Not the Monthly Post

Lenocracy in Extremis: The Case of Publishing

I really did mean to go on to a different subject this week, rather than talking further about the system of political economy I’ve labeled lenocracy (from Latin leno, a pimp)—that is, a system that treats productive economic activity as a sucker’s game, to be milked dry by the two grasping hands of corporate power and government bureaucracy. Still, my muse is a wayward sort, and quite often decides to leave whatever path I’ve more or less planned to follow in order to chase some brightly colored shape through the underbrush. That’s what happened this week.

Admittedly she had some help this time. Last week, just after putting up the April open post, I happened across a Substack essay on the current state of the publishing industry, “No one buys books” by Elle Griffin.  Since writing books for publication is what I do for a living, of course I read it. It’s an interesting piece though a flawed one, and it’s generated a fair amount of pushback from industry insiders.  Much of this latter can be described, harshly but not inaccurately, as defensive maneuvers around bruised egos; that’s typical these days whenever someone points out one of the ways that the more privileged inmates of our current system are sawing merrily away at the branch that supports them.

Equally, though, there are significant weak points in Griffin’s piece. One of them will not surprise any of my readers.  Like so many people in the publishing scene these days, she pretends that the publishing industry consists of five gargantuan publishers, on the one hand, and self-publishing on the other.  I’ve talked before about how consistently talking heads erase the existence of the small and midsize publishers—there are hundreds of them in North America alone—that have been central to my writing career since I broke into print not quite thirty years ago. What Griffin says about the big five publishers, though, is worth the price of admission.

The detail that makes Griffin’s comments so telling is that she isn’t coming up with assertions out of thin air. She’s quoting executives at the corporate publishers themselves, citing their testimony in the recent antitrust trial that kept two of those five firms from merging.  What those executives admitted is stunning, though to my mind Griffin misses the implications that matter. Naturally she assumes that those admissions describe problems with publishing generally, or even with readers, rather than recognizing them for what they are: problems, massive ones, with the corporate culture that frames not only Big Publishing but the rest of the lenocratic economy of our time.  The bizarre astigmatism of the imagination that blinds her to publishing firms outside the Fortune 500 makes it difficult for her to see the forest for five huge and ungainly trees. I suspect that you, dear reader, will have an easier time of it.

The first thing that becomes clear as you read Griffin’s account is that the big publishers are utterly fixated on books by celebrities, on the one hand, and books from writers who already have established franchises, on the other.  That’s where the great majority of their acquisitions budgets go. Why? Because those titles have guaranteed audiences. If Michelle Obama has some flunky on her staff churn out another book so she can put her name on it—you knew that those books by politicians are all ghostwritten, right? That’s been true since John F. Kennedy had one of his speechwriters pen Profiles in Courage—the publisher knows that a couple of million diehard Democratic loyalists will snap up copies so they can be told what they want to hear. Those guaranteed sales make up for a lot of other failed book projects.

(There have been persistent rumors for a couple of decades, by the way, that the slickly packaged books ghostwritten for politicians and heavily marketed by big presses don’t actually sell that many copies.  The claim is that the money paid to their authors comes from, ahem, outside investors, and the whole thing is one more way to launder bribes to politicians, part of the economy of graft central to American politics these days. I have no idea if this is true or not, but it wouldn’t surprise me for a moment if it is—and if so, as we’ll see, the big publishers are in even worse shape than they appear.)

Established book franchises fill a similar niche.  No matter how dreary and repetitive a series has become, it will have its passionate fans who will run out and buy a copy of the latest installment. Again, that guarantees a certain level of sales. Outside of those two categories, the big corporate publishers pay small advances and put very little money into publicity. Notes Griffin:  “They invest small sums in lots of books on hopes that one of them breaks out and becomes a unicorn, making enough money to fund all the rest.”

I encourage you to stop for a moment, dear reader, and think about what this implies. Quite a bit of fuss has been made recently in some circles about a 2002 BBC documentary entitled The Century of the Self, which focused on the career of the iconic public-relations figure Edward Bernays.  He was Sigmund Freud’s nephew and an important figure in the successful marketing of Freudian ideas to the corporate world of his time. Bernays claimed that marketing methods based on Freudian psychology were omnipotent, exercising infallible control over audiences and guaranteeing success for any product that was sold using them, and the BBC documentary more or less took this claim at face value.

The difficulty, as I pointed out in a blog post here a couple of years ago, is that Bernays was always his most important product, and his statements about the methods he was hawking to corporate clients were no more reliable than any other sales pitch. He was a clever guy and scored some notable marketing successes, but he also had whopping failures—his efforts on behalf of Herbert Hoover’s 1932 reelection campaign, for example, didn’t prevent Hoover from suffering a humiliating defeat. More generally, marketing is like most of the other items in the toolkit of modern industrial society. It works well enough to get by, but not well enough to live up to the image of invincibility that our corporate overlords like to project around themselves.

The fact remains, however, that half a century ago it wasn’t all that hard for publishers to find books that appealed to readers, market them effectively, and make a steady profit from them. This is what today’s huge corporate publishers have forgotten how to do. In particular, they have no idea how to market their midlist titles—the bulk of general-interest books that will never become bestsellers but can ring up steady sales for years if their marketing gets them to the attention of prospective readers. Half a century ago, the midlist was the bread and butter of most publishers; bestsellers were nice but you couldn’t count on them, while midlist titles were the reliable sellers that kept the doors open. To keep the midlist well stocked with new titles, acquisitions editors in those days kept an eye on trends and fashions among the general public, and tried to get a sense of which niche markets were poised to reach a wider audience.

All this still happens in the small to midsized publishers I work with, but it doesn’t happen in the big corporate firms. Partly, of course, the big presses are simply too big—a publishing firm that brings out ten or a hundred titles a year and focuses on specific subjects or genres can easily pay close attention to a given market; a corporate combine that brings out new titles by the pallet load can’t, even if it is notionally divided into a galaxy of smaller labels. Partly, too, the focus on extracting value rather than producing it, the keynote of any lenocratic system, means that far more often than not, the people who make decisions are fixated on profits rather than products.  They know a vast amount about doing things with money but not much about, say, choosing books that will appeal to readers.

Yet there’s another factor at work, and it’s one that I’ve discussed in these essays already. The social class to which upper- and midlevel corporate employees belong—the managerial caste, as I’ve called it—preens itself on being as distinct from ordinary Americans as possible. With very few exceptions, its members come from well-to-do families, attended prestigious universities, and live in upscale neighborhoods or exclusive suburbs and exurbs. At work and recreation, they associate only with members of their own class, or with employees of businesses that cater to the managerial caste, whose essential job qualification is deference to their supposed betters.

This isolation makes it impossible for members of that class to have any idea what the rest of the country thinks and feels. In their tremendous satire Illuminatus!, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson have one of their characters explain to another that communication can only take place between equals. The logic of this principle—Hagbard’s Law, as it’s termed in the novel—is as straightforward as it is inescapable.  Let’s call the person of lower status B and the one of higher status A.  The greater the social distance between them, the more likely it is that A can punish B directly or indirectly if B does or says anything that displeases A. Furthermore, the greater the social distance between them, the more likely A is to assume that B is wrong any time B says something A doesn’t want to hear.  Thus it’s to B’s advantage to tell A what B thinks A wants to hear, whether or not it happens to be true.

This is why privileged classes in highly stratified societies like ours are so often blindsided by events that everyone else saw coming a long way off. The more stratified a society, the more social layers there are between the people on the ground level who actually deal with the grubby realities of life and the people up there in the corner offices who make the decisions.  Since each such layer of hierarchy is subject to the law just cited, some information gets lost in passing from one level to another.  Thus the people at the  top quite often end up with utterly fatuous misunderstandings of what’s happening down there in the real world, and the people at the bottom—who know what’s actually going on—have neither the means nor the motivation to communicate this to those higher up.

All this goes far to explain why marketing teams in the big corporate publishing combines have been reduced to flinging things randomly at the nearest available wall to see what sticks. By temperament and training, they are incapable of finding out what most readers want to read.  Like the members of any other aristocracy, much of their identity is invested in not being like “those people.” That routinely leads them to favor things that are guaranteed to bore or annoy “those people.” What too often gets identified as virtue signaling in today’s society thus might better be described as class signaling, part of the ongoing process of social display by which members of the managerial aristocracy (or, even more loudly, aspirants to that status) signal that they don’t belong to the rabble. Thus their chances of being able to figure out what books will sell to that same rabble are rather worse than those of a flipped coin.

There’s another admission in Griffin’s article that’s worth noting, though again it doesn’t look as though Griffin has quite grasped what it implies.  This one comes from the Department of Justice rather than from the publishers; a survey they ran found that 90% of books published in one year sell fewer than 2000 copies, and 50% sell fewer than a dozen copies. Even in today’s corporate culture, where the golden rule is that nobody in charge must ever be held accountable for their mistakes, an acquisitions department that sold fewer than 12 copies of each of half the titles it bought would be terminated with extreme prejudice. With the cost of conventional book production nowadays being what it is, none of the big firms could afford so catastrophically obvious a degree of failure.

Those figures, rather, point to the extraordinary inroads that self-publishing and smaller presses have made in an industry the corporate giants thought they owned. All or nearly all of those titles that sold 11 copies or fewer are self-published, most of them by way of Amazon’s gargantuan self-publishing system, and the great majority of them frankly deserve their modest sales. Since there’s no barrier to entry in the self-publishing market, a vast amount of what sees print there is the kind of thing that used to land in what old-fashioned publishers called the “slush pile,” the heap of unsolicited submissions that junior staffers had to slog through when they couldn’t find anything less dismal to do with their time.

Are there diamonds in all that trash? Of course there are, and there are also plenty of books that aren’t anything special but are worth a couple of bucks and a few hours of reading time. There are people who make a living churning out titles for that market.  There are also people—the irrepressible Chuck Tingle comes to mind—who start there, and then manage to do something unexpected and entertaining enough that they develop a cult following and an iconic presence in their own odd corners of the literary underworld.

Then there are the small and midsized presses, which generally focus on specific fields and genres, know their audiences well, and can count on making a profit with most of their new releases, totting up sales that are modest by the standards of the big boys but quite adequate to let writers like me make a decent living with our keyboards. Just to be sure, I contacted a few of the small publishers I write for, and found that pretty consistently, some 75-90% of the titles they publish make at least some money.

The big publishers can’t even dream of that sort of success these days. At Penguin Random House, according to a table Griffin includes, only a third of the titles they publish make any profit at all. This is an extraordinary confession of incompetence. In most other businesses, if two-thirds of the goods or services you sell lose money, you’re not likely to last long. For now, successful backlist titles, established franchises, and those celebrity books that (at least in theory) millions of people run out and buy, are propping up a failed business model, and helping to keep market forces from driving five very badly run corporations into the bankruptcy courts where they clearly belong. How long that event will be delayed is another matter.

There’s more that can be drawn from Griffin’s essay, and even more from the collection of court papers she’s citing, but we can pause at this point to place all this in its wider context. There’s nothing especially unique about the five big publishing combines, after all. In today’s world of vast multinational corporations, they’re simply the lumbering saurian hulks that dominate one particular industry, indistinguishable except in detail from the equally ungainly reptilian forms that lurch through other parts of our economic jungle. The same bland cluelessness about the tastes and concerns of the people who buy their products, and the same fevered absorption in the private obsessions of today’s managerial aristocracy, are all on display in an impressive range of settings today. Need I mention the name “Disney” in this context?

All this calls to mind one of the writers whose work has been central to my blogging since its earliest days, English historian Arnold Toynbee. As my regular readers will doubtless remember, Toynbee lived in Britain in the twentieth century, and so he was understandably interested in the reasons why empires fall. He devoted most of his working life to a sprawling twelve-volume study of that question, which he titled simply A Study of History.

His explanation for the decline and fall of civilizations was subtle but straightforward. He noted that most fallen empires could have recovered from the crises that destroyed them, but reliably failed to take the steps that could have saved them or at least prolonged their existence.  In his phrasing, if civilizations had death certificates, the cause of death listed wouldn’t be accident or murder, it would be suicide. A close examination of the politics of failing societies led him to see a crucial change in their leadership as the deciding factor. Societies grow and thrive when their governing classes are able to come up with new and effective responses to the crises history throws at them. Toynbee called such a governing class a creative minority, and talked about the way that its successes inspired the loyalty and trust of the rest of the population.

Societies decay and die, in turn, when a formerly creative minority loses its willingness to respond to a changing world, and becomes more interested in shielding its members from the consequences of failure than in finding new ways to succeed. Such a class becomes a dominant minority, in Toynbee’s terms. Since it can no longer inspire loyalty and trust, it turns to bribery, coercion, and sheer institutional inertia to maintain its control over the society it once led and now merely exploits. Once a dominant minority has stopped coming up with effective solutions to the problems its society faces, of course, those problems go unsolved, and eventually bring the society crashing down.

That’s what we’re seeing in microcosm in the publishing industry today. We may not be too far from the point when venture capitalists, the scavenging jackals of our lenocratic society, drag down the big publishing combines, tear them apart, feast on what remains of their flesh, and leave the bones to dry in the sun, clearing a space in which smaller and less inept firms can expand to fill the void. What greater jackals might be patiently following the society of which the big publishing firms are a microcosm, waiting for a similar moment, is a question we’ll save for another time.


A glance at the calendar reminds me that this month has five Wednesdays, and by tradition, my readers get to propose and vote on the topic for the fifth Wednesday post. What do you want to read about? Inquiring Druids want to know.


  1. JMG,
    I just recently learned about another way that the sales of ” celebrity” books are boosted aside from the work of ” outside investors”. My wife has a new coworker who recently moved back from Washington DC where she was an executive assistant to one of the members of the Supreme Court. This justice would often speak at college campuses. At the time the speech was being arranged it was this justice’s staff whose job it was to strong arm the college in to buying “many” copies of that persons book. Such was the accepted arrangement, buy lots of books for your colleges use, and you can have a famous speaker. I assume this is the same across the spectrum of celebrity authors.

  2. JMG,
    Hope you‘re having a fine and enjoyable Wednesday! 🙂

    Is it ok to already throw in votes for this month‘s fifth Wednesday? If so, my vote is for „mystery initiations in the past and present“ (e.g. their effects, their purposes, important elements, changes and developments over time, their (potential) role in present times and the immediate future, …)


  3. Hi John, what a great essay. I did see the Griffin article, but didn’t take the time to read it. Thanks for digesting it for us. I am in marketing & promo mode with my small to midsize publisher just now, and though it is new territory for me, which has me stretching out of my comfort zone (and hopefully, with the stretching, going into a new comfort zone), its fun. Having one on one meetings with the owner of the company has been par for the course, but as you write, he is focused on one area of publishing, and knows his audience. He had been the publisher of an electronic music magazine before becoming a book publisher. Thanks again for the advice on avoiding the big five, and the alternative to self-publishing, that you have given, and repeated, in the past.

    As for the fifth wed. my vote is on Robert Graves and his influence. Will anyone join me in casting a vote for Graves? I’m reading his collected poems just now, and they are fantastic.

  4. Clay, thanks for this! Yeah, I should have mentioned that. Bulk book purchases are another way to launder money, of course. I sometimes wonder how much of the US corporate economy can be summed up in those terms.

    Roldy, and indeed it should! That bit of humor is one of the best explications of Hagbard’s Law in existence.

    Milkyway, I’ve tabulated your vote.

    Justin, and yours also. I’m glad your venture into publishing is proceeding well.

  5. It has been known for years that various foundations will preemptively order multiple copies of certain books in order to enhance the public visibility of selected authors. An outfit called Heritage Foundation, IIRC, is famous for this, but I doubt they are the only ones.

    Meanwhile, worthy, even truly brilliant authors publish maybe one or two books and then get forgotten by publishers. If readers are not buying books from the big 5, it might be because we have learned that they are not to be trusted. One of the finest, OK my opinion, recent American novelists is a lady named Denise Chavez. She wrote two novels and then nothing more.

    What I would like to know is how do public library acquisitions staffers go about their buying decisions?

  6. Working for the green apron coffee place for many years, I was gifted a few times a year with celebrity books purchased by corporate, not just the founders books, but usually the socially relevant speaker at the time. Dozens of books times thousands of managers and managers of managers who never would have spent the money on these titles must have translated into very nice sales figures for most of them, so it’s not hard to believe that a lot of it is smoke and mirrors at the top

  7. Thanks John. I’ll be keeping my eyes open in situational awareness for the Jackals. Are they at all related to the Wolves of Chornobyl?

    @Milkyway: I like your fifth wed. post.

    If I may, here is a poem from Robert Graves that I found instructive on your topic…

    Instructions to the Orphic Adept
    by Robert Graves

    [In part translated from the Timpone Grande and Campagno Orphic tablets.]

    So soon as ever your mazed spirit descends
    From daylight into darkness, Man, remember
    What you have suffered here in Samothrace,
    What you have suffered.

    After your passage through Hell’s seven floods,
    Whose fumes of sulphur will have parched your throat,
    The Halls of Judgement shall loom up before you,
    A miracle of jasper and of onyx.
    To the left hand there bubbles a black spring
    Overshadowed with a great white cypress.
    Avoid this spring, which is Forgetfulness;
    Though all the common rout rush down to drink,
    Avoid this spring!

    To the right hand there lies a secret pool
    Alive with speckled trout and fish of gold;
    A hazel overshadows it. Ophion,
    Primaeval serpent straggling in the branches,
    Darts out his tongue. This holy pool is fed
    By dripping water; guardians stand before it.
    Run to this pool, the pool of Memory.
    Run to this pool!

    Then will the guardians scrutinize you, saying:
    ‘Who are you, who? What have you to remember?
    Do you not fear Ophion’s flickering tongue?
    Go rather to the spring beneath the cypress,
    Flee from this pool!’

    Then shall you answer: ‘I am parched with thirst.
    Give me to drink. I am a child of Earth,
    But of Sky also, come from Samothrace.
    Witness the glint of amber on my brow.
    Out of the Pure I am come, as you may see.
    I also am of your thrice-blessèd kin,
    Child of the three-fold Queen of Samothrace;
    Have made full quittance for my deeds of blood,
    Have been by her invested in sea-purple,
    And like a kid have fallen into milk.
    Give me to drink, now I am parched with thirst,
    Give me to drink!’

    But they will ask you yet: ‘What of your feet?’
    You shall reply: ‘My feet have borne me here
    Out of the weary wheel, the circling years,
    To that still, spokeless wheel:–Persephone.
    Give me to drink!’

    Then they will welcome you with fruit and flowers,
    And lead you toward the ancient dripping hazel,
    Crying: ‘Brother of our immortal blood,
    Drink and remember glorious Samothrace!’
    Then you shall drink.

    You shall drink deep of that refreshing draught,
    To become lords of the uninitiated
    Twittering ghosts, Hell’s countless populace–
    To become heroes, knights upon swift horses,
    Pronouncing oracles from tall white tombs
    By the nymphs tended. They with honey water
    Shall pour libations to your serpent shapes,
    That you may drink.

  8. I second the vote for mystery initiations. There is quite a lot of interest in the subject lately, with the wildest speculations being referred to as established fact. Psychedelics at Eleusis? Not to mention the various Hellenic rites–modern opinionators seem only to have heard of Eleusis–being designated by the blanket term ‘Oriental’. Huh? Even if, as Herodotus claimed, the Hellenes got their gods from the Egyptians, those later were not ‘Oriental’ in any sense of that overused term. There seems to be a notion floating around that ancient Egypt and ancient Babylonia were two halves of the same coin; I have so far found nothing in my amateur reading to support that fantasy.
    I wonder if the various initiations do not have very old origins, perhaps even prehistoric, which persisted through various regimes and changes in the names of associated deities?

  9. JMG,

    Most managers don’t want to read the musings of other managers, they only do it to ingratiate themselves to other managers… and those other managers only do it ingratiate themselves to… you guessed it… other managers. It’s a lovely spiral of fake enthusiasm for “in one ear and out the other” reading material.

  10. What a great simile! It’s such a joy to read your writings because you have a great writing style and your esoteric knowledge of history is fun. This week I’m dealing with the “grubby reality of life” spring cleaning and cajoling my teens to help. I’ll think of you when I dust off the books you wrote that are on our bookshelves!. Maybe I’ll see if I can organize some space to get the history books about suicidal cultures since we love owning books, not getting digital from the Leno-pimps at Amazon. My pet cockatiel loves books, too! We let Sunny nest on the top bookshelf behind a dictionary/grammar set and she shredded up a Carmina Burana CD pamphlet for her nest. Which I have to clean up today as well. Happy Spring!

  11. There is, conceivably, one advantage to executives flinging products randomly at the proverbial wall to see what sticks- at least they don’t attempt to be arbiters of taste… As Frank Zappa pointed out, the old cigar-chomping guys would say “What IS this? I don’t know. Let’s put it out and see if it sells.” Then the hippies entered the industry and decided they knew what was good. They pushed their sensibilities on the market, acting as gatekeepers. Of course, there’s no reason a midsized book or music publisher couldn’t take the approach of the old cigar-chomping guys.

  12. “The fact remains, however, that half a century ago it wasn’t all that hard for publishers to find books that appealed to readers, market them effectively, and make a steady profit from them. This is what today’s huge corporate publishers have forgotten how to do. In particular, they have no idea how to market their midlist titles—the bulk of general-interest books that will never become bestsellers but can ring up steady sales for years if their marketing gets them to the attention of prospective readers.”

    I’ll play devil’s advocate. The market of readers has changed beyond recognition in half a century. Go back to 1974 and saunter into an airport lounge. People would be reading Arthur Hailey, Taylor Caldwell, Anton Myrer, James Michener, or the utterly execrable Harold Robbins. Books ranging from six hundred pages to a thousand. Standard middlebrow fare. Few people read like that today. People are viewing their electronic device and there’s been a concomitant loss of literacy and range of vocabulary. The largest major work of fiction that I know has sold well is GRRM’s “A Song of Ice and Fire.” And perhaps that was because of the HBO adaptation.

    It’s not just the publishing business but the movie-making business that has had to focus more on blockbusters. Fifty years ago there were more films being made for a middlebrow viewership — “The Sting”, “Emperor of the North”, and so on. Films made without the large budgets of today and that were of enduring worth. Not today. The market of consumers has changed and the economics have changed. This is not to say that there are not small and independent publishers and film producers coming out with worthwhile products. Merely that the market for the great middlebrow readership and viewership has changed dramatically.

  13. JMG, a characteristically superb piece! And it isn’t hard to spot parallels between what you’ve just described and the state of the modern movie industry.

  14. I suppose some corollary of Hagbard’s law manifested in the case of Joe Kennedy (founding patriarch of the Kennedy clan), who, when he heard a shoe-shine boy giving stock picking advice, decided to immediately pull out of the market. Just in time, he preserved his fortune from the Great Crash of 1929.

    Your muse certainly is prodigious. I’m astonished you’re not richer than JK Rowlings. Of course if you were, you wouldn’t have time for little people like me. Thanks for your forum and attentive participation.

    –Lunar Apprentice

  15. Nietzsche comments somewhere that the essential and defining character of aristocratic mindset is what you described as “not being like ‘those people'”. As usual, I think he’s mostly right. But the creative minority aspect is missing. One of the great benefits of feudalism is the integrity of all the classes in a tight-knit hierarchy. But when the upper classes don’t have duties to protect the lower, and the lower don’t respect or admire the upper classes, what other relationship do we expect than domination — or pimping?

  16. I will vote for Graves for Fifth Wednesday as well, having already gotten my desired Yeats piece. Thanks, Drew C

  17. @JMG Your bookshop only has paperbacks. Where are EPUB versions available from?

  18. Hi JMG, thanks for this insightful article. I had to think about the movie industry. I’m not a big movie fan, but I saw several great movies / documentaries last year. None of them from Hollywood, all crowd-funded. The only Hollywood productions I ever watch are from a long time ago, like “Coming to America”. There is no way that film would be made in today’s woke environment. How do I miss those days….

    As for the fith Wednesday, my vote is for a piece about Gurdjieff.

    PS Interesting that the phrase “suicide of an empire” came up. German psychic Egon Fisher is currently writing a series named The Suicide of the USA. I don’t think he knows Toynbee. He watches energies and feels the US is in serious trouble. I also had to think of him when commenter Patricia mentioned at the close of last weeks open post that the Gods called her attention to ‘Death’. Egon has predicted for quite a while that we will see a “Todeswelle” (wave of death) and recently timed the beginning of the wave this Summer. He thinks it will continue till end of 2027. Of course, only time will tell if he is right. He has had his hits and misses in the past so we’ll see.

  19. When bribery was mentioned, I thought of Hunter Biden’s artwork and Prince Harry’s “Spare” – or his trauma on being the second born son in a family that does no useful work. When the article moved to virtue signaling, I was reminded of the Seinfeld episode from the late 90’s about Kramer’s coffee table book about coffee tables. Even before Amazon and the Audiobooks, books were published only for virtue signaling.

    Now I’m thinking about Tom Hank’s in You’ve Got Mail. He plays as the CEO of Borders/Barnes & Noble, putting a small bookseller out of business. Yet, in his previous lifetime as Forrest Gump, he invested in a fruit company (Apple), that ended up putting Borders out of business, and Barnes & Noble on life support.

  20. In an old book of interviews of SF writers, ‘Dream Makers’, there’s a story of how one of the big publishers fifty years ago quit selling books and started making brown paper bags instead, where they could actually make a little money. Grub Street has always been a genteel Poverty Row. About the only hope I’d see is the Slate Star Codex remark that, after all, kids these days text all day. Not with good grammar or good sense, compared to us wise adults, but they are reading and writing all day.

  21. JMG et al.
    The “story” that people don’t read — and, certainly, don’t buy books — is, apparently, false. I don’t know exactly what is going on, but I think the truth might be more like: people don’t want to buy boring, irrelevant books; derivative; badly written; badly served (it is unfashionable, now, for corporations to care about customer satisfaction); and filled with contaminants meant to pollute their independent thinking and values? I don’t buy things from companies which spit on me, don’t address my complaints, contribute to my subjugation, and distain my preferences. Do you?

    Thankfully, in this case I have a few data points:

    (1) Barnes and Noble is, once again, booming! The only reason I saw this article is because I went looking for it when B&N, graciously, approached my employer to sell into their more than 150 stores. (Bless you, B&N!)

