Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Proposal for a Pulp Fantasy Society

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.


  1. What a great idea, I've been wondering about this myself.

    Consider me intrigued and interested in joining your endeavour. Check your email box.

  2. I've been working on similar lines but with slightly different emphasis. My desire is to publish small (pocket-sized) booklets cheaply, with all original artwork. I've been handing out copies of Lovecraft's "Dagon" formatted in LaTeX and printed at my local copy shop. I'd like to keep the price down to $1-$3 per booklet. If I can find artists to create nice color covers and centerfolds, it would be worth an extra buck or so for color printing.

  3. Hm, I got many books from the Gutenberg Project. If people want to help out I think we should support them and digitize old books for Project Gutenberg. The Gutenberg archive is also reachable from some e-book readers like Stanza. It's great!

  4. Please feel free to introduce your idea to the Literary Role Playing Game Society of Westchester:

    This is very much up our ally. :)

  5. @modernhacker
    Yeah I do think keeping it affordable is one of our main goals. Nothing annoys me more than seeing books like the Clark Ashton Smith omnibus editions going for $40 and over a pop. Kudos to you for DIY initiative.

    I agree that Project Gutenberg is an invaluable asset and I would definitely think that another goal of this still hypothetical society would be to assist in getting more of the work up on their site. I'm still interested though in producing real dead-tree editions that look pretty. I've found that my own efforts to make booklets from the PDFs and text files to be just not aesthetically pleasing enough.

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