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Ladies and Gentlemen, Dr. Larry Niven

Roblimo posted more than 11 years ago | from the organleggers-are-people-too dept.

Books 484

Several Slashdot staff people are major Larry Niven fans, so we feel he needs no introduction. You asked. He answered. Enough said. Read and enjoy.

1) Fallen Angels, Baen Free Library, and RMS
by Robotech_Master

Your collaborative novel Fallen Angels is available in the Baen Free Library. What prompted you to make it available there?

Have its paper sales picked up since you posted it there? (Assuming it's still in print to be sold.) Might you consider making some of your other works available that way?

Also, Fallen Angels features a couple of references to one of the ultimate ubergeeks of the Linux world, Richard M. Stallman. Who was responsible for that? (I'm guessing it would have been Pournelle.) Are there any amusing stories associated with those appearances?


Jim Baen's theory is that putting a work on the net will sell more paper copies. Paper books are easier to read and carry around. I thought it worth testing. So did my collaborators.

I don't have figures on whether it worked: raised the sales of Fallen Angels. I'll have to ask Jim Baen. If the theory holds, sure I'll make more stuff available. Long ago I gave away Net rights to certain short works, "Man of Steel/Woman of Kleenex" and "Down in Flames".

Richard Stallman must have ben put in by Jerry or Mike, not by me. We all did some research into science fiction fans; I introduced Mike Flynn to several on the West Coast, and he found his own in the East. Most of the characters in the book are real people suitably altered.

2) Is Science Fiction healthy?
by technoCon

Lots of folks love SF: Today there's a cable network and a nauseating volume of Star Trek reruns. Computer graphics makes it feasible to put a movie into any imaginable setting. Technology is being deployed so quickly that Vernor Vinge's singularity comes to mind. Technological progress is moving so fast it is hard to anticipate it.

NASA is dinking around in LEO: Boldly going where John Glenn has gone four decades before. I don't know who said it: The future just ain't what it used to be.

The Sputnik generation is graying: When I was a lad, I watched moon shots. It captured my imagination. I read any book that had a rocket on its cover. I'm late forties and will be dead of cancer soon.

Writers are moving out of SF: William Gibson's latest novel has high geek content, but none of the science isn't already deployed. Same for Neal Stephenson's _Cryptonomicon_: good story with high geek content, but nothing beyond the current state of the art. And I've seen guys who once wrote Hard Science Fiction branching out to Fantasy.

Publishing is corporatized: The huge bookstores I haunt have SF sections that are overcrowded with Fantasy and StarTrek, StarWars, Babylon5 & (insert corporate franchise here) serials.

It looks to me as if Science Fiction is in trouble, or it may be sick, or it may be dead and doesn't know it yet.

What is your assessment of SF's health and which of these considerations do you think most significant?


We were a tiny, despised cluster of the socially inept when I first found other science fiction fans. Today we have a hell of a lot more respect, success, and money. The field is healthy.

Yes, good SF writers veer into fantasy and mainstream. I do it too. It's a break, a vacation. Don't let it disturb you.

As for the rest--do you see the media invading the science fiction field? It's the other way around. We've fully corrupted them; it only remains to educate them too.

But we ourselves are not moving into space.

Note: we're learning about the universe at an amazing rate. We're exploring the planets. We've got everything we hoped for, except that human beings aren't going and aliens don't seem to be waiting. I don't know what to do about that, except to show the dream to as many minds as I can reach.

Most of my friends are convinced that NASA is the great roadblock. I have my doubts. We persuaded Goldin that all he had to do was fire two levels of NASA bureaucrats and...he managed it, and magic didn't happen. Maybe what we're up against is the universe.

3) Intersection of SciFi and Gaming
by Shadow Wrought

What do you think of video games as a future outlet for original SciFi universes? Do you think that the interactive environments games provide will appeal to writers who would otherwise create movies or shorts?


I love it. Any new market (such as video games) opens more options for creativity, and more money. Games and movie/tv and books will feed into each other. Mind you, that's hard on the novices: competition is going to get fiercer yet.

4) Cautionary tales?
by J. Random Software

You've built worlds with uncommonly dystopian elements, such as Plateau's long tyranny over a disarmed populace, organlegging, all-out war with ruthless aliens, and suppression of dangerous technology. Have you intended any of these to be cautions about likely (or even inevitable) events, or just interesting to think about?


Sure, they're all intended as warnings. Nevertheless--what I've been serving up through most of my career are the dark sides of bright futures.

Organlegging, including State executions for organs, is the dark side of longevity, advanced medical techniques.

Disarmed populace and suppression of dangerous technology seem inevitable. Be warned.

War with aliens seems less likely, except that an enemy is always alien to some extent.

Plateau was fairyland with a single flaw.

5) Favorite book?
by emarkp

Of the work you've written, does one title in particular have a special place in your heart? Douglas Adams once said that his book "Last Chance to See" was the one book he'd hope that people read if they only read one of his books. Is there one book of yours you'd like people to have read?

Similarly, if I were to introduce someone to your books, which one would you suggest I give him first?


What book you give depends on who you're giving it to. To a mundane, give LUCIFER'S HAMMER. To a scientist, give THE INTEGRAL TREES. To someone who already wants to write, or to know about Niven, give N-SPACE or PLAYGROUNDS OF THE MIND or the forthcoming SCATTERBRAIN. Fantasy fans and Angelinos get THE BURNING CITY. If I had to bet my reputation it would be on RINGWORLD.

6) Intelligence and Wisdom
by Kostya

Could you comment on the difference between intelligence and wisdom? You seem to hint at some ideas in Ringworld Throne when Wu chooses to depose the Vampire Protector because he was not wise enough.

In these Pak Protectors, we have unbelievably intelligent and clever beings, but wisdom does not seem implied. What are your thoughts on wisdom, and what points were you trying to make? Considering the audience for most of your books (geeks, "smart folk"), it's an interesting point to include.

Side question: where did you come up with the idea of the Pak, especially as human ancestors? It has to be one of the more original conjectures about effects of old age that I have ever read :-)


My father and stepmother got us into a night class in hominid development. From what I learned, and one initial assumption, I extrapolated protectors. The assumption was, every symptom of aging is a stunted version of something intended to make us better able to defend our descendants.

Fans have pointed out developments even I missed. Thus: We breeders have a stunted sense of smell because our protector forms would otherwise be obeying their noses, rejecting outsider mates for their breeders, causing inbreeding.

