(1933- ) US writer with PhDs from the University of Washington in psychology (1960) and political science (1964); he was employed for fifteen years in the US space programme, working for both government and private firms, and at one time was a political campaign manager. Before entering sf, Pournelle wrote some technical nonfiction and some fiction, occasionally using pseudonyms and House Names. His first books were a nonfiction text, The Strategy of Technology (1970) with Stefan T Possony, and two non-sf novels as by Wade Curtis: Red Heroin (1969; 1985 as Pournelle) and Red Dragon (1971; 1985 as Pournelle); he used the Curtis name also for a few stories in Analog, though his first sf story, "Peace with Honor" (May 1971 Analog), appeared under his own name.
This tale, the first fiction published under his own name, also marks the initiation of Pournelle's most extended enterprise, the CoDominium sequence, earlier parts of which are named after their chief military protagonist, a cunning, honourable mercenary and military genius named Falkenberg whose adventures begin during a period of stupidity and venality on the part of blinkered, earth-bound civilians (civilians are not infrequently so depicted in Pournelle's work), a time that roughly coincides with the merging of American and Soviet interests in the conquering of space (> Space Flight). Falkenberg conspires with the CoDominium military force to maintain a human presence in those worlds already colonized by mankind in its first outward thrust towards Galactic Empire (see also Colonization of Other Worlds). Falkenberg appears in West of Honor (1976) and The Mercenary (fixup 1977), the latter title reworking "Peace with Honor" and other stories, both volumes being assembled as Future History (omni 1980), then with added material as Falkenberg's Legion (omni 1990); and in Prince of Mercenaries (fixup 1989), Go Tell the Spartans (1991) and Prince of Sparta (1993), both with S M Stirling, all three, plus Falkenberg's Legion, being assembled as The Prince (omni 2002).
Set considerably later in the CoDominium world – after the rise and fall of a first Empire of Man, an interregnum, and the birth of the Second Empire – A Spaceship for the King (December 1971-February 1972 Analog; 1973; exp vt King David's Spaceship 1981) also features a tough military genius, whose resemblance to Falkenberg is obviously of thematic importance, for Pournelle argues implicitly in the sequence that civilization can be sustained only through a hierarchical structuring of society which – perhaps rather magically – manages to avoid bureaucratic sclerosis, and through the maintenance of such military virtues as honour and loyalty. The Laurie Jo Hansen sequence – comprising High Justice (coll of linked stories 1977) and Exiles to Glory (September-October Galaxy; 1978), both assembled as Exile – And Glory (omni 2008) – fits the model, though the implications are more pessimistic in this case.
These arguments are most clearly on view in the series' climax, The Mote in God's Eye (1974) with Larry Niven, set in a period when the CoDominium has evolved into a full-blown Galactic Empire with all the trappings. The fascinating Aliens depicted in that novel of First Contact (and its aftermath) reflect his collaborator's conceptual ingenuity as clearly as the human Empire reflects Pournelle's sustained fictional argument for that kind of solution to the problems of just government. The sequel, The Gripping Hand (1993; vt The Moat Around Murcheson's Eyes 1993), lacks the thrusting innovativeness of the first volume. Pournelle also edited, usually with John F Carr (not always credited), the There Will be War sequence of military anthologies, beginning with There Will be War (anth 1983) and ending with There Will Be War, Vol IX: After Armageddon (anth 1990). The more recent War World sequence of Shared World anthologies, beginning with War World, Volume 1: The Burning Eye (anth 1988) with John F Carr and Roland Green and ending with War World, Volume 8: Invasion (anth 1994) – carries the CoDominium concept into broader waters.
