back to article Sci-Fi titan Jerry Pournelle passes,
aged 84

One of the giants of “New Wave” hard science fiction, Jerry Pournelle, has died aged 84. His son made the announcement in a simple post at Pournelle's Chaos Manor blog on September 8, saying: "I'm afraid that Jerry's passed away. We had a great time at DragonCon. He did not suffer." As collaborator with Larry Niven, …

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RIP Jerry.

I loved his Mote novels.

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"I loved his Mote novels."

Me too. His cooperation with Larry Niven produced some of the finest science fiction writing of their generation.

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Anonymous Coward

I loved his Mote novels.

His Byte columns were interesting too. He was simply an all out excellent writer. RIP.

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Alien

@AC

You're showing your age.

I remember having a collection of all of the BYTE magazines from the first edition. In 1997, I donated them to my local library only to have them throw them out... :-(

But I digress.

Yeah, he was a good writer and I loved his work with Niven. (Definitely two of the best writers of all times.)

These days 84 is still young.

RIP

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Re: "I loved his Mote novels."

time to re-read Footfall

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Re: @AC

I still have, somewhere, a collection of Byte + Jeerry on CD. A blast from my past, but his descriptions of adding and installing new hard and software at Chaos Manor were inspirational to me and many others, I suspect. A legend, not a word I use lightly, bye and thanks for the fun Jerry.

Barry

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Anonymous Coward

"These days 84 is still young."

Sadly his liver was rather older.

I met him a few times and got into a mild argument with him over the US behavior to Britain on post WWII nuclear technology (he was right. Most of the correspondence had been mis filed, greatly under valuing the UK contribution).

He wasn't the first (or last) journalist / writer who liked a drink or five.

His description of the NASA (who he'd worked for) 'naut corps as "The biggest bunch of pampered bastards I've ever met" still gives me the LOL's. Space launch is very stressful, life in space is very stressful. Why (to his mind) would a man in late middle age seem like the ideal candidate for this?

Another part of my past has died. My condolences to his Widow (who by all accounts was a rock) and children. Also his writing partners over the years (Niven and Barnes from the Dream Park series come to mind).

RIP Jerry. I don't know if (as you claimed) you and Larry Niven won the Cold War by encouraging SDI and driving the FSU into near bankruptcy, but you surely helped get the DC-X project running, and that was about as close the US has ever gotten to SSTO to date.

Anon, because I'm not Jake.

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"Pournelle also exemplified what looks today like a sadly-bygone era, before even the facts of science became beholden to political alignment. A self-described political right-winger with a long association with Newt Gingrich, Pournelle's scientific judgement was unclouded."

He was a great communicator, but it's sad his understanding of climate change was so poor.

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"It's a shame his understanding of climate change was so clueless."
Unlike you, Jerry investigated and made his own mind up rather than believing what the politicians tell us.

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Oh look, the Daily Mail reader has arrived,

https://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/climate-change-and-eternal-youth/

Here's Jerry, approvingly quoting the Heartland Institute, famous for their support of Philip Morris and working against tobacco bans. Now run along and have another 20 Rothmans.

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Yes, and poor Jerry will remain unshriven by the Church of Global Warming forever. Don't think that will count too much against him tho.

BTW Peter, take your trolling elsewhere. You obviously aren't fit to kiss Jerry's corns.

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Bless.

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Anonymous Coward

Making up your own mind.

Because that's how science works folks!

Facepalm

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"Making up your own mind.

Because that's how science works folks!"

Some of us have a distinct antipathy to Lysenkoism.

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"Some of us have a distinct antipathy to Lysenkoism"

You just don't, though - that's the problem!

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Peter,

And Democrats foounded and supported the KKK until the 70s , so your point is what exactly ?

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"You just don't, though - that's the problem!"
And your evidence is?

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A pity you can't skip the politics and climate change issue and just mourn the loss of one of the iconic Science Fiction writers of the time.

