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Jerry Pournelle passed away today


Stargazer

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Just in case it matters to someone else here, just thought I would note that Dr. Jerry E. Pournelle, science-fiction author, essayist, and scientist passed away in his sleep this morning at the age of 84. He was one of my three or four favorite fiction authors, and he leaves unfinished a couple of novel series I was interested in seeing completed.  Oh, well, perhaps they will see completion in the hereafter -- Gutenberg project, perhaps!  Old Johann would probably be right on that one.

He was a devout Catholic, and even though I don't think he had a very favorable outlook regarding the LDS Church, I forgive him for it!  His writing gave me many hours of enjoyment, and still does, for I occasionally find myself re-reading him.

Edited by Stargazer
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I liked him though it has been awhile since I have read any of his stuff (cut way back on reading since we moved here due to very small library, bookmobile always brings new stuff but I never remember the day it is here).

People taking up series even if their kids is never very satisfying for me.

His stuff with Larry Niven is what I mostly read of his.

Edited by Calm
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Hi Stargazer.

Thank you for the notice. I have only read his collaboration with Larry Niven called, The Mote in God's Eye. I saw ordinary people in the future who weren't straining to be different from those who came before them. That was Catholicism. Preserve and pass along what you have received. Reverence for the past. The resulting little bit of modesty and chastity in space was refreshing. But the story didn't grab me. It took a long time to finish. Are my first impressions possibly superficial in your opinion? Writing these words makes me want to do a closer re-read.

I have been mildly interested in what appears to be an attempt to do a re-make of the Divine Comedy with modern historical figures. Are you familiar with it, and if so, what do you think about it? 

And what makes you say he had an unfavorable outlook on the LDS Church? Did he like Protestants better do you think?  

3DOP

Edited by 3DOP
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On 9/9/2017 at 0:15 PM, 3DOP said:

Hi Stargazer.

Thank you for the notice. I have only read his collaboration with Larry Niven called, The Mote in God's Eye. I saw ordinary people in the future who weren't straining to be different from those who came before them. That was Catholicism. Preserve and pass along what you have received. Reverence for the past. The resulting little bit of modesty and chastity in space was refreshing. But the story didn't grab me. It took a long time to finish. Are my first impressions possibly superficial in your opinion? Writing these words makes me want to do a closer re-read.

I have been mildly interested in what appears to be an attempt to do a re-make of the Divine Comedy with modern historical figures. Are you familiar with it, and if so, what do you think about it? 

And what makes you say he had an unfavorable outlook on the LDS Church? Did he like Protestants better do you think?  

3DOP

The Mote in God's Eye is one of my favorite SF novels. One of the things about Pournelle that I liked was his focus on realistic military matters. As a veteran of the Korean War (an artillery battery commander), he had first-hand experience.  As for The Mote, it is a First Contact story and of course those are always fun. I do understand that Pournelle isn't everyone's cup of tea.

I never read Dante's Divine Comedy, but I have read Pournelle's take on its first part, appropriately titled Inferno. I enjoyed it. I'm not sure how closely he hews to Dante's line, though. I think I've heard that he uses Dante's geography. There was a sequel, Escape from Hell, which I started but haven't finished.  I will, one of these days. Both these books were written as a collaboration with Larry Niven, with whom Pournelle wrote a few other novels.  I think you would enjoy Inferno.

I had a personal interaction via email with him many years ago in which I mentioned something in connection with the LDS church, and his response was somewhat less than respectful -- though in fairness I don't remember the precise wording and I may have taken it wrong. But in the sequel to The Mote in God's Eye (The Gripping Hand), one of the worlds in human space was founded by Mormons, and the scenes involving them are anything but sympathetic.  Whereas in his "future history" which featured the Mote, the capital of the human empire is also the headquarters of the post-Earth Catholic Church -- though it is never named, it is clearly based on the RCC -- and the Church and its officials are always favorably portrayed.  Another novel in that universe is "King David's Spaceship" and the Church is likewise favorably portrayed there.  His daughter Jenny wrote an "authorized" sequel to The Mote in God's Eye (don't remember the title), and she continues the unfavorable portrayal of Mormons in that book. I presume that she learned her disdain from her father.  He's not entertained Protestantism in any of his novels, so far as I remember.

