Jerry Pournelle

Rest in peace (I have no idea how to copy/paste on these damned finger painting devices, but Instapundit has a text from his son, Alex)). He was an amazing person with an amazing life. I last saw him when I dropped by Chaos Manor a couple years ago to give him a copy of my book, which he reviewed very nicely.

I’ll have more to say when I’ve survived the hurricane and gotten back to a real computer.

[Sunday-morning update, as the winds rise outside our Boynton Beach apartment]

Sarah Hoyt remembers someone she considered a friend and colleague.

When I stopped by to see him a couple years ago, we talked about what was happening with SpaceX and NASA in general, and reminisced about our long-time mutual friend Bill Haynes, whom he hadn’t been aware had been killed in an auto accident on Palos Verdes on his way to church a couple years earlier (both Buzz and I had delivered a eulogy, but I think that Jerry was too sick at the time). It was a tough conversation because his hearing was shot, both from the brain cancer that he’d survived, but long-term from being an artillery handler in Korea. When Roberta let me into the library, I had to figure out how to get his attention without startling him, because the bell wasn’t doing so. I was unsuccessful, but he had no problem once he realized the unexpected intruder was me.

Heading back to LA, probably Tuesday, maybe Wednesday, Irma and American Airlines willing. I hope I’ll be able to attend the service and see a lot of old (sadly, in both senses of the word) friends.

[Late-evening update on Sunday]

J. Neil Schumann has some remembrances, too. I suspect we’ll see a lot of this over the next few days.

[Monday-morning update]

Glenn Reynolds writes that, as a kid in the gloomy 70s, Jerry gave him (and many others) hope for a better future.

28 comments on this post.
  1. Edward M. Grant:

    Oh no! I’ve been reading his blog on and off for a few years: was there just the other day.

  2. Rick C:

    I was bummed to hear about this on Instapundit. Apparently he just lay down to sleep and never woke up. Probably just about the least bad way to go.

    “I have no idea how to copy/paste on these damned finger painting devices”

    The Web is full of articles that can be found by searching for “how to copy and paste on iOS”.

  3. Rand Simberg:

    No doubt. I currently have better things to with my time. I’ve looked in the past and (like most things with finger painting) it looks like a pain in the ass when I could use a keyboard and mouse instead. My iOS crippling will only be for a few more days.

  4. George Turner:

    I can’t imagine going through a hurricane without an external keyboard.

  5. Karl Hallowell:

    Yes, Rand is certainly living on the edge.

  6. Rand Simberg:

    Worst. Hurricane. Ever.

  7. MfK:

    He was quite a guy, and will be missed. RIP, Jerry.

  8. ken anthony:

    It never gets easy outliving such a good man.

  9. cthulhu:

    One of the better thinkers of the last 50 years. He will be missed.

  10. FC:

    There goes another man I’ll never get to thank in person. RIP.

  11. Robert:

    I visit his website every night before going to bed. Tonight the site had a hard time loading. Does anybody know what he died of? I read what he wrote last night. That he had the cold, and the flu. I emailed him last year, and got a reply. It was about SFsite.com. I couldn’t get the website to load. He said that he didn’t use the website, and didn’t know. I later found out it was the browser.

  12. Paul D.:

    His last post was about coming down with the flu, and feeling nauseated.

    Sometimes heart attack presents as a feeling of unwellness much like the flu, and with nausea, but without chest pain. I suspect this is what he had.

  13. Robert:

    I just posted this on his site. I had trouble the first time. It kept saying page could be displayed. Here is what I posted.

    I go to this site every night before going to bed. He will be missed.

    Now I have a proposal. Lets have prizes in Jerry Pournelle’s name. The prize would be like the X Prize. It wouldn’t have to come from congress. It could come from a billionaire.
    The first company to land three people on the Moon, and stay for two weeks, and repeat the mission within six months, should receive a prize of $2 billion. There would be smaller prizes, and larger prizes. And the prizes wouldn’t have to be for the Moon. It could also be used for other purposes. Such as SSTO spacecraft.

