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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Jerry Pournelle Week III

Steve Sailer, who went to high school with Alex Pournelle, remembers his fellow Californian Jerry Pournelle:
Jerry once told me that if in early 1951 General MacArthur had said, “Boys, it’s time to clear out the nest of traitors in the White House. Who is going with me?” he would have been on the first flight to Washington with his hero.

After Korea, Pournelle went to West Point for a while, was a Communist briefly, and earned numerous advanced degrees in a variety of hard and soft subjects. He became an aerospace engineer at Boeing and several other companies and spent 1964 writing a Dr. Strangelove-style study for the Air Force on how a nuclear war would be fought in 1975.

He pored over satellite photos of the Soviet Union, counting the ratio of trucks to horse-drawn carts, eventually concluding that rather than the wave of the economic future, the U.S.S.R. represented “Bulgaria with nuclear missiles.” With his mentor, Viennese spymaster Stefan Possony of the Hoover Institution, Jerry wrote The Strategy of Technology, arguing that the way to win the Cold War was to turn it into a high-tech competition over who could innovate faster....

Besides being an engineer and a college professor, Jerry ran political campaigns. When I was a seventh grader, I used to write lengthy letters haranguing my new congressman, Barry Goldwater Jr., and getting dutiful replies in return. I only learned recently that the poor scion of the 1964 Republican nominee had never much wanted to go into politics. Goldwater Jr. had been perfectly happy as a stockbroker dating Warner Brothers starlets until Jerry had enlisted his famous name to run for the House.

Jerry also managed Los Angeles mayor Sam Yorty’s epic 1969 reelection victory over the moderate black challenger Tom Bradley.

Jerry’s breakthrough into science fiction came when he teamed up with an established author, Larry Niven (Ringworld), to write the 1974 hard sci-fi novel The Mote in God’s Eye, an immigration-policy allegory of astounding intellectual depth.
Just a reminder that THERE WILL BE WAR Vol. II is still free today. An excerpt from my second favorite story of the collection, "On the Shadow of a Phosphor Screen" by William Wu.

The silent hall was cold. From behind walnut walls, the air conditioner hummed quietly. A stately crowd of spectators radiated bristling energy from the rigid square rows of seats. They sat against the walls, their attention fixed on the dramatic events at the center of the room. Giant video screens high on each wall gave them the elegant details.

The heavy brown drapes and plush burgundy carpet absorbed the excess vitality from the atmosphere. They imparted a dignified solemnity to the ritualistic proceedings and infused the imperatives of business with a sense of duty. Two huge cables hung from the ceiling, suspending old-fashioned horizontal fans with broad, lazy blades and globular white lights at their hubs.

Beneath the sleepy fans, Wendell Chong Wei repressed the surge of elation that threatened to rock his relentless control. He studied the video screen right before him, and his fingers danced on the console to maintain the non-stop pace. Victory should be certain now, but only if he remained clear of mistakes. He drew sharply on the depths of insecurity for a renewal of killer instinct.

On the other side of the complex, out of sight, his opponent sat before her own screen, drawing back her cavalry, hoping that Wendell would allow his own cavalry charges to overextend themselves. No chance.

“Remember, in reality the Seljuks actually circled, and took the baggage and non-combatants. Leave St. Gilles there, even now. Curthose continues to rally well; Tancred’s charges will carry the day. That’s right—restraint. We’re outnumbered; keep together.”

Richard nodded in the back of Wendell’s mind and stopped talking. The smell of blood and dust and lathered horses arose to envelop Wendell’s sensibility as he regrouped the members of the First Crusade, now victorious at Doryleum on the road to Antioch. Frustrated, the Seljuk Turks remained on the horizon, taunting the Crusaders to break ranks.

Wendell refused. In the center of the screen, a digital clock appeared over the words “Victory Conditions, First Crusade. End game.” The screen blanked.

St. Gilles was dead once more. Bohemund was dead again. The Saracens and Crusaders had returned yet another time to their desiccated graves in the sand.

