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Monday, September 25, 2017

In remembrance

In remembrance of Jerry Eugene Pournelle

I have been asked today to say his eulogy. From the Greek, as he would tell us, meaning true words, spoken in praise of the dead. And as the eldest of his children, presumed by age to know the most about his life, that duty falls to me.

But how is it possible to write truth in praise of a master of fiction? How is it possible to eulogize a man who rose to public acclaim while I was mostly away? Away to school, away to the Army, away to university, away to build my own career?

I cannot say truth about the personality—the public figure, known far better to many of you here than to me. I can only do my best to say truth about the person; about the man. About what I know to be true about the son, the husband, the father, the grandfather—and the loyalist of friends, to those fortunate to know him as a friend.

I begin with what we all know of him: his insatiable intellectual appetite. His breadth of subject was literally encyclopedic: as a child, alone on the farm, his parents away working, he entertained himself by reading the Britannica from A to Z. That reading foreshadowed an essential, but surprisingly inobvious, core trait of his character: iron discipline. Not imposed on others, but imposed on himself. The chaos we all observed around him, immortalized in the household epithet “Chaos Manor,” was actually symptomatic: the result of him making everything—absolutely everything—secondary to being done.

He quite openly expressed this sense of discipline about his writing: writing, he often said, was work. It was not difficult: you merely sat in front of a typewriter until beads of blood popped out on your forehead. Yet he did it, time and again: dozens of novels and anthologies authored and co-authored—eight of them bestsellers. Hundreds of columns, delivered weekly, on time, over decades.

But both his joking aphorism and prodigious output belie the other disciplines that lay behind them. First, his disciplined reading. He read voraciously. He read everything, on every subject. His walls at home are literally lined with enough books to fill a small library—and those are only the ones he kept. Thousands more no doubt fill others’ shelves today, donated to book sales or simply given away. And that’s the books: the breadth of periodicals, online and in print, is staggering.

Read the rest at Chaos Manor.

I only met Jerry Pournelle once, in my early 20s, at a computer trade show, possibly Comdex. It was a brief encounter, I merely shook his hand, told him that I enjoyed his Byte column and was a big fan of his There Will Be War series. There is no chance he would have remembered it.

But he was, and is, one of my few intellectual heroes. Like Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Guy de Maupassant, and Umberto Eco, I encountered his works at a key nexus in my life and they left an impression on me that has lasted until this day.

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26 Comments:

Blogger Ken Prescott September 25, 2017 5:17 PM  

I always grew a little bit--intellectually, emotionally, or spiritually--from reading his work, even if it was just a brief introduction to someone else's work.

Blogger Gordon September 25, 2017 5:26 PM  

One does remember encounters with someone talented, disciplined and gracious, and who changed your perspectives. Feynman, Heinlien, Pournelle. Giants all. And now we have GRRM, Michael Mann and deGrasse Tyson.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab September 25, 2017 5:28 PM  

He influenced so many. Even when we disagreed he was always polite, reasoned and willing to take the time to persuade.

The world is a better place because he was here and smaller now that he's gone.

Blogger Azimus September 25, 2017 6:18 PM  

From the eulogy:
He believed in deep truths in myth, and deep lessons in legend. He believed in science. He believed in nature. He believed in fun. And he combined them all. Road trips, hiking trips, shooting trips; flights of imagination; cooking (badly), reading (well)...

These words mean so much more coming from a son. By God what a man. Makes me want to be a better man myself.

Blogger Dave W. September 25, 2017 6:23 PM  

I saw these in his last post there:

"We are a nation of assimilated immigrants.

Immigration without assimilation is invasion."

and "Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free."

Blogger tz September 25, 2017 6:34 PM  

The most interesting story, and one that I can sort-of relate to is when he and a friend ordered the chemicals for TNT or some other explosive and managed to drain a pond used by pigs for waste disposal. They went home dirty but otherwise unhurt.

This was a story among others on twit.tv, I think on Triangulation And part 2

Blogger Aeoli Pera September 25, 2017 7:11 PM  

Azimus wrote:From the eulogy:

He believed in deep truths in myth, and deep lessons in legend. He believed in science. He believed in nature. He believed in fun. And he combined them all. Road trips, hiking trips, shooting trips; flights of imagination; cooking (badly), reading (well)...

These words mean so much more coming from a son. By God what a man. Makes me want to be a better man myself.


^

Blogger LP9 September 25, 2017 8:02 PM  

Beautiful post!

Lord Jesus, comfort Jerry Eugene Pournelle family, Jerry's death hurt dad; we love Jerry, please Lord Jesus, let us rejoice in how we are separated in bodily form in life but connected or still connected in spirit.

I have to read alot to dad as he was blinded in 2014; its a joy and honor to buy books and shirts or anything with Castalia House, I/we polverinis remain seriously loyal to Castalia House.

