Has Gor changed?

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Anarch Allegiere
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Has Gor changed?

Postby Anarch Allegiere » Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:37 am

A question I ask just for casual discussion this week:

"Has Gor changed over the years?"

The first book was written in 1966 (Tarnsman of Gor), the last one in 2013 (Rebels of Gor). That is a timespan of 47 years.


In my opinion Gor has changed over the years. I all too often find people referring to quotes from "Tarnsman of Gor", with which I can only find myself disagreeing because I've found myself repeatedly reading storylines or examples in later books that would deny or contradict some of the things written in the earliest books.

I can also understand how this creates a chasm between roleplayers because some might swear by the words written in the earlier books and not be open much to the information offered in the later books, while for others, like me, it might be completely the other way around.

In my opinion the later books and later storylines are always more canon than the earlier books, or perhaps corrections or clarifications.

If people are wondering which contradictions I might refer to I can only name the two most recent ones which I currently can remember, but I remember there being quite a few more:
- Tarnsman of Gor mentions how FW can attain the same ranks and responsibilities as the men within their Caste, something that heavily gets denied in many of the later books.
- Tarnsman of Gor mentions how a gorean man must always accept a challenge, while in Swordsman of Gor there is a very large paragraph that details everything regarding kanjelines (duels/challenges) and explicitly states how it can be denied and even under what circumstances it can be considered dishonorable to even issue a challenge.

I'm curious if Tarnsman of Gor perhaps only served as a prototype of sorts, and that Norman after his first book sat down and tried to give his world a bit more thought and changed certain things, because I do not recognize this issue of contradicting information happening as blatantly with Outlaw of Gor and later books for example. Although you could argue that Outlaw of Gor has quotes that mention how strangers would get killed outright at the gates of a city, something we don't see happening or mentioned in later books at all anymore. (As the only example which I can remember from the top of my head, maybe I'll find more if I look deeper into it.)

But what do you think?
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Re: Has Gor changed?

Postby Escapee » Tue Sep 02, 2014 7:16 am

Maybe it's just the differences in cultural norms.
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Re: Has Gor changed?

Postby JackoS » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:47 am


Yes it has changed over the years. John Norman even admitted it. I think that Tarnsman was just an initial draft, but as he started to write more and more several things presented:

1. Society changed, so in order to keep his reading base, he had to change a bit. If one sees also the matter of slavery, it gets thicker and thicker as the books progressed and he gravitates more and more towards BDSM despite saying in Outlaw that Goreans are no Sadists nor Masochists.

2. I guess also he started to find that one thing is one linear story (Tarnsman) and another to create an entire world. For that I guess he started to find that issues that in early books were secondary or not touched at all, he now found were crucial in a society and needed explanation. The Challenge example you mention is probably a good one: the idea of warriors challenging each other sounds great and very romantic, but imagine if that is the basis of a society, there goes the concept of private property. So certain rules and codes needed to be added.

3. What we know today of ancient civilizations, is different from what we knew in the 60's and 70's, when the concept of the novels was formed. A good example would be the vikings, which form the basis of marauders. In the 60's and 70's most people thought of the vikings as bloodthirsty marauders, and the knowledge of their society was limited at best. Today, thanks to a lot of research done in the past 50 years, we know a lot more about them.

All this translated into changes, twists, contradictions etc... But of course if you are writing a series over 40 years, and spanning all those earth ancient civilizations, of course you are going to have those changes.

And finally, John Norman had different publishing houses and editors over those 40 years. And that also counts, as editors usually can change completely the focus of a book depending on his style and how well he gets along with the writer.
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Re: Has Gor changed?

Postby HorizonNinetails » Tue Sep 02, 2014 12:43 pm

Technically, he's still writing about the same world. Perhaps our understanding of cultural norms have been expanded, but the world itself shouldn't have changed.

Its more or less like you said - our knowledge of the world has expanded.

I havent gotten to read anything past raiders. I tried getting into swordsmen but I couldnt find a good copy for my e-reader. Kept missing pages or having formatting issues. I'd like to - but meh.

The number of books is a huge barrier for people trying to get into RPing in gor at times. Its not like GOT where people can watch the series to get the jist. I'd like to read more into the series, just to know it, but there are so many other books that I'd rather read that it just hasn't happened.

Kind of reminds me when Galahad has Cos and they chose a specific frame of books that they were allowing as reference to stuff allowed on the sim - IE, no Pani/Swords.
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Re: Has Gor changed?

