Book Cover Bonanza Part I

A while back I presented readers with a collection of awesome cover art for Russian alternate history/sci-fi novels. Today, that trend continues. Lucky you.


Comrade Stalin’s Star Wars. Kind of self explanatory really. Much like Vader, Stalin also takes a hands on approach to fighting battles in space.


This is the perfect alt-hist/popadanets cover. Whereas normal alternate history asks something like, “What if Hitler had nukes, thus complicating the war for the Allies,” these authors seem to prefer totally stacking the deck in Russia’s favor. In this case, it looks like the Battle of Poltava is about to be won in six minutes but a guy with a mini-gun.


If you think there’s not going to be any shapeshifter sex in this novel, you are wrong. Period.


Again, it’s not enough to simply win a war (in this case the war against Sweden). No, you must go back in time with modern-day spetsnaz and make the war a complete blowout. Interesting choice of a lever-action carbine, by the way. Still horrendously unfair.


Ladies and gentlemen- the worst bodyguard in history. I gather from the cover that poor Nikolai I was poisoned, but you still think his bodyguard there could try doing something other than posing as Daniel Craig at the end of Casino Royale.


Do you have a friend that complains about the lack of popular literature depicting Hitler as an action hero? Well now you know what to get them this holiday season!


Your guess is as good as mine.


Every year a certain amount of vatnik fap-fantasy novels must be published. In this one the heroes manage to capture Washington DC in spite of the fact that it is apparently defended by flying astronauts armed with Carl Gustav anti-tank weapons. I’ve been saying for years we should have shut that program down a long time ago, but you know what its defenders say every time- “It creates jobs!” Go to hell.


The English title for this novel is Fuck History! 


For starters, I’m not sure you can stand where he is. And secondly, the Statue of Liberty isn’t a particularly strategic location.


Bolshevik Graham Phillips and Tsarist John Cena reconcile their political differences in this playful romp.


Your move, Tolkien!


Because of course your have to have some anti-Ukrainian fantasy to fap to. This tall tale is called Banderite Genocide. It certainly doesn’t help when the only Banderite we see is about to be shot at point blank range.


I love the Kalashnikov but I thought the whole point of fantasy is to feature weapons and artifacts that we can’t have in real life. I’m not sure how well 7.62×39 penetrates dragon scales.


Armed only with a cat and a pack of papirosy cigarettes, Oleg must save Stalin from an evil turncoat NKVD agent! Just kidding. Oleg took DMT. He’ll be fine in a few minutes.


This novel answers the question: “What if douchebag PR spokespeople existed in medieval Russia?”


Jason Statham is…Nicky II!


Yup, totally fair. Britain had it coming for using rifled muskets during the Crimean War.


I don’t know what’s supposed to happen in this novel, but I’m guessing it’s illegal in Russia.


Machine gunning the Teutonic Knights isn’t devastating enough. Better bomb them from the air just to be sure. That’s what they get for trying to mess with time-traveling Slavs.


Because one thing the HALO series really needed was battles against Ottoman Janissaries.


A Russian paratrooper must go back in time to stop a George Soros-funded plot to turn Stalin and the entire Soviet Union gay. Pretty much writes itself, really.


The year is 2025. Two years ago ISIS operatives managed to capture an experimental military walker from a top secret Japanese lab. They would have captured the Russian prototype for the PAK DA strategic bomber, but lucky even by that time the project still hadn’t advanced beyond the concept drawing phase. Anyway, with their new technology, ISIS goes on a rampage across the world, leaving the rest of humanity no choice but to organize an underground resistance movement. As you scour the land for any form of sustenance while desperately hiding from ISIS hunter-killer droids, you curse those who failed to support Donald Trump. He alone could have prevented this. He even said so in a tweet!

The Evolution of a BS Story

Hey did you hear that Putin has ordered state officials to bring their loved ones back to Russia amid a rising threat of a Third World War? If you read The Daily Mail Online you probably did. No doubt you’re probably reading this blog post on a short break before you get back to constructing your own private bomb shelter. If that’s the case, I’ve got good news for you- the story is bullshit.

