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  1. #1
    Registered User Zsinj's Avatar
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    Just how bad is John Norman's Gor Series?

    Okay, so for quite a while now, I've been interested in the classic sword & sorcery genre. Amog the authors I'm really interseted in are Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Fritz Leiber, Fred Saberhagen, C.L. Moore, Karl Edward Wagner, Leigh Brackett, Talbot Mundy, Michael Moorcock, David Gemmell, Lin Carter, Avram Davidson, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and others.
    And one author I've kind have got a curious eye on is John Norman, but I'm weary of reading him, because I've heard that his writings are quite nefarious in their treatment of women. I've heard that he isn't just simply sexist in his writings, but has the women degraded and tortured in bizarre and harrowing sexual ways. Could someone please tell me if all that has been said about his writings are true?

    Thanks,
    Zsinj
    Last edited by Zsinj; November 23rd, 2005 at 08:40 PM.

  2. #2
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    Norman is just incredibly bad. I tried to read one of his novels (Fighting Slave of Gor) and had to give up after 20 pages. And mind you, I really like pulp fiction. I read some reviews who claim the earliest Gor novels (beginning with Tarnsman of Gor) are rather enjoyable and less obsessed with degradation of women than later in the series.

    I have to say the list of your fav. authors is quite good. I have read most of these people and they're all recommended (especially Smith, Wagner, Howard and Brackett).

    I'll give some other recommandations in this now almost forgotten subgenre of sword and sorcery (or in some cases science and sorcery) :

    -Alan Burt Akers : his first 5 Dray Prescot series are not too bad. In the Burroughs tradition, much better than Norman.

    -M.A.R. Barker : Man of Gold and Flamesong.

    -L. Sprague de Camp : Reluctant King novels (funny sword
    and sorcery : always rare) and Zei novels (planetary romance)

    -Jane Gaskell : Atlan novels. Recommended : great stuff.

    -Roger Zelazny : Dilvish the Damned

    -David Mason : Kavin novels and Sorceror's Skull

    -M.W. Stover : the novels of Barra the Pict

    -A.E. Van Vogt : Book of Ptath : wonderful science fantasy

    -Henry Kuttner : husbad of C.L. Moore, wrote some great
    science fantasy (Well of the Worlds, Mask of Circe etc...)

    -A. Merritt : great pulp writer. Much darker than Burroughs.

    -Larry Niven : The Magic goes Away. Decent sword&sorc.

    -Andrew Offutt : his Tiana novels are good fun. Also recommend is his sword & sorcery anthology Swords against Darkness (five volumes).

    -Charles Saunders : Imaro novels. Sword and sorcery by a black author with a black hero. Very hard to find. Heard a rumour these will be republished next year in hardcover.

  3. #3
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    I agree that Norman is just about unreadable, especially later in the series, as Norman became more and more overtly interested in masochism and sexism. I refuse to read anything that blatantly demeaning to women, and will happily pick up JIREL OF JOIRY instead! So yes, all you've heard is true true true.

    John Jakes wrote the Brak the Barbarian novels, which was mostly a Conan ripoff, but wasn't so horrible.

    Some of Tanith Lee's earlier novels are very pulpish/S&S-ish.

    Eric Van Lustbader had a series called THE SUNSET WARRIOR CYCLE that was an Oriental S&S series.

    Of course, don't skip Jack Vance.

    And I'm sure there are others....

  4. #4
    Regulated User Kleronomas's Avatar
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    The above comments seem to be par for the course regarding Norman. He does, however, seem to be quite collectable. Is that the case? I'm interested, as I picked up 7 or 8 of his counter-earth books the other day at a book fair thinking that at least they would have some resell value if I find them unreadable. From what I've learnt from reading others opinions, the first 4 books are readble/enjoyable.

  5. #5

    Gor

    Quote Originally Posted by Kleronomas
    The above comments seem to be par for the course regarding Norman. He does, however, seem to be quite collectable. Is that the case? I'm interested, as I picked up 7 or 8 of his counter-earth books the other day at a book fair thinking that at least they would have some resell value if I find them unreadable. From what I've learnt from reading others opinions, the first 4 books are readble/enjoyable.
    I thought the first Gor book was nothing extraordinary, but did set up an interesting premise. The 2nd one cured me of that belief. A friend told me the 3rd was the best of them, and he read the first 6 or 7, I believe, but I'd had enough.

    Randy M.

  6. #6
    I started reading them when I was a young teenager (a long time ago)(after I ran out of Edgar Rice Burroughs). The first few were OK. Then he started slowly to work in his slave-bondage fantasies (wrong kind of fantasy dude). Slowly at first, then at some point he dropped all pretence. Even as a young male going through puberty, I thought the sexism was ridiculous.
    Later when I really started reading fantasy, I was not really into sword and sorcery. But I would recommend Leiber's Fafhrd & Gray Mouser.

  7. #7
    I read the first "Tarnsmen Of Gor" back in the 1960's about the same time I was reading Burroughs. I mananged to get to volume 5 which I think was "Assassin Of Gor" before I got freaked out . I think my dislike of Goodkind is from reading these books. Some of the scenes in "Wizards First Rule" seem to be lifted from the Gor books.

  8. #8
    Where have I been? Moderator JRMurdock's Avatar
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    As a teen I made it through the first 15. It really started sucking for me when he took away Tarl Cabot and replaced him with a native american.

    The first 4 or 5 are worthwhile and read very quickly. After that they go downhill as he ran out of plot ideas and the world was fully fleshed out at that point. He should have blown up counter-earth, but instead he's gone on to write 25 of these books and from what I understand they continue to get worse every year.

