Amazon Yanks Castalia House’s “The Corroding Empire”

The Corroding Empire, Castalia House’s parody of John Scalzi’s The Collapsing Empire with a look-alike cover, has been taken off sale by Amazon.

Day told Vox Popoli readers in “Amazon Pulls Corroding Empire”

Fascinating. We just received an email from Amazon informing us that the title, cover, and author of THE CORRODING EMPIRE were “misleading”.

The Scalzi book, available for pre-order since May 2016, will have its official release on March 21.

Pre-orders for the Castalia House book have been taken on Amazon since about March 6, and its publication date is today, March 20. Although sales are shut down, people have reported they got their pre-ordered copies on schedule.

When he announced the Castalia House book, Vox Day made clear their version was more than a parody, that his goal was to show up Tor’s book, in a continuation of his one-sided feud with author and former SFWA President Scalzi.

Nevertheless, from concept to cover, from title to text, THE CORRODING EMPIRE  is a very clear and public demonstration that the Castalia House team can do what they do, and do it better, even as an in-house joke in our copious spare time.

After all, what would be more amusing than for THE CORRODING EMPIRE to outsell and outrank The Collapsing Empire? 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.

And he soon posted claims that the Castalia House parody was running ahead of the real book, in “A tale of two preorders”.

The Corroding Empire #15 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Opera

The Collapsing Empire #151 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Space Opera

Vox Day has posted an image of the book’s replacement cover and is working to get Amazon to resume sales.

In any event, we will have CORROSION by Harry Seldon, complete with a new cover, back up soon. It’s not like we aren’t in the habit of anticipating enemy action, after all.

94 thoughts on “Amazon Yanks Castalia House’s “The Corroding Empire”

  1. Cat said
    Amazon’s been removing them as there’s now just one negative review and I tagged it for removing as it’s very clearly not a review.

    The troll reviews are still there if you show All Reviews, not just Verified Purchase reviews. Either that or the Great Brainwashed have gone and added even more since the others were reported.

    Unfortunately a review that doesn’t show at first glance can still bring down the star rating. That’s why if I see a hotly anticipated book with an average around three stars, I know something’s up. Either people are trolling the system, or people are upset because a popular character was killed off. Or worse yet, a kitten. :O

  2. I ses there’s now two one star reviews and one two star review (which Amazon insists doesn’t exist when I try to click through to it.) Neither one star is a review of the book. Vox Day (though VD is a better name for him.) I predict he’ll will get banned from Amazon at some point.

    The only Scalzi I’ve encountered was Zoe’s World as an audiobook with a wonderful narrator. Think of it was an updating of a Heinlein juvenile novel.

  3. Anne Marble: Unfortunately a review that doesn’t show at first glance can still bring down the star rating.

    The joke is on the trolls. When a lot of people leave reviews on a book in a short period of time — regardless of the rating — Amazon’s algorithms mark it as trending. And I seem to recall that when a book hits 50 reviews of any rating, Amazon’s algorithms start promoting it in a list of works that people see when they look at similarly-categorized works.

    Also, I’ve also reported the bogus reviews for abuse. If enough abuse reports come in on a work’s reviews, the algorithms will flag it for attention by live person.

    But seriously, I can’t believe that these idiots actually think that they are going to do any damage to a guy who has sold more than a million books. It’s so pathetic — like little boys at the side of the road yelling and waving their wooden swords around and insisting that they’re going to destroy the king, whilst the king rides by in his golden carriage, rolling his eyes and laughing his ass off.

  4. Lock In and assorted sub-novel-length fiction aside, which I liked an awful lot (really, a lot, I’m about as cross about the Puppies excluding Lock In as I am about City of Stairs), Scalzi usually fits somewhere along the continuum of plenty of fun but not generally, hm, innovative? Exciting? At least for me. I like reading his novels, but they don’t knock my socks off. Mind you, Redshirts has been languishing on my personal Mount770 for some time, so given the variety of views on display just in this thread it should be an interesting read.

    However, everything I’ve read of Scalzi’s is better than anything I’ve read from Castalia House. I doubt this not-a-parody would prove a combo breaker.

