Gor

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Gor, the Counter-Earth, is the alternate world setting for John Norman’s "Chronicles of Gor" (also known as the "Chronicles of Counter-Earth" or "Gorean Saga"), a series of 32 already published novels that combine reactionary philosophy, soft science fiction, and BDSM erotica. Real-life or on-line followers of the philosophies and lifestyle outlined in the books are called Goreans.

Simplified map of Gor
Gor as the counter-earth

Contents

Series summary

Gor is an intricately detailed world in terms of flora, fauna, and customs. Norman also delights in ethnography, populating his planet with the equivalents of Roman, Native American, Viking, and other races. The Gorean humans have advanced architectural and medical skills (including life extension), but are primitive (due to limitations imposed by the Priest-Kings) in the fields of transportation and weaponry -- at approximately the level of Classical Mediterranean civilization. Norman is a competent classicist and sociologist, although his prose, fraught with unnecessary punctuation, diction, and tangents, is less solid.

A major theme of Norman's "Gor" novels is exploring the relationships of men who have absolute power over owned female slaves (though only a minority of women on the planet Gor are slaves). For further elaboration on the psychosexual content of his writings, see John Norman.

Books

  1. Tarnsman of Gor (1967)
  2. Outlaw of Gor (1967)
  3. Priest-Kings of Gor (1968)
  4. Nomads of Gor (1969)
  5. Assassin of Gor (1970)
  6. Raiders of Gor (1971)
  7. Captive of Gor (1972)
  8. Hunters of Gor (1974)
  9. Marauders of Gor (1975)
  10. Tribesmen of Gor (1976)
  11. Slave Girl of Gor (1977)
  12. Beasts of Gor (1978)
  13. Explorers of Gor (1979)
  14. Fighting Slave of Gor (1980)
  15. Rogue of Gor (1981)
  16. Guardsman of Gor (1981)
  17. Savages of Gor (1982)
  18. Blood Brothers of Gor (1982)
  19. Kajira of Gor (1983)
  20. Players of Gor (1984)
  21. Mercenaries of Gor (1985)
  22. Dancer of Gor (1986)
  23. Renegades of Gor (1986)
  24. Vagabonds of Gor (1987)
  25. Magicians of Gor (1988)
  26. Witness of Gor (2001)
  27. Prize of Gor (2008)
  28. Kur of Gor (2009)
  29. Swordsmen of Gor (2010)
  30. Mariners of Gor (2011)
  31. Conspirators of Gor (2012)
  32. Smugglers of Gor (2012)

(In addition, several Gor-related short pieces are included in the 2009 collection Norman Invasions.)

Most of the books are narrated by transplanted New England professor Tarl Cabot (a.k.a. Bosk of Port Kar), master swordsman and possibly Norman’s alter-ego, as he engages in adventures involving Priest-Kings, Kurii, and humans alike. Books 7, 11, 19, 22, 26, 27, and 31 are narrated by abducted earth women who are made slaves. Books 14-16 are narrated by abductee (and initially male slave) Jason Marshal, while book 28 is narrated by a non-human observer and book 30 by a native Gorean.

Besides humans, the main intelligent species in his narrative are the insectoid dispassionate Priest-Kings and the fiercely carnivorous Kurii. Both the Priest-Kings and the Kurii initially came from outside our Solar System; the Priest-Kings have a very advanced technology and rule Gor in a disinterested manner, rarely interfering directly in the lives of humans or Kurii except to enforce their restrictions against advanced technologies and weapons, while the Kurii (with a technology more advanced than Earth but less than the Priest-Kings) want to replace humans as the predominant lifeform on Gor and Earth. The Priest-Kings and Kurii do not directly battle each other with technological weapons (the Priest-Kings following a defensive strategy, while the Kurii are usually not willing to risk violating the Priest-Kings' technology restrictions too overtly or blatantly), but instead mainly contend by means of human proxies. Some critics have commented that these contrasted extremes are a warning for moderate human behaviour, since the ultra-rationalist, unromantic Priest-Kings see little point in their existence, while the sanguine Kurii kill anyone, lacking morals to check themselves.

Early books in the Gor series were simple plot-driven planetary adventures, influenced by Edgar Rice Burroughs' "John Carter of Mars" series, with later entries growing more heavily theoretical.

Tarl Cabot (sometimes known as Bosk of Port Kar), the main viewpoint character and narrator of the series, acts as an agent of Priest Kings from books 4 through 20 of the series, after which he is drawn into various aspects of the struggle between the land-based empire of the city of Ar and the maritime power of the island of Cos. On certain occasions, he uses further secondary aliases, such as "Hakim of Tor" and "Tarl of Teletus"

Norman’s books had their widest appeal during the decade when books 4 through 13 in the series were published. Although bondage, harsh training and slavery were always present, their ubiquity, as well as the length of their philosophical and psychological justifications, gradually increased to the point of detracting from the plots. Possible reasons include Norman’s use of his then-popular series to battle the emerging feminist movement, or that demand for his books was so great that he was able to insist that they be published largely unedited. In any case, during the 1980s there was a feminist backlash against the books, purchasers for bookstores and libraries became increasingly aware of the books' non-"mainstream" content, and interest among general science-fiction readers (as opposed to hardcore Gor fans) fell off. The books continued to be profitable, but their lessening popularity and changes in leadership at his publishing house led to the demise of the Gor paperback series in 1988. In the early 1990s, Norman went on to release the separate Telnarian series through another publisher (recounting the decline of a galactic empire, with strangely-detailed parallels to the Germanic invasions of the ancient Roman empire), but it was not favored by most critics or Gor fans (though profitable), and was ended after only three books. Norman complained of being blacklisted.

Current state

Gor fans grouping together on the Internet (beginning in the mid-1990s) produced a resurgence of interest which led to the resumption of the Gor series in the 2000s.

See also

External links

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