Do Your Part

Everyone can’t afford the Library, which is why we’re working on getting paperback and free ebook editions going. But if we all attempt to preserve human knowledge, just maybe some of it will be saved somehow. Here is how to quickly and easily obtain a current backup of Project Gutenberg. If you want to help preserve the store of human knowledge, you can back up the entirety of the Project Gutenberg collection here. You don’t need to download all the .zim files, just the most recent one in the language you want.

You’ll need to download Kiwix to read the file, which will provide you with the ability to export any epub or text file from it.


You Wanted Conan

And The Legend Chuck Dixon gave you Conan. The real Conan, the barbarian Conan, the Cimmerian Conan, the public domain Conan, the Conan about whom Robert E. Howard wrote, not the latter-day copyrighted Conan created by L. Sprague de Camp Conan, about whom one critic wrote: “L. Sprague de Camp is an insufferable hack and his choices both in writing his own criticism and curating this collection are baffling”, and most definitely not the Hollywood Conan.

Now you have multiple options to get your hands on Chuck Dixon’s Conan, but keep in mind that only the Arkhaven store will provide you the ebook along with the paperback edition. We’ll be placing our order for shipment to the fulfillment center tomorrow, so this is a good time to take action if you’re interested.

Bounding Into Comics interviewed The Legend about his latest novel.

Speaking with Bounding Into Comics, Dixon explained why he wanted to write this story, “I wanted to write a straight up war story of Conan’s time as a mercenary. But I also wanted to throw in a Lovecraftian monster as well as a depiction of dark sorcery in the Hyperborean Age with all its dire consequences.”

Dixon also relished the challenge to write in what he describes as Howard’s bravura style, “I was totally immersed in Howard’s bravura writing style as an adolescent. I liked the challenge of creating a new Conan story written in that style.”

He added, “So much of Howard’s prose relied on the reader to create vivid images in their own imaginations as they read. I really wanted to see if I could inspire that same brand of wild visuals.”

Meanwhile, the Dark Herald reviewed THE SIEGE OF THE BLACK CITADEL at Arkhaven.

During the 1980s, Baen Books decided to do the world a massive favor and publish a huge library of Robert Howard stories in their original un-De Camped form. I was struck by the unexpected quality of Howard’s work. I’d heard a lot of criticism of Howard’s original stories by De Camp, Stephen King, and several others. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. It had nothing at all to do with Howard’s prose and everything to do with politics. Although in King’s case, it could have been opinions generated by the mountains of coke he was snorting back then.

Howard was more than capable of subtly and subtext; his Conan was a complex hero. While taciturn and stoic, he would never leave a helpless innocent to the hands of those who found joy in cruelty.

Robert Howard had a great respect and indeed love for ancient history. He wanted to tell stories set in remote antiquity, but he also wanted them to be accurate to period. This presented him with a fundamental problem. In his hometown of Cross Plains, the resources of the Texas oil boom town’s library were it and they were obviously insufficient for his needs. So, he did the next best thing and created a completely fictional world from whole cloth. One that was a reflection of the ancient world but was not constrained by it. In so doing, Robert Howard invented an entire genre called Sword and Sorcery by Fritz Lieber.

Think about that for a second, this pulp writer in a small Texas boon town created an entirely new category of fiction and he’s been despised by all right-thinking people for it ever since.

Who in this modern world could hope to do justice to the works of a man born at the turn of the last century that venerated the purity and strength of the barbarous?

The Legend Chuck Dixon, that’s who.

The Legend has already completed the second book, THE CARAVAN OF THE DAMNED, and is now working on a third. Both of these books will be illustrated by Ademir Leal, the cover artist for THE SIEGE OF THE BLACK CITADEL.


You Had One Job

And you didn’t do it. Ursule K. Le Guin’s son and literary executor explains why he is revising her work in order to bring it more in line with modern social justice sensibilities:

My job is to bring my mother’s work to new generations of readers, not to revise it. People who adore a book are often eager to transform it, through screen adaptation, fan fiction or critical reinterpretation. Sometimes this works well; often it doesn’t. I tend to start from the position that Ursula’s words are sacred, so my initial reaction to the editor’s request was that of a strict constructivist.

