The Aleppo lesson

Any Sunni country, looking at the genocidal tactics being used in Syria, will conclude that they need a nuclear weapon. Why? Because Iran, which is part of the Syrian/Russian coalition, clearly has no qualms against total war, and would not hesitate to use those tactics against them. The WEst will not stop the, and Russia will encourage them.

Story on Aleppo.
What is a techno-thriller anyway?

Puppet Master is a “techno-thriller” – but what is that exactly? What is the genre that has been said to include everyone from Tom Clancy to Jim DeFelice?

Technos are most often compared to either science fiction or military-adventure. While my work almost always blurs differences – I love nothing better than genre hopping – even I observe differences.

To sci-fi: While Puppet Master is big on techno – robots, AI, that sort of thing – it’s set in the present/very near future, which is one of the things that separates techno-thrillers from science fiction. Themes for technos tend to be chosen from recognizable present-day situations; if that happens in sci-fi, they’re usually transmuted into unfamiliar settings. Technos take the present and burrow in; sci-fi takes it and goes outward.

To military: A lot of technos – Clancy is the prime example – involve combat and the military: it’s a good way to show off the tech. But there are plenty that aren’t – many of Michael Crichton’s works are technos, with nary a soldier in sight. And there’s this – in a techno, the tech is generally one of the main characters; it’s hard to imagine the book without it. It pushes along the plot, and in some ways has its own personality. That doesn’t happen in traditional military-adventure.

But really the best way to define the genre is to read. I’d start with Dale’s books – Flight of the Old Dog is a classic, but you can hop in anywhere.

Football ready . . .

Puppet Master is intended primarily for the paperback and eBook market, but there’s also a hardcover available. It’s made for the library market. I got one the other day – it’s built like a tank. You can play football with it.

I guess library patrons are more destructive than I thought.
Inspirations . . .

Around the time we started working on Puppet Master, I was doing a number of fund-raising events that brought me into contact with veterans who’d lost limbs in the Iraq war. It’s a cliché to say they’re an inspiration, even though that’s the truth.

Spending time with them you learn to look past the wounds and find the actual person. They’re all different, struggling with the new reality of who they are.

It’s very easy to pay lip service to their struggles, or to put them on an untouchable pedestal. Most don’t want that. Nor do they want to be defined by their injuries or even the battles they’ve fought, are still fighting, to recover.

I don’t pretend to know what’s it like to lose a limb, to lose might sight or hearing. I do know what it’s like to have friends who have. Like all my friends, they’ve added to my life in ways that I can’t really define.

One of the characters in Puppet master goes through some of that trauma and transitions. Hopefully the writing captures a tiny bit of what it’s really like.

Now on sale at your favorite bookstore. Here's a page with links.

Hacking an election . . .

. . . is possible. Is it probable?


The Washington Post:

Reports this week of Russian intrusions into U.S. election systems have startled many voters, but computer experts are not surprised. They have long warned that Americans vote in a way that's so insecure that hackers could change the outcome of races at the local, state and even national level.
Multibillion-dollar investments in better election technology after the troubled 2000 presidential election count prompted widespread abandonment of flawed paper-based systems, such as punch ballots. But the rush to embrace electronic voting technology - and leave old-fashioned paper tallies behind - created new sets of vulnerabilities that have taken years to fix.
"There are computers used in all points of the election process, and they can all be hacked," said Princeton computer scientist Andrew Appel, an expert in voting technologies. "So we should work at all points in that system to see how we make them trustworthy even if they do get hacked."