Whats the fuzz... What is this "Gor" all about?
by Simon van Meygaarden
The Art of Conceptual Dislocation
Adult Science Fiction|
Publication History Overview
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a wise editor once remarked, that every story starts with who, when and where, that good stories continue with what, how and with whom, that the best of stories eventually focus on why, and yet, only in the astounding one-in-a-million superb tale, the why is answered after the last word is read, when the reader is forced to seek the answers to questions that have become impossible to deny or ignore.
Gor is such a tale.
Those who have actually read the story, either perceive it as science fiction for adults, intelligent, sexually liberated, adult individuals, both men and women; or they read between the lines, and find, in it, a philosophy, a coherent set of answers to questions mostly ignored or denied, a world-view, perhaps, even a life-style, which differs profoundly from the culturally prescribed standards, and yet, to some, it is as unescapable as breathing is to life itself.
Science fiction is mostly connected with space ships and robots, holodecks and warp-speed, yet these are mere technological inventions, fun to envision and to analyze their future potential or associated dangers, but the primary subject of science fiction is people, real human beings, and the primary attractor of science fiction is the way that those people interact with each other within the artificially created environment of the story.
The fictitious world, a society that does not exist in reality, but is predicated on our current knowledge; as if our known society acts as a jumping-off point, the fictitious world advances out of our own in some way, dislocated by some kind of mental effort on the part of the author who transformed our own world into that which it is not or not yet. This new imaginary world must differ from the given in at least one way, and this one difference must give rise to events or experiences that could not occur in our own world, be it present or past. There must be a coherent idea involved in this dislocation; that is, the dislocation must be a conceptual one, not merely a trivial or bizarre one - this is the essence of science fiction, the conceptual dislocation within society so that as a result a new society is generated in the authors mind, which is then transferred on to paper, and from paper it occurs as a convulsive shock in the readers mind, the shock of dysrecognition. The reader knows that it is not the actual world that is being described, it is an alternate world, an alternate reality.
In this definition of good science fiction, Philip K. Dick concludes, that the conceptual dislocation must be truly new and it must be intellectually stimulating to the reader; it must invade the mind and wake it up to the possibility of something the reader had not up to then thought of. If it is good science fiction the idea is stimulating, and, probably, most important of all, it sets off a chain-reaction of ramification-ideas in the mind of the reader; it unlocks the readers mind, so to speak, and, like the author, the reader begins to create. Thus the meeting is creative and it inspires creativity, which mainstream fiction by-and-large does not do. Those adults who read science fiction read it because they love to experience this chain-reaction of ideas being set off in their minds by something they read, something with a new idea in it; hence the very best science fiction ultimately winds up being a collaboration between author and reader, in which both create and enjoy doing it; this joy is the essential and final ingredient of science fiction, the joy of discovery of newness.
The conceptual dislocation of the Gorean books is the complete and public liberation of sexuality, based upon a firm denial of gender sameness.
Sex and science fiction have always a problem, you see, mainly because much science fiction is targeted to juveniles and many adults seem to think that children should be kept ignorant of sex until their wedding-night, for then, by some magical transferal of ancient knowledge, they will know exactly what to do and how to do it. Even in 1975, in his "Alternate Worlds: The Illustrated History of Science Fiction", author James Gunn claimed that in most science fiction stories sex and other bodily functions have no use and are superfluous - they are a disturbing and annoying element in the average science fiction story. Of course, there have courageous efforts by science fiction authors like Philip Jose Farmer and Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Heinlein, Edmund Cooper and Kurt Vonnegut, and while mainstream authors as George Orwell and Aldous Huxley were never afraid to toy with the subject, the creation of huge alternate reality founded upon the liberation of sexuality is undoubtedly the sole achievement of one man and one series of books; John Normans Chronicles of Counter-Earth.
Do not underestimate the impact of these books.
Instead of entering a new and exiting adventure, many readers describe their responses and emotions in terms of home-coming, a final acceptance of previously ignored instincts, a recognition that goes beyond identification, a kind of psychological rebirth in which many suppressed or denied urges and longings are discovered once again. This kind of knowledge cannot be un-learned, it cannot be denied, on for some, it must be expressed in day-to-day life.
Sexual liberation is based on gender differentiation and ultimately sex is the end of sameness. To be equally important does not mean to be the same in every aspect and this most basic premise of the Gorean culture is displayed in all its vigor and vitality in the perfect bondage of the love slave and her master, that culmination of inter-dependency which is called the human pair-bond.
It is not an easy story, though, mainly because of the highly visual style of writing; with many unexpected, small details that force the scenery to become highly realistic, the intricate dialogs concerning slavery and submission that might seem violent and humiliating at first glance, yet logical within the barbaric environment and always surrounded by a highly romantic aura; the story is clearly not as innocent and nice as most contemporary science fiction - Gor is a tale with many hidden traps and razor- sharp edges.
