Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Gorean Saga
Reflections, entertained on passing the temple of Janus.
Time is stealthy.
Sometimes the minutes ambush us.
Tarnsman of Gor was first published in December of 1966.
Yet the long, low, narrow, lateen-rigged galleys still ply the dangerous crests of Thassa, and majestic tarns still spread their wings over dark forests and vast fields of fresh, green, flowing, bending grass. The mighty Vosk still flows to the sea and the scarlet crags of the rearing Voltai range pierce the clouds and claw at the sky. In the cities, walls hold, and fortress towers, joined by slender, arching traceries of defensible bridges, are noted in the fogs and mists of the morning and early evening. Somewhere soldiers break camp; somewhere wagon bells mark the transit of armed caravans, daring lonely roads; overhead one suspects, a brief dot against a moon, the passage of a ship, perhaps from a steel world, an ominous, covetous world concealed amongst the far rocks and debris of space. An unspoiled, fresh, green world such as Gor, as another world once was, a world now defiled, polluted, and shamed, would be a prize indeed. The earth shakes beneath the tread of monstrous tharlarion. Hungry sleen emerge from their burrows at dusk.
As the saying has it, no one knows from where songs come.
But songs redeem a world.
One is grateful that they deign to appear.
What would a world be without them?
In 1966, the secrets of the future were well kept. That is a habit of futures, quite likely a healthy one, and probably a good one. Little hinted then at the imminent phenomenon of the Gorean world.
Suppose that one had never heard music, and then, one night, for the first time, one heard music.
Would one’s life not then be forever changed?
Let us suppose that an author chose not to travel a well-traveled road.
How unwise can one be?
What better recipe for failure?
Well-traveled roads are safe roads, and well-traveled roads are not to be despised, but they are not the only roads. There are other roads. And some will follow them, and some will make them.
It is easy to make a world, and then criticize it from the outside, to please the powerful and demanding, the petulant and insecure, those determined to impose their values on others. It is a different thing to make, or discover, a world, and let it speak for itself, to let it be seen as it might be seen by those whose world it is. The observer is then free to make up his own mind.
Some heresies are justifiable; traversed, they are the paving stones of progress.
One looks back; one looks forward.
Is that not the message of Janus?
One is grateful that the green world of Gor exists.
In time of war the gates of the temple of Janus were left open, and were closed in a time of peace.
In passing the temple of Janus, an author, his mind on other things, authors are often careless, failed to note, glancing to the side, whether or not the gates were open.
He suspects they remain open.
He would find that regrettable, but acceptable.
Some truths are worth stating.
Some wars are worth fighting.
What do you think?
I wish you well,
Welcome to John Norman's
Chronicles of Gor
It is my honour to welcome you to this, the new home for John Norman on the internet.
Back in 2001, New World Publishers was formed with the aim of bringing the Gor series back into print. To accompany that, a website was created, World of Gor. That site was set up with the support and input of John Norman himself, and was in many ways his home on the internet. As a result of the efforts of New World Publishers, Witness of Gor was published, the first new Gor book in well over a decade, but despite that achievement, sadly, that publishing effort failed, and the website set up to accompany it was largely abandoned, and left unfinished.
That was not the end of the story though. E-Reads, who had already released some of the series in ebook form, decided to publish the full series in both ebook and printed form. With things once more moving, John Norman needed a new home. As I was already involved with E-Reads, having assisted in the editorial processes for the new E-Reads editions of the books, I was approached with a view to putting together a site, and thus the seeds were sown. It's been a long road since then, and it's not been all plain sailing, but at last, here we are. The seeds have germinated, and from them has grown the site you now see. This is only the start though. With your help and support this site will continue to grow, with new features, and new articles.
This is the new home of John Norman, and I'm delighted to say that every once in a while you will be able to read a message from him. It's also the new home for the Chronicles of Gor, and you'll be able to find the very latest news and information right here.
Now, over the years there has been considerable controversy surrounding the Gor series. Much of this controversy is because of a number of misconceptions about the Gor books, and about John Norman and what he himself believes. We've addressed a number of these misconceptions later on this page, below the personal message from John Norman.
In a moment I'll hand over to the man himself, but first, on behalf of the whole team, to whom I owe an enormous debt of gratitude, I bid you welcome. Please look around, and explore what we have to offer.