The original (Pak) protectors are still too reflexive: they've got intelligence but not wisdom.

Intelligence is a tool or tool set. Wisdom is what you do with that. I've met people who specialized their intelligence, who never developed a life. I know yoga students like that too.

I've written at length about wisdom and intelligence because I didn't have a short answer.

7) What do you read?
by caesar-auf-nihil

Mr. Niven,

I'm always curious about what authors read for either inspiration, or what they find to be good literature. What books (science fiction or otherwise) have influenced your work, or do you find to be delightful reads. Any favorite authors?

Thank you for your time.


THE WIZARD OF OZ seems to have inspired me as a child.

Today I read a lot of science fiction, and I take friends' advice for what else pops up. I loved CRYPTONOMICON. I read everything by Tim Powers and Terry Pratchett and a lot of Connie Willis. Some really good hard SF writers have popped up, and I read them: John Barnes, Bruce Sterling, Stephen Baxter. Barbara Hambly's detective fiction. Patrick O'Brian's sea stories, courtesy of John Hertz.

8) Why is there no religion in Known Space
by Adam Rightmann

I know most SF writers aren't big on religion, but religion occupies a very large space in your collaboration with Pournelle, "The Mote in God's Eye", yet is conspicously lacking in Known Space. Is the religion in "Mote" all Jerry's doing?


Yes, it is. I'm not comfortable speculating on the development of new and established religions. The Kdaptist heresy was a joke. INFERNO was a compulsion: I'd read Dante's INFERNO and my mind wouldn't let go of it, and I sucked Jerry into it too. My motives weren't religious, they were a storyteller's.

9) Crossing my fingers
by Demona

Was your cease-and-desist regarding Elf Sternberg's "The Only Fair Game" motivated more by a personal aversion to the content, or a desire to retain control over "your universe"? How does this jibe with your statement in Ringworld Engineers that "If you want more Known Space stories, you'll have to write them yourself"?


I couldn't remember "The Only Fair Game", so I used your link.

I don't buy its premise. An older species won't have human versatility in sex: sexual responses will be all hard wired. Kzinti females won't be soft and unresponsive, either. You die if you make that mistake.

I probably issued a cease-and-desist when the story was described to me as violating my copyright. It does that, of course, and I notice the "desist" had no effect.

Once upon a time there was a gaming article that blew away the punch lines of several Man-Kzin War stories. I asked that it not be published. In that case too, I acted to protect my copyrights and my authors.

More generally--"If you want more Known Space stories" was intended as an invitation to daydream, not to violate my copyrights and steal my ideas. Turning such dreams into stories is only done under restricted circumstances and with permission.

But these dreams can make my morning. I love it when someone sees an implication I missed. (I get these via email, usually, or as Man-Kzin War stories.) And after all, there are things I can't copyright or patent or trademark. "Halo" looks like a poor man's Ringworld, but I didn't invent spin gravity.

10) Movie Jealousy?
by spun

David Brin has been forthright concerning his jealousy over bad SF being made into movies while his work is not. With the exception of 'Forbidden Planet' I have yet to see a science fiction movie that draws me in the way a good Sci-Fi book does.

I also think that your works would make excellent movies. Brin's work would probably play well in Europe, where people seem to prefer a little more ambiguity in their movies. It probably wouldn't do well here. Now, I'm not saying your writing isn't of the same caliber as Brin's work, but it is a little more accesible to the common man, and therefore seems well suited to be made into a blockbuster that would do well in the states. My questions: 1.) Are you at all jealous that lesser talents get to have their work seen by millions on the silver screen? 2.) Have you been approached by any producers regarding screenplays of your work? 3.) Would you even want to have your works made into movies?

That said, I just have to say thank you for providing me with so much quality entertainment! I grew up reading your stories from the time I was ten. In my esteem, you are one of the best well rounded Sci Fi authors out there. Your work has great characters, fantastic settings, believable science, and lots of action. Thanks again.


Sure I'm jealous, and angry. I've waited too long to take my family to a movie made from my works, and now my mother's gotten to old to go. I'm glad to see Brin's "The Postman" on the big screen. I like his message. But I'd like to see Harry the Mailman, from "Lucifer's Hammer", up there too.

And sure I've sold rights and options, and written a Star Trek cartoon and sold an Outer Limits episode, but it's not the same as walking into a theater. Movies cost a lot more than options do.

Yes, I would like to see my works made into movies. All of them. Short stories as well as novels. Why not? A movie doesn't ruin a book; the book is still there, unchanged, and may even see a larger audience. See Vince Gerardis of Created By, my agent, if you've just won a lottery.

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I'm not a subscriber... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477569)

... I thought I couldn't see this...

Re:I'm not a subscriber... (-1)

cyborg_monkey (150790) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477590)

Grow a sack, you ac cunt dripper.

First post is claimed by me in the name of all logged in pud pullers everywhere!

Religion of Peace? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477582)


Jabir reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) saw a woman, and
so he came to his wife, Zainab, as she was tanning a leather and had sexual
intercourse with her. He then went to his Companions and told them: The woman
advances and retires in the shape of a devil, so when one of you sees a woman,
he should come to his wife, for that will repel what he feels in his heart.

Jabir heard Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) say: When a woman fascinates
any one of you and she captivates his heart, he should go to his wife and have
an intercourse with her, for it would repel what he feels.


Abu Huraira (Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be
upon him) as having said: A woman without a husband (or divorced or a widow)
must not be married until she is consulted, and a virgin must not be married
until her permission is sought. They asked the Prophet of Allah (may peace be
upon him): How her (virgin's) consent can be solicited? He (the Holy Prophet)
said: That she keeps silence.


'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be
upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his
house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he
(the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old.


Abu Musa reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said about one
who emancipated a slave woman, and then married her, that for him there are two


'A'Asha (Allah be pleased with her) reported: A person divorced his wife by
three pronouncements; then another person married her and he also divorced her
without having sexual intercourse with her. Then the first husband of her
intended to remarry her. It was about such a case that Allah's Messenger (may
peace be upon him) was asked, whereupon he said: No, until the second one has
tasted her sweetness as the first one had tasted.


Jabir (b. Abdullah) (Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Jews used to
say that when one comes to one's wife through the vagina, but being on her back,
and she becomes pregnant, the child has a squint. So the verse came down:" Your
wives are your ti'Ith; go then unto your tilth, as you may desire."

