This is a letter from John Norman to his fans, introducing The Telnarian Histories, Imaginative Sex, and Norman Invasions.
If Einstein is right, though I gather he is in some trouble recently, an FTL drive, a faster-than-light drive, is not possible. I take it the Star Trek people were not unapprised of this embarrassing, and disappointing, fact, or alleged fact, and had recourse to Warp drive, Warp Six, Warp Nine, and so on, and thereby managed, one supposes, to warp, bend, fold, mix, manipulate, and so on, space in such a way as to do an end run around complacent Einsteinians, left in the cosmic dust. For example, if one could pinch, contract, compose, fit together, diddle with, the space between, say, Los Angeles and New York City, then Los Angeles and New York City would be next to one another and it would be a short walk between Beverly Boulevard and Fifth Avenue. To be sure, it is not clear what is going on in Cleveland, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, and so on, while this is being done. Also, the engineering details of the Warp drive remain obscure, even today, even to concerned space scientists. On the other hand, we gather, from Star Trek, that the device worked, and that is the main point. One need not waste time pausing to explain every detail. For example, many contemporary authors, outside of science fiction, routinely include such things as automobiles and refrigerators in their work, without bothering to make it clear how such things work. I find an interesting analogy to this sort of thing in the capacity of the cyberworld to bring about something analogous to Warp drive, namely, the opportunity to do an end run about certain facts, the opportunity to circumvent certain realities. For example, a difficult, annoying, uncongenial author with something to say, in which many might be interested, with many fans, and many sales, who may be nicely, and conveniently, kept from the book shelves by a small number of individuals who, in effect, control what may and may not appear on such shelves, by coincidence that of which they approve, might suddenly pop up, via the cyber ?warp drive,? where least expected. Given such a drive, end runs are possible. This may be alarming to, or disappointing to, those individuals who thought themselves securely in charge of a genre of literature, secure in their power to determine what you will and will not be allowed to read, what they think you should be allowed to read, and should not be allowed to read, but that cannot be helped. Freedom is always embarrassing to those who deny it to others. Are the Huns at the gate? When hawks are aflight, pigeons are entitled to annoyance.
On the assumption that the preceding paragraph makes any sense to anyone, I would like to take a moment to call attention to a hawk or two, and one or more unwelcome Huns, actually pleasant, inoffensive fellows, who may be lurking about.
It is my understanding that a certain hardy house, a champion of a genuinely liberated literature, recall the great, free days of science fiction, exists. This is surely bad news for some, but, I think, very welcome news to others, for example, people who like to read, and would like to read what they want to read, as opposed to what others are willing or not willing to let them read.
The three items to which I would like to call your attention, however, briefly, are the Telnarian Histories, Imaginative Sex, and Norman Invasions.
1. The Telnarian Histories
I have always been fascinated with the history of the ancient world, and, in particular, with those aspects of it which are more germane to, and foundational for, the Western tradition, in particular, the history of Greece and Rome. This does not disparage, or underestimate, or belittle, in any way, the clear, unmistakable, and mighty contributions to civilization of Sumerians, Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Minoans, Middle Easterners, Asians, and others. On the other hand, the "mind world" of the Athenian Archon or the Roman Tribune, however different from ours, is likely to be more intelligible to us, and more congenial to us, than that of a Sumerian patesi or an Egyptian pharaoh. One phenomenon of great interest, of course, to historians, and others, along these lines, certainly with respect to the Western tradition, is the decline and fall of the Roman empire, and, in particular, at least to most of us in the West, the decline and fall of the Western Roman Empire. The Eastern Roman Empire, of course, remained a viable, if somewhat arrested, political entity until the second half of the Fifteenth Century.
So, let us suppose that, instead of an empire on Earth, supposedly vast and eternal, such as that of Rome, one had an empire a thousand times more far-flung and powerful, a galactic empire, consisting of thousands of worlds, which had lasted thousands of years, which was unquestioned, and thought to be eternal, an empire thought to be as much a part of things as the stars, as the universe itself, and then suppose, eventually, over centuries, to the gradually increasing alarm and consternation of millions, this "forever" world began to change. Communication becomes less reliable, resources begin to dwindle, areas become isolated from one another, life becomes more precarious, brigandage increases, warlords arise, and unusual ships appear on the horizon.
