The Thucydides Trap (Castalia Edition)

Forget great power competition. The real Thucydides Trap is the one that Castalia History has laid for unwary book collectors and armchair historians. If you’d like to see the final stamp design of the first book in the series, you can see it at Castalia Library. It’s scheduled for binding the week of March 8th and it is a behemoth of a book.

With regards to the fourth book in the History series, in the latest selection posted, Sir Charles offers profound observations about the past that reflect directly on our future. Consider how well his description of a transformed political perspective applies to the post-WWII United States and what that implies for the future of its empire.

Two centuries and a half later there was a good example of political perspective being upset for a whole nation, not by catastrophe, but by sudden expansion. I allude to the Greeks, and the result on their view of the world caused by the exploits of Alexander the Great. The Macedonian conquest of the East revolutionized the relations of the active and high-cultured little states of Greece, both with each other and with the outer world. Civic patriotism received a blow, but in return the establishment of the new Macedonian Empire offered many compensations both to the state and to the individual. If a man consented to forget that he was an Athenian or a Corinthian, and merely to remember that he was a Greek, what was more inspiring than to see that the old Hellenic genius for colonization was not extinct; to behold every land from the Aegean to the Indus covered with Greek cities as large and splendid as any that had ever existed in the old motherland…

While the empire of the Eastern world was being won by the Tigris, fights at home between small armies for a strip of plainland or a border fort seemed contemptible and absurd. For the Greeks who had thrown themselves into Alexander’s great adventure the national perspective had suddenly enlarged from a view of the Aegean to a view as far as the Oxus and the Indus. The Hellenic world had been increased twenty-fold. Why discuss constitutions any more, or indulge in petty faction-fights, when the man with a brain and a sword had the universe at his feet? The vision was illusive, and ended in a veneer of Greek civilization imposed on the East for a few centuries, at the cost of the exhaustion and debasement of the civilizer.


Negativity is the Consequence of Degeneracy

The great 20th century historian, Sir Charles Oman, presciently illuminates the philosophical mediocrity and fundamental inutility of what he describes as the Pessimist, and what we would describe as a Blackpiller, a doomsayer, or an MGTOW, in today’s selection from his epic STUDIES IN NAPOLEONIC WARFARE now being serialized on the Castalia Library substack.

The conception of the history of the world as a process of consistent deterioration, from a golden age down to a catastrophe well earned by degenerate mankind, is not a very cheerful or inspiring one to guide the way of life. The most obvious deduction from it is, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die”. The average man finds within himself no power to withstand the stream of tendency in which he believes himself carried along toward an unhappy end. He does not even exclaim with Hamlet:

The World is out of joint—O cursed spite
That ever I was born to set it right.

For how few minds even conceive the idea that it is their duty to stand against the spirit of the times, hard though the task may be.

Historical Perspective: Man’s Outlook on History, Sir Charles Oman

This is precisely why I harbor neither respect nor regard for those who have nothing to offer the world except their ceaseless predictions of inevitable doom. For as Sir Charles explains, their negativity is the inevitable and inescapable consequence of their own degeneracy.

Hope is a Christian virtue. Even in a fallen world populated by mediocrities, engulfed by lies, and ruled by inverts, demons, and satanic pedophiles, we have the undying hope of the Cross. Despite our own flaws, sins, stupidities, and shortcomings, the Almighty God chose to extend His hand to us, and through His Son, offer us a way out of the material mire.

Having taken that Divine hand, it is now our duty to stand against the evil spirit of our times. Not our desire, our dream, or our mood of the day. Our duty, however hard it might be.

And if our inspired optimism pains our enemies, if our relentless conviction burns them, if our Christian faith enrages them, if our intolerance makes them feel bad about themselves, that is only further testimony to the fact that our perspective is essentially beautiful, good, and true.



A SEA OF SKULLS is now available for Amazon Kindle for those who prefer to read their ebooks on Kindle. It is, of course, also available on DRM-free epub on the Arkhaven store. For those of you who have been wanting to write reviews of it or rate the book, this would be the ideal place to do so.

In Selenoth, the war drums are beating throughout the land. The savage orcs of Hagahorn and Zoth Ommog are on the move, imperiling Man, Dwarf, and Elf alike. The Houses Martial of Amorr have gone to war with each other, pitting legion against legion, and family against family, as civil war wracks the disintegrating Empire. In the north, inhuman wolf-demons besiege the last redoubt of Man in the White Sea, while in Savondir, the royal house of de Mirid desperately prepares to defend the kingdom against an invading army that is larger than any it has ever faced before. And in the underground realm of the King of Iron Mountain, a strange new enemy has been attacking dwarf villages throughout the Underdeep.