This hadith has been reported on the authority of Jabir through another chain of
transmitters, but in the hadith transmitted on the authority of Zuhri there is
an addition (of these words):" If he likes he may (have intercourse) being on
the back or in front of her, but it should be through one opening (vagina)."


Abu Sirma said to Abu Sa'id al Khadri (Allah he pleased with him): 0 Abu Sa'id,
did you hear Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) mentioning al-'azl? He
said: Yes, and added: We went out with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him)
on the expedition to the Bi'l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab
women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives,
(but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have
sexual intercourse with them but by observing 'azl (Withdrawing the male sexual
organ before emission of semen to avoid-conception). But we said: We are doing
an act whereas Allah's Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked
Allah's Mes- senger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter if
you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of
Resurrection will be born.


Abu Darda' (Allah be pleased with him) related from the Prophet of Allah (may
peace be upon him) that he came upon a woman who was in the advanced stage of
pregnancy at the door of a tent. He (the Holy Prophet) said: Perhaps he (the man
accompanying her) intends to cohabit with her. They said: Yes. Thereupon Allah's
Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: I have decided to curse him with such a
curse as may go along with him to his grave. How can he own him (the child to be
born) and that is not lawful for him, and how can he take him as a servant for
that is not lawful for him?


Judama daughter of Wahb, sister of Ukkasha (Allah be pleased with her).
reported: I went to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) along with some
persons and he was saying: I intended to prohibit cohabitation with the suckling
women, but I considered the Greeks and Persians, and saw that they suckle their
children and this thing (cohabitation) does not do any harm to them (to the
suckling women). Then they asked him about 'azl, whereupon he said. That is the
secret (way of) burying alive, and Ubaidullah has made this addition in the
hadith transmitted by al-Muqri and that is:" When the one buried alive is


Umm al-Fadl reported: A bedouin came to Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him)
when he was in my house and said: Allah's Apostle, I have had a wife and I
married another besides her, and my first wife claimed that she had suckled once
or twice my newly married wife, thereupon Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon
him) said: One suckling or two do not make the (marriage) unlawful.


' A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Sahla bint Suhail came to
Allah's Apostle (may peace be eupon him) and said: Messengerof Allah, I see on
the face of Abu Hudhaifa (signs of disgust) on entering of Salim (who is an
ally) into (our house), whereupon Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) said:
Suckle him. She said: How can I suckle him as he is a grown-up man? Allah's
Messenger (may peace be upon him) smiled and said: I already know that he is a
young man 'Amr has made this addition in his narration that he participated in
the Battle of Badr and in the narration of Ibn 'Umar (the words are): Allah's
Messenger (may peace be upon him) laughed.


Re:Religion of Peace? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477944)

I knew Muslims were scum, and this just reaffirms my position that they should not be allowed on this planet. What a filthy people. Hitlers greatest crime was to NOT target Muslims instead of more peaceful Jews.

first freakin post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477600)

did i make it? my mom will be proud if I did

He's a doctor? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477602)

Because if so, I've got this rash... on my butt... that maybe he could take a look at and tell me what's up.

Who is this guy? (-1, Flamebait)

duffbeer703 (177751) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477614)

I guess he writes books...

Too bad this "interview" contains no background and no way for anyone except for a few slashdot editors to figure out wtf is going on.

Re:Who is this guy? (1)

Happy Monkey (183927) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477677)

Question 5 gives a list of some of his books, and other titles are mentioned in other questions. What more do you need for an author's background?

Re:Who is this guy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477692)

PSST: You're sitting at a computer which is connected to the largest collection of information and data in the known universe. Before you start telling us how ignorant you are you might want to do some work for yourself and type "Larry Niven" into google.

Re:Who is this guy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477964)


THE MAN burned the library of Alexandria. The internet's next.


Re:Who is this guy? (2, Informative)

termos (634980) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477694)

He is a science fiction writer which is known for the book series Known Space and Ringworld. I have heard that Arthur C. Clarke named him as his favourite author. He is very well known in other words. :-)

Re:Who is this guy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477723)

It strikes me as pretty amazing someone hasn't at least heard of the guy. But if you're really starved for info, I have a suggestion: The Internet. I'm sure Google can turn up a thing or two.

Re:Who is this guy? (5, Informative)

Bonker (243350) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477730)

Niven's background very nearly approaches Asimov's.

While I don't mean to sound elitist, to a science fiction fan, saying 'Larry Who? Niven? Never heard of him' would be like a physicist saying 'Niels Who? Bohr? Never heard of him."

Niven is both a *very* talented writer and an incredible world builder. While he had outside influences, he just about invented the concept of a Solar Ring World (Derived from a Dyson Sphere obviously), which has been re-used repeatedly by authors, movie-makers and comic-book artists since 'Ringworld' was originally published.

If you *really* don't know who Niven is, go do yourself a favor and get a copy of both 'Ringworld' and 'The Integral Trees' from your local library. Read them. Sit back and wait for your mind to cool down. Then go read everything else he's ever published.

Re:Who is this guy? (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477817)

I'm pretty new to sci-fi myself, and hadn't heard of him. I've heard of the Ringworld series though. I just (within the last 1-2 years) started reading sci-fi, starting with Star Wars books, then Dune and others, and I just finished the Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter Hamilton. (The Reality Dysfunction, the Neutronium Alchemist, and the Naked God) Incredible books which paint a world so real and awesome details.

I just started the Hyperion series, and after that, the Foundation trilogy. Would you put the Ringworld series in this kind of class of a whole universe unfolded for the reader? I'll need something to read after the Foundation books! :)

Re:Who is this guy? (2, Informative)

Bonker (243350) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477951)

A lot of Niven's science fiction is set in 'Known Space' (or in the same continuity). It's not just populated by the Humans who are the main characters in a lot of his books, but also by the Kzinti, Pierson's Puppeteers, and the mysterious Pak Protectors, amoung others. There are myriad worlds in Niven's books, including the aforementioned Ringworld, and many non-worlds, such as the 'Smoke Ring' in 'The Integral Trees'

Is there an intriguing universe to be unfolded there? Absolutely. For me, that universe is more real by an order or magnitude than the worlds set forth in Star Trek or Star Wars.

Re:Who is this guy? (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477985)

I started with Star Wars, but I don't think I'd say the universe is all that real. While I'm also a fan of Trek, I've never found that too... real. Just fun. :) I'll have to take a look at Ringworld after I finish the next 7 (!) books on my plate. Thanks for the reccomendation.

