"Niven's Laws"

An updated version of Niven's Laws is also available.

by Larry Niven

  • 1a. Never throw shit at an armed man.
  • 1b. Never stand next to someone who is throwing shit at an armed man.
  1. Never fire a laser at a mirror.
  2. Mother Nature doesn't care if you're having fun.
  3. F x S = k. The product of Freedom and Security is a constant. To gain more freedom of thought and/or action, you must give up some security, and vice versa.
  4. Psi and/or magical powers, if real, are nearly useless.
  5. It is easier to destroy than create.
  6. Any damn fool can predict the past.
  7. History never repeats itself.
  8. Ethics change with technology.
  9. Anarchy is the least stable of social structures. It falls apart at a touch.
  10. There is a time and place for tact.
  11. The ways of being human are bounded but infinite.
  12. The world's dullest subjects, in order:
    1. Somebody else's diet.
    2. How to make money for a worthy cause.
    3. Special Interest Liberation.
  13. The only universal message in science fiction: There exist minds that think as well as you do, but differently.
    Niven's corollary: The gene-tampered turkey you're talking to isn't necessarily one of them.
  14. Fuzzy Pink Niven's Law: Never waste calories.
  15. There is no cause so right that one cannot find a fool following it.
  16. No technique works if it isn't used.
  17. Not responsible for advice not taken.
  18. Old age is not for sissies.

Niven's Laws For Writers

  1. Writers who write for other writers should write letters.
  2. Never be embarrased or ashamed about anything you choose to write. (Think of this before you send it to a market)
  3. Stories to end all stories on a given topic, don't.
  4. It is a sin to waste the reader's time.
  5. If you've nothing to say, say it any way you like. Stylistic innovations, contorted story lines or none, exoticor genderless pronouns, internal inconsistencies, te recipe for preparing your lover as a cannibal banquet: feel free. If what you have to say is important and/or difficult to follow, use the simplest language possible. If the reader doesn't get it then, let it not be your fault.
  6. Everybody talks first draft.