Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Oh, the Hypocrisy!!!!!

I’m periodically looking in at the blogs & sites of those who organized the boycott against Dark Horse Comics for proposing to republish John Norman’s Chronicles of Gor in omnibus editions, including Greg Morrow’s All New! All Different! Howling Curmudgeons Two-Fisted Comics Commentary and Criticism board, where, in late September, I’d posted a three-part explanation of why the attacks on the Gor series & John Norman were misguided & wrong, only to have them sneeringly dismissed by Morrow on James Nicoll’s blog, although not addressed substantively in the least.

Of course, when someone has just demonstrated -- however politely -- that you don’t know how to read sophisticated literature, that you couldn’t tell a metaphor from a cabbage, & that you've consequently just blatantly & self-righteously defamed an innocent man, I suppose the only thing left to do is to then insult the person who had the temerity to point out the irredeemable shortcomings of your analysis. The inescapable consequence of doing that, though, is that it only makes abundantly clear the sheer depth of your ethical shortcomings when you're unwilling to rectify, much less acknowledge, the wrongs you’ve committed.

I don’t take this personally, however, especially after reading the “farewell message” Jason Fliegel, one of the remaining Curmudgeons, posted on the site yesterday on behalf of Mike Chary, now one of the “Curmudgeons Emeritus.” Apparently, about three months ago, Chary tried logging into the site only to discover that, as Morrow explained in an email afterwards, he “had been kicked off because [he] argued too much.”

Isn’t that what curmudgeons are supposed to do?

Apparently not, if the curmudgeon you argue with too forcefully & successfully is Greg Morrow.

According to Chary’s farewell, his forced departure occurred just as the Phillies were gaining traction, so I looked into the archives & found the July 2, 2007 announcement of his "departure" by Greg Morrow:
It is with regret that I announce that Mike Chary has become a Curmudgeons emeritus.

The other Curmudgeons wish Mike the best of success in his future pursuits.
One of the commentators asked whether Chary had left “to spend more time with his family” or whether he was “also unwilling to continue in the face of recent events involving sock puppetry and hypocrisy.”

It really is a shame to think that anyone would treat a long-time friend as badly as it now appears that Greg Morrow has, but it certainly makes it much easier to understand how Morrow could therefore have treated me -- a stranger, although one only by a single degree of separation from him -- so shabbily, too. I’d sincerely hoped, especially after reading Mike Chary’s July responses to Morrow on the What Would Tarl Cabot Do thread, in which Chary had demonstrated a fair degree of open-mindedness concerning the Gor novels, coupled with an insightful wariness of Morrow’s self-righteous censoriousness, that Chary would respond to my September posts & that a fruitful discussion might ensue. A look at Chary’s homepage & his blog also reveal a degree of thoughtfulness that I would have greatly welcomed in such a discussion, especially given how very little of it I’ve found manifested by the regular posters to the blogs where the anti-Gor boycott was mounted, much less their proprietors.

Ah, well: I should never have gotten my hopes up.

If you want to see class in action, though, read Chary's farewell message, as well as his replies to the posters criticizing Morrow.

Meanwhile, back on Tamora Pierce’s blog, I found a post she made on January 16th concerning censorship & banned books that has to be the ne plus ultra of unwitting self-parody:
I was going to ask "why do people assume my dislike or disapproval of something means I want it censored," until I realized that in this day and age, and particularly here in my homeland of the United States, that question is naive at best and stupid at worst. Even if you're not one of those people who immediately demands that anything you disapprove of should be yanked out of public circulation, you know damned well that the first move everywhere in these United States, particularly when it comes to kids, porn, erotica, and comics, is to get it banned....

I've stated it elsewhere in this lj in a number of threads, but I want it here and in the clear, so everyone knows in no uncertain terms.

There is a lot in this world I dislike…

…I reserve the right to say I don't like something, and to say why. I reserve the right to protest it, and argue against it, and debate it intelligently with other intelligent people. I hope people will consider my arguments.


However much I dislike something or disapprove of it, so long as I am in my right mind, I will never, EVER advocate that it be censored, destroyed, banned from schools, libraries, the media, bookstores, theaters, or anywhere else. I will never tell anyone else not to read, see, or listen to it. NEVER. (I may recommend it, but I will also tell them that in the end, the choice is theirs alone). I will never speak or write letters recommending such action....To do this would be a betrayal of the America I was raised to believe in, which I still hold within myself. It would be a betrayal of myself.

….But pornography involving consenting adults? That's up to the people who make it and the people who buy it. It's none of my business, and it shouldn't be the business of anyone who isn't interested in it for what it's there for.

If you ask me, we would all be a lot better off if people would stop assuming they have the right to dictate what other people they don't even know should be reading, watching, and hearing. We hillbillies don't like folks all the time stickin their noses in our business. Time was, if I didn't invite you into my yard, I reserved the right to shoot you. And we knew we got the same if we started tellin other folks how to live.

So please stop assuming that because I don't like it, I want it censored or banned outright. And if I start saying I do, please shoot me.

You heard the lady! Save her from her own terminal hypocrisy!!!!

File under: just too funny!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Tamora Pierce-Tim Liebe Disinformation Campaign

Tamora Pierce, the YA fantasy author initiated the boycott against Dark Horse Comics on July 15, 2007 for republishing John Norman's Chronicles of Gor series in omnibus editions, which torch was then picked up & carried forward by J.E. Remy in a three-part series on his Die Wachen blog in which he relentlessly slandered John Norman, characterized the novels as "hate speech," contacted the college where Norman teaches about the novels (which Norman wrote in his private capacity, under a pseudonym), attempting to compromise John Norman's academic freedom. This relentless attack was then featured & praised in the 16th Annual Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans (hosted, embarrassingly enough by a fellow librarian) on August 16, 2007.

I posted several times to Tamora Pierce's blog explaining that this boycott was a form of "private censorship" constituting a "public attack" on the Gor series, but she was evidently incapable of grasping the concept. In my posts to James Nicoll's blog on October 4, 2007, I indicated that I had better things to do with my time than to try to explain these concepts to those with hermetically sealed minds & turned my attention to more fruitful endeavors for a bit, until I noticed that - evidently thinking I was paying them no attention whatsoever anymore -- Tammy & her "spousal creature" Tim Liebe had descended into unrestrained slander against me & launched a disinformation campaign.

I replied to Tim Liebe today, as follows:

Hi, Tim, you wrote:

Yeah, that was kind of what I was wondering - sort of like this psycho librarian (no link, b/c I don't want her thinking her point has any legitimacy) who's threatening Tammy w/the ALA "censorship blacklist" for her opinion on the Gor books.

Ahem. Calling someone a “psycho librarian” meets your definition of good manners? I’m sure that will go over well with any other librarians looking through these threads!

I’d never said anything about a “blacklist” -- I’d said that Tammy’s actions constituted a “public attack” of the Gor series under the A.L.A.’s definition (not mine, which you keep ignoring), which made it a reportable event under the A.L.A.’s criteria. That is simply fact, not opinion. I even provided links to the A.L.A. webpages where Tammy could verify the accuracy of what I’d said, but clearly you & she prefer to distort & misrepresent my words, so this time I’ll provide everyone with pictures: screenshots of the relevant portions of the A.L.A. Challenge Database submission form, beginning with the header:

Challenge Database Form Header

This next shot is of Section 4, in which the nature of the attacker is identified -- please note the last category, “Pressure Group”:

Section 4

In Section 7 one is required to identify:

Section 7 heading

That section provided so many options it was too long to include as a whole, but you can see that at the bottom of the list there's a box to be checked for “Publisher.”

Section 7 options, pt 2

See, Tim? That’s straight from the A.L.A.’s form itself. You wrote:

Which isn't the case at all, as I found out the hard way in college the first time I called a boycott "censorship". A boycott, which you might be able to claim Tammy informally called for, is a way for a group of people to hit an organization doing something they don't approve of in the pocketbook.
MediaBistro certainly seemed to think it was a boycott.

You wrote:

You may not LIKE it that people are boycotting something, any more than I liked it that the Khrister Right boycotted Disney for ::gasp!:: being the last major film studio to provide "spousal benefits" for same-sex life partners - but disliking something and refusing to give it your sanction, even if you dislike it EXTREMELY, is not now nor has ever been "censorship".

The A.L.A. completely disagrees.

You might want to read this 1956 article from Time Magazine, too, Sex & Censors:

Is sex necessary on newsstands? Most U.S. citizens are content to leave the problem to the courts. But many an outraged parent is not inclined to wait for the slow-grinding mills of the law to protect his children from cheap and easy smut. The result may be a well-intentioned pressure group that tries to boycott and bully all available reading matter down to a soap-opera level. Writing in the current issue of Harper's, Editor John Fischer thinks he has found just that in what he calls "a little band of Catholics . . . conducting a shocking attack on the rights of their fellow citizens. They are engaged in an un-American activity . . . harming their country, their Church, and the cause of freedom."

You wrote:
It's a classic right-wing talk radio tactic - equate personal dislike with "censorship" when it's your enemy, but Defend to the Death YOUR right to call for the government or an organization with the power to hurt your enemy to censor anything you don't like

First, I’m not “right wing” politically, & second you’re describing yourself & Tammy, above, not me, & the supposed "right wing talk radio tactic" you're bemoaning is what the A.C.L.U. urges people to do when people like you try to get a publisher not to publish a book you disapprove of:


Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are "offensive," happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional.

In contrast, when private individuals or groups organize boycotts against stores that sell magazines of which they disapprove, their actions are protected by the First Amendment, although they can become dangerous in the extreme. Private pressure groups, not the government, promulgated and enforced the infamous Hollywood blacklists during the McCarthy period. But these private censorship campaigns are best countered by groups and individuals speaking out and organizing in defense of the threatened expression.

You wrote:

(like the ALA blacklisting a writer, say), b/c it's "just expressing an opinion"!

Again, no one said anything about a “blacklist” except you. You’re sounding just a tad, um, defensive, too. You wrote:

Pardon me, self-righteous belligerent psycho person - but that IS censorship, and you ARE a hypocrite,

Politely informing someone of facts is not “belligerence,” nor am I “psycho" nor a "hypocrite." I've never called anyone here insulting names, either, not once, despite repeated name-calling on your part, on your wife's & on the part of so many regular posters here. Don't think lots of silent readers aren't taking note of all that.


There may be updates to this....

UPDATE: Oh, woe am I -- Tammy's "banned" me from posting to her "private blog." She said:

"Enough. You have made your multitude of points. If you have an issue with my call for a boycott of the Gor books and the A.L.A. takes such complaints, then stop issuing threats and file your complaint. Do it and get it over with."