Re:Who is this guy? (1)

stripes (3681) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477999)

I just started the Hyperion series, and after that, the Foundation trilogy. Would you put the Ringworld series in this kind of class of a whole universe unfolded for the reader?

Yes, without reservations of any kind.

Re:Who is this guy? (3, Informative)

tcdk (173945) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478151)

I just started the Hyperion series, and after that, the Foundation trilogy. Would you put the Ringworld series in this kind of class of a whole universe unfolded for the reader? I'll need something to read after the Foundation books! :)

I'm not the one you are responding to but: yes. And no. The ringworld series fall off to quickly, in my opinion. Ringworld Engineers is okay (for a Niven book, which means better than most :-) and does a good job of answering a lot of the questions raised in the first book.

The Ringworld Throne is .... not something to bend over backwards to get your hands on. It's really two stories, one of them not really related to the Ringworld (could have happened any where) and one... just bad.

Your are certainly ripping through the master pieces. It's kind of sad that you read Night's Dawn before you read the Foundation books - you would have gotten more out of Night's Dawn if you had read more classics first.

I would recommend that you read some robot stories by Asimov before you read foundation. The more classics you have read, the better you'll understand the new classics. Names: Heinlein, Harrison, EE 'doc' Smith (If you had read Doc Smith you would have had double the fun when you read Peter Hamilton), Poul Anderson.

When you are done with your current reading plan: go for everything by Iain (M) Banks, read everything else by Simmons, check if you like John Barnes, I've aversions to David Brin, but can understand why most people like him, Ken Macleod, Linda Nagata,....

Now, now... (4, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478037)

"Niven's background very nearly approaches Asimov's."

Now, now, there, we all know who's more prolific. [amazon.com]

Makes Larry [amazon.com] look like a bit of a slacker, actually!

I always thought that Larry should work a little more dilegently. I want more!

Re:Who is this guy? (0, Flamebait)

isorox (205688) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477970)

Indeed, just because "Several Slashdot staff people are major Larry Niven fans", doesnt mean we *all* know he's the lead singer of Nivarna.

(p.s. not every person reading slashdot is a sci-fi fan, and even thsoe that are, some might prefer TV-scifi (trek, wars, bab 5), and not the books. I've read ringworld, but I dont connect authors and books - I have a lousy memory for that, same as a lousy memory for faces)

pist fost! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477617)


Larry Niven (a.k.a. Jerry Pournelle) is a jerk (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477618)

Anyone remember reading those totally tedious and pretentoius 'Chaos Mannor' articles in BYTE years ago. The guy's an egomaniac and a major legue bore.

Maybe what we're up against is the universe (5, Insightful)

Tailhook (98486) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477623)

Amen. Put that in your NASA/Military Industrial Complex conspiracy pipe and smoke it. The Universe has no compelling reason to cater to whims and dreams of mortals. There is no "grass roots" road to space. Get over it.

Re:Maybe what we're up against is the universe (3, Insightful)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477914)

And frankly, until there is something that would truly require human study and analysis, we just won't see any strong drive to send a manned mission out of orbit anytime soon. The improved capabilities of orbiting telescopes and robotic exploration [nasa.gov] have pretty much eliminated the need for manned missions in the short- to medium-term. It's not that we're not exploring, we're just not sticking our (astronaut's) necks out.


Subject Line Troll (581198) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477934)


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5478182)

You truly are a troll to be commended. One of these days you're going to get me in trouble at work, though.

Re:Maybe what we're up against is the universe (3, Insightful)

ChuckDivine (221595) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477966)

You could be right. The human race has shown a weakness for impossible dreams. Consider, for example, ancient mythologies, or the "ideal" of modern communism. Myths about gods residing on Olympus and entering into the affairs of humans are clearly not true. Similarly, the notions of that contemporary mythology known as communism have been similarly discredited.

However, we do know that the NASA-aerospace industrial complex has many dysfunctional features. In some ways it's been getting worse over the years. Can current NASA problems be fixed? Reforms have been successfully made to other institutions.

Before we chuck out our dreams, perhaps we should consider changing the current approach to the problems. This could mean reform of the existing establishment, creating new ways out of whole cloth or some combination.

Goldin's efforts probably worsened the existing situation. It remains to be seen whether the impact of O'Keefe's reforms will be positive or negative.

Thanks for the interview! (2, Informative)

eaddict (148006) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477628)

I hope to see more authors here! Too bad PKD is dead. I guess I will have to live with "What If Our World Is Their Heaven? The Final Conversations of Philip K. Dick" which is a great read!

Re: PKD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5478057)

I hope that PKD is not one of the 'lesser talents' who had his stories made into movies. Sure manyof the movies were sub-par, but that does not diminish PKDs writings.

The machine gnomes stole my drugs! (2, Funny)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478066)

Hey, we're talking PKD here!

It seems to me that channeling might be a perfectly reasonable way to conduct an interview!

Wisdom vs. Intelligence (4, Funny)

schon (31600) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477630)

Joel Rosenberg put it best in "The Sleeping Dragon":

The difference between intelligence and wisdom is the difference between Edith Bunker and Richard Nixon.

Edith has high wisdom and low intelligence, and Nixon is the other way around.

Re:Wisdom vs. Intelligence (2, Insightful)

revery (456516) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477696)

Thanks for reminding of Joel Rosenberg and his excellent novels. They are some of the best fantasy I have ever read. It's been far too long since I've read them.

Re:Wisdom vs. Intelligence (0, Offtopic)

schon (31600) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478115)

Thanks for reminding of Joel Rosenberg and his excellent novels.

You're very welcome!

They are some of the best fantasy I have ever read.

Agreed. He has an amazing talent for characterization. (Not to mention storytelling.)

It's been far too long since I've read them.

You should go back and re-read them.. I did recently, and they still hold up. you can start with The Sleeping Dragon [baen.com], which is available at the Baen Free Library. (The Sleeping Dragon, The Sword and the Chain, and The Silver Crown have been re-released in one volume, entitled "The Guardians of the Flame")

Outer Limits (1)

Kallahar (227430) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477631)

What was the Outer Limits episode he wrote?


Re:Outer Limits (5, Informative)

scowling (215030) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477661)

"Inconstant Moon", from the more recent (90s) series. It starred Michael Gross and Joanna Gleason, and is considered one of the finest, if not *the* finest, episode of the series.

Re:Outer Limits (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477953)

I just asked myself "is that the episode where..." and found out, yes it was.

