Known Space is a volume of interstellar space explored by humans and their alien neighbors. Known Space is about 80 light years in diameter and contains Human Space. Late in the series, this area is an irregularly shaped "bubble" about 60 light-years across.
In the process of exploring space, humankind encounters several intelligent alien species. Most life in Known Space shared similar biochemistries, since they evolved from the Thrintun practice of seeding barren worlds with food yeast.
Most of the early human colonies are on planets suboptimal for Homo sapiens.
The series feature a number of "superscience" inventions which figure as plot devices. Stories earlier in the timeline feature technology such as Bussard ramjets, and explore how organ transplantation technology enables the new crime of organlegging, while later stories feature hyperdrive, invulnerable starship hulls, stasis fields, molecular monofilaments, transfer booths (teleporters used only on planetary surfaces), the lifespan-extending drug boosterspice, and the tasp which is capable of stimulating the pleasure centers of the brain from a distance.
The impact of inventions and technology on society is a recurring theme in Niven's work. For example, addiction to electric brain stimulation resulting in wireheads, or the effects of the invention of teleportation.
The milieu can be viewed as representing the last gasp of Campbell-era science fiction, as the iconoclastic, counterculture influences of "new wave" science fiction of the sixties play no part in most of the stories. However, there are notable exceptions in the "Gil the ARM" stories; and "Jigsaw Man" first appeared in Harlan Ellison's landmark "new wave" anthology, Dangerous Visions.
On Earth in the mid 21st century it became possible to transplant any organ from any person to another, with the exception of Brain and central nervous system tissue. Individuals were categorized according to their so-called "rejection spectrum" which allowed doctors to counter any immune system responses to the new organs, allowing transplants to "take" for life. It also enabled the crime of "organlegging" which lasted well into the 24th century.
Faster Than Light (FTL) propulsion, or hyperdrive, was obtained from the Outsiders at the end of the first Man-Kzin wars. In addition to winning the war for humanity, it allowed the re-integration of all the human colonies, which were previously separated by distance.
There exist three general types of overdrive, Quantum I, Quantum II, and the slaver drive. Quantum I Hyperdrive allows for transit at a rate of 122 times light speed. Quantum II allows for transit at 420,480 times light speed. The slaver drive is a jump centric system and little is known about operation besides that.
Humanity gaining the Quantum I Hyperdrive was a result of puppeteer meddling as they used a device called a starseed lure to lure a Starseed ( an extraterrestrial space faring organism) to the Human colony "We made it". There a hyperdriove manual was sold to humanity.
The puppeteers developed their Quantum I hyperdrive seperately (or obtained it from the Outsiders so long ago it was forgotten). However the Quantum II hyperdrive was created and fitted aboard the ship "Long Shot" whereing it was originally thought to be too cumbersome to deal with. It was revealed to have been of the same size as a normal Hyper drive Shunt in "Ringworld's Children".
Hyperdrive technology also allows for near instantaneous communication through hyperwave radios, and hyperwave bouys. The bouys remain outside of the traditional hyperwave singularity zone to operate.
A Stasis Field creates a bubble of space/time that runs separate from the rest of the universe. Time effectively stops for an object in stasis. An object in stasis is invulnerable to anything occurring outside the field, as well as being preserved indefinitely. A stasis field may be recognized by its perfectly reflecting surface, so perfect in fact that it reflects 100% of all radiation and particles, including neutrinos. Stasis fields are one of only two things currently known to reflect neutrinos from deep radar pings. The other being neutronium.
note a stasis field may be cancelled out by another stasis field becoming active if they both try to occupy the same space.
The Puppeteer firm, General Products, produces an invulnerable starship hull, known simply as a General Products Hull. The hulls are impervious to any type of matter or energy, with the exception of antimatter. While nearly invulnerable themselves, this is no guarantee that the contents are likewise protected. For example, a high speed impact with the surface of a planet or star may cause no harm to the hull, the occupants however will be crushed if they are not protected by additional measures, such as a stasis field, or a gravity compensating field. Other non-warranty related risks are substantial amounts of anti-matter and the Gw'oth method.
GP product hulls come in four given sizes, type #1,or satelitte sized GP hulls, small enough to rest on a tabletop. Type #2 a roughly needle shaped hull with only two doors in the sides. Type #3 a large cylindrical hull, docking bay, engine outlet, much else. And the type #4 a mile and a half diameter sphere.
Boosterspice is a compound that increases the longevity and reverses aging of human beings. With the use of boosterspice, humans can easily live into hundreds of years and, theoretically, it can extend life indefinitely.