That'd been done awhile ago. I was never making any "threats;" I'd just been trying to drive the concept home that her boycott was a "public attack" under the A.L.A.'s criteria, not some personal criteria of my own. How hard a concept was that to grasp? Apparently it required pictures!

"If you post on my blog again, I will ban you. That's my right as a private citizen on my private live journal. I invite others here to share their opinions, but I can decide at any time to ask someone to leave, and you are that first (I hope only) someone."

Nope, there have been others, before me & there will undoubtedly be others after me, lol.

"I am warning you here rather than simply doing it outright out of politeness. I won't be polite when I ban you. I'll just do it."

"Politeness"? That would be quite a new experience from the Y.A. author who self-proclaims herself to be "a crude, rude, nasty, bawdy, mean-minded intellectual snob. It's time you figured this out, if you haven't already."

Oh, we have, Tamora Pierce, we have. Lots of us are now taking careful note....

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sock Puppets vs. the Herd of Hermetically Sealed Minds

After Greg Morrow of the Howling Curmudgeons board posted his dismissive comment to James Nicolls's blog, I responded with a three-part post attempting -- one last time & against the odds of addressing hermetically sealed minds -- to explain to people unwilling even to read my posts with any care (sometimes at all) or to verify the information I'd consistently provided links to in order to substantiate the veracity of my statements, that the First Amendment is not the only applicable measure of censorship & that boycotts distort & undermine the free marketplace of ideas. All they seemed to be concerned with, however, was the possibility that the few other posters to those blogs who've agreed with me might be my "sock puppets."

That would almost be too funny if it weren't so paranoid....

Here's my three-part post of October 4, 2007:

My sincere thanks to Greg Morrow for placing a link here to my posts to him on his Howling Curmudgeons board concerning his attack on Dark Horse's proposed republication of John Norman’s Chronicles of Gor!

For those who have mastered the essential methodological differences between effectively interpreting philosophical imaginative fiction & expository non-fiction (as classically explicated by Mortimer Adler & Charles Van Doren in How to Read a Book, briefly quoted in the second of my posts to Greg) as well as how to decode irony, & who possess sufficiently open minds, reading my so-called “apologetics” should suffice. And for those who’ve attained the requisite degree of such analytical reading skills who might stumble onto these threads in the future, it will doubtless be self-evident to them what the ferocity of the endless ridicule -- to which so many of the posters who’ve flocked here seem so reflexively prone when faced with an opinion materially contrary to their own -- signifies.

As the poet & abolitionist James Russell Lowell once insightfully observed, “The sneer is the weapon of the weak.

These threads, however, have served as an excellent demonstration of why the annual observance of Banned Books Week remains so essential even into the 21st century. For that, on behalf of your many, if largely silent, readers over the last couple & coming weeks, I thank you all (especially Tamora Pierce & Jeremy Remy of Salt Lake Community College & his Die Wachen blog) for your very telling -- if largely unwitting -- contributions to this exercise since I first learned of your attacks!

Bellatrys, perhaps Jess Nevins, one of the other members of the Howling Curmudgeons board who’s also a librarian, possesses more patience than I do & will attempt to explain to you what my posts to Tamora’s blog (& the links therein to the A.L.A. materials that I’ve repeatedly provided) have evidently not yet succeeded in doing: that there is a critical, material difference between merely criticizing a book on the one hand, no matter how stridently, & on the other attempting in concert with others to pressure its publisher to withdraw it from publication, an effort which, if successful, precludes other people from being able to read the book to evaluate it for themselves. You might read up on the reaction of U.S. librarians when Harper-Collins had attempted to suppress the distribution of Michael Moore’s second book, Stupid White Men, in 2001.

The First Amendment addresses, first & foremost, state-sponsored censorship, but that doesn’t mean, in the U.S., either that there are or should be no limitations whatsoever on the non-violent suppression by “private censors” of the rights of others to free expression (e.g., as the late Justice White had noted in Red Lion v. the F.C.C, "Freedom of the press from governmental interference under the First Amendment does not sanction repression of that freedom by private interests"), nor that such attempts at suppression by private citizens don’t harm civil discourse & constrict the marketplace of ideas, nor that they aren’t inherently & profoundly hypocritical when made by those who claim to champion free speech. As someone else had recently attempted to remind Bellatrys on her own board, Noam Chomsky once trenchantly commented, “If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.

A writer whose novels are today considered masterpieces of political satire once wrote in the introduction to one of those works, whose publication had been attained only after several other publishers had turned the manuscript down, deterred by the tyranny of the then majority:

At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is 'not done' to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was 'not done' to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

The year was 1946, the writer was George Orwell, & the book whose publication had by then been suppressed for years -- principally by the prevailing leftist orthodoxy of the time -- was Animal Farm.

Herman Melville is today widely considered perhaps the greatest of American authors, although his contemporaries, despite their earlier enthusiasm for Typee & Omoo, had almost uniformly been baffled & disgusted by Moby Dick, such as the one who infamously wrote,

We have little more to say in reprobation or in recommendation of this absurd book.... Mr. Melville has to thank himself only if his horrors and his heroics are flung aside by the general reader, as so much trash belonging to the worst school of Bedlam literature -- since he seems not so much unable to learn as disdainful of learning the craft of an artist.

After the publication the following year of Melville’s controversial, experimental philosophical novel, Pierre, or the Ambiguities, whose central characters were portrayed as engaging in a possibly incestuous relationship, he was attacked even more savagely & ruthlessly by contemporary critics, whose effectiveness was such that he found it increasingly difficult to find a publisher for his later works: indeed, he eventually ceased writing altogether & the critically-acclaimed Billy Budd was only published posthumously, decades after Melville’s death. The Penguin Press edition of Pierre notes, for example,

"Ambiguities indeed! One long brain-muddling, soul-bewildering ambiguity (to borrow Mr. Melville's style), like Melchisedeck without beginning or end - a labyrinth without a clue - an Irish bog without so much as a Jack o' th'-lantern to guide the wanderer's footsteps - the dream of a distempered stomach, disordered by a hasty supper on half-cooked pork chops." So judged the New York Herald when Pierre was first published in 1852, with most contemporary reviewers joining in the general condemnation: "a dead failure," "this crazy rigmarole," and "a literary mare's nest." Latter-day critics have recognized in the story of Melville's idealistic young hero a corrosive satire of the sentimental-Gothic novel, and a revolutionary foray into modernist literary techniques. As William Spengemann writes in his introduction to this edition, "For anyone who, being aware of the culture of modernity, is curious about its origins, Pierre ranks with Coleridge's 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner,' Carlyle's Sartor Resartus, Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter, and the poems of Emily Dickinson as one of the privileged places where the dead past can be seen giving way inexorably to the living present.
The Northwestern University critical edition of Pierre similarly notes,

Initially dismissed as "a dead failure" and "a bad book," and declined by Melville's British publisher, Pierre, or The Ambiguities has since struck critics as modern in its psychological probings and literary technique--fit, as Carl Van Vechten said in 1922, to be ranked with The Golden Bowl, Women in Love, and Ulysses. None of Melville's other "secondary" works has so regularly been acknowledged by its most thorough [modern day] critics as a work of genuine grandeur, however flawed.

However, Melville’s many censorious contemporaries could not grant him even the opportunity to write for the few who did appreciate him. Twentieth century critics such as Van Vechten later compared their relentless attacks to “the insipidly cacophonous cawing of so many crows.” Melville is now recognized as a titan of American literature; those who had attacked him so self-righteously & uncomprehendingly in his lifetime are now remembered principally or only for that.

Jonquil, my dear, of course Augustine wasn’t thinking of Tarl Cabot when he’d written dilige et quod vis fac, if only because Tarl Cabot was a fictitious character & in any case, if you’d perhaps read my so-called “apologetics” with greater care you would have noticed, perhaps, that I hadn’t claimed that Norman had premised his own philosophy directly on Augustine’s aphorism but rather had drawn on it in a form that had been mediated first by Rabelais, then by Aldous Huxley, for whom it was no longer premised on religious faith. Quod vis fac has long been considered by many to be a pithy summation of the essence of “virtue ethics.” I’d recommend to you philosopher Alastair McIntyre’s After Virtue, but if you're as unfamiliar with the history of philosophy & virtue ethics as your posts indicate you to be, I’d recommend that you begin instead with his A Brief History of Ethics.

It’s been fun everyone (the accusations of “sock puppetry” were just too funny), & most illuminating, of course, but there’re only so many hours in a day, I have my own students to get back to, &, in any case, the wise farmer sows his seed neither on barren ground, nor where it will be trampled.



Thursday, October 11, 2007

You Can Lead a Horse to Water, But You Cannot Make It Drink...

In early September, as I was gearing up for the annual observance of Banned Books Week, I learned that Dark Horse Comics had removed all mention of its planned republication of an omnibus edition of the first three volumes of the Chronicles of Gor series from its website &, upon looking into the matter further, I discovered that Tamora Pierce, the Young Adult author of fantasy novels, had taken it upon herself -- as a result of a complete, if all too common, misreading of the books, to spearhead a boycott of Dark Horse's products in order to deter it from going ahead with the republication. Several other bloggers had joined her in that effort, which was featured in the 16th Annual Carnival of Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy Fans, hosted, ironically, by a librarian who dislikes being told what to read by others!

Under the criteria of the American Library Association this constitutes a "public attack" on a book so, with the naively optimistic expectation that these bloggers would be shocked & dismayed to learn their pressure tactics were considered potentially oppressive censorship of the rights of others to read freely, not only by the A.L.A. & the other co-sponsors of Banned Books Week, but also by the National Coalition Against Censorship & the American Civil Liberties Union, I decided to bring this fact to their attention, one by one, in the hope that if they were people of good will & intellectually integrity, they would want to re-think their positions & perhaps would even disavow their boycott once they'd had a chance to do so.

With rare exception, how wrong I was!

Here are the three posts I made to the All-New All-Different Howling Curmudgeons Two-Fisted Comics Commentary and Criticism site during the last week of September, in response to an utterly clueless attack mounted not only on the novels themselves, but on John Norman personally as well. To be fair, one of the "Curmudgeons Emeritus," Mike Chary, had correctly grasped at least one critical point that had utterly eluded Curmudgeons Greg Morrow & Kevin Maroney: that Norman had not been "advocating" in the novels for slavery or abuse of women in real life, but rather was portraying a fantasy world in which both men & women were enslaved, unsurprising given that Gorean civilizations were based on ancient & medieval earth civilizations in which slavery had been a common institution. In light of the relative perceptiveness of Chary's comments & Morrow's possession of a PhD from Rice University, I'd hoped that if I politely outlined the philosophical subtext of the novels Morrow & his fellow Curmudgeons would have the intellectual integrity to at least address my arguments seriously, but after several days of total silence following my third & last post, Morrow dismissively belittled my posts on James Nicoll's blog as so-called "apologetics." He's never, however, actually addressed their substance, including the numerous excerpts I provided from John Norman's book Imaginative Sex that explicitly & directly contradicted both Morrow's (as well as Tamora Pierce's, J.E. Remy's & Bellatrys's) gross misreadings of the novels, as well as his baseless calumnies of Norman's character.