After deep breaths, and with Ursula’s own revisionism in mind, I contacted a disability rights attorney, a youth literature consultant, a racial educator, and some kids. My advisory group leaned toward change but was not in consensus. I genuinely didn’t know what my mother would have decided. But she left me a clue: a note over her desk asking, “Is it true? Is it necessary or at least useful? Is it compassionate or at least unharmful?”

I like to think that truth and compassion are immutable even as the language we use to express them changes. But cultural constructs of harm are mutable; we frequently revise our definition of what’s harmful to whom, how it is spoken of, and who gets to do the speaking. My mother’s note tipped me toward changing her words. I found substitutes that would retain the original meaning and cadence, and stipulated to the publisher that the new editions would note that the text had been revised.

Criticism of changes to Dahl’s books can just as well be leveled at my own decision. Closest to my anxiety is the reaction of Susanne Nossel, of PEN America, who counsels us to “consider how the power to rewrite books might be used in the hands of those who do not share their values and sensibilities.” Although this haunts me, people who don’t share my sensibilities about artistic freedom seem to prefer to ban or burn books, usually without having read them.

In other words, literature must be defaced in order to make it acceptable to the lowest-common denominator, thereby turning books, which preserve human knowledge, into a form of ephemeral entertainment akin to television.

We really do need to see about getting that Castalia History subscription going before it’s too late.

This is why successful authors are well-advised to formally place their work into the public domain rather than trust their children, and especially, their grandchildren, to be faithful to their work and to protect their historical words. With the exception of a few loyal souls like Christopher Tolkien, most literary heirs are far more concerned with how their predecessor’s works are perceived by their friends and acquaintances than they are with doing their one job of preserving the family literary legacy.

I’ve personally witnessed this myself, where the literary heirs would rather see their predecessor’s work continue vanishing unread into history than risk embarrassing them with a revival of its historical appeal.

This is another reason why current copyright law is downright evil; it tends to destroy an author’s legacy rather than preserve it. Life of the author is a sufficient period for copyright, with an additional 10-year period to benefit the heirs and provide a foundation for providing a literary legacy for those heirs genuinely interested in doing so.

And it is, of course, amusing that he attempts to justify his decision to modify his mother’s works by appealing to the belief that others won’t take similar liberties. But once one accepts the principle that texts can be deemed unacceptable to the public in their original state, one has already justified their burning. And it’s just a matter of time before someone who doesn’t approve of that work for one reason or another comes to power.


The Temporal Challenge of Gnosodecay

The challenge of history is helping humanity remember that which extends beyond the lifespan of a human generation:

It’s very common to see historians implicitly or explicitly assert that knowledge in their field increases over time. For example, in his 1962 masterpiece Medieval Technology and Social Change, Lynn White Jr. assumes greater clarity from archaeological discoveries are yet to come: “Despite prodigious labours by Hungarian archaeologists, the stratification of Avar materials is not yet clear…[Avars] may well have been the first people of Europe to use the stirrup, but the time of its arrival is still uncertain.” Meanwhile, in a more recent article, nonprofit founder Jason Crawford writes, “I note at the outset that this is an old book, published 1925 and revised 1940. Probably a lot has been learned in the last 80 years and the following has already undergone revision, which I’ll uncover when I read more modern sources.”

The historian’s optimism rests on three promises. The first, expressed by White above, is that there are lost artifacts that can be recovered. Secret government records can be declassified, new construction will dig up an ancient tomb, a statesman’s grandchildren will find old letters in the attic and give them to a university, or archaeologists will find the ruins of an ancient temple complex. Such finds improve our understanding of the past, sometimes dramatically.

The second reason for optimism is that historians make better analyses of existing data as time goes on, as Crawford mentions above. After they make inferences from the available material, subsequent historians can take their best arguments and build on them while discarding flawed ideas which do not stand up to scrutiny. By standing on the shoulders of giants, the field will climb higher and higher, like in hard sciences such as physics or biology.