First of all, here’s the same story from Meduza, which is based on the same source, Notice that the issue of war isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Meduza article. In fact, war is only mentioned one time in the original article, as a minor point compared to the repeated scandals about the children and relatives of Russia’s elite living luxurious lives in the West.

What you have just witnessed, dear reader, is how a minor story based on highly questionable unnamed sources evolves into panic-mongering clickbait about nuclear war. I too had been asked by someone to write up a story based on the piece in Znak, but quickly decided to kill it when I saw the paucity of sources. I’m only including that personal anecdote in hopes that others will follow the example the next time a sensationalist story like this one pops up.

On the topic of nuclear war I will say this. The children and relatives of the Russian elite would probably rather die in a nuclear holocaust than be pried from their luxury flats in London or their Brooklyn lofts and forced to live in Russia, even for their last days on Earth. Nuclear war these days isn’t just a matter of mutually assured destruction, but for the Russian elite it’s the end of any reason to live even if one survives. What is the point of surviving if, in the end, not only has your own country been reduced to ash (and it will be, Mr. Kiselyov, rest assured of that), but all those glitzy upscale shopping centers and night clubs have also been destroyed by your own warheads? Why go on living when you cannot lord your wealth over the people from whom you stole it?

Supposing there had been a nuclear war between the US and USSR, both countries at least had their own self-sufficient systems. In this way the survivors could hypothetically rebuild according to their own structures, laws, etc., paving the way for all kinds of post-apocalyptic tales. This is not the case today; Russia is integrated into the global economy. As such, it can be severely wounded without its enemies even firing a shot. The idea that the Russian ruling class has recently been imbued with a sense of genuine patriotism and plans to make Russia self-sufficient is nothing but a laughable delusion in the minds of “geopolitical experts.” Their very class existence is rooted in access to Western wealth, Western luxury, Western credit, and so on.

Lastly, it is true that Russia has been engaging in a lot of war-mongering hysteria lately, but I think there’s a logical reason for this. Russia’s antics are that of an unruly teenager craving attention. They want to be seen as a great power and as a spoiler when it comes to the plans of Western countries, in particular the United States. But what is happening right now can most likely be pinned on one thing- the US presidential election. They no doubt correctly calculated that Obama would not take any significant action that might hurt his party’s chances in November, and they’re going to try to get away with everything they can before mom and dad get home, so to speak.

I have no doubt that they’ll continue their current behavior for some time after the election, and possibly into the next administration as well, but I’m predicting the possibility of a noticeable plateau in Kremlin bullshit some time in 2017. Everything points to a Clinton victory at the moment, and they’ve done much to piss her off throughout this campaign. It will be a fresh administration and the US can levy  more sanctions on Russia without any significant losses from the pathetic “counter-sanctions,” unlike little European nations that will throw Ukraine under the bus just to sell their fucking cheese to Russia.

So yeah, we’re in the middle of a “New Cold War,” but this one’s going to be much shorter and sadder than the last.

Weirdness Diary: 30 September 2016

There’s a Cracked podcast where they’re talking about logical fallacies that are hardwired into our brains, using as one example Russian dashcam footage that you find on Youtube. Even people with no interest in Russia (AKA most of the Western world) have run across these “meanwhile in Russia” videos, most of which are taken from dashboard cameras used by many Russian and Ukrainian drivers. As the hosts of the podcast explain, it’s not that wacky things are happening more often in Russia, it’s just that due to the prevalence of dashcams Russians are more likely to catch crazy things on camera. Like this:

The howitzer in the video above later resigned from the Russian armed forces just before it rolled across the border, founded a pseudo-state, and created yet another frozen conflict. Russia denies all involvement. 