One can lead a horse to water but one cannot make an intellectually intransigent horse drink....

My First Post to the Howling Curmudgeons Board of September 19, 2007:

I'm joining in this conversation rather late, but I only stumbled on its roots on the Die Wachen blog & that of Tamora Pierce quite recently, following a link to this thread.

I’m afraid that you — & most of the other posters to this thread — have missed a great deal in reading the Gor series, although you’re far from alone in that, sadly.

Norman draws heavily on ancient myths, e.g., Theseus & Perseus; on ancient, medieval & Renaissance literature ranging from ancient epics to the Graeco-Roman novels & New Comedy; to Ovid, Nonnus & other erotic elegists; to centuries of travel literature, from Herodotus to Marco Polo to Sir Richard Burton & contemporaries, to cite just a few sources.

Captive of Gor is a secularized re-working of one of the great themes of the Western canon: the felix culpa, or the “fortunate fall.” Slave Girl interweaves the myths of Perseus & Andromeda with that of Cupid & Psyche, as well the traditional exemplum of Patient Griselda. Hunters draws on The Odyssey, the myth of Theseus & Ariadne, Arrian’s Anabasis Alexandri, & Xenophon’s Anabasis. Marauders is rooted in Beowulf, the Icelandic Sagas, & the Prose & Poetic Eddas.

Norman is clearly indebted to Nietzsche, borrowing his tropes of master/slave moralities & ‘eternal recurrence,’ but Norman’s virtue ethics are more Aristotelian & Stoic, tempered by the Pragmatism of Clarence Irving Lewis, & Augustine’s quod vis fac by way of Rabelais & Huxley. Norman’s political philosophy is far more indebted to Plato, Aristotle, Lewis & Mill. In Blood Brothers Norman responds to Nietzsche’s perspectivism with the Pragmatism of Lewis & Charles Sanders Peirce, even allowing for the possibility of the Divine: God may not be dead, after all. In Renegades Norman’s parsing of “pity” & “compassion,” & his explication in several volumes of the duty of an individual to his society distances him from Nietzsche on many critical points, especially the so-called “darker portions.”

Steven Saylor, the critically-acclaimed author of the Roma Sub Rosa mysteries, opined in his 1996 introduction to Outlaw that the Gor novels are “allegories”: he’s correct, although they’re often Swiftian, skewering the equation by early radical gender feminists of “marriage” to “slavery,” “intercourse” to “rape,” & “wives” to “property” (I’ll be posting illustrative quotes & further discussion on in my own blog in the next few days). To grasp the range & depth of Norman’s writing, though, it’s essential to understand his pervasive use of traditional rhetorical devices such as paranomasia, antiphrasis, antanaclasis, hyperbole, etc., especially the frequently heavy irony in his use of “rape,” as well as the Ovidian nature of his puns.

Norman’s gravest misjudgment as an author, though, IMO, has been his optimism that a significant portion of his audience would eventually learn to read his novels beyond the surface adventure & erotica, although that would require an erudition & Classical background approaching his own to be able to do so fully, not to mention an open mind.

There’s so much more to say in response here, but as the annual observance of Banned Books Week approaches, I’ll close with extracts from the joint statement of the A.L.A. & the Association of American Publishers that bear directly on this suppression campaign against Dark Horse:

The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label “controversial” views, to distribute lists of “objectionable” books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read.

Most attempts at suppression rest on a denial of the fundamental premise of democracy: that the ordinary individual, by exercising critical judgment, will select the good and reject the bad. We trust Americans to recognize propaganda and misinformation, and to make their own decisions about what they read and believe. We do not believe they are prepared to sacrifice their heritage of a free press in order to be “protected” against what others think may be bad for them. We believe they still favor free enterprise in ideas and expression….

…1. It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority…

…2. Publishers, librarians, and booksellers do not need to endorse every idea or presentation they make available. It would conflict with the public interest for them to establish their own political, moral, or aesthetic views as a standard for determining what should be published or circulated.

…3. It is contrary to the public interest for publishers or librarians to bar access to writings on the basis of the personal history or political affiliations of the author.

…4 There is no place in our society for efforts to coerce the taste of others, to confine adults to the reading matter deemed suitable for adolescents, or to inhibit the efforts of writers to achieve artistic expression…

…5. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians, as guardians of the people’s freedom to read, to contest encroachments upon that freedom by individuals or groups seeking to impose their standards or tastes upon the community at large…

…6. It is the responsibility of publishers and librarians to give full meaning to the freedom to read by providing books that enrich the quality and diversity of thought and expression. By the exercise of this affirmative responsibility, they can demonstrate that the answer to a “bad” book is a good one, the answer to a “bad” idea is a good one.

When the exercise of Free Speech crosses the line from mere criticism to taking actions to suppress publication, it constitutes ‘private censorship.’

One last thought for the moment:

In his book Free Speech for Me–But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other, Nat Hentoff writes that “the lust to suppress can come from any direction.” He quotes Phil Kerby, a former editor of The Los Angeles Times, as saying, “Censorship is the strongest drive in human nature; sex is a weak second.”

My Second Post to the Howling Curmudgeons Board of September 24, 2007:

Hi, Greg,

Thank you again for permitting me to participate in this thread & to share my views in greater depth with you & anyone else who might be open to considering them.

I’ve been thinking all day about how best to do that as economically as possible, without trying anyone’s patience unduly, but there are several different aspects of the novels & Norman’s views that I’ll necessarily have to touch on in order to explain my position cogently, which may take two or three separate posts to do. I hope you’ll bear with me, in that case, especially if I at times may state things that may already be obvious to you & many others here, but I‘ll do so in the hope of remaining comprehensible, too, to any other readers to whom they might not.

One of the first things to consider when reading a work of philosophical fiction is whether the story is told by an omniscient third-person narrator who serves as the mouthpiece for the author, or whether it’s narrated in the first person by one of its characters, as all the Gor novels are. The reason that choice by Norman was so important is that a first person narrator is rarely a mere mouthpiece for an author, because a realistic first person narrator will necessarily lack insight into himself, his own motives & actions, & certainly will lack insight at least at times into the motives & actions of other characters. The author may have the first person narrator “try” to present himself in a better light than he deserves or to “justify” himself to the reader, as real human beings do. He is therefore inherently unreliable.

Tarl, as many of you must have noticed, regularly proves to be very unreliable in observing important details (e.g., in Outlaw he erroneously assumes that Dina of Turia has only fortuitously tripped in front of the guardsmen pursuing him, although an attentive reader would have realized from the clues given that she’d recognized him, correctly assessed the situation & had deliberately intervened to protect him). However, it’s also essential to evaluate Tarls’ viewpoint with a critical eye for inherent biases, just as we would evaluate that of any real life narrator, & in that regard Tarl cannot escape the effects of his personal history: the betrayal by his beloved former Free Companion Talena, succeeded by the betrayal by his once-beloved “free woman” Telima, succeeded yet again by his betrayal by his once-beloved Vella, who gladly consigns him to likely death in the salt mine of Klima. Tarl has loved & lost repeatedly &, although he bears considerable responsibility for the destruction of at least two of those relationships, he is, by the end of Hunters, an emotionally scarred man who will apparently never again risk having anything less than total control over a woman, which reflects his to at least some degree warped viewpoint of them (even by Gorean standards, as practiced) & of the Gorean institution of slavery (at the adventure-romantic-sexual-fantasy level). Remember, too, that despite Tarl’s repeated insistence that “all women are naturally slaves,” he periodically lets slip the rather large contradiction that only one in forty or fifty Gorean women is, in fact, enslaved.

He is an inherently unreliable narrator.

The next main thing to consider, to quote the philosopher Mortimer Adler & his co-author Charles van Doren, is that,

“Because of their radically diverse aims, [expository and imaginative literature] necessarily use language differently. The imaginative writer tries to maximize the latent ambiguities of words, in order thereby to gain all the richness and force of what is inherent in their multiple meanings. He uses metaphors as the units of his construction just as the logical writer uses words sharpened to a single meaning. What Dante said of The Divine Comedy, that it must be read as having several distinct though related meanings, generally applies to poetry and fiction. The logic of expository writing aims at an ideal of unambiguous explicitness. Nothing should be left between the lines. Everything that is relevant and statable should be said as explicitly and clearly as possible. In contrast, imaginative writing relies as much upon what is implied as upon what is said. The multiplication of metaphors puts almost more content between the lines than in the words that compose them. The whole poem or story says something that none of its words can say.”

(How to Read a Book, p. 206)

The third thing to bear in mind is that philosophers often employ a "root metaphor" with which they illustrate the various facets of their theses: the trope of the master/slave relationship is a venerable root metaphor in philosophy, dating back to the former Roman slave & Stoic philosopher Epictetus, from whom Nietzsche had borrowed it in order to formulate his own conceptions of “master morality” & “slave morality,” & from whom, it is my carefully considered opinion, that Norman has borrowed it in turn, although Norman transforms its use for his own purposes as much as Nietzsche had transformed the metaphor for his own. In that regard, I ask you to read the following brief excerpts & to consider their implications in the context of the allegories that even Steven Saylor had recognized the Gor series to be while I try to finish pulling together another set of brief, illustrative quotes that I think are essential for anyone to bear in mind in evaluating what Norman’s real (multiple) purposes are with the Gor series & with the master/slave trope. I will also try to provide you with more analysis of this aspect later, as it‘s illustrated -- often paradoxically -- in the novels.

Norman has mentioned in interviews & elsewhere that The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius was the first philosophical work he ever read as an adolescent, & it greatly influenced his pursuit of philosophy as a vocation. Marcus Aurelius had himself been deeply influenced by Epictetus:

From Book IV, Chapter 1 of The Discourses: About Freedom, by Epictetus:

“I must die. But must I die groaning? I must be imprisoned. But must I whine as well? I must suffer exile. Can anyone then hinder me from going with a smile, and a good courage, and at peace? "Tell the secret." I refuse to tell, for this is in my power. "But I will chain you." What say you, fellow? Chain me? My leg you will chain -- yes, but my will -- no, not even Zeus can conquer that. "I will imprison you." My bit of a body, you mean.”

