Thursday, 11 March 2010

Janice v. Gor

Whenever you talk about a world where men hold women as slaves, a fantasy world that is suitably ancient and exotic, someone will tell you it is Gorean. I find this a bit annoying. I will immediately apologise to the one (see the comments on my last entry) who triggered this, this time. I am not having a go at you, this happens all the time.

So, am I inspired by John Lange, aka John Norman, and his Gor books? Yes, of course. I have read a fair share of them and how could you not be inspired? Everything I see and read and experience inspire me. But my fantasy world is not Gorean, full stop. Unless you mean Gorean in the same sense as USA is Roman because they have an empire or Barbara Cartland is Austen because people marry at the end.

Does it matter? Not really. I just want to make clear that where I go, in my mind, where I have my fantasies play out is not Lange's counter earth, the slave owners in my stories and imagination are not Gorean.

I do find Lange's books fascinating, and inspiring, but only up to a point. And now I am going to rant about what I don't like about his creation.

Life on Gor is highly formalised, at least social relationships. People are organised in castes if they are free and if they are slaves they are property. The main character, Tarl Cabot, is a member of the warrior caste but betrays the code of the warriors and becomes and outcast. Free women on Gor have to have their faces covered and removing the veil from a woman is about the most degrading thing you can do to her, short of enslaving her. It is a world that reminds me more of the Vatican or Medieval Japan than the Wild West or Europe during the Barbarian Invasions.

In addition, Gorean men seem to be scared of women. The relationship between everybody, including free men and owned women, is ritualised and very strict. A slave who speaks in the wrong way or doesn't show enough willingness to serve or in any way doesn't adhere to protocol is severely punished. A slave's life is full of the treatment that is meant to demean her and show her, not just that she is property but also worth nothing. This, to me, speaks of anxiety, not about self confidence and real power.

I can go there, I do occasionally. There is an appeal in this ritualised, formal and very degrading treatment of women. It is strange but part of me wants to be humiliated in fantasies. But I never stay there for long. In my world, my fantasy world, when ruthless men captures women and keep them as slaves, I like to think of them as confident enough to know that a slave is a human, although an owned one, and that there is no need to assert your power during every single second of every single day. The world won't collapse if the owner sits down and laughs with the slave. (If you now want to prove me wrong by finding quotations from the Gor novels where slave owners are friendly with their slaves, please, don't. This is about my overall impression of Gorean society as anxious and regulated rather than wild and relaxed and you are free to disagree.)

Yes, I do have many worlds in my head, some that clash if they would be put side by side. What I am saying is that I do find slave fantasies rather nice but mine are not Gorean, not that often any way, but they are still full of deserts, slave markets, chains, whips, nakedness and ruthlessness.

I can see that this seems superficial and why bother about details? And is there really a difference? I don't know and I will not try to analyse and argue it any further. Call it what you want. But if my world is Gorean, it is as much Hyborian, Barsoomian and of Arabian Nights. I am just tired of the label, as if John Lange is the only one who has imagined how fascinating it can be with a world where slaves are kept for the pleasures of their owners.


Paul said...

Janice, my comment was not intended as a put down, any of the examples you gave could have been used.
John Norman's books are fun, but the basic philosophy is suspect.
Gor was the first example that sprung to mind, I'll remember that it irritates you.
I still, I hope, remain a friend and fan.
Love and warm hugs,

Janice said...

Dear Paul, I sincerely hope you don't think I had a go at you. Please read my comment on That Other Side. I really hope we still are friends, it was just that your comment triggered this train of thoughts. No offence taken and I hope I haven't angered you.



Manorlord said...

Dear Janice,

I, too, read the Gor novels -- at an impressionable age, or shall I say, stage. I was coming to terms with my own dominant nature, and Norman's novels were among the few that openly catered (pandered?) to my adolescent imaginings. He "got to the point" more quickly and clearly than Sade, or Victorian ramblings in The Pearl and A Man a Maid.