While yes, it is true that not every day in Russia involves soldiers cutting a tree down to save a cat or tanks jumping onto the road in front of oncoming traffic, anyone who has lived here for even a short while will tell you that you will experience some seriously weird shit. Today’s examples wouldn’t be too bizarre compared to what I’ve seen in the past decade, but firstly, I’m holding those back for my book, and secondly, they happened within the space of maybe a couple of hours.

The first was a young man who stops me on the street. I pull out my headphones and he asks me if I’m a skinhead. I find this odd because skinheads are not known to wear very baggy cargo pants, blouse their boots (they roll up their jeans), or navy blue peacoats. And while my head is indeed shaved, a haircut nature itself forced upon me, I was wearing a hat, so for all he knew I could have had a high-and-tight or a Ukrainian cossack chub underneath.

I informed him that no, I am not in fact a skinhead, and he then asked me if I’m an artist. Now these are both interesting choices I have to say. Hipsters are associated with art, and they have been known to appropriate all different sorts of styles. That being said, I have never heard of hipsters dressing up like skinheads and being neo-Nazis “ironically.” This was quite an odd pair of guesses- skinhead or artist.

He then told me he is a practitioner of yoga, and asked me about my karma. I told him it was fine. He tried to offer me some kind of book, no doubt on some Hindu-based faith, but I thanked him and went on my way. In retrospect, I should have told him to look up Savitri Devi if he ever wants to recruit actual skinheads to yoga classes.

A little bit later I come home and stop at a local grocery establishment. There is a crowd of young men gathered a few steps away from the door. At the door, I see a very old woman with a cane who appears to have trouble opening the door. Realizing that these ill mannered rapscallions are indifferent to the old crone’s plight, I promptly open the door and stand aside. And she moves forth…about an inch. Then a bit more. And a little bit more. I should point out that while she had a cane, she was not exceptionally frail, nor did she appear to be in pain. She was just moving extremely slowly for some reason.

Moving inside I am dismayed that my favorite tvorog is nowhere to be found. I might have consumed all of it this week. Thus besides having to acquire a few other provisions I took extra time examining and comparing the various brands and types of tvorog available. I then pay for my purchases. All in all, I’d say it was eight minutes.

I get outside, about to go my normal route home, and there’s that same old lady, who has managed to make it maybe twenty meters from the door. Still moving, seemingly inch by inch. Again, not rickety or visibly in pain, just super slow. Judging by her speed I’m guessing she works in the Russian post office.




Memory Loss

Soon I’ll be turning 34, still well short of what’s considered “middle-age” in our time. And despite this, I have to say that I’m starting to notice my memory slipping a bit. I’m not talking about memory loss that you associate with old age; most of what I forget or mix up are just trivial details. It still feels weird though. Five to ten years ago I could remember things going back to early childhood as vividly as a movie. Now those details start to blur and fade.

Of course I suspect this is entirely natural. If there’s anything unusual about my case it’s probably related to the radically different lives I’ve led over the years, moving from state to state, pre-army versus post-army, and leaving the US to spend the bulk of my adult life abroad. Taking all that into account, it’s not a huge deal if I can’t remember any but one of the teachers I had in 2nd or 3rd grade, for example. But suppose it was worse. Suppose I’d stayed in the US all my life, and at the age of 33 I’d somehow forgotten who was president of the US prior to Obama, who controlled the congress during most of that administration, and everything that administration had done during its tenure. I suspect I’d have more reason to be alarmed in that case.

I’m writing about memory today because while my interactions with Trump supporters have been mercifully few, those that have occurred are positively fascinating, if not mindboggling. To be sure, what I am experiencing seems to apply to many conservative types, regardless of whether or not they support Trump, but with the Trump supporters the memory disorder seems to be most acute. But whatever the case, I am simply astonished by the inability of these people to recall events in what is the relatively recent past. I could understand it if they were elderly, or even pushing 60, but we’re talking about people around my age and slightly younger.

