A Darker Geometry

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Back in the late 1990’s I was reading a lot of Larry Niven’s novels and works based on his novels. At some point I joined the Bucknell listserv for fans of Larry’s work. This is a review of a story called “A Darker Geometry”, written by Gregory Benford and Mark O. Martin, that I posted to the listserv in 1998, a story which was later published (with my persmission) to http://www.larryniven.org and can still be found there at the date of this article posting (a shout-out to my old pals over there on the Listserv, and to Larry of course!).

Subject: Darker G for new listmems
Date: Wed, 30 Sep 1998 20:11:47 -0400 (EDT)
From: Andrew Duncan
Reply-To: larryniven-l -at- bucknell.edu
To: Multiple recipients of list

A Darker Geometry is a (moderately interesting) short written for the Man Kzin Wars series. This series has become a means for other authors to play in Niven’s Universe, within certain bounds. Every contributor has tried to (as authors tend to do) create characters upon whose existence the entire of creation hinges. They play with the great, deep cycle back-story to fill in any gaps. I’ve always considered this a looming potential mistake for written stories. Darker Geometry attempts to lay a foundation for many of the grander ideas associated with Known Space. It winks at you and says “see, look, I mentioned this thingy”. It tries to touch big ideas, but never really does. It tries to lay claim to revealing secrets of Known Space, but only results in annoying you (or me anyway).

Should all movies have sequels, should all secrets be revealed? Absolutely not, without secrets there is no intrigue. Are fictional universes diminished by this literary form of urban infill? Sometimes.

Fifteen years ago Star Trek was a great unknown universe. Sure we knew a lot, but there were a bajillion ways that things could happen because we only had the sketchiest idea of what they meant. We had a 40watt bulb trained on our subject. Today, the universe of Star Trek has been exposed to stadium lights. The shadows are gone away, everything you could imagine has been explained six ways to Sunday. If you tell a story incorrectly, there are legions of fans (stuck on the mechanics of a universe that they CAN explain) who are ready to pounce on you because somebody pushed the wrong button in your story.

The Man-Kzin stories are slowly removing the shadows of Niven’s universe. It is to Larry’s credit that he has been careful to police Known Space, and it is his choice to make contributions to that place. I would suggest that he leave his known characters well enough alone, and re-approach this space from a new perspective. His last few books are stale because he’s stuck inside the place.

Or else I would suggest he write some more short stories that leave Known Space alone entirely, he’s pretty good at that stuff too…….

Or he WAS (said in the Hero’s mocking, daring, three stooges, go-ahead-and-try-it tense)

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