Editor of Gor

Those readers who haven’t heard of the silliest man in science fiction, John Norman, might want to read my previous posts on him before this one.

A pale imitation of Edgar Rice Burroughs, illustrated by a pale imitation of Frank Frazetta. Also, an example of the rule that every series with 'Chronicles' in the title is terrible.

Fans of stories that are definitely not ripoffs of the Barsoom series (he hadn’t even read them before writing his series with basically the same plot and the exact same titling convention using virtually the same pen name) will be overjoyed to hear that John Norman has a new publisher for his Gor series. This means that the feminist-inspired censorship that lost him his publisher last time has been defeated (he couldn’t self-publish them, because…uh….because of feminism I guess).

Quality science fiction like the Gor series deserves nothing less than going to a stock art site, searching for 'Fifty Shades of Gray', and taking the first thing that comes up. Also, 'Saga' functions exactly like 'Chronicles'.

He’s even bringing out a new chapter in the Gorean Saga. But long-time fans might be worried that he talks about himself as an editor. Will this change his distinctive style? It’s pretty obvious he’s never re-read anything he wrote before sending it to the publisher.

Let’s hear what he has to say.

I am uneasy, and, to some extent, fear the Gorean narratives. Would you not do so, even if you, rather than I, were their editor? Surely they are fiction, but perhaps a strange fiction, an anomalous fiction, for the day. Why do they not, reflexively and mindlessly, wisely, prudentially, preach the ideology of reward and acclaim? Are such things not important, not essential? Are the routine formulas so difficult to detect, and the political requirements so obscure? What is different about the Gorean books? Surely the truths they whisper, if truths they be, are small enough, and unimportant enough, and innocent enough, to note. One leaves the drums and trumpets to the leaders of parades. One goes elsewhere, hopefully unnoticed. One sets sail for different worlds. Perhaps the Gorean books, in their small way, are too real. They must be fiction. I will have it no other way.

There’s more than this – quite a lot more actually – but I think we can rest easy. There’s no way anyone edited this.

The original press release is here. By the way, whoever ‘designed’ the cover above is more talented than whoever coded their website.

Take that, prescriptive language!

As a lot of you will know, there are two types of games called ‘role-playing games’ or RPGs.

The first type is games like Dungeons & Dragons, which are played by a group, face-to-face, mostly using dice and pencil and paper. The second are computer games like the Final Fantasy series. The computer types were originally designed to imitate the pen-and-paper type, but they’ve now branched off into a thing in themselves, and are more popular than the original, pen-and-paper RPGs.

Anyway, some fans of pen-and-paper RPGs really hate computer RPGs being called just “role-playing games”. You find a lot of comments on the net to the effect that ‘real’ RPGs are only the D&D type, and calling a board game or a computer game an RPG is a mistake.

I recently got a copy of issue 11 of Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This magazine from the early 80s was made by Flying Buffalo, who at the time also put out Tunnels & Trolls. It was the equivalent to Dragon magazine for D&D: it had some articles which were extra material for Tunnels & Trolls, and some general gaming or science fiction and fantasy material such as reviews.

Anyway, the review section of this magazine talks about “a role-playing game quite unlike the others on the market” called Oregon Trail.

The thing is, Oregon Trail isn’t a ‘real’ RPG. It’s a board game with a lot of RPG elements – in the same general class as Talisman or Arkham Horror.

This section was written by Michael Stackpole, who should know what an RPG is and isn’t. For an overview of his career, see his entry on Wikipedia.

Thus even in the early 80s, probably the period of pen-and-paper roleplaying’s greatest popularity, even in a magazine focussed on a pen-and-paper roleplaying game, the definition of ‘role-playing game’ wasn’t so rigid as some people make out.

I think this is a specific case of a general tendency where people try to enforce how language is, when they really mean what they want it to be. Often you’ll find that the argument about language is really an argument about the world. A pretty transparent example is when people say “marriage is, by definition, between a man and a woman”. They don’t really have any point about language that they care about: it’s a point about gay people, and how they wish they weren’t accepted.

In this case, it seems to be people who wish that computer RPGs hadn’t overtaken their ‘parents’ in popularity.