    (2) Which got me to do some more searching about the underlying meme that “people don’t read anymore!”

    The hits go on, and on, if you look for them! We need to turn our backs on D.C. and this nightmare Corporatist, Lenocracy. We don’t even need a “Democracy”. Voting with our feet can work wonders if we have vision and creative persistence. I’m beginning to believe we can walk out of this nightmare, if we are flexible, get stubbornly clear on direction, and keep walking — without buying — until we get closer to what we want. And then triangulate, provision, and set out purposefully, again.

    Doing all that would be a lot harder without you, as an example, and the inspiring forum. Thanks!

  22. One wonders if the self-destruction of the publishing industry is why so many people, like me, have instead turned to the classics for reading material. I suppose I should be thanking them!

    I would like to propose “the occult dimensions of music” as the topic of the fifth Wednesday’s post.

  23. Hagbed’s Law…. Hrmmm…
    That seems to be one of the best reasons a free press is critical to a functioning society.. It actually allows for information to flow up the social hierarchy. Too bad we consolidated most of the news papers.

    Does the forgotten middle ground between the big few and the self published exist for music, film, video and the news? I know that for music and the news it use to exist. I guess that if you depend on advertising it can make the middle ground market far more difficult. Maybe you need something physical that people buy to make it work??

    I watch some you tube videos, like the Duran and they put out some really great geopolitical analysis but Alexander Mercouris would really benefit from an editor (LOL). It seems that you could put together an alternative news channel that covers the whole range of news pretty easily.

    Roldy – that was funny. I would have told the king that a toaster doesn’t need a computer chip, the mechanical timer was good enough, people can figure out how to set the toaster for their toast. (hrmm… maybe that is why they never let me talk to the king.)

    5th week – deindustrialized warfare.

  24. Fifth Wednesday topic suggestion:
    Firearms – specifically from the perspective of the future post-Faustian-American-Tamanous thing.
    From the first hunters that came to the North American continent over the land bridge, through all the varied cultures of the long pre-Columbian era, and on into the long and troubled frontier times, and down to the present day, there’s a distinctive but hard-to-define sort of energy visible in personalities like Daniel Boone, John Chapman, Hugh Glass, Chief Joseph, etc. – there seems to be a deep whisper from the land about personal agency that is completely unlike anything whispered by the European continent. I believe it’s what drove the truly successful and distinctly American conservation movement that sprung from minds like Aldo Leopold. (Interestingly, it’s a movement that the current crop of climate/environmental activists view with utter distain, when they aren’t completely ignorant of it. Steve Rinella once trenchantly observed that a conservationist is just an old-fashioned environmentalist with a gun.)
    I wonder if there’s possibly something similar in the Russian land, but this is pure speculation on my part – I do note the reverence that American gun nerds hold for influential firearms designers; the names Kalashnikov, Mosin and Makarov are invoked by red-blooded American gun enthusiasts in the same tones as Maxim, Browning, and Stoner.
    At any rate, I think this is one of the threads at the root of the increasingly shrill rhetoric around guns from the unfortunate intelligentsia PMC, as you described them in King In Orange. I think you’ve posted a few comments on this site before regarding the occult dimensions of firearms and the imagination-to-culture-to-politics pipeline, and possibly on the dreamwidth blog, but I can’t find them. In short, I feel like the archetype where the distinctly American taste for gun ownership lives has less to do with violence than simply a core component of the nascent American culture that one day in the far future will likely grow around the concept of Tamanous – I would be very interested to hear you “cook” on this subject… 🙂

  25. Hello JMG and kommentariat…I have a curiosity for you all. Recently; I’ve realized that the word “LENOcracy” shares Greek roots with an euphemistic term for brothel in Spanish, “Casa de LENOcinio”. Lenocinio=pimp job. Indeed, a house of prostitution under one or several pimps.
    It’s exciting to see that Greek word passed to nowadays Spanish through Latin adaptation “Lenocinium”. A long journey in time and space for the 2nd oldest job in the world!

  26. Sorry I’m wrong…
    Oh, “Lenocinium” is a vernacular Latin word, not a translation from the Greek. I’ve just read it in my dictionary. Errare humanum est.

  27. My vote for 5th Wednesday post is for Rosicrucians: their origin, history, beliefs and rites and so on.

  28. A minuscule case, but long ago when my high-school classmates were attending an economics course at the university, the professor demanded from every student that attended the oral examination to bring a copy of his book for him to sign.
    As for my vote; Over the last few moths I came across several references to Pythagoras, his brotherhood and the role of mathematics in occult training. You mention Pythagoras in several of your podcasts on druidry and in your books. I read a theosophical article on the importance Plato placed on a basis in mathematics and there was mention somewhere that the Pythagorean cult at one point pretty much ruled southern Apennine peninsula and Sicily.
    So might you be persuaded on a topic of “mathematics and occultism”. I guess astrology, geometry and numerology would also come into play.

  29. “That’s what we’re seeing in microcosm in the publishing industry today. We may not be too far from the point when venture capitalists, the scavenging jackals of our lenocratic society, drag down the big publishing combines, tear them apart, feast on what remains of their flesh, and leave the bones to dry in the sun…”

    Sorry to nitpick. This sounds more like private equity firms; not really the same as venture capitalists. Also, it’s good to see that anti-trust still has some life left in it.

  30. Of course this runs in other industries as well… since I’ve been poking around in tabletop games recently, I’ll talk about that. There is 1 800 lb gorilla that dominates the table op wargaming industry, namely games workshop and their warhammer lines of games. Wizards of the Coast which produces D&D is in a somewhat similar position in the roleplaying game end of things. Both are very popular systems, but they’ve been getting complaints and pushback lately from fans. Now there’s always some of that on youtube, someone always dislikes the latest new thing and complains, but in at least games workshop’s case (I know less about wizards of the coast) there’s getting to be a lot of people complaining, and following it up by leaving for other systems, and some of their complaints have real meat to them. The biggest complaint is probably money. Games Workshop keeps jacking up the prices for models and codexes and charging money for stuff you don’t need for other systems or that they give you for free, which is pricing some people either out official tournaments, and being an increasing barrier to getting into warhammer. There’s also complaints about too many new releases and sudden retirement of old models/entire armies meaning that you can’t play them in tournament anymore and have to go out and buy new ones if you want to play in official tournaments. The most spectacular case of that is the way they killed off the warhammer fantasy setting about a decade ago, which a lot of people still haven’t gotten over. The point and rule changes are also frequent, and there are complaints that this is also too much. They also just introduced female Adeptus Custodes, and a subgroup of the warhammer 40,000 fanbase is up in arms about that. There are a few things they’re doing that people seem to like: the most recent version of warhammer has streamlined the rules a bit, and they’re bringing warhammer fantasy back (now referred to as The Old World) and that is getting quite a bit of excitement and positive emotions going.

    But anyway, big company being arrogant, taking its customers for granted and shooting itself in the foot while much smaller companies pop up in the margins and start taking market share? Bingo.

  31. JMG, The vulture capitalists will be a bit slower to feast on and dismantle the big publishing houses ( no matter their financial condition) than they were to carve up the steel mills and department stores. Because if they do, where will their friends kids who are English majors at Brown and Columbia get cushy lifetime employment?
    Only the very richest of the PMC can afford set their kids up with perpetual trust funds. The rest have to make due with scoring their kids high status jobs in Manhattan, and the publishing industry is a classic place for this.. I mean, what’s left for these poor coddled brats besides NPR or some NGO. Putin and Xi are in the process of rolling up most of the deep state backed NGO’s propping up the empire around the world so the NGO route might not have much in the way of Legs.

  32. Thanks JMG, your reference to Toynbee is right on. I first read A Study of History in 1977 and I regularly return to it. I think that we flipped over from rule by a creative minority to rule by a merely dominant minority sometime in the 1960’s. The murder of John Kennedy was a symptom of the change but not it’s cause which went much deeper. Much of what we have seen in our life since then has been a progressive crappifcation of society with consequent effects on everything from the economy to family life. The long descent that you predict is well under way .

  33. I wanted to just comment how interesting I find your essays. This one held particular interest to me because I’ve never quite understood how so many disconnects have happened in markets toward the younger generation I am a part of. I’m in my early 20’s and routinely see things no one I know would ever touch marketed like its common sense.

    I also wanted to note the interesting implications of an idea you discussed in reference to Toynbee, “Societies decay and die, in turn, when a formerly creative minority loses its willingness to respond to a changing world, and becomes more interested in shielding its members from the consequences of failure than in finding new ways to succeed”

    I think there is a mirror effect on creatives that don’t belong to this class during this time of turmoil. People who have answers are purposefully suppressed as part of the controlling minorities gasps for longevity. They have their confidence stripped by educational facilities that say critical thought is unproductive, their societal responsibilities become insurmountable due to economic crash, and instead of ever getting to apply their solutions they are prescribed and their potential lost to history in just trying to protect their family or community. Obviously the opposite of this can happen, people being motivated to create change due to these circumstances. However, I thought the mirroring nature of the concept was interesting to mention. Thank you for the fascinating read!

  34. Ah, Disney. A case study into trying to run a franchise solely on nostalgia (The Rise of Skywalker bringing back Palpatine is, uh, very in your face). They’re in a tailspin because they’re doubling down on their prior formula for success even though its not working. And then blaming cinemagoers for their failure, despite the success of films such as Barbie, Oppenheimer, and Dunc. I suppose you could use them as a microcosmic example of a creative vs dominant minority…

    It doesn’t help that their CEO hates anything fresh. I’m still ranty about how they cancelled Willow (2022) and then found a way to cancel it again by removing it from Disney+, likely to punish the writers. Given their animated lineup is largely sequels too, it’s going to take a while before they get back on track. What’s strange about it is that they do have people who can tell fresh stories, they just don’t let them do their thing.

    Anyway, ranting about Bob Iger aside…

  35. And funny enough you cannot get some jewels reprinted, nobody’s interested. My kids got recently introduced to and fascinated by Greek mythology. I was ready to buy them age appropriated books – I did some research and I wanted to buy Bernard Evslin’s books – with the exception of one, you can’t find the rest in print. And why did the kids got interested in Greek mythology to begin with? Fortnite, believe it or not. Those publishers don’t even keep up with the tide. I found the majority the Greek mythology books for kids out there really poor, as in general books for kids are (dumbed down, plain, inaccurate, and so on and so forth).

  36. Opps cancel my vote for post industrial warfare.
    I forget you already did that.
    NO Vote for me this month. lol

  37. Ghostwriting is a whole industry unto itself these days. There is at least one agency that functions as a pim–I mean lenocrat for ghostwriters. A wannabe author approaches the company, says “I want to write a book about X,” and the company then puts out a call for writers with appropriate experience. The fees paid to the writers are generally in the 5 figure range. Of course the agency gets a cut.

    The wannabe authors are usually successful business people, politicians, or celebrities with a budget and an idea. Part of the ghostwriter’s job can be to place the manuscript with a publisher, although often there is already a publisher involved.

    –Ms. Krieger

  38. Thanks for that Chuck Tingle link. What has been seen cannot be unseen, as much as you would want to. Can’t unsee.

    Personally, it’s been awhile since I’ve sat down to read any book in paper form, unless it’s a technical manual. With those kinds of books, I have a pretty good idea of what it is I need and Big Slimy River is great for books – if you already know what you’re looking for. I used to shop for physical books in physical shops quite a bit a few decades ago, but those physical bookstores made it so miserable when you would go to pay for a book, that I won’t set foot in a bookstore again, unless it’s for a good reason.

    I don’t know what it is with corporate retail bookstores and wanting to know what your shoe size is, what your sexual orientation is, demanding a phone number, a lock of hair, a blood sample and a signup to some club or program that you don’t want and certainly don’t need. I have a book, here’s some money, can you take the money and let me go? Everything else is just wasting my time and making sure I never ever EVER come back.

    So, it’s not just the corporate publishers, it’s the whole corporate distribution system. And when they all go, nothing of value will be lost.

  39. Thanks for the fine article on the publishing industry. I will post some comments on that subject separately. For now I would like to nominate the topic of shamanism as a precursor to organized religions for fifth W2ednesday.

  40. Does anyone have any recommendations re small-to-medium publishers for sci-fi? I’ve tried my manuscripts at several now with no luck. I’ve been working from internet lists of small publishers, filtering appropriately by focus, but I feel like I’m reaching out rather blindly. Any pointers or suggestions would be appreciated!

  41. Excellent piece on the phenomenon of our contemporary Virtual Versailles.

    I propose that we combine the subject of Robert Graves and mystery initiation through the lens of his activities, and I’m not just taking about the White Goddess and his related works.

    The deeper I’ve delved into technical magic, the more I enjoy stumbling over references to Graves, usually in the acknowledgements section as the guy who happened to know the old French family who owned the originals or just the right printer in Florence for specific color work along with the best little restaurant around the corner. In this example, I cite the forward to Mushrooms, Russia & History by Valentina Pavlovna Wasson, who should be more celebrated for her contributions to our field. Remember that Maria Sabina only surrendered the secret of the magic mushrooms to her because she had studied enough to know their proper names in Nahuatl. Words matter in magic. Graves was all about the art and poetry.

    Gurdjieff would be an appropriate continuation of such a series, as he was a character interested in initiatory action and psychodrama. Is there anything to the old rumors that he and Blavatsky were tied to Imperial Russian intelligence services? What was their connection to the emergence of Stalin? Why was Gurdjieff left untouched yet well-supplied during the Nazi occupation of Paris? Enquiring minds want to know!


  42. A few months back I saw a post from one of the writers I follow on Tumblr (I think it was Joy Demorra but Tumblr’s search function sucks so of course I can’t find it again) saying that opportunities for authors to publish with midsize publishers are shrinking because the holding companies that own the Big Five are buying up these smaller competitors and shutting them down. Have you heard anything about this?

  43. Also, jsyk, the rule you’re calling Hagbard’s Law, after Hagbard Celine, is listed in Wikipedia on a page called Celine’s Laws, and it takes some digging to find it. The initial search for “Hagbard’s Law” will turn up nothing.

  44. I keep waiting for Disney to make a movie with Obi Wan-Kinobi, Mickey Mouse, and Wolverine all in the same flick. Maybe, they could bring back an old character like Pluto, oh wait, he got cancelled. If Huey, Dewey and Luey were fighting Scrooge McDarth Vader with light sabers, and Spider Man showed up to put them all in his web, it MIGHT be interesting. Frankly, Disney couldn’t do a remix or a mashup if it wanted to.

  45. “The claim is that the money paid to their authors comes from, ahem, outside investors, and the whole thing is one more way to launder bribes to politicians, part of the economy of graft central to American politics these days.”

    I live in the large democrat area, where JMG grew up. I often see the public libraries buying hundreds of copies of all excrements generated by political writers. Then those books sit there on the shelves, or even worse, get dumped elsewhere by the libraries after a few months. In the meanwhile, I have trouble getting any non-mainstream book, including those talking negatively about the covid shots or the economy, approved.

    Here is Clinton’s book “What Happened” –

    I clearly remember seeing over 80 copies in the library, when it came out. I strongly suspect this to be another way for the democrat neighborhoods to channel tax money to the politicians/big businesses.

  46. I’ve tabulated everyone’s votes, for starters. Thank you all.

    Mary, it’s not just that authors get forgotten by the big publishers; the predatory contracts pushed by the big boys on unwary authors make it very difficult to go anywhere else, and guarantee that you have no effective rights to your backlist if the publisher decides to stop printing them. So the moment an author doesn’t measure up to the latest fad, out they go, and their career is over unless they have good lawyers.

    Dave, interesting. So there’s a lot of graft moving through the system that way.

    Justin, maybe! Thank you for the Graves poem; he knew his Orphic traditions very well.

    GlassHammer, I admit cruder terms come to my mind…

    Candy, now all you have to do is teach the cockatiel to enjoy books in a less destructive manner…

    Gerard, Zappa was exaggerating, of course. The cigar-chomping guys used to recruit youngsters from various fandoms so they could find out what the latest thing was — that’s how Ray Palmer made the leap from pioneering SF fan to one of the most influential editors the genre has ever seen, for example, and he was far from the only one.

    AA, that’s the conventional wisdom, pretty much word for word. I suggest that it’s a collection of excuses for failure. Sure, Robbins was execrable — I’d hesitate to call his work middlebrow! — but people enjoyed reading him; he’d never get into print now, because the current publishing industry is hostile to popular taste. If you go into an airport lounge these days and look at the electronic devices people are using, for that matter, a fair number are ebook readers or apps; some of them will be reading old books from Project Gutenberg or the like, and more of them will be reading cheap self-published ebooks, because the fare being offered by the big publishers sucks.

    Frank, if I knew much of anything about the movie industry I’d probably see the parallels!

    Siliconguy, thanks for this.

    Lunar, my muse is a chatterbox, but she’s no more adept at catching the interest of the mass market than, say, the corporate flacks I’m criticizing. The great difference between me and the editorial staff at Penguin is that I know I belong to an eccentric fringe subculture whose products don’t speak to most people, and they don’t!

    Bonaventure, that’s exactly Toynbee’s point. An aristocracy thrives, and wins the loyalty and support of the masses, just so long as it keeps on coming up with adequate solutions to incoming problems. Once it starts insisting that There Is No Alternative to its preferred set of solutions, no matter how disastrously those fail, it loses that loyalty and support, and eventually down it comes.

    Olivier, you can buy those direct from the publisher, or you can go to your favorite e-bookstore.

    Boccaccio, now that crowdfunded movies are becoming a thing, I expect to see some smart investors begin abandoning Hollywood and looking for indy producers whose films could make a truckload of money given adequate financing and marketing. The kind of stagnation that’s settled over the creative arts these days is always self-terminating, because it becomes so much more profitable to do an end run around the gatekeepers. Thanks for the heads up about Fisher, btw.

    Geoff, er, you do know, don’t you, that I’ve never watched any of those movies?

    Bruce, they would have done better to discard their excess staff and become a smaller publisher!

    Gnat, thank you for this! I know that when I take the bus anywhere, there are people on it reading books, either in print form or ebooks; I also know that my royalties keep on ratcheting upwards year over year, and that does suggest that someone, somewhere, is reading books… 😉

    SDI, yep. I know quite a lot of people who ignore anything recent because so much of it’s so lousy, and read older books instead.

    Dobbs, there I can’t help you, since film, video, and the news are not things I follow. It seems like that could work, though.

    Raab, hmm! That’s an interesting point.

    Marko, but it’s a good example.

    Phutatorius, maybe that’s what I meant. 😉

    Pygmycory, as I noted, the publishing industry is anything but unique.

    Clay, then they’d better figure out how to save publishing from itself.

    Raymond, that’s about when I first read the abridged version; these days I go straight to the unabridged, and learn something new from it with every reading. The guy was prescient.

    Sam, that’s an excellent point, and one that could well be worked into the thesis.

    Alice, I wouldn’t call it nostalgia. Necrophilia might be a more accurate label.

    Cliff, yep. I’d expect more of this before the system really starts coming apart.

    Paris, if you don’t mind ebooks, Project Gutenberg has some gems.

    Ms. K, that’s been an option for quite some time now, for those who can stand it.

    Other Owen, that’s one of the reasons I buy a lot of used books.

    David BTL, that’s a really tough field these days, because the readership for SF has declined so sharply that it’s not much bigger than the field of potential authors! I’ve had good experiences with Sphinx Books, but they may or may not be interested in more SF authors these days.

    Malleus, that’s too big a project for a single blog post. You’ve outlined at least two books.

    Joan, that wouldn’t surprise me, but I haven’t heard anything about it in the niche markets where I publish. As for Hagbard’s Law, I just searched for it in Yahoo search, which is what I use these days, and it came up instantly under that name. Wikipropaganda may not like that label, but tough.

    Justin, it would be lame. Not lame enough to be entertaining, either.

    A Reader, that doesn’t surprise me at all.

  47. Yes, the “those people” thing is so blatant nowadays even more than before. It’s so…8th grade. It’s wearing the right sneakers, listening to the right music, etc. so you don’t have to be banished to that lunch table in the cafeteria with the “losers”. It’s all so transparent and woe be unto thee who dares tell the emperor he is naked. Sheesh.
    SDI said- I would like to propose “the occult dimensions of music” as the topic of the fifth Wednesday’s post.

    Yes! This! I meant to ask John Michael Greer about this (among so many other things) and I actually forgot about the topic. Thanks for reminding me. I’ve been wondering about this especially regarding high strangeness encounters with little people etc. There is always some odd music people hear during these encounters. Is there a name for this or any info out there on that? There seems to be some connection between sound and paranormal. Just as there is sacred geometry, geography, etc. there seems to be a sacred “sound” or music.

  48. I tend to think the most important resources (outside of human-to-human action/cohesion, or community) are books and (clean) water.

    I wonder if a societal-reversal is possible, where books could become more important than excess-material commodities in the future?

    Perhaps that will happen when the content of what people say is less important than what they think, which in turn matters even less than how they act, then what they ‘own’ is in a direct correlation with how they act. Thinkers, writers, readers, and people of action all rolled into one. Today we are lucky to get one of those four attributes from any person, of our current population.

    The less we know, the more we believe, and the more we believe, the more (spoon-fed) narratives we consume. The more narratives we consume, the less we know, but the more we question. The Questions build up, and then people turn to books in order to learn.

  49. @JMG: agreed. I just don’t see what else they can do with all three of those universes in one place. The movies without all of them mixed together are of course lame already.

    @A Reader, maybe its because I’m in Ohio, but… while at our library we do get plenty of books from the big five, and lots of regrettable celebrity picture books, we also get quite a bit of self-published and small press books. A good chunk of that is most likely coming from customer requests. We also have a lot of religious materials coming in as well as materials aimed at people home schooling their kids. They don’t buy as many copies of this stuff compared to the others, 1 to 3 copies say, compared to 5, 10, 20, 30 for the bigger names, and more for the really big fiction authors from the combines. That’s my report in brief from a public library.

    To all: Remember that a Vote for Graves is a Vote for Visions!

  50. Related examples spring to mind. I wonder, if chess were invented today, what chance it would have of being accepted by a board games manufacturer.

  51. That’s happening movies too. Last year, the no name film “Sound of Freedom”, which was about child trafficking, beat out both the Indiana Jones franchise and the Mission Impossible franchise. Not only that, but I read articles criticizing the Sound of Freedom’s accuracy. How bizarre to criticism the accuracy of fiction. But, I suppose non-orthodoxy must be put down.

  52. @Justin Patrick Moore #8:
    Thanks a lot for the poem – this is truly wonderful! 🙂

    Do you have any idea how many copies on average the small to medium sized publishers sell of their books? Or from how many sold copies on they’d expect to make a profit? Or any other numbers of this kind, to enable some rough kind of comparison to the numbers of the big publishers? (I know this depends on certain factors – just wondering about the rough numbers or a range for comparison. Maybe something like this has come up when you’ve talked to people in your publishing houses?)



  53. My encounter with the book publication industry came when Ragged Mountain Press chose to publish my book on kayak building under the title, The Aleutian Kayak: Origins, Construction, and Use of the Traditional Seagoing Baidarka. That was the publisher’s title. I would have called it How to Build an Aleutian Style Kayak. But never mind the title. Ragged Mountain Press was a small shop that dealt in outdoor topics and they seemed to know their audience. From what our host is saying, this type of publisher is still around, and if the book you want to write is on a topc or a genre that has a small publisher representing it, you can probably get someone to publish it. Non fiction is probably easier to get published than fiction. How to books will probably always be in style, especially now when there’s probably people trying to learn how to survive the time of reduced calorie intake.
    That said, even if you can get your book published, book writing is not that profitable. My book went through two printings and sold something like 8000 copies. My take on that was about a dollar a book spread out over 3 years. Clearly not enough to raise a family. So to make a living, you would probably have to have at least 4 books in print at all times. Good luck! But wait, there’s more, being a published author gets your name out to your audience and generates some bennies. In my case, the Aleut community found out about me and started inviting me out to the Aleutians to teach kayak building at high school shop classes and culture camps. The free vacations probably added up to more than the book royalties. But perhaps more importantly, the connections within the Aleut community gave me credibilty as an author on topics related to Aleut culture.
    But, to be honest, writing a book was a side line. I also had a full time engineering job while writing my book. And later while traveling to the Aleutians, my wife was supporting the two of us.
    One more thing, after getting my book published I also wrote some magazine articles and found out that magazine articles paid better than book writing on a per hour basis plus I was invited by the editors to send more articles, reason being that my articles requiring minimal editing being essentially cut and paste for the production people.
    But my encounters with the publishing world are now about a decade behind us, and even established authors like Jim Kunstler have been abandoned by their publishers, forcing them to seek an income with the likes of substack.

  54. JMG,

    As you alluded to, “What did you think of the book I recommend?” is only tricky to answer due to power dynamics between a manager and their staff. Heck it doesn’t even have to be a book, watch what happens when a manager asks “What do you think about that show I recommend?”

    I much prefer power dynamics be front and center even if it means out in the open “authority”. Hiding authority behind camaraderie only works until something goes wrong.

  55. Clay Dennis #35

    > The rest have to make due with scoring their kids high status jobs in Manhattan

    Or the family relocates to Washington D.C. (or suburbs)—the mother of all lenocracies. Over time, New York City’s boroughs are becoming less desirable places to move to. The environs of WashDC have no shortage of super-high-paying guvmint jobs going begging.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🐗🐩🎩
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  56. I still buy lots of books, mainly used. I can’t stand using an ereader, I prefer actual books, so get those. I read a lot of religious books, non fiction books on the history of various places and topics, and old craft books and cookbooks. I never buy new craft books or cookbooks, they are not worth it, in my opinion.
    And this all reminds me of when I was an undergrad at our local university, and took a class in Ancient Greek language. But the professor insisted we buy his book on ancient Greek mythology!!! Had NOTHING to do with the language. Big fat waste of money. And that was 50 years ago!
    And I second, or is it third? a post on Robert Graves. I really enjoyed him back in the day.

  57. @AA #14: I think you left out Robert Ruark from your list. Really, back when I was reading these guys, I didn’t understand why they got so little respect.