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The Mote in God's Eye is a classic with, perhaps appropriately, a ridiculous flaw. It's a really well constructed novel with arresting scenes, appealing characters and a plot that twists but makes sense. What makes it memorable is that it presents an interesting alien species with a surprising and terrible problem that is at least more-or-less plausible, and the ultimate reason that the book gives for this problem is a fluke of astrophysics, not anything social or even biological. So there's a huge, species-scale tragedy, and the whole thing is God's fault. As far as I can remember, though, the only place the book even seems to notice this issue is in the title. I'd have liked to see that theme threshed out better in the actual book, but perhaps leaving the subtle allusion in the title was the best that was possible in a book whose coauthors held different beliefs. The collaboration was worth maintaining; an insightful friend of mine felt that The Mote was a lucky hybrid of its two authors, with more substance than Pournelle's other work, and more vision than Niven's.

The imagined future human society in The Mote is surely all Pournelle: classic Victorian space opera, of the kind that postulates an Arab planet full of coffee-drinking merchants and a militaristic German planet and so on, and has the galaxy ruled by hereditary nobles. The book also blandly dismisses a basic solution to the great alien problem that would be obvious to anyone but a really strict Catholic. So it can be hard to maintain willing suspension of disbelief unless you happen to share a fair amount of Pournelle's world view. He really was a pretty ideological writer. I would really recommend reading The Mote in God's Eye, but not too critically. It has faults big enough to ruin the book if you dwell on them.

On 9/9/2017 at 9:15 PM, 3DOP said:

I have been mildly interested in what appears to be an attempt to do a re-make of the Divine Comedy with modern historical figures. Are you familiar with it, and if so, what do you think about it? 

Yeah, Pournelle wrote a book that was literally Dante's Inferno revisited, with Benito Mussolini getting redeemed. I read it long ago and don't remember it well, but I remember thinking that the book would have seemed a lot better to anyone who had a soft spot for Fascism. I didn't care so much for Pournelle when he wasn't writing with Larry Niven.

 

 

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I'll always have a soft spot for Jerry Pournelle for putting my sf novella "Bellerophon" in his Endless Frontier vol. 2 SF anthology.  Basically, I retold the myth of Bellerophon, Pegasus, and the chimera in an L5 colony setting.  It was the combination of my success in selling two SF stories (the other short story went to Scott Card in Dragons of Darkness) combined with my failure to sell anymore that turned me towards Technical Writing, which I have been doing since 1984.  I'm quite fond of both Inferno and the Mote in God's Eye.

Goodnight sweet libertarian and technology advocate.

Kevin Christensen

Canonsburg, PA

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23 hours ago, Physics Guy said:

The Mote in God's Eye is a classic with, perhaps appropriately, a ridiculous flaw. It's a really well constructed novel with arresting scenes, appealing characters and a plot that twists but makes sense. What makes it memorable is that it presents an interesting alien species with a surprising and terrible problem that is at least more-or-less plausible, and the ultimate reason that the book gives for this problem is a fluke of astrophysics, not anything social or even biological. So there's a huge, species-scale tragedy, and the whole thing is God's fault. As far as I can remember, though, the only place the book even seems to notice this issue is in the title. I'd have liked to see that theme threshed out better in the actual book, but perhaps leaving the subtle allusion in the title was the best that was possible in a book whose coauthors held different beliefs. The collaboration was worth maintaining; an insightful friend of mine felt that The Mote was a lucky hybrid of its two authors, with more substance than Pournelle's other work, and more vision than Niven's.

1

UNFORTUNATELY, as you will ascertain from the following, I have indulged my propensity to write a sentence where a word would do, a paragraph where a sentence would suffice, and a chapter where a paragraph is indicated.  I'm afraid that my patience in writing will have thus exceeded your patience in reading. Are you familiar with the initialism "TL;DR" ("Too Long; Didn't Read")?  I fear this will be operative in this case.  So just in case it is too long and reading it is a burden, if you answer nothing else, please answer this: what is this "basic solution to the great alien problem" that should "be obvious to anyone but a really strict Catholic" that The Mote in God's Eye dismisses?

And now for the multiplication of words.