Beneath the widespread violence that has seized all Selenoth in its grasp, a select few are beginning to recognize the appearance of a historic pattern of almost unimaginable proportions. Are all these conflicts involving Orc, Elf, Man, and Dwarf the natural result of inevitable rivalries, or are they little more than battlegrounds in an ancient war that began long before the dawn of time?

Epic fantasy at its deepest and most intense. A SEA OF SKULLS is Book II in the ARTS OF DARK AND LIGHT series that began with A THRONE OF BONES.

“If you’re into epic fantasy, I can’t recommend Arts of Dark and Light highly enough.”

“Easily the best epic fantasy series out today. Many reviewers are comparing to LOTR and while I cannot go that far, I believe this series is better than GOT.”

“The story keeps getting more exciting. The characters are well-defined. Unlike A Song of Ice and Fire and The Wheel of Time, there is no filler here.”

Print length ‏ : ‎ 1016 pages

SUMMA ELVETICA is also now available in Kindle format on Amazon. A THRONE OF BONES should be available soon as well, but it’s first necessary to convince Amazon that the Castalia House to which the KDP account is attached is the same Castalia House that publishes the print edition.

The print edition will be available in the April timeframe.


Man’s Outlook on History

Castalia Library has begun the serialization of Castalia History Book 4, STUDIES ON THE NAPOLEONIC WARS by Sir Charles Oman. It is truly an excellent work, as this excerpt should suffice to demonstrate.

The moment that man begins to think about something more than the passing trifles and troubles of his daily life, and starts, consciously or unconsciously, to make generalizations about himself and his neighbours, their ends and objects, their past and future, he has begun to look at things in perspective. And when he extends his survey so as to draw deductions from all that he knows about the past records of mankind, he is trying to look at the world in historical perspective. It may be that his survey extends over no greater space of time than a generation or two—“Tales of a Grandfather” may be the limit of his knowledge. Or, on the other hand, he may know—or may think that he knows—the whole history of mankind since the Creation—if he ties himself down to the idea of a Creation—down to the all-important present day. Such was the happy conviction of Orosius in A.D. 417, and of Mr. H. G. Wells in A.D. 1925. But whether his horizon of knowledge be long or short, whether it be a hundred years or a hundred aeons, the man who has started to generalize about his own position in universal history is constructing for himself an historical perspective.

What are the things that determine a man’s outlook on the past and the future?

It is with some difficulty that I restrain myself from essentially converting Castalia History into the Sir Charles Oman series. Although I can guarantee that there will be more Oman titles in the series. I think, at this point, that he has joined Eco, Tolkien, Aristotle, and Aquinas in my personal pantheon, surpassing Bury, Murakami, Lee, and Gibson in the second rank.

Note that the serialization begins with the Preface, and can be navigated through the NEXT and PREVIOUS buttons on the bottom of each post. And speaking of Man’s outlook on history, perhaps one might enjoy a look at the results of the test stamping for Castalia History Book 3, THE CAMBRIDGE MEDIEVAL HISTORY Volume 2: The Twelfth Century to the Renaissance, which is scheduled for binding today.


Castalia Library on Substack

In the aftermath of the extremely successful launch of the Sigma Game substack, I brought up the idea of a substack devoted to Castalia Library with the idea that it might help those who somehow miss out on a) blog posts, b) the monthly emails, c) Gab and SocialGalactic announcements, and d) LibraryThing posts keep tabs on the current state of things with the various Castalia Library books, including Library, Libraria, History, the Junior Classics, and the various one-off editions.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, and since Castalia Library is nothing if not responsive to its subscribers, I duly set up a Castalia Library substack. Those who sign up for a free subscription will be kept up to date on the latest production schedules with regular emails, and it should even be possible to allow new subscribers to sign up through the paid subscription option at some point.

It should be noted that this substack is absolutely not a substitute for anything else or any other platform. Rather, it is an attempt to cast a wider net, as the primary challenge facing Castalia Library at the moment is that the vast majority of book collectors, and therefore, the vast majority of its potential subscribers and customers, have never heard of it. So even if you’re on the mailing lists and receiving the monthly emails, it’s probably not a bad idea to widen your net before you get caught in a bounce and your email is scrubbed by the mail service.

And speaking of the Sigma Game substack, I would be remiss if I neglected to mention today’s post on my thoughts concerning a female SSH and the various attempts to construct it. No offense intended to the various men and women who have thus far attempted to formulate one, but the fact is that most of those who do appear to be more interested in relating various anecdotes about their personal experiences than in an objective analysis of the complexities of female social interaction.

