Larry Niven

Laurence van Cott Niven (/ˈnɪvən/; born April 30, 1938) is an American science fiction writer.[1] His best-known work is Ringworld (1970), which received Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, and Nebula awards. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America named him the 2015 recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.[2] His work is primarily hard science fiction, using big science concepts and theoretical physics. It also often includes elements of detective fiction and adventure stories. His fantasy includes the series The Magic Goes Away, rational fantasy dealing with magic as a non-renewable resource.

Larry Niven
Niven in 2010
Niven in 2010
BornLaurence van Cott Niven
April 30, 1938 (age 80)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Alma mater
Notable works
Larry Niven admiring SAGE console.jpeg
Niven at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, 2007


Niven was born in Los Angeles.[1] He is a great-grandson of Edward L. Doheny, an oil tycoon who drilled the first successful well in the Los Angeles City Oil Field in 1892 and was subsequently implicated in the Teapot Dome scandal.[3] He briefly attended the California Institute of Technology[4] and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics (with a minor in psychology) from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas in 1962. He also completed a year of graduate work in mathematics at the University of California, Los Angeles. On September 6, 1969, he married Marilyn Joyce "Fuzzy Pink" Wisowaty, a science fiction and Regency literature fan. He is an agnostic.[5]


Niven is the author of numerous science fiction short stories and novels, beginning with his 1964 story "The Coldest Place". In this story, the coldest place concerned is the dark side of Mercury, which at the time the story was written was thought to be tidally locked with the Sun (it was found to rotate in a 2:3 resonance after Niven received payment for the story, but before it was published).[6]

Algis Budrys said in 1968 that Niven becoming a top writer despite the New Wave was evidence that "trends are for second-raters".[7] In addition to the Nebula award in 1970[8] and the Hugo and Locus awards in 1971[9] for Ringworld, Niven won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for "Neutron Star" in 1967.[4] He won the same award in 1972, for "Inconstant Moon", and in 1975 for "The Hole Man". In 1976, he won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette for "The Borderland of Sol".

Niven has written scripts for three science fiction television series: the original Land of the Lost series; Star Trek: The Animated Series, for which he adapted his early story "The Soft Weapon"; and The Outer Limits, for which he adapted his story "Inconstant Moon" into an episode of the same name.

Niven has also written for the DC Comics character Green Lantern including in his stories hard science fiction concepts such as universal entropy and the redshift effect.

He has included limited psi gifts (mind over matter) in some characters in his stories; like Gil Hamilton's psychic arm which can only reach as far as a corporeal arm could, though it can, for example, reach through solid materials and manipulate objects on the other side, and through videophone screens, or Matt Keller's ability to make people not notice him.

Several of his stories predicted the black market in transplant organs ("organlegging").

Many of Niven's stories—sometimes called the Tales of Known Space[10]—take place in his Known Space universe, in which humanity shares the several habitable star systems nearest to the Sun with over a dozen alien species, including the aggressive feline Kzinti and the very intelligent but cowardly Pierson's Puppeteers, which are frequently central characters. The Ringworld series is part of the Tales of Known Space, and Niven has shared the setting with other writers since a 1988 anthology, The Man-Kzin Wars (Baen Books, jointly edited with Jerry Pournelle and Dean Ing).[10] There have been several volumes of short stories and novellas.

Niven has also written a logical fantasy series The Magic Goes Away, which utilizes an exhaustible resource called mana to power a rule-based "technological" magic. The Draco Tavern series of short stories take place in a more light-hearted science fiction universe, and are told from the point of view of the proprietor of an omni-species bar. The whimsical Svetz series consists of a collection of short stories, The Flight of the Horse, and a novel, Rainbow Mars, which involve a nominal time machine sent back to retrieve long-extinct animals, but which travels, in fact, into alternative realities and brings back mythical creatures such as a Roc and a Unicorn. Much of his writing since the 1970s has been in collaboration, particularly with Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes, but also Brenda Cooper and Edward M. Lerner.

Other works

One of Niven's best known humorous works is "Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex", in which he uses real-world physics to underline the difficulties of Superman and a human woman (Lois Lane or Lana Lang) mating.[11]

Niven appeared in the 1980 science documentary film Target... Earth?