So as not to post a spoiler here, here's a link to a synopsis of the story...

http://www.tvtome.com/OuterLimits/season2.html#e p3 4

Re:Outer Limits (1)

travdaddy (527149) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478069)

OK, now I'm intrigued, but I doubt I'll ever see the episode... how does it end? You might should put SPOILER warnings all over your reply! :D

Re:Outer Limits (1)

CadmannWeyland (609987) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478179)

And "Inconstant Moon" was originally one of Niven's excellent short stories. For anyone new to Niven, I'd highly recommend picking up one of his short story collections (Such as "N-Space" or "Playgrounds of the Mind" which he mentions in the interview).

Great stuff....


Re:Outer Limits (3, Interesting)

WinPimp2K (301497) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477904)

I was channel surfing and clicked over to this on it's opening scene. I saw the too-bright moon and instantly knew that whatever the darn show was, it was based on "Inconstant Moon" before they ever got to the title or opening credits.

While it was good for TV, it lost most of the humorous bits that made the actual story so much more enjoyable (and really nailed the main character for me). Since I had last read that story more than ten years earlier, I think it is safe to say it struck me as very good story.

Now if you want to have some fun, name the TV series that Niven's collaborator (Pournelle) wrote an episode for. I started laughing out loud when I saw "written by Jerry Pournelle" on the credits. Note that this was an episode he wrote, not an episode based on one of his stories. (Hint: it involved an improbably old Civil War veteran and his cannon)

Good SF and bad movies... (5, Interesting)

Jhon (241832) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477674)

10) Movie Jealousy? by spun David Brin has been forthright concerning his jealousy over bad SF being made into movies while his work is not...
It's been my experience that GOOD sf books turn in to NASTY sf movies. Since David Brin's name was brought up, let's look at The Postman. In my opinion, it was a fantastic story which, once turned in to a movie made me feel like I'd been violated

Of course, it might have been entirely the fault of Kevin Costner...

- Jhon

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (5, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477800)

Compare and contrast the original Blade Runner with Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. The film massacred the book. The recent edited version was a lot better, but still cut out the whole religion and culture of the world; I suppose those couldn't realistically fit into a film.

Obviously the Niven book that would make the best big-budget effects monstrosity of a film would be Ringworld... but cast the wrong person as Louis and you face disaster. Making Speaker-to-Animals and Nessus look plausible would be a heck of a job, too. Compared to that, the CG involved in creating the ring, the flycycles and the flying buildings would be trivial.

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (5, Insightful)

Coz (178857) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477868)

The effects are easy, nowadays... it still depends on the ability of the screenwriters, actors, and director to tell the story. Speaker and Nessus could be done, IMHO - they would probably be CGI, and it would be on a scale similar to Gollum in LOTR.

All that said, I still foamed at the mouth when I found out Verhoven had dropped the powered armor from Starship Troopers. He pretty much proved he couldn't direct, or select good actors, too.

I hope the Heinlein estate made good money off that monstrosity.

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5478203)

Starship Troopers was a great film - it really effectively skewered the horrible idiotic ideology and propoganda behind the book. The actors were ideal for the roles, and the directing was second-to-none. The only people who don't like it are those who were gulled by the book into believing fascism could be OK.

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (3, Insightful)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477870)

I disagree WRT Blade Runner. I think it was an incredible movie, even though it was altogether different from the book.

A good book is always going to be more cerebral than any movie made out of it. I prefer when a director/scriptwriter is inspired by the story and translates it into a good film, rather than trying to recreate the book page for page.

Kubricks "The Shining" is another good example. The movie tells an altogether different story than the novel, but both are excellent.

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (1)

ahodgson (74077) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477896)

Ya but Blade Runner is still a classic, and one of the best SF films ever made. I agree the director's cut was much better though.

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (1)

XavierFan (99064) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477816)

Another example would be Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers...a classic sci-fi novel turned into a B movie.

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (2, Interesting)

ChurchyardTX (649775) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478017)

Another stinker: Contact. The movie of Sagan's book discarded the most interesting theme, that of God/Science and where they meet.

(In the book, she proves intelligent design of the universe. In the movie, she gets a goverment grant and a boyfriend. Hooray for Hollywood.)

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (2, Interesting)

Xoro (201854) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478024)

Starship Troopers...a classic sci-fi novel turned into a B movie

Heh. But Starship Troopers was a pretty good movie when they released it as "Aliens". And the whole mobile suit thing has certainly held its own in the visual medium...

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (2, Insightful)

banzai51 (140396) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478031)

Disclaimer: I haven't read the book.

You, and all who pan Troopers in the same manner, have missed the point. It was the point to make it a campy B movie. They were lampooning the conformist attitude and showing the effects of totalitarian rule. Intellect is marginalized unless it is directly controlled by the state. The mindless football stud is elevated to puppet-hero; a perfect vassal for the powers that be. A violent reaction to those who are different. I realize books tend to be much better and have more depth than movies, but jesus, did the entire geek community only see the surface reflection of this movie????

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (1)

Steve B (42864) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478093)

Starship Troopers is a special case, as Verhoeven was going out of his way to misrepresent the concepts behind the novel.

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (2, Insightful)

wesmo (181075) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477903)

You have to detatch the way your imagination depicts the the way any book, SF or otherwise, is written. The beauty of any novel is that, while the author is drawing an defining scenes and conversation, it is your mind that pieces it all together.

Each of us may read the same novel, but we will formulate our own mental picture.

Any movie will, perhaps, come close to what some of us imagined, but it will never be an exact copy of what we all imagined.

Personally, I have found that if you disconnect the novel from the movie, at least a little, you get to enjoy it more as a seperate story than as a carbon-copy-that-failed story.

Re:Good SF and bad movies... (1)

pjt48108 (321212) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478176)

My favorite neat book/bad sf movie is When World Collide. Mad props to George Pal and the movie company, but that movie really stunk after I read the book.

"Enough said" (-1)

sucko (257144) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477675)

really? I don't you've said anything at all, because I have no idea who he is or why I should care about the interview.

Re:"Enough said" (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477716)

He's an incredibly famous author and any uncultured bastard who doesn't know who he is should be smote.

Learn to use google before you show the world how truly ignorant you are.

