I am plant, and as such I should be watered by my master
July 10, 2013 3:42 AM   Subscribe

Houseplants of Gor, an extract from a sadly unpublished entry in Dave Langford's favourite exploitative bondage sci-fi pulp series. Not written by John Norman.
posted by MartinWisse (47 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
What happened to the traditional paragraph regarding the attractively rounded leaves and plump stems that nonetheless add no inherent value to the doubtlessly naturally subservient plant?

This may be unfair, I've only read people's descriptions of the Gor novels.
posted by jaduncan at 3:53 AM on July 10, 2013 [4 favorites]

That really needed a hastily painted exploitative bondage sci-fi pulp cover.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:24 AM on July 10, 2013

Here's a forum thread where someone reads through Norman's entire oeuvre.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:29 AM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

LOL. I had forgotten about that! Reading John Norman is for the truly masochistic.
posted by kthanksbai at 4:59 AM on July 10, 2013

I know someone who had them all, read them to tatters. Random horizontal surfaces (a bathtub edge, the top of a bookcase, a dusty third shelf in a leaning home entertainment center) in the house, capable of supporting anything leaflet-sized, will occasionally have fifty-odd page chunks, fallen from their spines, of the old paperbacks. Aware of their faults, she loves them in the way that someone who loves Star Trek loves hastily-painted Styrofoam boulders.

I might be over for an official function and she will mention she is thirsty. When I bring her a glass, I say, "You will be watered."

Without turning to me or moving her eyes, she will quietly reply, "Guards! Guards!"
posted by adipocere at 5:05 AM on July 10, 2013 [12 favorites]

Great, now I have to make dinner for Cabot. And water his ficus.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:44 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

posted by J0 at 5:52 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I find the trilogy of volumes 14-16 (Fighting Slave Of Gor, Rogue Of Gor, Guardsman Of Gor) to be most interesting, because they are about a MAN who is kidnapped from Earth. It's one of those "lets turn this concept on its head" sort of mini-series in the middle of the whole giant thing, and while it's no less, um... yeah whatever than the rest of the series is, at least it's slightly more interesting somehow.
posted by hippybear at 5:54 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

He wrote more than 16 of these things? Wow.
posted by thelonius at 6:35 AM on July 10, 2013

They had a row of these on the high school library SF shelf, but I was a Larry Niven and Piers Anthony reader. My tastes were too refined for Gor, so I skipped over them.

Youth is wasted on the young.
posted by notyou at 6:54 AM on July 10, 2013

Nice groupthink up in here! I guess for a liberal hive mind like MetaFilter it's just unthinkable that a man (oh, no, call the politically correct police!) might actually have insight into the plant mind. Look, the natural role of the plant is to be watered by man; that's how we all survived together on the savannah. You can't erase a million years of evolution just by suddenly declaring everyone the same. I denounce your intolerance, etc.
posted by No-sword at 6:55 AM on July 10, 2013 [34 favorites]

thelonius: "He wrote more than 16 of these things? Wow."

posted by zarq at 7:00 AM on July 10, 2013

Oh shit, I'm wrong. Wikipedia says 32! And they also have a page on Gorean subculture.
posted by zarq at 7:02 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

"You are a poster", I said to Martin. "I am a poster", he agreed. This much he admitted. He was a poster. This he could not deny. Had no right to deny. In fact, he was a well known poster and a favorite of those who favored such people. "You are a poster and you have made a post", I said. "Yes", he said. "Your post will be favorited", I told him. He remained mute. Pressing on, I said, "you made a post and your post will be favorited by anybody who cares to favorite it."

Martin nodded quietly.
posted by boo_radley at 7:09 AM on July 10, 2013 [28 favorites]

His nodding was noiseless, without sound. No signal of it reached the ear. All around heard nothing.
posted by Naberius at 7:41 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ahhhhh the good old days of Gor parodies. I'm old enough to have read a lot of parodies and young enough to have avoided actually reading the books (though my ex-husband did repeatedly recommend the first few to me, along with insisting that I'd eventually find an adult-era Heinlein I not only found tolerable, but liked!). However, I have read a John Norman book: this one.

I'm also told there's a "Free Amazons of Gor" playlet wandering around out there, which I used to think was a hilarious idea, but now the Googles tell me that Randall Garrett wrote it. After participating in the con harassment thread, I suddenly find that joke a lot less funny.
posted by immlass at 7:46 AM on July 10, 2013

You know, it sounds to me like he's watering that cactus too much.

If you know what I mean (and I think you do).

No, really, you shouldn't water cacti too much.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:51 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I never read them, but I do remember them -- aren't they mostly rather short?

So, if you were to edit them down to reduce the redundancy, would you be left with a short story?
posted by lodurr at 8:04 AM on July 10, 2013

posted by jaduncan at 8:05 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are entering a thread called Gor. *whipcrack*
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:08 AM on July 10, 2013

If you're unfamiliar with this series, I would recommend...