“He is free who lives as he wishes to live; who is neither subject to compulsion nor to hindrance, nor to force; whose movements to action are not impeded, whose desires attain their purpose, and who does not fall into that which he would avoid. Who, then, chooses to live in error? No man. Who chooses to live deceived, liable to mistake, unjust, unrestrained, discontented, mean? No man. Not one then of the bad lives as he wishes; nor is he, then, free. And who chooses to live in sorrow, fear, envy, pity, desiring and failing in his desires, attempting to avoid something and falling into it? Not one. Do we then find any of the bad free from sorrow, free from fear, who does not fall into that which he would avoid, and does not obtain that which he wishes? Not one; nor then do we find any bad man free. If, then, a man who has been twice consul should hear this, if you add, "But you are a wise man; this is nothing to you": he will pardon you. But if you tell him the truth, and say, "You differ not at all from those who have been thrice sold as to being yourself not a slave," what else ought you to expect than blows? For he says, "What, I a slave, I whose father was free, whose mother was free, I whom no man can purchase: I am also of senatorial rank, and a friend of Caesar, and I have been a consul, and I own many slaves." In the first place, most excellent senatorial man, perhaps your father also was a slave in the same kind of servitude, and your mother, and your grandfather and all your ancestors in an ascending series. But even if they were as free as it is possible, what is this to you? What if they were of a noble nature, and you of a mean nature; if they were fearless, and you a coward; if they had the power of self-restraint, and you are not able to exercise it.”

“Does freedom seem to you to be something great and noble and valuable? "How should it not seem so?" Is it possible, then, when a man obtains anything, so great and valuable and noble to be mean? "It is not possible." When, then, you see any man subject to another, or flattering him contrary to his own opinion, confidently affirm that this man also is not free; and not only if he do this for a bit of supper, but also if he does it for a government or a consulship: and call these men "little slaves" who for the sake of little matters do these things, and those who do so for the sake of great things call "great slaves," as they deserve to be.”

“What, then, is that which makes a man free from hindrance and makes him his own master? For wealth does not do it, nor consulship, nor provincial government, nor royal power; but something else must be discovered. What then is that which, when we write, makes us free from hindrance and unimpeded? "The knowledge of the art of writing." What, then, is it in playing the lute? "The science of playing the lute." Therefore in life also it is the science of life.”

From Beyond Good and Evil, Part 9, Chapter 260, by Friedrich Nietzsche:

“There are master morality and slave morality - I add immediately that in all the higher and more mixed cultures there also appear attempts at mediation between these two moralities, and yet more often the interpretation and mutual misunderstanding of both, and at times they occur directly alongside each other-even in the same human being, with a single soul. The oral discrimination of values has originated either among a ruling group whose consciousness of its difference from the ruled group was accompanied by delight-or among the ruled, the slaves and dependents of every degree.”

From Marauders of Gor, pp. 7-9:

The Goreans have very different notions of morality from those of Earth.

Yet who is to say who is the more correct?

I envy sometimes the simplicities of those of Earth, and those of Gor, who, creatures of their conditioning, are untroubled by such matters, but I would not be as either of them. If either should be correct it is for them no more than a lucky coincidence. They would have fallen into truth, but to take truth for granted is not to know it. Truth not won is not possessed. We are not entitled to truths for which we have not fought.

Do we not learn to live by doing, as we learn to speak by speaking, to paint by painting, to build by building?

Those who know best how to live, sometimes it seems to me, are those least likely to be articulate in such skills. It is not that they have not learned but, having learned, they find they cannot tell what they know, for only words can be told, and what is learned in living is more than words, other than words, beyond words. We can say, “This building is beautiful,” but we do not learn the beauty of the building from the words; the building it is which teaches us its beauty; and how can one speak the beauty of the building, as it is? Does one say that it has so many pillars, that it has a roof of a certain type, and such? Can one simply say, “The building is beautiful?” Yes, one can say that but what one learns when one sees the beauty of the building cannot be spoken; it is not words; it is the building’s beauty.

The morality of Earth, from the Gorean point of view, is a morality which would be viewed as more appropriate to slaves than free men. It would be seen in terms of the envy and resentment of inferiors for their superiors. It lays great stress on equalities and being humble and being pleasant and avoiding friction and being ingratiating and small. It is a morality in the best interest of slaves, who would be only too eager to be regarded as the equals of others. We are all the same. That is the hope of slaves; that is what it is in their interest to convince others of. The Gorean morality on the other hand is more one of inequalities, based on the assumption that individuals are not the same, but quite different in many ways. It might be said to be, though this is oversimple, a morality of masters. Guilt is almost unknown in Gorean morality, though shame and anger are not. Many Earth moralities encourage resignation and accommodation; Gorean morality is bent more toward conquest and defiance; many Earth moralities encourage tenderness, pity and gentleness, sweetness; Gorean morality encourages honor, courage, hardness and strength. To Gorean morality many Earth moralities might ask, “Why so hard?” To these Earth moralities, the Gorean ethos might ask, “Why so soft?”

I have sometimes thought that the Goreans might do well to learn something of tenderness, and, perhaps, that those of Earth might do well to learn something of hardness. But I do not know how to live. I have sought the answers, but I have not found them. The morality of slaves says, “You are equal to me; we are both the same”; the morality of masters says, “We are not equal; we are not the same; become equal to me; then we will be the same.” The morality of slaves reduces all to bondage; the morality of masters encourages all to attain, if they can, the heights of freedom. I know of no prouder, more self-reliant, more magnificent creature than the free Gorean, male or female; they are often touchy, and viciously tempered, but they are seldom petty or small; moreover they do not hate and fear their bodies or their instincts; when they restrain themselves it is a victory over titanic forces; not the consequence of a slow metabolism; but sometimes they do not restrain themselves; they do not assume that their instincts and blood are enemies and spies; saboteurs in the house of themselves; they know them and welcome them as part of their persons; they are as little suspicious of them as the cat of its cruelty, or the lion of its hunger; their desire for vengeance, their will to speak out and defend themselves, their lust, they regard as intrinsically and gloriously a portion of themselves as their hearing and their thinking. Many Earth moralities make people little; the object of Gorean morality, for all its faults, is to make people free and great. These objectives are quite different it is clear to see. Accordingly, one would expect that the implementing moralities would, also, be considerably different.”

In 1969, John Lange's first scholarly book, Values and Imperatives: Studies in Ethics -- a collection of lectures & papers by the philosopher Clarence I. Lewis, a member of the "Cambridge Pragmatists," whose ranks had included the renowned William James & Charles Sanders Peirce -- was published by Stanford University Press. Lange had studied under Lewis & had been deeply influenced by him in his own work as a philosopher & in the Introduction to the book he described briefly not only Lewis's impact on him personally & intellectually, but also his view that Lewis "was a great philosopher, and a great man, and I think there are very few people about, of any philosophical or political persuasion, of whom this can be truly said." N.1

Lange wrote that "...Lewis, like Hume and Kant, will be a philosopher whom men who consider the issues of our discipline will, generation after generation...return to visit" N.2 because "[t]he right and the good were as significant and real for Lewis, and as much a part of life and its meaning, as hunger or thirst or kindness or shelter, or any of the economic and human realities that condition what men are and may become." N.3 Lange contended that "if Lewis is *right* in what he says, and I think he may be, at least in large outline, then we are indebted to him for his critique, and perhaps can even acknowledge the justice of his ferocity." (emphasis in the original) N.4

In the first lecture of four comprising the Foundations of Ethics, Lewis had stated:

"...A human being with no group to which he belongs would be an anomaly if not a contradiction. And a human group with no mores which it preserves and inculcates would likewise be imaginary if not impossible. Man himself is a creature of his social organization:without it, he hardly could have survived as a species, and certainly could not have achieved the position of dominance he occupies, regarding this small planet on which he lives as his property, to be administered by him and for the benefit of humankind. Nor could he have attained that level at which his life may now be lived without the complex social structure which distinguishes his species. This social order, in all departments of it, depends upon the continuing social memory and the inheritance of ideas, by which whatever is learned and proves to be of profit for purposes men hold in common is preserved and handed on from one generation to the next. The cumulative traditions so perpetuated -- of the sciences, of each art and craft, of political institutions and the law, of economic organization for the division of labor and the exchange of goods - such are the social instrumentalities without which man could not have become what he is, and the progressive character of the civilization he creates would never have been possible.

And the ethics of any group is the cement which holds it together, that part of its continuing tradition which concerns the sanctioned and supported practices by which its cooperation is preserved and made effective. Upon that, all the rest depends. The ethos is the mother of civilization, and the precondition of that progress which the history of man alone among the animals exhibits. The moral tradition is the informing matrix of this historic process, and remains as the arbiter and critique which alone can hold it steady in the direction it is to take. Any ethic may itself alter, develop, and progress, along with that civilization it serves to guide; but if man should ever outgrow his basic sense of mutual obligation in relations to his fellows, then he will stand in danger of destroying all he has achieved and returning to the dust from which he sprang.

For the individual, ethics is among the most important of all modes of learning because it addresses itself to the most frequent and the most exigent of his problems -- to the problem, namely, of what he should choose to do. That question is universal to all men and to all occasions on which what they may decide will make any real difference. The only other manner of inquiry which is thus all-pervasive of our living is the question of fact or justified belief. And this second question, of the commitment of belief to be taken, is already involved in the question of our doing. There can be no occasion on which what one should choose to do is independent of the circumstances of the case, and of that which, in these circumstances to be met, the action considered will bring about. To act, in the human sense of action, is impossible without reference to what lies within our cognizance -- to what we take to be the fact and what we can expect. Whatever is done in the sense of choosing to do is something determined in the light of what we think and believe; it is done deliberately. And without that root of it in our thinking, anything we might be said to do will lack the significance of an act: it will be attributable to us only in that same sense in which we also say the flowers bloom and the wind blows and a compass points to the north. Without our thought and determination behind it, it may be our behavior, but it is not our will which is made manifest.

In turn, however, the significance which attaches to our thinking is one to be fully realized only in what we do. Whatever we may think and come to believe, if our thinking should have no influence on any decision of action and never eventuate in anything we do, then that thinking would be inconsequential -- literally. Doing without thinking is blind, but thinking without doing is idle. It is only the combination of the two -- in what we do by reason of our thinking -- that we are in any wise effective. What a man may do deliberately is all that lies within his power to control or influence; it represents his total impact on the world he lives in. Except for his encumbering the earth, it is all he counts for, all the difference he will ever make." N. 5
Note 1. Lewis, Clarence I. Values and Imperatives: Studies in Ethics. Ed. John Lange. (Stanford: Stanford U. Press, 1969) Introduction, ix.
Note 2. Ibid. Lange xii.
Note 3. Ibid. Lange xiv.
Note 4. Ibid. Lange xiii.
Note 5. Ibid. Lewis 3-5.