    Hopefully Amazon will keep an eye out for false reviews and remove them reasonably promptly. It isn’t fair on ordinary readers and fans to have that nonsense clogging the system up.

  5. @Anne Marble

    I wouldn’t even count on dead kittens dragging down ratings. If I recall right, in Testament – David Morrell kills off a kitten and a baby in the first 10 pages. Glancing at Amazon: still 4 stars. (A truly sickening book I would anti-recommend to all).

  6. JJ says But seriously, I can’t believe that these idiots actually think that they are going to do any damage to a guy who has sold more than a million books. It’s so pathetic — like little boys at the side of the road yelling and waving their wooden swords around and insisting that they’re going to destroy the king, whilst the king rides by in his golden carriage, rolling his eyes and laughing his ass off.

    They are deranged as their comment over on his blog clearly show that they believe Tor is engaging in publishing works that undermine what they consider SF and Fantasy to be. And they also believe that neither Tor in general or Scalzi specifically is actually selling that many books as surely there’s not that many readers that like that SJW friendly fiction?

    So how they reconcile that both Larry Niven and John Wright have had long term success on Tor is a puzzler to me. I really do think that they’ve forgotten that publishers first and foremost sell books they think will sell well. Since both of Niven and Wright do sell well, Tor continues to publish new books by them.

  7. @Cat Eldridge
    “The only Scalzi I’ve encountered was Zoe’s World as an audiobook with a wonderful narrator.”

    Zoe’s Tale. Narrated by Tavia Gilbert.

  8. Bills correctly correct me: Zoe’s Tale. Narrated by Tavia Gilbert.

    Yeah I thought I had the name wrong but was doing two other tasks and didn’t want to stop those apps to check it. It was a splendid tale with a punch in the gut ending.

  9. Not sure who the author is, but Corrosion is a pretty darn good book so far. Internally, it’s not a parody, but very good science fiction. Worth the read. Maybe i’ll add it to the 2017 recommended reading list.

  10. Jon Del Arroz on March 21, 2017 at 8:25 pm said:
    Not sure who the author is, but Corrosion is a pretty darn good book so far. Internally, it’s not a parody, but very good science fiction. Worth the read. Maybe i’ll add it to the 2017 recommended reading list.

    Sure, go ahead.

    Have fun promoting yourself to VD’s minions!

  11. I, likewise, got the impression that the actual content of the Castalia House book had nothing to do with Scalzi’s book. It could be a good book. Certainly it can be a book that some people will like! I’m happy for Jon, or whoever else, to recommend it on its own merits, on File770 and elsewhere.

    I do, however, wonder mightily at how the conversation between publisher and author must have looked.

    “Hey! Do you like my new science fiction novel?”
    “Oh my! Yes! It’s excellent! Let’s publish it!”
    “YAY”
    “Oh, but just one thing– Let’s have the cover be a thorough imitation of a popular author’s release. Oh, and let’s have his name on it instead of yours.”

    That must’ve been an interesting little conversation to have. Author’s response might have been anywhere on the scale from “ummm, WTF” to “OMG finally a publisher who truly understands my vision!!!”.

  12. So if it’s not actually a parody (protected as such constitutionally) aside from the book cover, Amazon has every right to consider it fraudulently misleading profiteering.

  13. Jayn comments So if it’s not actually a parody (protected as such constitutionally) aside from the book cover, Amazon has every right to consider it fraudulently misleading profiteering.

    Amazon’s not the government, so they don’t need a reason not to to carry it if they so desire. They can decide not to carry them because VD’s a prick who irritates them and there’s no constitutional issue to be considered.

    My local bookstore took flack from its deciedly SJW leaning customers for carrying books by conservative authors but they explained to the complainers that they sell well. Again it’s their right to decide what they do and go not carry.

  14. Not sure who the author is, but Corrosion is a pretty darn good book so far.

    How long did it take you to write, and why are you not sure you wrote it?

  15. So if I understand this rightly:

    The cover is a parody, and protected as such.

    The content is not a parody, but that’s because it is not a derivative work at all; it has nothing to do with Scalzi, except that they draw on the same space-operatic tradition. (Which is the weird thing, of course. Scalzi is a nutty-nuggetish author, of the kind who should appeal to Puppy sympathisers.)

