Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Just when I thought I was done with Larry Niven and his Known Space universe, I managed to track down his short story, Fly-by-Night, highlighting the planet Sheathclaws. whose scant mentions teased me while reading Ringworld's Children.

The Kzin tend to be pretty one dimensional, like the Klingons in Star Trek, but the titular character, Fly-by-Night, is totally rounded and interesting. A latent(?) Kzin telepath born and raised on a remote planet where humans and Kzin live in peace (and play video games and go hand gliding) have given him the best of both worlds. He's got all the temper and cultural quirks of a Kzintosh, but he cracks jokes and sips cappuccinos. My one gripe with this story is the poor handling of population genetics (which Niven treats well in the Ringworld series) I mean Sheathclaws was populated by one male Kzin and six females (the humans are out of the equation because they can't interbreed), seven individuals does not make a viable population! A few generations of inbreeding would give Fly-by-Night all sorts of health problems. Trust me, as a Floridian, I'm all too aware of what a tiny population can do to big cats! It would've been easier if instead of picking up a Jotoki slave on Fafnir, Fly-by-Night would've been trying to either pick up more females or adopt young Kzinti to boost the gene pool on Sheathclaws and then transport them aboard Odysseus frozen like Shaffer's family.

Anyway, far from sating my curiosity about Sheathclaws this story has made me want to read more about this damned boondocks planet! I found out this is sort of a sequel to Hal Colebatch's Telepath's Dance, which deals with Fly-by-Night's ancestor Shadow and the events that led to the founding of this odd world. So I'll probably track that down, but seriously Larry Niven and Hal Colebatch should get together and write a novel exploring this weird corner of Known Space a little further. It's much too cool to go to waste.


I finally got to read the superb Telepath's Dance and it has inspired me to write a Man-Kzin story of my own. Should be fun.

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