Exclusive: David Wingrove talks Chung Kuo relaunch

Author David Wingrove is a lucky man, he is being given a second chance. Not because he needs it but rather because he is been given a wonderful opportunity to carry on his work as he originally envisioned it. The Chung Kuo series was first published from 1989 to 1999 and consisted of 8 books, but originally David wanted to complete the series as 9 books but was cut short by the previous publishers to only 8.

London born Wingrove stated that this was not what he originally wanted and was never really happy with how the series ended. Now the lovely people at Corvus/Atlantic books have given Wingrove the ability to not only complete his story as he originally planned but to also expand and improve the whole saga.

See the rest of the article here for full interview.

There will now be 2 prequel books and the rest of the saga will be expanded to 18 books totalling in 20 books or “the Epic” version as Wingrove calls it. The books will be released every few months ending in June 2015. The books will also have new artwork which based on the first one look amazing.

A few weeks ago Geek Syndicate was at the launch of the first of two prequel novels, Son of Heaven, at Forbidden Planet Megastore in London where David did a reading of his new novel in front of his many fans and a short Q&A session followed. Before that though we were lucky enough to get an exclusive interview with the very generous man himself.

Geek Syndicate: How close is the new vision of the ending to your original?

David Wingrove: The last section of it is now 4 novels of which 3 of those are completely new. I have totally re-envisaged it and attended to those things that were wrong. It was really just a question of fitting too much information into one novel and the pace of it was wrong and the tone of it was wrong. So it’s absolutely lovely to be given the chance to rework something like this.

GS: Can you give us an example?

DW: There is a whole section missing where they go and fights the Americans but in the original due to being shortened down they only arrive back from it. That entire back story was missing.

GS: Did you always have the prequel stories in mind when writing the originals?

DW: No I just wanted to start it there. I was doing Trillion Year Spree before I was working exclusively on Chung Kuo and reading some of those classic novels and was thinking that there aren’t many instances of showing you how the world got to be this way and was really fascinated with that idea and it just grew and grew. I wanted to do that with Chung Kuo, to tell the story and show the suffering involved.

GS: Will there be any more stories set in Chung Kuo after the full set have been released

DW: There will be no more novels in the sequence. I have got three first person novels plotted out, the first of which will probably appear in the next two or three years. I am also writing a whole series of short stories that were plotlines that I could not include in the Chung Kuo sequence and will now be dealt with by characters right outside of the main story. I wanted to write lots of theses and have about 18 planned. Hopefully there will be one novel at the end with nothing but short stories going from 20 years from now going through to 300 years from now.

GS: Can you tells more about these short stories?

DW: The main series deals with politics but these deal with the personal stories. The first one is about a woman called Maggie who is a connector, she is the person who spots talent and is one of the most influential people in Chung Kuo but you never get to get to hear about her in the main sequence.

GS: How did you find reading your earlier books.

DW: I enjoyed it but was horrified by the number of he said she said’s in there, so what I have done is go through 14 manuscripts to tidy these up. Jut to be given the chance to do this is great, sometimes I wake up and just giggle because it is a wonderful opportunity to do this kind of thing. What I have done is gone through and made it crystal clear, got rid of whole scenes that did not work. So it should be a better read.

GS: How do you keep it all in your head, do you have a series bible?

DW: I interviewed Frank Herbert in 1978 when I was very young and running a science fiction magazine called Vector and I asked him exactly the same question. He said just keep files. So I thought that was great idea and went home and started to create files on everything. It is the only way to do it on something that big. I used to bring characters back from the dead not realising I had already killed them off.

GS: If you were trying to pitch to new fans what would you say to entice them to the series?

DW: Perhaps that here’s a book which reflects some of our darkest fears in these changing times. There’s something a little Wyndhamesque about SON OF HEAVEN, the first prequel, but overall CHUNG KUO is an exercise in what SF does best – presenting an alien scenario and showing how it might work. It’s a vast exercise in world building, and the two prequels are there to get the new reader on board… a kind of slip road onto the motorway, if you like. But the prequels are, I think, great fun in themselves… if your idea of fun is to vicariously live in such troubled times. It’s THE ROAD meets BLADE RUNNER. My attempt to depict the last days of the old world and the onset of the new.

GS: Where did the inspiration come from for the original idea of the series?

DW: The original series evolved over a period of five years from a short story – called A PERFECT ART – which was about a virtual reality machine and its devastating effect on a married couple, to the fully-fledged epic it became. When the short story turned into a novel (and I had no control over that one!) I needed a backdrop, and China – and a Chinese future – seemed the way to go. Deng Shao Ping had liberated the peasants only a few years before – letting them sell their excess produce and thus take the first step towards fully-fledged capitalism – and I merely extrapolated where that might lead – ie., a world ruled by China. Why China? Because I did a big research project on the Opium Wars at school when I was fifteen. As for that mere extrapolation – making China top dogs – most people thought it was insane back in 1988, but look where we are now! And it’s still the only future which envisages China in charge of things.

GS: As an author what would you say are your major influences?

DW: My major influences? In science fiction terms, it’s mainly stuff from the sixties and seventies – Samuel R Delany, Brian Aldiss, Ursula LeGuin, Tim Powers, John Crowley, Robert Silverberg, and – overwhelmingly – Philip K. Dick.

Outside of SF? D H Lawrence, William Golding, Thomas Hardy, Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, Doris Lessing and then, in genre, writers like Patrick O’Brien and Ian Rankin. A mixed bag, all in all.

Geek Syndicate: The whole reboot sounds like a fantastic idea and a great way to reach out to new fans.

DW: I enjoyed the re-launch and look forward to quite a number of such occasions over the next four years!

GS: Finally. How do you keep on going what is your motivation?

DW: I just enjoy writing.

GS: Good answer

You can find out more about the new Epic sequence here.

Come back soon for a full review of Son of Heaven.

SOURCE: Forbidden Planet, Atlantic Books, Chung Kuo

GS Reporter: Montoya

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