I wish you well,
Simon of Tabor
A personal message from John Norman
How astonishing is the world-wide Gorean phenomenon!
How unexpected, certainly to me, that anything so different, and so remarkable, could occur.
It was not suspected, it was not sought, it was not envisioned.
I sometimes think of myself as some fellow wandering about, say, a thousand years ago, in some wilderness, who might by accident have discovered magnetism, or some new force of nature, one he did not understand, but one whose reality, once glimpsed, was as undeniable as that of iron ore, or rain, or wind, or lightning. He brings his discovery to the halls of indoctrination, mistakenly, and learns to his surprise that reality may not exist without permission and approval. It is permitted to exist only selectively, and then must be authorized, even licensed. The unlicensed reality is to be denied, or, at least, discreetly concealed.
Exploration, accordingly, is perilous.
And discovery seems to be worse.
One can live a three-quarters existence, of course. Most people do, or less. Certainly the nest is cozy; why leave home; the horizon is faraway; maybe it's cold out there; it is different, at least; but one grows weary of worms; and one suspects wings have a purpose.
Is reality so terrible? That does not seem clear. We have been living with it for fifty thousand years, and sometimes we have even acknowledged that fact.
In any event, iron ore, and rain, and wind, and lightning are not voted on; they are not forwarded out of committees; they are part of the fabric of things, and intrude, however inexcusably; they seek no permissions, no approvals.
There is such a thing as human nature, the human heart, the human mind, the human body.
At any rate we did not invent the biotruths of human nature, no more than we invented vision, speech, the circulation of blood, the beating of the heart.
We did not invent men and women.
They are what they are, and what they are not is hollow vessels to be filled with whatever sugars and syrups their betters, the anointed cooks of humanity, the intolerant coveters of power and would-be imposers of values, see fit to pour into receptive, neutral containers, containers empty in themselves. How fortunate are the containers to be labeled from the outside by strangers who do not know them, or themselves, and to be filled with whatever contents these outsiders might deem in their own best interests! Too, the human being is not a social artifact, but a living thing, a remarkable animal; he is not a manufactured product, not a paper knife or can opener, not a party hat or rubber stamp, designed for purposes other than his own, though surely the original animal can be twisted and tortured into a variety of unusual forms. Is there any fact more visible on the assembly lines of society? The fact that a tree can be denied minerals and water, that its roots can be poisoned, its branches and bark torn away, and its leaves removed, delicately, one by one, alters nothing. The fact that the tree is not allowed to flourish, to fulfill its genetic destiny, does not prove that it cannot flourish, nor that it lacks a genetic destiny. Indeed the subversion of such truths presupposes their existence. The modern human is too often a bonsai human, cropped, stunted, and potted. The fact that a living thing can be twisted, torn, and pruned into a diversity of madnesses, depending on the ideology of power-seeking establishments, political, religious, and otherwise, alters nothing.
The dictators of values are short on credentials; their self-certifications are pompous and vacuous; the papacies of their self-canonization are suspect. Sometimes I think they suffer from brain damage; perhaps their halos are too heavy.
With all due respect one might offer the test of life consequences. Is it not worth considering?
If an ideology produces unhappiness, misery, grief, division, sickness, boredom, and hatred, surely this is not a commendation but an indictment.
Let men and women be themselves.
Do they not deserve the opportunity to inquire into their own natures, as they are, not as they are told they should be?
In any event, the Gorean civilization suggests that civilizations need not be prisons, suppressing, injuring, and minimizing their victims, but might be enhancements of nature, indeed, a part of nature, in her development, not her antithesis, not her adversary.
And so, what would be the great harm if, here and there, there might be occasional enclaves of rationality, and honesty, a few scattered pockets of health and sanity?
That does not seem so terrible.
So let the Gorean experiment continue.
And so I herewith welcome, and most heartily, a new, remarkable venue, a new harbor in Gorean waters, a new fortress in her mountains, a new, defiant city to be recorded on her maps, the Chronicles of Gor.
I wish it well.
© 2007 John Norman. All rights reserved.
Misconceptions of Gor
By Lemuel of the Builders
As most of you know, there is some controversy over John Norman's Chronicles of Gor series, but is it deserved? The most common accusation we hear is that John Norman is a misogynist who advocates the subjugation, physical abuse, enslavement, and rape of women. Another common complaint is that John Norman's books are poorly written trash with no literary merit whatsoever. As the title of this essay suggests, I believe these unfavorable characterizations are due to misconceptions about John Norman, his purpose in writing the Gorean saga, and the books themselves.