    @JMG: even though I hate to admit it, I am re-reading the Illuminatus Trilogy. I’ll read a bit then decide to toss it against the wall, then the next day I’ll read a little more, and so it goes. I’ve decided it’s pretty much like “The Crying of Lot 49” except it’s ten times as long.

  58. In a way the big publishers are already private equity firms – their main focus is hoarding copyrights as an asset class. Their backlists of former bestsellers are quite valuable and are used to prop up their businesses in the same way the real estate market has been used to prop up so many western economies these past few years.

  59. Regarding The Illuminatus Trilogy, I made a short list on its title page of other works I read multiple times, of similar length, that were published at around the same time. It includes, “Dhalgren,” “Gravities Rainbow,” and “JR” by William Gaddis.

  60. The Other Owen #43

    > I don’t know what it is with corporate retail bookstores and wanting to know what your shoe size is, what your sexual orientation is, demanding a phone number, a lock of hair, a blood sample and a signup to some club or program that you don’t want and certainly don’t need.

    There is a song for that:

    Rich Men North of Richmond

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🎶
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  61. 5th Wednesday Vote: I support Raab’s (#28) suggestion on firearms-faustian-american-tamanous thing.


  62. ” In most other businesses, if two-thirds of the goods or services you sell lose money, you’re not likely to last long. ”

    Computer tech industry is the same with places like Meta burning through tens of billions of dollars chasing hair brained ideas. While they are still standing, it is clear that many are getting very impatient with these tactics and the sound of the floor cracking under the weight of their arrogance is getting louder.

    I think you are right that the same is coming for the big publishing houses. They have had this stance of “we are the mighty ones. We can do no wrong” while proceeding to do almost everything wrong. They are going mad chasing ghosts trying to get to the next Harry Potter money printer.

  63. >But the professor insisted we buy his book on ancient Greek mythology!!! Had NOTHING to do with the language. Big fat waste of money

    No it wasn’t. It was a bribe request. Which considering that only the credential actually matters and not what you’re learning, consider it part of your tuition, in more ways than one…

  64. Once again, I’ve got everyone’s votes tabulated.

    Maurice, oh, I know. I had no patience with that crap in high school and I have, if possible, even less with it now.

    False Eruption, the rarer books are, the more precious they become. One of my goals is to help keep printing technology common enough that books never get as rare as they were during the last set of dark ages in the West — over in East Asia, where woodblock printing became standard many centuries ago, much less was lost during the inevitable downturns.

    Justin, there’s a reason why calling something “a Mickey Mouse outfit” was an insult back in the day.

    Robert G, spot on! It would be turned down in a heartbeat — too complicated, and not enough opportunities for media tie-ins.

    Bradley, given what that movie was about, you’d better believe some people in power had very thin skins about it.

    Milkyway, I have no idea in general. In my case, if I sell 2000 copies of any one book in a year that’s good news.

    Greco, this is why I’m always bringing out new books and making sure my old ones stay in print. I make quite a decent living these days, but it took around fifteen years of full-time writing after I first got into print in the book market before I was making enough that Sara didn’t have to work. As for Jim, he needs to go to a smaller publisher!

    Your Kittenship, it does indeed. I also recommend Faded Page ( and Global Grey ( — they both have books PG doesn’t, including quite a bit of first-rate stuff.

    GlassHammer, that’s one of the many reasons I got out of being an employee as fast as possible — having Aspergers syndrome doesn’t make those concealed power dynamics easy to deal with!

    Heather, I can handle e-readers but prefer printed books — and yes, used books are my go-to, not least because so many new books are so bad.

    Phutatorius, there’s no accounting for taste. I love the Illuminatus! trilogy — it’s such a quaint old treasure from my insufficiently misspent youth.

    KAN, thank you — that was a piece of the puzzle I hadn’t included, though it’s obvious now that you mention it. That explains why they’re so focused on keeping the backlists even when they don’t keep them in print.

    Michael, I suspect quite a few people will be cheering when both sets of corporations go down.

  65. JMG

    Very interesting essay as usual. My vote for this months extra essay is for the Austrian corporal, his political movement and its stranglehold on the west’s imagination.

  66. For a fifth Wednesday post, I’d like to suggest something which touches upon the occult significance of total solar eclipses. Ever since I saw the total eclipse on April 8th, it’s been weighing heavily upon my mind (in a most positive way). So I’d love to learn more about the occult significance of solar eclipses, and perhaps astronomical phenomena more broadly, and their effects on consciousness (both human and non-human).

  67. JMG,

    Not only are the products we buy undergoing shrinkflation and crapafication, the qualilty of their designs is descending rapidly as well. An example is the bottle of laundry detergent I bought recently. I’ve been using the same brand for years and for some reason it has been redesigned so that when it’s cap (which is also the measuring cup for the detergent) is placed back onto the bottle, whatever residual detergent remains in the cap oozes down the side of the bottle.. (I suspect that the change in design was put into effect to save the manufacturer some microscopic bit of money per bottle, so that the company stock doesn’t flounder.) This kind of horrible redesign happens to all kinds of products these days, and I often wonder if the committee which implements such designs, if there is such a thing, ever bothers to examine, let alone test, the new product before releasing it on the public. (They should be forced to.) I guess companies don’t realize that customers can switch to another product. On the other hand, the companies are all in a race to the bottom, or off a cliff.

    I remember back when we would joke that a new and improved product was neither. Now-a-days you never see advertisements bragging that anything is new and improved.

  68. I too would like to vote for the occult dimension of music for the 5th Wednesday.

  69. Hi John Michael,

    The thing is, as far as I comprehend the situation, small business employs far more people than the big behemoths. The more the behemoths squeeze the smaller businesses, the greater the chance of an overall societal failure.

    I walked away from the top end of town many years ago. There was a poignant moment for me where the folks highest up the food chain were pushing down their personal responsibilities onto me, just because. Me, being me, said no, that’s not happening. And that was when things got weird. Almost as one they looked confused and said they didn’t understand my position in the matter. As far as I could judge things, the confusion was real. So yeah, I left and did something different with my life, and now I work with small business.

    That was a weird moment, when Hagbard’s Law smacked me in the head. 🙂 Don’t you reckon that a lot of effort has gone into society so that people can economically and socially isolate their own groups? Historically it wasn’t always like this.

    Given the discussions, promotions, warnings or whatever they are in the media about some weight loss drug, or other, perhaps a discussion on food may be in order for the fifth of the month? Maybe… I was listening to a youth news radio program about it on Tuesday, and apparently there is a history of such things. Who knew? What about a look into the future at deindustrial cooking? I suspect there will come a time when those drugs won’t be on peoples minds, just because.



  70. Dear JMG:
    If this is off topic please remove this from the comment section, but as you mentioned publishing I have a question. I’m strongly considering become a proofreader and copyeditor, ideally for one of the small to mid-sized publishers that you mention. However, while I very much enjoy reading and writing, have a keen eye for detail, and would love a job where I can be left alone, I have no experience or credentials in this profession. Do you or anyone in the commentariat have advice for the novice wishing to get their foot in the door? My social media feed is now being filled with ads for becoming a proofreader/copyeditor, and I have no clue which are scams and which are the real McCoys. Any help in this endeavor is deeply appreciated. Thank you all in advance.

    Sanctuary of Rose and Chalice

  71. Well Mr. Greer, what can be said for such GimCrackens .. e.i. the Big Five phonies?? To use a Harryhausen celluloid analogy, we have Jason.. of the Argonauts fame, as the small to mid publishers, of which you speak.. eventualy teasing, twisting, and finally, pulling the plug on the Behemoth($), thus getting the lead out, with the monopolistic monsters falling to bits… into inevitable disrepute!
    I’m all for it, considering how’s the “Giants” are making a woke’s hash by rewriting established book texts into neo-marxist gobiligook!!

  72. Again, everyone’s votes have been tabulated; thank you.

    Lacking, a very good point. Design crapification is an accelerating issue — as a society, we know how to design and make good products, but increasingly can’t manage to do so — the word “Boeing” is whispering in my mind for some reason. 😉 That’s a common symptom of lenocracy in its terminal phases.

    Chris, I’ve seen the same thing and it’s weird. It’s as though people in authority in the modern world lose the ability to see things from any perspective but their own.

    Jonathan, thanks for this!

    Sanctuary, I have no idea, but maybe one of my readers can suggest something.

    Polecat, at this point they’re basically unscrewing their own heels for us. Here they stand…

    ..and soon they’ll fall.

  73. The outside investor thing is not new . IIRC was an open secret in the NSDAP regime. The Fuhrer’s salary was limited by law so in order to increase his income to a level they thought fitting extra copies of Mein Kampf were bought by the state or wealth individuals so he could get royalty payments

  74. Fine post…Doesn’t this mean that when the Federal funny money dries up, the small and medium level publishers will dominate? That already seems to be happening in the motion picture business…I think Robert Graves is a fine choice, always wanted to know more about him….

  75. Casting my vote for a fifth Wednesday post on Ivan Illich as occult historian of the techno-sorcery that is the modern state, as I proposed last month in response to your essay on the wolves and the technocrats.

    But failing that, as I know the topic is near and dear to only a few here so far, I will gladly throw in my lot with the occult dimensions of music!

    I am currently reading Graham Jackson’s ‘The Spiritual Basis of Musical Harmony’, which draws heavily on Steiner and on Kathleen Schlesinger’s work on the musical modes of ancient Greece. There is a lot of stuff to unearth there, including some pretty convincing interpretations of key passages in Plato’s dialogues as virtuoso riffs on the mathematics of harmonic theory.

  76. Another chosen book pushing venue is conferences and trainings. I was at a conference, which shall remain nameless, but I assume that it is like a lot of other National Association of Whatevers, and everyone got a copy of the keynote speakers book.

    She was a professional DEI speaker, along the lines of Robin DeAngelo’s White Fragility. I did about 5 minutes of internet sleuthing, decided to skip the keynote and left the book in my hotel room when I checked out.

    My National Association paid for 200 copies of the book and whatever the speaker fee was to please around 12 or 15 of the members.

  77. A question about publishing, and editors. A couple of years ago, amidst the covid pandemic, I thought I’d jack up my fear and paranoia a notch and reread 1984. I remembered being rather stunned, afraid and enraged the first time through, and I experienced this again. It also struck me that, at barely 300 pages, it is just about as perfectly written as a novel gets. The question I have is; who were George Orwell’s (or did his editors use his real name, Eric Blair) editors? Did any one say: “I say, Eric, old man, can’t you tone down the menace and cruelty of this Big Brother chap, and have Winston have a bit more sex with Julia? There’s a good fellow. Big checks in it for you if you make those changes.”

    The same could be asked of any of the outstanding writers of the period.

  78. I am glad you found your publishers!!
    I read several times through today’s grist where you say that the aristocrats collapse their own societies by failing to deliver workable solutions to incoming problems – is that correct?
    I think our problems are even more dire, as the current batch of so-called elites is trying mightily to censor the problems. They are past the point of solving anything, and appear to be screaming “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA….” at the top of their echo chambers to prevent their own ears from hearing anything that is not ‘double plus good’.

    I think a fair case might be made that either the death of JFK or the dissolution of the gold standard by Nixon were the turning points for our aristocrats – they turned away from problems and began navel gazing while they piled up one another’s fortunes.

    Thanks for letting us glimpse a facet most of us never see, asw we simply hunt for books worth our timeto read…

  79. I started self-publishing genre fiction for fun during the pandemic. Across 14 books I’ve sold 3000 copies and made $4282. That’s about $305 per book, averaging $1.43 royalties per sale. Don’t quit your day job, etc.

  80. Vote for 5th Wednesday:
    The future of humanities education/study in the United States outside of institutions and universities as they are presently configured.

  81. For your fifth Wednesday post, I’d normally say mystery initiations interest me… Or, maybe, since class and communications keep coming up, Max Scheler’s ressentiment… But… How about Chuck Tingle’s success and how it happened? And what is his influence going to do to the future of weird fiction?
    PS – Due to technical issues, this post may be a duplicate. Apologies just in case.

  82. Again, everyone’s votes have been tallied, with the one exception noted below. Thank you.

    Simon, ah, that’s where they got the idea! So many other current ideas come from national socialism — the incestuous blending of government and big corporations comes to mind.

    Pyrrhus, yep. Once companies actually have to turn a profit the honest way, a lot of huge firms are going to bite the dust good and hard.

    Dylan, nope — you get one vote, so you have to pick one or the other.

    Team10tim, that figures!

    Tad, editors in those days understood that their job was to turn a manuscript into the best possible book because that was what would make the most money in the long run. They didn’t have the obsession with the next quarterly figures that cripples so many companies these days.

    Oilman2, that’s the late stage of a dominant minority — they go off and pretend to be shepherds and shepherdesses at the Trianon, where they can pretend that none of the problems besetting their society exists at all. Doom follows promptly.

    Cs2, it’s a tough gig but I know people who make decent money at it. They turn out a lot of books and find niches that nobody else has exploited yet.

  83. A horse trainer I learned from once said, that if you want to make money, you can do pretty much anything, but what you do will become a hollow, empty business. The purpose of a good business is to provide a service to people who need it, that you care about providing, and making money is just a necessary part of running a business. To do anything worthwhile, you have to care about doing that thing first, and making money incidentally.

    It is immediately obvious whenever I’m dealing with anyone whether or not they care about doing their job or are just there for the paycheque. The former always give me a feeling of having been served. The latter, the feeling that somehow I was an onerous task to be performed. In my experience, I would say there are far, far too many in every walk of life who only care about making money, and not about providing a service.


  84. @JMG,

    Thank you for another thoroughly enjoyable post. I actually read the Griffin essay when someone here linked to it a few weeks ago, and… yeah – it does not make me enthusiastic to work with the Big Five.

    When I do have books ready to submit (a trashy novel later this year, hopefully, and then some nonfiction works – I’m deliberately doing the trashy novel first since I don’t want to be inexperienced when I move on to the good stuff) I will definitely try with medium-sized publishers. (I’m just hoping I don’t share David-by-the-Lake’s experience of indifference – I am guessing it’s a lot commoner than your own rosy experience with the specialty publishing houses has been).

    As for a fifth Wednesday post – my vote, same as last time, is for a review of your top ten favorite stories in New Maps.

  85. Re books by politicians

    I read the autobiography of William Jefferson Blythe III, aka Bill Clinton, all 1000-odd pages of it. I think Bill Clinton is an interesting character — intelligent, charismatic, flawed — so I was expecting an interesting book. Alas, it was deadly dull, way more concerned with election strategies than challenges and how he met them. The most exciting bit was discovering a typo. On page 849 he had ‘Reverned Pat Robertson’ instead of ‘Reverend Pat Robertson’. (Yes, I read every word. I don’t skim.)

  86. Mr Greer,

    For the 5th Wednesday post: (just reposting what I managed to sneak into the twilight hour of the last post … )

    “It seems the foundational spells that drive civilisations for good or for ill are myths (in the sense you define the word) describing what happens after death and what choices in life lead to what outcomes at its close. Is the fear of civilisational decline a projection of fear of our own old age and death? You have aptly pointed out that the end of a marriage is the end of a civilization (and please accept my condolences for Sara’s death and admiration for the dignity you have brought to it). But so too is the death of any individual, insofar as we are all, as per Whitman, large, containing multitudes.

    “Would it interest you to do a post on what occultists of various times have had to say on that score? What lies beyond the dark pale and can we navigate the journey using occult practices.”

    The issue of perception of death and initiations could, perhaps, be interweaved … you’d get better better market-capture.



  87. Roldy, thanks for sharing The Plan. I used to work in an AI startup, and this story reminds me of an incident we had there. After the startup was acquired by a bigger company, they assigned a manager to tell us how to do our work (like they always do). This guy had been “managing teams” in AI for a decade, so we thought he would know his stuff. We were in for a Large Language Disappointment. He gave us absurd instructions for our ‘guidance’. His go-to instruction was to incorporate GPT 3.5 in everything we do. At the time LLMs were still recent, and OpenAI had just disrupted the market. On one occassion, he had a meeting with a team working on check fraud detection. They were working on a vision model to identify false signatures. Monsieur Manageur told them to do it with ChatGPT. They cursed him for a week straight behind his back. Another team had been working on document extraction using keyword searches and BERT models that they had spent months of effort to tune. This fellow asked them to replace it with ChatGPT. As predicted, every single metric of accuracy and performance came crashing down. Our own team was working on structured data extraction from tables. And yes, he told us to rework that with ChatGPT. We weren’t even using a model, it was all image processing and carefully constructed algorithms. We replaced all that code we had built over months worth of experiments and effort, and ChatGPT couldn’t even get the job done. The LLM couldn’t see the page, so it didn’t know where the lines separating table columns and rows were. In the end we kept our old algorithms for segmenting out rows and columns from tables, used them to extract each cell, reconstructed the entire table as a bunch of text characters, and then fed it to the LLM. The LLM was completely unnecessary. And of course, it was the most debauched thing we had ever worked with up to that point. We would specifically instruct it to give us a JSON output and no other unnecessary text, but it would still start it’s output with “Sure, here’s a JSON structured document containing the fields you have mentioned:”. We had to write more post-processing modules to filter out the unnecessary crap, and fix syntax errors in the JSON. I left that company soon after that. Some people I know are still there, building RAGs when we already had working solutions for all of those problems. And why did our Monsieur Manageur do this? Partly because he had read in some whitepapers somewhere that LLM is God’s answer to every prayer. And partly because if the solution contains an LLM somewhere, it becomes easier to market for the inept delivery team of the corporate giant that acquired our company.

  88. @pygmycory #34
    After reading your post, I had a look at the Games Workshop site to catch up a bit. No denying, the miniature designers are very talented, but I can’t see many people paying those prices with a smile on their face.

    Are you aware of the Oldhammer crowd? Grizzled veterans who collect and paint 1980s metal miniatures and meet up to play Warhammer with 1980s rules. Much innocent, old-school fun and GW doesn’t net a penny.
    Middlehammer is a more recent development along the same lines, for slightly less grizzled veterans.

    I don’t want to romanticise the past too much, though. I was more of a role-player myself and can remember vividly the frustration of not being able to afford the 1st edition AD&D rulebooks, although one of my friends owned all but one of them. I managed to get my hands on three. When TSR brought out the 2nd edition, I threw in the towel.

    In keeping with the main theme of this week’s discussion, it’s worth noting that some of the smaller RPG publishers are putting out some very nice stuff these days. I’m thinking in particular of Fria Ligan/Free League from Sweden. Their books are beautifully produced and follow a less relentless publishing schedule. Kickstarter appears to play quite an important role in their way of doing things.

    As far as I can judge as a casual but interested observer and occasional buyer, the RPG publishing scene seems pretty healthy at the moment. If any more knowledgeable contributors here can fill out the picture a bit, I’d be very interested to read what you have to say (if that makes sense).

    And another vote for Robert Graves here.

  89. Raymond R #36,
    But people now have prettier toys – so that’s all right.

  90. Dear Mr. Greer – My vote for a 5th week topic is: Food, Cooking and Cookbooks, during the Decline. Which is very similar to what Chris at Fern Glade Farm, said. Lew

  91. At this link is the full list of all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared at and, as well as in the comments of the prayer list posts. Please feel free to add any or all of the requests to your own prayers.

    If I missed anybody, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below.

    * * *
    This week I would like to bring special attention to the following prayer requests.

    May Kevin P in Geauga County, Ohio have a successful knee surgery on Monday, 29 April and a speedy recovery.

    May Frank Rudolf Hartman of Altadena California (picture), who is receiving chemotherapy, be completely cured of the lymphoma that is afflicting him, and may he return to full health.

    Jay (SDI) and his family are in the process of moving. May they settle quickly and easily into their new town, and may their old house find its way to whoever is best to care for it next.

    May Erika’s partner James, who passed away on April 4th after a battle with cancer, be blessed, soothed, and lent courage in his soul’s onward journey; may Erika be blessed with the support she needs in this difficult time, and be granted the strength and self-understanding to avoid unhealthy levels of darkness and despair.

    Tyler A’s wife Monika’s pregnancy is high risk; may Mother and child be blessed with good health and a smooth delivery, and be soothed and healed from their recent pains and discomfort in a manner that supports a positive outcome to the pregnancy.

    May Deathcap’s friend Mike, who has begun a 5 week course of radiation treatment after a nearly fatal surgery for a malignant tumor on his leg, be healed of his cancer and return to full health quickly and as completely as possible.

    May new mother Molly M recover quickly and completely from her recent stroke and the lingering loss of vision and slurred speech that ensued, and may newborn Lela and husband Austin be comforted and strengthened through this difficult time.

    May John Michael Greer’s wife Sara Greer, who passed away on February 20th, be blessed and soothed as she moves into the next stage of her spirit’s journey. And may John Michael Greer be blessed and lent strength in this most difficult time.

    May Just Another Green Rage Monster‘s father, who is dealing with Stage 4 Lymphoma, and mother, who is primary caregiver, be blessed, protected and healed.

    May Kyle’s friend Amanda, who though in her early thirties is undergoing various difficult treatments for brain cancer, make a full recovery; and may her body and spirit heal with grace.

    Lp9’s hometown, East Palestine, Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people, animals and all living beings in and around East Palestine, and to improve the natural environment there to the benefit of all.

    * * *
    Guidelines for how long prayer requests stay on the list, how to word requests, how to be added to the weekly email list, how to improve the chances of your prayer being answered, and several other common questions and issues, are to be found at the Ecosophia Prayer List FAQ.

    If there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  92. Self publishers, beware. I just watched a new-ish documentary, last week, that I got from the library. “Conned: A True Story..” One of the cases was just plane old financial grift. The the other four or five cases had to do with getting published. There are outfits out there, that prey on authors who self publish. The hook is, they’ll get your book on the best seller lists! (Guaranteed). They’ll get you a phenomenal amount of money, selling movie rights! All you have to do is prime the pump a bit (or a lot) with your own money. People lost thousands of dollars, on these schemes.

    Also, self publishers have to watch out for people stealing their books, making a few minor changes, and peddling it as their own. Usually, such things are uncovered, when fairly popular self published authors, are tipped off by their fans. The platforms that support self published books, are very unresponsive to reports of such hijacking. To read more about his topic, do a search for, “Plagiarism and self publishing.” Lew

  93. I vote for “initiation” as the topic.

    Fascianating essay, as they often are. It further reinforces the conviction that my recent career change from a dreary cubicle towards something much more tangible was the right step to take. To know something that is highly specialized and essential at the same time seems to be giving me some badly needed slack.

  94. The expert opinions about Autism/ADHD/Aspergers confuse me. I identify with the natural neurodiversity point of view. For this month’s 5th Wednesday post, I would like to read your thoughts about Autism/ADHD/Aspergers using explicit magic concepts and words like enchantment, imagination, curses, prayers, spells, binding, intuition, magic chain, etc.
    Thank you for your diverse and rich blog.

  95. This fascinating article reminded me of the current ‘hit rate’ of a small, UK-based independent publisher of literature in translation concerning the Nobel Prize. Though by no means an infallible guide to literary merit, it does generate attention and sales, so Fiztcarraldo’s inclusion of several recent winners in its list significantly ahead of their winning demonstrates the ability of the small, and committed, to deliver meaningful results against their own mission, and turn a profit in a way that appears to defeat the big five!

  96. Dear JMG:

    My vote is for a discussion of how the Austrian corporal has such a hold on the thinking of the elites these days.



  97. I think there’s an interesting exception to Hagbard’s Law which we might call Diogenes’ Law after the famous meeting between Alexander the Great and the philosopher. The people who have checked out emotionally (or philosophically in the case of Diogenes) don’t have anything to lose and can’t be hurt by their nominal superiors. Therefore, they will speak truth. I suspect something of the same holds in large corporations. It’s the ladder climbers in middle management who will lie to their superiors most enthusiastically.

  98. Are there any examples you can think of in terms of leaders who managed to defy Hagbard’s Law and listen to their subordinates in times of crisis? I’m wondering if it’s ultimately an inevitable consequence of a hierarchy which gets big and well-entrenched enough for its inertia to become unshakable, or if there are ways of getting around it.

    As for the fifth Wednesday post, I will also vote for what Pierre (#90) suggested: the future of education in the US and elsewhere. Considering how bleak the situation looks right now for parents, students, and teachers alike, it’s hard to hold out hope that things will get better.

  99. >I think a fair case might be made that either the death of JFK or the dissolution of the gold standard by Nixon were the turning points

    I reckon the Republic died somewhere between the Great Depression and the end of WW2. When it actually died, I’m not sure, but somewhere in there, die it did. When JFK got shot, that was just when it became obvious.

  100. >(I suspect that the change in design was put into effect to save the manufacturer some microscopic bit of money per bottle, so that the company stock doesn’t flounder.)

    You would think that. It is plausible. But let me put forth another idea for you to consider. That one of the mission objectives of any sufficiently large corporation, is to increase the net misery in the world every chance they get, when it doesn’t conflict with their other mission objectives.

    Granted, they have to be sneaky about it, because if they make their customers too miserable, then those customers go away (unless they have a monopoly, mwahahaha). But look closely when there’s no skin off their teeth to do the right thing – they will always choose to do the wrong thing. You can bet on it.

  101. >It’s as though people in authority in the modern world lose the ability to see things from any perspective but their own.

    Are you saying they’ve closed in on themselves to become solipsistic flowers?

  102. I cataloged this movie from Estonia this morning. Hollywood could never make something like this, let alone Disney:

    “”USSR-China border, 1973: Young soldier Rafael is on guard duty when the border falls under attack from flying Chinese kung fu warriors, leaving him as the sole survivor. Utterly fascinated by the long-haired martial artists who easily dispatched his fellow guards, all while blasting forbidden Black Sabbath music from their portable radio, Rafael is struck by a revelation: he too wants to become a kung fu warrior. Looking for mentorship but with limited options, faith leads Rafael to seek martial arts teachers at the most unlikely of places: the local Eastern Orthodox monastery, where the black-clad monks begin his training. With a skeptical mother, a rival monk, and a budding love interest pulling him in different directions, Rafael finds that his journey to unlock the greatest martial art of all – the almighty power of humility – is long, winding, and full of kick-a– adventures”–Container.

