Larry Niven is an American science fiction writer whose prodigious output, beginning with a 1964 story, “The Coldest Place,” has won every major award in the genre, and whose work has inspired countless readers with a love of science, space and yet-to-be invented technologies that transform our world (or worlds).
The great-grandson of oil tycoon Edward Doheny, Larry inherited a trust fund that enabled him to devote full time to becoming a published author. It was not an easy journey. He collected rejection letters for years, eventually finding that if he told stories to his cousin and his cousin liked them, the stories were probably worth writing. But when his work began to sell, he rapidly became a major force in science-fiction.
He first won a Hugo Award for a 1969 story called “Neutron Star,” which Isaac Asimov said he regretted not writing himself. “Inconstant Moon” won another Hugo in 1972 for its tale of a massive solar flare on the far side of the world and the protagonist who realizes the devastation that will follow in its wake. He later turned it into a screenplay for The Outer Limits. Over the years, he created dozens of alien races and memorable characters occupying what he called Known Space, a tiny bubble of stars within our galaxy circled by habitable planets. The technologies he imagined ranged from teleportation, fusion drives and faster-than-light travel to surveillance drones, autonomous vehicles and the Ringworld, a habitable band of super-strong material as big across as Earth’s orbit, spinning around its own star.
His work stands out for putting science at the core of gripping stories and offering remarkable insights into how technology transforms life. Reliable teleportation is invented – and billions of miles of roads and bridges are suddenly useless. Organ transplants of all kinds become routine – and the use of the death penalty skyrockets to supply the public demand for them. Humanity at long last builds a peaceful society – only to meet a fearsome and carnivorous alien race called the Kzin and are rescued from extermination by the chance arrival of yet more aliens: merchants willing to sell them faster-than-light technology they would never have invented themselves, because it only works outside the gravity well of a star. Is it really chance? No, as it turns out – it is the manipulation of a highly advanced alien race of “ethical cowards” that want the Kzin to be tamed. The many aliens he creates emerge from the page as fully realized beings with cultures and ways of thought utterly different from ours yet perfectly understandable.
In a long and illustrious career, Larry Niven has gifted the space and satellite industry with visions that inspire a never-ending reach for the impossible. Or as he puts it in one of Niven’s Laws, “There is only one universal message in science fiction: there exist minds that think as well as you do – but differently.” For more information about Larry Niven, visit larryniven.net.