Monday, March 3, 2014

Kink Lit: John Norman's Gor

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not Gorean. Not to say that I feel I need to defend myself from that idea, but I want it understood that my perspective is not a Gorean one, whereas many opinions about the books other than saying their terrible or stupid typically comes from Goreans.

So, here’s something different.

If you’ve been on Fetlife or CollarMe or other fetish sites for any length of time, you've likely encountered Goreans or the concept of Gor. There tends to be no small amount of contention between Goreans and non-Goreans, but there’s contention between all the schools of thought when it comes to power exchange and kink at some point. But, that’s not what this is about.

This is about the books.

I ordered the first 16 books of the series a couple months ago and have been slowly making my way through them. I've read the first six, and I must say, I quite enjoy them. Now, I went to school for writing, so I would like to think I can recognize good writing, or at least, awful writing. Of course, everyone’s biased by their personal tastes, and I happen to find several of the classics to be incredible bores. However, I disagree with the loud majority that these books are terribly written.

Sure, they have their flaws, but all books have flaws. Literature is not something that’s ever perfect. I also think you have to read books in the right context and take them for what they are. Many complaints about the books have to do with the sexism and the gender roles portrayed in them. Really, though, sexism is a stupid reason to hate a science-fantasy novel from the 60s. If you thought they were going to be full of feminism and equality, one, you don’t know science-fiction, and two, you don’t know science-fiction from the 60s. And, either way, books would be boring if they didn’t involve politically incorrect themes and topics.

The sexism doesn't bother me at all. I can appreciate the world John Norman has created here. Whatever opinion you might have about repetitive plot elements, because there are quite a few, as well as repetitive phrasing, you can’t deny that the world of Gor is lovingly and meticulously fashioned. The sheer amount of detail he puts into these cultures is astounding and definitely impressive. It makes my inner anthropology nerd squee like a fangirl. And while the repetitive phrases can be a little irksome when you've been trained that variety of language is a staple of good writing, his voice kind of gives the stories a more epic feel. Something like a very detailed fairy tale.

I also quite enjoy stories that involve that romanticized version of slavery. I like the large focus on slavery in these books. It’s one of the main focuses of my own fiction. I like exploring the facets of slavery and the different kinds of slavery that can exist. While there’s really only one type explored in Gor, it’s still an interesting one. It’s not a slavery I would want to participate in myself. But the elaborate nature of it intrigues me, and I can always appreciate the fantasy of it.

It lights up all the same places in my brain that the concept of the Odalisque does.

So, I think these books are worth the read if you’re looking for kinky fiction or M/s fiction to read. I think they can be more engaging because they aren't porn like a lot of kink fiction tends to devolve into. There is very little of the explicit in the Gorean novels, and while I kind of wish there was a little more sex in it, the lack of that is probably to its benefit.

If you can find them, pick them up, although I do recommend strongly that you read them in order. The experience is better that way. 


  1. Honestly, as somebody who pursued several degrees in literature, reading the Gor books is almost painful, due to their writing and due to the terribly contrived plots. For me they are basically the equivalent of 50 Shades, a bit like masturbation fodder for guys who usually don't do all that well with women. Women finding their "real place" and "never felt as good" as when treated like life-stock and sex toys. Just doesn't float my boat.

    1. Oh, I certainly wouldn't call them a masterwork of literature, but I find them entertaining. I can't agree with the majority opinion that they are just horrible dreck, as I have read far worse. There are elements that are bad and make me roll my eyes, for sure, but there are some good elements in there. I can accept the commentary on women as it is within the context of the culture he portrays without feeling like it has to apply to reality. I guess it's a suspension of belief...and a suspension of my inner editor that wants to mark it up. lol

    2. Or suspension of disbelief, rather.

  2. It has perked up my curiosity! I need to go and find me the series now :-)