    So there doesn’t seem to be a copyright issue. There may be a misrepresentation issue, as Jayn says, or perhaps Amazon just doesn’t like it.

  16. @Meredith

    Mind you, Redshirts has been languishing on my personal Mount770 for some time, so given the variety of views on display just in this thread it should be an interesting read.

    It is. I bounced hard off of it because of a couple of reasons. The writing style felt more like a script, it leans heavily on nostalgia, and compared to similar ideas in other genres (like the Discworld City Watch books), it is a pretty surface exploration. That being said, I know people whom I know have great taste in sci-fi, like my parents, who loved it and thought it was brilliant. I really think it is one of those books that doesn’t have much of a neutral ground.

  17. I really think it is one of those books that doesn’t have much of a neutral ground.

    Last year I came up with the idea of the “cilantro writer” for writers that people have strong reactions to, positive and negative. I think it could easily be extended to the books themselves.

  18. @rcade: *snort*

    @Dex: I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. I just thought it was a lightweight, mostly predictable read – entertaining enough, but forgettable.

  19. Standback on March 22, 2017 at 12:56 am said:

    I do, however, wonder mightily at how the conversation between publisher and author must have looked.

    “Hey! Do you like my new science fiction novel?”
    “Oh my! Yes! It’s excellent! Let’s publish it!”
    “YAY”
    “Oh, but just one thing– Let’s have the cover be a thorough imitation of a popular author’s release. Oh, and let’s have his name on it instead of yours.”

    That must’ve been an interesting little conversation to have. Author’s response might have been anywhere on the scale from “ummm, WTF” to “OMG finally a publisher who truly understands my vision!!!”

    Right? It’s even more bizarre than that since the conversation would have to include joking that the author was just ripping off Asminov better than a different author ripped off Heinlein, and when we get busted by Amazon about the cover we’ll have a different cover with a different pseudonym ready to go for you.

    Maybe the internal content is good but it’s hard to imagine it being so when ‘for the lols’ appears to be the sole inspiration behind the publishing of it instead of the quality of the content.

    And the cover is back. Just to make it more confusing the listing is still for Corroding with Harry Seldon as author and while the cover art is the original cover.

  20. If that cover is considered copyright than so is the Coca-Cola knock-off logo on the storebrand (storebrands are so edgy!).
    Honestly the weaksauce “parody” defence seems to be a case of VD’s supergenius three-dimensional chess move not panning out, and now they can’t get a new cover mocked-up in time.
    Besides, if VD had foreseen all this why didn’t they have a second cover ahead of time?

  21. Hypno: It seems like Beale did have a cover prepared. Moving stuff with Amazon takes time, and the latest update looks like he might even manage to keep the original imitation cover up. (I bet moving stuff with Amazon takes time for the other side too, whoever it is that’s flagging this.)

    I’m not really sure who he’s playing three-dimensional chess against. His general strategy is to lash out, get singed, and then rile his fans up because they’re being treated unfairly. He’s pretty creative in the ways he keeps coming up with to lash out and get singed, I’ll give him that.

    But ultimately this isn’t going to be stealing many sales from Scalzi; it’s just Beale and Friends poking people in the eye because they can; if Beale’s playing three-dimensional chess, the stakes are “how fun will my meaningless prank be.” And I guess maybe possibly perhaps whether the 2018 Hugo ballot will come out looking kind of stupid.

  22. If that cover is considered copyright than so is the Coca-Cola knock-off logo on the storebrand (storebrands are so edgy!).

    Most commercial logos are protected by trademark, not copyright, and the rules for trademark are different.

    Honestly the weaksauce “parody” defence seems to be a case of VD’s supergenius three-dimensional chess move not panning out

    It is mostly irrelevant. Citing “parody” as a defense is really only useful when one is defending against a legal claim of infringement. Amazon, large as it is, is not a governmental organization. They can refuse to carry books for a wide variety of reasons, so long as those reasons aren’t legally prohibited ones.