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"A pity you can't skip the politics and climate change issue and just mourn the loss of one of the iconic Science Fiction writers of the time."
I would if I could, but there are some who seem unable to suppress the urge to bad-mouth my late friend.

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Correct. That's *exactly* how science works. You don't take my word for it - you take my experimental method, try it for yourself, and make up your own mind. If you get a different result from me, one of us is wrong.

It's really quite simple.

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Anonymous Coward

Science provides facts, you decide.

Actually, that's the way science _is supposed to work_.

At least to anyone who understands the question.

When you have politicians, like IPCC, pushing one and only truth to you, you can bet it's not science. That has never happened and doesn't happen now.

Note that I'm not denying warming, that's easy to measure, but correlation with CO2 is a hairy item and causation? No proof of that.

Especially when solar output just "happened" to raise 2% at the same time. A fact, which IPCC claimed has no effect to climate. It just "happened" to warm every other planet by said 2%. Says the astronomers.

2% in Kelvins is about 6C: Then it's Occam's razor: Simple thermodynamics or politicians?

You decide.

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Re: Science provides facts, you decide.

The sun's output has risen 2%? Have the neutrinos mutated?

The sunspot cycle changes the solar output by 0.1 % but if a main sequence star rises by 2% in a few years it's time to leave the neighbourhood

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Re: Science provides facts, you decide.

The IPCC is tens of thousands of scientists, not politicians. They work on investigating different aspects of the problem, then a group of a few hundred synthesise the research into a range of models. 97% of scientists agree with the consensus coming out of that meta-analysis. There is rational disagreement about what to do to mitigate the effects of climate change. But it is no longer rational to dispute the greenhouse effect (as any gardener would tell you) or that it is the direct and indirect consequences of human activity that is the overwhelming contributor to the accumulation of CO2 and CH4 in the atmosphere.

When Jerry Pournelle wrote about it, the science was less clear cut. In 2017 it is as close to a certainty that science gets. And in some of his novels, terraforming relied on creating an atmosphere to retain heat.

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Re: Science provides facts, you decide.

>The IPCC is tens of thousands of scientists, not politicians.

It's both. That's why the IPCC reports have been so conservative; having to convince a bunch of American & Saudi pols to agree on publication.

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Boffin

@Peter 18

The irony is that its not the nicotine or tobacco that is killing you but how you ingest it.

Apparently Vaping is healthier than smoking. (Yes, actually there are reports that suggest this... )

There is also evidence that its next to impossible to quit smoking. Most products that exist to help you... fail or have a lousy success rate.

But I digress.

The point is that he made up his own mind and wasn't afraid to speak it (I agree with an earlier post).

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@ Yet another anon coward... Re: Science provides facts, you decide.

Sorry, that's the wrong author.

You're thinking of Larry Niven and his Puppeteers. ;-)

There's more, but I don't think you'd get the gist of the discussion.

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Flying in the face of Consensus

Science is BUILT on error-correction. When any idea is treated as a Holy Writ That Must Not Be Questioned, the error-correction stops. Refusing to consider alternate hypotheses is purely an attempt to shut down opposition. That's a POLITICAL tactic, not scientific! Some pretty crazy sounding ideas have held up under scrutiny and made the mockers look silly indeed.

Here's a recent one. Mary Schweitzer (a Young Earth Creationist originally) announced that she had found soft tissues conserved in dinosaur fossils. The Establishment laughed and mocked her because EVERYONE KNOWS soft tissue can't survive 65 million years! That's just Crazy Talk! Except... she really did find them, and eventually proved it against massive resistance. She had to change protocol and republish three or four times before her critics were satisfied. Her work has been replicated and expanded into other techniques, and she's got a PhD now.

So according to you folks, Mary should have accepted the mockery and disbelief and stopped pursuing that unpopular hypothesis. Because Everyone Knows She's Wrong, the weakest evidence ever. The true scientists among us are very glad that she kept on in the face of this short-sighted resistance.

