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The Xenophile Historian





THE HOLY BOOK OF UNIVERSAL TRUTHS,
K. U. P.


(Kimball's Unauthorized Perversion)





Niven's Laws



In the 1980s, I enjoyed reading the stories of science fiction writer Larry Niven, like Ringworld, Footfall, The Mote in God's Eye, his Known Space series, and so on. As he wrote, he also compiled his own list of undeniable truths of life, which is much shorter than mine. Here is the 2002 edition of Niven's Laws, which appeared in the November 2002 issue of Analog Magazine:
  1. Never throw sh*t at an armed man.
  2. Corollary to #1: Never stand next to someone throwing sh*t at an armed man. (Niven learned #1 & #2 from the 1968 Democratic National Convention)
  3. Never fire a laser at a mirror.
  4. Mother Nature doesn't care if you're having fun.
  5. Giving up freedom for security is beginning to look naive. (Note: this originally read "F S = k", meaning that the product of freedom and security is a constant.)
  6. Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless.
  7. It is easier to destroy than to create.
  8. Any damn fool can predict the past.
  9. History never repeats itself.
  10. Ethics change with technology.
  11. Anarchy is the least stable of political structures.
  12. There is a time and a place for tact.
  13. The ways of being human are bounded but infinite.
  14. When your life starts to look like a soap opera, it's time to change the channel.
  15. The only universal message in science fiction: There exist minds that think as well as you do, but differently.
  16. Corollary to #15: The gene-tampered turkey you're talking to isn't necessarily one of them.
  17. Never waste calories.
  18. There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.
  19. No technique works if it isn't used.
  20. Not responsible for advice not taken.
  21. Think before you make the coward's choice. Old age is not for sissies.
  22. Never let a waiter escape.
In his anthology N-Space, Niven also offered Niven's Laws for Writers, which are:
  1. Writers who write for other writers should write letters.
  2. Never be embarrassed or ashamed about anything you choose to write. (Think of this before you send it to a market.)
  3. Stories to end all stories on a given topic, don't.
  4. It is a sin to waste the reader's time.
  5. If you've nothing to say, say it any way you like. Stylistic innovations, contorted story lines or none, exotic or genderless pronouns, internal inconsistencies, the recipe for preparing your lover as a cannibal banquet: feel free. If what you have to say is important and/or difficult to follow, use the simplest language possible. If the reader doesn't get it then, let it not be your fault.
  6. Everybody talks first draft.

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© Copyright 2016 Charles Kimball




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