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Heathen Publishing & Media

By: Garman Lord

> Many of the attendees to the workshops I taught, for example, were "neoPagan" in every sense, and indeed one "Ralph Blumster", as I like to call them, quit the course after the exclaiming "what's all this Germanic history have to do with the runes?"

Well, as one noted heathen pundit recently put it, in a somewhat different context, you can't teach a pig to whistle. And whatever we may do, progress will be bound to be slow at first, though I suspect it will begin to accelerate surprisingly once it ever manages to build a head of steam without too many mindless Three-Stoogeatru wannabes constantly shooting holes through the boiler just for fun. Classes and courses like yours are important. Lists like this are important. There should undoubtedly be more of both. And good websites are tremendously important; it's good to see so many more of those coming on line lately.

However, as I recently said to a colleague, what I think will really end up being important will be more and better books. Real heathen books are still rare, and do get bought and handed round and talked about whenever they do appear, and as such do tend to slowly but surely make a difference. A book simply works differently, and I suspect more influentially and effectively, than any other form of mass communication, and I think this has been under appreciated, for perhaps two reasons, maybe three.

One is the difficulty inherent in publishing heathen books. Books are expensive to publish and need a big market, something that heathenry is not, in order to achieve the necessary economies of scale. However, all of that is gradually changing. The price of book-publishing has been relentlessly coming down, to the point where you can break even, on printing costs at least, by managing to print and sell a few hundred copies of a book. And at this point, as long as you're not trying to get rich on it, the community has now grown to the point where it is indeed possible to sell a few hundred copies of any reasonably interesting heathen book, in the heathen community alone, independently of access to mass commercial markets. Our own offerings in THEOD have now proved that. When we published them, we rolled the dice with crossed fingers and knew we were taking a flier, so it's worth noting that sales of WE ARE OUR DEEDS and WAY OF THE HEATHEN have long ago far exceeded our original expectations, and we're already planning other book projects, with much greater confidence. Say what you will about this knucklehead community, if I said it's not willing to support publication of its own book literature, I'd be lying. Rather, my impression has been that the Reawakening community is actually hungry for some sort of literature that it could really call its own.

The other reason is perhaps the tendency of heathen ephemeral publications not to do very well. Heathen mags of any quality, though cheaper to publish, tend to be a lot of work to produce, and the community tends not to support them anymore than fairly weakly and fairly uninfluentially. My suspicion is that the community tends to think of them as mere fanzines, and not to respect or value them. Because of this, I suspect that most heathen writers tend to think that if magazines don't get community support, one may as well forget about trying a book, but if so, I'm just saying that that might be a false impression.

I do think that a good book will always be bound to be difficult for anyone to write; book writing is much more acrobatic and less forgiving than magazine writing, with much narrower margin of error. It may well still be that the next heathen book that comes out, from THEOD or anybody else, won't catch on for some reason and will bomb. I'm just saying that the chances for at least break-even are probably already better in this community at this point than most people would have thought. And that, beyond books, other more high tech mass media heathen materials are probably not far behind. Heathen CDs are already another thing that seems to do pretty well. I would guess that any heathen musician who could produce a listenable CD could probably hope to sell a few hundred copies over time; usually enough sales to justify a break-even pressing.

But then, there's a third reason that perhaps ought to be considered too. That is just the fact that, at present, there seems to be something in the air that was never there before since the beginnings of the Reawakening; the world's growing resentment of creeping globalism, especially amongst the young, and sense of a general crying out for community renewal. That may not bode particularly well for heathenry's prevailing climate of radical autonomy still being in keeping with the times, of course, but for heathenry's growing sense of "tribalism," it's as much as a faint scent wafting upon the breeze that suddenly heathenry's day is come and its time is at hand. The water is already inching up, and soon enough, in a matter of months or years, not centuries, the tide will be at the flood. Books and every other form of media will soon suddenly find their markets. The world will suddenly be ready for heathenry. It will certainly be a pity, when that day comes, if heathenry, so long mired down in its own peculiar unlucky unworldly quagmire, is still so unready for the world.