The third reason for optimism is the continued unfolding of history. After all, it is harder to see how an event fits into ongoing trends before those trends have had a chance to play out—time gives us perspective, and hindsight is 20/20. However, while the passage of time may give us a better understanding of a historical event’s effects on the future, it does not improve our knowledge of the event itself. Despite this limitation, knowing what happens next can make it easier to understand which events were important and why.

Archaeologists and Historians Can’t Defeat Entropy
If these three promises are met, then our knowledge of history is steadily increasing. How, then, could past events be so hazy today? Shouldn’t centuries of new finds, ongoing analysis, and knowledge of subsequent history mean that scholars of Henry VIII’s reign know what happened during that period far, far better than scholars of more recent events like the 2008 financial crash or the two world wars? Of course, we usually see the opposite.

These optimistic historians are writing epistemic checks that cannot be cashed. What the three promises leave out is that information is often lost. Firsthand witnesses and expert historians die after passing down only a fraction of their knowledge. If you investigate the 2008 financial crash today, chances are you can still interview someone who worked in finance or government who will give you information that has never been recorded. The information stored in people’s minds is still fundamentally accessible—for now. In a century, much of this information will be irretrievably lost.

In addition to people, books and artifacts are also lost to entropy in a hundred different ways. The cumulative effect of this destruction is immense, as illustrated by the records of classical civilization. “[T]oday we possess written fragments from only 13% of the ~2,000 ancient Greek authors known to us by name. This does not account for the authors we do not know, and only a small portion of the 13% figure consists of complete works.”

Preserving the ever-growing mass of historical material is too expensive to be practical, so when budgets run thin, even major libraries and archives will discard books and records by the hundreds of thousands. For example, the Manchester Central Library’s recent culling destroyed 210,000 to 500,000 “literary, commercial, educational and political records going back 150 years” with “no subject specialists involved in the process.” This is a standard library practice.

Artifacts are also lost in accidents like the 2018 fire that destroyed 92.5 percent of the 20 million items stored in the National Museum of Brazil, including the only recordings of now-extinct languages. Another example is the 1986 Los Angeles Central Library fire that destroyed 20 percent of the collection and damaged much of the remainder.

In recent decades, digital information has fared no better than paper. Between link rot and changes in software standards, tremendous amounts of digital information become inaccessible over the course of a single decade. The long-term preservation of digital archives remains a hope rather than a guaranteed fact. Even in optimistic scenarios, it would require ongoing effort and maintenance on par with the curation of printed information. As the development of the printing press illustrates, much better ways of recording information can often have only modest effects on how much information gets preserved centuries later.

While we’re waiting for the Library subscribers to make their presentation for the expansion of the Library, I’ve been thinking over the various possibilities that would allow us to help meet this challenge. We already have a few private projects that are underway, but my thought is that it may be time to create a second history-based subscription in which the subscribers, rather than the editors, decide which works are most important to preserve. This subscription would only produce three or four books per year, and would focus on more obscure or more pedestrian works of the sort that would be less likely to appeal to a general audience.

Essentially, a subscription with a primary focus on the True rather than the Beautiful. Which, naturally, would imply an eventual subscription with a focus on the Good, and the Bible project that many people have asked us to consider tackling.


Hence the Library II

You don’t even own your own ebooks anymore.

Owners of Roald Dahl ebooks are having their libraries automatically updated with the new censored versions containing hundreds of changes to language related to weight, mental health, violence, gender and race.

This is one of the strongest arguments against copyright that I can imagine. What prevents Amazon or any other entity with access to your files from completely changing what was previously a copyright-protected text?

And how can the same copyright protect two entirely different texts?

It’s also why we’re providing the ebooks to those who buy our print editions from the direct store.


Already #1!

Wow! That’s just incredible! A #1 bestseller on Amazon! Ron DeSantis must be very, very popular, and so smart and an excellent writer! What a great President he will be!

Clown World wants us to believe that everyone is just rushing to read Ron DeSantis’s book now that they’ve finished reading Harry Markle’s record-setting bestseller.