From Values and Imperatives: Studies in Ethics, “The Meaning of Liberty,” pp. 146-8:

“Liberty is the rational creature’s ownership of himself. It consists in the exercise by the individual of his natural capacity for deliberate decision and self-determined action, subject only to restraints which find a sanction in that rationality which all men claim in common. As such, liberty is essential to personality. Man is born free in the sense that he discovers himself as an individual in discovering that this ability to act by deliberate decision belongs to his nature. He maintains his individuality only through the exercise of this capacity. He cannot renounce that privilege, and to deprive him of it it to deny him the right of existence as a person.

The concept of liberty cannot, however, be separated from its reference to rationality, as the capacity of the individual to understand the consequences of his own acts and hence to govern them by reference to what is good, and his acknowledgement of an imperative to do. Deliberate decision would be unmeaning apart from the distinction of desirable from undesirable; and the possibility of self-determined action would be pointless where there should be no recognition that what is desirable has an imperative significance for action. Self-conscious personality requires such understanding and acceptance of responsibility for what one does; and the presence of this capacity in another is a condition of our recognition of him as a fellow human being.

The questions of liberty can arise only amongst men and in their relations to other men. Wemay say of another animal that it is free, meaning only that it is able to behave in accordance with the dictates of its own nature without other hindrances than those which are natural and usual to its environment; or that it is not free when circumstances whish are artificial or abnormal prevent such behavior. But this vague conception of animal freedom is not that of liberty. Man also may find that the natural environment leaves open the way to his desire, or that the laws and circumstances of nature defeat his purposes, but he does not consider that his liberty is affected by such conditions unless they arise from the deliberate acts of other men.

Liberty, then, is not to be identified with the absence of impediments to what we wish, or human freedom with attainment of our purposes. Even if such purposes stand as comprehensive and perennial goals of human endeavor, it is at most the pursuit of these, and not their assurance, which could be accounted a liberty of the individual or regarded as a right.

Furthermore, the liberty of man distinguishes itself from the merely physical freedom of the animal to behave according to its compulsive drives by the human recognition of imperatives. Man’s deliberation in action has reference to the government of his momentary impulses by consideration of their foreseeable consequences, and his acceptance of responsibility for these. Any restriction of action which is implicit in such rationality cannot be accounted a curtailment of the liberty of the individual since it springs from an imperative of his own nature.

The first such dictate is the imperative so to act that he will not later regret his decision and be sorry for what he has done or for what he might have done but failed to do. Without the possibility of such self-approval or self-condemnation, and the recognition of some kind of rightness or wrongness in actions done or contemplated, there would be no self-consciousness of personality. If it should be asked what ground this imperative has, then there can be other answer than this: that it belongs to human nature to be thus concerned for the future and not merely for the present, and to blame ourselves for weakness of will if we allow our actions to be governed by impulse or by present satisfaction or dissatisfaction, without respect to future consequences. To attribute the imperative so recognized to rationality is not to postulate some inscrutable and separate facility in man, but merely to name a pervasive and familiar feature of human living and doing by an appropriate and traditional name. To lack such concern for the future, or feel no imperative to govern one’s conduct by reference to it, is to lack a prime requirement of human personality. If any being have no sense of these, then there can be no ground on which we could commend such critique of conscience to him; merely we should have to refuse him recognition as a fellow human, and be obliged to defend ourselves from unhappy consequences of his behavior as best we may, including the use of force if necessary.”

Augustine, In Ioannis epistulam ad Parthos tractatus X, 7.8. PL 35.2033:

Dilige, et quod vis fac. [Love God, and do as you will]

From Gargantua and Pantagruel, Book I:

“All their life was spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure. They rose out of their beds when they thought good; they did eat, drink, labour, sleep, when they had a mind to it and were disposed for it. None did awake them, one did offer to constrain them to eat, drink, nor to do any other thing; for so had Gargantua established it. In all their rule and strictest tie of their order there was but this one clause to be observed,

Do What Thou Wilt;

because men that are free, well-born, well-bred, and conversant in honest companies, have naturally an instinct and spur that prompteth them unto virtuous actions, and withdraws them from vice, which is called honour. Those same men, when by base subjection and constraint they are brought under and kept down, turn aside from that noble disposition by which they formerly were inclined to virtue, to shake off and break that bond of servitude wherein they are so tyrannously enslaved; for it is agreeable with the nature of man to long after things forbidden and to desire what is denied us.”

From Marauders of Gor, p. 20:

“How should one live?

In the codes of the warriors, there is a saying: "Be strong, and do as you will. The swords of others will set you your limits."

I ask you to reflect, in light of these quotations, on the ethical natures of the vast majority of the men & women who are enslaved in the Gor novels — literally & metaphorically. It’s my view that we are to understand that Elinor, of Captive, already wore moral & psychological chains — as a human being, quite apart from the sexual issues — before she was ever brought to Gor, physically collared & branded, & that it is only toward the end of Captive, when she refuses to poison Bosk in order to save Rask’s life that she attains “master morality” at last. Further consider that IMO Norman intends us to understand that Tarl is never so enslaved in the novels as he is at the end of Hunters when -- although nominally & legally free -- he wallows in envy, resentment & self-pity: the hallmarks of “slave morality.”

My Third Post to the Howling Curmudgeons Board of September 28, 2007:

Hi, Greg,

You wrote, in part:

“That is, from my perspective, the putative merits of Norman's prose are overwhelmed by his advocacy of chattel slavery for and denial of agency to women. I think it's analogous to bending Wagnerian opera in service to the aggrandizement of German nationalism with the practical effect of the extermination of the Jews: Simple evocation of a great and important work does not excuse evil ends….

…Even if individual Gor novels are sophisticated comments on a wide range of philosophy and myth, that commentary is effectively defeated by their overt advocacy for insupportable, dehumanizing sexual politics.

You can make all the punning allusions to Ovid you want, but if you're doing so to say that women are better off without the power to make their own decisions, you're wrong, you're hurting people, and your cleverness doesn't excuse you, in my opinion.”

I believe that you’ve misread Norman’s intentions as well as his use of the M/s trope in two critical ways: (a) you’ve read his prose literally, as if it were expository, rather than metaphorical & imaginative, which is how philosophical fiction should be read, & (b) you’ve further misinterpreted it as being intended entirely straightforwardly rather than as quite often highly ironical, even savagely satiric at times.

Have you ever read Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal For Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burthen to Their Parents, or the Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick? Swift’s 1729 “proposal” was one of genocide: for poor Irish parents to sell their infants to the gentry as food. The infants’ nutritional value was discussed “seriously,” the narrator even recommending specific methods for best cooking them. http://www.unh.edu/english/swift/2003/higgins.htm As with most of Swift’s other satires, many of his readers had believed his Modest Proposal to be a perfectly serious, forthright one: they’d completely misconstrued his irony, which is what I believe you & the majority of Norman’s readers have also done with the Gor series.

It’s not at all difficult to see exactly who & what Norman was skewering at at least one level in the Gor novels if one takes into account the historical context of the increasingly strident early radical gender feminist rhetoric of the 60s, 70s, & 80s in which Norman was writing most of the series, rhetoric which began provoking widespread furor in the U.S. only a few years before Tarnsman was first published (read some of the 1960s articles about radical feminism in The New York Times, such as the report about the activists who in the mid-60s had picketed a bridal fashion show chanting “Here come the slaves/off to their graves“). Betty Friedan’s first salvo, The Feminine Mystique, published in 1963, had devoted several pages to characterizing the “happy homemaker” as a “waste of human self” “enslaved” in the “comfortable concentration camp” of American suburbia, while portraying herself as one of its stifled inmates. Even more extreme claims followed, which were widely publicized by the media:

“The married woman knows that love is, at its best, an inadequate reward for her unnecessary and bizarre heritage of oppression.” (Beverly Jones and Judith Brown, Toward a Female Liberation Movement, Gainesville, Florida, June 1968, p. 23)

“The institution of marriage is the chief vehicle for the perpetuation of the oppression of women; it is through the role of wife that the subjugation of women is maintained. In a very real way the role of wife has been the genesis of women's rebellion throughout history.” (Marlene Dixon, Why Women's Liberation? Racism and Male Supremacy (1969))

“Marriage is a form of slavery.” (Sheila Cronan, in Radical Feminism - “Marriage" (1970), Koedt, Levine, and Rapone, eds., HarperCollins, 1973, p. 216)

“It became increasingly clear to us that the institution of marriage `protects' women in the same way that the institution of slavery was said to `protect' blacks--that is, that the word `protection' in this case is simply a euphemism for oppression.” (Sheila Cronan, in Radical Feminism - “Marriage" (1970), Koedt, Levine, and Rapone, eds., HarperCollins, 1973, p. 214)

“Since marriage constitutes slavery for women, it is clear that the Women's Movement must concentrate on attacking this institution. Freedom for women cannot be won without the abolition of marriage.” (Sheila Cronan, in Radical Feminism - “Marriage" (1970), Koedt, Levine, and Rapone, eds., HarperCollins, 1973, p. 219)

And if the professional rapist is to be separated from the average dominant heterosexual [male], it may be mainly a quantitative difference.” (Susan Griffin, Rape: The All-American Crime Ramparts 10, September 1971, pp. 26-35)

“Marriage has existed for the benefit of men and has been a legally sanctioned method of control over women.... Male society has sold us the idea of marriage.... Now we know it is the institution that has failed us and we must work to destroy it.... The end of the institution of marriage is a necessary condition for the liberation of women. Therefore, it is important for us to encourage women to leave their husbands and not to live individually with men.” (Nancy Lehmann and Helen Sullinger, Declaration of Feminism, 1971)

I claim that rape exists any time sexual intercourse occurs when it has not been initiated by the woman, out of her own genuine affection and desire.” (Robin Morgan, Going too Far: The Personal Chronicle of a Feminist - Theory and Practice: Pornography and Rape, Random House, 1974)

“All patriarchists exalt the home and family as sacred, demanding it remain inviolate from prying eyes. Men want privacy for their violations of women... All women learn in childhood that women as a sex are men's prey.” (Marilyn French, The Women’s Room, Summit Books, 1977)

“Whatever they may be in public life, whatever their relations with men, in their relations with women, all men are rapists and that's all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, their codes.” (Marilyn French, The Women’s Room, Summit Books, 1977)

There are no boundaries between affectionate sex and slavery in (the male) world. Distinctions between pleasure and danger are academic; the dirty-laundry list of 'sex acts'...includes rape, foot binding, fellatio, intercourse, auto eroticism, incest, anal intercourse, use and production of pornography, cunnilingus, sexual harassment, and murder. All sex must stop before male supremacy will be defeated: ... We know of no exception to male supremacist sex. ... We therefore name intercourse, penetration, and all other sex acts as integral parts of the male gender construction, which is sex; and we criticise them as oppressive to women. We name orgasm as the epistemological mark of the sexual, and we therefore criticise it too as oppressive to women. ... If it doesn't subordinate women, it's not sex.” (Judith Levine commenting on a document from Women Against Sex: A Southern Women's Writing Collective - Sex Resistance in Heterosexual Arrangements,

