Happy birthday Larry Niven!

Larry Niven in 2010 (photo ┬ęCeridwen)
Larry Niven in 2010 (photo ┬ęCeridwen)

Laurence van Cott Niven was born on April 30, 1938, in Los Angeles, California, USA.

In 1962 Larry Niven earned a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from Washburn University, Topeka, Kansas. In 1964 he decided to become a writer and published the first story, “The Coldest Place”. It also begins the Tales of Known Space, a future history that covers about a millennium of history from the human beings’ first attempts of expanding into the solar system.

In the following years, Larry Niven wrote a number of works within the Tales of Known Space beginning with the novel “World of Ptavvs” (1966). The author introduced various alien species until the beginning of the series of Ringworld, a gigantic artificial ring that revolves around its own star, with the novel “Ringworld” (1970), winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards.

In addition to continuing that cycle, Larry Niven began various collaborations with some of his fellow writers, in some cases to write novels set in his Known Space. Together with David Gerrold he wrote “The Flying Sorcerers” (1971). A particular case is “Berserker Base: A Collaborative Novel” (1984), written by Larry Niven, Poul Anderson, Edward Bryant, Stephen Donaldson, Fred Saberhagen, Connie Willis, and Roger Zelazny.

His most important collaboration is with Jerry Pournelle, with whom Larry Niven has written several novels including the two of the Motie mini-cycle “The Mote in God’s Eye” (1974) and “The Gripping Hand”, also known as “The Moat Around Murcheson’s Eye” (1993).

Not all Larry Niven’s novels are part of the Tales of Known Space, for example, the State trilogy is set in a different fictional universe. It’s composed of the novels “A World Out of Time” (1976), “The Integral Trees” (1984), the winner of the Locus Award, and “The Smoke Ring” (1987).

Larry Niven is above all a science fiction writer but he also wrote the fantasy series known as Magic Goes Away, which started with the 1978 novel “The Magic Goes Away”. Over the years, the author has written 5 sequels for a total of 6 novels.

Another important collaboration for Larry Niven was the one with Steven Barnes, with whom he wrote several novels among which the Dream Park series stands out. In a three-way collaboration, Larry Niven, Steven Barnes, and Jerry Pournelle wrote the first two novels of the Heorot series, to which Niven later added a third novel set in the same fictional universe.

Larry Niven’s most recent collaboration is with Gregory Benford to write their 2012 novel “Bowl of Heaven” and its sequel “Shipstar” in 2014.

Larry Niven continues his work as a writer so we can expect new works, written on his own or in collaboration. When he wrote his first science fiction stories, many fellow writers were moving toward new trends such as the new wave movement but he preferred more traditional themes, which at the time seemed obsolete to many people. Niven developed them in a solid way, basing his stories on plausible scientific and technological premises, eventually influencing writers of the next generations.


  1. I was 16 or 17 in the late 70’s when I read Ringworld. It was the first hard science fiction I had ever read. Fell for it hard.


    1. It’s certainly the kind of novel that leaves a big impression, especially if you’re a teenager!


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