Postby Dyce » Tue Sep 02, 2014 2:14 pm


Interesting point regarding the challenges.

As I understood it, it is not about men on a whole, but about the warriors. That the only honorable reply to a challenge is to accept it.

However, I intuitively understand this in terms of equal footing. I never believed it was a maxim for every single situation. Obviously it would be dishonorable to challenge a maimed warrior and a little stupid for said maimed warrior to accept said challenge .... for that moment.

Nothing, however, forbids or makes the challenge dishonorable if it were to be arranged for when the maimed warrior had recovered. In that instance, the challenge would be given and accepted honorably and both parties would wait until said time.

Or, the maimed warrior could accept the challenge and call upon a champion to act in his stead.

Which brings me to another point about the recent novels and their quotes of challenges and duels - they forget the advent of champions. I understand the quote is restricted to kajira canjellne, but that is not the only point of challenge. In the first novel, Tarl remarks that he took roost on a tarn perch and a flying drunken tarnsman, spoiling for a fight, could challenge him for his perch and the only honorable response would be to accept it.

However, as you mention that all men must honorably accept a challenge, that could be interpreted, yes, because of the advent of champions. A scribe could accept a challenge from a warrior and pay or ask or arrange for another combatant to champion him. In this instance, the challenge is honored.

In the broad idea of challenging, I understand that the only honorable response is to accept.

In the narrowed idea of kajira canjellne between warriors, I understand that they would create codes and ideas centered around such.

Sure as hell didn't keep Kazrak from challenging Tarl for Talena in the first novel, though. And neither of them knew of each other's capabilities as a warrior, so neither could know if one was weaker or not. So, the more recent quotes of stronger opponents challenging weaker ones seems as if ole Johnny just likes to complicate things.

However, I believe that Gor should be taken intuitively as a guide. Cultures between cities differ. How one warrior may behave in one city is different how another will behave at another city. One's interpretation of honor differs from the next man's and so on and so forth. And then there is the idea that such personal codes of honor are stricken and cast away during times of war when one force conquers another and slays/enslaves a majority of the conquered population including families of officers.

Overall, yes... Gor has changed, of course. Tarl often reflects in the novels how things were different back in the day when he fought Pa-Kur. I think it was Renegades when he was in a restaurant and he remarked there was blackwine being sold cheaply which was different from back in the day when it was a luxurious and expensive drink. But, this is the evolution of culture. Cultures evolve. It's natural.

As far as codes and the like, though, I think that Norman's simply refining things, not necessarily changing them.
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Re: Has Gor changed?

Postby JackoS » Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:14 pm


This is the quote that Anarch refers from Swordsmen:

"She is pretty," he said.
"She is not muchly trained," I said, "and there are doubtless thousands who would bring higher prices."
"Still, she is very pretty," he said.
"Do you wish to challenge for her?" I asked.
"No," he said. "I have a better."
Unless there should be some misunderstanding here, one might observe that such challenges are not frequent, and normally require almost a ritual of circumstances. For example, aside from the usual impropriety of challenging one with whom one might share a Home Stone, Gorean honor militates against, if it does not wholly preclude, casual or unprovoked challenges. Obviously a skilled swordsman would have an advantage in such matters, which it would be inappropriate, and perhaps dishonorable, to press. Normally challenges would take place to recover a stolen slave, to protect a mortally endangered slave, perhaps to obtain a slave once foolishly disposed of, without which one cannot then bear to live, such things. Too, there may be economic constraints, as well, for if the challenge is not accepted, one is sometimes expected, depending on the city, the castes, and circumstances, to pay for the slave, with a purse several times her value. Few potential challengers then care to risk a refused challenge, as it is likely they cannot afford the slave, and must then retire in embarrassment. Many other possibilities enter into these things, but these remarks, hopefully, will give any who might chance to peruse these several sheets a sense of some of the prevailing customs in these matters. To be sure, brigands, pirates, enemies, and such, are not likely to concern themselves with challenges, but are rather the more likely, as they see fit, to attack, and kill. Similarly, in raids, and wars, it is understood that the property of the enemy, or quarry, or target, including not only his livestock and slaves, but even his free women, is legitimate booty. A proper challenge, on the other hand, is more akin to a duel, sometimes even to the setting of a time and place.