Politically, I call it rape whenever a woman has sex and feels violated. You might think that's too broad. I'm not talking about sending all of you men to jail for that.” (Catherine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses of Life and Law - A Rally Against Rape, Harvard University Press, 1987)

Feminism stresses the indistinguishability of prostitution, marriage, and sexual harassment.” (Catherine MacKinnon, Feminism Unmodified: Discourses of Life and Law - A Rally Against Rape, Harvard University Press, 1987, p. 81)

"The simple fact is that every woman must be willing to be identified as a lesbian to be fully feminist." (National Organization of Women publication, 1988)

“One of the differences between marriage and prostitution is that in marriage you only have to make a deal with one man.” (Andrea Dworkin, Letters From a War Zone, Dutton Publishing, 1989)

Marriage . . . is a legal license to rape.” (Andrea Dworkin, Letters From a War Zone, Dutton Publishing, 1989)

Marriage as an institution developed from rape as a practice. Rape, originally defined as abduction, became marriage by capture. Marriage meant the taking was to extend in time, to be not only use of but possession of, or ownership.” (Andrea Dworkin, Letters From a War Zone, Dutton Publishing, 1989)

Rape is the primary heterosexual model for sexual relating. Rape is the primary emblem of romantic love. Rape is the means by which a woman is initiated into her womanhood as it is defined by men.” (Andrea Dworkin, Letters >From a War Zone, Dutton Publishing, 1989)

“Like prostitution, marriage is an institution that is extremely oppressive and dangerous for women.” (Andrea Dworkin, Letters From a War Zone - Feminism: An Agenda (1983), Dutton Publishing, 1989, p. 146)

“The family is the primary site of female subjection, which is achieved largely through sexuality: women are indoctrinated into their supposed ‘natural state’ by male control of their sexuality in the family.” (Marilyn French, The War Against Women, Ballantine Books, 1992, p. 53)

“All women learn in childhood that women as a sex are men's prey; many also learn that the men who supposedly cherish them are the worst offenders. They learn that ‘love’ is about power and they are the powerless…” (Marilyn French, The War Against Women, Ballantine Books, 1992, p. 196)

What themes do you see expressed in the radical gender feminist position, above? The equation of "marriage" to "slavery," of "intercourse" to "rape," of "wives" to "chattel property" & of “orgasm” to “oppression.”

Norman, in fact, is a very strong believer in marriage:

“Affairs are delicious, and doubtless, once in a while, they are not altogether out of order, particularly in the unimaginative, dismal marriages that seem to be the statistical rule in our rather grim and loveless world. On the other hand, to put my cards on the table. I am rather stick-in-the-muddish, and am sold on the institution of marriage, as it might be if not as it is. This does not mean, of course, that I am opposed to having affairs. I am highly in favor of it. I am particularly in favor of having them with one’s wife, but real affairs, not pretend affairs.

Later in this book I will explain the strategy of having an affair with one’s wife.

Indeed, later in this book, I will describe and detail a remarkable variety of delicious love games and love episodes which a husband and wife might not only share, but which, ideally in my opinion, are to be shared by a husband and wife. Other lovers are possibilities, particularly if both are unmarried, but the husband-and-wife relationship, the partnership of long standing, the durable and mutually respecting and understanding relationship, supplies, it seems, a desirable framework for these remarkable exploitations of human sexual capacity.” (Imaginative Sex, p. 15)

He’s also adamantly opposed to rape in real life:

“The fact, of course, that rape is a common sexual fantasy of women does not indicate that women, in any general sense, wish to be raped. They would surely, at the very least, wish to choose the time and the place and the circumstances and the man. Rape, as a sociological reality, is commonly an ugly, brutal, unpleasant, sickening, horrifying, vicious act. It degrades the man and doesn’t do the woman much good either. Not only does she receive little or no pleasure, but the whole affair has no more intrinsic worth than a mugging. Further, sadly, she is likely to be brutalized and, at the least, intimidated. This is to take advantage of a weaker creature, who cannot adequately, in most cases, defend herself. The rapist, unless there are some extenuating factors, such as severe mental illness, scarcely comes up to scratch for a human being. To pick on a woman because she is smaller and weaker, is much the same thing as to pick on a child or animal; or it is much the same as a young man striking an old man; or a large, strong man, beating a small, weak man; it is just not something that is worthy to do. It is not that it needs to be a “sick” thing to do, though doubtless in some cases it is; it is rather that there is just no manhood in it.” (Imaginative Sex, pp 52-3)

“If man’s natural role is that of hunter and captor and woman’s is that of game and captive, our instinctual sexual fantasies would be precisely what they are. We are, of course, or should be, far from the jungle. Rape, real rape, even if we are naturally inclined to do it, is not to be done. Our rights to self-expression end where the other person’s feelings begin. Civilization, as Freud recognized, requires restraint. All things considered, civilization is better than the jungle, and it is a fragile and delicate set of relationships. We have lost it many times, and we must try not to do so again.

In short, a true man, one with normal aggressions and fully operating glands, presumably desires to rape, but also, having a hard-won manhood, does not in fact rape. This is not particularly because he does not wish to agitate the precinct detectives, but rather because, when the chips are down, if he really had the choice, he would not want to hurt or intimidate a woman. He might desire to do so, but, on the genuine level of humanity, he just would refuse to do so. It is not a humanly good or worthy thing to do. From a woman’s point of view a man who wishes to rape her but does not, because he gives her her due as a human being, is probably more interesting to her as a male than either one who does not wish to rape her, who does not find her worth the fantasy, or one who catches her by accident in a dark alley and does in fact penetrate her, ejaculate and dash off. The first man excites her; the second two, in their different ways, are bores.” (Imaginative Sex, pp 53-4)

And a little further on in the book, after describing one of the fantasies that involves whipping, he emphasizes:

“Obviously, in the fantasy, the woman may not be struck with a whip. It would hurt her to do so. Acting, however, as though she is being beaten can be sexually stimulating to her. Really being beaten, besides being immoral, would just make her miserable. You wish to give her pleasure. Pain is not pleasure. If she should really desire you to hurt her, you should get her to a doctor. Assuming that a whip is not available, and there is no reason one should be available, the male may simply, sharply, clap his hands, and the woman reacts as though struck. The beating is completely symbolic, as it should be. Fantasy is fantasy.” (Imaginative Sex, pp. 84-85)

While he recognizes the power & pleasure of submissive fantasy for women in the metaphorical bedroom (which Nancy Friday had documented, along with the pervasiveness of women’s ‘rape fantasies‘, in her watershed 1974 book My Secret Garden), he also acknowledges that women aren’t one-note gender stereotypes, & again draws a very hard line between fantasy & reality:

“A Rites-of-Submission Fantasy can be a powerful fantasy. It is well to remember, of course, that it is only a fantasy. There is something in a woman that wants to surrender herself to a strong, desirable male. In a sense, sexually, a woman does frequently wish to be dominated. The I-am-his-slave fantasy, so to speak, is a common one for the female. It is, of course, only one side of the complex, marvelous creatures that are women. There is also a side that desires and deserves independence. Women are gloriously complicated. They are part companion, part slave girl. A man is very lucky to have both. If he has only one, I think he has been short changed."(Imaginative Sex, p. 91)

And regarding women’s dominance over men, he adds,

“ …it is good for them to be dominant. It helps them to think better of themselves. It releases suppressed emotions and ventilates often-bottled hostility and aggression. It gives them more self-respect and helps them to be freer, happier human beings. There are pleasures in being the leader, the commander. These pleasures should be open to the woman as well as the man." (Imaginative Sex, p. 97)

And, further,
“ …most women, regardless of their ideology, have excellent reasons, at least from time to time, for resenting men and their dominance. Men do, in effect, run society and women, rightfully or wrongfully, desirably or undesirably, tend to occupy, statistically, less prestigious positions. The woman, just in standing before a man, is immediately classed with all other women as a certain kind of object, to be accorded certain kinds of treatment. She is seen as a "kind" of thing, pretty, weak, vulnerable, at the mercy of men. She is classified as prize, as sexual quarry. One cannot blame a woman for not, upon occasion, resenting this immediate classification of her as a "form" of life with a certain sexual destiny. There are times when a woman wants to be seen by a man as his object, and his prize, but there are other times when she resents, and justifiably, her nature as the always-weaker, the always-hunted. There are times when she wishes she had power, that she might look on men as they look on her, that she might own and command them, as they do her, that it might be she, she, who is dominant!" (Imaginative Sex, p. 110)

Imaginative Sex is particularly helpful in delineating Norman’s third use of the M/s metaphor, i.e. as representing the intimate erotic relationship between a man & a woman, while using the “Free Companionship” to represent the domestic partnership in which children are raised & through which a couple’s commitment to the larger society is anchored. As I pointed out in my prior post, Tarl repeatedly lets slip the fact that on Gor, in fact, only a tiny minority of women -- 2-3% -- are enslaved at any time:

"I know now, of course, as I did not earlier, that there are many free women on Gor, and, indeed, that most women on Gor are free." (Witness, p. 102)

"Are most Gorean women slaves?" she asked.
"No," I said. "Indeed, statistically, in those parts of Gor with which I am familiar, very few. Commonly only one woman in, say, forty or fifty is a slave. This varies somewhat of course, from city to city." (Beasts, p. 246)

“Normally only about one in forty or so Gorean women in the cities is enslaved. Free Gorean women, incidentally, enjoy a prestige and status which, it seems to me, is higher than that of the normal Earth woman.” (Explorers, p.757)

The free women who constitute 97-98% of the female population are depicted as having a high degree of “agency,” especially when one takes into account the fact that Gor is composed of transplanted ancient & medieval civilizations. Work, motherhood, & Companionship are not mutually exclusive & a woman might do all or some depending upon the events & periods of her life. Free women have freedom from reproduction requirements except when agreed to in a Companionship. Birth control on Gor is safe, painless, non-invasive, non-interruptive, completely foolproof to take, 100% effective & completely reversible on demand. Aging and disease are almost totally conquered; the form of marriage (Free Companionship) such that both parties could chose to end the relationship in the case of desire, abandonment, or enslavement (something useful with lives that spanned centuries).

While slaves enjoyed the most complete unrestrained sexual responsiveness, even free women were permitted to participate in sexual activity with free men as desired and it was expected that sexuality was normal, healthy & to be enjoyed.

