Volume 15, Number 01, Winter, 1997

Essay

Publishing and selling libertarian science fiction

Specular Press has launched an ambitious project to publish forgotten pro-capitalist novels from the 19th and 20th centuries. Precursors to Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein, and the libertarians of the 1980s and 1990s, writers such as Garet Garrett and Ernest Bramah are part of our history. Isabel Patterson also wrote novels, now nearly impossible to find. It would certainly be a treasured find if one of her novels were as individualist as her well-know work of non-fiction, The God of the Machine.

The first book in Specular Press’ “Capitalist Fictions Series,” Ernest Bramah’s classic novel, The Secret of the League, was published as an oversized paperback edition in 1995. This book is available from Laissez Faire Books, at the fantastic price of $12.95. Call 1-800-326-0996 to order.

 

A second remarkable libertarian publisher is J. Neil Schulman. Known primarily by libertarians for his fiction, Schulman has branched into writing award-winning non-fiction, and publishing novels by other writers of note. His venture, Pulpless.com, is a radical and growing publishing outlet.

Schulman’s experience from an earlier and similar effort, the 1980’s electronic publishing company Softserv, and the advent of the World Wide Web gives him a distinct edge.

Pulpless.com is a much more ambitious project, in that the main features of his electronic offerings are full-length novels, written by bestselling authors. Two of these authors are Prometheus Award winning libertarian writers, Victor Koman and Brad Linaweaver. The third is big name writer Piers Anthony. Schulman also has published his own novels, The Rainbow Cadenza and Alongside Night, as well as his non-fiction books, Heinlein interview, screenplays, and essays. Many of these are hard to find or out of print.

Several of the books offered through Pulpless.com are unavailable elsewhere. The Koman, Linaweaver, and Anthony novels have never before been published. They all deserve greater recognition, and although more and more people are publishing works electronically (including OMNI), most people are not yet ready to read novels that aren't printed on paper. Selling books via the internet as html text or pdf (portable document formats, which requires the free program Adobe Acrobat in order to be read) is a risky and very new business. The advantages are cost and individual targeting. The disadvantage is the newness of the medium itself.

Reading the novels on computer is certainly a different experience, but by now anyone who gets email or follows news on the internet is at least accustomed to scrolling instead of page turning as a means to read text. The leap to reading a novel on your screen is no longer huge. Certainly it is worth the time and effort with books like these.

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