Amerika

Rest in Peace, Jerry Pournelle


Tor Editor Bob Gleason, Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven

It was with some shock that I read of the death of Jerry Pournelle. Religious people tend to use the term “passing,” which is wonderfully gentle but misses the point that death is part of life, and while it terrifies us, if we believe that this is a good universe, good people go on to something else.

Pournelle wrote many solid things, but his highpoint was Lucifer’s Hammer, a sci-fi book built around the question, “Why civilization?” It is essential reading for conservatives and other realists because ultimately that is the question we struggle with: why bother to do anything right at all, when that takes away focus from our own glorious simian drama as hubristic individuals? (Invaluable secret: it does not, so long as the time is not wasted, meaning that the labor is necessary and not merely pro forma.)

In Lucifer’s Hammer, a large meteorite crashes into Earth and obliterates the normal functioning “net” of food, water, electricity and social order. Those who survive then find themselves trying to figure out what to do. Once they handle basic survival, they start to want the comforts of civilization back. And as they see how in chaos, the bastards win, they start to want social order. The book is a great defense of all that realists or, as I perhaps should call us — per reader suggestion — civilizationists, do and the orientation of our reasoning. As far as the West goes, I want civilization back too.

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