In my middle youth, I had a best friend that fit all the requirements you would want in a best friend: lived close, liked the things I did and liked me. That’s important, since I could not easily talk with people (as opposed to now, where many people think I talk too easily).
We did the things best friends do. We played sports together, we rode bikes together, we visited Grandmas together, we liked to draw and we liked to read. Most of the time, we liked to read the same stuff, but there were differences, mostly because he was smarter than me.
When I say smarter, I don’t mean wiser, I mean smarter…and I was pretty smart, too. But, if I was a calculator, my friend was a computer. He would eventually go on to work at NASA, start his own software company, sell it for millions and is now currently enjoying a life of quiet luxury. He even allows me to still call him my friend.
Why have I taken so much time to talk about this nameless friend in a blog ostensibly about Larry Niven? No, not because my friend is Mr. Niven. However, my buddy did introduce me to Larry Niven…through reading his books. And keep my childhood friend in mind…we’ll be visiting later during this series on my creative influences.
Niven was my first introduction to “hard” science fiction. Beginning with stories he wrote in the 1960’s, he began to weave together a timeline of a thousand years involving dozens of races and hundreds of characters collectively referred to as “Known Space”. Meticulous and detailed, he would refine his generation spanning saga as new scientific knowledge became available. Through this process, he seamlessly created the retroactive back story that kept the stories and novels he wrote (which spanned several decades of “our” time) integrated without seeming outdated. For scope and imagination, it rivals any of the most fantastic series ever created in Science Fiction and Fantasy.
I enjoyed his writing style, in that it was crisp and direct. It was a change from the more expansive styles I had been accustomed to and the pace was refreshing. Later in his career, as he partnered with other authors, he branched into some truly surprising directions that I found myself enjoying in a different way than his magnum opus.
To find out the titles of those novels that captured my imagination, pop over to the Jeremy Shuttle Adventures Facebook page for some links…