The problem with moving house is that it doesn't matter whether you move 500 metres or 5000 kilometres, the logistics are mostly the same (except for the fuel bill). I moved nearer to 500 metres than the other extreme, but it's still left me wiped out, stressed out, and living out of an unfeasibly large pile of boxes.
On the other hand, it's almost all over, bar the unpacking. And I can get back to real life; viz., editing and redrafting novels, and worrying about where the ideas for the next one are going to come from.
Speaking of which, I was disappointed to learn today of the demise of Saparmurat Niyazov, President for Life of Turkenistan, aka Turkmenbashi; a supremely eccentric dictator whose weirdness was of the first water. Doubtless he was a most unpleasant fellow whose demise will be welcomed by many: but his life and personality was a vein of rich ore that I mined ruthlessly whenever I needed to come up with science fictional villains. As wikipedia puts it:
Claiming Turkmenistan to be a nation devoid of a national identity, he attempted to rebuild the country to his own vision. He renamed the town of Krasnovodsk, on the Caspian Sea, Türkmenbashi after himself, in addition to renaming several schools, airports and even a meteorite after himself and his immediate family. He even named the months, and days of the week after himself and his family; January becoming Turkmenbashi. ... Statues of himself and his mother are scattered all over Turkmenistan, including one in the middle of the Karakum Desert as well as a gold-plated statue atop Aşgabat's largest building, the Neutrality Arch, that rotates so it will always face into the sun and shine light onto the capital city. ... He was given the hero of Turkmenistan award five times. "I'm personally against seeing my pictures and statues in the streets — but it's what the people want," Niyazov said.
Want a science-fictional dictator? Just take and six of Turkmenbashi's weirder decrees and throw in something random like the story about Freddy Mercury, the dwarfs, and the silver platters of cocaine
. Behold: instant surreal satire! Nobody need even suspect that your imagination was deficient ...
However, there's a real-world downside to the death of this annoyingly ubiquitous kleptocrat. Turkmenistan is bordered by Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the southwest, Uzbekistan to the northeast, Kazakhstan to the northwest, and the Caspian Sea to the west ... and it possesses the world's fourth largest reserves of natural gas, not to mention substantial amounts of oil. In short, it's a geopolitical nightmare — a mostly-moslem ex-communist dictatorship, dangerously close to two of the most turbulent satans in the malleus maleficarum of western foreign policy, and the lynch-pin that held it together has just disintegrated.
Oh, did I mention that Turkmenbashi had a designated successor? According to the Turkmenistan constitution, the head of state's succession falls to the head of the people's assembly. Unfortunately, that chair was occupied by Turkmenbashi himself.
Just like moving house, with regime change it doesn't matter whether the cause is something as trivial as a 66-year-old man having a heart attack or the United States invading a country several thousand kilometres away — the fallout is just as messy.
I don't think I'm sticking my neck out far in predicting that this one is going to be a royal clusterfuck — probably exactly the kind of memorial that Turkmenbashi himself would want to be remembered by. I don't see any way in hell that the EU and the US can avoid being sucked screaming into the political black hole that is Turkmenistan, and there's a good chance that nice Mr Putin is going to have his friends in the FSB take an interest too. Add borders with Afghanistan and Iran and the whole situation is ripe for someone — anyone — to strike a light; fourth largest known natural gas reserves is the kind of phrase that ignites wars. For the time being, deputy prime minister Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov (and there's a name to conjure with!) has been named head of the funeral commission (which may indicate a bid to take power); but with no obvious succession and no effective organized power centres in Turkmen politics, all the ingredients are in place for a weak interim government and any amount of oil-oriented dirty tricks. Imagine Iraq in 2000, if Saddam had died of a sudden heart attack ...