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Author Topic: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry  (Read 1836 times)

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Offline IronQuillTopic starter

The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« on: November 25, 2017, 06:06:46 PM »
As I was exploring the archives of Elliquiy (IE, lurking old threads), I've come across several mentions to the book series, the Gorean Saga. Now prior to my arrival to E, my only experience with this book series are the occasional mentions in 4chan's traditional gaming channel. Those mentions, if one were to filter through the rancidity and awfulness that is par for the course on 4chan, often remark that the Gorean saga is a strange, sexually charged epic sword and sorcery affair akin to that of Conan the Barbarian, or John Carter of Mars for a closer comparison.

Now my question to you, good folks of E, is what exactly is Gor and the Gorean Saga? What do you know of it? What is your opinion, on its setting? The writing style of its authors? And its popularity during the years the books were first published.

I would normally research this one on my own, but I figured it would be much more fun discussing it with you fine folks.

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #1 on: November 25, 2017, 06:30:00 PM »
http://www.rdrop.com/~wyvern/data/houseplants.html

This parody is a remarkably accurate reproduction of how the Gor books are written.

Offline SithLordOfSnark

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2017, 10:11:42 PM »
If you liked 50 Shades, you MIGHT like Gor. That is all.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #3 on: November 26, 2017, 07:59:15 AM »
If you liked 50 Shades, you MIGHT like Gor. That is all.
Third degree burn. XD

Offline SithLordOfSnark

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2017, 08:08:34 AM »
Third degree burn. XD

I have no love for John Norman's novels. ngl.

If Gor wasn't just a bunch of roleplayers who use it as an excuse to abuse women, I wouldn't care so much, but it's just a very worse version of 50 Shades.

This is just my opinion, mind you, but that's what I've witnessed.

Offline Inkidu

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2017, 08:22:09 AM »
I have no love for John Norman's novels. ngl.

If Gor wasn't just a bunch of roleplayers who use it as an excuse to abuse women, I wouldn't care so much, but it's just a very worse version of 50 Shades.

This is just my opinion, mind you, but that's what I've witnessed.
I tend to agree. I don't like works that make huge sweeping generalizations about people. I mean that's the caveat of Gor. All women really just want to be controlled by men.

Even Tolkien came up with a magical excuse as to why all orcs are generally nasty. Sheesh.

Offline SithLordOfSnark

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2017, 08:43:14 AM »
I tend to agree. I don't like works that make huge sweeping generalizations about people. I mean that's the caveat of Gor. All women really just want to be controlled by men.

Even Tolkien came up with a magical excuse as to why all orcs are generally nasty. Sheesh.

Exactly that.

Offline RedRose

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2017, 05:37:02 AM »
I don't mind a non politically correct setting - but this sounds just... Strange.

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2017, 05:57:03 AM »
I don't mind a non politically correct setting - but this sounds just... Strange.

You don't even know the half of it.

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2017, 07:01:42 AM »
I've heard about it in passing, never seen any to read though. I know that there's a race called the Broo in it, as Games Workshop did models for Gorean games way back in their founding before they did their own IPs. Those Broo models were generic enough to become the first Beastmen models for Warhammer Fantasy, heck even the word 'Gor' made it into most Beastmen names, like the medium infantry Gors and the light meatshield Ungors.

As I have a fondness for Warhammer/Age of Sigmar's Beastmen, it was something I wanted to check out, just for curiosity. That and if someone says something is bad, I usually try and seek it out for my own opinions, for example I actually own a copy of the much maligned FATAL rpg, though I'm going on a tangent...

So, I'll ask this as it doen't seem the thread has mentioned much on it; What's the overarching plot of the saga anyways?

Offline SithLordOfSnark

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2017, 07:14:42 AM »
I've heard about it in passing, never seen any to read though. I know that there's a race called the Broo in it, as Games Workshop did models for Gorean games way back in their founding before they did their own IPs. Those Broo models were generic enough to become the first Beastmen models for Warhammer Fantasy, heck even the word 'Gor' made it into most Beastmen names, like the medium infantry Gors and the light meatshield Ungors.

As I have a fondness for Warhammer/Age of Sigmar's Beastmen, it was something I wanted to check out, just for curiosity. That and if someone says something is bad, I usually try and seek it out for my own opinions, for example I actually own a copy of the much maligned FATAL rpg, though I'm going on a tangent...

So, I'll ask this as it doen't seem the thread has mentioned much on it; What's the overarching plot of the saga anyways?

Pretty much that all women are slaves or can be made into slaves, even what Gor called "Free Woman" can be turned into a slave by force.

