Amazon blocked sales for The Corroding Empire, a scifi book from Vox Day’s conservative publishing company Castalia House, because the cover bore an uncanny resemblance to John Scalzi’s latest book, The Collapsing Empire. And it wasn’t a coincidence.
Update: Amazon has since resumed sales for The Corroding Empire, with the original cover. We’ve reached out to Amazon for more information.
Update 2: Glorious butts author Chuck Tingle is showing his support for Scalzi, has turned TheRabidPuppies.com (named after Vox Day’s Hugo Awards group) into a counter that ranks how well each book is doing. According to the website, Scalzi’s book is #235 on the Amazon Best Sellers Rank (as of March 25, it’s #246). Castalia House’s is shown at #1671 (actually, it’s #1718).
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi was released from Tor Books Tuesday, almost a year after it was first announced. Earlier this month, Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day) revealed on his blog that The Corroding Empire from Johan Kalsi was available for pre-order... and would be released one day before Scalzi’s book. Amazon temporarily made the book unavailable to buy, but it looks to have been restored for the time being.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the covers are basically the same damn thing. It’s practically a game of “Can you spot the difference?” you’d find in Highlights magazine. The title, the artwork, even the author’s name. Strangely, the book itself is not a parody of The Collapsing Empire. According to Beale, the novel draws from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, which is a favorite of his. This means it wouldn’t be “protected” as parody, although Amazon isn’t subject to the same rules that the government is.
There’s a reason Beale made a cover that looks exactly like Scalzi’s, and it’s not to ride his coattails. This is all part of Beale’s longstanding feud (or obsession) with Scalzi, who hasn’t shied away from criticizing him in the past. Beale has long considered himself Scalzi’s literary rival, even though they’re on completely different levels of success. Beale has said and done questionable and offensive things to perpetuate that rivalry, including accusing Scalzi of rape because of a satirical article he wrote in 2012.
When Beale announced pre-orders for The Corroding Empire, he made his mission very clear: He wanted his publishing house to do better than Tor Books and thought outperforming Scalzi with a near-identical book cover would twist the knife, adding “What would be more amusing than for The Corroding Empire to outsell and outrank The Collapsing Empire?” Then again, Beale’s never shied away from promoting himself or his publishing house through controversial means, including getting his followers to nominate himself and several Castalia House books for Hugo Awards during the Rabid Puppies heyday.
Beale previously announced a reprint that shortens the title to Corrosion, and changes the author’s name to Harry Seldon, parodying a character from Foundation. Right now, though, it’s still being sold with the original cover intact. Some of his followers have also responded by giving Scalzi’s book negative reviews on Amazon. We’ve reached out to Tor for a comment and will update when we hear back.