Wendell swallowed, and rose on weak knees to scattered clapping. His opponent, also looking infirm at the moment, stood and offered her hand without comment, and they shook perfunctorily. Wendell eased himself away from the chair, shaking, suddenly reeling in the sweat and nervousness that he always forgot in the heat of gaming itself. His twenty-nine years seemed far too few to account for this.

An attendant rushed over to escort him away

“Nice work,” said Richard.

“Same to you,” Wendell thought back. He wiped his palms on the sides of his chocolate-brown suit jacket. “But, uh, how did you know Robert Curthose could hold fast? In the middle of that retreat? His record’s not so good, back in Normandy.”

The attendant showed Wendell to a comfortable reception room with loungers and plenty of refreshments. When he had gone, Richard said, “He really did that, you know.”

“No, I didn’t. But I learned to listen to you a long time ago.”

“More than that, though, it was deep in his psychological makeup. That’s how I could count on it. If he—”

The door opened, and Richard stopped. Wendell collapsed into a lounger. He despised receptions. People scared him. They scared Richard even worse. The ones entering now were the contractors for the two recent opponents, and his erstwhile opponent herself. The contractors were all bustling with talk and laughter. Wendell was too exhausted to tell them apart, and couldn’t remember all their names anyway. His latent bitterness with the whole business kept him from caring.

Read the rest in THERE WILL BE WAR Vol. II.

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39 Comments:

Anonymous a_peraspera September 13, 2017 5:10 PM  

Over at Scalzi's site, Scalzi posted a nice little "in memoriam" for Pournelle. Of course his commenters immediately ripped into Pournelle for "siding with the Nazis," referring to Vox of course.

The comments on that article were quickly closed.

Blogger Ingot9455 September 13, 2017 5:31 PM  

I have seen a few good in memoriams on Facebook. One from David Gerrold of all people.

He related a story of Jerry Pournelle at the Hugos (or some similar awards ceremony) where A. E. van Vogt, quite elderly, was receiving an award. van Vogt turned to walk and began to walk right off the stage - several seconds before anyone else recognized the tragedy in the making Jerry leaped to his feet and caught van Vogt in the fall. Casually set him on his feet, laughs all around, tragedy averted.

Blogger JACIII September 13, 2017 5:39 PM  

What is the best "entry drug" story of Dr. Pournelle's? I have been wanting something to recommend to casual readers who are too young to know the classics.

Anonymous Clouseau September 13, 2017 5:44 PM  

How do you suspend a ceiling fan from a cable without the cable getting all twisted up?

Anonymous Clouseau September 13, 2017 5:46 PM  

What is the best "entry drug" story of Dr. Pournelle's?

The Mote in God's Eye.

Anonymous Rick Stilson September 13, 2017 6:17 PM  

I used to read Chaos Manor frequently. I remember him writing about going to the Science Fiction Cons when he was at the height of his success as an author, and partying all night with all the coolest people. He referred to those times as the glory days.

I thought this was very interesting, as he had been older at the time than I was when I read this. You hear the Bruce Springsteen song "Glory Days", and think of people looking back to their glory days as a young person.

I found it very inspiring to thing that one could reach their glory days in their 50's, and thought I would adopt a goal of having glory days to come.

I also remember a faction of aliens in Footfall thinking the solar system contained more than enough wealth for them to live prosperously, that they shouldn't even bother trying to take Earth from the humans. I found this an eye opening perspective on the prospects for future (human) space development.

RIP Jerry

Blogger Matthew September 13, 2017 6:18 PM  

JACIII wrote:What is the best "entry drug" story of Dr. Pournelle's? I have been wanting something to recommend to casual readers who are too young to know the classics.

Janissaries. Unfortunately, the experience goes downhill from there and leaves you strung out with no conclusion in sight.

Blogger Chris Lopes September 13, 2017 6:21 PM  

Pournelle always saw himself as a working writer. If you offer a working writer a contract to continue a set of books he loves anyway, and you check out as reasonable (Jerry was not a part of the puppy wars, so he had no axe to grind), said writer will sign the contract.