  23. @Cat Eldridge
    Oh, I agree Amazon has no legal obligation to justify tossing Ted’s stuff, constitutionally. It’s just that I think it preferable for it to be excruciatingly clear that Teddy’s indulging in a straight up ripoff attempt of both casual shoppers and his own crowd of asskissers – to whom he’s marketing the book as a parody when it is apparently no such thing (as a Castlia sympathizer tells us above).

  24. Jayn on March 22, 2017 at 10:00 am said:

    @Cat Eldridge
    Oh, I agree Amazon has no legal obligation to justify tossing Ted’s stuff, constitutionally. It’s just that I think it preferable for it to be excruciatingly clear that Teddy’s indulging in a straight up ripoff attempt of both casual shoppers and his own crowd of asskissers – to whom he’s marketing the book as a parody when it is apparently no such thing (as a Castlia sympathizer tells us above)

    I’d imagine it’s covered under amazon’s Metadata guidelines which say ‘we have a zero tolerance policy for metadata meant to advertise, promote, or mislead

    ‘The title field should contain only the actual title of your book as it appears on your book cover.’

    Currently it doesn’t because the book is listed as Corroding while the cover art has been changed back to The Corroding Empire.

    and

    ‘You are free to use a pen name, as long as it does not impair customers’ ability to make good buying decisions.’

    Questionable when using a similar title, art and author name to another author if that impairs customers buying decisions.

    There’s other policies in KDP that this also conflicts with. I figured that it was just a really sad publicity stunt but that he changed the cover back and seems to be fighting against Amazon on this seems like a determination to dig deeper. He’s getting revenge for shooting himself in the foot by cutting the nose off his face and then pointing at the wounds while shouting “SJWs!’

  25. @standback: I imagine Castilla just told the author, they will do a marketing stunt, to sell more books. If the real author is new, he may was happy for the attention and the deal itself.
    Of course this backfires – he might get some of VDs target audience to buy it(depending on how many think its just a good laugh and how many actually think of it as a proper book), but outsid of this audience it will be mostly seen as an attempt of trolling at worst and as a parody at best and few outsiders will read it. AND the real authors name is more or less lost. All in all, if it is a new author, the question arrises how well This publisher actually treats his new authors. They seem to be considered a mere tool; thats my impression.

    If it scrolls like a pixel, files like a pixel and godstalks like a pixel, it usually is a pixel. Or a gifted shapeshifter, but lets not get into that now.

  26. I suspect all of these Castalia authors whose names are references to writers or characters – Seldon, Kalzi, that Rod one – are some of VD’s suckers writing horrible “parodies” to drum up publicity and add fake controversies to the *puppy gish gallop of grievances.

  27. Pingback: Amazon Keeps Freeze on Sales of Castalia’s “Corrosion” | File 770

  28. Pingback: Amazon Pulls Castalia House Book for Ripping Off John Scalzi Cover – Gizmodo – source

  29. Bad behaviour may very well help to sell Castalia House books. Their core audience seems to love it, anyway.

    @Nancy Sauer

    In the UK we refer to things like that as being ‘marmite’, after the popular spread that people traditionally either love or hate. Cilantro is coriander, right? The stuff that some people taste as soapy? Not a bad version, then. 🙂

  30. I do, however, wonder mightily at how the conversation between publisher and author must have looked.
    “Hey! Do you like my new science fiction novel?”
    “Oh my! Yes! It’s excellent! Let’s publish it!”
    “YAY”
    “Oh, but just one thing– Let’s have the cover be a thorough imitation of a popular author’s release. Oh, and let’s have his name on it instead of yours.”
    That must’ve been an interesting little conversation to have. Author’s response might have been anywhere on the scale from “ummm, WTF” to “OMG finally a publisher who truly understands my vision!!!”.

    I don’t think Castalia House is really much more than a self-publishing outfit for this particularly rancid group of writers. The is no editorial oversight other than what the authors give themselves as far as I can tell.

  31. I skimmed the preview. The writing itself is on the low end of “ehh you better have some good ideas for me to bother with this” fanfic. Like, the spelling and grammar are mostly not incorrect. The story reads a bit like Foundation fanfic with the names changed. The role of Encyclopedia Galactica is, of course, played by Infogalactic. At least Castalia didn’t get the Poser “artist” on the case.