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2017, 07:30:09 AM »
^ Though that's just a story element, not a plot. ^^;;

Like I mean, who's the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s)? What are their goals and why? What happens to push the story forward? I don't think I've ever seen anything on these important things mentioned when people talk about the saga. ^^;

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2017, 09:43:39 AM »
I don't mind a non politically correct setting - but this sounds just... Strange.
Yeah, it's not that this is the society they live in. That's one thing. There's a big difference between, "Gorean society demands women submit." and "All women really want to be some man's willing slave, they just need the right big strong guy."

One is a ripe for societal discourse, the other is a thirteen-year-old's dangerous fantasy.

Offline Lithos

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2017, 10:02:03 AM »
It is entertaining enough piece of fantasy literature, and it does dabble good bit in to scifi as well... you have tech that is used for moving from planet to planet, as well as insectoid like aliens that are actually the priest kings ruling the world. The way to get badly disappointed is to expect them to be erotic books, Norman always seemed to feel uneasy about writing sex scenes so they are brief mentions if and when they happen and not the focus in any shape or form. The priest kings are not the only aliens in the books, also the seriously bad bad guys, violent human eating space faring werewolf lookalikes called Kur are of alien origin.

People also have artificially lenghtened lifespan, that is done by injections of life prolonging serum. Technology is VERY strictly controlled, generally only available for priest kings and their servants. Citizens of Gorean world that make technological inventions, say advanced weapons, guns or the like very quickly and permanently disappear, by not-so spontaneous self combustion done by the clergy. So it is world kept on certain state by rather strict enforced rules, and the world itself is social experiment run by aliens. That sets the stage where the things in the book series happen.

People are at times - with aid of technology - also able to traverse between Gor and earth as we know it, and there are several instances in the books where that is the case. It also is the way by which the character that one is following in few of the books, Tarl Cabbot originally gets transported in Gor. There are other characters, too with their origins in earth as we know it, and that is pretty much the only connection to familiar earth in the books as most things in gorean world are very different - even the gravity, which is not as strong as on earth and allows some things such as giant flying eagles called tarns to plausibly exist. Of course, slightly lower gravity also enables some rather heroic appearing physical feats that would not be possible in earth.

They can be heavy to read, with all the measures and such being completely different units from what we use, and great number of characters and specially geographical locations and cultures. Also there is no shortage of contradictions between certain novels but then again that is true to any long spanning book series where authors own life situation and personal experiences sometimes affect things in one way or the other. Writing style is also very dinstinct and repeating in a way that can lend to quite a few parodies, but oddly does not disturb so much when actually reading.

For following single protagonist or to have clear tangible antagonist it is not the right set of works, different books are written from very different perspectives. Some might be written from point of view of a free man, others from that of a slave, yet others from point of view of say, assassin and so on. As such any particular portagonist for whole series is hard to name but certainly one that is followed time and time again all the way through would be Tarl Cabbot, a proffessor from earth transplanted to world of Gor and becoming a master swordsman.

My own recommendations would be, If you are looking for non fiction, do not read it. If you are looking for erotic novel series, don't read it. If you like fantasy, completely foreign cultrures and cultural anthropology and do not mind somewhat heavy writing, It can be very entertaining read. I have had some very entertaining RP:s in that world as well, there is a lot of material in the novels to include but all in all I think it is challenging for story writing since one has to be familiar with varying different units, social classes and craftsman castes and their sometimes complex relations as well as combat all sorts of inaccurate information on the books found on the internet.

I do not wish to take part on any argument on political correctness, but personally I find it odd topic concerning fiction. I like wealth of worlds where world order and society certainly are far from ideal from our perspective starting from Warhammer Fantasy and 40k, going to things such as the bleak world that we have in Cyberpunk or say, Shadowrun not to mention Ender's game or such. Works of fiction are windows through which to look at very different worlds, not mediums where to look for ideas of how ours should be so I think debating about them is not very useful.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2017, 10:27:04 AM by Lithos »

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2017, 10:45:33 AM »
I do not wish to take part on any argument on political correctness, but personally I find it odd topic concerning fiction. I like wealth of worlds where world order and society certainly are far from ideal from our perspective starting from Warhammer Fantasy and 40k, going to things such as the bleak world that we have in Cyberpunk or say, Shadowrun not to mention Ender's game or such. Works of fiction are windows through which to look at very different worlds, not mediums where to look for ideas of how ours should be so I think debating about them is not very useful.

The issue is that many people who follow Gorean philosophy treat it as law, not fiction.

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #15 on: November 28, 2017, 10:49:53 AM »
They're like the creepiest roleplayers ever. Even hardcore BDSM lifestyle types at least recognize that the relationship is voluntary and not some sort of inevitable subconscious urge.

