I think it’s fair to say that Niven is the quintessential “hard” SF writer. He was born in 1938 and fits into that generation in between Golden Agers like Bradbury and Asimov and Heinlein and the cyber-info-punks like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. Hard SF — as I choose to define it, irresponsibly, with no reference to or knowledge of how other people define it — is SF that takes its science and engineering seriously. There’s a school of science fiction where the writer decides where they want the story to go and then makes up a world or a technology or a branch of physics that will get it there. This is not that. Hard SF works the opposite way — it allows its stories to be shaped by what we know about technology and the universe and how they work. With a hard SF writer like Niven, the story emerges out of the world: the world and its rules and laws are what generate and drive and constrain the story.
You know what I don't see in this article? Examples of praiseworthy work by Niven that are particularly recent.
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