Ron DeSantis’s book is already a #1 bestseller on Amazon
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s “The Courage to Be Free” hits number one on it’s first day of Amazon sales. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s new book went on sale today, and it’s already hit number one on Amazon:

Gov. Ron DeSantis’s book “The Courage to Be Free,” which goes on sale Tuesday, has already hit No. 1 on the Top 100 list of Amazon.

— The Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) February 28, 2023

That’s a perfectly meaningless title for a ghostwritten political book that virtually no one will read, and anyone who does read it will forget the contents within five minutes of finishing it as completely as if his mind was erased multiple times. These “book sales” are just another form of narrative shaping; it’s no different than Ben Shapiro’s radio show being syndicated all over the place or Eric July shattering the comics crowdfunding record previously set by Ethan van Sciver.

I always find it telling that these “bestselling authors” so seldom bother writing a follow-up.

I’m probably one of the few people who actually tried to read Battlefield Earth. It was always near the top of the B. Dalton’s bestseller list and it was a huge science fiction novel, so it must be good, right? I don’t think I finished the second chapter, which really caused me to harbor some serious doubts about human intelligence. And then I learned about Scientology, and marketing, and it all made sense.


On the Book Front

Things are proceeding well with the bindery, the mailing lists, and the US fullfillment center. There is still plenty of infrastructural work to do, but we’re gradually excising the parts of the process that don’t work well enough and replacing them with things that do.

ITEM: Autarch, among many other things an Arktoons creator, has launched its new Kickstarter campaign for ASCENDANT: PLATINUM EDITION. A revised second edition of the RPG featuring traditional superheroes who are attractive, straight, and even occasionally right-of-center, if you can imagine such a thing.

ITEM: Today is the last day to subscribe to CASTALIA LIBRARY and receive THE ARTS OF WAR as part of your subscription. Please note that a catchup payment will be required as this is the second month of the two-part subscription. The next book in the subscription series, #21, will be announced tomorrow to the subscribers, via the appropriate mailing list to the non-subscribers, and on the Darkstream. We’ve created the new mailing list to ensure externally-verifiable perfect compliance with the GDPR and eliminate the risk of malicious unfounded abuse complaints, as the mailing service provider can now see and confirm that every single individual on the list proactively signed up for it via their own server.

ITEM: Chuck Dixon is flying on Midnight’s War: Night Streets. And the art is spectacular. New heights, my friends, is what Arkhaven is reaching.

ITEM: Speaking of The Legend, the first in the CHUCK DIXON’S CONAN series, THE SIEGE OF THE BLACK CITADEL, is now available in paperback from Castalia House. An excerpt is below. The second in the series, CARAVAN OF THE DAMNED, is already complete and will be published later this year.

I’ll have more to say about the bindery on tonight’s Darkstream.

Continue reading “On the Book Front”

Leather Book Mailing List

This mailing list is a new one intended for non-subscribers who are nevertheless interested in leatherbound books. It’s obviously fine if active Library subscribers wish to follow this monthly newsletter as well, but now that we’re beginning to expand beyond our community, Castalia House needs a way of communicating with people who: a) don’t read this blog or don’t even know it exists, b) are interested in knowing what is going on with the Library and the Bindery but c) don’t have any interest in our regular print editions or ebooks and d) aren’t already subscribed to the Library.

Speaking of the Bindery, it might interest you to know that it already has its first customer and will be binding 650 books in topgrain Italian cowhide for an independent publishing house later this summer. To anticipate the obvious questions, we have not yet determined what the minimum quantity to place an order will be, and we have not yet determined what our standard pricing will be either.

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Hence the Library

This bowdlerization of Roald Dahl’s books is one of the reasons we started Castalia Library to preserve books for the future. It’s why the bindery is going to prove absolutely vital in the years to come. And it’s why we should probably think about acquiring a printing press and sewing machine at some point in the future.

Roald Dahl’s children’s books are being rewritten to remove language deemed offensive by the publisher Puffin.

Puffin has hired sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of the author’s text to make sure the books “can continue to be enjoyed by all today”, resulting in extensive changes across Dahl’s work.

