The problem I have with the Gor books is, what they try to be (interesting discussion of morality and philosophy) is not what they actually are (...porn.)
No, no parentheses. It's fucking porn. That's the whole basis of its appeal. The people who read Gor, who imulate its characters, who hold it up as something good, are people who are kinked that way. I know exactly how this feels, because I have my kinks too, and most of what can feed it is trash.
John Norman? Does not see his work as porn. He sees it as a vehicle for his ideals, and that's where the book fails. First, because the only people who will take his ideas seriously are the people who have that kink. Second, because the books do not present an arguement for the rest of us.
I had the same problem with Anthem. I have the same problem with most Christian fiction, and that's my freaking camp. The author doesn't just assume that they're right. They assume that they're so obviously right that the rest of us must be freaking blind to have an alternate opinion. With Christian fiction, it fails because your religion is your baby, and you get offended when someone takes a shit on it. Anthem failed because unmoderated selfishness is wrong, just as unmoderated selflessness is wrong. Gor fails because John Norman isn't looking any further than the tip of his own nose. Or some other organ.
Here is how I know that Norman's got it completely wrong. I am female. I have a huge submissive streak. And by submissive I don't mean "bring out the whips and chains." I mean that when I face opposition to something I want, I am more likely to back down than not. If Norman were right, I should have found happiness in this submission.
I do not.
Instead, I become so psychotically miserable that I either have to remove myself from the situation RIGHT NOW, or else become medicated.
If Norman were right, I should be happy in my job. I am not.
If Norman were right, I should have been...yeah, I was going to draw a paralelle with the assault in my past, but that episode fucked me up so bad that I can't even go there. I cannot imagine that situation ever making me happy or fulfilled.
When am I happy? When I am acknowledged as a person. When my goals are lauded, when my needs are met, and when I can curl up in bed and not have to worry about being abused on any level. Some people do not consider BDSM abuse, and if you're kinked that way, it's not. These books are about rebooting women who are not kinked that way.
No human being, EVER, would be happy in this society. Not Tarl Cabot, not Strawchick, not Tarl's girlfriend, nobody.
The saddest thing is, the other examples I cited as Issue book fail are actually trying to accomplish something real. Ayn Rand survived communist Russia, probably wittnessed the Holodomar on some level, and decided the whole world needed to change so that never happens again. She went too far in the extreme, but that's what she was trying to do. Christian Fiction authors believe that if they don't motivate the world to get saved, every one of you will perish, and they'd rather get spit on than risk losing the world. Sure, they do a terrible job most of the time, but, and this is the key, there is usually some level of alturistic motivation behind it, and I cannot fucking believe I just applied the word "altruistic" to Ayn Rand, but there you go.
Gor? Popular culture promises every guy a hot girl as a door prize for being born (Girls are promised a hot guy as a reward for being pretty). This rarely happens. Most people process this, accept it as part of growing up, and cope.
Gor is John Norman's attempt to rewrite the whole world so that he, specifically, can get the door prize. There is wish fulfillment fiction and then there is...this.
To close this up? There is an author named John Ringo. He writes sci fi books...and more often than not these turn into BDSM porn books. There's the episode in Princess of Wands where the friend of the main character runs off with the Black Rose society and Bad (GOOD!) things happen. There's the second Council Wars book that goes from The best interstice warfare ever to sex in a techno-magic harem. And then there is Ghost.
Let me acknowledge that I have read Ghost, and leave it there.
Ringo isn't pretending that his books are anything more than escapist fantasy. He's not trying to rewrite reality's code to make it more in tune with his ego. Even he admits Ghost is fucked up. REALLY fucked up.
And he makes John Norman's points better than John Norman ever could.