John Norman is not my God

  • Another reprint of an old writing from Bear of Ar, re-posted with his permission.


    (What follows is a reprint of previous writing of mine, some of it more than a decade old, that appeared in various places including "The Bear Bitch Project" and The Gorean Voice, which I co-created and served as editor for a few years. The webzine is long defunct, and the archives of the site are sadly incomplete, but it pleases me to present my thoughts then, to my audience here. As always, if you have a question or comment for me, use the e-mail link in my profile down there somewhere.)


    Hello everyone.

    I have recently seen again, probably for the hundreth time, the tired old argument that is sung to the tune of: "John Norman did not write about a lifestyle, does not acknowledge a lifestyle and indeed, he even was prepared to sell the rights to the novels to a game company at one point - so gaming must be okay with him."

    To reply to that, I would state this: "Yes, I am sure it is."

    "John Norman" is not my God.

    The author wrote a series of fantasy/science fiction books for years, in which contained in them much pleasurable reading (in a fantasy-pulp sort of way) and too, much commentary on social and societal ills in the current and past society we live in. He wove a tapestry of fantasy, philosophy, social comment along with some of the basic issues of humanity, and put them out on the market, where they sold well, even to the point that he was blacklisted and was unable to get his work into print. That during that, he was willing to license his property to interested companies is not at all surprising - look at the two movies that were made when he sold his rights to Dino D.

    John Norman is not Gorean.

    Over the years, according to what I've been able to find out, the author has been 'accosted' by several groups, who claim to "live" as Goreans - the first being a motorcycle club back in the 70's who bothered him at work. Such circumstances would well make the author a bit nervous about his safety and the responsibility he would assume when people take his philosophy out of the novels and apply it to their lives. Another example of this would be those folks at Renn Faires who pattern themselves after the Tuchuks, who - again I am told - steal from others without compunction to the point where they are no longer invited to several events. Such anti-social behaviour too, would clearly make the author stand back and attempt to put as much distance between himself and such people - if for nothing but for the fact
    of percieved liability.

    John Norman is not my God.

    The author has stated that his work is fiction - to which none of us disagree. We do not ride tarns, we do not slay people with swords in bars because they were rough with the waitress, and last time I checked, talking giant spiders were in short supply in my area. But there is more to the authors work then simply the fiction and he has addressed this. Whether he intended to or not, this author with his background as a Professor in Philosophy, pulled togather from history and then managed to communicate in that work of fiction the tenets of a lifestyle philosophy that spoke to the heart of a few people. Those people, then, have taken what the author has said and built a firm, responsible and rational life around those tenets. One that is lived within this society, and not outside of it nor with the intention of doing harm to it.

    Read carefully.

    Whether he intended to, or not, what he wrote touched the lives of some of his readers - it made sense - so much so that they found a better and more fulfilling way to live in this society, by following those tenets.

    John Norman, however, is not my God.

    This is not a cult - he is not the guru. This is not a religion, dependant on the words of one man to help see us through. Indeed, as I noted above, the author did not invent the tenets of the Gorean philosophy, they were taken from many varied sources of human endeavor throughout history. What he did do is place all of that, including some traditions, into a framework that spoke to a few men - and through those men, and thier efforts largely on the internet, there exist today thousands of people who know about the philosophy and most likely tens of thousands who have heard about the source texts. So much so, that a publisher in New York secured the rights to republish the decades-old novels.

    Why? Because of the internet, and the work of a few men who use it, it seemed people again were interested in Gor, the philosophy in the books, and things Gorean.

    John Norman is not a God, nor a cult leader. He is well advised, as the author of the source text, to place distance between he and those who live this - for the simple fact that there are some real nutcases out there and the issue of liabilty and responsibility can arise. You see US, as lifestylers, do the same thing here in public when we speak out against and put distance between us and the gamers, the predators, the con men, the pedophiles and those who encourage rape and non-cosentual slavery as a matter of policy in their 'game-but-we-really-live-this-offline' fantasies.

    We do not want to be tarred with the same brush as they.

    The author, does not want to either, and cannot - I suspect - afford to make any distinctions between us.

    I cannot blame him - the risks are great and the profit little. But he has seen the websites, talked to some here, and knows - if not understands - what we are and try to do. Through the humble beginnings of two men in a "paga tavern" on Dalnet, he has seen his work back in print for the first time in almost a decade.

    John Norman is not my God, no more than Sarte, Nitzche, or any philosopher one can name. To consider him so, to elevate him to that position (or to portray him as in it) is unfair - to both he and us - and has never been the case for us.

    What those who pretend, play and game and screech about us being nazis do not accept, in the end, is that we can truly exist. That we are not playing a game, nor doing this for the women, nor pretending to be Conan online, nor are we so displeased with our place in society that we seek to disconnect from it in assuming a role as a "character".

    What they do not understand, and refuse to try to do, is to see that we are simply men and women for whom the philosophy expressed in the books has spoken to - a philosophy we have taken to heart, and one that we live as best we can, every day. I understand that they cannot see this, for to do so is to admit their own shallow games are just that. To do so is to admit someone can do something that they cannot. That is hard for some people, for some reason.

    John Norman is not my God. I am not a follower of a cult.

    I am a man, in this society, who chooses to live a philosophy that holds men to a higher standard, which recognises a fundamental order between people, and which has been a part of my life for over 18 years.

    John Norman is not a God. Nor, is he Gorean. He simply wrote about such men. And his writings inspired me to be a better man.

    And in doing so, I thank him.

    In striving to live up to the ideals, the traditions, and the philosophy that such fictional men portrayed, I can call myself Gorean in this society.

    If that bothers you, if that frightens you to the point of threatening individuals among us with harm, if that makes you call us all nazis or whatever garbage springs forth next time, if that forces you to write site rules condoning rape and play a game to pretend to be what we are - I say that is too bad, it is a pity, and shame on you. But I've seen it all before, I've heard it all before, and no logical argument has yet been able to convince me that I do not exist (existentialism, aside). ;0)

    I wish you well.