Not that it’s my concern or my interest, but I would point out that anyone who fails to take into account either the fat factor or the sexual availability and experience factor in what purports to be a “socio-sexual” hierarchy can’t reasonably be considered to be serious about the task. And due to the female discomfort in honestly addressing both of those issues, to say nothing of the male ignorance, and inability to grasp the details, of female competition, I find it difficult to believe that anyone will succeed in describing a functional female SSH any time soon.


How KU Destroyed the Ebook Market

At first glance, Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited looks like a great deal to serious readers. For only $9.99 per month, you can read whatever you want from a catalog of more than 2.5 million books. And it is a great deal, for now. The downside is that it has had terrible consequences for authors and publishers alike, consequences that will only continue to get worse over time. Here is the fundamental problem with the KU program from a book industry professional’s point of view.

The proper price range for an ebook, as defined by Amazon, is $2.99 to $9.99. Outside that range, the 70 percent royalty is halved, so those are the relevant price boundaries. While the Big 4 publishers price their new ebook releases at $9.99, Castalia generally prices its ebooks at $4.99, so we’ll use that for the purposes of analysis.

Using a hypothetical 300-page book as an example, an ebook sale generates around $3.49 in royalties for the publisher after Amazon deducts its delivery fee and infrastructure charges. A full Kindle read of the same ebook generates around $1.20 per finished book, the precise amount depending upon the monthly KENP royalty, which has recently averaged around .0040 per page read.

So, on it’s face, KU means reducing the payout to the author by about $2.29, or 52 percent. That’s bad, but superficially survivable for a successful writer.

However, the reality is considerably worse. Think about what percentage of the books you read that you actually finish. I read 4.5x faster than the average reader, I consciously try to finish every book I read on principle, and I would still estimate that my book-completion rate is only around 90 percent. Sometimes a book just isn’t that interesting, sometimes a better book comes along, and sometimes you only want a specific piece of information contained in a particular book that is otherwise of no interest to you.

And consider the fact that Amazon literally markets KU as a means of “trying out new authors”, which tends to increase the number of books that the average individual samples, but doesn’t finish, as he tries, and discards, new authors he doesn’t like.

“I would never be able to afford reading so many books if not for KU. It also allows trying new authors and series. Since I don’t need to pay extra, I’m willing to try books/authors I would normally hesitate to spend money on.”

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that KU readers finish one out of every 3 books they download onto their Kindles. That estimate is probably on the high side, given the way there is a strong correlation between readers and collectors, but it will serve to illustrate the point. This means that while an author gets paid for every ebook sold, whether it is read or not, he’s only going to get paid for the partial percentage of his KU books that were actually read.

(This is probably why KU only reports normalized pages read, not book downloads. It would likely be depressing to a lot of authors to realize how few of their books downloaded are actually read at all, let alone in full.)

Multiplying the difference between a sale and a book read (0.48) by the percentage of completed books (0.33) suggests that on average, authors are making about 15.84 percent of what they were making prior to Kindle Unlimited being introduced. It also means we can estimate the amount of ebook sales revenues that has been eliminated by Kindle Unlimited by multiplying the monthly KDP Select Global Fund for Kindle Unlimited by 6.3131, which is the inverse of that 15.84 percent.

Since the September 2023 KDP Select Global Fund was $49.6 million, this suggests that Amazon is now destroying about $313 million in potential ebook sales every single month. And this doesn’t even get into the fact that because Amazon controls the sales across its site with its A9-A11 algorithms, as well as secret algorithms like Project Nessie, to influence prices and pick winners and losers on a monthly basis.

People familiar with the FTC’s allegations in the complaint told the Journal that it all started when Amazon developed an algorithm code-named “Project Nessie.” It allegedly works by manipulating rivals’ weaker pricing algorithms and locking competitors into higher prices. The controversial algorithm was allegedly used for years and helped Amazon to “improve its profits on items across shopping categories” and “led competitors to raise their prices and charge customers more,” the WSJ reported.

So, if you want to know why so many great little independent publishers have disappeared, why independent authors are struggling, and why genre publishing houses like Tor and Baen Books are teetering on the edge of failure, and why the comics publishers like Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and IDW are facing the prospect of looming shutdowns, you’ve got your answer: Amazon ebook sales hurt the print market, and Kindle Unlimited is killing the ebook sales market.