Edits have been made to descriptions of characters’ physical appearances. The word “fat” has been cut from every new edition of relevant books, while the word “ugly” has also been culled, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now described as “enormous”. In The Twits, Mrs Twit is no longer “ugly and beastly” but just “beastly”.

Hundreds of changes were made to the original text – and some passages not written by Dahl have been added. But the Roald Dahl Story Company said “it’s not unusual to review the language” during a new print run and any changes were “small and carefully considered”.

In The Witches, a paragraph explaining that witches are bald beneath their wigs ends with the new line: “There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.”

In previous editions of James and the Giant Peach, the Centipede sings: “Aunt Sponge was terrifically fat / And tremendously flabby at that,” and, “Aunt Spiker was thin as a wire / And dry as a bone, only drier.”

Both verses have been removed, and in their place are the rhymes: “Aunt Sponge was a nasty old brute / And deserved to be squashed by the fruit,” and, “Aunt Spiker was much of the same / And deserves half of the blame.”

References to “female” characters have disappeared. Miss Trunchbull in Matilda, once a “most formidable female”, is now a “most formidable woman”.

Gender-neutral terms have been added in places – where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Oompa Loompas were “small men”, they are now “small people”. The Cloud-Men in James and the Giant Peach have become Cloud-People.

Puffin and the Roald Dahl Story Company made the changes in conjunction with Inclusive Minds, which its spokesperson describes as “a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children’s literature”.

This is pure and unadulterated evil. It is erasure of the author from his own works. Unfortunately, it is something that we have come across in some of our communications with the literary heirs of authors whose views are not entirely harmonious with those heirs; for every Christopher Tolkien who defends his father’s legacy like a lion, there are three or four children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who are happy to sacrifice it on the twin altars of Mammon and political correctness.

It’s also why Castalia House supports Project Gutenbeg and the Unz Review’s Content Archive of Printed Periodicals and Books. If you want to help out, one of the most effective things you can do is subscribe to the Library; the current subscription book is THE ARTS OF WAR, edited by yours truly and featuring an introduction by Alexander Macris.


Shakeups in Publishing

In the aftermath of the failed Simon & Schuster acquisition, Penguin Random House’s CEO has resigned only one month after her predecessor’s resignation:

Madeline McIntosh, one of the most powerful figures in American book publishing, is stepping down from her role as chief executive of Penguin Random House U.S., the company announced on Tuesday.

The announcement comes during a time of great turbulence for Penguin Random House, by far the country’s largest book publisher. Markus Dohle, who was the chief executive of Penguin Random House, and McIntosh’s boss, resigned from his position in December.

The company also lost a bid last year to buy Simon & Schuster, a large rival publishing house, after the government successfully sued to stop the deal on antitrust grounds. The deal’s collapse cost Penguin Random House a $200 million termination fee, in addition to enormous legal costs. Dohle had overseen the attempted acquisition.

McIntosh has been the head of Penguin Random House U.S. since 2018. Before that, she held a variety of roles at the company, which she first joined almost 30 years ago. She also worked briefly at Amazon.

This is going to have some major fallout in both companies. Expect sizeable layoffs in the industry.

In other news, it’s safe to anticipate that TOR Books is going to be acquired, probably by the same Chinese-funded Astra startup that acquired DAW Books. How long Chinese money is going to support the 白左 aka baizuo, which literally means “white left”, that run these publishing companies should be interesting to watch.

It appears Baen Books has undergone a reverse-revolution, as Toni is back, having unseated her erstwhile successor who proved to be a complete SJW. Precisely how the purchase of TOR will affect them is unknown, but TOR owns a substantial share of Baen, so they will be affected to at least some degree.

On the Castalia front, we have set up our own warehousing and shipping in the USA, which should go a long way toward addressing our longtime customer service issues and prevent us from becoming dependent upon Amazon. This service will begin in March. We also expect to be able to offer shipping services to independent authors and other publishers who want to sell their books directly to their readers, as well as eventually providing an Arktoons-to-print service for our comics creators.