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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Jerry Pournelle Week II

Jerry Pournelle Week continues with Glenn Reynolds's tribute to Jerry Pournelle.
Jerry Pournelle died on Friday, peacefully in his sleep. With his death, America lost an important figure... But Pournelle didn’t just write fiction. His 1970 book with Stefan Possony, The Strategy of Technology, outlined a strategy for winning the Cold War (with among other things, an emphasis on strategic missile defense) that was largely followed, and successfully, by the Reagan administration. He was a driving force behind the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy in the 1980s that helped lay the groundwork for today’s booming civilian space launch industry. And, for me, his wide-ranging columns in Galaxy Magazine, back when it was edited by star editor James Baen, were particularly influential.

I was a kid in the 1970s, which was not a great era to be a kid. We had Vietnam and Watergate, the Apollo space program quit abruptly, oil prices skyrocketed and so did inflation. Even a hamburger was expensive.

And while that was going on, the voices in the media were all preaching gloom and doom. Stanford professor Paul R. Ehrlich, in his book The Population Bomb, was predicting food riots in America due to overpopulation. A group called The Club of Rome published a report titled The Limits to Growth that suggested it was all over for Western technological civilization. Bookstore displays were filled with books like The Late Great Planet Earth that announced the end times. And if that weren’t enough, most people figured we were heading for a global thermonuclear war with the Soviet Union. It looked like we were headed for some sort of apocalyptic future in which Charlton Heston would be the only survivor besides a few apes or mutants.

But Jerry Pournelle never bought it. In his Galaxy columns — eventually collected and published in book form, and still in print — he actually did the math. The fact was, he reported, we could not only survive but, in his words, survive with style.
Castalia House is republishing The Strategy of Technology later this year. Also, today and tomorrow, we are giving away my favorite volume in the entire There Will Be War series, namely, Volume II. It is edited by Jerry Pournelle and features 19 stories, articles, and poems. Of particular note are “Superiority” by Arthur C. Clarke, “In the Name of the Father” by Edward P. Hughes, "'Caster" by Eric Vinicoff, “Cincinnatus” by Joel Rosenberg, "On the Shadow of a Phosphor Screen" by William Wu, and "Proud Legions", an essay on the Korean War by T.R. Fehrenbach.

These stories are great and many of them remain relevant today. Just last month, Castalia House was contacted by a U.S. military war college and asked for permission to give out copies of There Will Be War Vol. II to the officers in the class, which permission we obviously granted.

That is what real influence looks like. Most of the authors and the editor are gone now, but the beauty of the written word is that it provides the author with a voice even after death.

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20 Comments:

Blogger Nate September 12, 2017 8:12 AM  

"Just last month, Castalia House was contacted by a U.S. military war college and asked for permission to give out copies of There Will Be War Vol. II to the officers in the class, which permission we obviously granted."

that's badass.

Anonymous Napoleon 12pdr September 12, 2017 8:40 AM  

@1: That's because Jerry Pournelle was probably the greatest strategic thinker since Alfred Thayer Mahan (or maybe Sir Julian Corbett). Definitely the top strategist of the post-World-War-II era.

When I first read "The Strategy of Technology", I was in college and frankly too young to really understand it. It wasn't until later that I realized just how important that book was in shaping defense procurement policy in the 1975-85 timeframe. We've been reaping the benefits of Dr. Pournelle's wisdom ever since.

Blogger Silly but True September 12, 2017 8:46 AM  

Pournelle's contributions were important and remain timeless.

Blogger Ken Prescott September 12, 2017 8:50 AM  

For a look at what happened after The Strategy of Technology was published, I would recommend Norman Friedman's excellent history of the Cold War, "The Fifty Year War."

Partially(!) following the ideas laid out by Pournelle and Possony made the entire Soviet military obsolete, and exposed the rotten core of the Soviet economy.

Not many people could brag about winning a war without a shot being fired. Pournelle and Possony can.

I look forward to the reissue.

Anonymous glosoli September 12, 2017 8:57 AM  

'The fact was, he reported, we could not only survive but, in his words, survive with style.'