Humans have been led to believe it is made from genetically engineered ragweed (although early stories have it ingested in the form of edible seeds) but, in Ringworld's Children, it is suggested boosterspice may actually be adapted from Tree-of-Life, without the symbiotic virus that enabled hominids to metamorphose from Pak Breeder stage to Pak Protector stage (mutated Pak breeders were the ancestors of both homo sapiens and the hominids of the Ringworld in the Known Space universe).
On the Ringworld, there is an analogous (and apparently more potent) compound, but they are mutually incompatible; in The Ringworld Engineers, Louis Wu learns that the character Halrloprillalar died when in ARM custody after leaving the Ringworld, as a result of having taken boosterspice and previously having used the Ringworld equivalent.
Transfer Booths are an inexpensive form of teleportation. They are similar in appearance to an old style telephone booth: one enters, dials one's desired destination, and is immediately deposited in a corresponding booth at the destination. They are inexpensive: a trip anywhere on Earth costs only a "tenth-star" (presumably equivalent to a dime). However a star is accosted as the value of mailing a wallet sized object anywhere planetwide.
- Droud — a device for direct electrical stimulation of the brain's pleasure center, plugged directly into a socket that is surgically attached to the skull. The user of a droud, known as a wirehead, suffers from current addiction. The operation to attach the droud's socket is performed by a specialized surgeon known as an ecstasy peddler.
- Singleship — a small spacecraft occupied and flown by only one person. It is a term short for single occupant spaceship. The singleships are commonly used by Belters for mining and transportation. During the Man-Kzin Wars they were also used as warships, since the fusion jet (so the colloquial name a Torchship) which propels the vessel could be used like a miles-long flamethrower.
- Tasp — a device for direct stimulation of the brain's pleasure center, like a droud, but which operates at a distance. To use a tasp on someone, e.g., in a public park, is known colloquially as 'to make someone's day'. As the kzin Speaker-to-Animals notes in Ringworld, only a sophisticate fears a tasp.
Known Space is used as the fictional setting of several science fiction novels and short stories written by author Larry Niven. It has been also in part been used as a shared universe in the Man-Kzin Wars spin-off anthologies sub-series.
The stories span approximately one thousand years of future history, from the first human explorations of the Solar System to the colonization of dozens of nearby systems (and with some references to the far distant past).
The stories which now comprise the "known space" series were originally conceived as separate series, the "Belter" stories, featuring solar-system colonization and slower-than-light travel with fusion-powered Bussard ramjet ships, and the Neutron-Star/Ringworld series of stories, set much further into the future, which feature Faster-than-light ships using "hyperdrive". The two timelines were implicitly joined by Niven in the story "A Relic of the Empire," in which the background elements of the Slaver civilization (introduced in World of Ptavvs, from the Belter series) was used as a plot element of a story in the faster-than-light setting. Roughly 300 years separates the timeline of the last stories of the early setting (which are set roughly between 2000 and 2350), from the earliest stories in the later Neutron-Star/Ringworld setting (which are set in 2651 ("Neutron Star") and later). In the late 1980s, Niven opened up this gap in the known space timeline as a shared universe, and the stories of the Man-Kzin Wars volumes fill in that history, smoothly joining the two settings.
Stories in Known SpaceEdit
Unlike many fictional universes, the component tales of Known Space were largely released as short stories or serials in various science fiction anthology magazines. These stories were generally subsequently released in one or more collection volumes. To add some further confusion, some of the shorter novels published in magazines were later expanded to, or incorporated in, book-length novels. Due to the large number of stories, it is particularly difficult for a completionist fan to read every story in the series. There are also two or three short stories which share common themes and some background elements with Known Space stories, but which are not considered a part of the Known Space Universe: "Bordered in Black" and "One Face" (see the collection "Convergent Series"), and perhaps "The Color of Sunfire."
In the Known Space stories Niven had created a number of technological devices (GP hull, stasis field, Ringworld material) which, combined with the 'Teela Brown gene', made it very difficult to construct engaging stories beyond a certain date—the combination of factors made it tricky to produce any kind of creditable threat/problem without complex contrivances. Niven demonstrated this, to his own satisfaction, with "Safe at Any Speed". After 1975, he began to write significantly fewer Known Space stories. However, Niven later invited other authors to participate in a series of shared-universe novels, with the Man-Kzin Wars as their setting.