    The Invisible Fight: A Rainer Sarnet film

  103. Hi John Michael,

    I note that some of your publishers are in other countries as a hedge against troubles in your own land. Are you aware that fiscal deficit spending is estimated to be 6.67% of GDP for this year, and interest payments are now around $1tn (that’s one thousand million) which is a substantial chunk of your federal goobermints income? Sure, unemployment is low, but that’s only because of the huge and ever increasing debt paying for it.

    Looking into the scrying crystal ball I get the impression that sooner or later, other countries are going to be supporting their own currencies by selling off US dollar reserves, which they hold for trading and buying of stuff. It’s either that, or go further into debt.

    It’s really weird out there. Officially inflation is coming down, yet the bills I’m seeing (and I track them year on year) are increasing 10% here, 12% there. It’s not good. Let’s just say that this has become a very common conversation with pretty much most people I speak with.

    Hey, I used to get paid for essay writing! It was a nice earner two and a bit decades ago. Dunno if such a market even exists nowadays?



  104. @Sanctuary:

    I’m a freelance copyeditor (in fact, JMG, I’ve edited your words a time or two, as I’ve been the copyeditor for Trilithon since it was founded), and people sometimes ask me how to get into it. I have to tell them, it’s not easy. It’s very unlikely you’ll get any response if you try to apply for work with no experience. I’m not even confident that the smaller publishers use copyeditors or proofers, given the volume of typos and other errors I see in their books. You need to understand not just spelling and grammar, but the details of editorial style and page makeup. I think pretty much the only way to get into it is to get hired to work in-house first so you can get training and experience in those things. Expect to start at the bottom and get paid peanuts. (That’s what I did, LOL.)

    I’ve seen some ads for “courses” to train people to do this work, and my cynical take is that they’re all scams. Basically, they’re dangling a type of work that sounds appealing (get paid to read books!), but with automation and cost-cutting, the market is shrinking, and publishers never hired inexperienced people if they could help it. If there’s legitimate help out there, I wouldn’t know where to look for it.

    So my recommendation, if you’re serious, is that you’re not going to start out as a freelancer. You might be able to find something with a newspaper or local magazine. If there are any small publishers within reach, you could perhaps ask what they would want in a new hire. You’ll need to learn about editorial styles. If a publisher follows The Chicago Manual of Style, for instance, you’ll need to know it already. The manual is 1,000 pages long. I’m sorry to be discouraging, but I think it’s better to be honest. I don’t think publishers will take you seriously if you’ve just read a book about editing or taken some fly-by-night course.

  105. It seems to me there is enough talent among the readers of Ecosophia to form their own small press should anyone wish to band together to do so. I know there are a number of writers who are regular readers and commenters here. I know there is at least two editors / copy-editor. A couple of freelancers I’ve seen comment. Who knows who else is lurking around waiting to start a small press. While the internet is still around the people don’t even have to be in the same city. This might be something worth considering for those of you itching to start your own lenocracy free publishing company.

    Or another magazine or journal…

    I saw this article yesterday: Magazine’s Aren’t Dying Just Ask These Indie Publishers.

    One of the quotes from a publisher in the article is: “One of our taglines is that this magazine is not for everyone. .. And we stand by that. If we were trying to be something for mass culture, it would seem inauthentic and bad. That’s where media brands lose their way.”

    One of them, a journal for surfers, only works with a small set of advertisers and sponsors. “Pezman works with a small set of eight ‘sponsors’ who pay the magazine up front for involvement in partnerships, the magazine’s podcast, newsletters, and more.”

    The business model seems to be solid. They only use ‘advertisers’ who are about what they are about.

    As a subscriber to County Highway, America’s Only Newspaper, I can say there are people eager to read the printed word on paper. I really like this new newspaper that reads like a magazine. Solid articles from interesting voices across different viewpoints, leaning centrist.

    I also subscribe to 2600: The Hacker Quarterly (on and off admittedly, but I like their non-technical articles), Spectrum Monitor (a PDF only radio / communications magazine), Northern Earth (megaliths and earth mysteries) and of course New Maps. I may renew my subscription to Ancient American (alternative history) sometime. Having these different articles and stories to read all feed the imagination. When the internet does go away, I’ll be happy to have magazines filling the gap of reading websites.

    There is a place out there for writers, readers and publishers… I hope to see more people get involved one or another, whether it is as a supporter, by subscribing, or by writing, editing, publishing.

    I could only see the media ecosystem of publishing getting better if people from here got together to start something.

    I’m just instigating now, but I am happy to write something for such an outfit if one came into being.

  106. Hello JMG, this was an interesting post although I have no particular comment. I’d like to vote for the occult dimension of music please and thank you.

  107. Once again, everyone’s vote has been tabulated.

    Renaissance, no argument there. The challenge is finding something you love doing that will also pay your bills.

    Sandwiches, oh, I’ve had my share of bad experiences — rejection slips, predatory contracts, publishers who wouldn’t pay royalties on time or at all, and so on. Nonfiction is much easier to publish than fiction, btw; around 80% of the books published every year are nonfiction, while about 80% of writers write fiction. You tell me which way the odds work best. 😉 In my experience, it’s best to place some nonfiction books with a specialty press or two, and then try to break into fiction once you’ve got a track record as an author.

    Martin, not a surprise. It’ll have been written by some flack, either one of his speechwriters or a hired writer, and produced fast and cheap with minimal input from the supposed author.

    Quin, thanks for this as always.

    Lew, thanks for this. Never, ever listen to somebody who demands money for you in order to do something with your manuscript. Real agents and real publishers pay you — never the other way around.

    Oskari, congratulations on your escape from the cubicle prison.

    Nicholas, that’s a fine example.

    Simon, part of what made Alexander of Macedon such an enormously effective leader is that he could and did listen to Diogenes. It’s always possible for someone in a privileged position to do that, and earn a reputation for being willing to hear unwelcome realities — that’s one of the wild cards that can upset a hierarchical system, because such people routinely take power away from their inept rivals.

    Ethan, see my response to Simon immediately above. Yes, it can happen, and a leader who consistently listens to those far down the ladder of hierarchy can often count on the loyalty and love of the masses — and thus becomes a tremendous threat to the hierarchy itself. That’s where the process Spengler calls “Caesarism” comes from, because the leader who listens either overthrows the hierarchy or is destroyed by it.

    Other Owen, not solipsistic because they include each other in the reality they’re willing to accept. It’s just those outside their little cultural bubble who they can’t recognize as people.

    Justin, good heavens. That would be a fun novel. 😉

    Chris, why, yes, that’s why so many of my books are being published overseas right now. Sooner or later the US dollar is going to lose most of its value, via hyperinflation, or in a series of spasmodic currency crises triggered by a US government default on its foreign debt, or both — they’re not mutually exclusive. When that happens, having my income denominated in almost any other currency on the planet is going to make life much, much easier. Oh, and unemployment isn’t actually low — our government has been cooking its statistics for years now. Our real rate of inflation is much higher than the official numbers, too. Welcome to the economic unraveling of the United States! Whee!

    (Heh heh heh.)

    Oh, and pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters on I forget which college campus yesterday found something to agree on. One side started chanting “F*** Joe Biden!” and the other side joined in enthusiastically. For a while there, they were in perfect unanimity, chanting that phrase together. Biden promised to unite the nation, but I don’t think that’s what his handlers had in mind…

    Justin, if a small press comes together, I promise to send it an original nonfiction book manuscript, so that it has something by an established author to start with. I think it’s a fine idea.

  108. “I reckon the Republic died somewhere between the Great Depression and the end of WW2. ”

    That would mean FDR killed the Republic. I’ve heard that before too. He did threaten to pack the Court unless they saw the commerce clause his way, and the court caved. The Depression and the war both led to huge expansion of the government, and it was not all rolled back after the war.

    As to surfing magazines, I get the AMA’s motorcycling magazine, Nuts and Volts which is an electronic hobbiest magazine, and Game and Fish. The latter has sub-issues for the various areas of the country. So the niche survives where the general interest does not.

  109. Other Owen @ 110 loss of the republic was a long, slippery slope, which began, I am inclined to think, in1913 with foundation of the Federal Reserve. A national bank should not be privately owned. I think the tipping point event came about when President Truman asked for a daily compendium of the news an American president needs to know–natural disasters, wars begun, foreign elections and the like, and what he got was the CIA.

    Rajarshi @ 98, have you considered that your incompetent manager might have had his reasons for not wanting fraud to be detected? Or that he, I gather the person is a man, or whomever hired him, might have had a financial interest in promoting ChatGPT.

    I have come to believe that the owners and managers of large corporations don’t much care about profits, despite their claims otherwise. I suspect what they are about is seizing assets any way they can and promoting their class interests, dreaming of establishing a new aristocracy which might last a thousand years.

  110. Interesting topic. I’ve got a series of previously-published articles I retain the rights to and would like to publish collected in abook. Self-publishing is probably the best for that. I’m currently working on a book relating to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and am developing the idea of another on Stanislavski, for which I would prefer a publisher…

    @Sanctuary #80
    I’m currently doing the same; literally yesterday I reactivated my account with The College of Media & Publishing. I started their course on Proofreading and Copyediting a few years ago, but had to suspend progress because life. Although I’m only part way through, I’ve found the content to be good, the exercises challenging, and the tutor feedback (from a real human being) to be rigorous. Of course, I don’t know what else is out there to compare them with, but they seemed fairly well-reviewed and I’m definitely learning something.

    @JMG re: 5th week. I’d propose a discussion of something that came up in comments some time back: the common culture/belief system which in prehistoric times spanned Eurasia and, via the ocean currents, the American north-west. Also, wish me luck: I’m being raised to the 3rd degree this evening….

  111. @JMG,

    Oh, I don’t particularly care if the trashy novel gets published or not – I just decided I wanted a higher word count before I wrote the things I’m really passionate about, and it takes less effort per word to write fiction. Butbyour advice does sound reasonable. As for the novels that I really want to write, those will come much later.

  112. ” if a small press comes together, I promise to send it an original nonfiction book manuscript, so that it has something by an established author to start with. I think it’s a fine idea.”

    Fantastic! I know there are a lot of motivated people who hang out on this website, so I hope this gives someone (who might have already been thinking along these lines themselves) the gumption to go for it.

  113. @Owain D,
    there’s certainly a lot of subgroups of various kinds out there. I suspect what’s available varies dramatically depending on where you are, and finding and getting in contact with them seems likely to be the hard part. At the moment, I’m just painting up a few cheap D&D minis, building some terrain out of recyclables and stuff I had around the house, and planning on messing around with One Page Rules to find out if I like it. Maybe try D&D, since there seems to be a lot of that locally. I’m enjoying the building and painting things part on the very cheap, but am not sure what direction to go in with regards to wargaming or roleplaying, or if I want to call it good and do something else entirely.

  114. I am still loaning books to anyone in the continental US! I have lots of JMG titles and more.

    Obviously, I am a big cheerleader of collecting books, especially rare hardcovers and anything permaculture, skill-related, or DIY. When I finally finish my own upcoming book, Sacred Homemaking, I will explicitly recommend that people hang on to old books and collect them. A similar book, Marie Kondo’s The Art of Tidying Up, recommends getting rid of any book that does not “spark joy”. Bullcrap… I completely disagree. Books do not have to be joyful in order to be valuable. Is there joy in a book about composting toilets? Probably not, but it is the sort of thing that we need to know. In light of public libraries collapsing and disappearing, we ARE the librarians.

    When I worked in a library as a shelver, non-fiction was far more popular than fiction. Two or three times the amount of non-fiction or “reference” books needed shelving compared to fiction books, meaning that is what people liked and read. The most popular section of non-fiction was cookbooks, followed by books on improving one’s health, followed by true crime. Aspiring authors might keep this in mind. In my own case, I have written several self-published novels, and I chose distro through Amazon. They had their turn in the sun and yes, they certainly sold more than 12 copies. Mostly, they made me grocery money for a few years and I will always be grateful for that.

  115. JMG, I remember you making the “shocking” prediction in Jan 2016 about Donald Trump would win the election .

    Did you post something similar about US/world trends for 2024 that I missed?

  116. >Biden promised to unite the nation, but I don’t think that’s what his handlers had in mind

    Supposedly, the real approval numbers are now less than 10%. It’s about the only thing right now that unites all Muricans, no matter who they are or where they live.

  117. “Established book franchises fill a similar niche. No matter how dreary and repetitive a series has become, it will have its passionate fans who will run out and buy a copy of the latest installment. ”

    Hmmm, sounds like this premise applies to movies as well…

  118. @Ethan L. #109 I think those exceptions happen fairly often (to the point where I start to distrust the strict formulation of Hagbard’s Law – communication is clearly possible, it’s just inherently difficult and usually very faulty). The trick is that they happen to individuals, not to the elite as a whole; it grants an advantage to those individuals, but it can’t rescue the elite in the long run (though it may prolong it, if those individuals play their cards well). Those stories about a ruler going among his people incognito come to mind. Some of them seem to be more than legends, but what’s also interesting is that they are so archetypical. The disconnect between the rulers and the ruled has been well-known for millennia.

    One specific example that comes to my mind is Emperor Alexander II’s habit of reading Kolokol (The Bell), a Russian emigre newspaper published in London. It was strongly anti-government, obviously not subject to Russian censorship, and while I think its distance from Russia may have hampered it somewhat, its authors still had many anonymous correspondents back home. So the Emperor often found it to be a more reliable source of information than his own government or secret police, particularly early into the Great Reforms. Just how successful and important his reforms were was and is a matter of some controversy (for my part, I think they are badly underrated), but they certainly changed a lot after decades of stagnant order and decline. Abolishing serfdom was just one part of it, though it understandably gets the most attention; the entire military and administrative system was transformed, and many provincial cities gained a new lease on life that still shows to this day. Being willing to listen not only to subordinates but to the avowed enemies of the entire system was a key part of what made this possible.

  119. My vote for 5th Wednesday “mystery initiations in the past and present“.

    Your writing and your reader’s responses are a gift that keeps on giving; truly magical!

  120. Again, everyone’s votes have been tabulated. Thank you!

    Bogatyr, delighted to hear it. Have a great time, and welcome to full membership.

    Sandwiches, hmm! Nonfiction is much easier for me to write than fiction — but clearly your mileage varies.

    A Reader, nope. My take is that the US is incredibly unstable right now, and could go in almost any imaginable direction between now and the election, as well as some unimaginable ones. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    Other Owen, it would surprise me if it was actually that low, but I know his only serious support these days comes from certain factions of the American bureaucratic-corporate kleptocracy.

    Ridgely, so I gather.

  121. >I have come to believe that the owners and managers of large corporations don’t much care about profits, despite their claims otherwise.


    >I suspect what they are about is seizing assets any way they can and promoting their class interests

    Sort of. You give many of them too much competence. Your average middle manager is a special kind of person (are they people? I sometimes wonder) but they are (usually) shortsighted and (almost always) greedy. They also tend not to be how to put it? Not too swift on the uptake? Did you ever watch the Brit TV show Are You Being Served? Remember Mr Rumbold? That character is the posterboy for middle management and how they (don’t) think. Even the guy who owned the store was more or less clueless (You’ve alll doooone veeeery weeeeeeell).

  122. @Thrown Sandwiches:

    I happen to really enjoy trashy novels, so consider publishing it. They are entertaining and fun. Some of the best novels I read last year were by people like James Ellroy, Donald E. Westlake, Max Alan Collins, and Ed McBain. I thoroughly reveled in all of them.

    I like to read almost anything put out by Hard Case Crime, who do old vintage wrinkled trash and brand new sparkly trash.

    In other words… stay trashy! There is a place for this. I find these novels relaxing.

    Contrast this with

    @Phutatorius: I did try to read The Crying of Lot 49 last year and gave up. I liked some of it… but I think I set it down too long, and it was hard to get back into, even though its short. Maybe I’ll try again another time.

    As for Illuminatus! I kind of liked the Historical Illuminati Chronicles a bit better than Illuminatus, which I did still love. Need to go back into it!

    Stay illuminated. Also a re-read of Dhalgren is long overdue.

  123. Lew #101

    “Food, Cooking and Cookbooks,” yeah, I am with you (all) on this as the 5th Wednesday topic. None of the other commenters’ topics do I know much about. Food, on the other hand, I can relate to—I am exceedingly interested in food history through the ages. After a weeks’ long survey, it was hard, as in ‘very,’ to find ANY books on food history. I am still scrounging for a book-list on the subject.

    In the general public, it is as if no-one wants to speak of food history — is no-one interested? It feels like food history is taboo. Food being so crucial, I feel the dearth of books on food history (if dearth is indeed the case) means something, but I don’t know what.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🍲🌮🥘🍳🍤
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  124. Ethan L. #109

    > the future of education in the US and elsewhere. Considering how bleak the situation looks right now for parents, students, and teachers alike, it’s hard to hold out hope that things will get better.

    I recommend researching the “one room schoolhouse” of old.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🏫📓📖
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  125. I’m astounded by the statistic, if true, that half of all published books sell fewer than a dozen copies.

    I’m 95% sure that anything I took the time to form into a book would sell at least 20-50 copies – to family, friends, folks in my local community. I certainly wouldn’t consider that a success, but it would beat the median.

    Unless all of these are one-offs, what else does it mean about our society that huge numbers of people are investing book-sized amounts of time and energy into producing content that no one engages with? It seems depressing in some way…

  126. Justin and all,

    If the Ecosophia community formed a small publisher, I would also be willing to submit something or republish my self-published works. I have no skill for marketing whatsoever and would be happy to pass that buck.

  127. @ A Reader and JMG
    Yes, the USA is in a perilous spot. It Trump gets past his legal challenges and clearly wins the election the emergency measures to stop the unthinkable his opponents take while they have the levers of government in their hands and the rage of Trump opponents concern me along with the backlash from Trump supporters to this.. If it is obvious that Trump loses due to fraudulence and if his supporters are goaded by Trump and/or agents provocateurs into violence and insurrection justifying a broad spread crackdown and loss of freedom far surpassing what was done to the Canadian truckers. leading to further resistance and chaos. The fact that the two sides find it disastrous that the bloated federal behemoth get under the control of the other side shows the sharp failure of the orignal relatively decentralized vision for the USA.

  128. @pygmycory, sure, except that Games Workshop has been doing everything you mention since at least the mid 1990s. At the time I thought, surely this will drive away their customers soon – but alas, no.

  129. I tried the self-publishing route, and made back less than the amount I paid for my cover art. One problem is the constantly shifting algorithms on the big websites, which one must target with one’s writing in order to appear high up in the search results. When I started, Amazon was ‘rewarding’ 5000 word steamy romances which authors would bulk out with snippets from their other books. It was important that the first 10% of the book was as gripping as possible, because that was the threshold for the book being ‘read’ and therefore paid for. Then the search algorithms changed to reward longer novels. Then AI came along and flooded the e-book market with computer-generated gibberish that looks good enough to fool buyers.

    The guy who sold me the cover art did okay – like the shovel sellers during the gold rush who made more than the miners themselves. Maybe that’s a better business model.

  130. To me, the mysterious portion of the book publishing business is everything that happens after the books are printed. Of course the goal is to sell them, but to whom, and how? It certainly involves an online catalog/store, because that’s how I order from independent publishers myself. Maybe, sending copies out to reviewers (but who are those, and how do you estimate the likelihood of it actually getting reviewed?) Maybe, some kind of booth or table at some kinds of conferences (but which ones are worth the time and money?) Deals with distributors, most likely. Advertising? Probably, but would have to be very targeted, maybe even individually for individual books. Some small publishers seem to make every book a Kickstarter campaign; is that a good idea?

    I love the idea of an Ecosophian small press, and I’d do my best for a chance to participate as an author. It’s just that, apart from perhaps ad copywriting and/or, if it were local enough, carrying boxes around, there wouldn’t be much I could contribute to what I think of as the hard part.

  131. 5th Wednesday vote:
    Music – occult aspects or otherwise – particularly the frequency/vibration relationship to emotion and consciousness. Multiple studies suggest that when the brain works at a low frequency of 4 to 7 Hz, it produces theta waves on EEGs. This state of consciousness is associated with deep physical relaxation, mental clarity, dream-like states, hypnosis, stage 1 sleep (disconnection from the conscious world), imagination, creativity and lucid dreaming. Drumbeats at 220 beats per minute (~4 Hz) seem to induce or at least facilitate shamanic journeying. I have experienced this myself. Music is clearly powerful; witness Taylor Swift. (Admittedly I’ve never heard a single one of her songs but I saw that her latest release has had over a billion downloads and the political freakout around her and the Superbowl was bizarre. Makes me think it’s more than the usual flash-in-the-pan celebrity charisma going on…)

  132. Seconding Michael Gray here, Sillycon Valley is run like this. The goal of the Venture Capital financed circuit of startups is to buy as many tickets in the Big Unicorn Lotto game. They invest small amounts of money in each individual company, let most of them crash and fall, pick up whatever valuable scrap they produce (including human resources) and pass it around to other, not yet failed companies. Rinse and repeat, until you hit it out of the park or at least come up something interesting enough that one of the FAANG will buy. Paul Graham’s essays, published in Y Combinator site, were candid enough to describe the process and declare it a good thing.

    They also explained the bias to get young engineers before they get “spoiled” by a regular 9-to-5 job with a decent salary and benefits. It was always understood that engineers in their early 40s where the most likely to see a project through. But also they would do “bad” things, like boring engineering practices/standards that would maximize their individual company’s likelihood of success, instead of charging blindly at windmills as fast as humanly possible. It wouldn’t help that many of those older guys would have families of their own and would like some degree of stability in their lives.

    In the 00-s years, there was an alternative movement: the Independent Software Vendor. These were tiny companies operated by their founders with little or no financial aid. They would focus on small niche products that would sell directly to (oh, the horror) individual PAYING customers, with price tags that would go from “pocket change” to “nice dinner and drinks evening”. As far as I know, this business model was hit very badly by the “everything is in the cloud” fad and never truly recovered. You can read Patrick McKenzie’s (of Bingo Card Creator fame) old blog if you are interested:

  133. I’m casting my vote for Raab’s topic of firearms in the American-Tamanous culture (spirit? egregore?)

  134. This is just a side tidbit to lenocracy, but it may interest someone.

    I have been operating a used bookstore for over 7 years now. When I started, the majority of my customers were older women who hadn’t gotten the memo that print books were dead, and our top sales category was mystery paperbacks.

    This is no longer true. Now we get everyone, from small kids rushing in with great excitement, to young adults coming to find literary classics (this always brings tears to my eyes), to men of all ages, looking for every genre and subject you can think of, parents (homeschooling and otherwise), Amish and Mennonite women looking for older books, people searching for obscure books, history books, Russian authors and old print references like 1950’s and 60’s encyclopedia sets, you name it. The book 1984 doesn’t even land when it comes in. It flies right back out again. People come searching for the best-sellers from 40-70 years ago, finding them still a darn good read.

    Our sales, meanwhile, have been growing a solid 30% year over year since I started, and this is stunning when considering that this is known as a low education, low literacy, low socioeconomic class area. While the paperback mysteries are still our top selling category, sales in other categories both fiction and non-fiction are solid.

    From the beginning my mission was to save books from the landfill, thinking that we would need the books in 20 years time or so. I was wrong. We need them now. There is an atmosphere of liveliness, delight and excitement in the store. I have instructed my staff to talk as long as the customers want, production and efficiency be damned, and boy, do the customers respond. All this gives me great hope for the future when it comes to books. I sincerely hope the small and mid-sized publishers find ways to thrive going forward, because we will need those books too.


  135. I vote for magical aspects of music as well.
    This is the first time in a while I’ve been able to keep up with all the comments- JMG thanks for hosting such a thoughtful group of people.

  136. Dear JMG,
    I very much concur with your views on the publishing scene. It is always a pleasure to read your essays.
    My vote for next essay goes to what Milkyway said.

  137. Karen-

    Would it be feasible for a would-be copy editor to take some bit of published work and post-publication copy-edit it? Go back to the publisher with corrections, and say “wouldn’t you rather have had this before you went to press?” Of course, if one tries this exercise and can’t finish the task, then perhaps one does not actually have the temperment to do it as a career. I think, though, that doing it once or twice without pay (“on speculation”) would have to impress the publisher much more than simply a BA and a request for a position.

  138. Once again, all votes but one have been tabulated. (See below.)

    Mark, yes, but you can probably write. I know somebody who self-published a detective novel and sold something like five copies. I’m pretty sure all five of those went to friends and family members and none of them got past page three. An enormous number of people want to write, and think they can write, and, er, they can’t. They might be able to learn how to do it, but it’s an interesting fact that the worse you are as a writer, by and large, the better you think you can write. (I think it comes from being unable to see flaws or something.) That’s why the really lousy writer who think’s he’s the gods’ gift to literature is such a cliché in older literature — there are many such people…

    Kfish, that’s a great example of lenocracy! The industry at this point is set up to bilk writers and readers equally. There are ways around that, but they start with not doing what everyone else is doing.

    Patricia M, thanks for this.

    Myriam, I’m delighted to hear this. Where, broadly speaking, are you located?

    C.M., oog. I’m not going to page through 150 comments to find Milkyway’s recommendation; could you please tell me what it is?

  139. I haven’t read all the comments yet, sorry if someone already said this, but I used to see lots of really niche self-published books in the brick and mortar stores. Examples:
    Scuba shops sold old diver’s books of (very local) dive lore and loran coordinates;
    Herb shops sold books that converted tincture recipes to vinegar based for teetotalers;
    Junk shops sold books about maker’s marks on hand blown bottles 1879-1903.
    Those books were often typed and photocopied (or mimeographed!) in the author’s basement.
    Usually, the author was a customer of the shop, was locally known for their expertise, and the book was sold on commission. No publisher needed. I hope that old trend comes back when the internet becomes expensive, or the power grid gets funky. I miss those eccentric old books in neighborhood stores!

  140. Other Owen @ 135, I was referring to the ownership class. Agreed about middle managers; owners appear to pick the dumbest sycophants they can find for mid management positions.

    BeardTree, I think it highly unlikely that either major presidential candidate will survive another term in office, at least not as a fully functioning human being. What voters not planning to vote for any alternative or protest candidate need to look at is the VP choice–President Harris, anyone?–and the factions who are promoting the candidate.

