Amazon Bans The Corroding Empire

In times like these we have to remember that Amazon is a converged institution, that still lets the converged institutions that are big publishing have sway over them. They provided another example today that having a monopoly or oligopoly in a business is bad for the business and for everyone involved. I recommend congress do an immediate investigation into Amazon under Anti-Trust laws.  Here’s what went down:

  1. Tor Books author John Scalzi announced a book, which he turned in late, titled The Collapsing Empire.
  2. Castalia House quickly and effectively put out a parody book titled The Corroding Empire by Johan Kalsi, which beat out Scalzi’s actual work in pre-orders for several days.
  3. The parody, The Corroding Empire released today, to much fanfare (I’ve read a little myself, it is good science fiction work).
  4. Tor sent Amazon an ultimatum telling them to take it down.
  5. Amazon complied and sent Castalia House a notification that they were taking it down because they were pretending to be John Scalzi.
  6. Castalia House had their book removed, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

Now it’s clearly not something trying to mimic John Scalzi, but is something that’s an obvious parody. Their reasoning for taking this down is suspect at best. It would take a complete idiot to conflate the two in earnest, and moreover, the pre-order sales have already had its big bump. On Vox Popoli, Vox commented that the pre-ordered book had already sold “very well.” I expect with all the publicity that it’ll get from Amazon’s sketchy move, that it will sell even better.

Fortunately, Vox Day is on top of it. They planned to have trouble, and they have already got the book retitled with a new fictitious author’s name – Corrosion by Harry Seldon.

The new name is almost funnier than the first, referencing the Asimov character, Hari Seldon from Asimov’s Foundation series. Not to mention this is an absolutely gorgeous new cover. Well played, Castalia House. It goes to show that a modern press run by competent people can be much more nimble and adaptive than the giants of the past. The establishment won’t be able to keep up with this sort of thing, and that means in the short term that you can expect lashing out both more often, and more severely. In the long term, they won’t be around.

Even Mr. Scalzi has little he can do to react on twitter, image sent to me by Dan Wolfgang:

  • IIRC last time ‘Zon banned a book making fun of Scalzi, they ended up with 3 or 4 replacements.

  • And now when you search for Corroding Empire you get Scalzi’s book as a result. That smells.

  • “It goes to show that a modern press run by competent people can be much more nimble and adaptive than the giants of the past.”

    Precisely. It’s small, quick mammals vs. lumbering dinosaurs.

    “They provided another example today that having a monopoly or oligopoly in a business is bad for the business and for everyone involved.”

    The “Amazon is a monopoly!” zombie meme strikes again.
    1) Amazon isn’t a monopoly. They have myriad competitors, from Apple and Google to B&N and Alibaba.
    2) Even if they were, being a monopoly isn’t illegal. Unethically gaining a monopoly and/or using monopoly power against consumers is. Amazon is nothing if not consumer-centered.
    3) Amazon corporate didn’t pull The Corroding Empire. It was the mid-tier admins, whom we’ve known were converged for quite some time. Bezos, though a huge Lefty, is still cares more about making money than SocJus. You can tell because he gave Tor enough rope to hang themselves by allowing them to return to agency pricing.

    However, that doesn’t mean we won’t need a non-converged alternative to Amazon at some point.

  • SlayerofBodom

    Shame that one can’t legally challenge this absurd decision. I once had a lawyer explain to me that not only are parody/satire protected, but even very similar items are okay so long as any reasonable observer/consumer could discern between the two.

    This latter is very clearly the case here.

    • That’s why Tor ran to an amenable authority instead of filing a suit they knew they couldn’t win.

      However, one attorney has told me that Tor may have opened themselves up to a suit from Castalia House for tortiable interference with their business.

      • jwrennie

        Even if they have made themselves vulnerable technically, they have deep pockets and Castalia being based in Iceland (iirc) probably wont have standing anyway.

        • They obviously had standing. Tor interfered with their contract with Amazon, therefore tortious interference with contract.

  • Lorenzo Fossi

    This is weaponized trolling brought to the next level.
    I’m glad I’m living in this timeline.

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  • I have only one question: What’s the point? I understand that Beale doesn’t like Scalzi. Fine; from what I’ve read about Scalzi I doubt I’d like him any better than Beale does. But what’s the point of deliberately baiting him? What gain is there to Beale, or Castalia House, or any of the writers whose works it markets?

    • Anthony M

      I’ll answer on my own behalf: No idea. Superversive SF is not Castalia House; Vox’s decisions and ideas are his own.

  • I note in this piece there is a basic confusion as to whether the Castalia House book is a parody or not. Vox Day says the book *isn’t* a parody.

    Personally I love parodies of book covers – and I’ve done a few of that Collapsing Empire cover myself – but putting a ‘parody’ cover on an unrelated book is still an attempt by one publishing company to try and make money off other people’s intellectual property. Lazy and unethical at best.

    • Bellomy

      It seems to be pretty clearly a parody to me.