Re:"Enough said" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5478046)

>He's an incredibly famous author and any uncultured bastard who doesn't know who he is should be smote. That's a little harsh, isn't it? Keep in mind that while he may be considered one of the major founders of SF a lot of us were not around for the founding of the genre. I'd never noticed Niven's books in stores -- the only reason I read Ringworld is that I saw it on my dad's bookcase when I was a kid. Granted, one could ask for clarification politely but that's not the point.

Paper Copies (2, Interesting)

Oculus Habent (562837) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477719)

"paper copies are easier to read and carry around"

As a laptop, I have read over dozens of books while sitting on the couch, lying in bed, or in the breakroom at work. While any one paperback is probably lighter than my laptop, I needed the laptop anyway.

I've even read a few books on my PDA, which is even more convenient to carry around.

Re:Paper Copies (2, Informative)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477774)

I read a fair bit on my PDA. I think reading on most 'modern' (ha) PDAs would be a pain- the tiny PalmOS device screens would be the worst, but even a 320x240 3.5" PocketPC screen would be a pain. I've done some reason on my Jornada 720 (640x240) as well as on my Newton (480x320). While illegal, you can find a lot of good books (sci-fi especially) on-line. A bunch of the books I've read on my PDA have been ones I own, but it's nice to be able to read without carry around more and more stuff.

Re:Paper Copies (3, Insightful)

taliver (174409) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477840)

As an avid PalmOS reader, I thought I'd share.

So, I have a Sony Clie. Screens a bit small, but it's quite sharp.

On it I have a free program, 'PalmReader'. It basically shows about a paragraph at a time on the screen. Since the Clie has a thumb scroll wheel, this is quite usable.

Using a 128MB Memory Stick, I have enough room for quite a few books. I went to Project Gutenberg [promo.net] and downloaded several classic works. You know, all those books your English Teachers thought you were old enough to appreciate in 11th grade but weren't.

So now I carry around a small virtual library of English Literature, and whenever I find myself stading around waiting for anything, I start reading where I left off (Hell, I replaced the ToDo list button with the Palm Reader for quick access). It's now by far the most used program on my Palm. I even finished 'Count of Monte Cristo' on the airplane with it.

Quite easy to implement, and infinitely useful.

Re:Paper Copies (1)

Oculus Habent (562837) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477918)

My PDA is an old, but still quite useful, Handspring Visor Deluxe. With 8MB of RAM, it has plenty of space to store a book or two, and the paragraph-at-a-time is fine - you can veritably fly through the book without dealign with page changes. With the PDA being small enough and light enough to hold in one hand, there is no discomfort about having to hold the PDA. With the backlight (seldom used by me, though) you can read just about anywhere, anytime.

Re:Paper Copies (1)

mikeboone (163222) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478077)

I just finished reading Robinson Crusoe on my Handspring Visor. There are a lot of formatted books available at http://www.pluckerbooks.com [pluckerbooks.com]. These can be viewed with the Plucker browser (http://www.plkr.org/index.plkr [plkr.org]) which also can do AvantGo type stuff.

All stuff with expired copyrights. There's some good stuff in there. Too bad Disney and congress will never let us add anything past 1920 to it. :(

Hear, hear (4, Insightful)

m_chan (95943) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477753)

...after all, there are things I can't copyright or patent or trademark. "Halo" looks like a poor man's Ringworld, but I didn't invent spin gravity.
That is an astute observation by an incredibly fertile mind. I can not help but see how what he says he _can't_ do is repeatedly attempted and successfully accomplished by many companies and people, more and more often to the detriment of future creators and to society at large.

I interpret that it is not that he sees no value in protection of ideas and innovation, but that he sees the reasonable limits and values of that protection. Hear, hear, Dr. Niven.

Re:Hear, hear (2, Funny)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477827)

I interpret that it is not that he sees no value in protection of ideas and innovation, but that he sees the reasonable limits and values of that protection. Suppose he _had_ patented the Ringworld. What's he going to do, sue the Pak?

SF?? (2, Funny)

pummer (637413) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477763)

Lots of folks love SF: Today there's a cable network... SourceForge has its own network?? What do they show, reruns of Slashcode 0.2 or something?

Pratchett (4, Interesting)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477764)

It first it surprised me to see it being between the authors he read more, as I put him in a hard sci fi category and pratchet is... well, mostly fantasy (is one of my preferred authors also). But in fact, in Discworld there are a lot of science fiction ideas on it, for stories that have all that funny stuff and absurd situations they finish having pretty heavy stuff on them.

Also, I think that name Discworld is somewhat based in Ringworld, and being Niven being a fan of Discworld could make Pratchett very happy.

Re:Pratchett (4, Interesting)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477905)

It first it surprised me to see it being between the authors he read more, as I put him in a hard sci fi category and pratchet is... well, mostly fantasy (is one of my preferred authors also). But in fact, in Discworld there are a lot of science fiction ideas on it, for stories that have all that funny stuff and absurd situations they finish having pretty heavy stuff on them.

Discworld magic is turning into science at a tremendous rate. I think the world's getting away from him; after two dozen books, the world's either totally stale or becoming dangerously real. Ponder is converting all of magic to physics, a link that has been there in spirit ever since the law of conservation of energy gave Rincewind a tough time in Colour of Magic. Ankh-Morpork itself is turning into a real city, independent of the heroes and monsters that occasionally march through, independent of whoever thinks he's in charge at the time. Vetinari maintains only a semblance of control - I get the feeling that Terry is in the same position.

Personally, I blame Cohen and Stewart for the science creeping into Discworld. The Collapse of Chaos and Figments of Reality have had a clear influence on the development of the Discworld in the last five years or so. Terry was quoted on the cover of Figments as calling it 'the most thought-provoking book I've read all year' - and it clearly provoked a whole lot of thought. Ankh's economy has been particularly heavily affected by the ideas Cohen and Stewart put forward.

OK, let's bring this back on-topic. Niven reads Pratchett. Pratchett reads Cohen and Stewart. And guess what? There's a whole chapter in Figments about the Moties...

Re:Pratchett (1)

revery (456516) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478209)

Also, I think that name Discworld is somewhat based in Ringworld,

It's definitely more of a linguistic basis than anything else. The concept of a disc shaped planet supported on the backs of four elephants who are in turn, standing on the back of an enourmous turlte is not very physically analagous to a ribbon of steel a million miles wide that revolves around a star.

It's funny though. The whole reason that I read (and became thoroughly addicted to) the Discworld novels in the first place is that I had just read and loved the Ringworld novels and was hoping that they were an intelligent parody.

Boy was I wrong, and yet not the least bit disappointed.