But please, let's face it, he is a DREADFUL writer. He has (as someone else said) diarrhea of the word processor. His novels are repetitive and full of page-padding excruciating detail. His sentences are often poorly constructed; his paragraphs more so; his plots predictable... and ... (and here I will REALLY raise hackles)... his philosophy is not so much incomprehensible as infantile.

The best thing about his books were the wonderful illustrations in the original printings -- illustrations left out of later editions.

One reason you are not Gorean, dear J, is that your writing is head and shoulders above his.

A short story by Herr Norman might be of interest, but lacking the discipline (!) of a word limit, his works are, and will remain, an example of the crap rising to the surface.

Compare Norman to The Story of O. Kitsch versus art. Even the Marketplace Series or (god help me) Anne Rice are far superior.

But what I REALLY think...

OUCH!! That hurt!


Wystan E

Anonymous said...

Dear Janice
I can’t read John Norman’s prolix prose (spot-on, Manorlord!) but, as you know, I spend a lot of time in Second Life (SL) where, as you also know, there’s a place called Gor which has a malign influence on role playing throughout the SL D/s ‘community’. Whilst the mechanical speech of ‘Gor-trained’ submissives is merely irritating, the infantile, humourless, faux-macho behaviour of ‘Gorean’ Masters utterly ruins any scene into which they wander.
Thank heavens for writers like you who understand the subtleties, contradictions and, at times, downright barminess of D/s!
Best wishes,

Janice said...

Dear Wystan E., I think I agree with most of what you say. Have to say that I don't think the Gor novels are that badly written, though, tedious, that is true but not so bad. And I wouldn't say I am better, although I love hearing it from you...smiles.

Dear Michael, I have also seen some of the effect the books have on people. It seem to be an excuse for being abusive at times and that is not so nice.



Cécile said...

Dear Janice, As you know I don't agree with the Gor philosophy (btw... is that possible to use the word philosophy when speaking about Gor?)
A Dom/Sub relation must be a win/win play, In the worship of the slave has to correspond the respect of her mistress.
I try to do my best in that way, I try...

Hugs and kisses Janice, be kind to yourself.


Ollie said...

Many thanks to Wystan for saving me the trouble of seeking out and reading Norman's work.

Janice said...

Dear Cécile, I agree with you and I agree, too, that philosophy is too much of a word for it. But I do find the thought of forced slavery quite exciting, not as anything real but as a fantasy.

Dear Ollie, I think you may miss something, actually, I didn't write this to slag the books off. I do find the a little boring but there are things there that are of value.



Maham said...

dear janice, can you please write a story in which a male person's back is flogged with a leather whip?

Janice said...

Dear Maham, whipping of men is really not my thing, I am afraid.



Maham said...

how about just a flogged back? Your stories are usually involving legs and bottom whipped. (just an observation, not a judgement!)

Janice said...

I do appreciate feedback and you should never say never, but you will find mostly bottoms in my stories, and that is because that is how my mind works.


Anonymous said...

Hello Janice.

This one it's now an old posting, but i have found it and red it again, and intended to make some comments. I have an opinion very similar to you, about the gorean saga books. I can't say that i have read many of them, (they are hard to find, and even more in non english speaken countries, as mine), but i have read same of them. I enjoyed it, although they are not the best thing that i ever red, but i found there same inpiration, even same arousal, in moments.

But i also found same kind of madness, exageration, and insecurity, in the need to permanently humilliate the female slaves. Of course, in my fantasies, slave women are to be used and humilliated, as in yours, but... i could not standing in seeing a slave only as an animal or an object: in same moment, i would ask her to bring me a tea, to bring another for her, and to sit with me, talking about something, as normal people.

That's way your stories are so good: you write well, and your stories have the right amount of fantasie, without reaching a level of madness, that would make it unbeliveable and irrealistic.

Warm hugs,