It is against the backdrop of a disintegrating galactic empire, then, the Telnarian empire, that the Telnarian Histories are laid.
2. Imaginative Sex
This is a nonfiction book.
Most human beings, with a clear mind, and no obvious rise in blood pressure, can contemplate the mechanism of hearing, the loveliness of vision, the subtleties of touch, taste, and such, and even the processes of digestion, and the circulation of the blood. On the other hand, when it comes to sex, for no reason that is all that clear to me, this customary, objective, cheerful, open?eyed equanimity may vanish. It need not, but it often does. This seems unfortunate as sex is obviously central to the human condition. It is as much a part of the human being as the left foot and right ear, indeed, perhaps more so. Surely it is likely to be more interesting to most folks than the left foot or the right ear. Similarly, sexuality is radically central to the raccoon and giraffe conditions. One of the really important things about a raccoon or giraffe is that it is a female or a male raccoon or giraffe. Just ask any raccoon or giraffe, particularly in the spring.
Attitudes toward sex differ, of course, from culture to culture, but, not surprisingly, most cultures have their attitudes toward sex. This is not surprising, as sex is very important. Without it, we would not even be here to talk about it.
We are most concerned here, of course, with Western culture, and, in particular, with contemporary Western culture. Our culture contains many elements which might be thought of as "Puritanical." To be sure, as I learn from a book, written by a colleague, Puritans were not as Puritanical as they are often made out, happily, but you know what I mean. Officially, of course, sex is not disgusting, dirty, messy, foul, evil, degrading, and such, but, on the other hand, unofficially, implicitly, via body language, lifted eyebrows, weird collars, dark garments, curling lips, hesitations, blanchings, stutterings, and such, one gathers that many folks think so. This probably has to do primarily with a particular religious tradition which makes a point of prizing virginity, celibacy, abstinence, and such, over a number of other things, such as eating, sleeping, bowling, watching television, and such. This attitude, one supposes, is likely to appeal in particular to the hypoglandular, the psychologically impotent, the negatively conditioned, those who have an abnormal fear of beds, and such. The notion seems to be that there is something which might be called a spirit connected with the organism, some organisms, not others, and that this spirit, for which there is no evidence, is opposed to the organism, for which there is much evidence. The spirit is supposed to be interested in higher things than watching television, bowling, and such. The life of the spirit, if it has a life, is supposed to be preferable to that of the organism which, for a time at least, is likely to have a life, verifiably. It is in the interest of the spirit, it seems, that one recommends celibacy, virginity, abstinence, and such. Whereas it is obviously true that celibacy, virginity, and abstinence is often a good idea, and has its point, particularly at certain times, and places, there is no point, either, in losing total track of reality. The raccoon or giraffe who remains celibate may be morally praiseworthy, but it does not replicate its genes. There is something puzzling about a position which, if taken seriously, would result in the extermination of the human race in one generation. It is true, of course, that sex can be messy, but then I am sure, if one puts one?s mind to it, one can think of some bodily functions which are far messier. For example, should one wage harrowing spiritual struggles to resist urination and excretion? In short, if there is no spirit, then there is no point in selling the body short on its behalf, and, if there is a spirit, that seems no reason, really, not to enjoy the body which one has, why not, and no reason not to give great pleasure, as one can, to a loved one. A certain kind of mind may see x and y as antagonists, but a less strange mind might see them as complementary, even as jolly friends and allies. I have no objection to people having spirits, one or more, if they wish. That might be very nice. What I do object to, is dividing a person into two incompatible parts, unpleasantly, if not actually antithetically, related. Who thought that one up? Certainly, if one takes biology seriously, it seems unlikely that evolution would have selected for such a destructive, dreadful, unhealthy anomaly. Should not the body and the spirit, assuming they are stuck with one another, do their best to work out some mutually satisfying arrangement? Besides, who knows the nature of this mysterious "spirit"? Perhaps, if it exists, it thinks highly of the body, rather likes it, and hopes that it will have a good time.
