Asimov Comments on Neutron Star

This article was originally posted to the Larry Niven Mailing List by Malcolm Pack and appears in the Hugo Winners II collection. Issac Asimov comments on Larry's Short Story "Neutron Star":

For the last dozen years or so, what we might call "hard science fiction" has receded somewhat into the background. By hard science fiction, I mean those stories in which the details of science play an important role and in which the author is accurate about those details, too, and takes the trouble to explain them clearly.

In its place, there has moved into the foreground the emotional story in which science is relegated to the background. Literary style, not physical theory, is what counts; experimentation in form, not in the laboratory,; the wrenching of souls, rather than of minds.

As for myself (for I will conceal nothing from you) I'm a hard science fiction man myself. For instance, in the same issue of the same magazine in which Harlan Ellison published "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream" which was all emotion and which won a Hugo, I published "Billiard Ball" which was all thought and which didn't win a Hugo.

Naturally, miscarriages of justice like this cause me to brood, but I feel better when it turns out that there are still hard science fiction writers among the younger generation. Ben Bova, for instance, writes hard science fiction, and so does Larry Niven.

What's more, Larry Niven made it big and won a Hugo with his excellent story, "Neutron Star."

The only trouble with the victory was that when I read his story I was overwhelmed with grief. I don't mean merely the grief that overcomes me whenever someone else wins a Hugo. I mean a highly special grief over the nature of the plot.

You see, I write a science article in every issue of

    The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
(and have just completed my 151st article as I write this). In the May 1966 issue I wrote an article called "Time and Tide" and as I thought back on that particular article I was overwhelmed with poignant sorrow. The plot of "Neutron Star" was implicit in my article and if I had only thought fiction-wise instead of article-wise, /I/ might have written the story.

Eventually, of course, I met Larry Niven, a remarkably quiet fellow, who dresses most neatly and conservatively, has a cleanshaven square countenance, a soft voice, and a penchant for speculating on the sex life of Superman.

"Listen, Larry," I said, shaking my head sadly, "I once wrote an article entitled 'Time and Tide which dealt with--"

"I know," said Larry calmly. "It was when I read that article that I got the idea for 'Neutron Star.'"

It is a tribute to the essential sweetness of my character that the man still lives!