Was it the sheep climbing onto the altar, or the cattle lowing to be slain,
or the Son of God hanging dead and bloodied on a cross that told me this was a world condemnded, but loved and bought with blood.

Score 5: Insightful (3, Interesting)

frostfreek (647009) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477798)

Finally, a well written interview response.
After reading a few of the recent Interview Answers, I was beginning to think the Slashdot interviews were a waste of blog, with nothing but terse, off the cuff replies.
Thanks to Larry Niven for spending more than 30 seconds!

Mote (2, Informative)

scharkalvin (72228) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477859)

I just read an article in Astronomy magazine about travel to the stars using a laser to drive a sail craft. I thought this sounded too familiar. Sure enough Niven has been there. I'm going to have to pick up a copy of "Mote in God's eye" and re-read it. I think he also 'invented' the Bussard ram jet too.

Re:Mote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5478051)

You capitalized the term Bussard. Doesn't this tell you something? Isn't there an overwhelmingly large, obvious fact sitting right in front of you? Have you figured out what it is yet? Bussard isn't just some random name that Niven applied to "his" invention, it's the surname of Robert W. Bussard, the man who really "invented" the Bussard ram jet.

Re:Mote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5478133)

didn't the quotes around 'invented' tell you he was being sarcastic? /. sucks

My first encounter with Niven (5, Interesting)

Seq (653613) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477876)

I had a book report to do in high school. It was obvious that I had to do science fiction, as I rather enjoy reading such literature. Unfortunately, thrown into that section of the library, I was a little lost, if only by the size of the science fiction shelves. I took a browse through, and recognized names of authors I've read before, but came across one called "ringworld", by a fellow named "Larry Niven". I hadn't heard of him (I, myself, find this hard to believe now), but figured it was probably rather good, as it had five copies in a public library. I started the book on a friday night, and while I cannot remember if it was saturday night or sunday night that I finished it, I couldnt put the book down for more than a few moments without deciding to read "just one more chapter." That is the only assignment I finished in high school without waiting for the deadline to approach. This probably wont interest anybody, but I just figured I would share my story of my first experience with Niven's work. I'd highly reccommend his work to anyone.

Re:My first encounter with Niven (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5478162)

No, it doesn't interest anybody. Please keep your boring anecdotes to yourself.

Next story leaked! Prepare your posts. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477880)

Microsoft Releases Office 2003 Beta

Posted by Hemos on Monday March 10, @1:03PM
from the let's-be-nice-with-our-advertizers dept.

$$$$$exyGal writes "According to CNN [cnn.com], Microsoft has released a test version of its latest Office productivity suite overhaul [cnn.com] Content management has always been a hobby of mine. I wonder how many people will actually use this ? Nobody wants to train someone to turn their wrist when everybody already knows how to swing their arms. You see where this is going ;-) I'm just saying this isn't that big a deal. Now, again, why is my dog's tail wagging? ;-)"

Re: Answer 2: Is Science Fiction healthy (5, Insightful)

HiThere (15173) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477884)

This is a harder question than it looks. I don't think it is healthy, but good real science fiction has always been such a small slice of the market that it's quite difficult to be sure except for decades later. E.g., Robert Forward was a great science fiction writer. And a pretty good story teller, too. Ditto for Hal Clement. And a very few others. Most well known authors have been great story tellers, who plied their trade in the Science Fiction area. E.g., Jules Verne. (The hollow earth hasn't been a reasonable idea since Newton. Just do a few calculation on the strength of materials required to make it work.)

Most of what's called good science fiction is actually good story telling. Nothing wrong with that, but story telling can play in any field. Science fiction is different. Ringworld was a great concept for a science fiction story. But it made use of a lot of magic (hyperdrive) to make the story work. So it's a great story, and a good science fiction story.

With that background: It seems to me that science fiction is both in trouble, and more vital than ever. The reason science fiction is in trouble is the same reason that even narrow specialists can't keep up with their fields. And that's the same reason that it's more important than ever. I consider Lobster's (et seq.) to be the best science fiction that I've read in the last decade. There's almost no magic in them. The only weakness I see is that some of the characters are a bit difficult to empathize with. Which weakens it a bit as a story, but not as Science Fiction. But, and here's the catch: Lobsters takes place within the next 50 years. (10 if I take the story literally.) Now if things are changing that fast, and they appear to be, long term projections go right out the window. (As it was, Larry Niven used hand-waving magic to justify not using computers to navigate hyperspace. And it took magic, because without magic 1: people wouldn't be able to do the navigation, and 2: computers would have done a much better job. But people make a much better story.)

So I say that science fiction is in dire trouble, and that most of what passes for science fiction is really just high-tech fantasy. But there are still a few exceptions.

You're friggin joking!? (1)

BerntB (584621) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478147)

Robert Forward was a great science fiction writer. And a pretty good story teller, too.
Robert Forward a good story teller!? He's a damn good and creative engineer and researcher, but a good author he bloody well is not!

Forward couldn't write literature or write up a believable portrait of anyone to save his life!

I usually describe Forward as the worst author I buy books in hard cover from...

Copyright a plot? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477891)

Once upon a time there was a gaming article that blew away the punch lines of several Man-Kzin War stories. I asked that it not be published. In that case too, I acted to protect my copyrights and my authors.

This doesn't sound right to me. How can he stop someone from giving away the ending. Sure, he can ask nice and hope they are nice, but talks acts like he had some kind of legal right. WTF?

I do love Larry Niven... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477897)

What should I do in my life?!!

Re:I do love Larry Niven... (-1, Troll)

telstar (236404) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477938)

Kill your parents, kill your friends, then kill yourself...
Make sure you get your whole head in front of the shotgun...

Dr. Niven, the villian (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477928)

The only thing worse than being ignorant is not knowing how ignorant you are. That's Dr. Larry Niven's problem. Read on, gentle reader, and hear what I have to say. Dr. Niven's claim that skin color means more than skill and gender is more impressive than genius is factually unsupported and politically motivated. I wonder if he really believes the things he says. He knows they're not true, doesn't he? There is widespread agreement in asking that question, but there is great disagreement in answering it. By allowing Dr. Niven to destroy our sense of safety in the places we ordinarily imagine we can flee to, we are allowing him to play puppet master. If you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem. If you've ever watched television or read a book, odds are that you already know that if I withheld my feelings on this matter, I'd be no less libidinous than Dr. Niven.

