The news came that yesterday the writer Jerry Pournelle (photo G. E. Rule) died in his sleep at his home in Studio City, California.
I already wrote a homage to Jerry Pournelle on his 80th birthday which includes various notes about his life and in particular his career as a writer. However, that activity was only one of the many he pursued in his life, though he earned the greatest fame as a science fiction writer.
After fighting with the US Army during the Korean War, Jerry Pournelle worked for years in the aerospace industry, also in military projects. Among them, there was Project Thor to develop kinetic bombardment systems. In essence, instead of dropping bombs on the enemy, metal bullets are dropped that create destruction due to the kinetic energy of their high-speed impact.
His military experience, both at the front and in weapon development projects, also accompanied Jerry Pournelle’s career as a writer. Today, military science fiction has become an acknowledged subgenre that has its importance and its fans but in the past it had little consideration and Jerry Pournelle’s works were crucial to its development.
Over the years, Jerry Pournelle has also written articles about military tactics but as a journalist he’s mostly known to the general public for having worked for many years in the field of computer science / information technology publishing a lot of articles and even manuals.
Jerry Pournelle has sometimes been the center of controversy because of his conservative ideas and in the field of science fiction there’s a majority of progressives. However, his views were the result of his experiences so for example he had repeatedly expressed his opposition to the US involvement in the various wars of recent decades in the Middle East.
Jerry Pournelle was a complex person with a life spent working in many different fields so it’s a case where every label would be trivial and would only describe a small part of him. It’s thanks to all the experiences he accumulated that in his stories he created complex situations in which the characters ended up finding solutions to problems that were far from politically correct.