Many love it and hate it at the same time...
This series, which started with Tarnsman of Gor, in December, 1966, came to an abdrupt halt in June, 1988, when Magicians of Gor became the last installment for at least 14 years. During the cause of 1995, the first Gorean websites began to appear on the Internet, with information about the series, a glossary of Gorean terms and a description of Gorean chess, better known as Kaissa. In February, 1996, there were five of these websites; five years later, in February, 2001, there were about five thousand websites, while the number of individual web-pages rose from about twenty-five to something between 25,000 and 100,000. A multitude of this number of sites and pages have been published for a couple of years and then taken offline again.
About the same time as the websites the first Gorean chat channels started to appear. At first merely online meeting places for Gor fans, the role-playing possibilities of the new medium were recognized and slaves and Masters began to meet in text-based Gorean taverns and camps. In the summer of 1996 the idea became a small hype called the IRC Gor-Rush. In February, 2001, the number of channels ranged between 500 and 1,000, but many have disappeared again.
Message boards became another way to debate Gorean subjects and several thousands of fans are connected through online monthly magazines and forums. In 1997 the Gorean culture became visible when fans started to rebuild Gorean cities within the full-color, three-dimensional game environment of Active Worlds, where inhabitants and visitors are represented by controllable avatars, that can walk around and discover the beauty of an imaginary scenery, while chatting to others through a keyboard. For those less interested in computer games and more focused to music and conversation there even was Gor Radio, live Internet broadcasting, twenty-four hours a day with lots of special music and Gor-flavored discussion.
These kind of developments show the astounding ingenuity of the fans during a period in which the original sources, the Gor books themselves, became more and more difficult to find. The Internet did indeed change lives, but with the growth of the Gorean communities on the Internet the dangers rose and the ever-present sharks were attracted by their splatter; people can change their online personality in an couple of seconds and role-playing and image-building have led to much misunderstanding, while sick individuals were using every possible means to catch their victims off-guard, in their most fragile state-of-being; sometimes with terrible and deadly results. It seems a major concern to every responsible fan of the series to prevent further harm.
Perhaps the story itself places much emphasis on male superiority under the harsh, competitive environmental conditions of a barbaric culture, while current Western society seems to be emphasizing the opposite - female superiority within an non-competitive environment of collaboration and cooperation; the exaggeration of either one is damaging to the other gender. Ultimately, each gender is defined exclusively by its relation to the other, hence sameness, genderwise, will be the end of sexuality, and the demise of the human species.
Author Doris Lessing once said in an interview during the Edinburgh Book Festival that men are the new silent victims in the sex war, continually demeaned and insulted by women without a whimper of protest. Feminism had achieved much for women but "why did this have to be at the cost of men?", she asked.
"I was in a class of nine and 10-year-olds, girls and boys, and this young woman was telling these kids that the reason for wars was the innately violent nature of men," she said. "You could see the little girls, fat with complacency and conceit while the little boys sat there crumpled, apologizing for their existence, thinking this was going to be the pattern of their lives. This kind of thing is happening in schools all over the place and no one says a thing, it has become a kind of religion that you cant criticize because then you become a traitor to the great cause, which I am not."
The truth, undoubtedly, is the middle. In individual couples becoming what they wish to be instead of what they ought to be. In individual man and woman seeking their own values instead of those prescribed by culture. On Gor, such individuals and couples exist. On Earth, they might wish to read about it.
So let me tell you about the history of Gor and the many attempts to silence its voice and censor its meaning. Let me show you the beauty of these books, their covers and their translations. A Gorean tale and a bibliography, and a voyage through time.
Next time - the Start of the Series.
I wish you well
The first version of this article, an introduction to the bibliography, was written between Monday, August 27, and Wednesday, August 30, 2001, and first published on October 1st, 2001, as Feature Article, by The Gorean Voice. It was slightly edited and enhanced on Sunday, March 16, 2008, and again revised and updated on Sunday, December 27, 2009, scheduled to be published at the Chronicles of Gor, in July, 2010. We never got around to it, and in September, 2012, due to internal problems, the publication was cancelled.
For this enhanced version, I improved the layout, added a table of contents, changed a few words here and there, added the artwork images, turned them into links, and added this afterword.
"Whats the fuzz... What is this "Gor" all about?" was written by Simon van Meygaarden,
and first published in The Gorean Voice - October 2001 - Vol IV Issue 4 - #40,
under copyright ® 2001 by The Gorean Group, Inc.
This enhanced and updated version was created in July, 2012.
Copyright ® 2001/2012 by Simon van Meygaarden. All Rights Reserved.