The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced last Tuesday that author Larry Niven has been bestowed with the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award, one of SFWA’s highest honors, for his invaluable contributions to the field of science fiction and fantasy.
In a statement on their website, SFWA President Steven Gould said:
One of the great honors of being SFWA president is the announcing the latest Grandmaster recipient. One of the drawbacks is only getting to name one at a time when we have several worthy candidates. I take great pleasure in naming Larry Niven as this year’s Damon Knight Memorial Grandmaster.
As Lev Grossman said in Time Magazine about Niven’s work, “It’s a bravura demonstration of technology and psychology both playing off and feeding back into each other. This feedback loop — so fundamental to great science fiction’s power — is at the heart of Niven’s work: we create tools, and our tools shape the world, but they also shape us, in unintended and unexpected ways.”
Mr. Niven has been writing science fiction since 1964, many championing “big science” and theoretical physics, and utilizing concepts such as universal entropy and the redshift effect. His seminal novel, Ringworld (which won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards) ended up influencing a number of other writers, and spawned a series of novels as well as a companion series of books. Other notable works of his include Tales of Known Space (a concept that encapsulates a series of works), The Mote in God’s Eye (with collaborator Jerry Pournelle), and the “rational” fantasy series “Magic Goes Away”, which treated magic as a non-renewable resource, termed “mana” – now a bedrock concept in modern gaming circles.
But his influence went beyond the literary. Mr. Niven, as part of the Citizens’ Advisory Council on National Space Policy, was an adviser to Ronald Reagan on the creation of the Strategic Defense Initiative antimissile policy, as well a supporter of the concept for a reusable space ship that led to the building of the McDonnell Douglas DC-X. In 2007, in conjunction with a group of science fiction writers known as SIGMA, he advised the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as to future trends affecting terror policy.
An interesting “fun fact”: the original release of the venerable trading card game Magic: The Gathering paid homage to Mr. Niven on a card called “Nevinyrral’s Disk” (which is “Larry Niven” spelled backwards). In M:TG lore, Nevinyrral was a lich (a type of undead creature) who controlled the City of Urborg, which was involved in a fierce war with the volcanic land of Bogardan. Legend states that Nevinyrral was outmaneuvered and the city was swallowed by a volcano that tore up from the ground directly beneath it. His last act was to use the powerful Nevinyrral’s Disk to deny his enemies any of the magical trove that might survive the flames, destroying himself and most of his city in the process.
Now, that’s influence!
Our heartiest congratulations on the newest SFWA Grand Master, Larry Niven!