... That you stay so (yes, I'm telling you what to do, but I assure you, it's for your own good).
posted by el io at 8:29 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had no idea who Randall Garrett was and why immlass was referring to so I googled him and found this article by Jerry Pournelle, written only a couple of days ago. It's a bit of insight into cons from back in the day and why Garrett is said to have sexually harassing con-goers.
posted by ooga_booga at 8:34 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Langford's work is pretty great though. Stop what you are reading and take up The Space Eater. It will hurt in the second best posible way.
posted by wobh at 8:35 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's such a hilarrible series, I can't help but recommend that everyone attempt at least a brief reading of one book, any book. It's basically a laughably immature sex fantasy series for tween boys, although it's surely not marketed that way. It's kind of like dude-Twilight, I guess?
posted by elizardbits at 8:39 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Dave Langford has written a couple of books of short parodies like this one, and they're wonderful. Titles are He Do The Time Police In Different Voices, and The Dragonhiker's Guide to Battlefield Covenant at Dune's Edge: Odyssey Two.

Randall Garrett was also a funny parodist and (to respond to ooga_booga above) while I don't know whether he was a jerk at conventions, I would strongly suggest not trusting anything Jerry Pournelle says on the subject of sexism (or racism or ...).
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 9:14 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

yea a lot of the sexism/racism meltdown is really sad. again and again I hear accounts of what a jerk pournelle is and find substantial inconsistencies between his account and what I have reason to believe is the reality; he strikes me as an opinionated jerk at the best of times. resnick, though -- i've met him, and I rather liked him. I'd have thought he'd be smarter than all this...hopefully this doesn't lead him to start writing his own neo-Gorean saga...or worse, hopefully he doesn't triple-down and respond by soliciting for a Gorean anthology.*

*Unless, of course, said proposed antho includes "Houseplants of Gor."
posted by lodurr at 9:20 AM on July 10, 2013

Can't believe no one has linked to the MST3k Outlaw of Gor episide.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:37 AM on July 10, 2013 [6 favorites]

Come the Sadean revolution, Gor will be the new Dick and Jane.
posted by jamjam at 9:47 AM on July 10, 2013

I was going to say that comparing the Gor series to the Twilight series did a disservice to...and then I stopped.
posted by mosk at 10:10 AM on July 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

i think there's probably a lot of room for instructive comparison between Gor & Twilight. both are ways of dealing with what their target audience is afraid of. (not that they're good ways, mind...)
posted by lodurr at 10:23 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Reading the "Where I Read Gor" forum thread Sebmojo links to in the third comment here, I'm suddenly beginning to wonder if Delaney's "Neveryona" books started out life as a parody of Gor.

Seriously, here's Amazon's description of one of the books:
Taken slave in childhood, Gorgik gains his freedom, leads a slave revolt, and becomes a minister of state, finally abolishing slavery. Ironically, however, he is sexually aroused by the iron slave collars of servitude. Does this contaminate his mission -- or intensify it? Presumably elaborated from an ancient text of unknown geographical origin, the stories are sunk in translators' and commentators' introductions and appendices, forming a richly comic frame.
And what I most distinctly remember from reading one of them was a lengthy discussion on the illusory nature of money, and the particular mechanics of it on Neveryona. Which, given how Norman's prose is constantly veering off into Gorean worldbuilding minutiae in the middle of action sequences, fits perfectly...
posted by egypturnash at 10:26 AM on July 10, 2013

Yes, MST3K did one movie that was based off a Gor book. While KokuRyu calls it Outlaw of Gor, the title of the film is actually just "Outlaw," which makes it sound like a Western or something.

I've never read the book, but all that slave/master thing is not dwelt upon at all in the movie. It does contain an obnoxious co-Earthling to Cabot (Cabot?), a nebbishy type who predictably goes evil some ways in; a bitchy manipulative queen and her high priest, Jack Palance; not a huge amount of clothing on most characters, inspiring one of MST's best-loved songs "Toobular Boobular Joy"; the predictable scene at royal court with mostly-naked young women prancing around in the sacred ritual of GETTING THE NOBLES' ROCKS OFF by doing the Donkey Dance; and, as shown at the end, a huge number of what became to be known as buffalo shots, or direct glimpses of characters' crotches.

It's one of the better-loved episodes for these things, I think, because man the movie is shameless about it, and there's such a wealth of things to mock in every frame. And man, is there ever a lot of skin in the movie, enough for both sexes (and sundry orientations) to appreciate.

But don't take my word for it! (MST episode 519, Outlaw, 1:31:46)

posted by JHarris at 10:34 AM on July 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Can't believe no one has linked to the MST3k Outlaw of Gor episide

That's where my "dinner for Cabot" quote came from.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:40 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

But don't take my word for it!

You just had to go and reframe that as a Reading Rainbow synopsis, didn't you?
posted by darksasami at 10:42 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thank you, Kunta Kinte!
posted by JHarris at 10:50 AM on July 10, 2013

Related: Desperate Houseplants (an actually aired Sesame Street segment - kind of can't believe they got away with this one)
posted by en forme de poire at 10:55 AM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Years ago I was wandering around some mostly-empty second-string virtual world (no idea which one), across a mostly empty landscape, and came across a mysterious castle. Inside the castle was a group of Gor-folk in full swing, doing their Gor thing in style. I eavesdropped for a while and then went on my way.
posted by feckless at 11:27 AM on July 10, 2013

That really needed a hastily painted exploitative bondage sci-fi pulp cover.

