Stealing Other People’s Homework: “Russell Kirk and the Haunting of Piety Hill”

Russell Kirk

I’ve been reading SD Tucker’s two part series on Russell Kirk in Fortean Times“. It’s part of his “Strange Statesman” series.

The installments mostly look into the strange occult beliefs of various politicians and political philosophers. Kirk, however, was more than a political philosopher. (Jerry Pournelle considered Kirk his political mentor though Pournelle definitely did not share Kirk’s anti-technology views.)

He was a noted a writer of weird fiction, fiction that demonstrated the synthesis of his political and occult beliefs. He was a friend of Ray Bradbury.

Kirk biographer Bradley J. Birzer looks at the professional and thematic relationships between Kirk and Stephen King and how Kirk’s paranormal experiences showed up in his fiction.

RIP Jerry Pournelle

Jerry Pournelle is dead at 84.

He was many things: college professor, fiction writer, survivalist, one-time aide to the Mayor of Los Angeles, disciple of Russell Kirk, one of those who introduced Ronald Reagan to the Strategic Defense Initiative, one of the first writers to cover “micro computers” in Byte magazine, veteran of the Korean War, science journalist, and involved in the early days of the Space Age testing “human factors” in astronauts.

His academic credentials were Ph.Ds in political science and psychology — both of which he later dubbed “voodoo sciences”. He also had a master’s degree in statistical analysis.

I first encountered him in his science column in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact.

The first fiction I read of his was “The Mercenary”, later included in the fix-up novel of the same name. It’s still my favorite work of his though I haven’t yet read all his fiction.

The Mercenary is a grim novel with truths about how societies fall apart and have to be put together by hard men. His most popular work, and also a favorite of mine, Lucifer’s Hammer, co-written with Larry Niven, looks at the social and technological infrastructures (at least in the 1970s) coming apart — and being reconstituted — after a cometary impact.

Pournelle put together several anthologies mixing fiction and non-fiction that pondered various themes of our real world life as well as often presenting interesting stories. The many-volumed There Will Be War, originally intended to be titled There Will Be Government, looked at basic political questions. Imperial Stars looked at the concerns of the Cold War and introduced me to political writers David Horowitz and Peter Collier.

His blog, The View from Chaos Manor, was a regular stop of mine over the past many years. I didn’t always agree with him, but I definitely thought twice when I disagreed.

Pournelle was something of a 20th century Renaissance man, and I doubt we will see his like again.