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That wasn't directed at you Pompous Git. I was responding to Peter....

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"That wasn't directed at you Pompous Git. I was responding to Peter...."
In that case please accept my apologies. I'm afraid there was something resembling a moat in my eye this evening...

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Re: Science provides facts, you decide.

"The IPCC is tens of thousands of scientists, not politicians."
This is manifestly untrue. IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri claims 2,500. Dr Mike Hulme: "Claims such as '2,500 of the world's leading scientists have reached a consensus that human activities are having a significant influence on the climate' are disingenuous ... The actual number of scientists who backed that claim was only a few dozen."

"it is no longer rational to dispute the greenhouse effect (as any gardener would tell you) or that it is the direct and indirect consequences of human activity that is the overwhelming contributor to the accumulation of CO2 and CH4 in the atmosphere."
You conflate two very different processes here. The greenhouse in the garden works by inhibiting convection. "Carbon pollution" does not inhibit convection.

"When Jerry Pournelle wrote about it, the science was less clear cut."
Warmists regularly invoke Svante Arrhenius' (19 February 1859 – 2 October 1927) and his erroneous explanation of how greenhouses work in support of their case. I make no doubt that none of them have ever read what Arrhenius wrote:

"We often hear lamentations that the coal stored up in the earth is wasted by the present generation without any thought of the future, and we are terrified by the awful destruction of life and property which has followed the volcanic eruptions of our days. We may find a kind of consolation in the consideration that here, as in every other case, there is good mixed with the evil. By the influence of the increasing percentage of carbonic acid in the atmosphere, we may hope to enjoy ages with more equable and better climates, especially as regards the colder regions of the earth, ages when the earth will bring forth much more abundant crops than at present, for the benefit of rapidly propagating mankind."
[Emphasis mine]

Worlds in the making: the evolution of the universe 1908, p63.

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Re: "There is also evidence that its next to impossible to quit smoking".

I think you were just trolling for fun and comments, but if you were not - your comments are meaningless. Back when I was a school kid and wrote with a fountain pen we were told that nicotine was why you smoked and smoke/tar was why you died.

I only know Jerry Pournelle from his delightful Byte column. He was obviously a great guy but I never felt like reading his novels, though he plugged them hard enough in the column.

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Now where did that wool get to...?

I got to see Pournelle a couple of times around 1979 at the LASFS, the world's oldest continuous science fiction club (1934). He wasn't there often, but I vaguely recall Jerry tended to dominate the room with his presence when he was. At least everyone was listening to him talk. Big guy too. Larry Niven practically faded into the wallpaper by comparison.

I read those books they wrote together too. Been a long time, but those I remember much better. :-)

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Re: Now where did that wool get to...?

And I did as well. Jerry was a child of the forties/fifties and that seemed to persuade much of his work over the last 50 years. I can relate to that, although I didn't end up with the same political or cultural imperatives that he did.

However, he did write seminal science fiction stories that included alien contact that was well-couched in a format that allowed us to think about and internally deal with alien contact scenarios.

I do think that Larry Niven's stories by themselves were better examples of true Science Fiction; that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy and "grok" Pournelle's works.

And my friends at LASFS know him much better than I do.

I am a fan. Not of everything he wrote, but of the best of his work. And I honor him for that.

And I wonder if he had ever met or heard of Jack Parsons.

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Jerry will be sorely missed

Jerry was not only a great author, but he was one of the first bloggers though he hated the term and preferred the term DayNotes. Thus he was the first among the DayNotes Gang. As well despite our political differences, Jerry alerted me to the two dimensional nature of political thought: not just left/right, but also the orthogonal authoritarian/libertarian axis.

"Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine

Et lux perpetua luceat ei:

Requiescat in pace."

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Jerry will be sorely missed

I loved his fiction and non fiction alike. More importantly though he had a big hand in providing the background for the SDI policy that ultimately led to the collapse of the USSR and the effective end of the Cold War. Quite an achievement.

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Re: Jerry will be sorely missed

Eh?

