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Jerry Pournelle, 1933-2017

I learned he died today. The first book I read of his was "Lucifer's Hammer" and this was around when I was 13 or 14. 1984, probably.

It was a paperback book, something like 400 pages, and the astounding thing was that this story of a comet striking the earth in the Pacific Ocean, and the resolution of human beings to survive the aftermath, held my interest all the way through. That hadn't happened since I'd been assigned to read The Hobbitt. I held that story in my hand that summer, read in afternoons and evenings. Carried with me to school in the fall.

I admired the guy who rode a motorcycle across what was left of America after the storms and the salt rains and the floods. I thought the guy who maxed out his credit cards and filled a van with Jack Daniels bourbon, chocolate bars, and other delights of civilization on the day before the comet hit was brilliant. I rode along with the surfer, bobbing in the Pacific ocean, as he rode the 200 foot tidal wave four miles inland, his knees shaking with effort before he saw a skyscraper building coming at him like a flyswatter.

Then Footfall came out a couple summers after that. It contrasted with War Against the Chtorr, also ongoing.

I read Oath of Fealty, too, somewhere in there, but I was too young to appreciate it. That story taught me the word "Arcology", and something, a small particle's worth, about what it will take for humanity to reach the stars. Even though the Todos Santos building was perched next to Los Angeles, this gigantic building was made with star travel in mind.

After 9/11/2001, somehow, I forget how, I stumbled across Mr. Pournelle's site at https://www.jerrypournelle.com. I was pleased to meet him again, if only virtually.

On the September 11th entry, he'd written

The Empire will strike back. It is war, and republics are not good at waging war other than in defense of their homelands against invasions. Other wars require other forms. We are in another kind of war. Waging it requires that we become a different kind of nation. One cannot have open borders during war. Many other liberties must or will be suspended. Some have been suspended since 1941. A few since 1917.

The Seventy Years war pushed us to the edge. We might have recovered and restored republican institutions. Now I doubt we will.


And since then, I kept checking in to his site, again and again, to see what he'd written, what he had wrote, what he was writing.

So much, I learned so much about science, and science fiction, and computers, and computing, and more.

I'd read, and then re-read, Mote in God's Eye.

"The great thing is not to lose your nerve."

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