Let's look at the word misogynist. The most common definition of the word is, "One who hates women."1
Could a man that truly despises women write loving and poetic passages like these?
"Human females are such rich and wonderful creatures. Their sexual life, and feelings, are subtle, complex and deep. How naive is the man who believes that having sex with a woman is so little or brief a thing as to fall within the parameters of a horizontal plane, the simple stimulations of a skin, the results attendant upon a simplistic manual dexterity. How woefully ignorant are the engineers of sexuality. How much to learn have even her artists and poets! Women are so inordinately precious. They are so sensitive, so beautiful, so intelligent and needful. No man has yet counted the dimensions of a woman's love. Who can measure the horizons of her heart? Few things, I suspect, are more real than those which seem most intangible."2
"How subtle and deep was the intelligence of women, I thought. How much they know. How much they can sense. How simple and crude, how naive, sometimes seems the intelligence of men compared to the intelligence of women. What deep and wonderful creatures they are. Who can truly understand the emotional depths and needs, eons old, of these flowers of nature and evolution? How natural, then, it is, that the truly loving man will concern himself not with her distortions and perversions, ultimately barren, but with her emotional and sensuous truths, ancient and deep within her, with what might be called her biological and natural fulfillment."3
It seems to me that those who accuse John Norman of misogyny have either never read the Gor books or have given them only the most cursory examination.
What about the claims that John Norman advocates the subjugation, physical abuse, enslavement, and rape of women? Perhaps the following quote will help dispel those misconceptions.
"The fact, of course, that rape is a common sexual fantasy of women does not indicate that women, in any general sense, wish to be raped. They would surely, at the very least, wish to choose the time and the place, and the circumstances and the man. Rape, as a sociological reality, is commonly an ugly, brutal, unpleasant, sickening, horrifying, vicious act. It degrades the man and it doesn't do the woman much good either. Not only does she receive little or no pleasure, but the whole affair has no more intrinsic worth or dignity than a mugging. Further, sadly, she is likely to be brutalized and, at the least, intimidated. This is to take advantage of a weaker creature, who cannot adequately, in most cases, defend herself. The rapist, unless there are some extenuating factors, such as severe mental illness, scarcely comes up to scratch for a human being. To pick on a woman, because she is smaller and weaker, is much the same thing as to pick on a child or animal; or, it is much the same thing as a young man striking an old man; or a large, strong man beating a small, weak man; it is just something that it is not worthy to do. It is not that it need be a "sick" thing to do, though doubtless in some cases it is; it is rather that there is just no manhood in it."4
Norman appears to have a pretty low opinion of anyone that would actually, subjugate, abuse, or rape a woman.
So what was Norman's purpose in writing the Gorean saga? I imagine one purpose was to earn a little extra money in order to better support his family or perhaps to see if he could write a heroic fantasy in the tradition of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but the main purpose seems to have been providing a satirical counterpoint to the more extreme rhetoric of radical feminists.
Those of you who grew up in the 60's, 70's & 80's will no doubt be familiar with the following extraordinary statements:
"Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the Women's Movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage."5
"Rape is the primary heterosexual model for sexual relating. Rape is the primary emblem of romantic love. Rape is the means by which a woman is initiated into her womanhood as it is defined by men."6
"We name orgasm as the epistemological mark of the sexual, and we therefore criticise it too as oppressive to women."7
It was comments like these that Norman sought to lampoon. The radical feminists equated romantic love and marriage with slavery, so the only romantic relationships Norman explores in detail in the books are, of course, with slaves. The most extreme feminists categorize all sex as rape, so Norman repeatedly has eager and willing slaves beg their masters for "slave rape". Lastly, female orgasm is claimed to be "oppressive to women", so the "oppressed" slave is described as having the most immediate and powerful sexual and orgasmic responses. Clearly Norman is using slavery as a metaphor in order to explore the absurdity of radical feminist dogma.