Amazingly, Gor covers were often treated to magnificent Frank Frazetta and Boris Vallejo covers. It's absurd to consider the disparity of talent between the inside and outside of these books.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:29 AM on July 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

that was one of the reasons I avoided them, frankly. I mean, i loved Vallejo & Frazetta, but I had a (fairly weird and inconsistent) chip on my shoulder about sword & sandals/sorcery fantasy. I liked to think of myself as a hard SF guy, even though I went through a long period of mainlining Tarzan novels and was always susceptible to the lure of a good non-sword-driven fantasy novel like The Dark Is Rising. I wouldn't have gone near the Gor stuff because I lumped it in with the Barsoom stuff and the Conan stuff.
posted by lodurr at 12:16 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Langford is amazing - he also wrote the long-running Critical Mass book review series in White Dwarf, which pretty much shaped my entire SF-reading career. There is a collection available which is a delight.

Also previously. Maybe he needs a full FPP.
posted by xiw at 4:05 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

That Sesame Street clip is RIDICULOUS. There should not be that much innuendo on Sesame Street.
posted by maryr at 5:02 PM on July 10, 2013

I think it's time to dust off my steampunk / social satire / fantasy saga about a goggle-clad aviatrix whose zeppelin is transported to a desert planet filled with ultra-violent raiders known for their concocted language and high fashion sense. It's called A Clockwork Gorange.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:54 PM on July 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

My favorite part is the closing line:
By Elle, who has read far too many Gor books and taken far too many finals to be allowed to run rampant on a computer.

Though it sounds like The Blue is not a good place to admit to having been a fan of the Gor series a jillion years ago. No worse tripe than a lot of made up worlds and I liked, for example, the stuff about their "living gods" and the meeting of four nomad "kings" on the plains and the giant single celled organism that ingested people but the main character found a way to defeat it, etc. But, then, I also read "John Carter of Mars."
posted by Michele in California at 8:25 PM on July 10, 2013

What do you think the Houseplants of Gwar are like?
posted by maryr at 10:21 PM on July 10, 2013

Though it sounds like The Blue is not a good place to admit to having been a fan of the Gor series a jillion years ago.

Note: if you dig around on the site the story is hosted on, there's also straight up Gor fan fiction to be found. So it's not if you're the only person who liked Gor.

To be honest, problematic as they were, the Gor novels were also the gateway into realising that there is such a thing as BDSM for a lot of confused, seventies teenagers. Plenty of men and women both I know with a bit of a soft spot for the series based on that, even if they're fully aware of the icky sexual politics in it.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:20 AM on July 11, 2013

Hey Martin,
For me, the icky sexual politics were therapeutic. It gave voice to extremely oppressive attitudes of people around me that were difficult to argue against because the chains that bound me were all metaphorical, not literal. I read them in my teens. Once I left home, I don't recall reading another word of these novels.

My dad is in his late eighties, old enough to be my grandfather (in fact, one year younger than my ex husband's actual grandmother and the ex and I are 17 days apart in age) and dad is 12 years older than my mother. He used to say "No wife of mine will ever work." He was also a Vietnam vet who left the military when I was 3 years old and was intermittently unemployed for months at a time. He had made good money before that. I was 12 when mom finally told him "You don't make enough money to back that up" and got a job in defiance of him.

So in my teens, my mother did almost all the housework, cooked from scratch daily, etc, while working 60-80 hours a week as a domestic and routinely saying "My house is cleaner than that of a lot of fulltime homemakers. I cook more than most women. He can just shut up. I can work if I want to." In other words, she was still holding up her end of the contract in their extremely old fashioned marriage by doing all of the women's work while he didn't know how to turn on the damn oven when I was 18 in a house he had owned for 15 years at that point. She held up her end of the bargain and remained loyal to him even though he stopped being a good provider. He wanted to retain male privilege while not fulfilling the obligations that it is based on.

So reading books about slave girls in chains etc gave me more concrete imagery to latch on to so I could start trying to give voice to why that ain't right. I tend to assume it was popular because I was not the only person who needed a medium for that. The degree to which it gets lambasted for the sexual politics reads to me as a safe way for people to criticize actual sexual politics where the chains that bind women are metaphorical and the messages that you should love this shit because you are a woman are less explicit, thus much harder to effectively argue against.
posted by Michele in California at 5:23 AM on July 11, 2013 [8 favorites]

Role Players of Gor
"Master, may we roll the dice?" asked the slave.
"It is in the nature of the dice to be rolled" I replied. "It has twenty sides, and so we call it a d20. Cast the dice, kajira, and watch."

The beautiful girl cast the dice, which rolled acceptably across the floor towards the sleen pits.

"Truly it rolls, Master."
"Had it rolled into the sleen pit, slave, then you would have followed it."

The girl shuddered.
posted by Zed at 10:22 AM on August 2, 2013

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