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Wingrove, David

Entry updated 19 February 2024. Tagged: Author, Critic.

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(1954-    ) UK critic and author who began to publish work of genre interest with "Photographs" in Focus for Spring 1980, though he has written very little short fiction since, some of it as by Fara Jackson. His career has broken into two logical sequences. Initially he concentrated on critical work, the earliest significant example of which – The Immortals of Science Fiction (1980) – was printed but never officially released, due to the bankruptcy of its publisher; copies were circulated, and it effectively exists as a published book. It is, in a sense, an exercise in Recursive SF, in which an investigator from an Alternate World version of Earth travels to various planets, where he meets famous sf writers who there go by the names of their most famous characters, with Isaac Asimov appearing as Susan Calvin, George Orwell as Winston Smith, and so on. Critical points are lightly adduced. Apertures: A Study of the Writings of Brian Aldiss (1984) with Brian Griffin (see Brian Aldiss) was both admiring and reasonably comprehensive, and marked a close association with its subject, who introduced The Science Fiction Source Book (1984). This packs into relatively few pages a surprisingly comprehensive "Consumer's Guide" to sf novels; its main flaw is its sublimely overcomplicated quadripartite rating system. Aldiss then invited Wingrove to participate with him in revising his energetic history of sf, Billion Year Spree (1973); the result, published as Trillion Year Spree: The History of Science Fiction (1986), with Wingrove listed as co-author, attempts with partial success to sustain the élan of its much shorter parent, but falters in its coverage of the late 1970s and 1980s, during a period when sf grew voluminously as an enterprise, but also became more diffuse, and necessarily harder to describe. Trillion Year Spree received the Eaton Award, Hugo and Locus Award for best nonfiction.

Wingrove's career then changed direction, and for years he focused almost entirely on producing the enormous Chung Kuo sequence, the first version of which comprises The Middle Kingdom (1989), The Broken Wheel (1990), The White Mountain (1991), The Stone Within (1992), Beneath the Tree of Heaven (1993), White Moon, Red Dragon (1994), Days of Bitter Strength (1995) and The Marriage of the Living Dark (1997). Set in a twenty-second- and twenty-third-century Earth dominated by a monolithic Chinese hegemony, after its successful world takeover which has successfully stymied all development in Technology, the sequence elaborately delineates a stalled and static culture in terms evocative of the Planetary Romance, building inexorably towards a radical transformation of the world instigated by terrorists and revolutionaries; the early volumes, perhaps consequently, are stronger as dynastic history than as sf. The series was admired for its scope and ambition, though some critics expressed reservations about the quality of prose and the early deployment of extreme Torture of a woman to establish one Villain's credentials.

Having expressed dissatisfaction with some aspects of the saga, including the publisher-induced truncation of the climax, Wingrove began a second run-through, much expanded, of the long tale. This Chung Kuo Two sequence – projected to extend over twenty volumes and comprising to date Son of Heaven (2011), Daylight on Iron Mountain (2012), The Middle Kingdom (2012), a thorough reworking of The Middle Kingdom above, Ice and Fire (2012), The Art of War (2013), An Inch of Ashes (2013), The Broken Wheel (2013) and The White Mountain (2014) – begins with prequel novels set in the relatively close Near Future, with the rest of the world succumbing to Chinese pressure and assassinations (see Yellow Peril), as a great world City begins to vacuum up survivors. As in the first version, a literal underclass comes to inhabit the planetary surface, a neglected basement of the world-city and thus effectively Underground. Wingrove's overriding premise – that China may soon plausibly dominate the planet – has been reworked in the decades since the series was conceived, but remains arguable in sf terms. Unfortunately, following the appearance of The White Mountain in 2014, his publisher reportedly cancelled the series owing to inadequate sales; its planned quick-fire publication sequence had been intended to conclude with #20 in mid-2015. The remaining projected titles of Chung Kuo Two are «Monsters of the Deep», «The Stone Within», «Upon a Wheel of Fire», «Beneath the Tree of Heaven», «Song of the Bronze Statue», «White Moon Red Dragon», «China on the Rhine», «Days of Bitter Strength», «The Father of Lies», «Blood and Iron», «King of Infinite Space» and «The Marriage of the Living Dark».

Another work of genre interest has been the Myst sequence of Ties to the Science Fantasy Videogame Myst (1993), beginning with Myst: The Book of Atrus (1995) with Rand Miller and Robyn Miller; for a brief description of the game itself, see Adventure.

Wingrove's most recent sf sequence is Roads to Moscow, so far comprising The Empire of Time (2014) and The Ocean of Time (2015), whose protagonist is a conflicted German agent caught up in a complex Changewar between Germany and Russia, waged over several millennia with reality fluctuating as strategic Jonbar Points are seized via Time Travel and repurposed; Time Paradoxes abound. The story is told with considerable energy. [JC/DRL]

see also: Critical and Historical Works About SF; Definitions of SF; Gothic SF; Proto SF; Vector.

David John Wingrove

born London: September 1954



Chung Kuo

Chung Kuo Two


  • Myst: The Book of Atrus (New York: Hyperion, 1995) with Rand Miller and Robyn Miller [tie to the game universe: Myst: hb/]
  • Myst: The Book of Ti'Ana (New York: Hyperion, 1996) with Rand Miller [tie to the game universe: Myst: hb/]
  • Myst: The Book of D'ni (New York: Hyperion, 1997) with Rand Miller [tie to the game universe: Myst: hb/]
    • The Myst Reader (New York: Hyperion, 2004) with Rand Miller and Robyn Miller [omni of the above three: tie to the game universe: Myst: hb/]

Roads to Moscow


works as editor: nonfiction

about the author

  • Vance Anderson. "Eye to Eye with David Wingrove: An Interview" (June 1992 Science Fiction Eye #10) [pp44-57: mag/]


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