I'm afraid you remember the premise of the book rather poorly.  The title of the book has nothing to do with theological differences between Niven and Pournelle, and it even has nothing to do with theology, per se. Yes, to a fluke of astrophysics; no, to its being God's fault. In the book.

The Mote in The Mote in God's Eye pertains to a fictional stellar system named that because of the appearance of a fictional asterism when seen from a particular planet, New Scotland, in the Second Empire of Man.  From New Scotland, the Coalsack Nebula is close enough to easily see, and it has the appearance of a dark, hooded man, against the light of the Milky Way, and visually aligned with it is a large red-giant star in such a position as to correspond to the eye of a human figure. The red giant is named Murchison's Eye, after the fictional astronomer Jasper Murcheson, who led an effort to study the star and established an observatory on New Scotland for that purpose a century or two before the events of the novel. Not long after Murcheson's death, there was a serious interstellar war that first isolated New Scotland from contact with other star systems, and this isolation combined with conflicts on the planet itself led to a loss of technology, and all scientific work ceased. During the interregnum before New Scotland's re-integration with the Empire of Man, there suddenly appeared a bright greenish-blue light right next to Murcheson's Eye. It was taken as a heavenly sign by a resident of New Scotland (I forget his name), and he interpreted this as a divine message, founding a major local church, the Church of Him, that revered the divine light emanating from the Eye as evidence of God's care. This light continued for 20 years or so, but then suddenly shut off, causing the church's founder to commit suicide, and the church itself to go into eclipse, though it didn't disappear.  

Without going into the plot's detail in any greater detail than this, the temporary blue-green light right next to the very visible red-giant acquired the nickname The Mote, because the red giant of the Coalsack's hooded man was seen figuratively as God's Eye (partly due to the Church of Him), and this light was like unto a "mote" in Murchison's Eye. Thus the title, which I expect was intended by the authors to be catchy, due to the saying of Jesus in ironic connection with God, who surely does not have any motes in his eye.  As it turns out, the blue-green light was, in the story, the output of thousands of powerful space-based lasers which were used by the Motie civilization to launch a "manned" space probe towards New Scotland. The space probe arrived after many years of travel through "normal" space (the alien civilization did not possess the space travel technology that the humans had), and its arrival led to the mounting of an expedition to the original signal's originating star system, called by the humans "The Mote", in homage to the story of Murcheson's Eye and that light that shone for those many years.

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The imagined future human society in The Mote is surely all Pournelle: classic Victorian space opera, of the kind that postulates an Arab planet full of coffee-drinking merchants and a militaristic German planet and so on, and has the galaxy ruled by hereditary nobles. The book also blandly dismisses a basic solution to the great alien problem that would be obvious to anyone but a really strict Catholic. So it can be hard to maintain willing suspension of disbelief unless you happen to share a fair amount of Pournelle's world view. He really was a pretty ideological writer. I would really recommend reading The Mote in God's Eye, but not too critically. It has faults big enough to ruin the book if you dwell on them.

1

I don't think you know Pournelle all that well.  You really have to rein in your own political world-view and understand this novel in its own setting, and not demand that it conform to your own prejudices.  The Mote in God's Eye and its two sequels are the final novels of Pournelle's future history, the CoDominium/Empire of Man saga. That future history so far comprises 31 novels, short stories and collections. It also does not end with Jerry's death, for he created a special sub-universe within the CoDominion saga, the War World series, that involves a planet (actually a moon of a Jovian-type planet, a la James Cameron's Pandora, called Haven) that is isolated from the main interstellar civilization by war and the concomitant loss of records. The novels and story anthologies in that sub-series were written and continue to be written not just by Jerry Pournelle, but by a number of other authors.  I am not one of them, but once upon a time I asked for and received a copy of the series "Bible", so theoretically I could write one.  Pournelle's future history foresees a human race spread out into 50 or more extraterrestrial worlds, with all forms of government, populations, races and cultures. Including monarchies, republics, dictatorships, and complete anarchical situations. In short, Pournelle recognizes that the human race consists of a very thoroughgoingly diverse set of possibilities. And it's not a galaxy-wide civilization. It's quite local, with no star system being any farther away than one or two hundred light-years.

Trying to understand The Mote in God's Eye without reference to the CoDominium/Empire of Man future history is like trying to understand Stephen King's final concluding novel in his Dark Tower series without any knowledge of any of the other seven and what they were about.