After The Mote in God's Eye, Pournelle collaborated with Niven on several further novels, all singletons and most extremely successful in the marketplace. They include Inferno (August-October 1975 Galaxy; exp 1976) reworks Dante Alighieri's Inferno as melodrama, explaining evil as part of a project in theological engineering, and dooming anti-Nuclear Energy propagandists to endless torture in Hell; the sequel, Escape from Hell (2009) with Niven, is weakly uplifting; Lucifer's Hammer (1977), a long, ambitious Disaster novel about a giant meteor impact on Earth, which sophisticatedly marries sf techniques with the bestseller idiom familiar from the many disaster films of the early 1970s. In Oath of Fealty (1981), which rewrites CoDominium feudalism in mundane (indeed, suburbanized) terms, an arcology in Los Angeles (> California; Keep) – ignoring governmental attempts to interfere – defends its wealthy inhabitants from Ecology freaks and terrorists. Footfall (1985), about an Alien Invasion of Earth – including a warm plea for space-based Weapons, as devastatingly employed by the intruders – turns into Recursive SF through its enlisting of a readily identifiable group of sf writers to brainstorm solutions to the threat from space. The Heorot sequence – comprising The Legacy of Heorot (1987), with Niven and Steven BARNES and The Dragons of Heorot (1995 UK vt Beowulf's Children 1995), also with Niven and Barnes – replays a loose version of the Beowulf saga on a colony planet, the natives of the planet being forced to play the Monster; as often in Pournelle tales, even in collaboration, a disaffected military officer is at the centre of the action. The Near Future Fallen Angels (1991), with Niven and Michael Flynn features yet another government betrayal, this time of its own astronauts, and once again treats environmentalists concerned with Climate Change as villains. Political subtexts – always evident in both main collaborators' solo work – tend in their joint efforts to surface rather more frequently, to the discomfort of some readers, especially those unaccustomed to the restricted range of political discourse utterable in America without arousing contumely (though within that narrow range its expression is singularly open); other readers find the books refreshingly "robust".
Solo or in the absence of Niven, most of Pournelle's work not devoted to the CoDominium also focuses on issues of Future War and the decorums and tactics of waging war, The Janissaries sequence – Janissaries (1979), Janissaries: Clan and Crown (1982) with Roland J Green and Janissaries 3: Storms of Victory (1987), again with Green – returns to explicit warfare, describing a mercenary leader's efforts to unify the planet to which he and his soldiers have been transplanted. The short Jupiter sequence – comprising Higher Education (February-May 1996 Analog; 1996) with Charles Sheffield and Starswarm (1998), initially confronts settlers with problems of Ecology on Jupiter, and is relatively calm.
Pournelle was first recipient of the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1973, and very rapidly established himself as a dominant creator of the politically conservative-libertarian Hard-SF tale. His military sf has shaped that subgenre as well, though it would be unfair to blame him for the excesses of his imitators, though his contempt for the stereotyped villains in his work – liberals and Ecology activists prominent among them – is perhaps more suitable to traditional Space Opera than to Politics. For many decades he has unswervingly advocated the benefits of Invention and vigorously applied Technology in the making of a better world, an advocacy that shapes even his lightest works of fiction. His nonfiction, too, has been notable for its engaging clarity, its constant presentation of political agendas, and its eagerness to convey knowledge. A sense of deep cultural pessimism about our willingness to benefit from our strengths, though alleviated by explicit avowals of Libertarian hopefulness, pervades and – for many readers – humanizes his work. [JC]
see also: Cities; Communications; Destinies; Economics; Eschatology; Galaxy Science Fiction; Gamebook; Gods and Demons; Mythology; Outer Planets; Overpopulation; Panspermia; Rays; Science Fiction Writers of America; Seiun Award; Social Darwinism; Spaceships; Stars; Tuckerisms; Utopias.
Jerry Eugene Pournelle
born Shreveport, Louisiana: 7 August 1933
For CoDominium Shared-World anthologies, see works as editor below.
