In the Navy!

by wjw on July 26, 2016

I had an unexplained bump in the sales of a seven-year-old book, and on checking I discovered that the U.S. Navy had bought 1555 copies of my novel This Is Not a Game.  To which I had a number of responses.

  1. Whoa, this is awesome!

  2. What’s the heck is wrong with the other services?

I’d kind of like to know what the Navy is doing with my novel— I mean, would it help if I came and delivered a talk about it or something, because I’d totally be down with that— but on the other hand, it’s just about enough to know that I have somehow, in some strange way, served my country,


Beneath the Sign of the Bear

by wjw on July 24, 2016

IMG_3563Here’s a souvenir of what I’ve been doing the last two weeks: teaching at Taos Toolbox, the master class for science fiction and fantasy, held this year in the isolated mountain fastness of Angel Fire, New Mexico.  I taught plotting and contract language, among other things, and Nancy Kress did her usual brilliant thing, not only line-editing each submission (which is really above and beyond any call of duty), but teaching the fine details of how to bring emotion into every scene, managing infodumps, constructing scenes, putting conflict into every scene, and more solid information that every new writer needs.

James S.A. Corey (both of them) contributed a long evening on managing career paths and the lure of the media, and Emily Mah Tippetts gave a long, illuminating talk on independent publishing— which she does every year, but evolution is rapid in the indiepub scene, and every year indiepub changes, and it’s useful to have all the latest.

The fourteen students were dedicated and hard-working, and their skills grew by leaps and bounds, so congratulations to all of them.

Our totem animal, portrayed in the photo on the wall behind us, was spotted in the flesh.  Admittedly by only one person, with binoculars, a small one, and up a tree, but it counts!

As you look at the photo, I can hear you saying, “Walter, you need to correct for red-eye.”  No, that’s not the problem.

After two weeks of the master class, our eyes were glowing like those of zombies!  That’s how much our souls were on fire!

You can take my word for it.

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by wjw on July 19, 2016

AKPThe Turkish government is now using last week’s coup as a bridgehead toward complete control of the country’s education system.  1500 university deans have been ordered to resign, and the licenses of 21,000 teachers have been revoked.  These teachers mostly worked at private institutions, many of which had been founded by the Gülen organization as part of its educational mission.

The government knows who the Gülenists are, because when the AK/Gülen alliance was in effect, the government helped find jobs for these people.  Now the Gülenists are officially deemed terrorists and putschists intent on destroying order in Turkey.

In addition:

  • 6,000 military personnel have been arrested, with more than two dozen generals awaiting trial

  • Nearly 9,000 police officers have been sacked

  • Close to 3,000 judges have been suspended 

  • Some 1,500 employees of Turkey’s finance ministry have been dismissed

  • 492 have been fired from the Religious Affairs Directorate

  • More than 250 staff in [Prime Minister] Yildirim’s office have been removed.

  • Turkey’s media regulation body on Tuesday also revoked the licenses of 24 radio and TV channels accused of links to Mr Gulen.

In other news, as a result of the coup and its aftermath Wikileaks has released years of internal emails from Turkey’s ruling AK party. The first installment of the treasure trove involves hundreds of thousands of emails, all of which you can read yourself (provided you read Turkish).  Enjoy!


Saving Great Britain

by wjw on July 18, 2016

After the Brexit vote, it’s clear that Great Britain is in danger and needs saving!   Eric Idle and her majesty Elizabeth II did it before, and maybe it’s time for another teamup.

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Worst. Possible. Result.

by wjw on July 18, 2016

Flag_of_Turkey.svgSo a couple days ago there was a military coup in Turkey. And that coup has failed.

Which is the worst possible result.  Much worse than if the coup hadn’t happened, worse than if the coup had succeeded.

Prior to the election of Erdogan and his AK Party in 2003, Turkey was under the thumb of the Deep State (derin devlet), a creepy alliance of politicians, military figures, and mafia whose chief ideological task was to keep the reins of power (and of money) in their own hands, and to make sure those hands were secular ethnic Turks.  Kurds were treated as backward Turks, encouraged to assimilate, and murdered and terrorized when they didn’t.  The state religion was Sunni Islam, which was kept firmly under government control, and which left out Alevis and other religious minorities.  There were political parties and political leaders, but the parties acted more as the personal fiefs of their leaders; and there were elections, but the elections didn’t matter because the Deep State was always in charge no matter who occupied the Pink House in Ankara.

When the Deep State felt threatened, it would launch a military coup, which was usually preceded by a series of bombings and assassinations, secretly staged by the Deep State so that the military could step in to “restore order.”  The Deep State’s deeply cynical motives were revealed in the Susurluk Incident, when it started to look as if the state was in close contact, if not actual alliance, with the Kurdish guerrillas with whom it was fighting, and that the whole point of the war was to keep certain people on both sides of the conflict rich, in part by controlling the heroin pipeline from Iran.

Erdogan and the AK changed most of that.  Their moderately Islamist party opened up the economy to those who had formerly been excluded, and the result was an economic boom in which the GDP grew by 64% and a 43% increase in GDP per capita.  There were huge investments in infrastructure, education, and health care, and new laws vastly expanding labor rights.  A truce with the Kurds of the PKK was followed by peace talks.  This was very popular, and led to the AK being reelected over and over again.