That whole future history down to The Mote in God's Eye takes in 500 or so years of the future.  What will happen in the far future, assuming Christ is a fiction and there will be no Second Coming? Can you say for sure?  If you were to time travel back to the Ming dynasty and were to tell the Emperor of China about future human history down to 2017, he would have laughed in your face (before he had you beheaded as a huge liar).  Please suspend your disbelief, because you cannot know what will happen.  Pournelle's future history, the "CoDominium/Empire of Man" saga, tells the future story of the human race from the time when the old Soviet Union and the United States formed an uneasy alliance to rule the world after interstellar space flight was discovered.  They start a large bureaucracy that tries to keep peace and order on the earth by, for example, shipping troublemakers off planet to "colonize" really difficult planets (e.g. high gravity types, jungle planets, etc), as well as shipping thousands of other people to planets colonized by founding populations made up of particular national groups.  Pournelle's future history premise is no longer plausible because the USSR is no more, but at the time Niven and Pournelle wrote this book (and Pournelle devised his future history), it was at least feasible, if unlikely. And it was driven by another fictional event, i.e. the discovery of effective FTL space flight (except it isn't FTL, it's more a form of wormhole space travel).  

As for your problem with an Arab and a German planet, why wouldn't there be a planet largely settled by Arabs or Germans?  All colony worlds must necessarily be melting pots?  Why?  But your memory is faulty in any case.  The militaristic planet you write about isn't German by any means. The planet Sauron (yes, LOTR is the inspiration for this planet's name) was a massive genetics experiment striving to produce humans who are smarter, stronger and faster than any others, and since the Sauron system's philosophy is that the strong must rule, it ends up setting out to conquer the human race.  They are defeated after an enormous interstellar war that destroys the economy of the human disapora.  The Earth itself had been largely depopulated by an earlier planetary war that occurred as the human race was beginning to expand into space, as the USSR/USA alliance fell apart -- and there were a number of worlds colonized by numerous national groupings.

I think you also fail to recognize that what a fiction writer writes does not necessarily reveal his or her true political or economic beliefs. Does Stephen King really believe in the occult?  Did Ian Fleming really believe that the UK has a secret service that has "00" agents with a "licence to kill"?  Does he even want such an organization to exist?  I myself am in the process of writing a science-fiction novel (hopefully a trilogy) in which I posit a future alliance between the US, the UK and Canada called the North Atlantic Alliance, and one of its uneasy allies or "frenemies" is the United States of Europe (post-Brexit Eurozone). Is this because I want such a thing to exist, or believe it would be desirable?  It is not -- it's just a means to an end in the story. Because of some things Pournelle has written in his novels, some unidimensional thinkers have come up with some VERY odd notions of what Pournelle believes in terms of politics, morality and economics.  For example, I read one commentator's assessment of Pournelle, that he's a racist.  And why? Because in his novel Lucifer's Hammer (cowritten with Larry Niven), a minor character who is part of a criminal gang that engages in cannibalism in the aftermath of the novel's world-shattering disaster, well, he happens to be black. Another commentator decided that Pournelle is an authoritarian (in other words, he's like Hitler) because in some of his novels terrible events lead to dictatorships. Like that has never happened in the world before.

One parenthetical: It is amusing to think of "Pournelle the racist," when one of the planets of the Empire of Man, Frystaat, was settled by white Afrikaner colonists from South Africa who left there because of the end of apartheid. Ironically, Frystaat's sun is so intense and bright, that these Afrikaner's are forced to genetically engineer themselves to have black skins, in order to survive!  Pournelle let's the irony of this tell its own tale, but it's quite revealing. 

Others have accused him of being a war-monger because he wrote and edited a fact/fiction series called "There Will Be War", as if exploring the concept of war from a historical and speculative perspective means that one loves war.  What he has written completely belies this.  In 2011 he wrote (emphasis added):

"Afghanistan makes nothing we want, and unification of Afghanistan under a government in Kabul is resisted -- indeed detested -- by a good part of the rest of the country. The one thing that unifies Afghanistan is the sight of armed non-Afghanis on Afghan soil. That includes us. On the other hand we went into Afghanistan to kill Bin Laden. That took time, but it worked. We can declare victory and get out.

