Sep 09 2017

RIP Jerry Pournelle, 1933-2017

Published by at 5:15 pm under Man in Space,Uncategorized,Writing

Jerry Pournelle passed away in his sleep yesterday. I heard about it this morning. I considered him a friend, and I will miss him.

I first read Jerry’s science fiction back when he was writing for Analog Science Fiction magazine, and later had the opportunity to work with him at Byte magazine. Byte flew me out to his Chaos Manor to get him up to speed on their new BIX system, a computer conferencing system based on my CoSy software. That didn’t take long, he was a very bright man, and we spent much of the afternoon into the evening in his study, discussing science fiction, space, fandom, and other common interests. As we were both headed to San Francisco the next day (he for a book signing, me to show BIX to the McGraw-Hill office there) he invited me to an after-party at his hotel. That’s where I met Larry Niven, Bob Silverberg, and Poul Anderson, among others.

I later worked with him, Niven, Anderson and a number of other writers, scientists and astronauts as part of the Citizens Advisory Council on National Space Policy. We (mostly he) helped get the DC-X project started — reusable, vertical-takeoff-and-landing rocket technology that SpaceX built on (indirectly) for their Falcon launcher.

Jerry and me in 1993 at White Sands for the first public (2nd actual) flight of DC-X (Jerry and me in 1993 at White Sands for the first public (2nd actual) flight of DC-X. Gods I was young.)

Jerry also inspired me, by example, to start selling my writing, both non-fiction and later fiction. In fact, through a series of events I won’t go into here (but involving the Council, L5 and an International Space Development Conference) he led to me meeting the woman I later married. When we had twin boys, we briefly (very briefly) considered naming them Jerry and Larry.

His passing isn’t a complete surprise; he was getting on in years and he had had health issues in recent years, but it is still sad to see him gone. His last public appearance was at the recent DragonCon, and now I really regret not making sufficient effort to attend it. My condolences go out to his family, who were all very gracious when I visited his home.

He inspired a lot of people, writers, scientists, and others. And while his opinions may have annoyed many, a large number of those still respected the man. He will be missed.

Ad astra, Jerry.

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