Now many individuals, even those who do not suffer from some pathological inhibition or another, bestowed upon them from ancestral enemies, are often reluctant to, or do not give much attention to, at least, enhancing the sexual experience with the delights of the imagination. If one feels that the pleasures of sexuality should not be enhanced by the pleasures of the imagination, one might ask oneself why. I think a moment?s reflection would reveal that there is really no good answer to that question. Consider an analogous question. Should you use imagination in the preparation of food, should you use it in clothing, in the decoration of your home, and so on? You need not, of course. If you wish, you may live on gruel, dress in a sack, live in a cardboard box, without graffiti, and so on. It is really up to you. You might claim, truthfully, that you do not "need" imagination for sex. I certainly believe you, and five minutes in the dark, twice a week, is apparently fairly average. I have no doubt, as well, that the raccoon and giraffe do not "need" imagination for sex. They probably don?t. If they had an imagination, on the other hand, I suspect they would use it. It?s fun. Many things are not necessary for life, but they are nice for life, for example, love, friendship, conversation, reading, chess, music, and such.
Now many people have sexual fantasies.
The sharing, and enactment, of such fantasies, can be a mutual source of great pleasure.
In any event, the book has to do with the application of imagination to the sexual experience, and constitutes a sort of guide, or manual, which might be helpful. You will probably have ideas yourself, of course. If so, that is just great. The key here, of course, is love, and mutual pleasure.
It is legitimate to apply imagination to sexual experience. Why not? To do so is not only legitimate, rational, moral, and healthy, but it is fun, too.
I have little doubt that sex is great for the raccoon and giraffe.
I also have little doubt that sex, for the human being, given enactment, fantasy, theater, detail, richness, and imagination, can be even greater.
3. Norman Invasions
As I recall, there are some thirty stories in the collection, Norman Invasions.
They were written, mostly, when the blacklisting became clear. Obviously, there seemed little point in writing novels which would be refused publication. One could continue to write for the trunk, of course, but one always hopes to share what one loves with others. That is one of the joys of writing. Accordingly, as I recall, I turned aside from writing, at least novels, at least for a time, given the repulsiveness of an ideologically closed market.
On the other hand, writers are writers, and it is hard for them not to write. Certain stories, too, can be importunate. They insist, so to speak, on being written. Suddenly you realize a story is waiting, and it is not very patient. It wants doing, and you had better do it, or else. If you do not do it, it may go away, and that, to me, is very sad.
None of these stories, incidentally, was ever submitted to any magazine, press, or such. That is because of the blacklisting. There would have been no point in doing so. Thus, interestingly, we have here a large collection of short stories, by a seemingly popular author, not one of which has ever appeared in print before. I suppose that that is some sort of record, but it is not one I would encourage anyone to emulate, let alone attempt to break.
The stories here represent a number of genres, and some of them, I fear, don?t fit well into any genre.
The two longest stories, as I recall, are The Calpa, and Letters from Gor. The former deals with questions of identity, and perhaps metamorphosis, and fits in nicely with the truism of depth psychology that we may not know ourselves. The latter is an epistolary novella, a somewhat rare but interesting form of fiction, in which action is not to be shown, but rather inferred, on the basis of reports. As a writer, one likes to investigate different roads, wander different fields.
My background as a professional philosopher informs several of the stories. I suppose that will be obvious.
Some of the stories are predictably Gorean. That should not be surprising.
As we live in a very mysterious, strange world, I have occasionally touched on some of the stranger houses of the imagination.
I hope the reader will get a "kick," so to speak, from several of the stories, for example, Bamohee, based off a favorite word of my first grandchild, The Wereturtle, which has a few things to say about the current political situation, benevolently surveyed, and Notes Pertaining to a Panel in Salon D, which should delight anyone who has ever attended a science-fiction convention. It is based, incidentally, on a particular panel, at a particular convention, given during a particular blizzard. Perhaps some of you were there. I was once on a polar-bear-sighting cruise. Happily, we sighted some polar bears. Perhaps some of you have wondered how such a cruise could, so to speak, guarantee such sightings. Might they work it out with the polar bears? In any event, this suggested Confessions of a Polar Bear Impostor. Such cruises, incidentally, are very nice, and I recommend them highly. Perhaps polar bears organize similar enterprises amongst themselves, devoted to ship-sightings. If so, a splendid symbiosis has ensued.
In any event, there are several stories in Norman Invasions, ranging over a variety of genres. It is my hope that you will enjoy them.
I wish you well,
Copyright © 2009 John Norman. All rights reserved.