Poll: Ghostwritten/change in quality
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Ghostwriting by professionals
1 20.00%
Ghostwriting by fans
0 0%
Improvement in quality over time
1 20.00%
Decrease quality over time
1 20.00%
None of the Above/Something else/"No"/see results
2 40.00%
Total 5 vote(s) 100%
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Gorean Megathread: the theoretical and practical sexual enslavement of women
The ghostwriter question: did john norman write all of his books himself?

Catgirl kulak thinks he did. She wrote about how his sheer obsession as a writer improved his writing skills over the years.

But this is completely out of keeping with mainstream gorean thought. Fans normally consider the earlier books better than the later ones. I find them more engaging because he makes a stronger attempt to explain the forces that drive the individual to participate in Gorean institutions, which tarl nonetheless remains aloof from.

The ghostwriter argument is flawed because norman had *severe* publication problems for the entire series. He could only work for small publishers who wouldn't have had the money for ghostwriters, and over time his publishers got smaller, not bigger. 

A possibility is that he might have relied on the assistance of fans, in effect dictating a sort of authorized or canon fanfiction on subjects that interested him, at the very least not unlike the contemporary Star Wars EU books.

Looking to the language and quality of the work, there seems to be a trend towards crudity and bluntness, but I won't say barbarity, because no one on Gor is a monster or a mass murderer. This could be the result of inferior writing style, or it could simply be a narrative choice as Norman takes his world for granted, and Tarl adapts to gorean norms instead of bristling or refusing to engage.

The end result is a world that you don't much imagine is governed by the holy terror of flame death and intrigues of high initiates, as much as some backwards country in the real world, whether the deep past or just a century or two ago. Tarl's guest-friends seem less like terrible conquerors and more like basically decent people, who take simple enjoyment in games, hunts, and recreations despite the mandatory brutality of gorean social norms.

Fun things are fun, including being mean to women, and the displays of low brutality if anything seem to create room for simple enjoyment, rather than paranoia, denunciation, collective revenge. It's not a world of mutilations, Marlenus of Ar is not a monster like Bulgakov's Pontius Pilate in the Master and Margarita, and he definitely isn't a murderous chaos marine, not even the caste of assassins is that bad.

Literary Questions, substianted for discussion:
Do you think any of the books were ghostwritten? Are differences between earlier and later books driven by style, or narrative? Or are there dramatic changes in writing skill and quality, either by Norman, his assistants writing fanfiction, or professional ghostwriters taking dictation from him?
(12-13-2023, 01:43 PM)A Chinese Gorean Weeb Wrote: Catgirl kulak thinks he did. She wrote about how his sheer obsession as a writer improved his writing skills over the years.

Now that this is almost a proper group, i want to briefly mention one of the non-lurid aspects of John Norman's work i like, which is the dramatic negotiation.

Tarl and others will often make ridiculous and self-important claims right off the bat, and even ignore obvious facts just to force the other side to bring them up and state their position.

This is obviously a bullying tactic to obtain political submission during sieges ect. Testing the full extent of their resistance. But Norman didn't invent the literary technique.

There is a predecessor in the Robert E. Howard story "Shadows in the Moonlight," where conan duels and kills a pirate captain. According to the law of that pirate crew, Conan ought to be the new captain, but this claim is on shaky ground because the pirate can't agree if he was one of their members during the duel, or not.

Conan then steals the pirate ship out from under them during a raid by a third party (i forget the exact details) and then sets sail, despite not having enough manpower to operate the ship. When the pirates trudge after him, wading into the water, he pretends that he want's nothing to do with them. While he obviously needs to become their captain, he goes so far in his feigned indifference that he forces the pirates to beg him to accept their offer of captaincy, and have them as his crew.

This is a direct parallel to any number of situations in the early books, like the seige of Ar or the revolt in the silver mines of Tharna where tarl uses rhetoric of this kind.
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But since I just finished book 10, i haven't run into situations like that recently (unless they involve the very low-stakes enslavement of particular individuals).
So perhaps
can comment on that.
Or maybe just describe what he liked about the first book, *that wasn't sexual.*