"Of course the instant anyone speaks of ending the wars -- we are in three for certain and apparently contemplating a fourth in Syria, and a fifth in Yemen -- the cry of ISOLATIONISM goes up. I don't know what isolationism means. The United States could have intervened decisively in some Middle East situations -- if we had devoted anything like the resources poured into Iraq into Lebanon that once prosperous nation might well have been stabilized into a viable ally -- but in general we are not politically capable of acting decisively when that action is in the US interest. There appears to be a strong political faction that just plain can't stand the notion of using US forces to protect US interests, and we can spend the blood of the Legions only if we can prove that we don't get anything out of it. That is one of the factions that cries Isolationism! when we try to bring the Legions home and invest in domestic or at least hemispheric developments.

"I said most of this as we were contemplating the expansion of the war into Libya. That was months ago. What was said then still applies. There is a limit to what the United States can do, and as we cut the Navy budget that becomes less. The US is broke. It is time to act decisively where we can be decisive, and cut our losses and come home where we cannot. In Afghanistan we have the added merit of having accomplished the goal of killing bin Laden.

"Declare victory. Bring the troops home. Let someone else follow Alexander the Great into the graveyard of empires. We have a lot to do at home. We are better at being the United States than we are at pacifying the Middle East."

Pournelle was a Korean War veteran, an artillery battery commander whose unit supported the retreat of the Marines from the Chosin Reservoir in the bitter cold. He surely knows what war is all about, and did not love it.

For a person who was never a personal friend of Pournelle's (indeed, I've never met him in person, though I have corresponded with him a few times), from my reading of most of what he's written, I believe I know fairly well what he truly believed from a political/economic point of view.  And he was not an authoritarian.  He's a small-L libertarian, at his base. It might be said that he was a Republican, and indeed he counted Republicans among his friends, including Newt Gengrich. Of course, that means to some people that he was bad. Because being a Republican is bad, by definition. To some people at least. 

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Yeah, Pournelle wrote a book that was literally Dante's Inferno revisited, with Benito Mussolini getting redeemed. I read it long ago and don't remember it well, but I remember thinking that the book would have seemed a lot better to anyone who had a soft spot for Fascism. I didn't care so much for Pournelle when he wasn't writing with Larry Niven.

 

Wrong again, Physics Guy!  Inferno was in fact written with Larry Niven. And it wasn't Dante revisited, it was Dante expanded. They used Dante's geography of Hell and added a new story on top of it.  I found it fairly fascinating, myself.  YMMV.

SPOILER ALERT!  You really shouldn't give away the book's ending like that. Benito Mussolini was a surprise in the book, and Rory might have preferred not knowing that big spoiler before reading it!  As I indicated above, Pournelle was not an authoritarian and most certainly did not have a soft spot for Fascism.  As a believing Catholic, he might, however, have had a soft spot for the redemption of those who have sinned, after they have repented.  He pictured Mussolini in HELL for crying out loud!  Not in some kind of fascistic heaven. In fact, the story revealed that Benito had been in a pit of liquid fire being burned for a long time without being consumed, as his punishment. And he was allowed to leave it as a special dispensation only because he assumed the task of guiding lesser sinners (those in Limbo) to the exit of Hell.  The ultimate redemption of Benito is NOT an endorsement of fascism, it's a form of recognition that after unrepentant sinners have served their ordained punishment, that punishment ends.  Rory might be a better source than I, but I think Catholicism anticipates that even those condemned to hell may eventually leave it once their punishment ends.  If that is so, it is similar to LDS theology.  So even Hitler's punishment will end, and God doesn't have a soft spot for Fascism, either.

Edited by Stargazer
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12 hours ago, Stargazer said:

UNFORTUNATELY, as you will ascertain from the following, I have indulged my propensity to write a sentence where a word would do, a paragraph where a sentence would suffice, and a chapter where a paragraph is indicated.  I'm afraid that my patience in writing will have thus exceeded your patience in reading. Are you familiar with the initialism "TL;DR" ("Too Long; Didn't Read")?  I fear this will be operative in this case.  So just in case it is too long and reading it is a burden, if you answer nothing else, please answer this: what is this "basic solution to the great alien problem" that should "be obvious to anyone but a really strict Catholic" that The Mote in God's Eye dismisses?

