Larry Niven Biography

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Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

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Laurence Van Cott Niven (Larry Niven) was born in Los Angeles on April 30, 1938, to a lawyer, Waldemar Van Cott Niven and Lucy Estelle (nee Doheny) Niven. He was educated near Beverly Hills and attended Cal Tech from 1956-1958. He says he discovered a bookstore full of used science fiction magazines and then flunked out. He finished his degree in mathematics at Washburn University in Topeka in 1962. After attending graduate school from 1962- 1963 at UCLA, Niven lived off of a trust fund set up by his great-grandfather while he worked at becoming a professional writer, selling his first story "The Coldest Place" to Worlds of If, then one of the leading science fiction magazines. He later revised a science fiction story into his first novel, World of Ptavvs, published in 1966.

Niven married Marilyn Joyce Wisowaty on September 6, 1969. By then, he was already a well-known writer. In an era in which soft science fiction—speculations of social changes or outright fantasies imitating such works as The Lord of the Rings but set on alien planets—were subsuming hard science fiction. Speculation about technological developments and their effects on people were common themes, and Niven was writing popular, much admired works in which technology was a powerful, beneficial force for humanity. Niven is sometimes credited with keeping hard science fiction respectable during the 1970s and with laying the foundations for a new generation of writers such as Tom Clancy and Greg Bear who emerged in the late 1970s and in the 1980s and who also use technology in their works. Niven himself is conscious of influences upon his own work, and he cites Murray Leinster's "Sideways in Time" and O. Henry's "Roads of Destiny" as inspirations for his stories of multiple timelines such as "All the Myriad Ways."

Niven is aware of the appeal much of his work has for young people. In N-Space, he suggests that in stories such as "All the Myriad Ways," and in works by such writers as Keith Laumer, Poul Anderson, and Fritz Leiber, it is "the dance of ideas that hooks us before our teens." As with many other writers of science fiction, "What if" stirs his imagination, and the ideas that emerge form the basis of tales that appeal mightily to young adults and captivate grownups, as well: "What if? These ideas include stories about other worlds, about the past and the future, about worlds where magic works: younger readers see playgrounds for the mind. Mature readers and novelists see more."

Biography

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Laurence Van Cott Niven (Larry Niven) was born in Los Angeles on April 30, 1938, to a lawyer, Waldemar Van Cott Niven and Lucy Estelle (nee Doheny) Niven. He was educated near Beverly Hills and went to California Institute of Technology, from 1956 to 1958. He says that after he discovered a bookstore full of used science fiction magazines, he flunked out of college. He later finished his degree in mathematics at Washburn University in Topeka in 1962. After attending graduate school from 1962 to 1963 at UCLA, he lived off of a trust fund set up by his great-grandfather while he worked at becoming a professional writer, selling his first story "The Coldest Place" to Worlds of If, then one of the leading science fiction magazines. He later redid a science fiction story into his first novel, World of Ptavvs, published in 1966.

Niven married Marilyn Joyce Wisowaty on September 6, 1969. By this time, his work was already the subject of much discussion. In an era in which soft science fiction (speculations of social changes or outright fantasies imitating The Lord of the Rings but set on alien planets) seemed to be subsuming hard science fiction (speculations emphasizing technological developments and their effects on people), Niven was writing popular, much-admired works in which technology was a powerful, beneficial force for humanity. He is sometimes credited with keeping hard science fiction respectable during the 1970s and with laying the foundations for new writers about technology such as Tom Clancy and Greg Bear, who emerged in the late 1970s and in the 1980s.

Niven is aware of the appeal much of his work has for young people. In N-Space, he suggests that in stories such as "All the Myriad Ways," and in works by such writers as Keith Laumer, Poul Anderson, and Fritz Leiber, it is "the dance of ideas that hooks us before our teens." As with many other writers of science fiction, the phrase "What if" sparks his imagination, and the ideas stirred up form the basis of tales that appeal mightily to young adults and captivate grownups, as well.

Niven has won several awards for his fiction. "The Borderland of Sol" received the 1976 Hugo award for best novelette. The Hugo award is chosen annually by a vote of the attendees of the World Science Fiction Convention. Many, probably most, of the attendees are young adults, and thus the awards frequently reflect their favorite works.