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Farewell To A Friend: Jerry Pournelle 1933-2017


Two weeks ago, while getting ready for two weeks in the South of France (probably a once in a lifetime thing) I had an email from a friend.  The email said “Hey, I’m going to Dragon Con.  May I look forward to seeing you there?  We could discuss the story.”

The friend was Dr. Jerry Pournelle, one of the legends of science fiction, and any other year, any year when I didn’t already have all arrangements made to be out of the country, I’d be tempted to ditching everything and asking Larry Correia if I could crash on his floor, for the chance to spend a couple of evenings talking to Jerry.

I knew he was my father’s age and time was getting short, and given both of our schedules, the time to actually meet in the flesh was limited and far in between.

But I couldn’t, and I told him so, and also that I was traveling every month through November, but perhaps I could fly out and visit in January?

That visit won’t happen.  We landed yesterday, and when I woke up from my jet lagged sleep, it was to the news that Jerry had died, peacefully, in his sleep.

I’ve spent most of the day having irregular crying fits, and let’s just say my bathrooms are very clean because cleaning is how I cope with most things: grief, anxiety, shock.

There is the sense that a giant has fallen, and that the world has stopped in stunned silence, listening at nothing where there used to be so much.

Jerry is probably not the last of the giants, but the last of the giants for a long time.

In a field, that like all artistic fields is driven in part by talent and craft, and in part by uniqueness of vision, he stood apart and beyond most of us, work-a-day authors, in a league with Robert A. Heinlein, or very close to him.

I discovered his Janissaries series in South Carolina, the year my older son was born.  Someone in a small library in Columbia, South Carolina, must have loved Jerry’s science fiction writing as they had all of it.  I then went on to buy and read everything he wrote alone and in collaboration.

Because of the way my life works, I first met him at (I think) the first Liberty con I attended.  Because I’d gone there to meet someone and discuss a possible book, I hadn’t looked at the guests of honor.  So I didn’t have any of his books to sign.  I made my way through the signing line, anyway, to tell him how much I loved his work and also that his had been one of my very first personal and encouraging rejections (I submitted to the There Will Be War anthology, and he told me he would have published it, if there were one more volume.  Since there wasn’t, he was returning it.  (He didn’t remember rejecting me, though he did remember my story.  It wasn’t until last month I found the paper copy of that story and realized at the time I was submitting under my pre-citizenship name.)