Blogger Ken Prescott September 13, 2017 6:27 PM  

The Falkenberg stories are also a good entry into Pournelle's work. Lots of realistic action, and thought-provoking as well.

Anonymous Brick Hardslab September 13, 2017 6:37 PM  

West of Honor was really good. Longer is Lucifer's Hammer but still really good.

Anonymous VFM #6306 September 13, 2017 6:45 PM  

Pournelle was a card-carrying Communist? How did I not know this and is that how he knew the enemy so well?

Anonymous Steve September 13, 2017 6:46 PM  

I hugely enjoyed Jerry Pournelle's collaborations with Larry Niven. LUCIFER'S HAMMER is probably my favourite, because it combines a 70's ensemble cast disaster movie feel with convincing science.

"On the Shadow of a Phosphor Screen" is a cracking short story, and amazingly prescient for a tale written in the days of the Apple II.

Anonymous Jimmy September 13, 2017 6:55 PM  

Holy cow VD - you've spoken highly of Jerry for years but honestly to this point I haven't read a word he's written. Reading this, I'm astonished at the impact he must have had on geopolitics in the 20th Century; now I'm very eager to not only read his stuff but am wanting to know who will write his biography and when can I read it too?

Blogger ((( bob kek mando ))) - ( i'm sorry you raped Andrea Dworkin and i disavow your Patriarchal Cisheteronormative Bourgeois Consciousness in shame ) September 13, 2017 7:00 PM  

baw-hahahaha.

Scalzi's tagline is now "THIS MACHINE MOCKS FASCISTS".

in the most recent article, he says this:
"Rather than being energized to fight the fumbling, shambling fascism of Donald Trump and his pals, I’ve found myself dispirited by it."

so his Fascist mocking machine is ... highly inefficient? not very productive?

help me out here.

Anonymous Sim1776 September 13, 2017 7:14 PM  

A couple cables can stabilize the fan body.

Blogger ((( bob kek mando ))) - ( i'm sorry you raped Andrea Dworkin and i disavow your Patriarchal Cisheteronormative Bourgeois Consciousness in shame ) September 13, 2017 7:34 PM  

VFM #6306 September 13, 2017 6:45 PM
Pournelle was a card-carrying Communist? How did I not know this and is that how he knew the enemy so well?


Pournelle also Mastered in Psychology and got his Doctorate in Poli-Sci.

quite an odd path for someone so involved in hard tech/science and .mil

Blogger ((( bob kek mando ))) - ( i'm sorry you raped Andrea Dworkin and i disavow your Patriarchal Cisheteronormative Bourgeois Consciousness in shame ) September 13, 2017 7:36 PM  

assuming the fan is well balanced, a single cable perpendicular to the suspending cable could stabilize the fan.

better to use three perpendicular cables, though.

Anonymous Sim1776 September 13, 2017 7:37 PM  

I get why there's a level of mockery and hostility towards Scalzi on this site. Could someone share a link or direct me towards the back story of why there's seems to be a particular level of vitriol between Vox and Scalzi?

I'll admit to reading the first couple of Scalzi's books before getting red-pilled by John Ringo after reading "The Last Centurion" in 2009 and digging deeper to disprove his assertions about CAGW. Damn was I wrong but I'd like to learn more about the whole issue regarding Scalzi. I know he's pro-SJW and that is why I've read nothing of his since the oughts.

Blogger ((( bob kek mando ))) - ( i'm sorry you raped Andrea Dworkin and i disavow your Patriarchal Cisheteronormative Bourgeois Consciousness in shame ) September 13, 2017 8:01 PM  

go to Scalzi's site and ask him what "RSHD" means.

then ask him why that's what he calls Vox.

Blogger James Dixon September 13, 2017 8:08 PM  

> What is the best "entry drug" story of Dr. Pournelle's?

Allow me to be a contrarian and recommend a book I don't expect others will. Namely, Inferno (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001F784EG/). Like "The Mote in God's Eye" it's coauthored with Niven.

> Could someone share a link or direct me towards the back story of why there's seems to be a particular level of vitriol between Vox and Scalzi?

