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Tarnsman of gor vallejo cover.jpg
Tarnsman of Gor (1979)
Tarnsman, Outlaw, Priest-Kings, Nomads, Assassin, Raiders, Captive, Hunters, Marauders, Tribesmen, Slave Girl, Beasts, Explorers, Fighting Slave, Rogue, Guardsman, Savages, Blood Brothers, Kajira, Players, Mercenaries, Dancer, Renegades, Vagabonds, Magicians, Witness, Prize, Kur, Swordsmen, Mariners
Author John Norman
Cover artist Boris Vallejo
Country United States of America
Language English
Genre sword and planet, science fantasy
Publisher Del Rey
Published 1966 – present
Media type Print (paperback)

Gor (/ˈɡɔr/), the Counter-Earth, is the alternate-world setting for a series of 30 novels by John Norman that combine philosophy, erotica and science fiction. The series has been variously referred to by several names including: Chronicles of Counter-Earth, Tarl Cabot Saga, Chronicles of Gor, and Gorean Saga.

The customs, terminology and imagery depicted in these books inspired a related subculture. On- and off-line followers of this lifestyle are called Goreans.


  Series description

  Simplified map of known Gor


The flora, fauna, and customs of Gor are intricately detailed. John Norman—the pseudonym of Dr. John Lange, a professor of philosophy and a classical scholar—often delights in ethnography, populating his planet with the equivalents of Roman, Greek, Native American, Viking, and other cultures. In the novels these various population groups are transplants from Earth brought there by space-craft through the behind the scenes rulers of Gor, the Priest-Kings, an extraterrestrial species of insectoid appearance. The Gorean humans are permitted advanced architectural, agricultural and medical skills (including life extension), but are forced to remain primitive in the fields of transportation, communication and weaponry (at approximately the level of Classical Mediterranean civilization) due to restrictions on technology imposed by the Priest-Kings. This limitation is imposed to ensure the safety of both the Priest-Kings, as well as the other indigenous and transplanted beings on Gor, who would otherwise possibly come to harm due to humans' belligerent tendencies.[1]

The planet Gor has lower gravity than Earth's (which allows for the existence of large flying creatures, and tall towers connected by aerial bridges in the cities), and would have an even lower gravity if not for the technology of the Priest-Kings. The known geography of Gor consists mainly of the western seaboard of a continent that runs from the Arctic in the north to south of the equator, with the Thassa Ocean to the west, and the Voltai mountain range forming an eastern boundary at many latitudes. There are also offshore islands in the ocean, and some relatively sparsely settled plains to the east of the Voltai. The word "Gor" itself means "home stone" in the Gorean language (the native language of the city-states in the northern temperate region, and a widely spoken lingua franca in many other areas).[2]


Most of the novels in the series are action and sexual adventures, with many of the military engagements borrowing liberally from historic ones, such as the trireme battles of ancient Greece and the castle sieges of medieval Europe. Ar, the largest city in known Gor, has resemblances to the ancient city of Rome, and its land empire is opposed to the sea-power of the island of Cos.

The series is an overlapping of planetary romance and sword and planet. The first book, Tarnsman of Gor, opens with scenes reminiscent of scenes in the first book of the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs; both feature the protagonist narrating his adventures after being transported to another world. These parallels end after the first few books, when the stories of the books begin to be structured along a loose plot arc involving the struggles of the city-state of Ar and the island of Cos to control the Vosk river area, as well as the struggles at a higher level between non-human Priest-Kings and Kurii (another alien race) to control the solar system.

  Personal flag of Bosk of Port Kar (a.k.a. Tarl Cabot of Bristol), the main narrator of the Gor books

Most of the books are narrated by transplanted British professor Tarl Cabot, master swordsman, as he engages in adventures involving Priest-Kings, Kurii, and humans. Books seven, eleven, nineteen, twenty-two, twenty-six, and twenty-seven are narrated by abducted Earth women who are made slaves. Books fourteen, fifteen and sixteen are narrated by male abductee Jason Marshall.

The series features several sentient alien races. The most important to the books are the insectoid Priest-Kings and the huge sharp-clawed predatory Kurii, both space-farers from foreign star systems. The Priest-Kings rule Gor as disinterested custodians, leaving humans to their own affairs as long as they abide by certain restrictions on technology. The Kurii are an aggressive, invasive race with advanced technology (but less so than that of the Priest-Kings) who wish to colonize Gor and Earth. The power of the Priest-Kings is diminished after the "Nest War" described in the third book, and the Priest-Kings and Kurii struggle against each other via their respective human agents and spies.[3]

Early entries in the series were plot-driven space opera adventures, but later entries grew more philosophical and sexual. Many sub-plots run the course of several books and tie back to the main plot in later books. Some of these plots begin in the first book, but most are underway in the first ten books.