Niven's most famous contribution to the SF genre comes from his novel Ringworld, in which he envisions a Ringworld: a band of material, roughly a million miles wide, of approximately the same diameter as Earth's orbit, rotating around a star. The idea's genesis came from Niven's attempts to imagine a more efficient version of a Dyson sphere, which could produce the effect of surface gravity through rotation. Given that spinning a Dyson Sphere would result in the atmosphere pooling around the equator, the Ringworld removes all the extraneous parts of the structure, leaving a spinning band landscaped on the sun-facing side, with the atmosphere and inhabitants kept in place through centrifugal force and 1,000 mi (1,600 km) high perimeter walls (rim walls). After publication of Ringworld, Dan Alderson and Ctein,[12] two fannish friends of Niven, analyzed the structure and told Niven that the Ringworld was dynamically unstable such that if the center of rotation drifts away from the central sun, gravitational forces will not 're-center' it, thus allowing the ring to eventually contact the sun and be destroyed. Niven used this as a core plot element in the sequel novel, The Ringworld Engineers.

This idea proved influential, serving as an alternative to a full Dyson sphere that required fewer assumptions (such as artificial gravity) and allowed a day/night cycle to be introduced (through the use of a smaller ring of "shadow squares", rotating between the ring and its sun). This was further developed by Iain M. Banks in his Culture series, which features about 1/100th ringworld–size megastructures called Orbitals that orbit a star rather than encircling it entirely (actual "Rings" and Dyson "Spheres" are also mentioned but are much rarer). Alastair Reynolds also uses ringworlds in his 2008 novel House of Suns. The Ringworld-like namesake of the Halo video game series is the eponymous Halo megastructure/superweapon.

The original release of Magic: The Gathering paid homage to Larry Niven on a card called "Nevinyrral's Disk",[13] with Nevinyrral being "Larry Niven" spelled backwards. Subsequent sets have featured no new cards featuring Nevinyrral, although the character is sporadically quoted on the flavor text of various cards. Netrunner paid a similar homage to Larry Niven with the card "Nevinyrral".

Policy involvement

According to author Michael Moorcock, in 1967 Niven was among those Science Fiction Writers of America members who voiced opposition to the Vietnam War.[14] However, in 1968 Niven's name appeared in a pro-war ad in Galaxy Science Fiction.[15][16]

Niven was an adviser to Ronald Reagan on the creation of the Strategic Defense Initiative antimissile policy, as part of the Citizens' Advisory Council on National Space Policy – as covered in the BBC documentary Pandora's Box by Adam Curtis.[17] The council also convinced Vice President Dan Quayle to support the single-stage-to-orbit concept for a reusable space ship that led to the building of the DC-X.

In 2007, Niven, in conjunction with a group of science fiction writers known as SIGMA, led by Pournelle, began advising the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as to future trends affecting terror policy and other topics.[18][19]

Niven's Laws

Larry Niven at Les Utopiales
Niven at Les Utopiales in 2010

Larry Niven is also known in science fiction fandom for "Niven's Law": "There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it". Over the course of his career Niven has added to this first law a list of Niven's Laws which he describes as "how the Universe works" as far as he can tell.


  1. ^ a b "Niven, Larry". Revised June 14, 2014. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction ( Retrieved August 15, 2014. Entry by 'JC', John Clute.
  2. ^ "Larry Niven Named SFWA Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master". March 2, 2015. Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  3. ^ "'Writers for Relief: An Anthology to Benefit the Survivors of Katrina'". Lincoln Daily News. 13 December 2005.
  4. ^ a b "Larry Niven's Ringworld and Known Space Stories - Kirkus Reviews". Retrieved October 29, 2017.
  5. ^ "The religion of Larry Niven, science fiction author". July 28, 2005. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  6. ^ "the Planet Mercury. Tidally locked?". Archived from the original on June 24, 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-24.
  7. ^ Budrys, Algis (December 1968). "Galaxy Bookshelf". Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 149–155.
  8. ^ "1970 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  9. ^ "1971 Award Winners & Nominees | Science Fiction & Fantasy Books by Award | WWEnd". Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  10. ^ a b "Tales of Known Space – Series Bibliography". Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved August 15, 2014. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  11. ^ Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex on
  12. ^ Macro Structures at
  13. ^ Nevinyrral's Disk at
  14. ^ "Starship Stormtroopers". Archived from the original on December 24, 2002.
  15. ^ "Nat Tilander Writer, Author, Articles, Non-Fiction, Galaxy Magazine and the Viet Nam War". Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  16. ^ "Paid Advertisement". Galaxy Science Fiction. June 1968. pp. 4–11.
  17. ^ Pandora's Box (television documentary series)#Part 2. 'To The Brink of Eternity'
  18. ^ Hall, Mimi (May 31, 2007). "Sci-fi writers join war on terror". USA Today. Retrieved April 30, 2008.
  19. ^ "Science Fiction Mavens Offer Far Out Homeland Security Advice". National Defense Magazine. Archived from the original on August 16, 2014. Retrieved August 31, 2016.

