Another edition in the classes offered by Master Gorm Runo at the Gorean Campus on Thursdays at 12:00pm (noon) and 6:00pm. Be sure to attend this great discussions and share some of your insights on what Master Gorm has to say.
Tal and Greetings
In an earlier class, I confessed to being a bit of a symbolism fanatic. We have spent the last few weeks discussing the symbolism expressed by the “struggle of Priest-KIngs vs The Kur.”
While coherent arguments can be made that these things were just plot mechanics and I am reading much more into it than even the author intended, there is a book that stands out as a symbolic treasure trove.
It is quite possible that much of the political and social commentary that spurred the early popularity of the Gorean novels gave way to a very repetitive commentary on the somewhat kinky dynamic of dominance and submission and how it can play out in sexual fantasy. It is also likely and arguable that most of the later books were really simply “fan fiction” telling stories of the fictional world of Gor already completely fleshed out in the early novels.
However, in 1967, a full 50 years ago, a man named John Lange received a copyright for a work of fiction entitled “Outlaw of Gor” under the pen name of John Norman.
Anyone who ever was in the market for old original copies of Gor paperbooks will know that Outlaw of Gor, although one of the oldest of the novels, was also one of the least expensive to acquire and easiest to find.
The copy on my desk right now, and in very good condition, I might add, was actually a second printing produced three years after the first in 1970. The cover price is 75 cents.
The book was rather short, only 254 pages, and tells quite a large story, much like the first novel, Tarnsman of Gor. I always use to joke about the fact that some of the later books would use 254 pages to describe a single night Tarl spent in an Inn, or the single use of a slave girl. The early books were much more expansive in scope.
Here is the quick tour plot summary for those not familiar with the story.
Tarl is back on Earth, and unhappy. He comes back to Gor, and discovers Ko-ro-ba has been destroyed and his chick gone. The Priest-Kings destroyed his city and he decides to go contront them. On the way, he stops in Tharna, and is framed and after so adventures ends up In the underground silver mines, where he leads a revolt, frees the slaves in the mines and eventually helps overthrow the female rulers of the city and “puts everything aright” again before continuing his journey which is taken up in Priest-Kings of Gor.
The key point in that was “overthrows” the female rulers and here is where Outlaw of Gor, in my opinion, is such a treat for a person who looks for symbolism. In 1967, in the heart of the Hippie period and when the idea of “feminism” was first being organized as a social and political force, here comes this book making almost a prophetic warning against where this might go.
Anyone who reads this book closely and follows the events unfolding on Earth closely can not help being struck by the almost prophetic warning that Tharna represents.
Just as Gor is called “Counter-Earth” on the cover of this book, the city of Tharna was it was when Tarl Cabot arrived could be called “The Counter-Gor.” He tells us much about the drab and colorless nature of the city and the society. It lacks the vitality and noise and color of Gorean cities, but the most counter thing of all is that females are dominant there, and the men are really more the submissive followers.
Late in the book, Tarl learns a bit about how such a thing could have happened on Gor. I will quote that whole section.
“Over a period of time this cruel practice fell into disuse and the women of Tharna came to be more reasonable and humanely regarded. Indeed, through their love and tenderness, they taught their captors that they, too, were worthy of respect and affection. And, of course, as the captors came gradually to care for their slaves, the desire to subjugate them became less, for few men long desire to subjugate a creature for whom they genuinely care, unless they fear to lose her should she become free.
Yet as the status of these women became more ennobled and less clearly defined the subtle tensions of dominance and submission, instinctual throughout the animal world, tended to assert themselves.
The balance of mutual regard is always delicate and statistically it is improbable that it can long be maintained throughout an entire population. Accordingly, gradually, exploiting, perhaps, unconsciously, the opportunities afforded by the training of children and the affections of their men, the women of Tharna improved their position considerably over the generations, adding to their social power the economic largess of various funds and inheritances.
Eventually, largely via the conditioning of the young and the control of education, those superiorities which the female naturally possesses came to be enlarged on at the expense of those possessed by the male. And just as in our own world, it is possible to condition entire populations to believe what is, from the standpoint of another population, incomprehensible and absurd, so in Tharna both the men and the women came eventually to believe the myths and the distortions advantageous to female dominance. Thus it was, gradually and unnoticed, that the gynocracy of Tharna came to be established, and honored with the full weight of tradition and custom, those invisible bonds heavier than chains because they are not understood to exist.
Yet this situation, socially viable though it might be for generations, is not one truly productive of human happiness. Indeed, it is not altogether clear that it is preferable to the male dominated ethos of most Gorean cities, which, too, surely has its unfortunate side. In a city such as Tharna the men, taught to regard themselves as beasts, as inferior beings, seldom develop the full respect for themselves essential to true manhood. But even more strangely the women of Tharna do not seem content under the gynocracy. Although they despise men and congratulate themselves on their more lofty status, it seems to me that they, too, fail to respect themselves. Hating their men, they hate themselves.”
Page 206 Outlaw of Gor
And in the next paragraph, he says this:
“If the pendulum should swing in Tharna, it would swing far.”
Page 207 Outlaw of Gor
I love that sentence because I have often viewed social and historical movements as pendulums. An injustice exists, and a movement begins to right it. That seems to be human nature, but once the pendulum starts swinging, it gains momentum, and swings right past the intended justice, and keeps going until it reaches an equally but opposite level of injustice.
Tarl’s story of how Tharna became a gynocracy might be the story of Earth in the 50 years that have passed since Outlaw was published.
Example after example could be pulled from today’s headlines to show that what happened to Tharna was almost a prophetic warning of what was coming in Western Society and what is happening even in our own world of Second Life Gor.
1. The educational system is producing a generation of people so screwed up that they are mockingly called, “snowflakes” and run to seek ‘safe spaces” where they are safe from hearing anything that they might not agree with, like for example, things that are often true.
2. For years, men have been portrayed as dolts and bumblers in popular entertainment while women are wise and all knowing. Colleges are holding seminars teaching male students how to be less masculine coining the phrase “Toxic Masculinity”
3. In a society where women are more free and empowered than at anytime in history, and the leaders of major powers like England and Germany are female, and the United States came close to electing a female President. massive protest marches are being held for “Women’s rights.”
4. The insulting slur, “misogynist” has joined racist, bigot, homophobe, and a bunch of other slurs as a substitute for logical discussion of issues.
I could go on all day making connections between what happened in Tharna and what has happened on Earth in the last 50 years.
And here in Second Life, of course, a Gor evolved, that granted equality and opportunity for women to act as men and became very popular. In discussions, a complaint is often made that, like Tharna, the paga tavern is no longer the center of rp in most SL cities, but rather the tea house where men routinely ignore slaves they could dominate and control, to court and defer to Free Women hiding their true natures behind veils and layers of clothing, in the same way that the rulers of Tharna wore masks. (much more on that symbolism another time)
And of course, women jump at the opportunity to recreate Tharna, and they certainly have by the book legitimacy, but, they do not create it, to rp out its overthrow and return to traditional Gor, but as a place where women can run things, like they do so many other places, They can have a feminist Gor with all the trivia trappings.
We will continue this examination of the symbolism in Second Life next time, but I would like to end by asking this question.
Does this prophetic symbolism mean anything at all, or should it just be ignored as distracting us from the primary purpose of SL Gor, which is to have fun?? Are we not even able to better role play this world if we understand what the author was trying to tell us about it, and even what he was trying to warn us was going to happen to our own?