  Hunters of Gor (1974), 1980 Star paperback edition. 363 pages
  1. Tarnsman of Gor (1966) ISBN 0-345-27583-7
  2. Outlaw of Gor (1967) ISBN 0-345-27136-X
  3. Priest-Kings of Gor (1968) ISBN 0-7592-0036-X
  4. Nomads of Gor (1969) ISBN 0-7592-5445-1
  5. Assassin of Gor (1970) ISBN 0-7592-0091-2
  6. Raiders of Gor (1971) ISBN 0-7592-0153-6
  7. Captive of Gor (1972) ISBN 0-7592-0105-6
  8. Hunters of Gor (1974) ISBN 0-7592-0130-7
  9. Marauders of Gor (1975) ISBN 0-7592-0141-2
  10. Tribesmen of Gor (1976) ISBN 0-7592-5446-X
  11. Slave Girl of Gor (1977) ISBN 0-7592-0454-3
  12. Beasts of Gor (1978) ISBN 0-7592-1125-6
  13. Explorers of Gor (1979) ISBN 0-7592-1167-1
  14. Fighting Slave of Gor (1980) ISBN 0-7592-1173-6
  15. Rogue of Gor (1981) ISBN 0-7592-1179-5
  16. Guardsman of Gor (1981) ISBN 0-7592-1368-2
  17. Savages of Gor (1982) ISBN 0-7592-1374-7
  18. Blood Brothers of Gor (1982) ISBN 0-7592-1380-1
  19. Kajira of Gor (1983) ISBN 0-7592-1926-5
  20. Players of Gor (1984) ISBN 0-7592-1932-X
  21. Mercenaries of Gor (1985) ISBN 0-7592-1944-3
  22. Dancer of Gor (1985) ISBN 0-7592-1950-8
  23. Renegades of Gor (1986) ISBN 0-7592-1956-7
  24. Vagabonds of Gor (1987) ISBN 0-7592-1980-X
  25. Magicians of Gor (1988) ISBN 0-7592-1986-9
  26. Witness of Gor (2001) ISBN 0-7592-4235-6
  27. Prize of Gor (2008) ISBN 0-7592-4580-0
  28. Kur of Gor (2009) ISBN 0-7592-9782-7
  29. Swordsmen of Gor (2010) ISBN 1-61756-040-5
  30. Mariners of Gor (2011) ISBN 0-7592-9989-7
  31. Conspirators of Gor (2012) [July?]

  Historical influences

  The Gorean Kajira "kef" symbol.

Many historical cultures of Earth are reflected in the novels of Gor. Although the Greco-Roman is the most often noted of these, this is not the only society presented in some fashion on Gor. There are many similarities to real-life historical civilizations in various regions of Gor (explained in the books by early "voyages of acquisition" the Priest-Kings undertook to populate Gor with humans from different parts of Earth).

The majority of the area of the "northern civilized cities", as the Vosk river region in the temperate north of the continent is referred to, is reminiscent of ancient Greco-Roman city-states in many respects (aside from the delta city of Port Kar, which is a more anarchic and piratical version of Venice). The most common dating system is Contasta Ar, or years since the founding of Ar (similar to ab urbe condita), and the Viktel Aria road leading to Ar is analogous to the Appian way. In Torvaldsland, inhabitants are similar to Earth's Vikings. The "Red Savage" peoples of the Barrens are populated with a culture based upon Native Americans, especially the Sioux Nations. The "Wagon Peoples" are a blend of the Mongols and the Gauchos of South America. The Alars appear based on the Alans, barbarians who were later conquered by the Huns. The peoples of the Tahari desert correlate to the nomads of Arabia, the Gorean regions around Schendi to Amazon or Congo River valley populations. The peoples of far north Gor, or the "Red Hunters" as Norman sometimes referred to them, are clearly Inuit—in this case to the point of referring to them as such.

In an interview with the speculative fiction anthology Polygraff,[4] John Norman spoke at length about the creation of the Gor universe and his influences. "The Counter-Earth, or Antichthon, is from Greek cosmology. Speculation on such a world, you see, is ancient. One of the premises of the Gorean series is that a race of aliens, whom we might speak of as the Priest-Kings, have a technology at their disposal compared to which ours would be something like that in the Bronze Age." [1] [5] "I think, pretty clearly, the three major influences on my work are Homer, Freud, and Nietzsche. Interestingly, however obvious this influence might be, few, if any, critics, commentators, or such, have called attention to it." In the same interview, he said "one of the pleasures of writing science fiction is the development of, and characterization of, alien life forms."