External links

Bibliography and works


At the Core

"At the Core" is an English language science fiction short story written in 1966 by Larry Niven. It is the second in the series of Known Space stories featuring crashlander Beowulf Shaeffer. The short story was originally published in Worlds of If, November 1966, and reprinted in Neutron Star (1968), and Crashlander (1994).

The novel Fleet of Worlds is set in the aftermath of the story, from the Puppeteer point of view. The story is retold, from the point of view of Sigmund Ausfaller, in Juggler of Worlds. The events are also referred to in Ringworld.


A bandersnatch is a fictional creature in Lewis Carroll's 1872 novel Through the Looking-Glass and his 1874 poem The Hunting of the Snark. Although neither work describes the appearance of a bandersnatch in great detail, in The Hunting of the Snark, it has a long neck and snapping jaws, and both works describe it as ferocious and extraordinarily fast. Through the Looking-Glass implies that bandersnatches may be found in the world behind the looking-glass, and in The Hunting of the Snark, a bandersnatch is found by a party of adventurers after crossing an ocean. Bandersnatches have appeared in various adaptations of Carroll's works; they have also been used in other authors' works and in other forms of media.

Betrayer of Worlds

Betrayer of Worlds is a science fiction novel by American writers Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner, set in the Known Space series. It is a sequel to their previous novels Fleet of Worlds, Juggler of Worlds, and Destroyer of Worlds, and is set 70 years before Ringworld.


Crashlander is a fix-up novel by American writer Larry Niven, published in 1994 (ISBN 978-0345381682) and set in his Known Space universe. It is also a term used in the Known Space universe, denoting a human born on the planet We Made It.

Death by Ecstasy

"Death by Ecstasy" is a science fiction novella by American writer Larry Niven, set in the Known Space universe. It is the first of five Gil Hamilton detective stories, and provides most of the backstory for the character.

Flatlander (short story collection)

Flatlander (ISBN 0-345-39480-1) is a 1995 collection of stories by American writer Larry Niven, all set in Known Space. It is the definitive collection of all stories by Niven about ARM agent Gil Hamilton. Many of the stories revolve around the theme of involuntary organ transplantation.

The book includes the stories Death by Ecstasy (formerly The Organleggers), The Defenseless Dead, ARM, The Patchwork Girl, and The Woman in Del Rey Crater—the only previously unpublished story in the collection.

The collection is essentially a replacement for a 1976 collection called The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton (ISBN 0-345-24868-6) which contained only the first three stories. The Patchwork Girl was also published alone as a novel in 1986 (ISBN 0-441-65315-4).

The title derives from the in-universe term flatlander, referring to an Earth-living human, as opposed to those who do not live on planets. This is because the land looks flat.

Fleet of Worlds

Fleet of Worlds is a science fiction novel by American writers Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner, part of Niven's Known Space series.

The Fleet of Worlds (sub)series, consisting of this book and its four sequels, is named for its opening book.

Grendel (short story)

"Grendel" is an English language science fiction short story written in 1968 by Larry Niven. It is the fourth in the series of Known Space stories featuring crashlander Beowulf Shaeffer. The short story was originally published in Neutron Star (1968), and reprinted in Crashlander (1994).

Inconstant Moon (The Outer Limits)

"Inconstant Moon" is an episode of the US television series The Outer Limits. It first aired on 12 April 1996, during the second season. It was written by Brad Wright, based on the short story of the same name by Larry Niven.

Inferno (Niven and Pournelle novel)

Inferno is a fantasy novel written by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, published in 1976. It was nominated for the 1976 Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel.

Jerry Pournelle

Jerry Eugene Pournelle (; August 7, 1933 – September 8, 2017) was an American science fiction writer, essayist, and journalist. In the 1960s and early 1970s he worked in the aerospace industry, but eventually focused on his writing career.

