RIP: Jerry Pournelle – A Bright Star in Heaven

by Marta Hernandez on September 9, 2017

The science fiction world has lost a legend. Dr. Jerry Pournelle’s son Alex informed the world yesterday that his dad passed away after attending DragonCon, from which he apparently contracted a cold and the flu, according to his September 7 blog entry.

This is a tremendous loss for science fiction fans, writers, and anyone to whom Dr. Pournelle was a mentor and an inspiration.

Jerry Pournelle wasn’t just an outstanding author, who wrote on his own and collaborated with others, most notably Larry Niven, with whom he wrote, among other things, The Mote in God’s EyeInferno and Lucifer’s Hammer. He also consulted on space technologies, served as President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association, and worked to contribute to the computer magazine Byte.

Most notably, for me, Dr. Pournelle was an inspiration to generations of readers, who spent their formative years drinking up his stirring prose and being entranced by his enchanting storytelling, and scores of authors to whom he was a mentor, a friend, and a source of insight and vision.

My friends who met him say he was kind and genial. They said he was always willing to chat with fans and other authors alike, and he helped fan the flames of so much love for the genre!

I won’t go into the list of his accomplishments here. There’s no need. Those who don’t know Dr. Pournelle’s work, can certainly pick up his books. Those who do know, don’t need a laundry list.

Pournelle has been much maligned for his politics, because he dared to *GASP!* write women as women and men as men, because he had the temerity to be, as he described, “somewhere to the right of Genghis Khan,” and because he eschewed political correctness. Because these days, it’s en vogue to destroy a man for his political beliefs. Because it’s no longer fashionable to love a man’s work, if he doesn’t toe some kind of ideological leftist line.

Don’t believe me? See Orson Scott Card – author of the fantastic “Ender’s Game” – who was denigrated and disparaged as a “bigot,” for daring to admit his belief that marriage should be between one man and one woman.

But I’m not going to give Dr. Pournelle’s detractors space here. I will not quote the repugnant malignancies they spew about him, even as they admit he was a gargantuan talent and massive influence on the lives of so many science fiction fans!

I will just say they don’t matter.

What matters is that Jerry Pournelle left this earth, and is no doubt joyfully exploring the great beyond, while readers of science fiction try to deal with the gaping hole he left in their hearts and in the genre itself.

It’s difficult to write this entry. I’m not super good at eulogies; as a matter of fact, I tend to lose what shred of sanity I usually have left at funerals. Writing this, knowing that a legend in the genre has passed, is somewhat surreal and tragic. Knowing how many lives Dr. Jerry Pournelle has touched by drawing us into engaging storytelling, captivating characters, and fascinating worlds is knowing that there will never be another like him, and his great, imaginative, creative mind will be missed by all who have read and admired his work.

Shine on, Dr. Pournelle! While your star has been extinguished here on earth, you are no doubt burning brighter than most in heaven!

 

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Christopher M. Chupik September 9, 2017 at 7:49 am

Sigh. There were giants in the earth, in those days.

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Kate September 9, 2017 at 8:43 am

You were magnificent, Jerry.

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Darleen Click September 9, 2017 at 8:47 am

Janissaries is still my favorite book.

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George V September 9, 2017 at 11:26 am

I just finished the Janissaries trilogy (again!) myself a few weeks ago. Sad to hear of Dr. Pournelle’s passing. May he rest in peace.

I was also unaware he held a PhD in political science. The “Dr.” honorific induced me to look at his biography in Wikipedia. For all that I enjoyed his books, and knew he was very active early in the personal computing industry, I had no idea of the breadth of his careers and work.

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Marta Hernandez September 9, 2017 at 1:07 pm

I cry as I read this. I cried as I wrote it.

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Steven Moore September 10, 2017 at 7:55 am

I still have my first edition paperback of “A Step Farther Out”, one of the best non-fiction science books.

He could inspire.

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GWB September 11, 2017 at 6:31 am

The publisher, Castalia House, is putting his There Will Be War series out for free as e-books (Kindle), starting yesterday. Vol II is currently free, too. (I don’t know when Vol I will stop being free, but it is still free as I type this. Got mine already.)

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