The Gor novels have been criticized for their focus on relationships between dominant men and submissive women, the latter often in positions of slavery. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy says, "later volumes degenerate into extremely sexist, sadomasochistic pornography involving the ritual humiliation of women, and as a result have caused widespread offence."[6][7] Science fiction/fantasy author Michael Moorcock has suggested that the Gor novels should be placed on the top shelves of bookstores, saying, "I’m not for censorship but I am for strategies which marginalize stuff that works to objectify women and suggests women enjoy being beaten."[8]

DAW Books, which published the Gor series from the 8th volume (Hunters of Gor) through the 25th volume (Magicians of Gor), subsequently decided to cease publication of the books, citing low sales;[7] Norman attributes the decision to feminist influences, saying in 1996: "Tarnsman of Gor was published in late 1966. It has been reprinted 22 times... I have recently signed contracts for fresh French and German sales, and have recently been published for the first time in Czechoslovakia. There have been recent Spanish and Italian sales. There's no evidence that my books no longer sell... After DAW refused to buy any more Gor books, I sold a three-part Telnarian series to Brian Thomsen of Warner Books. The first book, The Chieftain, had a 67 percent sell-through. The second, The Captain, had a 91 percent sell-through, which is the sort of thing that would make Stephen King rush over to shake your hand... Brian Thomsen, my Warner editor for the Telnarian series... was replaced by an editor from one of the blacklisting presses, one that explicitly informed my agent they would not consider anything by John Norman. That new editor canceled the series despite its success and without waiting to see how the third book, The King, would do. That way things are made nicely clear...

"Unfortunately for me, only about seven or eight publishing houses maintain a mass-market paperback line in science fiction and fantasy; this small, closely-knit group effectively controls the market. With such a group, a blacklist need not be an explicit, formal written or oral agreement subscribed to by a gathered cabal pledged to secrecy. It is an understanding that a certain individual is to be ostracized, excluded, methodologically overlooked or such."[9]


Two films have been made (often considered generic grade-B sci-fi flicks only very loosely based on Norman's books), Gor[10] and Outlaw of Gor[11] (also known as Outlaw); the latter appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

While not officially connected to John Norman's work, Fencer of Minerva is a Japanese animated series containing many of the elements and ideas discussed in Gorean Philosophy.[12]

During the mid-1990s an attempt was made to publish an authorized graphic novel adaptation of the Gor series under Vision Entertainment. The project collapsed under a combination of financial issues and the nature of the imagery, which violated Canadian law, where the printer was located.[13]

There is Gorean MMORPG in Second Life[14][15] where hundreds of groups take part[16] (over 15000 active roleplayers).[17] Gorean role-playing also has a vast following on Second Life's counterpart, IMVU. Heavy emphasis is made on one's grammatical and writing abilities as well as the 3-D capabilities of the IMVU Client. In addition to the Gorean MMORPG in SL there is a non-Linden Lab grid with a Gorean MMORPG with an extensive area devoted to Gor.[18]

  See also


  1. ^ "Cultures". World of Gor. http://www.worldofgor.com/reference.aspx?rpID=9. Retrieved 2009-03-27. 
  2. ^ "Places". World of Gor. http://www.worldofgor.com/reference.aspx?rpID=12. Retrieved 2009-03-27. 
  3. ^ "The Annals of Gor". Moonproductions.com. http://www.moonproductions.com/Fantasy/Gor/annalsmain.html. Retrieved 2009-03-27. 
  4. ^ Polygraff Staff (2010). "An Exclusive Interview With John Norman, Author of the Gor Series of Novels.". Polygraff (Montreal: Polymancer Studios, Inc.) 1 (2): pp. 47–53. ISSN 1918-665X. http://www.scribd.com/doc/41530641/Polygraff-Magazine. Retrieved 2010-12-15 
  5. ^ Anders, Charlie Jane. "John Norman, the philosophy professor who created the barbaric world of Gor". 2011-3-22.
  6. ^ Clute, John; Grant, John (1999). The Encyclopedia of Fantasy. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. p. 693. ISBN 0-312-19869-8. 
  7. ^ a b Langford, David (1998). "The Kink in Space". SFX (Future Publishing) (39). http://ansible.co.uk/sfx/sfx039.html. Retrieved January 17, 2011. 
  8. ^ Killjoy, Margaret. Mythmakers & Lawbreakers. AK Press, 2009.
  9. ^ "No More Gor: A Conversation with John Norman", David Alexander Smith, The New York Review of Science Fiction, #92, April, 1996
  10. ^ "Gor (1987)". IMDb.com. 2000-04-03. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095241/. Retrieved 2009-03-27. 
  11. ^ "Outlaw of Gor (1989)". IMDb.com. 1999-01-15. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0098048/. Retrieved 2009-03-27. 
  12. ^ "Minerva no kenshi (1994) (V)". IMDb.com. 2007-02-11. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0249509/. Retrieved 2009-03-27. 
  13. ^ Marrus, Lightsurfing: Living Life in the Front of My Mouth 1992–2003, Kissena Park Press, 2009 ISBN 978-0-9768508-2-3 pp. 51–55, 67–70
  14. ^ David Greene. Roleplay Series – Second Life Gor
  15. ^ A guide to Gorean Roleplay in Second Life (dead link as of April 2012)
  16. ^ For example the list of cities that use Gorean Meter combat system – http://gm.mivabe.nl/regions/index.php
  17. ^ Statistics of Gorean Meter (this statistic is not comprehensive as Gorean role-players use different meters, not only "Gorean Meter")
  18. ^ http://roleplayworlds.net/ (seems not to exist any longer.[as of November 25, 2011, 08:28pm CET])

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