Amazon has blocked sales for The Corroding Empire, a sci-fi 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.
Image: Tor Books/Castalia House
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi was released from Tor Books on 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 has since made the book unavailable to buy. It's still on the website, but it's under review.
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 a newspaper. 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 favourite of his. This means it wouldn't be "protected" as satire, 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 isn't to ride his coattails. This is all part of Beale's longstanding feud (or obsession) with Scalzi, who hasn't shied away from criticising 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 has since announced a reprint that shortens the title to Corrosion, and changes the author's name to Harry Seldon, parodying a character from Foundation. Some of his followers have also responded by giving Scalzi's book negative reviews on Amazon. We reached out to Tor for a comment but had not heard back at time of writing.