And now for the multiplication of words.

I'm afraid you remember the premise of the book rather poorly.  The title of the book has nothing to do with theological differences between Niven and Pournelle, and it even has nothing to do with theology, per se. Yes, to a fluke of astrophysics; no, to its being God's fault. In the book.

The Mote in The Mote in God's Eye pertains to a fictional stellar system named that because of the appearance of a fictional asterism when seen from a particular planet, New Scotland, in the Second Empire of Man.  From New Scotland, the Coalsack Nebula is close enough to easily see, and it has the appearance of a dark, hooded man, against the light of the Milky Way, and visually aligned with it is a large red-giant star in such a position as to correspond to the eye of a human figure. The red giant is named Murchison's Eye, after the fictional astronomer Jasper Murcheson, who led an effort to study the star and established an observatory on New Scotland for that purpose a century or two before the events of the novel. Not long after Murcheson's death, there was a serious interstellar war that first isolated New Scotland from contact with other star systems, and this isolation combined with conflicts on the planet itself led to a loss of technology, and all scientific work ceased. During the interregnum before New Scotland's re-integration with the Empire of Man, there suddenly appeared a bright greenish-blue light right next to Murcheson's Eye. It was taken as a heavenly sign by a resident of New Scotland (I forget his name), and he interpreted this as a divine message, founding a major local church, the Church of Him, that revered the divine light emanating from the Eye as evidence of God's care. This light continued for 20 years or so, but then suddenly shut off, causing the church's founder to commit suicide, and the church itself to go into eclipse, though it didn't disappear.  

Without going into the plot's detail in any greater detail than this, the temporary blue-green light right next to the very visible red-giant acquired the nickname The Mote, because the red giant of the Coalsack's hooded man was seen figuratively as God's Eye (partly due to the Church of Him), and this light was like unto a "mote" in Murchison's Eye. Thus the title, which I expect was intended by the authors to be catchy, due to the saying of Jesus in ironic connection with God, who surely does not have any motes in his eye.  As it turns out, the blue-green light was, in the story, the output of thousands of powerful space-based lasers which were used by the Motie civilization to launch a "manned" space probe towards New Scotland. The space probe arrived after many years of travel through "normal" space (the alien civilization did not possess the space travel technology that the humans had), and its arrival led to the mounting of an expedition to the original signal's originating star system, called by the humans "The Mote", in homage to the story of Murcheson's Eye and that light that shone for those many years.

I don't think you know Pournelle all that well.  You really have to rein in your own political world-view and understand this novel in its own setting, and not demand that it conform to your own prejudices.  The Mote in God's Eye and its two sequels are the final novels of Pournelle's future history, the CoDominium/Empire of Man saga. That future history so far comprises 31 novels, short stories and collections. It also does not end with Jerry's death, for he created a special sub-universe within the CoDominion saga, the War World series, that involves a planet (actually a moon of a Jovian-type planet, a la James Cameron's Pandora, called Haven) that is isolated from the main interstellar civilization by war and the concomitant loss of records. The novels and story anthologies in that sub-series were written and continue to be written not just by Jerry Pournelle, but by a number of other authors.  I am not one of them, but once upon a time I asked for and received a copy of the series "Bible", so theoretically I could write one.  Pournelle's future history foresees a human race spread out into 50 or more extraterrestrial worlds, with all forms of government, populations, races and cultures. Including monarchies, republics, dictatorships, and complete anarchical situations. In short, Pournelle recognizes that the human race consists of a very thoroughgoingly diverse set of possibilities. And it's not a galaxy-wide civilization. It's quite local, with no star system being any farther away than one or two hundred light-years.

Trying to understand The Mote in God's Eye without reference to the CoDominium/Empire of Man future history is like trying to understand Stephen King's final concluding novel in his Dark Tower series without any knowledge of any of the other seven and what they were about.