Offline Lithos

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2017, 10:54:51 AM »
The issue is that many people who follow Gorean philosophy treat it as law, not fiction.

This is completely outside the scope of the questions presented in the original post though, we are supposed to discuss the novel series.

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #17 on: November 28, 2017, 11:03:51 AM »
Fair point.

So since you have apparently actually read them...how does a sword-and-sorcery adventure series where the author is supposedly uncomfortable about sex and only briefly mentions it end up as the poster-child for sexual-slavery-centric fiction for decades until 50SoG unseated it, to the point where (as mentioned, though it's off-topic) there is an entire "Gorean' subculture inside the BDSM community dedicated to replicating that sort of attitude? What are they drawing on?

Offline Lithos

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #18 on: November 28, 2017, 11:18:43 AM »
Fair point.

So since you have apparently actually read them...how does a sword-and-sorcery adventure series where the author is supposedly uncomfortable about sex and only briefly mentions it end up as the poster-child for sexual-slavery-centric fiction for decades until 50SoG unseated it, to the point where (as mentioned, though it's off-topic) there is an entire "Gorean' subculture inside the BDSM community dedicated to replicating that sort of attitude? What are they drawing on?

I think it is the potential for all manner of things that could happen and sometimes with few words are mentioned to happen, human mind fills the rest. One must also remember that the books started at 60:s.... even just notion of sex, was enough for quite the scandalousness value back then and it built quite a following as result of that. Also Gorean man is such a creature that I suppose it would feel like ideal figure to many. Controlling, firm but just, not sadistic, not perverse, strong, brave.... not many in the books fill those shoes (and lose their status accordingly) It is something that is not really feasible for human to be, hence the fiction. Also in peoples minds the proportion of slaves compared to free is often upside down, in world of books there is one slave for perhaps fifteen free, in peoples fantasies it seems to be the other way around.

I think reason for that is that overwhelming majority of free in the books, belongs to Peasant caste, which is still free men (and women) but not all that much higher than slaves, they usually lead fairly poor lives, working the land paying the taxes and keeping wheels of society running. It would not be something many people want to write about so they tend to be non existing in much say, roleplay scenarios.

Another thing that might make the low castes not very attractive for people to think about and discount is that they do not have same access to knowledge about the world and how it is as high castes. High castes generally have knowledge about technology existing, world being round and such, and they are not superstitious cause they know that magic as such does not really exist. Low castes have a lot of superstition, their access to information far lower, it is great way to control and discourage trying to find out too much about certain things after all.

The writing style can be a bit numbing but it is not as bad in quality as everyone makes it out to be, the author is Professor of Philosophy, not English but the English is still in good standard unlike mine. I think he is nowdays Professor at Queens University, PhD from Princeton. All the controversy over his book series must have made his academic career interesting.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2017, 11:36:59 AM by Lithos »

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #19 on: November 28, 2017, 11:37:26 AM »
How would you compare it, quality/story-wise, to its grand-daddy and predecessor John Carter? Or its fantasy-genre contemporaries like Conan?

Offline Lithos

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #20 on: November 28, 2017, 11:47:25 AM »
I would say it is better than Conan, to my personal taste but I am really not qualified person to say I mostly read science fiction and fantasy and have never written anything noteworthy.

The Mars series and gor are like siblings I would be hard pressed to say anything about order of those, I am more familiar with gor and liked it more even if it is not my favorite novel series. The mars books and gor are so eerily similar that I am sure much of similarity is in purpose. The books are named similarly and big part of premise of both is that the protagonist wrote manuscripts of books and sent them to earthling to be published even. Content wise I feel that there is more diversity in cultures and their descriptions in gor books, but system of slavery is far less harsh and more agreeable to most tastes in mars books.

Online TheGlyphstone

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #21 on: November 28, 2017, 12:26:43 PM »
John Carter does predate Gor by almost fifty years, hence the likening to a grandparent/child. The similarities and influence of one on the other are unmistakable, Norman had obviously read Burrows and was trying to emulate him to some degree.

Offline Lithos

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #22 on: November 28, 2017, 12:57:41 PM »
It is mentioned as literary inspiration by the author as well, along with Homer, Freud, and Nietzsche. There is huge amount of similarities in how things are presented between Burroughs's work and Normans. It is also good fun to spot them while reading them. When leaving bigger lines and getting in to detail they start to separate by quite a big degree but still there is good bit of sense of familiarity.

It is too bad that neither series is as smooth reading or has as well paced progression than more popular works in fantasy/SF, I think both have harder time with finding new readers these days. 