    If you're curious, there's a following of Norman's where people mimic the lifesyle of the Kairja (Slave Girls). These, of course, are hard-core freaks. I'm not one of those.

    So if you're looking for simple brain candy that requires no thinking while you read, Norman is good. Though if you're not between the ages of 13-16 you'll find them trite and lacking of anything to lure an adult reader.

    That's my two cents.

  9. #9
    aka Radone Davis Ashura's Avatar
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    I Love John Norman!!!!!! One Of The Bestest Fantassy writers out there!!!!!!!!!!! I love him so much that it would only be perfect if he had a world where men were chained too!!! A guy can fantassize, right?

  10. #10
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    I read an article once about Gor. It seems a female student made some research about the Gorean novels. She was particulary interested in who read these novels.

    No surprise here that the major readership group were teenagers. The big surprise was that a considerable minority (about 15 %) of the Gor readers were female. It even seemed many of these women were higly educated.

    Strange, but of course that's human nature. Of course it's possible they read these novels as humour. I suppose that as a woman reader you can find Gor very funny since it tells something about some males and how they see the place of women in society.

  11. #11
    Loveable Rogue Moderator juzzza's Avatar
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    Try watching the films...



    Oi...

  12. #12
    Actually, the first six novels aren't that bad. Norman has a sharp sense of humour and gives us a pretty interesting world. It even culminates in Book 4 into one of my favorite fantasy books, Nomads of Gor.

    However (and without spoiling anything since most of you won't read those books anyway), in book 6 the hero undercomes a huge change and thus the story drops into bad S&M.

    Basically, it depends on whether you'll find all his SM talk offensive. If you do, don't even think about reading this: you'll puke halfway through the series. If you don't and have a good laugh about it, then you'll find some interesting fantasy stuff with nice epic value and a few tongue-in-cheek moments.



    Tomorrow," I said, "you fight on the Plains of a Thousand Stakes."
    "Yes," he said. "so tonight I will get drunk."
    "It would be better to get a good night's sleep."
    "I am a Tuchuk - so I will get drunk."

    " 'Those long lines, lines, lines, lines, lines, lines, lines, they make me tired, those long lines, lines, lines, lines, lines, lines, lines,' " said Hurtha.
    I could believe it. But I refrained from comment.
    " 'I do not like them, those long lines, those long lines, lines, lines, lines, lines, lines, lines,' " said Hurtha.
    "Is that it?" I asked.
    "That is the first verse," said Hurtha. "Also, I am catching my breath."
    "I thought you said it was a short poem"
    "It was, when I said that. But I have since expanded it."

    "Don't shoot !" Harold shouted. "It's Tarl Cabot, of Ko-ro-ba !"
    The man lowered his crossbow.
    "And who is this Tarl Cabot ?"
    "Me" I said, feeling stupid as I stabbed him.

  13. #13

    Start at the Beginning

    Just read the first one and go from there. Or not.

    It's called "Tarnsman of Gor" and had a great cover till Boris got hot
    and Del Rey picked up on him. That first novel is complete unto itself
    and you can stop right there. Or not. I find the first seven, originally
    published by Ballantine at their highly respectable peak, to be the
    'Classic Seven' for the series. However, #7, "Captive" is, for me, the
    weakest of these. My daughter, having wondered for some time about
    her brother Tarl's name, has begun reading these works at age 21 and
    she loves them- a girl, mind you! [But that's just the first 5 so far.]

    As others have noted, the problems come in a little later. Whether an
    S&M component is distasteful, or whether a single sentence going on
    for like three pages is unacceptable, or whether Jason Marshall even
    belongs in the saga at all (except for the overarching 'global plot'),
    remain moot debates if you just stick with the first seven. Or one.

    Yes, these certainly follow in the Burroughs vein, but they are much
    more substantial and read more like 'serious' stuff; and this response
    holds true for the Akers comparison (in the ERB/Norman vein) as well.

    So just read the first one. Or don't. But do. It's a good read, really!

  14. #14
    Peckish hippokrene's Avatar
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    They're quite bad. I have no problems with sexual fantasies in books. Specifically, BDSM doesn't bother me.

    But the books start out mediocre and go downward with each one published.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lowlander View Post
    The big surprise was that a considerable minority (about 15 %) of the Gor readers were female.
    That's not so surprising.

  15. #15
    Registered User EMMAXIS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zsinj View Post
    Okay, so for quite a while now, I've been interested in the classic sword & sorcery genre. Amog the authors I'm really interseted in are Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, Fritz Leiber, Fred Saberhagen, C.L. Moore, Karl Edward Wagner, Leigh Brackett, Talbot Mundy, Michael Moorcock, David Gemmell, Lin Carter, Avram Davidson, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and others.
    And one author I've kind have got a curious eye on is John Norman, but I'm weary of reading him, because I've heard that his writings are quite nefarious in their treatment of women. I've heard that he isn't just simply sexist in his writings, but has the women degraded and tortured in bizarre and harrowing sexual ways. Could someone please tell me if all that has been said about his writings are true?

    Thanks,
    Zsinj


    I just looked this guy up and he seems to be my kind of writer: the style and the setting, anyway . . . I would prefer not to emulate anything sexist or poorly written. I think I may be bringing back the sword & planet genre (a term I just had to look up on Wikipedia). Coincidentally, just today I sent a big box of manuscript to DAW only to learn that DAW was instrumental in a sword & planet revival. Damn. If I had only seen this post a day earlier, I might have let the editor know . . .

    Nick Alimonos
    Last edited by EMMAXIS; July 8th, 2011 at 11:47 PM.

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