The perfect example of this can be seen in the attacks on Hillary’s war record. Trump supporters have been crowing about Hillary Clinton’s support for the Iraq invasion, as well as her support for military intervention during her tenure as secretary of state. She is a “hawk,” they say. The problem with this is that the people calling her a hawk now, with a few notable exceptions, were themselves hawks or supporters of hawks, and their own candidate also speaks like a hawk.

Hillary’s enthusiastic support for the Iraq War is one of her worst deeds as a politician. This is why many leftists such as myself can’t stand her- she puts her finger in the wind and goes along with the status quo. The problem with these Trump supporters, however, is that they seem to forget that Hillary was going along with their party’s war. Republicans controlled the White House and the house at the time. They would later control both until 2007.


Trump supporters: Do you know who this man is and what he did?

During the run-up to the Iraq War nearly to the end of Bush’s administration, if you opposed the war on any grounds most of these rabid conservatives would call you a traitor. “You don’t like war? Love it or leave it, hippie! Move to Russia with all the other commies!”  That was the basic tenor, but if you think I’m exaggerating, conservative pundit Bill O’Reilly once said he’d deem critics of the war to be “enemies of the state.” During the Bush years America could do no wrong, nor could its military which became an object of public worship thanks in part to a massive taxpayer-funded PR campaign, and Uncle Sam would do whatever it wanted, wherever it wanted, because FREEDOM GODDAMMIT! In fact, America was kind of acting like this other country has been acting in recent years, but that’s another dozen blog posts.

Now the same people who would call you a traitor, commie, or pussy for opposing the war have suddenly become peace-loving doves, publicly calling how Hawkish Hillary. In my interactions with them it appears as though they literally do not remember the entire Bush administration. They seem to believe that the Middle East’s problems began with the Obama administration. That’s the moment when Fox News and the rest of the conservative media machine officially authorized them to criticize US foreign policy again.

Still I can’t get my head around this memory loss. How do you go through life not knowing what happened about 15 years ago? The Iraq War was one of the biggest media circuses of the first decade of the 21st century. It dominated the news for years. It became a part of our popular culture in TV, film, and video games. These are not the little details from grade school that I can’t remember. We’re talking major historical events.

I guess the phenomenon can only be explained by Trump’s particular style of lying, which incidentally resembles the Kremlin method. This is not the normal lie where you’re accused of something you know you did, ergo you try to concoct a plausible story so your accuser or the gallery will believe you. Such a lie is not really crafted at all. Basically the way it works is that your opponent says something about you, and you need to say something in order to “win,” typically the opposite of what they’re saying. It does not matter if your audience can easily check and see that this is not true. All that matters is that you have a response that opposes their claim. Imagine someone walks up to you wearing a thong and covered in sunflower oil, and when you point this out they say, “What? Nonsense. I’m wearing a very expensive tailored suit!” That you can see they are clearly not wearing anything close to that does not matter in the slightest. The point is you said they were one thing so they said they were another and that’s that.

If you support, follow, or sympathize with such people, eventually you’ll have to shape your own memories and reality itself in order to hold onto your worldview without creating too much cognitive dissonance. Trump actually supported the Iraq War, but in his campaign he said he was against it so now memories must change and it’s “the dishonest media’s” fault for bringing up the past. Bush and his White House team enthusiastically fought for, and got their invasion of Iraq, but Trump says all the fallout from that is Obama and Hillary’s fault, so now people who most likely voted for Bush can’t remember his entire administration or what it did. It’s another form of “they don’t believe these things because they’re stupid; they become stupid because they believe these things.”

What must that feel like, I wonder. How does an individual who enthusiastically cheered for war on Iraq feel when they attack Hillary supporters (or just Trump opponents like me) for being “hawkish” and supporting the invasion? How do people who attacked Obama in 2012 for telling Dmitry Medvedev he could be “more flexible” after the election reconcile their outrage then with their current candidate’s submissiveness toward Putin? I have to know if there are times when they are conscious of these contradictions, i.e. “I used to believe this but now I believe this other thing.”

