Larry Niven

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Larry Niven

Laurence van Cott Niven (born April 30, 1938) is a US science fiction author. Perhaps his best-known work is Ringworld (1970), which received Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, and Nebula awards.



Larry Niven was born in Los Angeles, California. He graduated with a B.A. in mathematics (with a minor in psychology) from Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas, in 1962. He has since lived in Los Angeles suburbs, including Chatsworth and Tarzana as a full-time writer. He is independently wealthy, having inherited a substantial amount from his grandfather, Edward Doheny (otherwise known as a player in the Teapot Dome scandal of the 1920s).


Niven is the author of numerous science fiction short stories and novels, beginning with his 1964 story "The Coldest Place" (which in the story was said to be the dark side of Mercury, which was thought to be tidally locked with the Sun at the time it was written but which ironically enough was found to rotate in a 2:3 resonance just months before the story was published). He won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1967 for Neutron Star, in 1972 for Inconstant Moon, and in 1975 for The Hole Man. He won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 1976 for The Borderland of Sol.

Niven has also written scripts for various science fiction television shows, including the original Land of the Lost series and Star Trek: The Animated Series ("The Slaver Weapon" with the Kzinti species). One of his short stories, "Inconstant Moon", was adapted for an episode of the television series The Outer Limits.

Many of Niven's stories take place in his Known Space universe, in which humanity shares the several solar systems nearest to Sol with over a dozen alien species, including species known as the Kzinti, and Pierson's Puppeteers, which are frequently central characters. The Ringworld series is set in the Known Space universe.

Niven has also written a logical fantasy series set in The Warlock's Era, detailed in The Magic Goes Away. There is a Magic: the Gathering card named Nevinyrral's Disk, which contains Larry Niven's name backwards. When activated it destroys all creature, enchantment, and artifact cards in play, including itself. This is a reference to the Warlock's Disc from this series, which when activated drains all magic from a region by using it up with an open-ended enchantment.

In recent years, most of his writing has been in collaboration with Jerry Pournelle and/or Steven Barnes.

Miscellaneous notes

A thinly disguised Niven appears as the character "Lawrence Van Cott" in the Greg Bear novel The Forge of God. A part of the computer game Wing Commander II takes place in the "Niven Sector" (it is believed that the Kilrathi, the feline alien enemy in the Wing Commander series, were based on Niven's Kzinti). There are those who think that Niven numbers may have been named in his honor, but despite his popularity and mathematical background, they are actually named for Ivan M. Niven. Niven's idea of a beanstalk sucking dry a planet (see Rainbow Mars) seems to be copied in the animated movie Kaena: The Prophecy.

Larry Niven introduced the idea of a flash crowd in his story Flash Crowd, 1973, which evolved in 2003 to the flash mob in which people meet together to protest in a creative way at a specific time and place to disappear as quickly as they appeared some minutes later.


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