We launched The Mark Steyn Club earlier this summer, and I'm immensely heartened by all those SteynOnline supporters across the globe - from Fargo to Fiji, Vancouver to Vanuatu, Surrey to the Solomon Islands - who've signed up to be a part of it. As I said at the time, membership isn't for everyone, but it is a way of ensuring that all our content remains available for everyone - all my columns, audio interviews, video content, all our movie features and songs of the week. None of it's going behind a paywall, because I want it out there in the world, being read and being heard and being viewed, and maybe changing an occasional mind somewhere along the way. The point of The Mark Steyn Club is to come up with a way to keep funding some of the more logistically complex and labor-intensive stuff, like my interview with former Aussie PM John Howard, or the live show from Ottawa. So I thank those longtime readers, listeners and viewers who've volunteered to be part of that.
That said, we are introducing a few bonuses for our members - not locking up our regular content, which will always be free, but admitting members to a few experimental features, such as this new audio series. In Tales for Our Time I revisit some classic fiction I've mentioned in books and columns over the years - old stories that nevertheless speak to our own age. Our first serialization was The Tragedy of the Korosko by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes; next came The Time Machine by H G Wells; and then The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad.
They've proved so popular that we're back with a fourth serialization - The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, an 1894 novel that spawned an entire industry and gave a word to the world, as I explain in my introduction to our first installment. I always liked this exchange from Chapter One:
'The difference between you and Robert,' said my sister-in-law, who often (bless her!) speaks on a platform, and oftener still as if she were on one, 'is that he recognizes the duties of his position, and you see the opportunities of yours.'
'To a man of spirit, my dear Rose,' I answered, 'opportunities are duties.'
And that is very much the spirit of the enterprise.
As before, we'll post an episode a day, and you can either enjoy it as a book at bedtime half-an-hour before you lower your lamp - or pile up the chapters and listen to the whole thing on a long car journey. I always like reading stories, and I did do a little of it professionally a zillion years ago. So, if it works, we may release it as an audio book on CD or Audible a ways down the road. But for the moment it's an exclusive bonus for Mark Steyn Club members. To hear Part One of The Prisoner of Zenda, prefaced by my own aforementioned intro, please click here and log-in.
If you'd like to hear this serial, all you need to do is join the Club - either for a full year or, if you suspect we're some fly-by-night shifty Canuck scamsters and you want to see how it goes, a mere quarter. And, aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The opportunity to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly;
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, SteynPosts, and our other video content;
~My new quarterly newsletter The Clubbable Steyn;
~Our new video series of classic poetry;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~and the chance to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, if you like or dislike this fourth Tale for Our Time, or consider my reading of it a bust, then feel free to comment away below. I weigh in on the comment threads myself from time to time, but, like an English adventurer at the Ruritanian court, I regard it as principally your turf, to have at it as you so desire. And do join us for Part Two of The Prisoner of Zenda tomorrow.