Now, you don’t need to worry about Castalia. Even though we’ve seen the same cataclysmic decline in ebook sales that other publishers and authors have, starting in October, you’re going to see us publishing more hardcovers, paperbacks, and ebooks than you’ve seen us publish in the last three years. We just published CARAVAN OF THE DAMNED by Chuck Dixon, and next week we’ll be publishing THE ALTAR OF HATE by yours truly and QUANTUM MORTIS: A MIND PROGRAMMED & OTHER STORIES as soon as the cover art is ready. And a whole host of books that haven’t appeared in print before, including THE CASTALIA JUNIOR CLASSICS Volumes 7 and 8, are in production. We’re also going to systematically expand the number of ebooks and print editions available on the Arkhaven Store over the next year.


But while we probably deserve some credit for anticipating the negative consequences of KU and taking steps to avoid them, it’s your support of Library, History, and our various crowdfunding projects, and your willingness to buy books directly from us, that is the main reason Castalia is healthy while publishers who relied upon bookstores, comic stores, and Amazon to keep them afloat are rapidly circling the dustbin of history.


The History Subscription

We’re going to print with THE LANDMARK THUCYDIDES. The title page created for the Castalia Library edition is below.

The second and third books in the series are already printed, and the fourth book is presently being scanned in preparation for going to print. We’re waiting on the leathers, which should arrive sometime in October, and then we’ll be going into production.

If you haven’t subscribed yet to Castalia History, or to Castalia Library, this is a very good time to do so, as we expect to be hitting on all cylinders by the end of the year. Below is an image of the first custom stamp die created for the bindery; initial tests of the bottom jig have been good, although it appears we’re going to have to add a top jig as well in order to ensure properly distributed pressure across the cover. You can see the screwholes that we’ve added which will allow us to fix the stamps into an exact position; a system that is a considerable improvement on the two-sided tape customarily used to fix the stamps into position that we regarded as too haphazard and prone to operator error.

And finally, as you have probably already seen on SocialGalactic, both The Promethean and The Lawdog Files are now being spotted in the wild.


Last Chance at Landmark

A selection from The History of the Pelopponesian War by Thucydides, the Landmark edition of which is the first in the Castalia History series. From now until Friday, new subscribers will be subscribed from the first book, after which new subscriptions will begin with the second book in the History series, which will be announced on July 1st.

Due to the enthusiasm for the series, the print run for The Landmark Thucydides will be 500.

So bloody was the march of the revolution, and the impression which it made was the greater as it was one of the first to occur. Later on, one may say, the whole Hellenic world was convulsed; struggles being every, where made by the popular chiefs to bring in the Athenians, and by the oligarchs to introduce the Lacedaemonians. In peace there would have been neither the pretext nor the wish to make such an invitation; but in war, with an alliance always at the command of either faction for the hurt of their adversaries and their own corresponding advantage, opportunities for bringing in the foreigner were never wanting to the revolutionary parties. The sufferings which revolution entailed upon the cities were many and terrible, such as have occurred and always will occur, as long as the nature of mankind remains the same; though in a severer or milder form, and varying in their symptoms, according to the variety of the particular cases. In peace and prosperity, states and individuals have better sentiments, because they do not find themselves suddenly confronted with imperious necessities; but war takes away the easy supply of daily wants, and so proves a rough master, that brings most men’s characters to a level with their fortunes. Revolution thus ran its course from city to city, and the places which it arrived at last, from having heard what had been done before, carried to a still greater excess the refinement of their inventions, as manifested in the cunning of their enterprises and the atrocity of their reprisals. Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. In fine, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations had not in view the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime. The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation. Oaths of reconciliation, being only proffered on either side to meet an immediate difficulty, only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand; but when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one, since, considerations of safety apart, success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence. Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever than simpletons honest, and are as ashamed of being the second as they are proud of being the first. The cause of all these evils was the lust for power arising from greed and ambition; and from these passions proceeded the violence of parties once engaged in contention. The leaders in the cities, each provided with the fairest professions, on the one side with the cry of political equality of the people, on the other of a moderate aristocracy, sought prizes for themselves in those public interests which they pretended to cherish, and, recoiling from no means in their struggles for ascendancy engaged in the direst excesses; in their acts of vengeance they went to even greater lengths, not stopping at what justice or the good of the state demanded, but making the party caprice of the moment their only standard, and invoking with equal readiness the condemnation of an unjust verdict or the authority of the strong arm to glut the animosities of the hour. Thus religion was in honour with neither party; but the use of fair phrases to arrive at guilty ends was in high reputation. Meanwhile the moderate part of the citizens perished between the two, either for not joining in the quarrel, or because envy would not suffer them to escape.

