The Enquiring Hitchhiker Interviews Larry Niven

Larry Niven is one of the old guard of hard science fiction writers. His ringworld Novels are some of the most widely read science fiction novels of all time. It was our pleasure to interview him for the site.

The Hitchhiker asks…..

Question 1- I asked this question of Dr. Pournelle but I also would like your opinion on the same question. The modern trend in speculative fiction is away from hard science fiction and has moved towards a melange of vampire eroticism, mystical children, and medieval fantasy. Even when Hollywood attempts a science fiction story (see my review of the new Total Recall) they infuse the story with so much pseudo-scientific gobbledegook that it gives me a headache. Do you think that this lack of interest in hard science fiction says something about our society?

I touched on vampire eroticism in the Ringworld series. Mystical children: never tried it. Medeival fantasy: sort of, in the Magic Goes Away stories. I try not to follow trends.

Hollywood sometimes does well with SF movies. Hard SF generally goes transcendental at the end, like 2001 did, perhaps because there’s no clear end to the conquest of space. Less ambitious movies can succeed brilliantly, like Westworld and Rollerball and Aliens. The gobbledegook problem is that it isn’t really researched: it’s just babble, a tradition well established by 3rd season Star Trek.

But our society has always been like that. I’ve seen progress: you used to have to hide your SF books.

Question 2- Who is your favorite author and what is your favorite book?

We tend to flinch from this question. It’s a great chance to offend all of our friends but one.

I’ll cop to reading everything by Tim Powers, Terry Pratchett, Robert Heinlein. I love The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. Neil Stephenson and Neil Gaiman are great.

Question 3- My personal favorite book of your’s is the one you wrote with Jerrry Pournelle called Lucifer’s Hammer. Since I have asked several authors their opinion of what they would do to prepare for a scenario such as the one described in the book, I thought I would change the question for you and ask what you would do to rebuild later on if you happened to be one of the survivors?

The real Dan Forrester was Dan Alderson, and we got our data from him. I’d use the books he would have preserved in that septic tank (in Hammer.)

Me, I’d get to Jerry Pournelle and follow directions. He considers me an idea source.

Question 4- In your work man meets the alien Kzin race and promptly goes to war with them again and again. The naked ape is constantly defeating a trained warrior race of giant cats. Do you think that first physical contact with an alien race will end in war and do you think Mankind really has that internal killer instinct ready to come out?

It’s not plausible that the first alien we meet will be that close to our own state of civilization. Bet that they’re a billion years advanced beyond us. Yes, the internal killer is ready to come out, but he doesn’t stand a chance.

Question 5- Over the span of your career you have been seen as both a liberal and a conservative. Where on the political spectrum would you place yourself and why?

Raised Republican. I dropped out when George Bush Sr. raised taxes. I’m still waiting for an apology. Currently Libertarian. I sent money to Newt Gingrich, the only candidate who doesn’t think that a base on the Moon is funny.



Thank you for the Interview we really appreciate you taking time out to speak with us.

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