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Thursday, 3 February 2011

The Royal Mythological Society

Got a Kindle? If so, and if your taste for fantasy runs to the sometimes surreal whimsy of Lord Dunsany or John Collier, take a look at the latest Mirabilis ebook. This one isn't a comic, it's a collection of more than fifty fantasy vignettes presented in the form of letters to the Royal Mythological Society and answered with a mixture of oddball erudition, genteel peevishness, dry humor and extremely well-mannered infighting by Doctor Clattercut and Professor Bromfield.

Perhaps it'll make more sense if I quote from the blurb:
It is a little known fact of history, or myth, or both, that around the start of the twentieth century there existed a lost year. In this year, a green comet appeared in the sky. As it grew larger, things that would previously have been considered utterly fantastical began to seep into everyday life. By the height of summer, imagination and reality were so seamlessly merged that few recalled a time when the world had been otherwise.

Mermaids swam in the Mediterranean. Martians commuted by train from Woking. Greek gods gave lecture tours of the United States. And with this new way of life came a whole set of problems of etiquette and decorum (see reference to mermaids).

Fortunately, the solution was at hand. In the depths of the British Museum, intrepid academics Bampton “Bammy” Bromfield and Cyril Clattercut had long been cataloguing accounts of the uncanny from around the world on behalf of the Royal Mythological Society. The arrival of the green comet was about to give them the busiest year of their lives.

This book comprises more than fifty fantasy and SF tales in vignette form, from the mysterious giant hand found in a wood in Yorkshire to the best way to deal with a dragon that's taken a shine to the gold reserves of Fort Knox.
At only $1.13 (yes, you read that right, it's about 2 cents per story!) you'll think that the green comet really has turned reality upside-down. And if you want to try before you buy even at that crazy-low price, see the free preview on BookBuzzr or scroll down to the bottom of this very web page and click on the flipbook widget. Who spoils ya?


  1. No Kindle here, but it is on its way to my iPad’s Kindle app. ^_^


  2. Ah, iPad - now you're talking, Robert! In fact so far I've only seen it on the Kindle App myself, not on an actual Kindle.

    And of course, if you're on your iPad anyway then you might as well grab the free first issue of Mirabilis:

  3. What about a gamebook set in the Mirabilis world? There are lots of sword & sorcery gamebooks, but very few in other fantasy genres.

  4. In fact Leo and I are working on something not a million miles from that, Rhialto. To the disappointment of all of you who prefer print, I have to say this will be another digital product. It's called Timber! and it's partly inspired by the visual novels that Mikael Louys of Megara Entertainment has got me hooked on. Expect it soon after Leo and I finish season two of the Mirabilis comic - so at the tail end of the year, maybe.

  5. Dave: the people who prefer printed products have their own way of dealing with digital stuff. We just wait untill it gets torrented, download it, and then print it. Not as good as an actual book, but if none is available it'll do.

  6. Hmm... I see why the future is going to be fan fiction then ;)

  7. Or better yet: Hmm... I see why the future is going to be real books then ;)

  8. Only in the case of Timber we're doing it as an app, Bert. So it couldn't actually be printed - though I suppose you could convert all of the under-the-hood processes into gamebook-style mechanics involving dice and calculations. The resulting document would be pretty unwieldy.

    More generally, the rising cost of printing, distributing and marketing a physical book means that publishers are ever more averse to trying out new or niche ideas. Hence you get Pride & Prejudice & Zombies followed by Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters followed by Jane Airship and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Killer and... Authors could break that pattern and release interesting stuff themselves; but, lacking the resources of big publishers, their best medium for doing that is digital. A good example is John Higham's Elly the Reindeer series. Rejected by a dozen publishers, he finally released these books on iPhone and they've been topsellers in the App Store for over a year.

    However, if a sense of entitlement means that folks refuse to pay for digital works, we'll see more and more content whose quality reflects a price tag of zero. Meanwhile those "real books" you mention will be by authors like Dan Brown - in fact not even by Brown, but ghostwritten fiction by celebs.

    Change is going to happen whatever we may think of it.

  9. Dave, there is an interesting blog post about print vs digital books here:

  10. Thanks, Versatil. It does seem curious to me that if somebody will pay $9 for a print book but wouldn't pay anything for the ebook version, that basically means they are setting a value of $9 on a sheaf of paper worth at most 50 cents, while placing no value at all on the author's work.

    Still, nobody can say we at Fabled Lands LLP are trying to do them out of $1.13. If you prefer, you can get the epub version of The Year of Wonders book for absolutely nothing here:
    and you can indeed then print it out - or mail it to, who will print and bind a copy for you. And if you then feel like sending me 9 bucks for it, I won't complain.

  11. Physical books have been as vulnerable to digital piracy as e-books for many years now. So that argument against e-books has fully expired.

    I’m happy to buy e-books and either print them or have them printed on my own if I want a physical copy. As long as the publisher doesn’t put obstacles in my way. My desire for physical copies has dropped (though not been eliminated) since getting the iPad, though.

  12. I agree with Robert. I would now prefer to read a book on the iPad rather than a real book now (though I do like the smell of new books as well!). Hmm... maybe we need some sort of 'new book smell' scent so we can have the best of both worlds!

  13. More people are reading these days (and probably reading better books, not just the latest bestsellers) because of e-readers. I still have a house full of physical books. And I mean literally full: bookcases are part of our decor. But I prefer reading comics and magazines on my iPad, and it's often more convenient for novels too when on the move.

    More importantly, though, digital books provide an escape route from the stranglehold that hit-driven publishing has on the market. Folks who come to this blog presumably are into roleplaying or gamebooks. Well, those are extreme niche interests and the economics of print publishing meant that the reissued Dragon Warriors couldn't make enough money in print form to justify continuing the series. PDFs could provide players with great scenarios and rules content, enough to fuel hundreds of hours of gaming. But only if they are willing to pay for it.