As you say, it is like refining, stating that not always a challenge is proper, in fact it is not very frequent. Also clearly there are cases that are no-no's sort of speak: challenging someone from one's homestone, challenging someone who is not as skilled as you. Finally it also states the risk of issuing a challenge, as the other side might not accept it, but might instead indicate the girl is for sale, at a high price, a price one might not be able to pay and as such, might find himself humillated (it seems being poor in Gor is humillating)

Finally there also a quote in Nomads, when Kamchack asks why should he fight in the games of love and war, after being challenged to participate. It seems that if you challenge somebody in Gor, he may request that you provide a good reason, or something to entice him too (i.e. you want to challenge me over my girl, well put one up too)
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Re: Has Gor changed?

Postby Mehrunes Unsworth » Tue Sep 02, 2014 4:08 pm

We have a flawed narrator, in Tarnsman, Tarl is unfamiliar with the planet and figuring things out as he goes. Also, the Gor of Tarnsman is one that is dominated by Marlenus and Imperial Ar, after the empire was disbanded by the actions of Tarl over the course of the story, it is quite possible that things changed. The spear-slave piece on the kaissa board is an example of one of the changes brought about in the later stories.

I agree, the world changes as new books are put out.
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Re: Has Gor changed?

Postby Dyce » Tue Sep 02, 2014 6:51 pm

JackoS wrote:As you say, it is like refining, stating that not always a challenge is proper, in fact it is not very frequent. Also clearly there are cases that are no-no's sort of speak: challenging someone from one's homestone, challenging someone who is not as skilled as you. Finally it also states the risk of issuing a challenge, as the other side might not accept it, but might instead indicate the girl is for sale, at a high price, a price one might not be able to pay and as such, might find himself humillated (it seems being poor in Gor is humillating)

Finally there also a quote in Nomads, when Kamchack asks why should he fight in the games of love and war, after being challenged to participate. It seems that if you challenge somebody in Gor, he may request that you provide a good reason, or something to entice him too (i.e. you want to challenge me over my girl, well put one up too)

I understand what you are saying.

What I don't understand is the sense of the quote. If it is already a no-no to issue cajellne to someone of your own Home Stone, what keeps a Warrior from simply attacking another and taking what he has? Obviously these hesitations and honors are not given to one's enemy of state.

I understand, as I said, the canjellne issued between Kazrak and Tarl. Neither were of the same home stone, but they both were employed similarly to the same individual, i.e. Mintar. Therefore, the codes and honor should be observed. And while Tarl was new to the world, Kazrak was not. And it was Kazrak who issued challenge for Talena without giving reason other than "I want her".

But, what if you happen upon someone who is from an enemy city traveling the countryside? Is a Warrior to observe the codes of the caste in lawless territory? Or is he to slay the enemy on account that the man may be a courier of some kind, a scout relaying information or something else that could be used against said warrior's home stone?

I remember in Beasts, I think... Tarl attempted to purchase the use of a slave girl from a roaming woman in the wilds who was being escorted by a company of warriors. When the woman did not accept, Tarl offered to purchase one of the slaves-in-waiting for a sizeable sum. Still, the woman did not accept. Finally, Tarl fought the captain of the escorting company. When the captain failed and refused to let his men attack because he recognized Tarl would decimate them, the man simply turned and left with his men, leaving the woman at the mercy of Tarl. And all Tarl wanted was to fuck a slave. I believe it was the story of Lady Constance.

Both Kazrak's instance and Lady Constance's were casual and unprovoked, which goes against the quote provided.

Too, the quote refers to "swordsmen", "cities" and "castes". It is not specific to Warriors nor to the wilds of Gor. It is generalized between men of whatever caste... inside a city where laws are written about these things and would probably involve a magistrate or praetor of some such with the assistance of a professional slaver to set the price of the slave girl in the case that the challenge is not accepted.

However, in the wilds where we've seen nearly every kajira canjellne, there are no laws governing such. No praetors, no slavers to set prices of slaves. Likely, if a man is to refuse a Warrior in the wilds of Gor, that Warrior will feel offended and take whatever he wants with the purchase of steel as Tarl did with Lady Constance when she refused to barter with him.
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Re: Has Gor changed?

Postby Eve Cartier » Tue Sep 02, 2014 7:55 pm


I kind of assume that Norman wrote the first two books with the intent of getting across a sociological idea. He was trying to make a commentary on the nature of men and women on earth and how far we've come from "Survival of the fittest". It just feels to me that in these books (especially Tarnsman) that he's practically beating you over the head with these concepts and paying very little attention to the consistency or depth of the world around the characters. The world is created to support these concepts with no thought being given to the longevity of the creation.