  32. Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day) is a disrupter, constantly looking for fights. I avoid anything to do with him, his Castalia House, or his sycophants. He may become known in the history of SF as the guy who destroyed the Hugo Awards. He reminds me of a certain guy who is currently POTUS. I wonder why?

    Standback clearly understands VD’s—Vox Day, not Venereal Disease, though how appropriate an abbreviation—intent.

  33. I posted this on today’s Pixel Scroll, but I thought I should at least drop a link to my one-star review, and what happened after in this thread as well.

    Summary: No reputable publisher would even think of contacting a reviewer, threatening to dox them, and violating wiretap laws in the process. Castalia House – or, at least, someone claiming to represent them – has done precisely that.

  34. Rev Bob, it seems to me that, at the very least, that violates Amazon’s Terms of Service. Have you contacted them with screenshots?

  35. @Cassy:

    I haven’t taken that specific step, but I did add a comment to the review documenting VD’s comment approving of the incident. A simple text search will locate the blog page in short order, should Amazon’s security team deem it necessary. (I did contact Amazon by phone, notifying them of the incident and giving them the URL of my review. That happened before I became aware of the blog comment.)

  36. Teddy Beale must have loved the film “Transmorphers” when “Transformers” was released. What a clever marketer Teddy is in going for the “Mockbusters” market.

  37. @Andrew Porter: make that tried to destroy the Hugo Awards and failed, what with just about everything he gamed onto the ballot finishing behind No Award, with the awards given to PoCs, women, LGBT, non-Americans, and other groups he hates.

    I do think “Lock In” should have been on the ballot. It’s a well-thought out extrapolation of near-future technology — not just the tech, but the effects on society — as well as a police procedural mystery. With a subtle twist. Better than “Redshirts” or much of OMW.

    “Collapsing Empire” is just swell. Highly recommended.

    Meanwhile, people here who’ve read “Corroding or Corrosion” have pegged the writer as Teddy Boy his ownself, so at least he’s not screwing over some other “author” in his 4 dimensional XanaD’OH man-crush gone bad effort.

    @Andrew M: Proto-Puppies liked Scalzi just fine till they read his blog and found out he’d committed the ultimate sin of not thinking that straight white men are the supreme beings of creation and the only ones with rights. Finding out that he considers women equal to men (or sometimes superior*), PoC just as good as white folk, that there’s no problem with being LGBT, that we shouldn’t leave poor people to starve and die of terrible diseases, and that maybe everyone doesn’t need all the guns they can hug — well, that’s moderate in most places but makes him a flaming commie socialist anarchist in Pup World. They think he’s a traitor to his race/gender/orientation/socioeconomic class.

    Non-Puppies differ on how much or little they like his work (cilantro/marmite), but generally think “He’s kinda funny and seems a’ight. Cute pets.”

    *Like Mrs. Scalzi, who is a force of nature and also pretty. Ditto their delightful daughter.

  38. @Rev. Bob: You ought to call back and mention the blog comment. Just so Amazon can have all the facts.

  39. Andrew Porter: He may become known in the history of SF as the guy who destroyed the Hugo Awards.

    He hasn’t come close to doing this, and he won’t. It’s bizarre that you would think his pathetic childishness worthy of more than “the guy who disrupted the Hugo Awards for a couple of years”.

  40. Isn’t there an actual intellectual property term-of-art for this sort of thing? The second image is clearly a violation of the copyright of the cover art.

    Wikipedia has an article on “Substantial similarity”:

    Substantial similarity, in US copyright law, is the standard used to determine whether a defendant has infringed the reproduction right of a copyright. The standard arises out of the recognition that the exclusive right to make copies of a work would be meaningless if copyright infringement were limited to making only exact and complete reproductions of a work. Many courts also use “substantial similarity” in place of “probative” or “striking similarity” to describe the level of similarity necessary to prove that copying has occurred. […]
     
    Direct evidence of actual copying by a defendant rarely exists, so plaintiffs must often resort to indirectly proving copying. Typically, this is done by first showing that the defendant had access to the plaintiff’s work and that the degree of similarity between the two works is so striking or substantial that the similarity could only have been caused by copying, and not, for example, through “coincidence, independent creation, or a prior common source”.

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