo novels. In addition to the cover images, the book also includes narrative accounts of Burns’s experience with the source material and his thought process as he created each piece. The section on Chung Kuo art is several pages long and his write-up on the pieces is fascinating. For example, he discusses the shuttle in the background of the original cover for The Stone Within (book 4 in the classic sequence):

We are told that the technology of the time (about 200 years into the future) is essentially American-derived stuff and one gets the impression that technology progress has in some ways slowed down. So I wanted the shuttle in the background to look like a fairly near-future development of the kind of design-thinking we have now…

Transluminal is a great conversation-starter and coffee table book, and it’s a nice glimpse in the history of classic Chung Kuo. It looks like there are plenty of copies floating around if you’re interested in a companion to your CK novels.

Jim Burns’s portrayal of Fei Yen with the City in the distance, also featured in Transluminal

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