But Erdogan wasn’t content to be a reforming prime minister presiding over a rising economy and popular with his people.  He attacked the military, arrested generals and civilians allegedly connected to the Deep State, and accused anyone who disagreed with him of being a tool of foreign powers and/or a secret member of the Deep State.  Lots of journalists got arrested on trumped-up charges, and languished in jail until they could be tried.  But the trials never happened, because trials would reveal that the government had no case, as happened in the Operation Sledgehammer trial, which resulted in over 300 accused military officers being released.

Plus Erdogan began to cheese off his neighbors.  Turkey had long been at odds with Syria, but now he lectured Israel (a longtime regional ally) on its misbehavior, broke with Egypt’s military junta, shot down a Russian aircraft, annoyed the EU, and became a problematic member of NATO.

But thanks to economic growth, Erdogan and the AK continued to prosper until 2013, when the revolution began to eat it young.  That was the year that police detained over 60 people on charges of corruption, including the sons of three cabinet ministers.  Recordings of phone calls between Erdogan and his son were released on social media, in which Erdogan seemed to be telling his son to hide large amounts of cash.  Erdogan responded not merely by denying the charges, firing and transferring police and judges, but by declaring war on Twitter and Facebook, blocking the former and trying to block the latter.

Erdogan’s aggressive paranoia now turned against his allies, particular the liberal Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, founder of the international Hizmet movement, which has millions of followers and which had allied with the AK.  Erdogan decided that Hizmet formed a “parallel state” that was responsible for the corruption investigations, and that Gülen himself was a terrorist leader.

And so Erdogan continues to be the center of a storm largely of his own making.  He had himself elected president in anticipation of a constitutional change giving the president more power, and has moved into the Pure White Palace (Ak Saray), a colossal mansion built illegally on reserved land, and which in Turkey is now known as the Kaç-Ak Saray, the Illegal Palace.

The war with the Kurds reignited after the bombing of a peace protest in Ankara in 2015, a bombing blamed on IS, though not claimed by the latter.  Whoever set the bombs, the result benefitted Erdogan, who won the following election.  Erdogan’s government was subsequently discovered to have been in communication with the IS, presumably having to do with their mutual interest in killing nationalist Kurds.  All major newspapers and television stations either parrot the government line, or have been simply taken over by the government.

The coup seems to have been fairly inept.  The coup leaders ignored social media altogether, and had no way of rallying their supporters.  No political parties supported the coup, and only a small part of the military seems to have participated.  Nobody wanted to go back to the bad old days of the Deep State.  Live television coverage of helicopters shooting up the parliament building enraged Turks nationwide. Erdogan demonstrated his mastery of 21st Century technology by calling for help on his FaceTime app, a call that was immediately answered by practically every mosque in the country summoning the faithful to demonstrate in favor of the government.  Those nightlong cries of “Allahu Akbar” are going to echo in the minds of secular Turks for some time to come.

The failed coup has been officially blamed on fellow Islamists Gülen and the Parallel State.  Over 3000 people have been arrested, and over 2600 judges have been fired.  (Possibly these judges are suspected of believing that Turks have rights— at any rate, the government clearly has clearly had the list of judges in its hip pocket for some time.)  Erdogan is moving to have the death penalty reinstated, and presumably will wreak as much vengeance as he can on his perceived enemies with courts run by handpicked judges.

Erdogan has, like fellow strongmen Vladimir Putin and Hugo Chavez, mastered the art of destroying democracy through having elections, and destroying institutions by creating parallel institutions loyal only to himself.  But the economic growth that fueled Erdogan’s support has waned, and Turkey’s chaotic war against terrorists and its own citizens has made people cynical.

It could be argued that the only thing really wrong with the AK is its tyrannical, paranoid leader.

(And for what amounts to an alternate-history version of recent events in Turkey, check out my novel Deep State.)


Straight Face

July 15, 2016

I’m up on a mountain along with Nancy Kress, helping fourteen very talented new writers hone their craft, and so I’ve been very busy.  But I’m not totally out of touch, and I was as surprised and baffled as anyone when Britain’s new PM appointed Boris Johnson* as foreign minister. If you want to start […]

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Lord Nelson in Spaaaaaace!

July 12, 2016

Today is the release day for my friend David D. Levine’s first novel, Arabella of Mars.  The story features the Napoleonic Wars fought between planets by a sailing navy, and showcases a young heroine described as “a Patrick O’Brian girl fighting a Jane Austen world.” David talks more about the book and its concepts over on Scalzi’s […]

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Crescent Moon Kingdom

July 8, 2016

I’ve finished the novel.  (Yay!)  But all that means is that I have to finish reading and critiquing 140,000 words of fiction for the Taos Toolbox workshop, which starts on Sunday.  (Yay?) So I am still buried in work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this photo of the crescent moon at sunset, taken […]

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Billionaires in Spaaaaace!

July 5, 2016

I’m still on a mad rush to finish the novel, so I thought I’d pose a question for you all, and let you do the work of filling up this blog space. A number of American billionaires (Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Paul Allen, and Robert Bigelow, for starters) plus one highly-leveraged Brit (Sir Richard Branson) […]

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The Final Hours

July 3, 2016

We’re down to the last hours of the 99-cent sale on Voice of the Whirlwind, so if you want an inexpensive ebook with a preposterous number of five-star reviews, now’s your chance. Check out the links at Amazon, Google, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.

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