That whole future history down to The Mote in God's Eye takes in 500 or so years of the future.  What will happen in the far future, assuming Christ is a fiction and there will be no Second Coming? Can you say for sure?  If you were to time travel back to the Ming dynasty and were to tell the Emperor of China about future human history down to 2017, he would have laughed in your face (before he had you beheaded as a huge liar).  Please suspend your disbelief, because you cannot know what will happen.  Pournelle's future history, the "CoDominium/Empire of Man" saga, tells the future story of the human race from the time when the old Soviet Union and the United States formed an uneasy alliance to rule the world after interstellar space flight was discovered.  They start a large bureaucracy that tries to keep peace and order on the earth by, for example, shipping troublemakers off planet to "colonize" really difficult planets (e.g. high gravity types, jungle planets, etc), as well as shipping thousands of other people to planets colonized by founding populations made up of particular national groups.  Pournelle's future history premise is no longer plausible because the USSR is no more, but at the time Niven and Pournelle wrote this book (and Pournelle devised his future history), it was at least feasible, if unlikely. And it was driven by another fictional event, i.e. the discovery of effective FTL space flight (except it isn't FTL, it's more a form of wormhole space travel).  

As for your problem with an Arab and a German planet, why wouldn't there be a planet largely settled by Arabs or Germans?  All colony worlds must necessarily be melting pots?  Why?  But your memory is faulty in any case.  The militaristic planet you write about isn't German by any means. The planet Sauron (yes, LOTR is the inspiration for this planet's name) was a massive genetics experiment striving to produce humans who are smarter, stronger and faster than any others, and since the Sauron system's philosophy is that the strong must rule, it ends up setting out to conquer the human race.  They are defeated after an enormous interstellar war that destroys the economy of the human disapora.  The Earth itself had been largely depopulated by an earlier planetary war that occurred as the human race was beginning to expand into space, as the USSR/USA alliance fell apart -- and there were a number of worlds colonized by numerous national groupings.

I think you also fail to recognize that what a fiction writer writes does not necessarily reveal his or her true political or economic beliefs. Does Stephen King really believe in the occult?  Did Ian Fleming really believe that the UK has a secret service that has "00" agents with a "licence to kill"?  Does he even want such an organization to exist?  I myself am in the process of writing a science-fiction novel (hopefully a trilogy) in which I posit a future alliance between the US, the UK and Canada called the North Atlantic Alliance, and one of its uneasy allies or "frenemies" is the United States of Europe (post-Brexit Eurozone). Is this because I want such a thing to exist, or believe it would be desirable?  It is not -- it's just a means to an end in the story. Because of some things Pournelle has written in his novels, some unidimensional thinkers have come up with some VERY odd notions of what Pournelle believes in terms of politics, morality and economics.  For example, I read one commentator's assessment of Pournelle, that he's a racist.  And why? Because in his novel Lucifer's Hammer (cowritten with Larry Niven), a minor character who is part of a criminal gang that engages in cannibalism in the aftermath of the novel's world-shattering disaster, well, he happens to be black. Another commentator decided that Pournelle is an authoritarian (in other words, he's like Hitler) because in some of his novels terrible events lead to dictatorships. Like that has never happened in the world before.

One parenthetical: It is amusing to think of "Pournelle the racist," when one of the planets of the Empire of Man, Frystaat, was settled by white Afrikaner colonists from South Africa who left there because of the end of apartheid. Ironically, Frystaat's sun is so intense and bright, that these Afrikaner's are forced to genetically engineer themselves to have black skins, in order to survive!  Pournelle let's the irony of this tell its own tale, but it's quite revealing. 

Others have accused him of being a war-monger because he wrote and edited a fact/fiction series called "There Will Be War", as if exploring the concept of war from a historical and speculative perspective means that one loves war.  What he has written completely belies this.  In 2011 he wrote (emphasis added):

"Afghanistan makes nothing we want, and unification of Afghanistan under a government in Kabul is resisted -- indeed detested -- by a good part of the rest of the country. The one thing that unifies Afghanistan is the sight of armed non-Afghanis on Afghan soil. That includes us. On the other hand we went into Afghanistan to kill Bin Laden. That took time, but it worked. We can declare victory and get out.

"Of course the instant anyone speaks of ending the wars -- we are in three for certain and apparently contemplating a fourth in Syria, and a fifth in Yemen -- the cry of ISOLATIONISM goes up. I don't know what isolationism means. The United States could have intervened decisively in some Middle East situations -- if we had devoted anything like the resources poured into Iraq into Lebanon that once prosperous nation might well have been stabilized into a viable ally -- but in general we are not politically capable of acting decisively when that action is in the US interest. There appears to be a strong political faction that just plain can't stand the notion of using US forces to protect US interests, and we can spend the blood of the Legions only if we can prove that we don't get anything out of it. That is one of the factions that cries Isolationism! when we try to bring the Legions home and invest in domestic or at least hemispheric developments.