It’s normal for beliefs to change and evolve- I’m living proof. But the difference with real evolution or change is that you consciously, often publicly reject your previous views and you have some kind of explanation as to why you did so. I just don’t see this with most of the Trump supporters. The military’s still awesome and Obama was a bastard when he “apologized for America,” yet Trump can call America a loser that doesn’t win anymore and attack Hillary for being a “hawk” and supporting the Iraq War. And hell, their own candidate exudes hawkishness as well, yet he gets a free pass.

Assuming the United States survives the next decade as a developed country, I hope scientists will devote a lot of time to figuring out this riddle. The future of democracy depends on it.





“They sow the wind…”

So in case you’re not a regular Russia-watcher (I envy you. Please tell me how it feels in the comments section) or you are but you’ve been living under a rock for the past two days, the Joint Investigative Team announced its conclusions from its investigation into the destruction of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. Surprise, surprise, they confirmed the basic story that most rational, sane people figured out long ago. The plane was shot down by a Buk surface-to-air missile system from territory controlled by the Russian military and their proxies rebels. The investigation also found that the Buk system was moved back across the border into Russia so as to hide the evidence. Of course it doesn’t help the cover-up when your state run media forgets to take down the original article from the time when the “rebels” claimed they had shot down an AN-26 cargo plane that actually  turned out to be MH17. It’s still up there after more than two years.

At the same time Russia has been in the news a lot lately, from a string of malicious cyber-attacks on high profile Western targets to the bombing of a UN aid convoy. Naturally the Kremlin response to all of this is that it’s all lies and “provocations.” They do nothing but good, yet for some strange reason the United States and its puppets (i.e. any country that refuses to do what Moscow wants) have been engaging in this pointless, mean-spirited conspiracy against poor little Russia. But what Peskov and the Russian state media don’t seem to understand is that while they can continue their pathetic denial routine, the rest of the world isn’t buying into the bullshit. Even those who might have been willing to give Putin the benefit of the doubt are now waking up to the fact that he has nothing but contempt for them and thus cannot be reasoned or negotiated with.

Though I find it morally reprehensible, I think it’s fair to say that much of the Western world might have been willing to turn a blind eye to Putin’s actions in Ukraine and Syria, particularly if MH17 had never happened. But Putin and his cronies, paranoid and delusional as they are, could not resist pretending that they are running a relevant superpower. Hence the propaganda attacks, including high profile fabrications like “Liza” in Germany, and hence the cyber-attacks on targets like the DNC and various Western media outlets. Now the FBI suspects that Russian hackers might be targeting American voter registration databases, possibly trying to take over the GOP’s job of disenfranchising minority voters. Who knows for sure? The point is that after the MH17 and the sanctions, Putin should have reined in his propagandists, agents, and hackers. He should have tread lightly. But for some reason he felt he couldn’t, and he didn’t. And he soon might pay the price.

The West has been ridiculously tolerant of Putin’s antics for quite some time now. In the past Russia was a good business opportunity as an emerging market, and Putin generally didn’t screw around with his Western “partners.” Now he’s started and he can’t stop, and eventually Western patience is going to wear thin. Once that happens, you’re going to see retaliation, and it’s not going to be pretty for Russia.

Professor Mark Galeotti has in the past written about numerous measures the West could easily implement against Russia that will do far more than sanctions. Many a Putin fanboy dreams of a shooting war between NATO and Russia (which is odd because Russia would be crushed), but if the West decides to up the ante none of those precious Topol-Ms or Ka-52s are going to do any good. They can cut Russia off from SWIFT, impose blanket travel bans and asset freezes on whole swathes of Russian government officials and their family members, mess with trade, and even launch cyber-attacks of their own. Given the situation Russia is in now, the effects of a coordinated all-out economic warfare campaign would be devastating. Color revolution? No need. The Russian people have shown plenty of times in the past that their patience with incompetent leadership is also limited.