CoDominium: Laurie Jo Hansen
- High Justice (New York: Pocket Books, 1977) [coll of linked stories: CoDominium: Laurie Jo Hansen: pb/Ed Soyka]
- Exiles to Glory (New York: Ace Books, 1978) [CoDominium: Laurie Jo Hansen: pb/Boris Vallejo]
- Exile – And Glory (New York: Baen Books, 2008) [omni of the above two: CoDominium: Laurie Jo Hansen: hb/Clyde Caldwell]
Mana: Burning City
works as editor
CoDominium: There Will be War
Co-editor status not clear with each title; John F Carr's involvement is likely.
- There Will be War (New York: Tor, 1983) with John F Carr [anth: CoDominium: There Will be War: pb/]
- There Will be War, Vol II: Men of War (New York: Tor, 1984) [anth: CoDominium: There Will be War: pb/Alan Gutierrez]
- Blood and Iron (New York: Tor, 1984) with John F Carr [anth: CoDominium: There Will be War: pb/Angus McKie]
- Day of the Tyrant (New York: Tor, 1985) [anth: CoDominium: There Will be War: pb/Bob Layzell]
- Warrior (New York: Tor, 1986) [anth: CoDominium: There Will be War: pb/]
- Guns of Darkness (New York: Tor, 1987) [anth: CoDominium: There Will be War: pb/Colin Hay]
- Call to Battle (New York: Tor, 1988) with John F Carr [anth: CoDominium: There Will be War: pb/Les Edwards]
- Armageddon! (New York: Tor, 1989) with John F Carr [anth: CoDominium: There Will be War: pb/Les Edwards]
- After Armageddon Guns of Darkness (New York: Tor, 1990) [anth: CoDominium: There Will be War: pb/Tony Roberts]
CoDominium: War World
Co-editor status not clear with each title; John F Carr's involvement throughout is likely
- War World, Volume 1: The Burning Eye (New York: Baen Books, 1988) with John F Carr and Roland Green [anth: tie: CoDominium: War World: pb/Keith Parkinson]
- War World, Volume 2: Death's Head Rebellion (New York: Baen Books, 1990) with John F Carr and Roland Green [anth: tie: CoDominium: War World: pb/Keith Parkinson]
- War World, Volume 3: Sauron Dominion (New York: Baen Books, 1991) with John F Carr [anth: tie: CoDominium: War World: pb/Keith Parkinson]
- War World, Volume 4: Codominium: Revolt on War World (New York: Baen Books, 1992) with John F Carr [anth: tie: CoDominium: War World: pb/Keith Parkinson]
- War World: Blood Feuds (New York: Baen Books, 1993) [tie: anth/novel: CoDominium: War World: pb/Gary Ruddell]
- War World: Blood Vengeance (New York: Baen Books, 1994) [tie: anth/novel: CoDominium: War World: pb/Gary Ruddell]
- War World, Volume 8: Invasion (New York: Baen Books, 1994) [anth: tie: CoDominium: War World: pb/Gary Ruddell]
Co-editor status not clear with each title; John F Carr's involvement is likely.
- Far Frontiers (New York: Baen Books, 1985) with James Baen [anth: Far Frontiers: pb/Michael Carroll]
- Far Frontiers, Volume II/Summer 1985 (New York: Baen Books, 1985) with James Baen [anth: Far Frontiers: pb/Michael Carroll]
- Far Frontiers, Volume III/Fall 1985 (New York: Baen Books, 1985) with James Baen [anth: Far Frontiers: pb/Michael Carroll]
- Far Frontiers, Volume IV/Winter 1985 (New York: Baen Books, 1986) with James Baen [anth: Far Frontiers: pb/David Egge]
- Far Frontiers, Volume V/Spring 1986 (New York: Baen Books, 1986) with James Baen [anth: Far Frontiers: pb/David Egge]
- Far Frontiers, Volume VI/Fall 1986 (New York: Baen Books, 1986) with James Baen [anth: Far Frontiers: pb/Pat Ortega]
- Far Frontiers, Volume VII/Winter 1986 (New York: Baen Books, 1986) with James Baen [anth: Far Frontiers: pb/A C Farley]
Previous versions of this entry