Monday, 11 September 2017

RIP Jerry Pournelle

Over my time blogging I have done several obituaries. To be honest I can't say I have any love of writing them nor any real talent in writing them. The thing is, people I admire keep dying. This may come as a surprise to you I know, given the shortage of admirable people out there.

When I first started reading  science fiction books by Jerry Pournelle were in just about every science fiction section of every bookshop. At the time I never read any of them. It's only in the last five years that I started reading them. I went through a phase of digging up old military sci fi books which brought him some criticism at the time. This, I think, was a product of the times he was living in and the world political situation in general and possibly some of his own experiences in the Korean War. He was something of a gamer in his time and contributed to a number of related gaming magazines. When I started going through some science fiction classics audiobooks, Jerry Pournelle figured quite highly on those lists. I guess his degree in Psychology did him more good than mine.

I guess it was his collaborations with Larry Niven that have stuck with me the most. The Mote In God's Eye, Lucifer's Hammer and Footfall are amongst my all time favourites. They are well thought through novels and have inherent consistency which make the worlds much more believable.

The guy was clearly a thinker. There are several statements referred to as "Pournelle's Law". The most relevant to me has always been "the importance of checking cable connections when diagnosing computer problems". Then there was the Iron Law of Bureaucracy. "In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely". If you have worked in any office, this has to colour your viewpoint in some way shape or form, depending on the side you were on.

He was a major advocate and early adopter of the personal computer. The are a number of non-fiction books he wrote about computers. This goes back to the early days of the personal computer. It is said to be the first author to have a book published that was written on a word processor.

I, for one, am sad that this talented man has passed away.

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