Jerry Pournelle, 1933-2017

A few years ago I stumbled upon Fred Pohl’s weblog. Born in 1919, for a few years there before his death in 2013 Pohl was a living breathing window back to the “Golden Age” of science fiction. He knew men like Asimov and Heinlein personally. He was a witness, a participant, to history. It was great to have someone like him on the internet.

Today we lost another piece of history. This evening I learned that Jerry Pournelle¬†passed away in his sleep. I have had a few interactions with Pournelle over the years, and it was really strange in light of the fact that I read many of his books as a child. His collaborations with Larry Niven, in particular,¬†The Mote in God’s Eye, were always great in my opinion (each author had their own strength, and together they were better).

One thing about Pournelle’s science fiction is that their politics and sociology always struck me as unrealistic when I first encountered them. I believe in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction he identified himself as a “13th century liberal.” As in, he was on the side of the nobles against King John. Even if tongue-in-cheek that had at the time seemed a ridiculous assertion (Pournelle’s right-wing politics was in the news in the 1990s when he was associated with Newt Gingerich).

But over the years I’ve come to realize that my teen years in the 1990s were excessively suffused with The End of History. Pournelle was older and had a longer view of things. I didn’t necessarily end up agreeing with Jerry Pournelle in all his views, but as I got older I began to realize that there was a lot I didn’t understand.