"Goreans, in their simplistic fashion, often contend, categorically, that man is naturally free and woman is naturally slave. But even for them the issues are more complex than these simple formulations would suggest. For example, there is no higher person, nor one more respected, than the Gorean free woman. Even a slaver who has captured a free woman often treats her with great solicitude until she is branded." (Hunters, p. 311)

"I inclined my head. "Lady," said I, acknowledging the introduction. To a free woman considerable deference is due, particularly to one such as the Lady Rowena, one obviously, at least hitherto, of high station." (Players, p. 12)

"A free woman's name, of course, tends to remain constant. A Gorean free woman does not change her name in the ceremony of the Free Companionship. She remains who she was. In such a ceremony two free individuals have elected to become companions. The Earth woman, as a consequence of certain mating ceremonials, may change her last name. The first and other names, however, tend to remain constant. From the Gorean point of view the wife of Earth occupies a status which is higher than that of the slave but lower than that of the Free Companion." (Explorers, pp. 595-6)

"I had, almost from the first in Kamchak's wagon, been truly fond of Dina, and I think she of me. She was truly a fine, spirited girl, quick-witted, warm-hearted, intelligent and brave. I admired her and feared for her. I knew, though I did not speak of it with her, that she was willingly risking her life to shelter me in her native city. Indeed, it is possible I might have died the first night in Turia had it not been that Dina had seen me, followed me and in my time of need boldly stood forth as my ally. In thinking of her I realized how foolish are certain of the Gorean prejudices with respect to the matter of caste. The Caste of Bakers is not regarded as a high caste, to which one looks for nobility and such; and yet her father and her brothers, outnumbered, had fought and died for their tiny shop; and this courageous girl, with a valor I might not have expected of many warriors, weaponless, alone and friendless, had immediately, asking nothing in return, leaped to my aid, giving me the protection of her home, and her silence, placing at my disposal her knowledge of the city and whatever resources might be hers to command." (Nomads, p. 239)

"Will there be many who will work with you?" I asked, remembering the dangers of his research, the enmity of the Initiates.
"Some," said Flaminius. "Already some eight, of skill and repute, have pledged themselves my aids in this undertaking." He looked at me. "And the first, who gave courage to them all," said he, "was a woman of the Caste of Physicians, once of Treve."
"A woman named Vika?" I asked.
"Yes," said he, "do you know her?"
"Once," said I.
"She stands high among the Physicians of the city," he said.
"You will find her, I think," I said, "brilliantly worthy as a colleague in your work."" (Assassin, p.398)

"Did you know," he asked, "that Vika was the female Mul who drove away the Golden Beetles when Sarm sent them against the forces of Misk?"
"No," I said, "I did not know."
"A fine, brave girl," said Parp.
"I know," I said. "She is truly a great and beautiful woman."
It seemed to please Parp that I had said this.
"Yes," he said, "I believe she is." And he added, rather sadly I thought, "And such was her mother." (Priest-Kings, p. 289)

Gorean free women are depicted as ruling cities, commanding armies, serving on city councils, owning businesses (even as slave traders themselves) & even, on occasion, fighting beside their men:

“To be Ubara of Ar was the most glorious thing to which a woman might aspire. It meant that she would be the richest and most powerful woman on Gor, that armies and navies, and tarn cavalries, could move upon her very word, that the taxes of an empire the wealthiest on Gor could be laid at her feet, that the most precious of gems and jewels might be hers, that she would be the most envied woman on the planet.” (Hunters, p. 479)

“I saw one invader climbing down the ladder to the lower levels.
Then he cried out and slipped to the level beneath, his hands off the rungs.
I saw Telima's head in the opening. In her teeth was the dagger I had seen. In her right hand, bloody, was the admiral's sword I had discarded.
"Go back!" I cried to her.
I saw Luma and Vina climbing up behind her. They picked up stones from the roof of the keep, and ran to the walls, to hurl them at point-blank range against the men climbing.
Telima, wildly, her two hands on the sword, struck a man from behind in the neck and he fell away from the blade.
Then she had lost the blade, as an invader struck it from her hand. He raised his own to strike her but I had my steel beneath his left shoulder blade and had turned again before he could deliver his blow.
I saw a man on the parapet fall screaming backward, struck by a rock as large as his head, hurled from the small hands of Luma. Vina, with a shield, whose weight she could hardly bear, was trying to cover the boy, Fish, as he fought. I saw him drop his man, and turn, seeking another.” (Raiders, p. 438-9)

“Outside, on the dim, polar ice, many on sleds, drawn by sleen, were hundreds of the People, men, and women and children. More were arriving, visible in the reflection from the moons on the ice. Karjuk stood near the entranceway, his strung bow of layered horn in his hand, an arrow at the string. Other hunters stood about. Men from the complex lay scattered on the ice. From the backs and chests of several protruded arrows. Red hunters stood about. Some of the men from the complex had been downed by lances. A few cowered, their weapons discarded, herded together by domesticated snow sleen, ravening and vicious, on the leashes of their red masters. Some men of the complex were thrown to their stomachs on the ice. Their hands were jerked behind them and were being tied with rawhide. Then their suits were being slit with bone knives.
"We will freeze!" cried one of them. The red hunters were putting their enemies completely at their mercy, and that of the winter night.
Karjuk called out orders. Red hunters streamed in, past me. Imnak handed the dart-firing weapons to some of them, hastily explaining their use. But most simply hurried past him, more content to rely on their tools of wood and bone. The men with the domesticated snow sleen passed me. I did not envy those on whom such animals would be set. Drusus, with a dart-firing weapon, joined one contingent of hunters, in their vanguard, to cover them and match fire with whatever resistance they might encounter; Ram, seizing up a weapon, joined another contingent. I looked outside the hatch, or port.
Even more of the People, women and children as well as hunters, were making their way across the ice to the complex. They were detaching many of the snow sleen from the sleds, to be used as attack sleen.
Karjuk continued to stand by the port and issue orders, in the tongue of the red hunters.
"There must be more than fifteen hundred of the hunters," I said.
"They are from all the camps," said Imnak. "There are more, before they have finished coming, than twenty-five hundred."
"Then it is all the People," I said.
"Yes," said Imnak, "it is all the People." He grinned at me. "Sometimes the guard cannot do everything," he said.
I looked at Karjuk. "I thought you an ally of the beasts," I said.
"I am the guard," he said. "And I am of the People."
"Forgive me," I said, "that I doubted you."
"It is done," he said.
More red hunters streamed past us.” (Beasts, pp. 68-9)

Karjuk’s role as “the guard,” BTW, is but one of numerous allusions throughout Beasts to Plato’s The Republic.

The last aspects I’ll touch on are Norman’s uses of allusion & puns, both of which are venerable literary & philosophical techniques authors use to convey to attentive, sophisticated readers that they may be using irony or otherwise commenting obliquely on their characters’ views or behavior. Given the amount of time I’ve spent already trying to pull all this together for you, I hope you won’t mind if I cheat a little at this point & copy below extracts from a few posts I’ve made elsewhere in the last 18 months while discussing the books with other close readers of the texts.

In response to a comment about Norman’s description of all intercourse as “rape,” I’d written:

“It’s also a recurring etymological pun, IMO. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts here my observation that Norman regularly employs the Aristotelian rhetorical device of paronomasia (a visual, auditory or etymological pun intended to provoke thought & to challenge the reader’s assumptions even more than to amuse, indeed often devoid of any intention to “amuse"). Nietzsche also employed this technique regularly & quite emphatically in his works, with particular attention to tracing the semantic shift (meaning change) in words by employing them not in keeping with their common, current usage (except superficially), but rather in conformance with their archaic usages, thereby demanding that the attentive reader reflect on the significance of the underlying cultural changes that had led to such a semantic shift & perhaps even partly resulted from it, or perhaps to suggest a hybrid meaning, one perhaps that could have resulted had cultural history taken another direction.

I’ve noticed numerous words with which Norman appears to me to be employing such “etymological paronomasia” & regarding Norman’s use of the word “rape,” let me observe that it has a very long history of “semantic shift,” deriving originally from the Latin “rapere, to take by force or seize,” which was commonly used for centuries to refer more to the capture of a woman than to sexually ravishing her, although the second sense was usually implicit in the first, e.g.., the foundational Roman myth of “The Rape of the Sabine Women.”

In any case, one of the now-archaic meanings of “rape” that The Oxford English Dictionary traces to the Late Middle English, surviving through the early 17th century is to “[e]nrapture; transport with the strength of an emotion.” “Enrapture” itself is also derived originally from the Latin “rapere” & at one time “rapt” meant not simply, as it does today, “transported with intense emotion, delight,” but as the past participle of “rape,” meant “[c]arried away by force; (of a woman) raped.”

Interesting exercise: go back & re-read several passages in the Gor novels in which a male character expresses his intention to “rape” a female character or in which a female character “begs to be raped” & substitute for the common sense of abusive force with which “rape” is uniformly used today the current meaning of “enrapture.” See how that affects your understanding of Norman’s meaning, since that’s exactly what he’s challenging the attentive, sophisticated reader to do, IMNSHO.

As someone else once commented about this, you can't rape the willing, let alone the enthusiastic.

This type of etymological word-play may seem “vague” to some extent, but it’s neither intended nor expected to meet the strict genealogical criteria of linguists -- no puns are. See, for example, the “cluster of anagrammatic and paronomastic puns on mora-amor-mors-mora” in Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe. “Etymological Wordplay in Ovid's 'Pyramus and Thisbe'“ (Met. 4.55-166) A. M. Keith The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 51, No. 1 (2001), pp. 309-312; & more generally on Ovid‘s punning, P.Hardie, A. Barchiesi, and S. Hinds (eds) Ovidian Transformations (Cambridge, 1999); Ovid: Amores. Text, Prolegomena and Commentary. Volume 1: Text and Prolegomena by J. C. McKeon (Liverpool, 1987); The Language of Allegory: Defining the Genre M. Mulligan (Cornell, 1979), The Rhetoric of Fiction Wayne C. Booth (U. of Chicago Press, 1966).

As Catherine Bates points out, “Puns play with meaning -- they give the wrong names to the wrong things -- and they disturb the proper flow of communication rather as the word ‘pun’ also disturbs the proper family lineage which etymology and genealogy mutually represent.” (p. 421) “The Point of Puns” Catherine Bates Modern Philology, Vol. 96, No. 4 (May, 1999), pp. 421-438.