Then, someone, somewhere bought the book and someone, somewhere paid Norman his royalties and he went "caa-ching!". Then, through the next handful of books it is about rounding out a world and creating depth where there wasn't any to keep the books rolling out the money rolling in.
Around "Slave Girl" someone says "Hey, plots are nice, but you need to fill out your characters... and toss in more sex. That seems to sell". So we end up with Slave and Beasts.
As a side note, the man can't write character depth to save his life. Unless you count the size of her ankles and the color of her hair as character depth.
After that, it is book after book of him trying to move away from being a sociologist and trying to cash in as a space romance writer.
Take a break for a few years...
Then return with Swordsman because his agent contacts him and says "Hey, you know, you have this weird cult following on the internet. I'll bet if you wrote again they'd buy it up."

In short, I think it had to change. I don't think he ever had any intention of creating the world of Gor beyond Tarnsman. Then, when faced with the task, he had to rejigger things to make them work. Add another 20 some odd years, a different market and different market desires, and the books and world are changing all over again.

All that said, as of late, I've been going back and rereading them (I have a masochistic side to me apparently)and I think sometimes, we in SL are a little to blame. I think we like to make blanket rules and laws across all of Gor, raid note cards prove this, but the truth is, he's very plain about expressing that things are different from one place to the next. Laws change from city to city as do social practices. That doesn't account for full out contradictions concerning the same people in the same city, but it's almost sad we expect everything to be the same across all cities of Gor.
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Re: Has Gor changed?

Postby Glaucon » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:39 pm

I do not think all these changes/apparent inconsistencies really are changes inconsistencies. He has a knack for saying things that seem inconsistent while still describing the exact same thing, just with a different angle.

For example, the challenges. If one were writing about historical European/colonial times in areas where duels were common (as in: real history), one could make the same apparently inconsistent observations. On the one hand one might say that duels over 'honor' were common and that an honorable man could not decline such a challenge honorably once one was issued. On the other hand, one might also say that duels were not so common. One could describe many caveats, many rules and norms that stipulate when and when not to accept such a challenge. And someone issuing a lot of such challenges might himself not be considered honorable, being seen as a rascal and a trouble-maker.

For example, when the French writer Voltaire challenged the Chevalier de Rohan to a duel after that nobleman had a group of men beat Voltaire up because something he said made him angry, he did not accept the challenge. Instead, he had Voltaire thrown in prison followed by exile from France. Which, by the norms of his class at that time, was probably a more appropriate (more 'classy') way of dealing with a challenge from a mere writer than accepting the challenge would have been. But all that doesn't render the fact that, at that time, a man could not refuse a challenge to a duel without a stain on his honor untrue. It just makes it less straightforward.

Same thing with the position of women within a caste. Norman saying that women MIGHT attain high positions within their caste doesn't really mean he is contradicting himself when, later on, he says that women rarely hold the highest leadership positions of a caste. Again, look at real history. If one were talking about women in the 'west' in the early 20th century, one could say that women MIGHT attain high position in the private sector, including that of, say, factory owner and director. But at the same time, one might say that women rarely held such positions.

Add to that the differences between areas/cities within Gor, possible changes over time (though I think it is easy to make too much of those), and I think it is quite possible to make the case that he didn't really change his mind about his world much.

I think he is pretty consistent about Gor, mostly. Though it is clear that his emphasis changed a lot since Tarnsmen, in which the whole theme of the subjugated role of women didn't come to the fore all that much. That started becoming more of a theme in the second book and some of the early books after that, but still in a relatively playful way. His anti-feminism coupled with more BDSM-like notions seems to have grown into a more central theme in the 'middle early' books and it seems to become a constant theme influencing the tone and perspective he takes in his descriptions in his later books (not that I have read all that many of those).

I am inclined to say that he didn't really change the world he describes. I'd say that he is describing more-or-less the same thing, but now more as an ardent (and somewhat disgruntled) anti-feminist with set ideas about the proper role of women (in his fantasy-world, but really, in general) that he feels he has to point out constantly. Add to that a more 'evolved' (as in, detailed) image of the finer point of gorean conventions, and I think the case can be made that he is consistent even when he doesn't appear to be so, the only thing changing his (narrator's) perspective.

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