Read "SJW's Always Lie".

Anonymous Steve September 13, 2017 8:20 PM  

"Rather than being energized to fight the fumbling, shambling fascism of Donald Trump and his pals, I’ve found myself dispirited by it."

Maybe he should concentrate on the hotly anticipated sequel to his NYT Bestselling interstellar fruit trade opus, THE PROLAPSING EMPIRE

"Zoinks, Scoob!", exclaimed the mutineer as he stared up the barrel of a fully automatic Class III 40-Megaton laser carbine shotgun.

It wasn't the deadly weapon itself that prompted his frightened outburst. His fear was piqued more by the wielder of the shotgun, Captain Kristine Manly, who now glared at him with a frank, murderous intent so intense it hit him right in the emotional groin like a testicle-seeking cheetah.

"So, Johnny boy," growled the hulking she-skipper of I Can't Believe I Ate The Whole Thing. "I thought I recognised your foul stench when you were brought onboard. It smells like chicken wings and Rohypnol. To what do I owe the dubious pleasure of seeing your fat face again? Mary Robinette finally get a restraining order or something?"

Johnny gulped. Despite his six-foot-two badass space marine build and rock-hard paunch, his shotgun-toting silverback of an ex-wife had at least a foot and a hundred pounds of muscle on him. And, boy, she was pissed.

"Hurry up now, Johnny. I haven't got all day, you know. Things to do, cabin boys to screw, people to kill, you know."

She cocked the safety handle on her weapon for effect.

"Sweetie, darling..." he ventured, unctiously. "You are just as beautiful as the day you carried me over the threshold! And your five-o'clock shadow is thicker and more alluring than ever!"

"Huh," replied Kristine, absently scratching snowy flakes of dandruff from her stubbled cheek. "You always were a squirming little suck-up. Tell me something worth hearing or I'll shoot you in the dick. And don't think I won't. This gun has a microscope attachment, sweetie."

Johnny gulped again, his chiseled Navy Seal chins wobbling disconsolately.

"It's not what you think, Kris. The mutiny, I mean. We have to get this ship out of here! Like, now!"

"And why would--" began Kristine, but she was cut off suddenly.

"CAPTAIN TO THE BRIDGE! REPEAT. CAPTAIN TO THE BRIDGE!" squawked an overhead speaker.

"Kris, get us out of here like I said!" wailed Johnny. "They found me! I got away with it for years, b-but they finally figured out I'm a cis white male..."

"What?" roared the lady captain, her unplucked eyebrow wrinkled into an irritated vee of confusion. "Who?"

Johnny was beginning to answer when the overhead speakers crackled to life again.

"ATTENTION, AND HOL UP, TRADING VESSEL. THIS IS IMPERATRICE DEMI SAUVAGE OF THE TOR FEDERATION SHIP BIX NOOD 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. WE HAS REASON TO BELIEVE AN ESCAPED GELDING HAS IMPENETRATED YOUR CREW FO SHO. POWER DOWN YOUR DRIVE AND PREPARE TO BE BOARDED. AIGHT?"

If Johnny thought Kristine looked pissed before, she was practically micturating with malevolence now.

"Jooohnnnnyyy," she crooned, in a dangerous baritone, "The good news is, I'm now officially too busy to shoot you in the dick. The bad news is... after this is over... Well, remember what I used to do with those pointy plastic rockets of yours when you got out of hand? Think on that."

She stalked off, gun at the ready and pendulous bosoms swinging pugnaciously under the loose fabric of her command dungarees.

Johnny blanched. And I didn't even bring any space-lube, he thought, bitterly.

Anonymous VFM #6306 September 13, 2017 8:21 PM  

so his Fascist mocking machine is ... highly inefficient? not very productive?

How about "Designed by Andrew Anglin's (((attorney)))?"

Blogger JACIII September 13, 2017 8:31 PM  



Janissaries. Unfortunately, the experience goes downhill from there and leaves you strung out with no conclusion in sight.


Going with this one. Thanks Matthew.

Clousea

It's been a long while since I read A Mote in God's Eye but I think it's too much for a casual reader. I probably should have specified how casual.