SDI was a catastrophic and expensive failure, not one of the projects succeeded.

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Re: Jerry will be sorely missed

"SDI was a catastrophic and expensive failure, not one of the projects succeeded."
Jerry's thesis was that US investment in SDI led to USSR investment in retaliation. The US economy could withstand the economic impact, that of the USSR could not and consequently led to its collapse.

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Re: Jerry will be sorely missed

For those who don't know, Jerry wrote and published "The Strategy of Technology" in 1970, which was a hugely influential work. Read it, and you'll understand what SDI was about.

eBook version of "The Strategy of Technology"

https://www.jerrypournelle.com/slowchange/Strat.html

Jerry was an advisor to the American president Reagan and I would say that it wouldn't be unfair to suggest that SDI was one of the most sucessful military projects ever undertaken. Simplistically every technology introduced requires a counter. SDI introduced so many new technologies that required disproportionally expensive counters that the Soviet Union was forced to negiotiate arms control treaties to eliminate the weapon programs because they couldn't afford to counter those systems. Eventually, the cost of trying to counter weapon systems they couldn't terminate with arms control treaties caused the Soviet Union to financially collapse without a shot being fired.

I'd suggest that given it was done deliberately it was a pretty sucessful project.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Jerry will be sorely missed

Despite the fact that the projects failed SDI won the war without a shot being fired. In the grand scale of things that makes it an incredibly cheap success.

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Re: Jerry will be sorely missed

> SDI won the war

Western profligacy, that the USSR couldn't match, won the 'war'. SO it's just as valid to say The Beatles won the war, or Levi's Jeans won the war.

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Re: Jerry will be sorely missed

Western profligacy? Try free markets and some basic rights the government couldn't violate without a lot of trouble. Communists don't allow those and it crushed them, along with the hapless people under their control.

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Re: Jerry will be sorely missed

"Western profligacy, that the USSR couldn't match, won the 'war'. SO it's just as valid to say The Beatles won the war, or Levi's Jeans won the war."
If you can't tell the difference between nuclear-powered X-ray lasers and a pop group, I guess the following might reinforce your beliefs.

"Let It Be" - Soviet Version

I have no idea whether министерство обороны российской федерации financed this, or not. Enjoy...

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Re: Jerry will be sorely missed

>"Western profligacy, that the USSR couldn't match, won the 'war'. SO it's just as valid to say The Beatles won the war, or Levi's Jeans won the war."

Wrong. I refer you to the second chapter of Jerry Pournelle's book that I linked to above. The one taught to at US Military academies for literially decades. It's got a rather strategic overview as to why simply blowing lots of money wasn't getting anywhere much in the 1960's and 1970's.

https://www.jerrypournelle.com/slowchange/Strat.html

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Re: Jerry will be sorely missed

It wasn't "profligacy", it was an economic and political system that worked versus one that didn't.

So yes, the Beatles and Levi's Jeans (and the economic/political system that enabled and allowed them) won the war by enabling the US to finance an SDI project which the Soviet Union and its fellow travellers could not afford to match.

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Unhappy

Loved his books and collaborations

Big

Thick

Hard

Sci Fi

Books

The best!!

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Re: Loved his books and collaborations

Indeed and he'll be missed. I was a large fan of his books along with those of his peers. Sadly approaching the end of an era. RIP Jerry.

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Pint

BYTE

That's how I heard of him. After the initial wave of computer nerdery in the 80s (Sinclair Programs, ZX Computing) had shaken out and I was left with more games/consumer oriented Sinclair User (2nd iteration), Crash, C&VG etc I retreated into the wonderful worlds of Byte, Dr Dobbs and Program Now (whatever happened to that?!).

I must have been one incredibly nerdy teenager... yup... and a goth to boot!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: BYTE

Richmond?

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Windows

Re: BYTE

Bob Dobbs? What, is there excess slack here?

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Re: BYTE

No, Dr Dobbs. Ask STOB.

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