Niven Aboo

By John Hertz: Larry Niven’s birthday was at the end of April. He threw a party in mid-May, which alas I couldn’t attend. The invitation said “No gifts”. I cheated by sending this 5-7-5-7-7-syllable acrostic.

Laughter, poetry
Appear together in life
Realistically;
Reap the divine comedy
You bring forth with open hands.

I more or less managed to make the middle line pivot, i.e. end the first two and begin the last two. The bottom line alludes to the tenth Oxherding Picture of Ch‘an (or if you prefer the Japanese, Zen) Buddhism. The ox stands for Enlightenment. In the first picture a man searches for the ox. In the next five he sees tracks, glimpses the ox, catches it, tames it, and rides it home. In the seventh there is no ox, the man is alone; the eighth is an empty circle, both ox and self have been transcended. Eight hundred years ago the Chinese master K‘uo-an Shih-yüan (Kakuan Shien to Japanese), realizing this was not the end, added Returning to the Source, followed by Entering the Marketplace with Giving Hands.

In the May Galaxy’s Edge Niven has a fine new Draco Tavern story (he pronounces it to rhyme with wacko, not shako; but don’t feel too bad, the hat for Jerry Pournelle’s costume as a colonel of 1st Hussars, King’s German Legion, built by a local Regency fan, is a busby), tuckerizing a friend of mine. After years of interstellar travelers visiting Rick Schumann the human’s place, making him and Earth rich, he says “Remember when we used to do our own research?”

Niven is among the most comical and most poetic of our authors. Escape from Hell by him and Pournelle is brilliant. You might not notice if you’re one of those folks who think Dante wrote The Divine Comedy to punish his enemies and reward his friends. I just re-read World of Ptavvs which is superb. Good s-f of even a few decades ago – now that we can say such a thing – can be more interesting than when first published. Some of us who read File 770 know the only fan to play a thrint in an s-f convention Masquerade.

Niven is a Scots-Irish name, so Niven aboo!

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