      The one statement I found to the contrary after some digging is here:

      This isn’t a lame Bored of the Rings-style parody, it is, quite to the contrary, a legitimate Foundation-style novel that effectively demonstrates how hapless Tor’s latest imitative mediocrity is by comparison.

      http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-corroding-empire-preorder-now.html

      That’s not a denial that it’s a parody, that’s a denial that it’s a “lame, Bored of the Rings style” parody, which is different. Perhaps I’m missing something, but it’s all I found from Vox that might be construed as a denial it’s a parody.

      It being a legitimate Foundation-style novel does not make it not a parody; “Galaxy Quest” is a Star Trek parody that’s also a legitimately great Star Trek-style movie. “The Princess Bride” is an adventure movie parody that is also a legitimately great adventure movie.

      Considering the name of the author alone it seems to pretty clearly be a parody to me.

      • //Bellomy: It seems to be pretty clearly a parody to me.

        The one statement I found to the contrary after some digging is here://

        Versus zero statements were he says the book *is* a parody. This a huge gulf between ‘this book clearly is a parody’ and ‘it has not been totally ruled out that it is a parody’ [remember: the book not the cover]

        //That’s not a denial that it’s a parody, that’s a denial that it’s a “lame, Bored of the Rings style” parody, which is different.//

        I concede it leaves open the possibility of it being a parody* (in the broadest sense) of a Foundation style novel but it clearly isn’t a going to be a parody of ‘The Collapsing Empire’.

        //Considering the name of the author alone it seems to pretty clearly be a parody to me.//

        Yeah, again that’s THE COVER rather than the book itself. That doesn’t help Vox’s case. If somebody bought this expecting a parody of John Scalzi’s books they wouldn’t get that (if descriptions are to be believed).

        Take for example the reviews of the book Vox Day quotes:

        “I thought it was going to be largely tongue-in-cheek humor. Instead it’s a pretty strong straight sci-fi story, told as a series of vignettes over an expansive period of time. The comparisons to Asimov’s Foundation are apt but I would say it nods in Asimov’s direction rather than ripping him off.”

        or

        “This was a very surprising and compelling read. Clearly modeled on Asimov’s Foundation, this book does a much better and more interesting job of making that world seem real and possible. Part thriller, some hard-ish sci-fi, and part dystopian novel, The Corroding Empire was strikes a very resonant tone…. Growing up on Asimov and having a special place in my heart for Foundation, I found this to be a fantastic book and homage, of sorts, to Asimov. It’s well worth the time and a first-rate addition to the genre.”

        Now, I haven’t read it so maybe it is chock full of witty deconstructions of Asmivovian tropes or Scalziesque cliches but the ONLY element that has been pointed at so far as indicating ‘parody’ has been the cover**

        Pointing at the cover and saying ‘it’s clearly a parody’ is missing the point. Clearly the cover is a parody of the Collapsing Empire cover, BUT why is it the cover of a book that ISN’T a parody of the Collapsing Empire but is in fact “quite the contrary” to that? It’s hardly a surprise Amazon would pull it.

        *[also leaves open the possibility of being many other things]
        **[OK it has a robot called ‘Servo’ which echoes MST3K]

        • Bellomy

          A similar title, cover, clearly parodic author name and repeated references to Scalzi by Vox makes me suspicious that Amazon was worried people wouldn’t realize this was a parody.

          • jwrennie

            Lets cut to the chase. Tor is pissy because they bet the farm on Scalzi and a tiny little publishing house in Iceland is making them look stupid by easily out competing their la.e duck.

            Because they cant compete they are trying to cheat to avoid having to compete as all large dying dinosaurs in an industry do.

            Camelstros you are taking the side of Cabbies against Uber. It is current year man.

          • 1. Let’s cut to the chase – Amazon is pissy because they don’t like people messing around with their business. No further explanation is necessary to explain what happened. Why would *AMAZON* want stunts like this to be the norm? They wouldn’t and they’ll err on the side of what sells.

            2. Finland not Iceland.
            3. In this analogy the Uber equivalent is Amazon not Castalia – that’s why Amazon gets to call the shots.

          • jwrennie

            No it is clearly not Amazon pulling the strings here. McRapey hinted as much.

            Plus there are additional shennanigans afoot. Im sorry you are out of the loop and dont know what you are talking about.

          • //Plus there are additional shennanigans afoot. Im sorry you are out of the loop and dont know what you are talking about.//

            Fair point – after all I completely missed Castalia being forced to move to Iceland.

          • jwrennie

            Don;t you like being welcome places?

          • //No it is clearly not Amazon pulling the strings here. McRapey hinted as much.

            Plus there are additional shennanigans afoot. Im sorry you are out of the loop and dont know what you are talking about.//

            And a couple of days later…

            Vox Day says it wasn’t Tor or John Scalzi but some sort of somebody at Amazon.

            Also, read the thing now and…well it isn’t a parody. It ain’t terrible but its a poor advert for somebody’s editing skills.

          • and they don’t want other small publishing houses doing something similar with other books and claiming it was ‘parody’.

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