There are unchaperoned ladies here, so until we can get them properly chaperoned, or else break out into effectively-distributed breakout groups, we're going to have to find a way to talk about the Gor novels without talking about sex. God knows i just spent the last half hour doing my part, and right now I'm out of material
Originally posted in the Gorean gc, Apr 22, 2023, 4:09 PM
I feel bad for not replying to this thread yet since I have read the first Gor novel. I of course liked it a lot and think it's a great example of American pop-culture which feels shockingly new and exciting despite its age. There's a surprising amount of this stuff which is conspicuously buried and unpopular relative to its power. Which is of course how I read post-war American history. That there's been a culture terror against the fundamentals of taste. Everything which the opening up of global culture via the internet has taught Americans to love could largely be found in works like Gor. It's like a distinctly American anime/manga story on several fundamental levels. The fixation on direct solutions to simple problems serving as both base entertainment and political content is a trend which has succeeded wonderfully in Japan, Gor offered it too, but had to stay in its ghetto. 

The word hasn't come up yet so I'll just say it. Gor is Isekai. Of course it didn't start with Gor, Gor was if anything a refinement of existing works and cultural trends. Which makes it more remarkable that it wasn't able to succeed. John Carter of Mars was an American work. He wasn't offering something alien. Hell of a shame.

And the novel I read of course was nice. Very easy to read. And frankly not that striking as a picture of alternative morality or anything of the sort, despite its presence. The actions of the protagonist in something like Gene Wolfe's 'Book of the New Sun' are probably more challenging for the average reader. There's a kind of order to Gor (at least in what I read) that makes it all feel rather neat. Of course the woman who takes from her home-city actually ends up liking him. etc.

Anybody else read these things?
In response to the points raised thus far.

Weeb:  I cannot comment on the Ghostwriter question directly, as I have thus far only read through Raider, the sixth volume.  I find the reasons you give for discounting the Ghostwriter hypothesis to be persuasive, however.  It seems to be me that the reason why most assume the later works to be ghost written is that they assume, as I did, that John Norman (which is a pen-name btw) had already passed away.  But the contrary is the case, he is still alive and writing.  But I shall have to revisit the question as I get more volumes under my belt.

In terms of "dramatic negotiation," I found this example from the first volume the most powerful demonstration of the meaning of the work.

Quote:"You must protect me," she said. There was something of a pleading note in her voice.

"Why?" I asked, feeling angry.

"Because I need your help," she said. Then she angrily snapped, "You need not have made me say that!" She had lifted her head in fury, and she looked up into my eyes for an instant, and then suddenly lowered her head again, trembling with rage.

"Do you ask my favor?" I asked, which, on Gor, was much like asking if the person was willing to make a request—more simply, to say, "Please." To that small particle of respect it seemed I had a right.

Suddenly she seemed strangely docile.

"Yes," she said. "Stranger, I, the daughter of the Ubar of Ar, ask your favor. I ask you to protect me."

"You tried to kill me," I said. "For all I know, you may still be an enemy." There was a long pause in which neither of us spoke.

"I know what you are waiting for," said the daughter of the Ubar, strangely calm after her earlier fury—unnaturally calm, it seemed to me.

Norman, John. Tarnsman of Gor (Gorean Saga Book 1) (p. 88-89). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

Anthony: It would be more accurate to say that Isekai fiction is Japanese Fairyland Story, as the tradition of Western adventures in Fairyland goes much farther back.  From 'The King of Elfland's Daughter' and 'A Princess of Mars' to Rome's 'A True History.'  But I take your meaning.  It is entirely true that the Gor works are in conversation with the Planetary Romance tradition, inaugurated by Edgar Rice Burroughs with the aforementioned novel of Barsoom.  

For example, 'Mastermind of Mars' could be seen as a sort of prototype of Gor, with feuding and scheming city states, a guild of assassins, super science masquerading as religion, and of course, slave-girls.  In the Gor material, John Norman takes elements already present in previous works, and amplifies them, while modulating down other elements.  The character of Tarl Calbot starts off as a very John Carter like personage.  A Victorian Gentleman in another world.  

Over the course of the first six books, he slowly 'becomes who he is' so to speak.  The Victorian gentleman slowly evaporates under the constant pressure of events.  Nearly every time he frees a slave-girl, it comes back to haunt him, except that one time in Nomads where it saves his skin.  Finally, in Raiders, he suffers the final disillusionment of his self-conception as 'honorable warrior,' and embraces Gor completely, without reservation.
"The institution of freedom for women, I decided, as many Goreans believed, was a mistake." 

Norman, John. Nomads of Gor (Gorean Saga Book 4) (p. 299). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

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