Putin’s Russia has been dubbed a “troll state” in the recent past- it’s not a serious threat to the West but it can cause a lot of trouble. But just as the internet troll cowers when made to face his targets in real life,  Russia may face a painful humiliation when the West finally tires of Putin’s angsty teenager act.

News from a parallel universe: ISIS Sanctions Renewed for Another Six Months

RAQQA– The US and European Union states have once again narrowly voted to renew targeted sanctions against the Islamic State (still commonly known as ISIS). In a press conference on Monday morning, US Secretary of State once again reiterated that sanctions would be removed as soon as the Islamic State complies with an agreement which would give the territories they control in Syria special status. ISIS leaders, meanwhile, called the sanctions “counter-productive” and promised “reciprocal measures” against those countries who support the sanctions regime.

Targeted sanctions were first imposed on ISIS following alleged attacks on the Yezidi minority in Iraq, attacks which the ISIS leadership has consistently denied.

“The Yezidi heretics were not killed by our people, but local farmers and tractor drivers who are fed up with Baghdad’s tolerance for heresy,” said an ISIS spokesperson in 2014, when news of the massacre broke.

The initial sanctions targeted key individuals in leadership of ISIS, but excluded family members. The sanctions were expanded later the same year when new allegations of ethic cleansing, sexual slavery, and beheadings of Yezidis and Christians surfaced. Not only was the list of travel bans and asset freezes expanded to include more members of the ISIS leadership, but new measures were put in place to limit ISIS’ access to Western financial markets and oil-drilling technology. Such sanctions are expected to severely limit ISIS’ ability to compete economically.

Yet in spite of the sanctions, many American and European banks and companies still do business with the self-proclaimed Caliphate. Timothy Hedges is a director of a London brokerage who says he still does a lot of business with ISIS.

“I don’t believe in letting politics get in the way of business,” Hedges said.

“Look, we live in a capitalist world, a free market world. These ISIS chaps have got money to invest and we’ve got people here who want to invest money there. You can’t let political rhetoric get in the way of that.”

But it’s not just money that’s changing hands when it comes to trade between ISIS and the West. A recent expose on British television shows how real estate agents in London sell luxury property to ISIS members, promising to protect their clients’ identity. On video one realtor is seen advising the undercover journalist posing as an ISIS official to create a special holding company that will officially own a London flat worth over 4 million pounds.

The ISIS presence is noticeable not only in London, but also in New York, where the son of one of ISIS’ propaganda networks has found himself an upscale apartment in gentrified Brooklyn. Ali, 24, laughed when asked about the sanctions on the Islamic State.

“Sanctions? What sanctions? Here I am living among the infidels in their greatest city,” Ali said.

“There are hundreds of us here. Same in London. The sanctions are a joke!”

Now that the sanctions have been in place for two years, continually renewed every six months, there have been signs of weakening resolve among the European states, many of which carried out lucrative trade with ISIS. Fringe politicians from Italy, Belgium, and France have spoken out against the sanctions, calling for them to be removed. Giovanni Buffone is a member of the Veneto parliament and one of the most fervent critics of the sanctions regime.

“We have carried out very lucrative trade with the Caliphate for many years now,” Buffone noted.

“But now because our weak leaders won’t stand up to the will of Washington, we will surely lose business. Is the safety of Iraq really worth it?”

Buffone’s statement is just one example of a growing number of voices in the business world calling for a removal of the sanctions regime.

It is not clear whether the sanctions will be renewed again in six months, but each time US officials have reminded ISIS that they will remove the sanctions as soon as ISIS fulfills its part of the peace agreement. ISIS, on the other hand, insists that it is not a party to the conflict in Iraq and Syria, and accuses the US and NATO of trying to encircle the “Islamic World.”


Russian out-Americas America

This is the most American thing you will see this month, but it happened in Russia. See that, gun nuts? You foolishly started whining about immigrants and safe spaces and look what happened- Russia beat you at your own game. You’re going to have to play something seriously complex to top this, and I’m guessing that most of you can only come up with “Free bird.” Better start practicing.