A little over two months ago I was surprised to learn that Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom was almost completely in the public domain in the United States (hey, I often come late to parties). Upon digging further my surprise went over into a mild shock when I started finding that a big chunk of the older entries of Gygax's famous Appendix N were now in the public commons as well.
Think about it a second, much written material copyrights before January 1, 1923 has now passed over into this realm. The first five of Burroughs' Barsoom books, ten Tarzan, and two Pellucidar novels are now public. All of the works of Lord Dunsany are in the public domain. Nearly all of Abraham Merritt's novels are too, as is a good chunk of Clark Ashton's Smith's work.
Thinking of all the time, money, and energy I have expended collecting out-of-print editions—and worse jacked-up priced re-issues from small for-profit presses--the thought crossed my mind that there just simply has to a better more accessible way to get this work into people's hands.
I mean sure one could cobble together text and PDF files from this site or the other or download free or $.99 editions for a $200-plus Kindle. But I--and I would hazard a guess many of you--love the feel of a book in my hand far more than straining eyes on a screen.
So here's my modest proposal. I am seeking to launch with like-minded souls a not-for-profit literary society, club, or cooperative (possibly incorporated as a 501(c) non-profit corporation) that will aim to accomplish the following goals:
1. Promoting ways to honor the work of these writers and their descendants.
2. Producing tasteful reformatted, book-length compilations of the public domain work of Burroughs, Dunsany, Merritt, Smith, and other fantasy greats. These books will likely feature:
- Original introductions and essays written by society members.
- Appropriate public domain artwork from the time period and/or original artwork from society members.
- The most inexpensive cover and distribution prices we can allow taking away our overhead costs and allowances for a degree of quality (inexpensive, not cheap).
3. Producing related gaming material from these sources such as setting books, adventures, rules adaptions, etc. Again an eye will be given to the three points from above.
So who's game? Next Tuesday night I will be organizing a conference call for interested parties. Write to me at kutalik at gmail dot com for details.