  14. Mike Borgelt:

    As Jerry wrote on a number of occasions “I expected to see the first man on the Moon but I didn’t think I’d see the last.”. He did.
    Vale, Jerry. RIP

  15. Paul D.:

    He won’t see the last man on the moon. I doubt any of us will.

  16. Paul D.:

    Rather “will not have”.

  17. Tim:

    Yes…too bad RIP Jerry Pournelle… Followed his website checked it regularly still have an old dog-eared copy of “A Step Farther Out” from the late ’70’s. Wish he could have lived to see Musk’s mars colony or at least a freaking moon base.

  18. Godzilla:

    He’s the reason why I started playing Master of Orion II.
    Footfall and Fallen Angels were an interesting read.
    RIP.

  19. Bilwick:

    I noticed in one of the obituaries the statement that Porunelle was “to the right of Genghis Khan,” a beloved cliché of the stupid. Sure, Einstein, there was no bigger libertarian on the face of the earth than Genghis Khan.

  20. Paul Milenkovic:

    I saw somewhere that Jerry Pournelle said that about himself. Instead of letting the political Left define him politically, he was going to save them worrying about the choice of words and do it for them.

  21. Paul Milenkovic:

    The man was better read than I will ever be, and I believe that he had commented on the Mongols on his blog. Apart from them being stone killers, they were pretty Libertarian for their day. For starters, they really didn’t care what religion you professed.

    Furthermore, they subscribed to Laffer Curve models in imposing low rates of taxation. If I understand what he and others said, their rule of the Middle East was an improvement — it greatly opened up Silk Road trade between Europe and the East, stimulating the European consumption of spices.

    When their empire collapsed owing to bickering among the heirs to the Khan, the Middle East reverted to their high-tax Blue State ways, throttling the supply of spices, encouraging the Portuguese to blaze a sea-borne path around Africa giving them a monopoly on affordable spices, which led to this Italian guy making a “pitch” to the Spanish sovereign wealth fund to develop a westward path to the East.

  22. Godzilla:

    Genghis Khan also decreed in the Great Yasa that anyone who polluted a river would be sentenced to death.
    Also the lower ranks of the army were selected through direct vote. Each 10 members of a squad voted on their leader. Then 10 squad leaders voted on their leader and so on. Genghis personally appointed the 10,000 (and perhaps also the 1,000?) unit commanders. Rather curiously this scheme was still used in the days of the Soviet Union by the Communist Party to elect government officials. Russia has particular Mongol/Tatar influences due to historic reasons.
    Also he created a system of communications which was run with his elite units that delivered messages by horse riders. This is partly how he managed to be able to run such a large empire. That plus the fact that he basically lived in a tent so he moved quite often across the Empire.
    Oh and anyone who did not pay their taxes was simply killed. I believe he razed down entire cities which skipped on taxes and erected skull pyramids at the (now dead) city’s outskirts as a reminder for those who wished to skip on taxes as well.

  23. Tim Kyger:

    I will miss him terribly. RIP, Jerry. And good thoughts in the direction of Alex, Phillip, Rich, Jennifer, and Roberta. As well as Larry, your best friend of 40 years,

  24. David Spain:

    I still have the visual in my head of the surfer riding the tidal wave through downtown LA at about the 12th-14th floor level , until wiping out, literally on a hi-rise. IIRC that visual comes from Lucifer’s Hammer. Don’t know who wrote that, whether it was Pournelle or Niven, but it is still with me after all these years.

    Ad astra.

  25. Rand Simberg:

    Sounds more like Niven. I think Pournelle would have written the part about the ditzy wife stocking up on frozen food.

  26. Gregg:

    I liked his books.

    RIP

  27. Paul D.:

    Warm eulogies from leftish writers Norman Spinrad and George R.R. Martin at File770:

    http://file770.com/?p=37672

  28. MikeR:

    I miss him already.