Style? Heh, fiction.

Anonymous Grayman September 12, 2017 9:02 AM  

Just want to say thank you for the free books!!! Lots of reading to do!

Blogger Mr.MantraMan September 12, 2017 9:07 AM  

Even "Lucifer's Hammer" ends on a high note.

Blogger VD September 12, 2017 9:14 AM  

Just want to say thank you for the free books!!!

You're welcome. We've learned that the best way to create new Castalia book buyers is to give a few of them away every now and then.

This is already guaranteed to be our third record-setting month in a row.

Anonymous AZFloyd September 12, 2017 9:18 AM  

Just downloaded Volume 2. Thank you Vox and Castalia house. Now that I have my Kindle back I can finish ATOB.

Blogger dh September 12, 2017 9:38 AM  

but the beauty of the written word is that it provides the author with a voice even after death.

This statement rings very true. I look at the authors writing now, does anyone really think NK Jeminsin, with her particular brand of affirmative-action scifi, is going to have any last impact? Are people going to be saving her books, re-reading them throughout their lives, learning and reflecting and enjoying time and again? Or same for Scalzi? Or the puppet master, or anyone of them? Even you VD, I have enjoyed some of your books, but I doubt you'd claim they are heirloom quality.

Blogger VD September 12, 2017 10:02 AM  

Even you VD, I have enjoyed some of your books, but I doubt you'd claim they are heirloom quality.

Nope, not yet.

Anonymous VFM #6306 September 12, 2017 10:03 AM  

Heck, J.K. Rowling isn't going to have a lasting impact.

Words must vigorously defend truth to have a chance to last.

The beauty of the precise and honest written word endures.

Anonymous VFM #6306 September 12, 2017 10:05 AM  

The Gamma Rabbit song was pretty catchy, though.

Anonymous Bukulu September 12, 2017 10:37 AM  

"Thank you for the free books"

Hmmmm, I keep hoping one of them will be something I haven't already purchased.... So far, no good. But hey, *somebody* has to actually contribute to CH's bottom line. ;-)

Blogger VD September 12, 2017 11:12 AM  

I keep hoping one of them will be something I haven't already purchased.

If you subscribe to the Book Club, you'll get free books from our associates too.

Blogger William Meisheid September 12, 2017 11:19 AM  

My first experience with Jerry was reading "The Mote in God's Eye", which he wrote with Larry Niven. I was forever hooked and over the years appreciated his attempts to celebrate manly men, such as Cadmann Weyland in "Legacy of Heorot." I often marveled at his output and wondered how he found the time to play as many video games as he wrote about.

I communicated with him over email back in the early 90's when Chaos Manor was in Byte magazine. Sometimes being on the bleeding edge is an advantage. He was gracious, though direct, an admirable quality. He will be greatly missed.

Blogger Starboard September 12, 2017 12:00 PM  

Between There Will Be War Vol II and Milo's audiobook version of Dangerous, I will be well supplied for my long flights home tomorrow. Thanks Vox!

Anonymous 2106 Things I Hate September 12, 2017 12:48 PM  

Hell yeah!

Blogger exfarmkid September 12, 2017 7:41 PM  

In Armageddon (TWBW Vol 8), we find "Triggerman", by Jesse F. Bone. Fabulous story in a relatively weak anthology. But it shows convincingly how critical is the man who operates the weapon.

I agree with you that volume II was the overall best in the anthology series.

Damn, I miss Dr. P.

Anonymous Causal Lurker September 12, 2017 8:54 PM  

I downloaded Vol II. Thank you, Vox. I've been sending Amazon links to many people I work with, so they know to get these or "Riding the Red Horse," for professional development and research topics. My thought now is to set aside money to buy a full set of the hardcovers. I want to leave a separate technical information shelf for my younger staff, separate from the tech library, so they can get inspiration or reference for Friday projects. The other books I'll leave with these: Kipling stories.

The hardware only works if good men understand what to do with it. Good designers and engineers need to understand that the lore of battle informs and guides the cold equations of warfare. I want them thinking 15-20 years ahead, as well as building of fixing for now.

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