Eating Authors: Larry Niven

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Categories: Plugs
Larry Niven

As some of you know, I grew up in Culver City, CA, a small, independent city in the middle of Los Angeles. So it was that at the age of twelve I followed up on a flier I’d seen at my local library and convinced my father to drive me to the public library in nearby Palms where Ray Bradbury was speaking. That was the night I met my first author and also the night I found out about LASFS, the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, which at that time held its weekly, Thursday night meetings in a recreation building belonging to the park that was right behind the Palms library. And so it was that the following Thursday I again prevailed upon my father to drive me to Palms and I attended my first LASFS meeting and met many wonderful people. Early that evening, some of the local teens who had earlier been shooting hoops on the nearby basketball courts began some hijinks that involved running up one side of the rec building’s slanted roof and down the other, stomping as loudly as they could. Several of the people in the meeting went out to deal with them, but I remember one person in particular, making him the second author I would ever meet, who strode out and engaged the punks with a ringing voice and the wisdom of Solomon. The tomfoolery stopped, nor at any point did he tell those damn kids to get off of his lawn roof. That man was Larry Niven. It was a magical experience, at least to me. And though I have no reason to expect Larry to remember that particular Thursday of more than forty years ago, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the story by way of welcoming here to EATING AUTHORS.

I like to think there are two Larry Nivens, one who turns out amazing SF, both in novel-length and short stories, and another who is the quintessential collaborator in our field. That first Niven gave us Ringworld (a cornerstone of the field, possessing both one of the best hard SF concepts, the eponymnous artifact in space, and one of the best social science SF concepts, that luck is a trait that can be bred for), its sequels, and his Known Space series. The other Niven, working with various collaboraters has given us gems like The Mote’s in God’s Eye (with Jerry Pournelle), the Dream Park series (with Steven Barnes), and the Ringworld companion series (with Edward M. Lerner). Earlier this year, he and Gregory Benford (who you may recall dropping by a few weeks back) published Bowl of Heaven, and tomorrow will see the release of Larry’s latest collaboration, The Goliath Stone, with Matthew Joseph Harrington.

LMS: Welcome, Larry. Sorry if I gushed a bit in the intro. Please attribute it to early imprinting from that night at LASFS forty years ago. But now, let’s get to it. Can you tell me about your most memorable meal?

LN: One dinner was in Boston, at Legal Seafood. James Patrick Baen (Baen Books) played host to something like a dozen of us. Jim took it into his head to order the biggest lobster Legal Seafood had, as a centerpiece. I tried monkfish for the first time. I didn’t like it, so I was the one who ate large parts of the lobster.

The Goliath Stone
Bowl of Heaven

Another time—

Marilyn and I decided we wanted to see the Worldcon Masquerade. We’d missed several through going out to dinner. This time we’d eat in our suite.

We told Jim. He and Tom Doherty suggested we all eat in the ACE suite… and they’d tell a few friends.

It became three tables shoved end to end in the hotel restaurant. Robert Aspirin and I got to talking about his new Thieves World series. Jim Baen overheard and suggested opening up my Magic Goes Away series to other writers. And we did.

Of course Marilyn and I never got to the Masquerade.

If I had my life to live over again, I’d pay more attention to my companions and less to my food.

Thanks, Larry. So… what are your dinner plans for San Antonio? Hmmm?

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!



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