Please Lord comfort his family and God bless everyone, Daniel and Linda Polverini.

Blogger LP9 September 25, 2017 8:06 PM  

OT: RE: Gab, I cannot appear anywhere where my friend a beautiful loving wonderful lady Mrs. Day is insulted, I left in an act of loyalty, I pulled my money too, this is about Jerry's life, we lost Jerry Eugene Pournelle that is the issue and nothing else., let us celebrate and rejoice over his work and life.

RE: immigration dad dropped a meme; _if everyone had a pig Islam would leave_. major laughs.

Anonymous VFM #6306 September 25, 2017 8:12 PM  

Speaking of makers...

Salute!

Blogger Clayton Barnett September 25, 2017 8:39 PM  

Dr. Pournelle, along with the recently departed Steven Den Beste, indirect turned me into an author. Chaos Manor & Chizumatic were daily stops.

The loss of Steven still hurts more, but the loss of Dr. Pournelle will hurt deeper.

Blogger Josh (the sexiest thing here) September 25, 2017 10:33 PM  


But he was, and is, one of my few intellectual heroes. Like Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Guy de Maupassant, and Umberto Eco, I encountered his works at a key nexus in my life and they left an impression on me that has lasted until this day.


Pretty cool that you got to meet the two living ones.

Blogger Quilp September 25, 2017 11:34 PM  

I had never come across There will be War until coming to this site. I am grateful for that. I didn't know what to expect, but was blown away.

Anonymous Aphelion September 26, 2017 12:47 AM  

I met Jerry at a Phoenix Worldcon as a teenager. When I mentioned my plans to go into the Air Force, he took the time to talk to me about military service, and his experiences. We talked twice that weekend and I was impressed by how friendly and supportive he was.

I might as well add, my friend Edith and I also met Larry Niven in the Hyatt Regency rooftop hot tub. he asked us if we were with the outgoing Jaycees convention, Edith asked why? He said we looked too clean cut to be SciFi fans. Edith scolded him for his prejudice about Science Fiction fans when Larry held out his hand and said, "Hi I'm Larry Niven" at which point Edith died of embarrassment. Once she recovered we all chatted a while.

As we face today's SJW takeover of SciFi conventions, Larry's prejudice is better understood.

Blogger Bix Cvvv September 26, 2017 2:26 AM  

"There is no chance he would have remembered it." Dude. You look a lot like General Krulak. Pournelle would have noticed.

Anonymous The Original Arrogant Alejandro Villanueva Fan September 26, 2017 2:33 AM  

"deGrasse Tyson"

Haha Mr. T is more of an intellectual than that guy is... he's obviously a psyop comedian hired by NASA to act like a scientist, not exaggerating. NASA has been caught hiring crisis actors to act like rocket scientists for their whooping and hollering press conferences after they successfully fake putting Johnny 5 on Mars.

Anonymous Anonymous September 26, 2017 2:56 AM  

FYI, eu means good, not true.

Anonymous It's all fun and games until the Pale Horse rides September 26, 2017 3:33 AM  

Jerry Pournelle was a significant writer for anybody who read technical periodicals or science fiction. He had a gift for communicating difficult concepts into digestible nuggets with the incorruptible eye of a pragmatist.

It turns out that every one who read and enjoyed Jerry's work who didn't write him a letter, or an email, or approached him at conventions and said, "Thanks!" missed out on letting a gentle soul know how many people he touched.

It's far to late for you to read this Jerry, but I thank you for your contributions. I'm going to write a letter to Larry Niven today.

Anonymous Clay September 26, 2017 4:14 AM  

I didn't know Maupassant was such a considered influence on you, Vox. I'm sure you mentioned it before, I guess I missed it. I had an English Lang. teacher who was heavy into him.

I enjoy his stories.

Anonymous glosoli September 26, 2017 6:47 AM  

Vox's eulogy will be:

He was a huge hypocrite and everyone saw through him to his gamma core.

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Anonymous TheTruthIsNeverAcceptable September 26, 2017 9:17 AM  

glosoli wrote:Vox's eulogy will be:
He was a huge hypocrite and everyone saw through him to his gamma core.


glosoli's eulogy will be:
"He lied at all times about everything in an attempt to appear witty and significant, but obviously failing on all counts."

Anonymous Precious September 26, 2017 11:55 AM  

He was a huge hypocrite
^SJWs always lie.

everyone saw through him to his gamma core
^SJWs always project

Anonymous Clay September 26, 2017 1:47 PM  

"He said stuff you didn't want to hear".

Anonymous glosoli September 26, 2017 6:12 PM  

https://gab.ai/glosoli/posts/12200381

https://gab.ai/a/posts/12192786

https://gab.ai/glosoli/posts/11966371

Anonymous Precious September 26, 2017 7:53 PM  

^Triggered

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