Thus every form of iniquity took root in the Hellenic countries by reason of the troubles. The ancient simplicity into which honour so largely entered was laughed down and disappeared; and society became divided into camps in which no man trusted his fellow. To put an end to this, there was neither promise to be depended upon, nor oath that could command respect; but all parties dwelling rather in their calculation upon the hopelessness of a permanent state of things, were more intent upon self-defence than capable of confidence. In this contest the blunter wits were most successful. Apprehensive of their own deficiencies and of the cleverness of their antagonists, they feared to be worsted in debate and to be surprised by the combinations of their more versatile opponents, and so at once boldly had recourse to action: while their adversaries, arrogantly thinking that they should know in time, and that it was unnecessary to secure by action what policy afforded, often fell victims to their want of precaution.


Officially Outdated

If you’re still not sure it’s worthwhile to subscribe to Castalia Library and/or History, or if you’re still not convinced that the literature you treasure is actually being targeted for eradication by the Zero History crowd, consider the way in which the funniest writer in the English language, PG Woodhouse, is already being bowlderized:

Publishers have issued the works of PG Wodehouse with a blanket trigger warning over concerns that it contains ‘outdated’ social attitudes.

Novels including Leave it to PSmith and Something Fresh have both been reissued by their publisher, Penguin, with a caution, despite the fact that neither have been flagged for potentially offensive or contain racist terminonlogy.

All news editions of Wodehouse’s work will come with warnings saying that his novels depict obsolete attitudes, the Telegraph reported.

The trigger warning issued by Penguin read: ‘Please be aware that this book was published in the 1920s and may contain language, themes, or characterisations which you may find outdated.’

The move comes after publishers rewrote Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books to remove ‘unacceptable’ prose, in April.

This is why we are actively looking into a variety of ways to preserve the Western literary canon, both physically and digitally.


A Tale of Two Conans

The Essential Malady compares Chuck Dixon’s Conan, which is based on Robert E. Howard’s public domain Conan, with Tor’s Conan, which is presumably licensed from the Swedes holding the rights to the later portrayals of Conan the Barbarian.

Last month I reviewed The Siege of the Black Citadel by “The Legend” Chuck Dixon. I mentioned in the review that it was the first I had read that wasn’t written by Robert E. Howard (excepting comics). I expressed that I was reluctant to read stories by other authors because I didn’t believe they could live up to Howard’s work but that Dixon came very close which is high praise.

Late last year, the first new Conan novel since 2011 was published by Titan Books some months before Dixon’s new story was out. This is written by S.M. Stirling who has been a published author since the 1980s though I hadn’t heard of him until now. Blood of the Serpent is written as a prequel to what is probably Howard’s most recognised story, “Red Nails” and indeed, the events are so closely tied that it is included at the back. When I noticed my library had a copy, I thought it would be worth reading to compare with both Howard and Dixon.

It wasn’t but read on as I elaborate.

S.M. Stirling is a competent enough writer and he has made use of plot details provided in “Red Nails” to construct his narrative. What is wrong with this has little to do with his writing and more to do with what is revealed in the Afterword:

“Red Nails” is pure Howard… Raw and powerful, it’s also very much of its time— written almost a century ago, when our culture could be less socially aware and genre fiction in particular often exhibited rough edges some of today’s readers may find jarring.

From this alone we can establish that both the publisher and the author are embarrassed by (or dislike) the source material. It is not clear who wrote the Afterword so I will assume this is a shared opinion. It would have been more honest to put this in the Foreword so a potential reader could have saved themselves the hassle of finding out. As opposed to “some” of today’s readers, the main reason Howard is seeing a resurgence in popularity is because readers are looking for exactly what they find within Howard. Far from “jarring”, they find his stories refreshing and exciting.

The other problem is if you think Howard had “rough edges”, then why write a new story so closely related instead of one that can stand on its own? Blood of the Serpent is completely dependent on “Red Nails”. The ending is the beginning of the latter and so the ending to Blood of the Serpent isn’t really an ending at all without knowledge of what it is leading up to. What makes this even worse is that it is over three times the length and establishes nothing that wasn’t done more efficiently and eloquently in the opening pages of “Red Nails”. So on these points alone it is pointless but it gets worse still.

Read the whole thing. Apparently it does get worse, and the comparison is considerably in The Legend’s favor. And this explains why Castalia is beginning to delve into revivals of public domain icons, because if we don’t provide correct continuations that respect and hold true to those icons, the Zero History crowd will provide false continuations that invert and betray them.