Science Fiction Novelist and Computer Guide, Dies at eighty four


Jerry Pournelle, a prolific author of science fiction novels and witty recommendation columns for pc customers, died onSept. 8 at his domestic in Los Angeles. He was eighty-four.

The purpose was coronary heart failure, his son Phillip stated. Dr. Pournelle had simply returned from Dragon Con, the yearly convention in Atlanta for fanatics of technology fiction, fantasy and different genres. In his final weblog publish, written the day earlier than his demise, he mentioned having shriveled a chilly and flu at the journey.

Dr. Pournelle, whose several ranges blanketed a Ph.D. In political technological know-how, worked within the aerospace industry for years and suggested the federal authorities on navy topics and space exploration. But technological know-how fiction lovers knew him as the writer of novels like “Janissaries” (1979), approximately soldiers abducted through area aliens, and “Starswarm” (1998), about a boy being raised on a far-off planet by means of an uncle and a pc software named Gwen, which his lifeless mother had left in the back of.

Dr. Pournelle also wrote several books with different authors. Larry Niven became a favorite collaborator. Their works included “The Mote in God’s Eye” (1975), an outer-area saga; “Lucifer’s Hammer” (1977), approximately humanity tries to regroup after a cataclysm; “Inferno” (1976) and “Escape From Hell” (2009), associated memories inspired through the hell envisioned through Dante; and “Footfall,” which made it to the top of The New York Times’s paperback first-rate-dealer list in May 1986.


A Literary History of Word Processing DEC. 25, 2011
Dr. Pournelle became also recognized to many thru energetic columns for Byte mag wherein, starting early in the home-computing age, he pointed out private computers and the software for them. Much of any given column turned into approximately his own stories at “Chaos Manor” — his name for his home, and for the column — trying out new software program products and wrestling with insects, system defects, and viruses.

He named a number of his computers — Zeke and Bette among them — and his columns, although nicely knowledgeable, have been packed with humor and a sprint of snark. In one, meant for the August 1998 difficulty of Byte (the magazine ceased print booklet the month before, so Dr. Pournelle published it on his website alternatively), he complained that Bill Gates’s Microsoft became now not bothering to restore flaws in Windows 95 because it wanted clients to shop for Windows ninety-eight.

“Probably it’s just difficult to get brilliant young people to paintings on tedious stuff like fixing insects once they may be including new capabilities and bringing in more income,” he wrote. “Probably Gates is now not without a doubt in control of his organization, and those do what they want to do, and nobody desires to restoration insects.”

He implemented that same curmudgeonly tone to his endless weblog posts on politics, public issues, films, technology, generation and nearly some other challenge possible.

Jerry Eugene Pournelle turned into born on Aug. 7, 1933, in Shreveport, La. His father, Percival, turned into a radio advertising and marketing government and later trendy supervisor of numerous stations. His mother, Ruth, turned into an instructor and worked in a munitions manufacturing unit all through World War II.

When Dr. Pournelle became a boy the own family moved to rural Tennessee, where the faculty he attended changed into small, to mention the least.

“We had two grades to a room and 4 teachers for the entire 8th-grade college system,” he recalled in a 2013 interview.

But he supplemented the schoolhouse mastering with the aid of reading the family Encyclopaedia Britannica. Dr. Pournelle, taking advantage of the G.I. Bill after serving in the Army at some stage in the Korean War, could, in the end, get hold of a couple of tiers from the University of Washington.

He spent years working in the aerospace industry, including at Boeing, on tasks along with studying heat tolerance for astronauts and their spacesuits. This facet of his profession additionally observed him running on projections related to army approaches and chances. One record wherein he had a hand became a foundation for the Strategic Defense Initiative, the missile defense gadget proposed by President Ronald Reagan. A have a look at the edited in 1964 involved projecting Air Force missile generation wishes for 1975.

“I as soon as told Mr. Heinlein” — the science fiction creator Robert A. Heinlein, an early mentor — “that once I was given into advance plans at Boeing I probably wrote more technology fiction than he did, and I didn’t have to position characters in mine,” Dr. Pournelle recalled in February in an interview with the podcaster Hank Garner.


His expertise at projecting the future turned into additionally obtrusive in his novels.

“The iPhone is a pocket pc,” he once referred to, “and we had pocket computer systems in ‘Mote in God’s Eye’ in 1972.”


Dr. Pournelle’s first novel, “Red Heroin,” seemed in 1969 underneath the pen name Wade Curtis. The books kept coming at a constant tempo for the following 40 years.


Dr. Pournelle becomes an early adopter of personal computing. In 2011, while The Times posted an editorial about an English professor, Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, who become trying to find the primary author to have written a unique on a phrase processor, Dr. Pournelle argued that he deserved the ones bragging rights for the 1981 e-book “Oath of Fealty,” which he wrote with Mr. Niven.

The yr before that ebook got here out, he commenced writing his Byte column, which he persisted in a web model of the mag after the print version led to 1998, after which on his own internet site.

Dr. Pournelle could continually tell might-be writers in search of advice that the important thing to becoming a creator was to write — lots.

“And end what you write,” he introduced in a 2003 interview. “Don’t join a writers’ club and sit down around having espresso studying portions of your manuscript to people. Write it. Finish it.”

He simply wrote, and finished, quite a chunk himself. His Byte columns were on the lengthy aspect, and his common blog posts had been, too. There appeared to be not anything Dr. Pournelle was not willing to preserve forth approximately, his views typically conservative with a touch of the libertarian. (He wrote the preface for his pal Newt Gingrich’s e-book “Window of Opportunity,” posted in 1984.)

In addition to his son Phillip, Dr. Pournelle is survived by his wife, the former Roberta Jane Isdell, whom he married in 1959; a daughter, Jennifer Pournelle; 3 different sons, Alex, Frank, and Richard; and 4 grandchildren.

Though Dr. Pournelle wore many hats, he had a license plate that targeted at the storytelling facet, Phillip Pournelle said; it examines, SCIBARD.

In the 2003 interview, Dr. Pournelle mused approximately the artwork of the technological know-how fiction writer.

“As a ways as I’m involved,” he stated, “we are not any one-of-a-kind from the vintage storytellers, the antique bards lower back in Bronze Age time who would cross from campfire to campfire, and that they’d see a warrior sitting there and say, ‘You fill my cup up with that wine you’ve got there and chop me a piece of that boar you’re roasting and I’ll tell you a story about a virgin and a bull that you simply wouldn’t trust!’ ”