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The following article first appeared as the Introduction to the 1996 Masquerade edition of Tarnsman of Gor. It was written by Cecilia Tan, established author and founder of Circlet Press, and is republished here with her kind permission.

Note: The inclusion of an introduction by another author in a book by John Norman does not necessarily mean that John Norman endorses that author, their writings or their views, including those expressed within the introduction.
You hold in your hands a landmark book, Tarnsman of Gor, the first book of the Gor series by John Norman. Gor is Counter-Earth, a barbaric society different from, yet a mirror to, our own. In Gor, John Norman created a world ruled by strict codes of conduct and fierce emotions: loyalty, honor, passion. In some ways, Gor is not so different from other sf/fantasy worlds coming into print in the "new wave" of the late sixties and early seventies, worlds like Anne McCaffrey's Pern (Dragonflight, 1968) and Michael Moor?cock's Melnibone (Elric of Melnibone, 1972). Each epic depicts a world of strong emotions ? emotions that echo the legends of the past, free of the modern world's cynicism and skepti?cism. And both Pern and Melnibone are populated with characters who engage in romantic and sexual practices befit?ting their creators' visions of same. Here, though, is where Gor differs. Imagine the hordes of callow youths (like myself) combing through the pages of paperbacks to find a sentence here or there alluding to Elric making love to a beautiful woman on the sands of a secluded cave or Lessa and F'lar paralleling their dragons' passionate flight. Hot stuff! But for budding sadomasochists and D/s enthusiasts (like myself) that's nothing compared to the allusions and interpersonal relations to be found on Gor, a world where pleasure slaves are bred for passion, where Warriors bind their brides to the backs of giant falcons to deflower them.

I must admit, though, that my first encounter with the world of Gor came not through the voracious paperback consumption of my youth; I was caught up in Roger Zelazny's Amber, Frank Herbert's Dune, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover, but I never got around to the Gor books. Now, fast forward to my adulthood, and my entry into the S/M scene. I had just written my first S/M science fiction story, "Telepaths Don't Need Safewords," a story through which I tried to express my deepest desires about the dominant male/submis?sive female model. I tried to incorporate ideals of loyalty, self-discipline, and honor ? concepts which excited and aroused me as much as any fetishistic whip worship or sexual thrill. I was a hot, young uppity masochist in search of a top, with no idea what a whip felt like nor any idea of the submissive depths in my own soul. And I believe it was no accident that the man who tamed me was, in some respects, a Gorean.

He had read the books when younger ? one could say they were a part of what shaped his ideals about dominance and submission, or perhaps that they resonated with the ideals he already held. Although he did not play this way with me, I knew he had trained other women as if they were Gorean slaves and spoke of the books often. He was not alone. As I moved among various circles of the leather community, I found a strong common thread: many people had read these books and liked what they read. Some fantasy novels had capture-and-torture scenes which made perfectly good S/M jerk-off material. But with the Gor books, there was more going on than heroes suffering at the hands of villains. Here were men and women forming lasting bonds through mastery and slavery; here were codes of conduct that encapsulated the give-and-take of a D/s relationship; here was the closest thing to positive role-models a prospective master or slave could find. On Gor, a woman may submit to a man, wrists crossed, know?ing he may then do as he pleases. But he is bound by his own codes of conduct: if he accepts her submission he accepts the responsibility for protecting her, fighting for her if necessary. She chooses to submit, he chooses whether to accept. Although Gor is populated with various types of slaves, some born and bred, others captured from rival tribes, Norman continually creates situations in which characters choose their roles, walking the fine line of the ethics of consensuality.

Yes, that's really the heart of it: ethics. Under Gorean codes of conduct and law, it is utterly ethical when the situation demands that our hero enslave our heroine. And because Norman has created a main character, Tarl Cabot, who was raised on Earth, he is able to compare Earth's standards of ethical behavior to those of Gor. And we, as readers, can share this imagination, this fantasy world where being master and slave is honorable. I've played the part of Gorean slave: she is feisty and willful, but also loyal and devoted, in need of correc?tion and her master's attention, but she takes pride in serving her master well.

S/M role playing can, of course, encompass myriad roles: Nazi and captured Allied pilot, doctor and patient, drill sergeant and raw recruit, pirate and princess. Many of them are fun for an evening's sex play, but for D/s players in search of a common image of ownership and bonding master to slave, they find that image in Gor. This is why I am never surprised to discover, along with The Story of O, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Macho Sluts and other "classics" of S/M literature, one or two (or many!) Gor books on the shelves of other S/M play?ers. And this is why it is so appropriate for Richard Kasak and Masquerade Books to be bringing this series back into print.

Perhaps I should say a few words about why the books were out of print. Science fiction and fantasy publishing, as a whole, is a mass market enterprise where new novels can go in and out of print in a matter of months, but perennial bestsellers ? like Frank Herbert's Dune, and Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, and of course J.R.R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings, are continually reprinted and repackaged for the ever-new young audience. But therein lies a contradiction that sf/fantasy has never quite worked out for itself ? is it for adults or children? The Boston Public Library has both books I mentioned earlier, Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight and Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone, shelved and catalogued as "young adult" books. Many science fiction publishers think of their audience as four?teen year old boys, despite the fact that science fiction paperbacks are bought mostly by adults over the age of twenty-five, and almost half of them are women. But reality often has too small an impact on editorial decisions. After dozens of books in the series, with perennially strong backlist sales, the Gor series was abandoned by its publisher. I do not claim to know the full story, as time has no doubt obscured some portions of the truth and exaggerated others, but the basic result of the various forces at work (which included the insidi?ous influence of political correctness, the anti-sex attitude which prevailed in the 1980s, the cut-throat business practices of mass market publishing, and the perhaps false perception that the reading public was "tired" of the series) was a bad rap for Gor. Despite John Norman's track record as a best-selling author, he found himself unable to sell a new manuscript anywhere in the industry, and the old books were mothballed by their publishers. Soon the only place to look for a Gor book was in used bookstores, and the scarcity of them there (yes, I looked) attested to the fact that those who had them were keeping them and those who wanted them were snatching them up quickly.

In 1992, shortly after the first publication of Telepaths Don't Need Safewords, my little self-published chapbook of S/M science fiction stories, I met John Norman at a science fiction convention. I worked up the nerve to stop him in the hallway after a panel discussion he had participated in and, mumbling something about his work and mangling badly any point I may have tried to make, I thrust my chapbook into his hands and hurried away. I was completely thrilled a few months later when I received a letter from him praising my efforts to combine explicit sexual description with science fiction. "It is time science fiction and fantasy grew up!" he wrote.

Well, the establishment changes slowly, and the battles of political correctness are still being waged.... Let us forget them for now. Because the Gor series is in print again ? from a publisher who delights in challenging established norms and "correctness" rhetoric, and who wholeheartedly supports adult explorations of sexual fantasy. Masquerade Books is the publisher of John Preston's Mr. Benson, Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's Venus in Furs, Sara Adamson's The Marketplace. Tarnsmem of Gor will be at home among such books, just as it is on the shelves of S/M players everywhere.

Copyright ? 1996 Cecilia Tan. All rights reserved.
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