  141. I vote for Marco #105’s since buect for 5th Wednesday: Neurodiversity through an occult lens

  142. Amazon (aka The Evil Empire) does NOT release numbers on books sold, so no one really knows how many books are self-published that sell quite well. It IS true that plenty don’t. IIRC, David Gaughran, a longtime proponent of indie and former Evil Empire employee, said that 1/5 of all Amazon titles had no sales ranking because they’d never sold a single copy. It’s probably higher now.
    Even so, I KNOW people who do well self-publishing; certainly better than starvation-level wages.

    Moreover, The Evil Empire isn’t the only source of online books. Loads of people read on Wattpad, Archive of our Own, Royal Road, and dozens of other sites.
    What’s strange about some, such as Royal Road, is even big indie sites like 20booksto50K don’t seem to know they exist.

    In other news, we in Central PA are seeing new, independent bookshops opening up and I don’t believe we’re alone. They’re mostly hybrid: primarily used with a selection of new books and a local author section. In each case, the owner decides what to stock based on his or her own interests and what they think their customers want.

    As for why trad pub doesn’t sell anymore? You’re spot-on. They don’t care what real readers want and so they don’t publish good stories anymore. THEY are the reason that so many indies succeed.

  143. @ Justin Patrick Moore and a new, small publisher

    I can tell you there’s a lot of interest in a publisher who doesn’t cheat their authors and gets good books in print with small advances so you’ve got a good chance of earning out.
    Plenty of authors who’ve tried the indie route have discovered it’s a lot of work to do everything a publisher does.
    If you do get a new publishing company off the ground, you (or anyone else) won’t have any trouble getting submissions. You can pick and choose the very best.

  144. “Unless all of these are one-offs, what else does it mean about our society that huge numbers of people are investing book-sized amounts of time and energy into producing content that no one engages with? It seems depressing in some way…”

    You are leaving out the fun factor. A couple of related stories on a TV show got me thinking about possible consequences and as a result I was prompted to write my first fiction since high-school English class. Story begat story for quite a number of stories about a reincarnating woman and an accidental immortal.

    I also discovered it’s true that one occasionally finds one looking the page and asking the characters “What are you doing?” It’s like plot is right brain and transcription is left brain and they are not entirely in synch.

    Since these stories would qualify as fan fiction I have no intention of publishing them. But they were fun to write.

  145. Hi John,
    I’d like to add another vote for deindustrial warfare. Warfighting in this environment would be more like the strategies and tactics you describe the Lakeland Republic using against it’s rivals in Retrotopia. But using technology closer to eighteen sixty than nineteen sixty. The collapse of the Global American Empire is more likely to end in a second American revolution than a second Civil War, in my opinion.
    Cheers! Paul

  146. Thanks to JMG for yet another great read, and to all the commenters as well.
    I vote for an essay on Robert Graves. Apart from having read “I, Claudius” years ago, I know little about him, but am intrigued by the poem JPM posted above, and also I am swayed by JPM’s catchy attempt at a magnetic chain “Remember that a Vote for Graves is a Vote for Visions! “

  147. The PMC and their billionaire bosses are impossible not to mock with their absurd class signaling, purporting to believe the unbelievable, self-secure and blissfully becalmed in Sargasso Seas of silliness, so much of what they say sounding like it comes from a Pythonesque Ministry of Silly Thoughts.

    I think the Brits raise snobbery to Olympic heights. A Brit colleague told me that people of our class drink wine and not beer. What!? He said yes, beer was for people of inferior rank. But I really like British beer. Too bad, damn you, drink wine.

    Talking about class consciousness, Orwell hilariously said in The Road to Wigan Pier (IIRC) that his family was of the lower-upper-middle class. You know, affecting the accent and manner and airs of social betters but without money.

    Smell was another thing. Orwell said that smell was something that Brits of the elevated classes, including his own, and including himself, found repellant in classes inferior to theirs. In his imperial police days in Burma, he served in close proximity to a contingent of Scottish infantry, which were of the working classes. Orwell said that you couldn’t find a healthier bunch. But he couldn’t stand their smell.

    I mean, the US adopted a British house of commons, house of lords and king, elected mind you (by means fair or foul doesn’t seem to matter) so why stop there? The PMC and its aspirants have already got fainting couches, so just watch, the next thing is smell. Out come the scented hankies, held daintily to the nose. The Deplorables STINK, that’s what they’ll say.

  148. Mary Bennet @ 122 there was a time when we seriously considered the second possibility. It did look like the managers were shilling for Gen AI because they were being paid to. But over a period of time you understand where managers come from, and then you realize that they are actually very ignorant shill for things that they think it cool to shill for. For instance, another of our managers was talking about this new midsummer night unicorn called “AI Swarm”. The idea is that there is an ‘AI Manager’ which you can assign a task to, and it will run several ‘AI workers’ and delegate the task to them (I am not making this up, this is actually a thing; AI Lenocracy!). He was speaking highly of the idea. All of us on the engineering side knew it to be a terrible idea, not just because we understand some of the underlying math involved but also because we had already experimented with a related but simpler technology called “Langchain”, and it had been the most disappointing experiment our R&D team had ever performed. But this manager did not seem to know how bad an idea AI Swarm is, because he had neither the technological know-how nor the hands-on experience to figure out how bad an idea it is to recruit one LLM to pimp for another LLM.

    As for whether Monseiur Manageur wanted to sabotage the project of fraud detection, it is highly unlikely. The project was being done on behalf of a large bank (which was unable to hire enough of the skilled labour in the field of signature matching), and it is unlikely that a manager would have any direct interest in watching the project fail. For one thing, it would be a loss for the company and he would have to answer for that loss. No, the real reason is that this idiot doesn’t know the difference between a “Vision Model” and a “Language Model”, and he doesn’t have the basic sense of the English language to get an inkling of what they might mean. That would be fine if he were in accounting, but his resume says that he had been “leading AI teams” for ten years! I pray for the souls of those AI teams.

  149. @Isaac #143 & pygmycory
    This is true. I remember the initial stages of GW’s development from general gaming retailer to world-spanning monstrosity back in the mid to late 80s. They lost me around then. A couple of thoughts on their staying power:

    1. Games Workshop has always had a genuinely world-class design studio. They produce some really nice stuff.

    2. They have a constantly rotating customer base of young fellas who don’t have to buy food or pay the rent/mortgage, and who haven’t developed enough historical perspective or life experience to realise when they’re being ripped off.

    3. I wouldn’t call it peer pressure, but being young and geeky is a fragile existence. If you’ve somehow managed to find a gang of like-minded souls who have come together through ‘the Games Workshop hobby’, you don’t want to throw that away. Being a lone geek out in the cold is miserable. (I know these things.)

    4. Fantasy wargaming (and I include 40K in that) requires a bit of material commitment. I don’t know how many RPGs I played back in the day. Lots. You only needed one person to get hold of any given rulebook and a bunch of us could play a couple of sessions. Or more, if we liked the system. Tabletop gaming isn’t that flexible. Once you decide to go in (those sweet, sweet miniatures that all my friends have got), you’re going to be there for a while, if only to justify to yourself why you spent all that money in the first place.

    5. Collecting miniatures is addictive. Smashing your friends with a mighty army and laughing in their confused faces is even more addictive.

    There are some truly dastardly people behind the scenes there.

  150. Hello there. This is a vote for “the occult dimension(s) of music”. Speaking of which…
    This one came to me when drifting between sleep and waking. This is not a solo artist, and neither do I see it as an all-female band. Could be mixed or all-male.
    Of course, the name comes from the same place as the ‘R.C. Christian’ of Georgia Guidestones’ fame 😉

  151. JMG, if I may, and since I have an obvious interest in this vote being counted… 😉

    My topic suggestion which C.M. Mayo voted for in #152 is „mystery initiations“.


  152. On the topic of self-publishing, I’ve already done it once. I’d say strategic thinking is needed. Why write the book in the first place?

    If it’s to sell lots of copies and get rich…. perhaps break that down a bit more, or be disappointed!

    My first book was a very, very niche book on Welsh history, in which I’d identified a theme that I believed was valid but which nobody had written about before. I paid a self-publishing company a fairly substantial sum of money, and was realistic: I never expected to sell many. Indeed, I sold about 12 copies before I withdrew it from sale six months later.

    What did I get for my money?
    – The company gave me three runs of proof-reading, with a different person each time. My writing is pretty good, if I may say so myself, but they still found errors and improvements. It was a better book for it.
    – They had number of artists available to do the cover art. I selected one whose work I liked, supplied a photo, explained my vision, and got a cover I was really pleased with.
    Result: a book that in every way I felt I could be proud of.

    Other results:
    – I got a good review from a respected reviewer in a publication with broad reach.
    – I was invited to give some public talks on the topic.
    – I’m registered with the national deposit libraries as an author.
    – I was contacted by a respected historian who liked the book overall but pointed out some flaws as a) there was some important information I didn’t have access to. and b) some of my sources were themselves incorrect, despite being from academic publishers. We hope to collaborate on a corrected and updated second edition: the kind of collaboration I couldn’t previously have aspired to.

    All of the above have improved my profile as I seek to get more substantial books published for a wider market, as well as potentially establishing a platform for public speaking. I’ll be able to quote that review. Financially, I’m very much out of pocket – but I anticipated that, and regarded my outlay from the beginning as an investment for a longer-term strategy. In that respect, I’d say it’s paid for itself already, and I’m excited about the second edition which I think will be a genuine contribution to scholarship.

    So that’s me. Of course, mine is a very specific case – but I would suggest that looking at getting one book (self-)published should be viewed as part of a longer game, with non-financial benefits also taken into consideration.

  153. Wer here
    Good lord do we have a whooper of a project in our country the “”CPK” ( centralny port komunikacyjny)
    This madness has become somewhat of meme in Poland . In 2016 a group of Polish lobbyists envisioned a gateway beetween the west and the east in Poland. A megastructure including airports, high speed rail etc. It costetd a insane 200 billion zloty (due to inflation is was supposed to cost over 600 billion now). Construction was supposed to began in 2018, by 2020 there were still fights over ownership over land then damned Covid hit (the excuse was this was the cause of delay, ommiting the fact that costruction of terminals was supposed to start way before covid, then war in Ukraine became and another excuse). Meanwhile the project consumed 45 billion zloty despite the fact that no costruction work was ever made!
    Another example the nuclear lobby in Poland had gone very quiet recently (after France withdrew for Niger that is) suddenly those “high tech nuclear reactors from France that was supposed to save us from the Russians ” had become too expensive to become viable…
    But the most insane thing that I’ve heard in the Poliosh media was the claim that “economicaly viable fusion was achived in England in 2022, and according to some crazy people that is real.. People who I know that are working in the UK that I’ve called who just responded with “what?”when i said that. They were complaining about being harrased by criminals in London though…
    Lenocrats and crazy people are now at wheel it seems
    Stay safe Wer

  154. “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, s*** detector. This is the writer’s radar and all great writers have had it.” — Ernest Hemingway, The Paris Review Interviews, vol. I

    There are two ways to interpret this comment:
    A) You are streetwise enough to know when someone’s trying to sell you a load of bull; or
    B) You are sufficiently self-aware to know when what you are writing is a load of bull.

    I’ve never been able to decide what Hemingway really meant. Any comments?

  155. JMG – I’m in Eastern Ontario. The local newspaper is geared to a grade 6 level readership (not my opinion – I know people who used to work for the paper). There is a joke-not joke that 40% of the people in this town are on some form or other of social assistance. And yet, our sales keep going up, which tells me we haven’t tapped out the local market yet. Something good is happening.


  156. JMG,

    Journalist Matt Taibbi wrote an article some years ago. What you have said here about publishing, he said pretty much the same thing about newspapers and journalism in general.

    What was once a lively industry full of a variety of small and large organizations staffed by people from varied class backgrounds, catering to an equally varied class of readers, was taken over by the educated class and slowly turned into a handful of ambling ossified giants completely disconnected from their purported audience. The resulting vaccum is quickly being filled by a variety of bloggers, podcasters and such. Same tune, different words.

    You mentioned “Disney” in passing. I think the fast food/restaurant chain industry is about to suffer a similar fate next.

  157. @myriam

    I bet your transaction process at the register is very simple. You have a book? I’ll need this much money for it. Ah, you have the money. Here’s your change, your receipt, do you want a bag for it? Have a nice day and come again.

    Maybe someday the corporate chains will figure out why people are doing business with you instead. Someday.

  158. >I was referring to the ownership class

    In that case, I refer you to Mr Grace from Are You Being Served?

    You’re all doing veeeery weeeeeeell.

  159. My vote for fifth Wednesday is the consciousness of trees. Do trees take decisions? Do they learn? Here in Montréal, March has been rather warm for the last couple of years, but most trees keep their buds closed until the very end of April. When a cat decides to stalk a bird, or a squirrel decides to run away from a human, or a human takes a stab at a well-paying job, how is that different from a tree deciding to open its buds?

    Take it as a homage in continuation of my user name! However, I would be quite happy with several other choices, too.

  160. I’m using @Walt F’s comment… “The guy who sold me the cover art did okay – like the shovel sellers during the gold rush who made more than the miners themselves. Maybe that’s a better business model.”

    …to point out that there are probably quite a few visual artists and people with graphic design chops in JMGs readership who could use their skills to do things like book lay outs, cover designs, and marketing materials.

    Et al.

    Perhaps such a small press could even be modeled on cooperatives / Mondragon corporation / distributivist principles. Of course, the organizational aspect would be up to anyone who actually organizes such a project!

    Thanks to everyone who has responded positively to the idea. I’d be delighted to see it happen. It’s beyond what I can take on now, except as a writer, but that might change down the road some years ahead. If someone is inspired by this, please run with it.

  161. JMG,
    Thanks for the Illuminatus! reference. That book, and the subsequent books of his that I read, had a profound influence on my views of government, the state… well, everything. RAW is a gem to be treasured. I looked back at the time that I read Illuminatus! and was not surprised to see that Jupiter and Uranus were in opposition.

  162. Once again, all but one of the votes have been tabulated. Thank you!

    Teresa, I didn’t know about Royal Road, for that matter! I’m delighted to hear about the resurgence of bookshops; that’s very good to hear.

    Bootstrapper, yours was the vote that didn’t get counted, because…

    …that one’s already had its turn. Got any other suggestions?

    Smith, ooh, fun. Maybe we can encourage them to start swooning at the mere thought of healthy human sweat.

    Thibault, funny! I’ll add it to the list.

    Milkyway, you certainly may, and thank you for clarifying.

    Wer, that one certainly belongs to the list of lenocratic projects. I’m intrigued to hear that Poles have enough of a clue about nuclear power to recognize that France’s nuclear industry was only profitable because it was being paid for by holding the people of Niger in desperate poverty!

    Martin, from my perspective, it’s twofold. First, you have to be able to recognize when your own prose stinks, so you can do better. (That’s how you learn to write.) Second, you have to be able to recognize when the clichés of your culture stink, so you can say something different. (That’s how you learn to write something worth reading.)

    Myriam, thanks for this! That’s fascinating to hear.

    Ramaraj, I’d be surprised if any major industry in America was far from the same crisis.

    Jon, and now they’ve just passed conjunction. Hmm — maybe that was the peak of the current cycle of the Curse of Grayface, and it’s just going to get weirder from here on in…

  163. @myriam

    What are your net profit margins if you don’t mind sharing. Not that I’m terribly interested in starting a small business in this country post C****D, but still I’m curious enough to get a feel for the numbers.

  164. Speaking of Lenocrat’s, I’m listening to this classic 1972 album by Miles Davis today:

    I’m happy for all the Grave’s votes from everyone! @Helen W. Thank you for the kind words about my slogan. To make it more of a magic chain it should have an extra v, to tie it in with the V.V.V.V.V. formula.

    A Vote for Graves is a Vote for Vinum and Veritas

    (but beer drinkers need not feel alienated)

    The occult dimensions of music is a topic dear to my heart. As usual, in this case, I’ll be happy with whatever essay makes it to the win!

  165. JMG, okay, that’s fair- I guess that’s how democracy works 🙂

    Officially, then, I cast my vote for the occult dimensions of music.

  166. Afternoon John,
    That was another excellent article in the current series. I have a perfect example of lenocracy in action. My daughter’s class are going to put on a school play. They have chosen Grease. In order to do this the school has to pay a fee for the rights! And if they sell any tickets to parents they have to pay a percentage of the takings to a corporation! If corporations are looking to parasitically extract money from kids doing a play to raise school funds, civilisation is in a very poor state indeed.
    Regards averagejoe

  167. @The Other Owen,
    Actually, the process at the cash is a complicated dance with the customer leading the way. We do keep things very simple, as you suggest and prefer, and sometimes the transaction is very short and sweet.

    But if the customer offers anything beyond the actual transaction, we follow the opening to where they want to go:
    -Ah, you found a book! Wonderful! That’s 5.25 including a bit of tax for the government.
    -My mother read this book and she loved it.
    -Have you read it?
    -No, but I’m curious what she loved about it…

    And an hour later we have heard of the mother’s entire life story and where she is now, and what she’s reading, and on and on.

    The customer leads. As it should be.


  168. The following is off-topic with regards to publishing, but on topic respecting lenocracy.

    My family and I are currently in Southern California, trying to find a place to live. The rental housing market is mostly controlled by property management companies. After my enquiry about some apartments I recently received this message from a realtor working for such a company:

    “Kevin, Please apply on Each applicant must have a 650 credit score min. Please email me once you have applied, (email address) and let me know what unit you are interested in.” (My emphasis)

    We do not all have a 650 credit score, so this company by their stated policy will not even consider renting us a place to live. What are we supposed to do – live under a freeway overpass? It blows my mind that they are permitted to do this.

    It appears that this is what happens when society lets real estate interests and credit ratings agencies – viz., the financial “industry” – do whatever they want to.

    We’ll be looking for greener pastures, but these people certainly haven’t helped. It feels like they’re trying to kill us.

  169. I had a brush with big publishing back in the 1990s, when a friend and I co-authored a non-fiction book that was published by a division of Disney. At the start of the project we had a wonderful editor of the old school variety; he really believed in our work and provided valuable advice and assistance. Just before publication, he left the Disney empire in disgust, only to be replaced by a corporate hack who shepherded our project into the dumpster. We were expecting galley proofs in the mail, but the finished product arrived instead, full of embarrassing typos. We called the new “editor” and asked Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, and were told that they didn’t employ proofreaders anymore; “you should’ve done that.”

    My co-author, who made his living as a writer, explained to me that the major publishing houses were, earlier in the 20th century, typically privately (often family) owned and quite satisfied with a steady, predictable annual profit of 3-5%. They had editors who would work for decades nurturing and managing individual writers. But as the media corporations bought them up, investors and shareholders insisted on profits of 12-14% – the more the better – the result being that we now are served hagiographies of Elon Musk and Taylor Swift. And now with AI, even ghost writers should be diversifying the skill set.

    I don’t mean to sound bitter; I’m actually not. But I realized quickly that I had better uses for my time. It is reassuring that small and mid-size publishers are at least somewhat filling that huge void.

    Some comments have mentioned a renewed interest in reading the classics. For those of you who use e-readers, I want to put in a plug for, a wonderful donation-driven site that offers a very eclectic collection of public domain e-books for free. They have everything from Pindar, Plato and Virgil to early sci-fi to War and Peace. They offer file formats for most e-readers.

    Finally, I add a vote for a discussion of the present and future of education (particularly the humanities), but would be delighted by an essay about Robert Graves, too.

  170. (@Owen #178)

    Thanks for sharing this perspective! My late vote for a fifth-Wednesday topic (or any future topic) would be the phenomenon that might be called “isolated creativity.”

    The surplus of empire that the author describes is certainly an *enabler* of this artistic overproduction, but I don’t think it tells the whole story by any means. Nor do I think it is entirely helpful to describe it as an issue of quality: the sheer volume of book/video game/musical output ensures that the majority of them would fail to turn a profit even if all of them had the talent of Tolkien or Eric Clapton. Nor do I think the lenocratic landscape of publishing fully explains it. There simply is not enough time in people’s lives for them to play all of those games, listen to all of those songs, read all of those books.

    My own creative impulses lead me to want to share songs and writings in community, in conversation. Which perhaps explains why I’ve been to many song circles and never published an album, and I’ve written quite a lot but not yet published a book. In contrast, a lot of people seem to feel content to just put something out there, feeling the achievement of producing a book or a song or a game and crafting a personal identity as author or artist or musician.

    What is behind this focus on “creative output” as opposed to creative engagement? I understand the value of creating art for oneself rather than for others – to an extent – but taken to the current extreme it feels unhealthy and isolating. I might even suggest that JMG owes some of his success as a published writer to his choice to focus on cultivating community – here, over on Dreamwidth, and in past projects – rather than simply releasing titles. What will it take to re-engage art with community on a broader scale?

  171. Two books I’ve reviewed WRT setting up your own publishing business.
    The first is from Belt Publishing (based in Cleveland!):
    Look for “So You Want to Publish a Book?” by Anne Trubek.

    The second is from Microcosm Publishing (based in Portland, OR and it shows):
    Look for “A People’s Guide to Publishing: Build a Successful, Sustainable, Meaningful, Book Business From the Ground Up” by Joe Biel.

    You can order directly from them and they’d appreciate your business.
    Amazingly, there is very little duplication between titles despite being on the same subject!
    If you want to read my reviews on them, go to

    By the way, BOTH Belt and Microcosm accept submissions. They post FAQs as to what they want and don’t want. Look over their offerings, read their terms, and you might fit their criteria.

    If you want to start your own publishing business, I suggest you read both books and research what other small publishers do and go on from there.

  172. Saw this in an article about Mickey Spillane, who died in 2006.
    Thought it apropos to this week’s topic
    “When literary critics had a negative reaction to Spillane’s writing, citing the high content of sex and violence, Spillane answered with a few terse comments: “Those big-shot writers could never dig the fact that there are more salted peanuts consumed than caviar… If the public likes you, you’re good.”

  173. @Justin Patrick Moore

    I think that just it. Somebody needs to have the time, or it needs to be done collaboratively. I would be interested in being tasked to support the project. In what way i would be useful i have little idea currently. I work 10ish hours a weekday but i do have a canadian business number from a self employment gig, and could look into setting up an LLC hold the company. Otherwise, I have been mostly dependant on friends to help me get published.

    @the other Owen
    I think the difference may be that there are higher rates of payout with video games. If your indie game is picked up and its a hit you stand to millions pretty quickly… the audiences for gaming are still enormous .

    If there is anyone in readership that likes to do Barbarianesque bookcover work i would be interested to connect.

    I vote for initiaion rituals in western mysteries. How old is the saltwater cleansing ritual and where dod it come from?

  174. JMG or any other who want to chime in:
    About publishing and modern literature. Have any of you noticed modern fiction seems to be done hastily and feels like a rough draft? This might be subjective but it seems like it to me. Where the Crawdads Sing is a modern novel that comes to mind. I can’t think of any others at the moment but it just seemed kind of meh. Or new literature also tends to borrow loosely knit tropes people have absorbed through other media. This may be a good place to start for a draft but to me these things are noticeable and have me yawning. Any thoughts?

    And as far as books that tell the comfortable classes what they want to hear, I always made sure to stay far away from anything that was plugged on The Daily Show or Colbert. Or TED talks for that matter.

  175. @Owain,
    one thing I’ve been noticing is that building terrain out of random recyclables and stuff I have to hand is just as much fun as painting the miniatures, though in a somewhat different way. There’s lots of videos on youtube on how to do it really well, and some of the results can look absolutely amazing. Better than the terrain people pay good money for at the store, with a lot of creativity involved and flexibility in what you build. And it is very cheap, though I can see space being a big issue if I were to get really into it. I just spend part of yesterday morning hunting through other people’s recycling bins to find the good stuff, and came home with nearly as much stuff as I put out to recycle.

    I really have no idea what direction I’ll end up going – I do take your point on it being addictive. That’s why I’m taking it slowly, doing things on the cheap and finding out what I really want to do without dumping hundreds of dollars down on something I’ll realize later wasn’t what I really wanted.

    I may well go roleplaying-ward more than wargame-ward. It seems less expensive, and I like roleplaying and storytelling. But I want to try different stuff out without making a significant commitment. It isn’t like playing tabletop games is a useful thing to do and I’m making an investment in skills and equipment that will help keep me going in hard times, after all. It’s just fun.

  176. And this time, I’m pleased to say, all votes have been counted.

    Justin, well, I just finished playing Traffic’s album Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, which is at least as classic. On the other hand, the thought of what Robert Graves would say if he knew you were associating him with any of Crowley’s ideas is not fit for print!

    Averagejoe, that’s true of every play that isn’t old enough to be in copyright. It’s one of the few ways that the authors of the script can count on income once they’ve run through whatever the producers paid them.

    Kevin, granted, but keep in mind that in many blue states it’s very hard for a landlord to evict someone who’s stopped paying rent, and there are plenty of people who take advantage of that. Restricting rentals by credit rating is one of the few legal ways they can screen for that. I know that doesn’t make it any easier for you!

    Friction, your coauthor was quite correct. Thanks for the recommendation!

    Marlena, appropriate indeed. Spillane knew what he wanted to write and he was very, very good at it. Even in his heyday, critics tended to get snarky at people who outsold their pet authors…

    Maurice, yes, I’ve noticed that. I rarely read anything new unless I have some reason to think the author can write — unlike most of the latest fashionable authors.

  177. Hello JMG,
    Please count my vote for „mystery initiations in the past and present”.

  178. Cool, I’m checking out traffic now, as I catalog a few more books before the shift is over… a bit more mellow than the Miles album… but I’m digging the drums, bass and keys in combination. I’ll have to listen back again to catch all the lyrics. Nice horns too.

    Well, actually I think Crowely’s motto V.V.V.V.V. is a bit arrogant, but I just have an associational brain, and sometimes it takes an effort of Will to not make such associations. When I posted my original version I thought, it would be easy to put another V in there, but perhaps it is better as it stood. My apologies to Grave’s if his spirit or memory is out there listening!

    As for Spillane, Max Alan Collins has a new biography he co-wrote on him, simply titled “Spillane: King of the Pulps”

    There is a reason I’ve been reading a lot of the pulp crime writers…

    & say what people might about the Hard Case Crime cover art, it is eye catching! They have reprinted quite a few Spillane titles. Everything by him I read I enjoyed, even if its just a hand full of titles so far.

