Jerry Pournelle passes

| September 11, 2017 | 23 Comments

David sends us the sad news that Jerry Pournelle, American science fiction writer, essayist, and journalist had passed on Friday, in his sleep, according to USAToday. According to Wiki, he was also a veteran of the Army during the Korean War.

Pournelle wrote many bestselling science fiction novels, both on his own and with Larry Niven. Of these, Lucifer’s Hammer and The Mote in God’s Eye, both major bestsellers, are probably the best known, though I think that artistically, Inferno — a reboot that I think Dante Alighieri himself would have approved — was the best.

But Pournelle didn’t just write fiction. His 1970 book with Stefan Possony, The Strategy of Technology, outlined a strategy for winning the Cold War (with among other things, an emphasis on strategic missile defense) that was largely followed, and successfully, by the Reagan administration. He was a driving force behind the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy in the 1980s that helped lay the groundwork for today’s booming civilian space launch industry. And, for me, his wide-ranging columns in Galaxy Magazine, back when it was edited by star editor James Baen, were particularly influential.

Category: Blue Skies

Comments (23)

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  1. Tom Huxton says:

    gone to the Stars

  2. Mike Kozlowski says:

    …If you’ve never read ‘Mote’, get it and be prepared to not put it down until you’re finished – it is, for my money, the best sci-fi novel of all time. ‘Footfall’ comes in a close second.

  3. David says:

    There are a few books I read repeatedly which have influenced my life. “Inferno” is one of them, and his concept that Hell is an asylum for the theologically insane as concise an argument as I have ever heard.

  4. Ret_25X says:

    I’ve always been partial to his “Falkenberg’s Legion” stories

  5. JacktheJarhead says:

    Well, he is never going to finish the Janissaries’ series. God Speed Jerry, if there is no heaven, I owe you a Coke!

  6. Perry Gaskill says:

    I was a regular Pournelle reader back when he had a column in the old Byte magazine. Byte itself had some of the best tech writers in the business at the time, and the main point-of-view always seemed to be about doing things instead of selling stuff. Pournelle had this sort of comic laid-back style, and his column was often about how he managed to fumble his way into getting something to work by talking to people who were smarter than he was.

    I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure it was Pournelle who clued me into the fact at one point that if you wanted to network a Slackware server and remain sane, your best option was a 3Com 509B network card.

    What’s probably also true is there aren’t that many around now who could tell you off-hand what a “byte” is in the technical sense.

    • David says:

      like the man said, there’s only 10 kinds of people in the world – those who understand binary and those who don’t.

      • Perry Gaskill says:

        One of the funny Pournelle observations I remember is he once said if you wanted to do a coding project using the most elegant engineering possible, you used C++ for the language; if you wanted to complete the project in our lifetime, you used Visual Basic.

  7. AW1 Tim says:

    Dr. Pournelle’s book “The Strategy of Technology: Winning the Decisive War” was required reading at the military academies, as well as at the Air War College, and the National War College.

    It was he who first grasped the idea of using this nation’s emerging technology, especially computer tech, to outweigh the quantity of Soviet weapons. This nation, and many of those alive today, don’t understand the debt of gratitude we owe to Dr. Pournelle for our victory in the Cold War.

    In addition, He’s also credited with being the first SciFi writer to have a book written on a word processor.

    GodSpeed, sir, and thanks.

  8. RKflorida says:

    I read all his books and every column he wrote in Byte magazine. Chaos Manor was my favorite part of Byte and I really looked forward to it each month.
    Byte continued online and was revived recently and Jerry wrote some Chaos Manor columns for the online version.
    BTW his doctorate degree was in Political Science.
    I’m very sad to see him go.

  9. OldSoldier54 says:

    What was Pournelle’s Rule? At least one processor per user?

    Another fine American gone to his reward. See you in a while, Jerry.

  10. CCO says:

    Dr. Pournelle also conceived of the idea of kinetic bombardment from space—just de-orbit a big enough chunk of metal on the enemy’s head and you have nuclear blast effects without fallout.

    Sic transit gloria munda.

  11. Mike Murley says:

    As a cyber-saur I cut my online teeth in the Pournelle Round Table on GEnie (General Electric news and information exchange). Fair skies and following seas Doc P.

  12. RGR 4-78 says:

    Enjoyed your books, Rest in Peace.

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