This kind of punning is very, very common in ancient, medieval & Renaissance literature. See, for example, “Latin Paronomasia” J. D. Sadler The Classical Journal, Vol. 78, No. 2 (Dec., 1982 - Jan., 1983), pp. 138-141; “Etymological Wordplay and Poetic Succession in Lucretius” Monica R. Gale Classical Philology, Vol. 96, No. 2 (Apr., 2001), pp. 168-172; “Three Propertian Puns” Michael Hendry The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 47, No. 2 (1997), pp. 599-603; “The Etymology and Genealogy of Palinurus” Z. Philip Ambrose The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 101, No. 4 (Winter, 1980), pp. 449-457; “Argus and Argyve: Etymology and Characterization in Chaucer's Troilus” Susan Schibanoff Speculum, Vol. 51, No. 4 (Oct., 1976), pp. 647-658; Studies in Classical Satire and Related Literary Theory by C. A. Van Rooy (Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1965); “Some Puns in Aristotle” Kenneth Quandt Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-), Vol. 111, 1981 (1981), pp. 179-196; “Plato's Use of ATEXNWS” D. L. Roochnik Phoenix, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Autumn, 1987), pp. 255-263.

It’s particularly so in Latin & Greek erotic literature, not only in Ovid, but also in The Greek Anthology, Catullus, Martial, Horace, & Plautus, for example. “A Type of Sexual Euphemism in Latin" J. N. Adams Phoenix, Vol. 35, No. 2 (Summer, 1981), pp. 120-128; “Notes on Two Epigrams of Philodemus” David Sider The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 103, No. 2 (Summer, 1982), pp. 208-213; “The Love Poetry of Philodemus” David Sider The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 108, No. 2 (Summer, 1987), pp. 310-324; The Latin Sexual Vocabulary by J. N. Adams (Duckworth, 1982). If you read up a bit on the tradition of sexual euphemism in ancient & medieval erotica, you’ll notice, too, that Norman almost never permits any character who’s not a slave to declare love directly to another character (Ovid’s servitium amoris ("the slavery of love")) & the almost martially methodical manner in which Tarl conquers various women sexually (Ovid’s militia amoris).

What such literary allusions & puns are intended do is to alter the attentive reader's understanding of the author's intent & his superficial textual meanings. Sophisticated literature almost always operates like this on many different levels simultaneously, which all ironic & satiric literature must do. Literary allusions & puns are therefore among the most potent tools authors employ to signal their multiple layers of meaning. Literary criticism dating back to Aristotle has focused on using such tools to express & identify the deeper structures & themes that lie below the textual surface & to unify & transmit their meanings. Aristotle addressed some of these techniques in the Ars Rhetorica, but the most extensive treatment of them that survives from the ancient world is probably Quintillian’s Instutio Oratorio, secondarily, the Ars Grammatica of Donatus.


“As any serious student of the Western literary Canon is aware, writers of serious literature tend to draw heavily on the works of their predecessors, not because they’re lazy or unimaginative plagiarists, but rather because such works deal in a profound way with the themes that have been of greatest moment to Western civilization over the centuries & because such works, through those centuries, have come to so permeate Western culture that even those Westerners who themselves are not extensively read in the Canon will nonetheless usually recognize & respond to the metaphorical truths the works of the Canon express. Such works are deemed “seminal works” (from “semen,” the Latin word for “seed”) because so many other works of literature have sprung from them. One reason for doing this as an author is to enhance the absorption by the reader, on at least a subliminal level, of the serious intellectual issues that the author is exploring below the more superficial plot elements. Another is to provide clues to attentive readers familiar with the Canon as to what serious questions the author is attempting to provoke in the mind of his readers.

I mentioned in my second post to [name deleted] that in addition to Burroughs’s Barsoom Chronicles (not considered seminal works, except, perhaps, in the science fiction genre), it would be readily apparent to anyone familiar with Nietzsche’s works that in the first three volumes of the Chronicles of Gor, Norman was also drawing on Thus Spake Zarathustra as well as Greek myth (Theseus & Ariadne, for example, at least through the first chapters of Hunters). In the subsequent volumes, as I’d mentioned in my first post, I’ve seen heavy allusion to many other literary, historical & philosophical works & part of the fun for me has been spotting the literary & historical “breadcrumbs” Norman drops for his readers in that regard.

For example, although the parallel between the Panther Girls & the legendary Amazons was obvious from Norman’s first description of them early on, when Tarl first mentions in Hunters his intention to sail to Lydius prefatory to rescuing Talena, I realized that the “landscape” of Hunters would likely incorporate elements of ancient Anatolia & Persia, given that the Amazons’ legendary territories lay in northern Anatolia & that the ancient Greeks had sometimes called the ancient Persians “Lydians.” And so it was: the plot of Hunters blends elements from both Xenophon’s Anabasis (recounting the retreat through hostile territory of Xenophon & his fellow Spartan mercenaries, the “Ten Thousand,” after Cyrus was killed in the Battle of Cunaxa) as well as Arrian’s Anabasis Alexandri, perhaps the most significant surviving source we have on Alexander the Great, plus a number of references to The Odyssey (e.g., Circe’s enchantment of Odysseus’ men with the drugged wine).

The name of the Gorean ocean “Thassa” is a contraction of “thalassa,” the Greek word for “sea,” as most readers of the series are aware, I‘m sure, & Xenophon recounts in the climactic moment of Anabasis how, when the surviving members of the Ten Thousand finally fight their way to the shores of the Black Sea -- & the prospect of rescue at last -- on sighting its waters they cry out, “Thalatta! Thalatta!” which in the ancient Attic dialect meant, “The Sea! The Sea!” Those who cannot recall it may now wish to glance at the first line of Chapter 18 of Hunters.

Why do I think these things matter at all, one might reasonably ask. Well, recognizing that Norman had cast Tarl as Theseus & Vella as Ariadne helped me to resolve why Norman had seemingly served their characters as ill at that point as I felt he had, but I also think he was inviting the reader to consider how different cultures conceive of their heroes, since Theseus’s stature was not substantially lessened in ancient Greek culture by his abandonment of Ariadne, although even many ancient Greeks & Romans felt great moral qualms about his treatment of her (Ariadne is later rescued by the god Dionysus, who marries her, according to one version of the myth). The breadcrumbs from Anabasis Alexandri (e.g., the parallel of Tarl’s poisoning to that of Alexander, purportedly by Antipater) helped me to consider Tarl’s jealousy & resentment of Marlenus in Hunters from the perspective of father-son-like tensions, inasmuch as I had previously noted the references to Philip of Macedon in Norman’s characterization of Marlenus in some of the earlier volumes, in addition to references to Emperor Augustus.

None of this deals directly with what I think is happening in Captive, of course, but it will help illustrate, I hope, in part why I came to perceive Elinor’s tale as a secularized re-working of one of the greatest themes of the Western Canon -- the felix culpa, or the “fortunate fall,” which is the Christian answer to why a loving God would allow Man to sin & to be expelled from the Garden of Eden. In a larger sense the trope of the “fortunate fall” addresses the philosophical question of the meaning & purpose of suffering in human life, & for an atheist such as Nietzsche -- but one with a decidedly “religious” sensibility nonetheless -- the greatest temptation to nihilism is the conclusion that human suffering is entirely arbitrary & therefore meaningless.

When Elinor’s life on earth is described to us at the beginning of the novel, it’s clearly a “paradise” in outward display, but a hollow one utterly devoid of human warmth, comfort, or love, & Elinor is well on her way to becoming a woman as loathsome as her mother. Then she is captured (or rescued?) & brought to Gor & the reader is invited to consider in her preliminary physical descriptions whether Gor is to be her “paradise” or a "purgatory" where she will “earn her bread in sorrow.” She, of course, both “earns her bread in sorrow,” as well as “eats of the forbidden fruit,” & the suffering that is inflicted on her by her status as a slave in a larger sense, by Rask specifically in a few pivotal chapters, serves a harsh but necessary purpose: Elinor’s redemption as a human being. When she emerges from the tiny box where she has been locked in by Rask as punishment -- to metaphorically “gestate” -- she is “reborn.” I thought it was a brilliant paronomasia, BTW.

In any case, once Elinor has become worthy of his love at last, Rask “eats of the fruit” he has always forbidden himself -- he begins to fall in love with Elinor. She must, of course, therefore be expelled from the “paradise” that his ownership of her has come to be, as a figure of “temptation,” but this time she meets her fate not with the resentment that Nietzsche deems “slave-like,” but with the courage of “master morality” (does anyone else see the paradox?).

Consequently, when she is later confronted with Rask’s captivity & peril, she is capable of something she would never have been able to do on earth -- to offer her own life as forfeit to save that of someone she loves -- & when she instead reveals to Bosk the plan to poison him at the last minute, she finally achieves authentic, unselfish love for Rask, because in order to preserve Rask’s honor untainted -- the one thing that meant more to him than his own life -- she has had to yield up the one thing she could still cling to for her own comfort (the knowledge that even though her own life would be lost, she had at least been able to save the one life more precious to her than her own). IMO, that is when Elinor finally becomes truly & fully human at last, because one cannot be fully human unless one can love another person for his own sake alone, not just instrumentally to satisfy one’s own needs. A person who can only love others instrumentally is less than fully human, or at least only a child emotionally, & it is Elinor -- reborn -- who then provides Rask with the opportunity to realize his own full humanity, as well. IMO Captive is also replete with echoes, by the way, of Milton’s Paradise Lost.

I think Norman is an extremely ambitious author whose reach sometimes exceeds his grasp (but “that’s what a heaven’s for,” to quote the poet), inasmuch as he’s sometimes less than fully successful at integrating all the elements he marshals & occasionally his prose is just pedestrian at best. He is a “realistic” writer in the school of Henry James, in the sense that he allows the environment in which his characters are placed to work upon them (they don’t merely pass through it unaffected), but I think he is rarely as successful with the internal psychological dramatizations as James is (compare Norman’s effort at this with Elinor, for example, to James’s with Isabel Archer in A Portrait of a Lady, to which I suspect Norman owes at least an unconscious debt).

It may be, of course, that Norman doesn’t intend his “realism” to extend to the internal deliberations & struggles of his characters, that the characters are intended instead merely to serve as vehicles for the working out of the philosophical dilemmas in an entirely symbolic & metaphorical manner, but I sometimes find the internal monologues jarring myself. Elinor was such an irritating character for most of the novel that I was sorely tempted to reach through the pages & throttle her more than once.

In closing, I’ll mention that I periodically read disparaging assessments of Captive on various lists & when I do I wonder whether we’ve read the same book or whether I’m on another planet myself. The question of suffering’s “purpose” in human life (other than as preparation for an afterlife for believers) & how we should face it without succumbing to nihilism -- much less to “slave morality” -- is one of the single greatest challenges every living, thinking human being must confront, & that challenge, IMO, forms the heart & soul of Captive.”


Greg, for the moment I’m going to pass on addressing the First Amendment & censorship issues until we’ve all had a chance to discuss what I’ve placed before you & the other members in this post & my last one, if you‘d be so kind as to approve them.

Be well,



NB: As a mercy to my readers, some typographical errors were corrected in preparing these re-posts, several links were added to aid those to whom certain references might be unfamiliar, & in a handful of sentences some wording was slightly revised for the sake of clarity.