Norman is hardly the only author to use a distasteful metaphor to explore more deeply into the human psyche. Nancy Springer invariably castrates at least one male character in nearly every book she writes, but are there hordes of people claiming that Ms. Springer is "advocating" the castration of men? Of course not, most people understand that she uses castration to explore the nature of manhood. Was there a huge outcry against Sheri S. Tepper for "advocating" eugenics in her book, The Gate to Women's Country? Or for portraying men as naturally disposed towards violence and war? No - it's obvious to people that Tepper is exploring the ethical and emotional consequences of selective breeding and secrecy. It's a shame that Mr. Norman isn't accorded the same understanding.
Most of you know that John Norman has a PhD. in philosophy, but what is less well known is that he also has a graduate degree in classical history. Norman puts all of his education to work in his novels. He borrows from classical history not only to build the various cultures found on Gor, but also in various allusions to classical mythology. A few more obvious examples are Norman's reference to Beowulf8, the Ring of Gyges9, and to the Gordian Knot10 & Alexander11 (both directly and obliquely).
And, of course, Norman also uses his degree in philosophy to good effect - regularly exploring such concepts as honor, courage, duty, being true to oneself, and love - especially true love - which Mr. Norman recommends highly.
"Many people, of course, fear love, doubtlessly rightly, for love is a vast, tender, profound, binding instinct, which makes great differences in those lives it floods. The human being is both a single organism and a double organism. The human being consists either of a man or a woman, or the two in love. It is natural for the single organism in each of us to fight for its independence, its freedom to be self-seeking and selfish, and self-striving. But it is natural, too, for the single organism to desire its completion in the mated pair. The matter can be argued subtly but those who have been touched by love, usually briefly, have no doubt as to its superiority. Love, once tasted, is in no danger of ever again being regarded as inferior to egotism. Those who have tried both, and we have all tried the latter, would, were it possible, choose the former."12
There will always be those that refuse to see the truth about John Norman and his books, but as Norman says:
"Truth is a strange thing.
There is a danger in seeking it, for one might find it.
That one does not like a truth does not make it false.
How few people understand that!
But there are many sorts of truths, as there are flowers and beasts. Some truths are hard and cold, and sharp, and if one touches them one might cut oneself and bleed. Some truths are like dark stones which do little more that exist unnoticed; others are green with the glow of life, like moist grass rustling in the morning sun/ some truths are like frowns; and some are like smiles. Some are friendly; others are hostile; and, in both cases, their nature is just what it is, not what they may be said to be. Politics is not the arbiter of truth; it may be the arbiter of comfort, safety, conformity, and success, but it is not the arbiter of truth; the arbiter of truth is the world and nature; they have the last say in these matters.
Many may wish it were not the case; and many will pretend it is not the case; but it is, for better or for worse, the case.
Truth does not care whether it is believed or not; similarly, stone walls and cliffs do not care whether they are noted or not; so then let us leave it to the individual to do as he thinks best. Truth, the stone wall, the cliff, are not enemies; but they are real."13
All copyright to this essay, in all languages, formats, and media throughout the world are and will continue to be the exclusive property of the author. You may not, without the prior written permission of the author, copy, modify, reproduce, republish, post, distribute, transmit, or use this essay for commercial or other purposes, provided, however, that you may save one copy to your own hard drive for your own personal reference.
Copyright © 2007 LemuelB. All rights reserved.
1 The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition; Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved, © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company
2 Blood Brothers of Gor © 1982 by John Norman, DAW Books, Inc. - pages 181-182
3 IBID - page 286
4 Imaginative Sex © 1974 by John Norman, DAW Books, Inc. - pages 52-53
5 Sheila Cronan, in Radical Feminism - "Marriage" (1970), Koedt, Levine, and Rapone, eds., HarperCollins, 1973 - page 219
6 Andrea Dworkin, Letters From a War Zone, Dutton Publishing, 1989
7 Judith Levine commenting on a document from Women Against Sex: A Southern Women's Writing Collective - Sex Resistance in Heterosexual Arrangements, 1987
8 Marauders of Gor © 1975 by John Norman, DAW Books, Inc. - pages 281-282
9 Explorers of Gor © 1979 by John Norman, DAW Books, Inc. - page 29
10 Assassin of Gor © 1970 by John Norman, DAW Books, Inc. - page 55
11 Magicians of Gor © 1988 by John Norman, DAW Books, Inc. - page 64
12 Imaginative Sex © 1974 by John Norman, DAW Books, Inc. - page 16
13 Witness of Gor © 2001 by John Norman, New World Publishers - page 586