Offline TheSithChicken

Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #23 on: November 29, 2017, 06:22:56 AM »
Gor is the Sword and Sorcery equivalent to colo-rectal cancer. It is poorly written, the characters are made of cardboard, the stories are absolute garbage, and the world building is the weakest form of slipshod idiocy meant only to cover the author's increasingly strange views towards the natural order of things. To say that it is better than Conan is - at best - laughable. There is no over arcing plot. Honestly there is barely any plot at all. The books are just people doing stuff while the author wanks over his philosophical "insights" and shows off the setting he built with all the care of a mentally challenged child with a bucket full of legos. John Norman is one of the worst influences the genre has ever experienced.

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Re: The Gorean Saga, a Discussion and Inquiry
« Reply #24 on: November 29, 2017, 08:35:36 AM »
It is entertaining enough piece of fantasy literature, and it does dabble good bit in to scifi as well... you have tech that is used for moving from planet to planet, as well as insectoid like aliens that are actually the priest kings ruling the world. The way to get badly disappointed is to expect them to be erotic books, Norman always seemed to feel uneasy about writing sex scenes so they are brief mentions if and when they happen and not the focus in any shape or form. The priest kings are not the only aliens in the books, also the seriously bad bad guys, violent human eating space faring werewolf lookalikes called Kur are of alien origin.

People also have artificially lenghtened lifespan, that is done by injections of life prolonging serum. Technology is VERY strictly controlled, generally only available for priest kings and their servants. Citizens of Gorean world that make technological inventions, say advanced weapons, guns or the like very quickly and permanently disappear, by not-so spontaneous self combustion done by the clergy. So it is world kept on certain state by rather strict enforced rules, and the world itself is social experiment run by aliens. That sets the stage where the things in the book series happen.

People are at times - with aid of technology - also able to traverse between Gor and earth as we know it, and there are several instances in the books where that is the case. It also is the way by which the character that one is following in few of the books, Tarl Cabbot originally gets transported in Gor. There are other characters, too with their origins in earth as we know it, and that is pretty much the only connection to familiar earth in the books as most things in gorean world are very different - even the gravity, which is not as strong as on earth and allows some things such as giant flying eagles called tarns to plausibly exist. Of course, slightly lower gravity also enables some rather heroic appearing physical feats that would not be possible in earth.

They can be heavy to read, with all the measures and such being completely different units from what we use, and great number of characters and specially geographical locations and cultures. Also there is no shortage of contradictions between certain novels but then again that is true to any long spanning book series where authors own life situation and personal experiences sometimes affect things in one way or the other. Writing style is also very dinstinct and repeating in a way that can lend to quite a few parodies, but oddly does not disturb so much when actually reading.

For following single protagonist or to have clear tangible antagonist it is not the right set of works, different books are written from very different perspectives. Some might be written from point of view of a free man, others from that of a slave, yet others from point of view of say, assassin and so on. As such any particular portagonist for whole series is hard to name but certainly one that is followed time and time again all the way through would be Tarl Cabbot, a proffessor from earth transplanted to world of Gor and becoming a master swordsman.

My own recommendations would be, If you are looking for non fiction, do not read it. If you are looking for erotic novel series, don't read it. If you like fantasy, completely foreign cultrures and cultural anthropology and do not mind somewhat heavy writing, It can be very entertaining read. I have had some very entertaining RP:s in that world as well, there is a lot of material in the novels to include but all in all I think it is challenging for story writing since one has to be familiar with varying different units, social classes and craftsman castes and their sometimes complex relations as well as combat all sorts of inaccurate information on the books found on the internet.

I do not wish to take part on any argument on political correctness, but personally I find it odd topic concerning fiction. I like wealth of worlds where world order and society certainly are far from ideal from our perspective starting from Warhammer Fantasy and 40k, going to things such as the bleak world that we have in Cyberpunk or say, Shadowrun not to mention Ender's game or such. Works of fiction are windows through which to look at very different worlds, not mediums where to look for ideas of how ours should be so I think debating about them is not very useful.
All actually really fair points, but I still maintain that the underlying philosophy of the books is not only wrong, it's inherently dangerous, as Glyphstone has said down thread.

If there were some magical or other piece of reason why women submitted, or if the aliens were injecting women with a drug that forces this condition, it would be one thing. If it were merely a patriarchal society that demanded women submit, it would be fine as a lens. However, the caveat of the whole series social dynamic relies on this inherent need for women to submit. It highlights not only dominant and submissive roles in a bad light, but general dynamics of men and women. This underlying philosophy does tend to rot out anything else that the series might have offered (I did try to read it after several people mentioned it, but I remember that none of them were enthusiastic about it).