Blogger Dave September 13, 2017 8:31 PM  

@Sim1776 see this post for a quick (and free) sketch of Scalzi/VD history:

http://voxday.blogspot.com/2017/04/this-is-what-zero-fucks-looks-like.html

But do read "SJW Always Lie" as James recommended.

Blogger JACIII September 13, 2017 8:33 PM  

James Dixon wrote:> What is the best "entry drug" story of Dr. Pournelle's?

Allow me to be a contrarian and recommend a book I don't expect others will. Namely, Inferno ). Like "The Mote in God's Eye" it's coauthored with Niven.



Will check it out. Thanks!

Blogger JACIII September 13, 2017 8:36 PM  

Ken Prescott wrote:The Falkenberg stories are also a good entry into Pournelle's work. Lots of realistic action, and thought-provoking as well.

Thanks! Will check it out.

Blogger Starboard September 13, 2017 8:42 PM  

Steve, the parody is a good one but it needs a new title! The Prolapsing Empire was already written by E Reagan Wright. It's funny in its own right.
https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B06XRWY777/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1505349588&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=prolapsing+empire&dpPl=1&dpID=51hdoEOmjfL&ref=plSrch

Blogger Lovekraft September 13, 2017 8:46 PM  

'bout 80 pages into "Footfall". Prepping for impeding alien spacecraft arrival. Written in 1985 and a good analysis of U.S/Soviet Union int'l relations. Great human relationship descriptions.

Fan of Larry Niven's "Ringworld".

Anonymous WaterBoy September 13, 2017 9:11 PM  

Clouseau: "How do you suspend a ceiling fan from a cable without the cable getting all twisted up?"

Use at least three anchor lines spread evenly, attached to the body of the fan above the blades at one end, and some anchor point just above the blade line (stretched tight) at the other end. More lines would be more stable, but three is the minimum at 120° spread.

Anonymous Jimmy September 13, 2017 9:17 PM  

Also - I listen to Steve Gibson's Security Now podcast on Leo Laporte's Twit.tv - apparently they both knew him very well. Steve recommended Mote In God's Eye as his all time favorite.

Anonymous Anonymous September 13, 2017 9:37 PM  

Off topic - Everything good with Stefan Molyneux? You have not been on for a while and he published his book on his own rather than go through Castalia.

Anonymous Sim1776 September 13, 2017 10:16 PM  

Thanks for the replies, gentlemen. I'll check out the link and the book. I doubt that I'll visit Scalzi's site as I don't want to provide any support for him even if it's just traffic.

Anonymous 2106 Things I Hate September 13, 2017 10:47 PM  

Lucifer's Hammer

Anonymous Clouseau September 13, 2017 10:52 PM  

I'll second (third?) Inferno as a good Pournelle intro.

@Steve - That excerpt from The Prolapsing Empire is excellent.

- - - - -

"Two huge cables hung from the ceiling, suspending old-fashioned horizontal fans with broad, lazy blades and globular white lights at their hubs."

Sure reads like one cable per fan to me.

Anonymous Jack Amok September 14, 2017 12:45 AM  

The comments on that article were quickly closed.

I'll give Scalzi credit for that.

Anonymous Johnson September 14, 2017 2:47 AM  

Oh! Well....

Blogger Shimshon September 14, 2017 4:02 AM  

OT Meanwhile, while Drudge is running reports of Trump capitulating on The Wall, the (((Jerusalem Post))) (among others) is reporting that an Israeli firm was one of four companies chosen to build prototypes for just that. As Cail has noted, The Wall is being built.

Blogger Shimshon September 14, 2017 4:02 AM  

http://www.jpost.com/International/Israeli-firm-chosen-to-build-prototype-of-US-Mexico-border-wall-504999

Blogger VD September 14, 2017 4:30 AM  

Everything good with Stefan Molyneux? You have not been on for a while and he published his book on his own rather than go through Castalia.

It's all fine. We're publishing one of his novels and are editing it now. I'll be on when SJWADD is out.

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