Pournelle is particularly known for writing hard science fiction, and received multiple awards for his writing. In addition to his solo writing, he wrote several novels with collaborators, most notably Larry Niven. Pournelle served a term as President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.Pournelle was also known for his political views, which were sometimes expressed in his fiction. He was one of the founders of the Citizens' Advisory Council on National Space Policy, which developed some of the Reagan Administration's space initiatives, including the earliest versions of what would become the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Pournelle's journalism focused primarily on the computer industry, astronomy, and space exploration. From the 1970s until the early 1990s, he contributed to the computer magazine Byte. He created one of the first blogs, entitled "Chaos Manor", which included commentary about politics, computer technology, space technology, and science fiction.

Larry Niven bibliography

This is a complete bibliography by American science fiction author Larry Niven.

Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex

Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex is a 1969 essay in which science fiction author Larry Niven details the problems that Superman would face in sexual intercourse and reproduction with a human woman, using arguments based on humorous reconciliation between physics, biology, and the abilities of Kryptonians as presented in Superman comic books. The issues discussed include Superman's loss of physical control during intercourse, the presumed "super powers" of Superman's sperm cells, genetic incompatibility between humans and Kryptonians, and the dangers to the woman during gestation. The title is a reference to Superman's power and invulnerability, contrasting it with the relative fragility – like Kleenex brand facial tissue – of a human. The hypothetical woman is referred to in the essay as "LL", the initials of three women Superman has been romantically involved with: Lois Lane, Lana Lang, and Lori Lemaris.

Rainbow Mars

Rainbow Mars is a 1999 science fiction short story collection by American writer Larry Niven. It includes the five previously published Hanville Svetz stories and the eponymous novella, which was written for the collection. The setting of the Svetz stories is Earth in the distant future. The hereditary leader of the Earth, known as the Secretary General, is an inbred imbecile. In order to maintain the interest of the Secretary, different factions in the capitol use their advanced science to amuse him. Svetz's section uses time travel in an attempt to bring back long extinct animals from Earth's past. Unbeknownst to Svetz and his team, they are actually travelling back into fictional pasts, and returning with mythical creatures.


Ringworld is a 1970 science fiction novel by Larry Niven, set in his Known Space universe and considered a classic of science fiction literature. Niven later added four sequels and four prequels. (The Fleet of Worlds series, co-written with Edward M. Lerner, provides the four prequels, as well as Fate of Worlds, the final sequel.) These books tie into numerous other books set in Known Space. Ringworld won the Nebula Award in 1970, as well as both the Hugo Award and Locus Award in 1971.

The Best of Larry Niven

The Best of Larry Niven is a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories written by Larry Niven and edited by Jonathan Strahan, first published in hardcover by Subterranean Press in December 2010. The pieces were originally published between 1965 and 2000 in the magazines The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, If, Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Galaxy Magazine, Knight, Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, Vertex: the Magazine of Science Fiction, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Omni and Playboy, the anthologies Dangerous Visions, Quark/4, Ten Tomorrows, and What Might Have Been? Volume 1: Alternate Empires, the novel The Magic Goes Away, and the collections All the Myriad Ways and The Flight of the Horse.The book contains twenty-five short stories, novelettes and novellas, one novel, and one essay by the author, together with an introduction by Jerry Pournelle.

The Hole Man

"The Hole Man" is a science fiction short story by American writer Larry Niven. It won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1975.

The Magic Goes Away

The Magic Goes Away is a fantasy short story written by Larry Niven in 1976, and later expanded to a novella of the same name which was published in 1978. While these works were not the first in the "Magic Universe" or "Warlock" series, they marked a turning point after the 1973 oil crisis and Niven's subsequent transformation of the series into an allegory for a modern-day energy crisis. The setting was later used as a backdrop for a series of full-length novels, The Burning City (2000) and its sequel, Burning Tower (2005), which were co-written with Jerry Pournelle.

The State (Larry Niven)

For the DC Comics super-villain, see Kite Man.

"The State" is a fictional totalitarian world government in a future history that forms the back-story of three of Larry Niven's novels: A World Out of Time (1976), The Integral Trees (1984), and The Smoke Ring (1987). It is also the setting of two short stories, "Rammer" (which became the first chapter of A World Out of Time) and "The Kiteman" (printed in N-Space) as well as a stalled fourth novel, The Ghost Ships. After several years in development, Niven announced that The Ghost Ships would never be made, and wrote The Ringworld Throne instead. The novel would have focused on a race of self-aware natural Bussard ramjets birthed in the supernova that created Levoy's Star and were returning to their place of birth to mate. According to Playgrounds of the Mind, Kendy and the kite-fliers from "The Kiteman" would have returned also.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.