"I said most of this as we were contemplating the expansion of the war into Libya. That was months ago. What was said then still applies. There is a limit to what the United States can do, and as we cut the Navy budget that becomes less. The US is broke. It is time to act decisively where we can be decisive, and cut our losses and come home where we cannot. In Afghanistan we have the added merit of having accomplished the goal of killing bin Laden.

"Declare victory. Bring the troops home. Let someone else follow Alexander the Great into the graveyard of empires. We have a lot to do at home. We are better at being the United States than we are at pacifying the Middle East."

Pournelle was a Korean War veteran, an artillery battery commander whose unit supported the retreat of the Marines from the Chosin Reservoir in the bitter cold. He surely knows what war is all about, and did not love it.

For a person who was never a personal friend of Pournelle's (indeed, I've never met him in person, though I have corresponded with him a few times), from my reading of most of what he's written, I believe I know fairly well what he truly believed from a political/economic point of view.  And he was not an authoritarian.  He's a small-L libertarian, at his base. It might be said that he was a Republican, and indeed he counted Republicans among his friends, including Newt Gengrich. Of course, that means to some people that he was bad. Because being a Republican is bad, by definition. To some people at least. 

Wrong again, Physics Guy!  Inferno was in fact written with Larry Niven. And it wasn't Dante revisited, it was Dante expanded. They used Dante's geography of Hell and added a new story on top of it.  I found it fairly fascinating, myself.  YMMV.

SPOILER ALERT!  You really shouldn't give away the book's ending like that. Benito Mussolini was a surprise in the book, and Rory might have preferred not knowing that big spoiler before reading it!  As I indicated above, Pournelle was not an authoritarian and most certainly did not have a soft spot for Fascism.  As a believing Catholic, he might, however, have had a soft spot for the redemption of those who have sinned, after they have repented.  He pictured Mussolini in HELL for crying out loud!  Not in some kind of fascistic heaven. In fact, the story revealed that Benito had been in a pit of liquid fire being burned for a long time without being consumed, as his punishment. And he was allowed to leave it as a special dispensation only because he assumed the task of guiding lesser sinners (those in Limbo) to the exit of Hell.  The ultimate redemption of Benito is NOT an endorsement of fascism, it's a form of recognition that after unrepentant sinners have served their ordained punishment, that punishment ends.  Rory might be a better source than I, but I think Catholicism anticipates that even those condemned to hell may eventually leave it once their punishment ends.  If that is so, it is similar to LDS theology.  So even Hitler's punishment will end, and God doesn't have a soft spot for Fascism, either.

I knew about Mussolini in the story, Stargazer, because I came across a used copy of what must be the second book. But anyway, thanks to you both for your insights. I had actually started that second book a couple of months ago and got distracted.  It wouldn't do to read Dante out of order, so I think I'll just forget about Mussolini and try to find that first book.

What's a fascist? Its a word that means "Hitler" and/or "Mussolini." I don't think very many people know what fascism means beyond that including me. But whatever fascism teaches that is error, I am confident some of it is true because in my experience I have discovered this: "Nobody is wrong about everything."

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Stargazer

"Rory might be a better source than I, but I think Catholicism anticipates that even those condemned to hell may eventually leave it once their punishment ends.  If that is so, it is similar to LDS theology."

Rory

I think was Dante, in the Inferno, who originally placed over the entrance to Hell, "Abandon all hope, ye who enter in here". This reflects the perennial Catholic teaching. Catholics hold that this mortal life is when men can change their minds. After death the will is fixed. This is me...not the Church... But I speculate that those who hate God would prefer Hell to Heaven. If given the choice, they would refuse Heaven. I am almost sure of it. Those who hate God are proof that while it is God's will that none should perish, it is also God's will that those who love Him, or hate Him, do so freely. I hope I can die in God's love, but if I don't, I am confident that my judgment will show that God did EVERYTHING, except violate my freedom, to help me to love the source of all good, God.

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