    I’ve got Low Down Road by Scott Van Doviak on cue in my reading pile.

  179. @ The Other Owen
    I don’t mind sharing at all. In fact, I would love if every town and city had someone crazy enough to do what I did! Net profit margins don’t apply in my case because my stock of books (now numbering around a half million) mostly come from several years of going around every week to 6 thrift stores in the area and asking for the books they were tossing into the bin heading to the landfill.

    Thrift stores are swamped with books coming in, can only sell a small fraction of them, have no storage space and have to pay tipping fees at the dump to get rid of them. The volunteers there love the books too and hate to see them destroyed, so everyone was happy. They saved the tipping fees, I showed up to haul them away, the volunteers knew I didn’t destroy them, and I had books to sell to customers. My thinking was that books are pushed through thrift stores so quickly they have little exposure time to be bought even though they are wanted. If I hung onto them, in time they would find the right hands.

    In no time, the customers enthusiastically brought me books directly, again knowing that I don’t throw them out unless they have black mold, pages missing or something along those lines. People found out about me and started driving their books to me, one from over 5 hours away, another 4 hours away. I do give a credit of $10 a box without caring what books are in the box, but half the time, they don’t want it. They are just thrilled to find a place to bring their unwanted books. I no longer go picking up books because I am swamped myself.

    I was lucky because I had the old family farmhouse, which wasn’t inhabited at the time, to sort and process the books, as well as numerous outbuildings. A building necessary to do what I did really is the limiting factor. We recently put up a new building to sort through the pile and shelve the books and hope to get the flow in balanced with the flow out by introducing shipping later this summer. The sale of books pays a staff of 6 (5 part time) at this time and the overhead. We have a very small store front in town, keeping overhead very low.

    Our inventory technically doesn’t exist until the books are sold because there is no record of acquisition on any book anywhere except for some redeemed credit coupons. On paper we have very little assets, and our insurance is only on the shelving and equipment, along with liability of course, so very little. However, our average price point is $6.50, so the half million books in storage could, in time, be worth
    over 3 million dollars, and the books keep pouring in. Unless everything crashes really badly or vandals burn the buildings down, it will function as a retirement savings plan.

    So if you know someone with an empty building, find some sympathetic thrift stores, use salvaged shelving like we did, and don’t mind a lot of work, with very little money you could set up a thriving business.

  180. Justin Patrick Moore #136 I think I read “The Crying of Lot 49” about 10 times. I loved “The Courier’s Tragedy” and that got me reading genuine Jacobean revenge tragedies; Pynchon’s ripoff of that (extremely violent) genre was quite good, I thought; not really exaggerated at all. For example, “The Duchess of Malfi.” Ick!
    As for Miles Davis: that track from the early 70s sounded to me unlistenable. I did, however, get into the subsequent “Bitches Brew” album and saw Davis live at the MSU Auditorium at around that time. It was the loudest concert I ever attended. He was trying to deafen the mostly white audience, I think.
    As to “Illuminatus” I’m struggling to finish the first novel. I’m about 30 pages from the end, and just put it aside. Once I finish the first novel, I think I’ll give it about a month’s rest before diving (and I do mean “diving”) into the second one. But I loved “Dhalgren” and read it seven or eight times. Go figure.

  181. I think I’ll belatedly vote for Robert Graves as well. I know very little about him (he’s mostly just someone I bumped into from time to time while researching WWI and interwar Britain while in university), but just enough to be interested in your take.

  182. A fortuitous post, since now my post is only partially off-topic.

    My copy of the Cosmic Doctrine Commentaries came this week, my compliments to you and your editor on creating such a nice book.

    As you say in the essay, it’s funny how putting out books with the intention of providing a nice clean read for the intended audience tends to result in a quality book.

  183. JMG, you say society will collapse because of parasitic roles, however i thought your main argument in The Long Descent, was the tragedy of the commons is the main cause of societal collapse. I understand both can contribute but in my mind a parasite is a symptom of excess, and as we decline from peak oil we should see countries forced to reduce spending on things not core to survival, like A.I. development, military, government, etc.
    however to support your lenocracy argument, organizations will act like parasites and ensure their own growth at all costs, so as a society it may be more likely that we catabolize whole parasitic organizations rather than reduce the size of them at large, much like competing parasitic species causing others to go extinct.
    Do we see any comparison out in nature, for example as a animal with a parasite eats less does that allow the parasite to get bigger since its easier for it to fight back? or does it share in the systems loss?

  184. The University of Chicago Press is giving away, at the address below,
    this e-book, © 2007, related to this week’s post:

    Reluctant Capitalists
    Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption
    Laura J. Miller

    Over the past half-century, bookselling, like many retail industries, has evolved from an arena dominated by independent bookstores to one in which chain stores have significant market share. And as in other areas of retail, this transformation has often been a less-than-smooth process. This has been especially pronounced in bookselling, argues Laura J. Miller, because more than most other consumer goods, books are the focus of passionate debate. What drives that debate? And why do so many people believe that bookselling should be immune to questions of profit?

    In Reluctant Capitalists, Miller looks at a century of book retailing, demonstrating that the independent/chain dynamic is not entirely new. It began one hundred years ago when department stores began selling books, continued through the 1960s with the emergence of national chain stores, and exploded with the formation of “superstores” in the 1990s. The advent of the Internet has further spurred tremendous changes in how booksellers approach their business. All of these changes have met resistance from book professionals and readers who believe that the book business should somehow be “above” market forces and instead embrace more noble priorities.

    Miller uses interviews with bookstore customers and members of the book industry to explain why books evoke such distinct and heated reactions. She reveals why customers have such fierce loyalty to certain bookstores and why they identify so strongly with different types of books. In the process, she also teases out the meanings of retailing and consumption in American culture at large, underscoring her point that any type of consumer behavior is inevitably political, with consequences for communities as well as commercial institutions.

    “[Miller] uses the bookstore wars between independents and big chains to explore the ambivalence toward business values in the world of books and wider concerns about consumption and highly ‘rationalized’ systems of retailing.” —Chronicle of Higher Education

  185. @pygmycory #195

    I get what you’re saying. The creative side of fantasy wargaming is altogether a good thing. One of my sons has been painting miniatures since he was 10 or so. He started out by watching a couple of the GW instructional videos for beginners, which, credit where it’s due, were really very well done. They taught him the basic skills and he gradually got the confidence to be a bit more experimental, trying different painting methods, converting miniatures and scratch-building bases from his bits box and old pieces of packaging, and he’s produced some really impressive finished models over the years. At the moment, he’s working out how to use resin to get interesting water effects on bases.

    No, fantasy wargaming isn’t ‘useful’ on a practical level, but it’s nourishing in other ways. My main grouch with GW is that something that clearly brings so much joy and fellowship to (particularly young and unsuspecting) people’s lives is used to screw so much money out of them.

  186. I’ve been sort of collecting my thoughts:

    #147 @ken: I note with interest the close connection between the 220 bpm for shamanic journeys as double the recommended bpm for cpr (100-120), which drives the recommendation to think of songs like “Another One Bites the Dust”, “Staying Alive”, etc.

    #34 @pygmycory: re RPG alternatives to WOTC’s D&D, my family has been enjoying Paizo’s Pathfinder, both 1st & 2nd editions. Ironically, my husband dislikes how well they’ve balanced 2nd edition, because one of his favorite things to do is min-maxing & crunchy character optimization.

    #137 @Northwind Grandma: must admit I’m surprised to hear you’ve had trouble finding books about food history, but perhaps I’m misunderstanding what you’re looking for. There was a bit of a vogue for single-ingredient histories, resulting in books like “Salt: A World History” and an impressive number of books about chocolate’s history. And I know there are thriving communities of folks in the SCA & Primitive Rendezvous communities particularly interested in cooking foods appropriate to the eras they enjoy.

    #20 @Olivier: I tried buying an ebook of JMG’s “King in Orange”, which worked well for my first read-through. But when I went back to re-read it, the website that hosted the book had closed down & there was no information on how to re-gain access to my book. I think ebooks work great once they’re out of copyright & no longer use DRM, but for in-copyright books that I might want to revisit, smaller publishers perhaps don’t provide sufficient stability for DRM’ed ebooks to be my choice. YMMV, of course.

    Re 5th Wednesday topics: I’d be interested in reading about perspectives on death through the ages. Various subtopics that I’ve wondered about include: suicide, including sati, seppukku, etc.; the killing of very young children, whether via abortion, infanticide, exposure, etc.; and how the occult implications of the above may vary by context & culture.

    (Though not a vote this month, I’m similarly interested in perspectives on & occult implications of consent / sex / rape through the ages, since stories like how Uther came to beget Arthur or “The Canterbury Tales”, or even books & movies from the 20th century, show a very different take.)

  187. And all the votes have been counted this time too. Thank you!

    Justin, yeah, I tend toward mellow in my musical tastes. What’s on right now is Nightnoise — they’re sometimes labeled “Celtic jazz,” but like most of the groups carried by Windham Hill back in its pre-corporate buyout days, they defy definition, except as instrumental, acoustic, and mellow.

    Sub, that’s just it. There are goals that are easier to achieve as a side effect, and quality is one of them. (Happiness is another.)

    Alex, oh, no question, the rise of lenocracy is a function of excess, and it becomes problematic when the excess begins to go away. What differentiates it from biological parasitism is that lenocracy can only thrive if it takes over the political system, so the people in charge of making decisions for the society are motivated by personal profit even at the expense of the society’s survival. Of course lenocracies inevitably lose power on the way down, overthrown by enemies domestic or foreign, and that frees up a lot of resources wasted on the support of a dysfunctional elite…but it’s always a messy process.

    Anonymous, thanks for this.

  188. @Lathechuck,

    I’m doubtful your idea would work. If a book has sloppy grammar or many typos, that could mean the publisher doesn’t care enough to have good editing and proofreading anyway. If you’re just pointing out a few typos, it wouldn’t amount to a good sample of work. And you’d have to get someone to pay attention to it; most editors already have more to look at than they have time for.

    If a publisher is advertising for proofreaders (the usual entry-level job), applicants will take a proofreading test. And if the publisher isn’t advertising, they’re unlikely to hire. I’m sure stranger things have happened, but cold-calling is just a tough haul.

    Re the 5th Wednesday post: people have made such good suggestions that it’s hard to choose! But I’ll add a vote for the occult dimensions of music.

  189. @Owain D.
    ” My main grouch with GW is that something that clearly brings so much joy and fellowship to (particularly young and unsuspecting) people’s lives is used to screw so much money out of them.”

    Yes, that exactly. And it doesn’t need to be that way, which makes the whole thing extra galling.

  190. Hi John Michael,

    Back to the previous comment, and reply, I’ve been cogitating some more and asking the hard question: What does this all look like? So, in the book The Grapes of Wrath, the suddenly itinerant family did work on a farm, the income of which was not paid, but was redeemable at the farm’s err, commissary store. Now it doesn’t take too many brain cells to comprehend the possibilities of economic imbalance inherent in such an arrangement. But after consideration, that’s what globalisation kind of works like.

    Here’s the thing. If your lot pursue short term strategies which drain the dollar denominated reserves of other countries so that they can prop up their buying power relative to their income, well, in order to make future trades they have to get more of those, either by debt or trade, or whatever. Foreign aid is another route, but still, that may be unpopular in your country.

    After a while, in order to avoid having a foreign currency sink, eventually the dollar reserve coffers will be empty (not to mention the shenanigans caused by excess dollars returning to your shores). But here’s the thing, we trade iron ore to China, coal to India, gas to Japan etc… Sooner or later, they’ll say, hey we don’t have any dollars either, but we’ve got these things you can take, and you can trade them with BRICS countries for oil, industrial parts etc… And hey, the exchange rate will be better for you.

    Ah, the Great Unravelling. Dude, it’s gonna hurt, bad. And it’s accelerating. I think last week Japan had to divest something like $30bn ostensibly to prop up the exchange rate. Even with reserves around $1tn, that’s not too many weeks. They have to eat too.



  191. Hi John Michael,

    Almost forgot to mention. I began wondering about all this because oil prices denominated in your currency had declined, and yet the cost at the pump on the street had increased here. It’s intriguingly stupid.

    I don’t know what to say, but perhaps sometimes winning is losing.



  192. Karen #115 – On professional proofreading:
    I used to work for a (larger) mid-sized publisher who was distributed by one of the giants. They gobbled up other smaller houses for dessert. The last I checked, they had at least ten additional imprints (as they call them). Anyway, I was given an opportunity to work with their proofreader/copyeditor. Yes, she knew at least three major style manuals thoroughly. She could spot typos upside down and backwards from (I mean this) over 20 feet away. She occasionally had to do major editing/rewrites for popular authors whose titles the publisher wanted to get into their list but who didn’t know how to write. She went freelance the last time I spoke with her and was doing well. As for me? Even after I went over single pages printed out half a dozen times, using a ruler so I stayed focused, I could only catch about half the errors and typos that were there.

    Nonetheless, I did occasionally find work for unconventional online publishing concerns that needed someone with subject matter knowledge and who was willing to also try to spot typos, etc. It’s a strange old business, publishing. Puts me in mind of something someone pretty wise said about astrologers: no two astrologers resemble one another even slightly. It’s nearly impossible to group them. Same for publishers, IMHO.

    In the old days, according to relatives of mine who knew him, the older Thomas Wolfe (“Look Homeward Angel” and other such works) would deliver steamer trunks full of handwritten journals to his publisher, and his editor would then turn that vast quantity of outpourings into a novel. Even the “bigs” don’t do editing like that anymore!

  193. @Ian Duncombe (#193) I have an author friend who also does cover art. She’d be happy to see if she can help you. You can reach me at gardengirlgarden at yahoo dot com.

  194. Count me as another vote for Graves. Anyone who could write the memoirs of Claudius and the Long Weekend is deserving of a deep dive.
    About 15 years ago, I realized that any book promoted on NPR would be a disappointment. They are the marketing side of the lenocracy. The specific book that pushed me over the edge was “On Chesil Beach”, heavily promoted as Booker Prize shortlisted. I’m sure Myriam #199 has a dozen copies taking up space: use them for insulation.

  195. From my perusal of the comments mystery initiations seem to be a strong possibility for the fifth Wednesday. The Greek word translated as mystery in the New Testament is musterion and according to my Bible concordance is a word meaning “what is known only to the initiated” Paul speaks of proclaiming the. “mystery of Christ” Part of the appeal I think of Christianity in the early years was that it was a mystery easily available to the ordinary person. You got baptized, ate a sacred food and drink, received and felt the the Holy Spirit inwardly, and from the record in 1 Corinthians written less than 25 years after the Crucifixion and Pentecost it was common for the Christian initiate to give oracular messages in an unknown language or regular speech like the priestess at Delphi. You can argue that early Christianity was a variety of mystery initiation and perhaps could be thrown into the mix on the Wednesday if ancient mysteries are chosen. So my vote goes to discussion of the “musterion”.

  196. To anyone toying with the idea of opening a bookstore. Read: “The bookshop” by Penelope Fitzgerald. (1978). It was also done as a film in 2017. Some towns don’t want a bookstore. It happens. Lew

  197. A recent film called American Fiction depicted an African American author who writes a ‘black’* book as a joke and then finds that it’s so popular with the publishing industry that it wins a prize and he makes millions from it. He publishes this under a different name.
    He is torn between his principle of wanting to be an author, not a ‘black’ author, and the money he can make from giving the market what it wants.
    A pretty good movie and quite funny too, especially when the author pretends to be this alter ego in interviews.
    *A book about a black man who lands in prison and ends up swearing a lot.

  198. Chris, well, look at the 20th-century decline of Britain from world-dominating empire to impoverished and battered lapdog of one of its own former colonies, or the 18th-century decline of Spain from world-dominating empire to backwards, impoverished puppet state of one of its neighbors. The United States is facing something not too different.

    Peter, I tried listening to NPR. I really did. It was like trying to dine on toilet paper: bland, nutritionally empty, and vaguely disgusting. I never got as far as their book promotions, but it doesn’t surprise me that they’d be equivalent.

    BeardTree, most of the old Mysteries were just as accessible — it’s a matter of documented fact, for example, that slaves received initiation into the Eleusinian mysteries. (The only requirements were that you had to pay a very modest fee and be able to understand Greek.) But you’re right that Christianity in its early days was a classic Hellenistic mystery cult. It had its secrets — the disciplina arcani was the term used back in the day — which were communicated to the baptized, and which could not be shared with the unbaptized, who were sent out of the church partway through the ceremony of the Mass. (The division between the Mass of the Catechumens and the Mass of the Faithful is still in the ritual.) It had its reenactment of the core events of the mystery, which took place annually in the spring, just as the Eleusinian mysteries took place at a certain time every autumn. It just happened to be the Mystery that was most successful in establishing itself institutionally across the Roman world, and so was coopted by the Roman imperial government under Constantine — and at that, it was a close-run thing, and things might have gone the other way if Julian had lived out his natural lifespan. But that’s a story for another time.

    J.L.Mc12, thanks for this!

    Luddite, that sounds funny. It would make a good novel, too. 😉

  199. @Ian Duncombe:

    I hear you. My work day takes about 9 hours including lunch and transportation. I have a lot of banked PTO that I can use, and do use, for personal projects. But I also have my fsmily to consider. My wife has a lot extra on her plate taking care of her mom, not full time, but like a part time job… we have to do her shopping, take her to appointmenrs, and pick up her meds, etc. Audrey does most of that, but I also help, and there are all our chores too, and were trying to improve our gardening skills, which takes time. We have grandkids too, which we like to see, have spend the night, etc. Anyway, I know we all have lots of obligations. Right now my focus is to solidify my foundation with current writing projects. I hope those will give me room to grow in oher areas down the road a bit further.

    Anyway, I have lotd of ideas, but cant pull them all off, but Im happy to share some of them.

    It seems like starting a publishing company might be a good thing for someone who is retired, or who has a bit of extra time and or seed money to get it going. JMGs generous offer would be a boon to getting it going.

    @Teresa from Hershey: Thank you for all of your thoughts and insights on this matter. Have you and your husband ever thought of expanding your indie empire into a small publishing house?

  200. Yes, the difference between let’s say something like the Eleusinian mysteries and the Christian mystery cult was that the Christian one wasn’t tied to a location and was able to “franchise” itself across the Roman Empire and even outside of it to Armenia and Ethiopia early on. For me Christianity isn’t just a set of beliefs and attitudes but a visceral flowing of the Spirit from deep within, enveloped in Jesus of Nazareth, standing before and knowing the Father who is there in secret face to face, all as gift. For me this is the “mystery of Christ” spoken of in the New Testament. And the story of Julian is interesting, perhaps he could have short circuited the sorry church experiment of exercising worldly power keeping Christianity in a better place. Do you know about the Taoist persecutions of Buddhism in China using the power of the emperor?

  201. JMG: The junction of mathematics and magic has received a number of votes. Please add my vote to that block.

    If you do take on that topic, I request (or maybe suggest is a better word) that you preliminarily meditate on the essence of the number “i”, being the square root of -1, is absolutely impossible . . . and yet more real than the number “1”. The impossibility of this number, and yet its centrality to all of modern physics and working technology, is sort of a thoughtstopper ™ for most physicists, mathematicians, and atheists. I’m hoping a magician might have something more fresh to say about it! 😉

  202. @BeardTree (#215) and JMG in response (#219):

    One other thing, in addition to what you both have mentioned, that made earliest Christianity so attractive to the masses was the protection it offered against demonic attack. Early baptism included a thorough exorcism of the new Christian. The world back then appears to have been haunted by the notion that malevolent demons were active everywhere.

    Also, in the early church (both in the East and in the West) one of the most easily accessible ordained holy orders was that of the Exorcist. (The other easily accessible order was the Lector, or Reader.) Back then performing an exorcism was not reserved, as it is now (at least in the West), for a few parrticularly gifted and experienced priests, but fell within the piurview of many laymen (and, perhaps, laywomen). The ritual–to judge by the later examples that have survived in various libraries–was relatively short and easily within the capacity of anyone who could read. It could be performed mechanically, and was presumed to be efficacious.

    From the very first days of Christianity there were mysteries (or secrets) that only the baptized were permitted to know. One of the earliest Christian accounts of the baptismal ritual, by Hippolytus of Rome (around 200 CE), says at the end of its description, “If there is anything else which needs to be told, the bishop shall tell it privately (quietly) to those who receive baptism. This is the white stone about which John said, ‘A new name is written on it, which no one knows except the one who receives the stone’.” [The citation about the white stone is to Revelation 2:17.]

    The disciplina arcani in its fullest form, e.g. as described by Cyril of Jerusalem a century and a half later, is much more elaborate than what Hippolytus was talking about, but its roots go back at least as far as Hippolytus, and probably farther.

    PS Hippolytus’s account of very early Christian rituals is utterly fascinating. Its title is “The Apostolic Tradition,” and it can be found online in English translation in many places, e.g.

  203. Hey JMG and commentariat

    No problem.
    Btw, on the subject of places to get free ebooks may I suggest “The anarchist library “? It may be bit of an acquired taste since it focuses on anarchist subjects but it does feature old books by Emma Goldman, kropotkin and other old writers you may never have heard of, some of which the team behind the website have translated into various southeast Asian languages like Vietnamese and Indonesian. It also features current news and history from unique perspectives which may be of interest also.

  204. @Robert Matthiessen #223 I read the link you provided with interest. Thank you. I have found application of the out in the open practices and teachings of the Bible and nothing more ritualistic than what is found in a low church Anglican Church (low church means more on the simple Protestant side than the more ornate Catholic versions of Anglicanism);sufficient to meet and know the Living God. With no need for arcana. Just drawing near to the the persons of the Trinity (starting with Jesus to establish the link) in the soul and attention in quietness and speech and the gift of tongues and meditating on and applying the Bible day to day and being in fellowship with fellow Christians over the years has done the job. The New Testament speaks of the “the simplicity of Christ”. So I am content with the Protestant iteration of Christianity.

  205. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for the reply. You mentioned years ago the old saying about empires going up wearing hobnailed boots, and coming back down again in silk slippers. I’d have to suggest that when the people making the decisions hold the belief that the consequences of those decisions won’t reflect back upon them and their kids, but knowing full well that someone else they don’t know will bear the costs, that’s a problem.

    At the moment, they’re holding the inquest into the crash of the Taipan helicopter, and the deaths of the crew. It’s worthwhile noting that entire fleet is now literally being buried. The full story was mentioned in last weeks comments (shout out to Warburton). It’s not an endorsement of the machines abilities. My understanding is that the people who use these machines wanted more of the Blackhawks, but the politicians appear to have chosen otherwise. I wonder if the politicians had had their kids in those helicopters whether they’d have made the same purchasing decision? And that is how empires fall, one stupid decision at a time.



  206. Very off topic. Last year, a horse named Mage won the Kentucky Derby. Today it was Mystik Dan. 🤷‍♀️

  207. JMG – Off-topic for this week, but indicating the unreliability of “expert” analysis as published on the web. According to, Saudi Arabia has proven reserves of about 266 billion barrels, is producing about 12.4 million barrels per day, and consumes (domestically) about 3.3 million barrels. Based upon this data, the site explains:” there would be about 221 years of oil left (at current consumption levels…”
    So, nothing to worry about?

    But, wait. They’re dividing supply by consumption (which doesn’t include exported oil), not by production (which does include exports), and when I divide supply by production, I get just 21 years until they can PRODUCE no more. Why would we expect them to cease exports?

    But then, here’s the real punch line: when I divide 266B / 3.3M, I get just 81 years, vs. the 221 years they claim (for the same calculation)! Who’s doing the math over there?!? And if it looks like they can’t compute a simple ratio, why should we trust their facts?

  208. News that’s three days old nowadays may as well be three months old but those student protesters at Columbia, barricading themselves inside a university building and then saying they need ‘humanitarian’ aid (apparently they’re getting hungry) cracks me up ever time I think about it.

    Could they not get a caterer? An Arab-owned catering company? Gazan-owned maybe? This is NYC after all. There must be one willing to do the job.

    Imagine, low-paid immigrant cooks and delivery staff running the gauntlet of cops and counter-protesters to feed the pampered spawn of the richest people in history. But imagine the publicity for the caterer.

    Alternatively, some of the protesters themselves could run the gauntlet. You know, to go get take-out. Never mind the cops, that would mean possibly facing the fiendish she-devil herself, Megan Kelly, laying in wait, or those ruthless praetorians of Jordan Peterson or the fanatical followers of Joe Rogan. Heaven forfend that Rowling, the Terfian Queen of Darkness herself, should cast a glance (I wonder what her stance is on all this. And don’t discount Rowling, she’s a billionaire).

    I mean, those kids need safe spaces. They tell us all the time.

    It would take the bravest of the brave. One or two might have the man-pants. They shouldn’t despair. There’s falafel shops close by. I googled it and there’s a whole bunch near Columbia. And don’t forget the baba ganoush.

    Anyway, these clowns are supposedly the best of the best. Jesus save us. And they represent the future of lenocracy. I suspect that their stint at the top will be brief.

  209. @ Justin Patrick Moore #220
    No. We’ve often discussed publishing other authors but it comes down to time and money.

    We don’t have the time to do our own projects. Great ideas litter our house, piled up in corners and begging for attention.
    We don’t write potato chip books; they’re big and often require huge amounts of time and research.
    Money matters too. When you take on publishing other authors and want to be fair about it, YOU, dear Publisher, foot the bill for editing, covers, formatting, trade paperback layout, and some advertising. There’s also the matter of printing and distribution. Those bills have to be paid up front before a single dollar rolls in via sales. I haven’t even mentioned paying a tiny advance.
    What percentage should the royalty be?
    Then there’s the contract. Should rights revert back to the author after a set time? We think they should but if the book takes off after the rights revert, We, Publisher, did the work but get paid nothing.
    If we published other writers, we wouldn’t be able to write and publish our own books.
    I think the best choice for would-be publishers (and there’s a big demand for them!) is to concentrate on publishing and not writing. There’s only so much time in the day.

  210. @BeardTree (#226):

    I’m glad you found it interesting. By all means, keep on doing what works for you That’s the most important thing. But please recognize the one and the same thing will not work in the same way for everybody.