It may seem difficult at first to stop his encroachments on our heritage. It is. But the baneful nature of his ideologies is not just a rumor. It is a fact to which I can testify. For heaven's sake, Dr. Niven should stop playing verbal games and tell us what he really means. Period, finis, and Q.E.D. Faith is harder to shake than knowledge, love succumbs less to change than respect, hate is more enduring than aversion, and it's antisocial for him to inflict more death and destruction than Genghis Khan's hordes. Or perhaps I should say, it's villainous. If someone were to stifle dissent, I'd rather it be an army of hectoring, benighted poseurs than Dr. Niven, because the latter is mischievous, while the former are only uninformed. Anyhow, I guess I've run out of things to say, so let me just leave you with one parting wish: Together, may we allay the concerns of the many people who have been harmed by Dr. Larry Niven.

Why is this Flamebait? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5478119)

It holds certain truths that are hard to dispute.

oh well./ Sucky moderation.

Re:Dr. Niven, the villian (0, Flamebait)

monopole (44023) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478124)

Alas, I fear that I have much the same problem with the later Niven. His early work was excellent but in the 80's it degenerated into far-right rants and white-boy wish fulfillment. It's really a pity.

The staff can suck eggs (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5477946)

Several Slashdot staff people are major Larry Niven fans, so we feel he needs no introduction

Is this news for nerds or some Punk Rock show where the originals spend all their time denying chances to educate and excluding newbies as mere posers unworthy of your time?

It's the same elitist community bullshit that holds back wider adoption Linux by making people think that only smelly, hippy, anime fanboy wanksters are smart enough to figure out how to use it.

The Slashdot staff can go suck eggs. Enough said.

Regarding the last two questions (5, Interesting)

LionMage (318500) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477971)

Well, I knew someone would bring up Elf Sternberg's stories, and how Mr. Sternberg ran afoul of Larry Niven. Naturally, Niven claims that Sternberg violated his copyrights. Pardon me, but I was under the impression that copyright only applied to complete works; you can only trademark a name, such as "Kzin." (Paramount goes nuts with claiming trademarks and registered trademarks on everything under the sun, so I know this is pretty standard practice.) Similarly, although IANAL, I understand that you technically can't claim copyright on a character or a concept, only on a work of fiction involving that character or concept.

Not that I think Elf's stories are worth the electrons wasted in transmitting them. Those of us old enough to remember Elf's massive cross-posts of his fiction to a number of Usenet newsgroups (many of which were, in fact, inappropriate venues for this sort of work) will remember the complaints about wasted bandwidth and so forth. At least now that this junk is all archived on the web, only people who want to see it can go seek it out, and the rest of us are spared.

What's interesting, though, is that Elf claims "The Only Fair Game" is the original story where he ran afoul of Niven. I seem to recall an earlier work of Elf's that mentioned Kzinti, which was later edited so that the one Kzin character was changed to some sort of anthropomorphic tiger. (There have to be some early archives of the Usenet posts that contain the original version of the story.) I remember Niven's editorial in one of the Man Kzin Wars books, where he blasts Elf (though not by name) for writing a rather bad story involving a "sadomasochistic homosexual gang-bang." I'll never forget that line. Anyway, I assumed that Niven was speaking about this other, earlier story, and had no idea "The Only Fair Game" even existed until today.

The thing is, though, Sternberg doesn't just steal from Niven's work -- he steals freely from a variety of writers. (I've found elements of C. J. Cherryh's books in some of the stories.) Which leads to the natural question, what can an author do legally to prevent someone from stealing things outright? Short of the Paramount solution (i.e., claim trademark on everything), I don't see that there's much you can do except threatening someone with legal action and hoping they can't afford to fight back in court.

My only other comment is regarding the question of film adaptation, and why so many bad SciFi stories get made into films whereas the "good stuff" never makes it to film. Ignoring for the moment the definition of what constitutes good Sci Fi, I wanted to comment that I was aghast at Niven's seemingly congratulatory tone speaking of how The Postman got turned into a film. I enjoyed David Brin's The Postman, but the film was nothing short of horrible. Costner methodically removed any trace of the Sci Fi elements present in the original book, and dumbed down the dialogue so much that I almost walked out in the first 30 minutes.

Bottom line, I think a bad film adaptation of a Sci Fi book is worse than no adaptation being made at all. I mean, how would Niven feel if some Hollywood mogul made a version of Ringworld, but removed all of what made it good Sci Fi?

Maybe Niven should be grateful nobody's raped his intellectual property yet, rather than being jealous.

Patrick O'Brian -- hear hear (1)

ianscot (591483) | more than 11 years ago | (#5477976)

Patrick O'Brian's sea stories, courtesy of John Hertz.

Cool to see that name on his list of inspirational reading. They're not similar writers; O'Brian's series are historical fiction, and their heart is really the complex, evolving friendship between the two main characters. Not really Niven territory, but they're astonishingly good once you're in the mindset.

The Sequel Question (4, Interesting)

Rayonic (462789) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478146)

It's too bad that the question of sequels didn't make the cut to be asked. I've noticed a trend in Niven's body of work -- he's not good at direct sequels. Really, some of his sequels fall short of the original novel, while the others fall far, far short.

Even when collaborating, the man just can't make a good series. Look at The Gripping Hand for a prime example. Am I the only one who notices this trend?

(Disclaimer: I've only read 50-60% of his work so far. Mainly it's the short stories I have to catch up with.)

All very nice but (4, Interesting)

uncadonna (85026) | more than 11 years ago | (#5478152)

Junk science cuts both ways. Niven's "Fallen Angels" strikes me as malign, irresponsible propaganda.

It's fine for people to advance their point of view, but putting bogus science in the mix is a stunt that I would wish, to put it mildly, Niven would avoid. Some of the readership might think the scientifically literate characters in this story were describing the way the actual real universe works.

I'm all for progress, mind you, and I'm as tired as the next geek of people who don't believe in it. I'm just not for pretending that unconstrained pollution is the cure for an imminent ice age in the actual real world. The way "evidence" was mustered for this conclusion in this book is classic junk science.

This book is entertaining as light fiction, but in a way that is divisive, contemptuous, ignorant and destructive. It irresponsibly damages serious discourse. I'm sure it's done considerable harm to some of its adolescent readership. It ruined any respect I had for Niven.

No introduction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5478167)

Why does the person who posted the article assume that just because the /. staff know who this guy is that the /. readers also know who he is? I would have appreciated an introduction.
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