Larry Niven is one of the greatest living SF writers today. I always felt as though he was my generation's Robert Heinlein and Frederik Pohl all rolled into one iconoclastic-y guy (his Known Space futhistory cycle is part of SF canon today, but back in the '70s it was category-defining. And Ringworld is one of the great ones).
As SF writers are wont to do, he too distills his wisdom into a set of witty axioms (and in that observation, to be sure, is perhaps a great grand unifying Law of SF Writers). I find Niven's Laws particularly entertaining, because they seem to come from a place that gives Larry Niven his value: he differs with you without making you his adversary. Everyone fancies that their observations "make you think"; most of those people are just obnoxious boors looking for an excuse to be blunt and angry at you without having to account for being a twit. Niven's observations are the kind of actual "think-making" that everyone thinks they are doing but really aren't.
Niven's Laws, updated in 2002 in Analog magazine, run as follows (if you wan't the author's equally-witty (and equally-required reading) commentary on his laws, go hither):
- 1a) Never throw crap at an armed man.
- 1b) Never stand next to someone who is throwing crap at an armed man.
- 2) Never fire a laser at a mirror.
- 3) Mother Nature doesn't care if you're having fun.
- 4) Giving up freedom for security has begun to look naive.
- 5) Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless.
- 6) It is easier to destroy than create.
- 7) Any damn fool can predict the past.
- 8) History never repeats itself.
- 9) Ethics change with technology.
- 10) Anarchy is the least stable of social structures. (It falls apart at a touch)
- 11) There is a time and place for tact.
- 12) The ways of being human are bounded but infinite.
- 13) When your life starts to look like a soap opera, it's time to change the channel.
- 14) The only universal message in science fiction: There exist minds that think as well as you do, but differently.
Niven's corollary: The gene-tampered turkey you're talking to isn't necessarily one of them.
- 15) Fuzzy Pink Niven's Law: Never waste calories.
- 16) There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.
- 17) No technique works if it isn't used.
- 18) Not responsible for advice not taken.
- 19) Think before you make the coward's choice. Old age is not for sissies.
- 20) Never let a waiter escape.
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