    Here’s where I’m coming from: I’m interested in the history of ritual practices and the substantial impact that different ritual practices have on peoples’ different world-views. A society’s ritual practices are not insignificant. They have a considerable impact on the course of human history. Sometimes they even have more of an impact on history than do economics or politics.

  211. @ Northwind Grandma #137
    What kind of food history book are you looking for?
    They are everywhere.
    Start with:
    The Secret Life of Groceries by Benjamin Lorr
    Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson
    Perfection Salad by Laura Shapiro
    Food in History by Reay Tannahill
    Better Than Homemade: Amazing Foods That Changed the Way We Eat by Carolyn Wyman
    (Ms. Wyman also wrote about Spam and Jell-O)
    Fashionable Foods: Seven Decades of Food Fads by Sylvia Lovegren
    I’ve read all of these books.
    Your library can get them for you. Look over their bibliographies and you’ll discover hundreds more titles about food.

  212. BeardTree, the Bacchic mysteries and the mysteries of Cybele, Isis, and Mithras were just as portable; to judge from statements by participants, they also felt the presence of the living spirit in their Mysteries, as you do in yours. As for the Taoist persecutions of Buddhism, yes, and I might add the struggles between Buddhism and Shinto early on in Japanese history, before the two settled down to an amicable relationship. What interests me is that these were very occasional events in the Far East, while religious persecution has been a recurrent theme among the Abrahamic faiths.

    Gnat, if mathematics does come out on top, I’ll certainly consider it.

    Robert, many thanks for this.

    Chris, bingo. It’s precisely the fact that nobody in power ever has to take responsibility for even their stupidest decisions that guarantees the downfall of the system.

    Lathechuck, too funny. I’m not at all surprised — watching people avoid thinking clearly about petroleum depletion was quite a spectator sport back in the heyday of the peak oil movement. I note that the author also fails to notice that oil production doesn’t end like a switch being flipped — it tapers off after peak production is reached, forming — ahem — the Hubbert curve.

    Smith, I read that too, and laughed good and hard.

  213. Lathechuck #229: note that the consumption and production are per day so you need to convert to years as well as note the difference between billions on the reserves and millions on the other figures. So in millions
    266,000 / 12.4 / 365 = 58.77 years of production left.

    And 266,000 / 3.3 / 365 = 220.84 years

    But your point still remains, 59 years is not much (and does not take into account increasing costs).

  214. Teresa Peschel #233

    Thank you for the list of food books‼️I read half of the Tannahill book—I loved it, and mean to finish it soon. I will look for the rest of the books.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨📚🥞
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  215. Lathechuck #229
    The Saudies have also been using that same 266 billion barrel number since about 1980, when it magically came up to that and has stayed there ever since regardless of extraction. Kind of like a magic fountain.

  216. @Lathechuck # 229, I did the math, yes based only on Saudi Arabia’s consumption of 3.3 millions barrels per day (1.2 billion per year) they do have 221 years of oil. Looking at the 12.4 million barrels per day of production ( 3.53 billion per year) they have 81 years. Based on the 266 billion barrels of reserve.. Of course world wide production of oil when compared to world reserves gives an answer of less than 81 years left as Saudi Arabia has a larger chunk of oil reserves in relationship to its population than the world average. The actual number of years left depends on how much of the nonconventional oil sources they manage to extract – oil sands, oil shale and the like. Because of non conventional oil sources they have managed to prolong the petroleum and natural gas era. 68% of American oil and 78% of American natural gas are now fracked..

  217. @Robert Mathieson #223
    ‘The world back then appears to have been haunted by the notion that malevolent demons were active everywhere’. In my opinion potentially harmful invisible beings are very widely active. My article request is for ‘neurodiversity and magic’.

  218. Mark L. (#191) – ” In contrast, a lot of people seem to feel content to just put something out there, feeling the achievement of producing a book or a song or a game and crafting a personal identity as author or artist or musician.

    What is behind this focus on “creative output” as opposed to creative engagement? I understand the value of creating art for oneself rather than for others – to an extent – but taken to the current extreme it feels unhealthy and isolating.”

    I can’t answer that for commercial fiction, but let me share my experiences from writing fanfiction. It used to be that writing anf publishing fanfics *was* creative engagement – you posted your latest chapters, and then your readers would respond by posting comments, similar to how this blog is going, and you’d all nerd out about your favorite show/characters in the comments. A few years later, all the small and fandom-specific sites and archives started shutting down, until only a few giants were left (sound familiar?): AO3,, and lately, Wattpad, Royal Road, and some sf-specific ones (AdAstra, for example). While had been around since forever, the effects of this concentration of fanfic in a few big archives only showed effects once the smaller archives had disappeared: the comments dwindled. With the exception of a few BNFs (“big name fans”) and mega-fandoms like Harry Potter and the like, the average fanfiction writer’s main experience is that you chuck your story into the void and hope that someone will care enough to leave a comment.
    There are recurring discussions on reddit about this phenomenon, and I’m always surprised at the venom that readers hurl at writers who comment how devastating this silence is. You’re told that you’re entitled, that readers don’t owe you comments, that you should write for yourself and not for validation from the audience. Creative engagement is the last thing this audience cares for. They want you to produce content, for free, unceasingly, for them to consume. There is no sense of reciprocity, of a shared experience, of mutual enhancement of enjoyment, of community. On the other hand, there is much wailing and tooth-grinding when stories are abandoned, or worse, taken down.
    And of course, for every fanfiction writer who does take their stories off the web and writes for themselves (or a small circle of fellow writers who do respond), a dozen newly-minted fanfic writers appear to keep the flood of stories going. There is a wide gap now between a creator and their audience. Engagement is too much effort for the consumers.
    As for the whole lenocracy scenario in general, it’s thoroughly depressing, especially since it’s now so fused with the political caste that any attempt to find a loophole will be shut down promptly by simply creating new laws that make circumventing this bloodletting illegal. I hope you’ll complete this series with a post on how to navigate (and maybe outmaneuver) our current lenocratic masters, JMG.
    And on a totally unrelated and admittedly off-topic note, someone on my Dreamwidth reading page just gushed about a new channel they found on youtube. The video they recommended was about… Kozyrev mirrors. Since DW doesn’t have “teh algorithm,” I view this as a true synchronicity…

  219. >barricading themselves inside a university building and then saying they need ‘humanitarian’ aid (apparently they’re getting hungry)

    The amusing part of it to me, is none of them thought far enough ahead to bring their own food or arrange for it ahead of time. I don’t even think they live on Three Week Island, more like Three Day Island.

    Like they used to say back in the 80s – this is your future, these kids. Look upon them and despair. If you think things are bad now…

  220. Again, all votes have been counted; thank you.

    Athaia, I will indeed be discussing some of the ways to cope with, and now and then play merry hob with, a lenocracy in its terminal stage. Stay tuned!

    Other Owen, no, these kids aren’t the future. Those of the protesters who aren’t hired help being paid $15 an hour by a political nonprofit — and there are plenty of those — are members of a tiny, pampered, irrelevant subculture even within their generation, carefully selected for their total obedience to the system and their lack of any original thought whatsoever. That’s who gets into the top-end US universities, you know! My guess is that they’re upset because they thought that the people bankrolling the protests were supposed to provide the food.

  221. I found an old article I’d written from 2018, where I said,

    “The people in an organisation expanding and succeeding welcome criticism. An organisation on its way down rejects it. You can tell how well an organisation or company is doing by criticising them.”

    and it occurs to me that this can apply to many things, such as the big publishers described by JMG here, certain political movements, or indeed Western civilisation in general, or looking worldwide, any one of the other rather emotional cultural groups like certain religious and ideological radicals. Expansion makes you confident and indifferent to critique, shrinking makes you nervous and defensive.

  222. As gnat requested “JMG: The junction of mathematics and magic has received a number of votes. Please add my vote to that block.” Please add my vote for this as well!

  223. @Tengu (#241):

    Certainly, but at then moment the world isn’t exactly haunted by thoughts about them. Most people nowadays doubt their very existence.

    And I rather think that the Ancient world overestimated the power that they supposed malevolent demons could exercise over humans. Their chief weapon seems to me to be their ability to terrify humans., often by creating terrifying illusions and hallucinations.

  224. SLAVERY

    I would like to replace my vote for topic of 5th Wednesday to SLAVERY.

    I have been reading “Slavery and Social Death” by Orlando Patterson. It mentions “elite slaves.” It could easily be “slave elites.”

    I can’t get slavery out of my mind. I see it everywhere.

    Quite a bit that JMG talks about comes down to the subjugation of others. It feels like the coming decline will bring abundant swapping of who is slave and who is master, and heaps of heartache and bloodshed resulting.

    I am curious whether bolt holes “of the elite” (including elite slaves) will do much in long-term-protecting them during decline—for, surely, they have bolt holes ready, ta-hell-with-everyone-else. I wonder if their bolt holes will cave in, burying them alive.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🥯🍣
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  225. @Athaia,
    I’m another long-time fanfiction writer, and I have also noticed that it is harder to get comments than when I started out writing in 2006. It’s still a very rare story for me that doesn’t get comments, but I think a large part of that comes from three things 1) I like to think I’ve improved since I started writing, 2) I’ve been writing long enough and have a large enough body of work that I have die hard fans who will read and comment on anything I write in their favorite fandom, and 3) I go out of my way to reply to comments, even if just with ‘glad you like it, thanks for the feedback’. I know that as a reader, I am way more likely to continue commenting on an author’s work if I know there’s a decent chance I’ll get a response. And when I get into long discussions of details and thematic materials in the comments, it’s a large part of what keeps me writing. I get really disappointed when a chapter, let alone an entire story, goes out into the ether and just disappears into blank silence.

    I will say that where you post can make a big difference in how much attention your work gets, as does the nature of the fandom you’re working in. Tiny near-moribund fandoms do not get many hits on your story, but a high proportion of those who read your story will comment, providing they like it. And those few people comment faithfully every chapter or two the entire time you write the story. Large fandoms, much fewer of your readers will actually comment, but you still get more comments on average because you’ve got more people reading the story. And if you write something that is outstanding and really grabs people, both readership and comments go through the roof very suddenly. That is hard to do, though, and requires both skill and luck. And it’s much easier to do in fandoms that have suddenly become more popular but that don’t have insane numbers of stories to choose from yet than in tiny old fandoms or stable large fandoms.

    @JMG, I’d love to hear some of your suggestions for dealing with late-stage lenocracy, from bypassing the roadblocks it puts up, to being a spanner in the works.

  226. Smith @ 130, a few observations come to (my) mind.

    Rowling earned her money. Partly, that was a matter of timing. She was able to satisfy a hunger for children’s books which actually, you know, told a story. How boring and so 1950s. She is still writing and so far as I am aware, does not use ghosts. In other words, she does the work herself. A trait I happen to admire. I never have bought into the sentiment that you have to let the next guy have a piece. I think the next guy or gal should get off their duff and find out what is their own talent and cultivate that. Her books are not great literature, but neither is most of what gets published nowadays. If you think she is overpaid, are you willing to make the same argument about Tom Clancy, for one example. An audience exists which is willing to buy Rowling’s books, just as others like Clancy, Lee Child et. al. have their audiences. I believe there is a phrase which describes this phenomenon, free enterprise, is it not?

    Back in the day, the War Nerd pointed out that Islamic radicals were mostly, he thought, representative of a privileged demographic. Nevertheless, as someone whose attitude to the Middle East conflicts is A pox on both their houses, I entertain hope that the campus protests will get the attention of the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs, who learned during Vietnam not to go to war without the support of your own citizens. The neocon infested foreign policy establishment may be blithely able to ignore ordinary American citizens and polling data, but override the military? I doubt it.
    The same folks who have for the last five decades or so been accusing anyone who was not all in for Israel of antisemitism, have also been the loudest and most intransigent advocates for more the merrier immigration. Looks they brought the protesting on themselves.

  227. @pygmycory that’s been my experience, too – I write for an old, dead fandom that never was popular to begin with, so my comment count is modest, but the ones I get are very enthusiastic. I do observe, though, that I mostly only get comments when I post a new story; it’s rare that someone comments on an older story, even if they might have discovered it only recently.

    But what I actually had wanted to say (and maybe wasn’t too articulate) in response to Mark L was that people don’t create art only for themselves. No matter how many millions of books are already on the market, you always hope that yours will be noticed and get a reaction. It’s just that a) the market is flooded, especially since the former gatekeping via editors is gone, and now the slush pile gets published, too, and b) the audience has transformed into a passive, insatiable consumer void into which all our creations vanish without a trace. And yes, it is a very lonely existence, but as any artists knows, we can’t not create. It’s an urge that demands expression.

    My vote for fifth Wednesday would be the magic side of mathematics, and I say that as someone who struggled with math ever since they replaced numbers with letters in grade 7….

  228. 🤢I just had to share this. It mentions ‘the collapse,’ as in: “They’d just content themselves for later. For the drought. For the collapse.”

    We-all can look forward to partaking of this puke-worthy🤮breakfast post-Collapse. The following is from the free blurb on the South Ahmoorican river regarding “The Gallery of Regrettable Food by James Lileks,” an actual book:

    Page 165 says:

    HERE’S the cover of the book. You didn’t just buy a Toastmaster—you bought the accessories, too. The segmented serving platter was divided into three zones:

    on the right, a dish held the toast toppings [green olives with pimento, [a separate section of just] pimentos; shrimp; string beans; macaroni salad; BBQd chicken bits];

    on the left, the bread staging area, where you kept the raw bread and used the oh-so-modern build-in slicer to whittle the toast into tiny rations;

    in the middle, the shining proof that someone was still willing to extend credit to your household: the toaster!

    You can see the perils already—the slices are thin, the olives so big. Everything you made would fall in your lap. Perhaps this was a way to discourage guests from eating the olives and pickles later. [I don’t see any pickles.] They’d just content themselves for later. For the drought. For the collapse. For the days when you huddled in the basement while the Bolsheviks roamed the countryside, shooting farmers and property owners…

    But that’s too horrible to contemplate. Here—have some toast and some things! Nothing says yum yum yum like a nice place of ‘things’ [in italics].

    captioned TOAST AND THINGS
    A New American Art in Informal Entertainment

    💨Northwind Grandma💨🤢🍞
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  229. @ Northwind Grandma –

    “Precious Cargo: How Foods from the Americas Changed the World.” DeWitt, 2014.

    “The Taste of Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World.” Collingham, 2017.

    “The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice.” Krondl, 2007.

    “The Oxford Companion to Food.” I have a lot of other books on food, but they’re mostly specific to time period or culture. Someone suggested when you find a good overview book, to check the bibliography. That’s a good tip.

  230. I vote for mystery initiations.

    Also, I look forward to this: “I will indeed be discussing some of the ways to cope with, and now and then play merry hob with, a lenocracy in its terminal stage. Stay tuned!”

    🙂 🙂

  231. Andy #240

    Also, a nostalgia trip.

    The Heinz Ketchup Meatloaf, the Campbell’s Soup Tuna Casserole, and the Bisquik Strawberry Shortcake were all among the (many!) product showcasing recipes that featured in my house when I was growing up. 😉

  232. @Andy #240. I love the Museum of Regrettable Food, and I even remember some of the same booklets James Lileks makes fun of being in my mother’s kitchen. When I started teaching myself to cook for real, one of the first rules of thumb I arrived at was, “never use a recipe that specifies an ingredient by brand name.” There have to be a few exceptions here and there, but I can’t think of any at the moment.

  233. KAN, Stephen Pearson, and BeardTree – (#235, #238, and #239, resp.) Thank each of you, so much, for finding the errors in my calculations. I’ll pay closer attention to the units next time! I guess that I got so excited by the logic error (dividing reserves by Saudi domestic consumption) that I was not sufficiently skeptical of my arithmetic.

  234. JMG,
    I wonder how much the over-the-top paid pro-Palestinian “student” protests are really an attempt to discredit the movement – similar to way other protests movements have been discredited/disarmed in the past. I have no idea how much support the pro-Palestinian movement has outside certain liberal (and often Jewish) groups, but I’m sure it’s one more thing keeping our lenocracy awake at night.
    If so, there is the possibility that the tactics might not work this time – and it might mean it’s time to fasten your seat belts.

  235. Another example of contemporary management being unable to manage just dropped into my timeline. It’s from the realm of videogames, which aren’t discussed there frequently, but it was so flabbergasting I wanted to share it here.

    So, several months ago a game “Helldivers II” was released, to a critical acclaim. It had some innovations for its genre and none of the hallmarks of modern entertainment (like being broken on launch or filled to the brim with DEI tokenism), so a lot of people liked it and became very passionate about it. And developing studio was making a steady progress cementing this success, until their _publisher_ — Sony — decided that it’s all well and good, but doesn’t boost their corporate metrics fast enough. So Sony made the developers to add a following change to the game:
    “Hey, remember the fine print about having to link your PSN [i.e. Sony’s] account to the game you bought in other stores, which was optional since release? We’re enforcing this now.”

    This resulted in a catastrophy. Not only many people refuse to make PSN accounts, because Sony’s getting hacked more often than they publish a good game, and very few like when their private data becomes public. Not only Sony was very vocal about policing thoughtcrimes in past years, giving people even more reasons to avoid registering in PSN whenever possible. But the PSN itself is only allowing users from a much smaller list of countries, than the storefronts where the game was being sold! So a lot of players just lost their ability to play a game they bought, without any reasonable way to restore their access to it. And many more were angry about that change, done to their beacon of light in the dark sea of slop. So today, following the biblical flood of negative reviews and refund requests, Steam — the largest game store there is — just removed the game from its digital front.

    I’m completely baffled by the sheer level of “how this was possible?” in this dungstorm. It’s a literal sacrifice of a golden-egg-laying goose to corporate gods. And it looks like a textbook example of isolation from reality you have described, with a publisher too.

  236. Mary Bennet, yes, Rowling earned her money, such as from me and my wife. We’ve seen all the Harry Potter movies (in the cinema plus we bought the dvds), my wife got all the books (I read only the first). I don’t begrudge Rowling one penny.

    Plus, from what I’ve read, she is a formidable advocate for women and equally formidable as an opponent to extremist gender ideology that encroaches on rights of women and girls. She challenged the Scottish government to arrest her for violating hate-speech laws where she referred to various trans individuals as men. Imagine that, this is the solitary warrior taunting the monster. Have to say, she has got cojones like church bells (plus a billion dollars which doesn’t hurt).

    No idea how she sees this current Gaza fiasco. But, all in all, hurray for Rowling. Heck, why stop there, Rowling for PM. Leadership first takes guts and she has surely got that in abundance.

    As far as US foreign policy goes, again and again the Blob demonstrates its utter uselessness. As far as the Arabs go, they once again demonstrate their own uselessness in combat against the IDF. They seem to think they can win wars by getting hammered. Oh, right, they’re apparently trying to get world opinion behind them. Yes, well, does anyone think that Israelis will fold their tents and leave Israel because of world opinion? And, if Israel didn’t exist, the local despots would have to invent it to serve as a distraction from their own misrule and thievery.

    As you say, a pox on both their houses. It never ends. They’ve gotten far more attention than the dusty patch they occupy remotely merits. And, as for what happens on campuses nowadays, they make me laugh.

  237. Put my vote in for music.

    Great to hear of success with used bookstores. Many of our thrifts do not carry many books anymore, so it is encouraging to hear.

  238. Everyone’s votes have again been counted.

    Warburton, that’s an excellent point and meshes well with Toynbee’s vision.

    Northwind, funny. Thank you for this.

    Simon, that’s seriously funny.

    John, an interesting speculation. The only way to settle the matter one way or another, it seems to me, is to figure out who’s paying the paid protesters; I’ve seen allegations that it’s one of the Soros-funded nonprofits, but I have yet to see convincing documentation. Paid protesters, btw, are a real phenomenon:

    (That last one is particularly funny, though unintentionally so…)

    Altera, that’s a classic case of corporate stupidity. I trust gamers are gearing up for an across-the-board boycott of Sony.

    Ragnarok, for heaven’s sake, think through the implications for a moment. That in itself would be suicide on the part of the elites — it’s not as though they’ll survive the collapse of the society that they parasitize, you know. Fifteen minutes after the rule of law breaks down, for example, Bill Gates will be shot dead by his own security guards — they have zero reason to feel any loyalty to him, and every reason to want to take all his goodies for themselves. Nor does Gates have a single skill that would be of use to him in a postcollapse setting — the only reason he got where he is was that his mommy was an IBM executive and negotiated a bunch of sweetheart deals for her little darling’s business. Toynbee is right; it’s suicide — and suicide by elite stupidity and fecklessness, what’s more.

  239. On The student protests. I have attempted to understand these ( with respect to outside paid protestors or organic) by comparing them to Occupy Wall Street and the anti-Trump Antifa protests. To my knowledge the Occupy protests were fairly organic and did not involve paid protesters, I had several friends who participated back in 2012. The general tactics were occupying a chunk of ground ( in Portland it was parks) and waiting to be removed.
    The BLM-Antifa anti-trump protests were another ball of wax. My feeling is those actually involved a number of paid protestors. The Hallmarks there were that whenever anyone was arrested and indentified in the media they were from out of town and just arrived in the last two weeks. Also they tended to attack buildings ( in Portland it was a courthouse, police stations, and ICE facility. They would mob up, cause a ruckus and then disappear.
    To me the pro-gaze protests seem more like occupy Wall Street. Also the scale is almost too big for someone like Soros ( as rich as he is) to fund. While a few universities are in the headlines, these protests are occurring very widely on college campuses. Last week I just sat and typed college names in to google and looked for news. Nearly every university I typed in hat some kind of large or small Gaza protest. Every single Ivy, Nearly all the big state schools, etc. I have no doubt there are some paid instigators at many of these protests, they just strike me as more organic than contrived.

  240. Altera, about this Sony debacle, I don’t know your background but I spent my working life in the bowels of multinational companies. If you’ve ever sat in a corporate meeting room you would not be surprised at what happened at Sony.

    Do you remember the GM farce over keys and ignition switches? They had to recall millions of cars to remedy a problem they’d known about for years and which caused dozens of deaths and which would have cost nickels and dimes to fix had they jumped on the issue right away. But, of course, they didn’t.

    You put a group of people into a confined space like a boardroom and they turn into cretins. They convince one another of the most outlandish propositions, void of fact and reason, that what they’re looking at is a great idea, that it has success written all over it, and that untold riches beckon. Or alternatively that it’s a small problem, that they have far bigger issues to deal with, that it represents a tolerable risk, or a minimal risk, that the cost-benefit argues not causing a stink, that it would unduly impact corporate reputation and that after all, they followed all the protocols, filled out all the forms, checked all the boxes and got all the sign-offs. So then what’s the problem? There is no problem. Is there? Well, is there? All shake their heads and make murmuring noises.

    And so jets fall out of the sky, or shed parts in mid-air, gas tanks blow up, batteries spontaneously combust, or land developments that should never have seen the light of day somehow get approved and financed and up and running and the only one making money in the end is the bankruptcy trustee.

    Maybe the process of natural selection went on leave for a while, I don’t know.

  241. Lenocracy never sleeps:
    Listening to the BBC overnight on the local NPR station is very instructive for the concerns of the lenocracy. For instance, there have been ongoing protests in Tbilisi against a law requiring NGOs to report the foreign source of donations over 20% of income. Widely decried as a “Russian” inspired law, it is very similar to the US FARA law, Foreign Agents Registration Act. Can’t have the CIA identified as the funder of that antigovernment agitation.
    Tonight, I found out that Kenya is suffering from a lack of insurance, which allegedly could have helped recovery from floods in the country. Aside from the lack of income to pay for the insurance for many of those affected (briefly noted), the experience of the US in subsidized flood insurance shows that it is yet another subsidy dumpster, and promotes construction in flood prone areas. Poor Kenya, haven’t they suffered enough from the benefits of British colonialism already?

  242. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m trying to get into the Quadrivium of Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy, all of which are aspects of ‘Number’.

    So, I’d like to change my 5th Wednesday vote to Maths ‘n’ Magic. Noting however that another trending topic is Magic ‘n’ Music… could these be regarded as simply different aspects of the same subject?

    Just trying to have cake and eat it.

  243. @Robert Mathiesen #247
    ‘Certainly, but at the moment the world isn’t exactly haunted by thoughts about them. Most people nowadays doubt their very existence.’
    In Italy there are half a million exorcism requests each year, and even in just the Catholic archdiocese of Indianapolis there were seventeen hundred exorcism requests in 2018. It would seem that the world is increasingly haunted.

  244. BLM absolutely paid. When they came to NW Arkansas, it was a band tour. Friday night in Bentonville then on to Fayetteville.
    The local protestor crowd were upset that some got violent and wouldn’t stop. Seems to me a few violent paid people could really rile things up quick. Even the main body, of well meaners, could also be paid, to go town to town. You’d almost have to if it was organized event. Again like a band tour bus. Reminds me of the Duc de Orleans and the Equality Gardens. Dangerous. The poor and the oppressed and even crowds are very conservative. But paid provocateurs can alter the chemistry a lot.

  245. Re: Sony

    They don’t respect you as a customer. They never have. You are a cash cow to be milked. I guess the real question is, are you a man? Or a cow? I guess a lot of people aren’t cows, from what I’m hearing.

    If you have a choice (and sometimes you don’t) never do business with someone who doesn’t respect you. It never ends well.

    I think this video game industry crash is necessary. It will clean out a lot of arrogant and abusive actors. Bobby Kotick made his fortune picking up the pieces after the last crash. There will probably be another Bobby Kotick sometime in the future.

  246. @Justin Patrick Moore

    Yeah, As much as it would be an Adventurous undertaking…
    I think we may be one adventurous undertaking away from falling flat on our faces 🙂
    If an inspiring publisher With the know how started to ‘go fund me’, with the intention of publishing a JMG Is manuscript in the title, then I wonder if there would be some traction?

  247. >That’s who gets into the top-end US universities, you know!

    Well, there’s a little bit more than that. You have to be good at taking written tests and you need parents that know something about how the admissions game is played. You need the kind of insistent parents pressuring you into extracurricular activities. Lots and lots of scheduled structured time. But it does as you say, require a certain kind of obsequious personality from the child that instinctively knows what’s expected from them by everybody. Otherwise, the kid rebels and doesn’t get admitted.