Stories by Niven himself Edit
|"The Coldest Place"||1964||Worlds of If||Tales of Known Space|
|"The World of Ptavvs"||1965||Worlds of Tomorrow||—|
|"Becalmed in Hell"||1965||[[The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction|The Magazine of Fantasy Template:I5and Science Fiction]]||Tales of Known Space|
|"Eye of an Octopus"||1966||Galaxy Magazine||Tales of Known Space|
|"The Warriors"||1966||Worlds of If||Tales of Known Space|
|"Neutron Star"||1966||Worlds of If||Neutron Star|
|"How the Heroes Die"||1966||Galaxy Magazine||Tales of Known Space|
|"At the Core"||1966||Worlds of If||Neutron Star|
|"A Relic of the Empire"||1966||Worlds of If||Neutron Star|
|"At the Bottom of a Hole"||1966||Galaxy Magazine||Tales of Known Space|
|"The Soft Weapon"||1967||Worlds of If||Neutron Star|
|"Flatlander"||1967||Worlds of If||Neutron Star|
|"The Ethics of Madness"||1967||Worlds of If||Neutron Star|
|"Safe at any Speed"||1967||The Magazine of Fantasy Template:I5and Science Fiction||Tales of Known Space|
|"The Adults"||1967||Galaxy Magazine||—|
|"The Handicapped"||1967||Galaxy Magazine||Neutron Star|
|"The Jigsaw Man"||1967||Dangerous Visions||Tales of Known Space|
|"Slowboat Cargo"||1968||Worlds of If||—|
|"The Deceivers"||1968||Galaxy Magazine||Tales of Known Space|
|"Grendel"||1968||(collection only)||Neutron Star|
|"There is a Tide"||1968||Galaxy Magazine||Tales of Known Space|
|World of Ptavvs||1968||(novel)||—|
|A Gift From Earth||1968||(novel)||—|
|"Wait It Out"||1968||Futures Unbounded||Tales of Known Space|
|"The Organleggers"||1968||Galaxy Magazine||The Shape of Space|
|"Cloak of Anarchy"||1972||Analog Science Fiction||Tales of Known Space|
|The Defenseless Dead||1973||(collection only)||The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton|
|"The Borderland of Sol"||1974||Analog Science Fiction||Tales of Known Space|
|"ARM"||1975||Epic||The Long ARM of Gil Hamilton|
|The Ringworld Engineers||1980||(novel)||—|
|The Patchwork Girl||1980||(novel)||also Flatlander|
|"Madness Has Its Place"||1990||(collection only)||Man-Kzin Wars III|
|"Ghost"||1994||(framing story, collection only)||Crashlander|
|"The Woman in Del Rey Crater"||1995||(collection only)||Flatlander|
|The Ringworld Throne||1996||(novel)||—|
|"Choosing Names"||1998||(collection only)||Man-Kzin Wars VIII|
|"Fly-By-Night"||2002||(collection only)||Man-Kzin Wars IX|
|"The Hunting Park"||2005||(collection only)||Man-Kzin Wars XI|
|Fleet of Worlds |
(co-authored with Edward M. Lerner)
|Juggler of Worlds |
(co-authored with Edward M. Lerner)
(Note that most stories appeared in more than one collection, though only one each is listed here.)
- Main article: Man-Kzin Wars
Niven has described his fiction as "playground equipment", encouraging fans to speculate and extrapolate on the events described. Debates have been made, for example, on who built the Ringworld (Pak Protectors and the Outsiders being the traditional favorites, but see Ringworld's Children for a possibly definitive answer), and what happened to the Tnuctipun. However, Niven also states that this is not an invitation to violate his copyrights, so fans should try to avoid publishing works that are too obviously based in the Known Space universe without Niven's given permission.
Niven was also reported to have said that "Known Space should be seen as a possible future history told by people that may or may not have all their facts right."
An outline for a "final" Known Space story titled "Down in Flames" has been published, which includes a controversial revelation about the Tnuctipun. However, Niven has stated the story suggested by the outline was made obsolete by the publication of Ringworld. "Down in Flames" was a result of a conversation between Norman Spinrad and Niven in 1968, but at the time of its first publication in 1977 some of the concepts were invalidated by Niven's writings between '68 and '77. (A further edited version of the outline was published in N-Space in 1990.)
- ↑ Expanded and republished as a novel in 1968
- ↑ Expanded and republished as Protector in 1973.
- ↑ Expanded and republished as A Gift From Earth in 1968.
- ↑ Subsequently renamed "Intent to Deceive"
- ↑ Subsequently renamed "Death by Ecstasy"