    Everybody likes to focus you on what you gain by going that route. But like with everything in this realm, what one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away. Nobody ever talks about what you lose when you take the Ivy League Path. And you lose quite a lot.

  248. Both for Black Lives Matter and January 6, 2021, those inciting violence were often some type of police or the other (FBI).
    “If you are wondering who is the infiltrator, the first one to suggest violence is the cop.”
    I am not sure that the current protests are so much pro-Palestine in a narrow sense of taking a specific position on Palestine/Israel but rather are moved by abhorrence of Israel’s actions against Palestinian civilians and infrastructure.

  249. @Tengu (#271):

    Thank you for pointing this out; I was not aware that the demand for Catholic exorcisms was so high. I think you are right, except for the rabidly materialistic elite minorities.

  250. @Clay Dennis (#267) and others on the student protests, then and now:

    Back in the 1960s I was an undergraduate at the University of California in Berkeley, and by sheer chance I happened to be a fly on the wall when the plans for the Free Speech Movement were being formulated, during the the academic year 1963/4, right before the demonstrations began on campus and caught the attention of the national media.

    I was studying Russian and Slavic linguistics and I had a paid job in the Periodicals Room of the Unviersity Library. One of my co-workers in the library, a woman in her ’30s named Gail Brown, wanted to learn a modicum of Russian before she traveled to Moscow with her husband Doug for some sort of conference. So I went over to her apartment once a week to give her a Russian lesson in exchange for dinner with her and her husband. While I was there, her husband was busy discussing I-didn’t-care-what with various visiting adults in their living room. (The visitor who made the strongest impression on me was named James Farmer, whom I later learned was one of MLK Jr’s close associates in the civil rights movement.) Somewhere in the course of those visits I also learned that her husband, Doug Brown, was one of the leaders in the local Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

    In the course of those dinners and evenings I heard something of the advance planning for the Free Speech Movement (FSM), which was going to be launched during the following academic year (1964/5). The FSM was very far from being a spontaneous protest against the University’s very strict rules against any public political speech on University property, which were currently being used to quash public speech against the Vietnam War. It was planned out well in advance and with considerable forethought; and its public leaders, such as Mario Savio, were specifically chosen by the planners for their charisma and skill at oratory, but for the most part were not among the planners themselves. I kept somewhat in touch with the Browns for several years after I graduated from Berkeley, while the FSM was turning into a national wave of college protests against the Vietnam War, and I heard a little about its successes from them. One interesting detail pertained to its funding.

    The University at Berkeley had an elected student government in those days, which was mostly occupied with school spirit and football; and usually the election bored most students. After the FSM got underway, however, some of the FSM activists formed a campus political party called Slate. Slate won the next election hands-down, and it became the student government for the coming year.

    There also was, way back then, a moribund national organization of campus student governments, which met once a year, and was very poorly attended. However, the officers of the Berkeley student government all went there in hopes of gaining support for the protest movement. What they discovered, once they got there, was (1) that they and a few like-minded delegates from other universities were a solid majority of the few attendees, and (2) that the moribund organization had a substantial treasury which had been growing for many years. Having discovered this untouched pot of money, the majority of delegates voted to use it to fund the travel of FSM activists to other universities, in order to spread the protest movement as widely as possible through the USA. And this was done, with nation-wide consequences. (I do not think that this part of the history ever became generally known. And in fairness, I heard about it only at second hand, from a gleeful activist friend in Berkeley, soon after the meeting. I don’t rememnber who that friend was any longer.)

    It was only several decades later that I thought to search for Doug and Gail Brown on the web. When I did so, I learned that Doug happened to be the son of the famous left-wing radical, Archie Brown (1911-1990), a longshoreman, a labor organizer, and an open member of the Communist Party USA, who had also run for Governor of California in 1946. He eventually became a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party USA.

    All this old history is relevant to our current events for the light it sheds on how seemingly spontaneous waves of campus protests can be brought into being, with a bit of luck, by the dedicated networking of relatively few activists behind the scenes, who are simply following their ideals, and are not paid agents of some shadowy group of string-pullers. It’s for that reason that I’m recounting it here. I suspect that something similar has been going on now.

  251. “they followed all the protocols, filled out all the forms, checked all the boxes and got all the sign-offs. So then what’s the problem?”

    I know that one. I call it Westinghouse Syndrome after where I first met it, not that they invented it by any means.

    The paperwork is perfect, therefore the process is perfect, therefore the plant is perfect. The shadows of that mindset were still being excised from my former employer’s chemical plant when I started there. Five years prior that mindset was the direct cause of two deaths. The plant was originally built by Union Carbide.

    And speaking of lenocracy in another forum Melody Wright posted this gem;

    “The CRE situation in Dallas is pretty dire which Travis and I highlight here

    We started outside the permit office which had to be evacuated because they failed to make certain improvements and to properly file permits

    Irony at its best”

  252. Hi John

    Paid protesters are not only real, they’ve been a problem for a very long time. Anyone familiar with the new testament will notice there are at least two incidents recorded where they were engaged by Jewish religious leaders: the crowd demanding Barabbas be released instead of Jesus; and a later kafluffle in Thessalonica where they sought to undermine the apostles’ preaching efforts.

  253. @Athaia,
    ” I do observe, though, that I mostly only get comments when I post a new story; it’s rare that someone comments on an older story, even if they might have discovered it only recently.” Same here. I do occasionally get comments on stories I wrote years ago, but it is much lower than on new stories, and lower compared to the hits and kudos/likes the story is still accreting. To be fair, some of that is that when a story is coming out gradually, people tend to comment on every chapter, whereas they read a finished story over a day or two and maybe comment once after they’ve finished. But mostly they don’t comment at all. At most you get a kudo with no comment.

    I agree that there’s a huge amount out there for people to read compared to the number of readers compared to when I started writing back in the 2000s.

  254. In Victoria BC we don’t just have university protests about Gaza, though there has been an encampment there for the past few days. There are also protests downtown every saturday that hold up traffic and buses. I’m suspect university students are probably a major presence in these protests, but I haven’t been close enough to one or talked to the people in it in order to get the feel of them, and I assume that they are attracting at least some people from outside the university.

  255. My vote is for food and cooking in the descent.
    I know we have talked about it on and off, however I am not concerned so much about those reading these posts – I think most of us have got a good handle on how to cook cheaply. I am more interested in how, for example, a foodbank handing out provisions mainly provided by the big supermarkets, can help people struggling to make ends meet move to a less processed/cheaper style of cooking/eating.
    I took part, some years ago now, in an ‘eat for £1 a day’. I found it relatively easy because I am old enough to remember how my mother and grandmother had cooked but even more so because the £1 a day did not include energy usage, or all of the relatively high cost equipment I had accumulated. Also the ‘challenge’ was in the summer so I had food available from the garden. Younger people taking part seemed to think they could live for a week on baked beans without any problem.
    There seems to me to be a huge adjustment to be made that is not being addressed except in places like this.

  256. Once again, everyone’s votes have been tabulated.

    Peter, thanks for both of these. NATO is frantically trying to find a new proxy to open another front against Russia, since their first candidate hasn’t exactly been doing well of late, and allegedly “nongovernmental” organizations are always the cutting edge of a US-backed regime change operation; forcing them to reveal their foreign funding would be quite an embarrassment to the local NATO stooges. As for insurance, I wonder if the Kenyans would have more luck getting payouts in return for their premiums than people here do…

    Bogatyr, er, what was your original vote for?

    Other Owen, oh, granted, but I was trying to sum things up briefly.

    Old Steve, an excellent point!

    Yvonne, so noted. If people actually have to live on very scant budgets, they tend to learn such things very quickly — most of the really frugal cooks I knew when I was young learned that during the Great Depression, for example.

  257. Bogatyr, er, what was your original vote for?

    Prehistoric pan-Eurasian culture.

  258. >Maybe the process of natural selection went on leave for a while, I don’t know

    It did. Also see: ZIRP/NIRP. Which is still going on BTW. All it took to crater this “economy” was for real rates to get a little less negative. I’m not sure what the zero point is on real rates but I’m pretty sure that there would be nothing but a crater where the economy once stood, if they jacked real rates up to the zero point. And I’m almost convinced that the lords and masters of the economy, they don’t know where the zero point is located either. Comforting thought.

    And that’s just real rates at zero. You’d then need to tack on the traditional 5% on top of that.

  259. While there is no chance of this being picked for the 5th Wednesday, I do want to plant an idea seed.

    A continuation of the history of American occultist. Namely we all need to get ’On the A(stral) train’ that was one downright cool cat – Sun Ra.

  260. Hi John Michael,

    Since people are discussing the subject of food, and it’s a fine topic indeed, just thought I’d mention something I observed last week. So, we went to the pub for dinner and a pint (a lovely craft made stout in case you were wondering!) and I was talking with another local who was with a group of friends. Turns out, they were enjoying a drink and chat, and skipped the meal. I’d noticed the prices for meals had risen. We discussed this subject and cost of living pressures.

    Isn’t it interesting how decline plays out? I’ve noticed that people adapt in place and the flow of mad cash slows. And I appreciate what that means for the business.

    As another point, the local general store has apparently put prices up for their Bahn Mi from I think $13, to $18. Probably makes it too pricey a lunch for me, and in the city at traditional Vietnamese bakeries they’ll cost around $11 to $12. I know what I intend to do, adapt in place, that’s what. And ever so quickly, the flows of mad cash slow. And I appreciate what that means for the business.

    One thing the numpties in charge don’t appreciate, probably because they’ve forgotten their history, in all their vast printing and Smauging of paper IOU’s, they’ve forgotten that above all else, the show (i.e. the flows of mad cash), must go on. I guess this is what happens when their actions declare to the world, that it doesn’t matter. It does.



  261. Smith, that’s the experience I, thank Eris, was missing through my life. I’m a software engineer from the post-Soviet part of the world, so I guess I’m more used to plain old corruption than corporate stupidity.

    The Other Owen, yeah, Sony finally noticed that things aren’t going according to plan and buckled. For now. I’m not a part of this drama since I don’t play anything Sony-related, but it was just new to me. I didn’t expect them to respect their customers, but I expected they at least will be, what’s the saying, awake and alert?

  262. Roldy, thanks, that was a laugh. What a name, That poster on peer review was a scream.

  263. All votes have again been tabulated.

    Bogatyr, thank you; your vote has been transferred.

    Michael, one of the things I need to find before I can proceed with that series is some good sources on urban African-American occultism in the 20th century; there was a lot of it, and it played a hugely important role in culture as well as the history of magic, but documentation seems to be scarce. Sun Ra is certainly (a) one cool Saturnian cat, and (b) an important figure in the story.

    Chris, that’s just it. They’ve lost track of the fact that all they do is parasitize real economic activity. They believe that what they do creates wealth. That’s why they thought their sanctions would hurt the Russians, when it just boosted the Russian economy by stopping them from draining money from it. It’s never occurred to them that if they were to go to Mars or something, the rest of us would prosper in their absence.

  264. Westinghouse Syndrome? Why not? It’s as good a name for this pathology as any.

    Years ago there was an outbreak of tainted product from a large meat plant in Canada. If I recall correctly (it was a long time ago), according to one account, there were platoons of government inspectors and veterinarians at this facility but the inspectors were mainly inspecting paperwork filled out by plant workers attesting to having performed required procedures. Once again, the claim was that the protocols were followed ie everything was done by the book. But still the meat left the facility unfit for consumption.

    By the book? Did anyone stop to ask who wrote the book? Was it the machine manufacturers? Were the procedures adequate for the desired result ie contamination-free meat? Or were they designed to save time and therefore money while giving the appearance of due regard for public safety?

    Now, make of this what you will, it was US inspectors that spotted the contamination in meat exported to the US and that notified Canada. It took another two weeks before the Canadian agency started issuing product recalls.

  265. Other Owen, yes, comforting thought (not), because to know what the zero point is on real rates, they need to be honest in the calculation of inflation.

    There was a documentary on TV a year or two back discussing inflation. They gave the year-over-year increases in prices for major categories of living expenses, ie 15%, 20%, 25%, 30% (in round numbers) and then the claim was that the overall cost of living had gone up by 8% (or thereabouts).

    So my wife made the astute observation that, given these massive increases in prices in so many major categories of living expenses, how is it possible that overall inflation is so much less?

    The simple answer is that it’s not possible. The official inflation number utterly defied the evidence of everybody’s lyin’ eyes. If they’d given an overall inflation number closer to 20% than 10% I would have said well, they gave it the good ole schoolboy try. But the numbers the government puts out defy credulity.

    So, what’s the zero real rate? What do you figure the real true unvarnished unmassaged rate of inflation is? As you suggested, they don’t know. They’ve told so many lies about so many things they’ve lost track and forgotten what’s true and what isn’t.

    Why does it matter? Because what we have as a result of zirp and nirp is not remotely price discovery for example in stock and bond markets but rather the opposite. And we have massive malinvestment in CRE and other spectacular money losers. You would know who they are.

    You would also know (you used the word crater) that there’s no getting out of this mess. A great many people, including our vaunted elites who are invested to their cufflinks in this doomed system, are going to get hammered very badly.

  266. Proposal for the fifth Wednesday post:

    What place does future shock have in the cascading reality of the long descent.

    Black Tuna and Hand

  267. @ Yvonne #284 – Since the end of lockdown, I’ve been running a small food pantry, at our local 12 Step Club. So, source of funding … I probably spend around $100 a month, of my own money. Sometimes, I get donated cash. Sometimes, other people bring in food.

    Source of food. Generally, I don’t spend more than $1.25 on stuff in cans (tins, for our foreign readers.) I forage in the Dollar + store and a warehouse type of store. I live in government subsidized senior housing. I get two food boxes, a month. I often take most of the stuff I get, down to the Club. Occasionally, someone will clean out their larder, or, a tenant will leave (one way or another) and I’ll get a crack at that largess.

    It’s been interesting to watch both the food box offerings, before the pandemic, and what does, or doesn’t move out of the pantry. Fast movers, slow movers, etc.. Soups, stews and other highly processed foods, move fast. Also, any kind of canned meat. Tuna, chicken, etc.. Then, after the pandemic, food aid was severely cut. Now I see a lot of movement of canned veg and cereals. Bagged dried beans moved slowly. But that’s picking up. Pasta didn’t move, until I started placing it next to cans of tomato sauce. We also have a box, in a freezer, of free meat.

    As far as our food boxes go, there are things we used to get regularly, before the pandemic, that we no longer see. 5 pound bags of sugar, come to mind. A good grade of honey. The food banks are doing it hard, right now, and I think those kinds of things go to families, with children.

    I also buy condiments. Otherwise, we’d never see any. As far as teaching people how to cook more basically, we have one woman, who at least once a week, makes up a hearty soup or stew, out of our pantry. Free to anyone who wants a bowl, along with how she made it. Probably why the rice and dried beans have started to move. Lew

  268. Hi JMG – another fine post. You wrote, “… the more privileged inmates of our current system are sawing merrily away at the branch that supports them.” Yeah. There’s a lot of that going around lately. Wouldn’t it be nice if this activity was restricted just to the field of publishing?

    I follow Ms. Griffin on substack, and I’ve been surprised several times by her ability to come up with ideas around utopia that are completely disconnected from reality. “Make believe” utopia, if you will. Although I like some of her articles on publishing, I find the catch term to pay a subscription “join us” a bit irritating. Sort of like when a obnoxiously persistent Christian is out to save my soul to score some points, thereby making me wonder if I see them in this “heaven” isn’t that a contradiction, and not a selling point? Anyway, my impression is that her schtick centers around stating something outrageous, and she must be a firm believer in any publicity is good publicity. Argh. Not helping.

    Since this was a fine post, my vote for the 5th Wednesday topic is delegated to your muse – don’t fight the current.

    @Lathechuck #229 – personally, I think accurate oil numbers are pretty well kept secrets, but 266B barrels is only about 36.4 years at the current US consumption rate, and about 8 years at the world consumption rate. Granted, 13M per day is about 13% of world production, but….it’s suspicious that 221 years makes it into the article. I think production is poised to drop pretty quickly from here on out. Saudi Aramco has been selling shares and transferring ownership to the government over the last few years, which tells me significant decline is imminent. Also, when looking at the last half dozen years of new finds, they are in the low single digits, and the Eagle Ford formation in Texas is one of the last “growing” fields on the planet, and it’s tapping out. The lights may be on and the Fat Lady may not be singing, but we’re getting close.

    Finally, my favorite poster from is related to consulting. As Homer Simpson would say, “It’s funny because it’s true….”

  269. Hi JMG,

    To hopefully enrich this discussion of lenocracy: there is a Swahili word – “hongo” – which in modern dictionaries translates as bribe but historically meant something more in the line of fee or toll extracted at force. For example, Arab slave and ivory traders were forced to pay their “hongo” to local chiefs when moving slaves and ivory across their territories.

    I was thinking about this after reading an article about how private equity-owned vet practices juice pet owners just because they can, and how this looked like a form of “hongo”.

    What I want to say is that there is a form of payment which is extracted by compulsion, it can take many forms: tax, toll, bribe, price gouging, tribute. The Swahili word “hongo” helps us see that these are roughly all the same thing, and I would say one of the chief characteristics of a lenocracy.


  270. All votes have again been counted.

    Smith, a classic example; thank you.

    Drhooves, yeah, it would be great if publishing were just an outlier. It’s not. As for Ms. Griffin, I noticed that also; if she hadn’t cited figures from the court papers I would probably have rolled my eyes and looked elsewhere.

    Boy, thank you for this! Am I right in recalling that Swahili started out as a trade language, one of those ingenious arrangements that allow people from many different cultures to talk about practical matters? If so, I’m not surprised that it has so useful a word — the trade language I’ve studied, the Chinook jargon of the old Pacific Northwest, is similarly supplied with nice crisp ways of talking about essentials. “Hongo” is worth adding to modern English, I think.

    Siliconguy, that’s classic. I wonder if it will ever be finished.

  271. Hi John and all,
    I have heard it said that a published book that mentions uncomfortable truths may became discontinued no matter how many people show interest in obtaining it.

    That’s a way to censor a book without mentioning that word. It becames unavailable and no other editor can intervene.

    On the topic of the fifth Wednesday
    I’ll add my vote for Chris at Fernglades topic about food, or anything related to our actual ignorance about what food is.

  272. Lenocracy never sleeps, part 2:
    12 days ago I had hip replacement surgery, to repair the hip ruined by an antibiotic. It went well, and I’m recovering well.
    One of the options paid for as part of the surgery was delivery of prepared meals for a couple weeks. When they called to confirm a week after the surgery , I declined, since I didn’t look forward to 2 weeks of chicken salad, and my wife is home to assist me. Today, they delivered a weeks worth of meals. I returned them with the driver. Had I been thinking quickly, my wife could have brought them to the nearest homeless encampment. We’ll see what happens or doesn’t next week.
    I figure that meal delivery paid part of at least half a dozen people’s salaries, between the insurer and the caterer.

  273. >So my wife made the astute observation that, given these massive increases in prices in so many major categories of living expenses, how is it possible that overall inflation is so much less?

    That’s why I call the BLS, the Bureau of Humor and Goalseeking. Good for a laugh, don’t take them seriously. They’re just kidding.

  274. I was working on something on and came across this quote from Hermann Bahr, a playwright, director, critic and otherwise member of the Austrian literati, who wrote in the journal Ver Sacrum (“Sacred Spring”) , “Our art is not a combat of modern artists against those of the past, but the promotion of the arts against the peddlers who pose as artists and who have a commercial interest in not letting art bloom. The choice between commerce and art is the issue at stake in our Secession. It is not a debate over aesthetics, but a confrontation between two different spiritual states.”

    It seems to me this could be repurposed as a rallying cry for all the artists, musicians, writers who reject the lenocracy. For a small press it might read like this:

    “Our press is not a combat against the lenocratic corpocracy, but the promotion of the art of the book against the philistines and peddlers who pose as publishers and who have a commercial interest in not letting literature bloom. The choice between commerce and literature is the issue at stake! We will set up our camps outside your crumbling towers. It is not a debate over aesthetics, our writers write what they want to write and our readers read what they want to read. This is a confrontation between two different spiritual states.”

    Anyway, I hope everyone is having a good Tuesday. Massive thunderstorm just moved through the area and I’m feeling charged!

  275. Dear JMG,

    Whatever Swahili is, it is definitely a mash-up. With a Bantu base, there is a lot of Arabic, Hindi and English wrapped up in it. My own theory is that English was also a bit of a trade language or pidgin: a base of simplified East Germanic language, cooked up with all sort of exotic loan words. Maybe after 1400 years, give or take, it’s now a bit over cooked in places.

    My nomination for your 5th Weds essay is on the ways we can protect ourselves against “contagions of consciousness” as per your last Rituals of High Magic post. I doubt it will garner much support at this late stage, but I’d like to keep it on your long list!

    Warm wishes,

  276. I would like to vote for Boy’s suggestion: “protection from contagions of consciousness”

  277. “>So my wife made the astute observation that, given these massive increases in prices in so many major categories of living expenses, how is it possible that overall inflation is so much less?”

    The price of things you need go up, and the price of things you want goes up much less.

    Then there are the hedonic adjustments that attempt to adjust for feature creep. If a 4K TV of a given size is the same cost as the same sized HD TV from a few years ago, then by the official calculation the price of TVs has come down since you get more dots on the screen for your money.,in%20consumer%20appliances%20and%20electronics.

  278. I can tell you there’s a significant niche market for Orthodox Christian titles (I buy many myself) and several small presses filling the need even fundraise their next titles. There’s a lot of patristics and classics to translate plus new stuff and Orthodoxy is growing quietly on the sidelines. Our parish book store does very well. None of the foregoing, by the way, are ever reviewed in Publisher’s Weekly (which has a religion section) or other trade mags I look at as a public librarian. As an aside, I am not confident about public libraries and their purchasing patterns or sustainability in their current forms either. And libraries pay 10 as much for ebook and e-audio as the general public and are subject to the Overdrive lenocracy. If I were younger I’d choose a trade.

  279. Boy at #305 describes English as like Swahili, just more so. I think that’s fair.

    In one of his books Jared Diamond describes being in some obscure part of Papua New Guinea with a local with whom he had no common language, and within days they were developing their own pidgin to communicate.

    Similarly, in Nicaragua as everywhere they have deaf people. During their lengthy civil conflicts the deaf children had no access to special schools. Once the conflict ended one was established. These children came from all across the country where they’d developed their own gestures to communicate with their families and villages, and they did a mashup of them and created a new language.

    People find ways to communicate with each-other. At first this is a few words, then a pidgin (individual words with little or no grammar), then a creole (a mix of languages, with a grammar) and finally what most would call a language, with a large vocabulary and formalised grammar.

    This is relevant to lenocracies. There are people who contribute to the development of a language – poets, writers, and some teachers. And there are people who contribute nothing but do try to profit off the language – official academies deciding the rules of grammar, professors of poetry, and so on.

    When we think about the changes of the fall of our Western civilisation, it’s hard to see exactly how it’ll play out. But there’s absolutely no way we can anticipate what languages we’ll be speaking. Think of Roman Britain in the year 400, with widespread literacy and speaking Latin. Then roll forward a century or two…

  280. Re: English

    There are the major events that helped form English and turned it into what it is:

    1) The mix of Germanic Settlers in the post-Roman period
    2) The Viking settlement (look up the Danelaw, plus quite a few overly similar words (Shirt and Skirt come to mind)
    3) The Normans.

    Add in Shakespeare, the King James Bible, and Empire and you have the English of today.

  281. What would qualify as the kind of books that ordinary people would read?

    Here in Australia, something that might suddenly get “non-readers” to read might be a cricket captain’s autobiography, for instance.

    Other than that, my observations from book fairs, charity shops and being a member of a book club (with a middle to upper middle class membership) are that the following have great appeal:

    1. Murder mystery series featuring a jaded detective, set in a town of 500 in the Australian outback or on a Norwegian fjord.

    2. “Death camp amour” — real-life heartwarming tale of overcoming adversity and finding the love of your life, based upon interviews 70 years later.

    3. Heartwarming tale of overcoming racism/sexism/homophobia growing up in an outback town in the 1950s.

    4. Biography of a 19th century baroness who challenged the misogyny of men coming back from a 16 hour shift in a coal mine.

    5. Quirky young woman has a somewhat fantastical adventure in late Tsarist Russia or a similar historical setting.

    6. Alarmist book (that’s already six months out of date) about the next moral panic, e.g. AI, Donald Trump, Andrew Tate, etc.

    7. Part cookbook, part philosophy manual written by a jetsetting celebrity chef about how we should all source local ingredients to stop climate change.

    8. Literary porn about a woman who is kidnapped into a harem by werewolf corsairs from the Barbary Coast.

    That covers 98% of what the women, and 50% of what the men read. The remaining 50% consists of:

    1. WW1 & WW2 (other 20th & 21st century wars get a tiny bit of attention), often on extremely niche subjects.

    2. Marcus Aurelius

    3. Biography of a familiar 19th/20th century politician, explorer or scientist.

    4. Classic sci-fi.

    5. George Orwell

    6. Something really obscure (<5% of books read by men).

    The selections predominantly come from other members (sometimes, the same book might be reviewed three times within six months), but are ultimately derived from the weekend cultural supplements of broadsheet newspapers or the like.

    The culture-seeking working class of the early to mid-20th century is all but extinct now.

    The middle class readers who remain seem to chase fashion obsessively. From what I can see, the big publishers gatekeep that, but they're also actually pretty good at giving their customers what they already want (lots of heartwarming tales of overcoming adversity, basically). It's all about re-confirming in their minds that, yes, they're normal and good, that they're concerned about the correct things, whilst telling them that they're critical thinkers.

  282. I’m not sure publishers, at least the big ones, do much marketing these days, and none for those midlisters. I know, inperson and online, a decent number of writers. They mostly have day jobs. From what I gather an author is expected to come to the table with an online following and most of the ‘marketing’ will be done by the author with little, if any, help from the publisher.

    I worked in bookstores for 29 years, up to covid times. As far as I can tell, no one knows what sells a book anymore. Everyone, from the small publishers I know, mostly sci fi and fantasy related, to the self published authors to booksellers, are all flailing about trying to figure out what works. They’ve been doing that for ten years now, at least.

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