List of Known Space characters
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- 1 Individual characters
- 1.1 Sigmund Ausfaller
- 1.2 Larchmont Bellamy
- 1.3 Teela Brown
- 1.4 Gil Hamilton
- 1.5 Emil Horne
- 1.6 Sharrol Janss
- 1.7 Alice Jordan
- 1.8 Nessus
- 1.9 Peter Nordbo
- 1.10 Gregory Pelton
- 1.11 Regional President of We Made It
- 1.12 Regional President of Jinx
- 1.13 Ulf Reichstein-Markham
- 1.14 Beowulf Shaeffer
- 1.15 Lit Shaeffer
- 1.16 Ander Smittarasheed
- 1.17 Nick Sohl
- 1.18 Speaker-to-Animals
- 1.19 Margo Tellefsen
- 1.20 Tanya Wilson
- 1.21 Carlos Wu
- 1.22 Louis Wu
- 2 Fictional alien species
- 3 In-universe terms
- 4 References
Sigmund Ausfaller, a native of Earth, is a member of the Amalgamated Regional Militia ("ARM"), working in the Bureau of Alien Affairs on Earth. To protect puppeteer (and Earth) interests, in "Neutron Star" Ausfaller plants a bomb in the lifesystem of Shaeffer's ship, the Skydiver, so that Shaeffer will not attempt to steal it. Years later, in The Borderlands of Sol, when Shaeffer encounters him on Jinx, he offers Shaeffer and Carlos Wu a ride home to Earth on his ship, Hobo Kelly, in hopes of attracting the attention of whoever or whatever was causing ships to disappear when entering or leaving Sol system. Some years later, Ausfaller, having almost caught up with Shaeffer on Fafnir, is killed by Ander Smittarasheed in order to protect Smittarasheed's interest in the special nanotechnology autodoc developed by Carlos Wu, left on Fafnir when Carlos escaped from Feather Filip as she shot Shaeffer in the chest with an ARM punchgun. He is later "resurrected" by Wu's Autodoc and taken to one of the Puppeteer farming worlds by Nessus.
Ausfaller appears in the Beowulf Shaeffer stories "Neutron Star", The Borderland of Sol, and "Ghost", and is mentioned in the story "Procrustes". He also appears in the non-Shaeffer novel Fleet of Worlds and is the main human character in its sequels Juggler of Worlds and Destroyer of Worlds.
Larchmont "Larch" Bellamy, a native of Earth, is a wealthy human who owns the ship Drunkard’s Walk. A lean man with a lean face, a sharp-edged nose, prominent cheekbones and dark, deep-set eyes with shaggy black eyebrows, Bellamy is in prime condition. He is 300 years old and takes boosterspice, although he was born before that drug became available; initially, like all humans before boosterspice, he relied on the organ banks to keep him healthy. An outgoing, interesting man, Bellamy talks well; he tells old jokes but does it well, and he has some new ones, too. While not xenophobic, Bellamy tends to not think of aliens as people; Shaeffer remembers that he had said they should wipe out the Kzinti for good and all.
Bellamy is the leader of a hunting party visiting Gummidgy when the Kdatlyno touch-sculptor Lloobee is kidnapped. When Shaeffer discovers that Bellamy is part of the kidnap plot, he and Emil Horne are captured by the kidnappers who intend to stage their deaths as an accident. Lloobee creates a diversion, allowing Shaeffer to escape, and Bellamy pursues him. Shaeffer rams Bellamy's ship with his aircar, forcing Bellamy to land, but neither Shaeffer nor Bellamy notice that the front landing leg of his ship fails to deploy, leaving the ship balancing with its gyros alone. When Bellamy tries to save his ship, it flips end-for-end, throwing him into the air to his death. Bellamy probably had a romantic relationship with fellow kidnapper Tanya Wilson; Margo Tellefsen told Shaeffer that she might attempt to kill him in revenge for Bellamy's death. Shaeffer characterized Bellamy as a person who could tolerate aliens but who didn't like them much. He also wondered if Bellamy's age was a factor in his decision to kidnap Lloobee; when a person lives for hundreds of years and their politics and morals change over time, Shaeffer wondered, did they become indifferent to the idea of morality?
Bellamy appears in the Beowulf Shaeffer story "Grendel".
Teela Brown was a member of the crew recruited by Puppeteer Nessus for an expedition to the Ringworld. Her sole qualification was that she was descended from "lucky" ancestors, six generations of whom were born as a result of winning Earth's Birthright Lottery. The consequence of her state was that she'd led such a charmed and worry-free life that she was emotionally immature and unprepared for "harsh reality." The Puppeteer saw this as a kind of artificial selection, tending to breed for a psionic power of good luck. He hoped Teela would bring luck and success to the entire expedition.
Teela is a descendant of a former lover of Louis Wu. Her age in Ringworld is given as twenty, though there are conflicting data in later books. She joins the Ringworld expedition, and eventually becomes separated from the group. She meets a Ringworld native called "Seeker," and decides to remain with him on the Ringworld while the remainder of the crew returns to human space.
In The Ringworld Engineers, when a second expedition returns to the Ringworld, it is revealed that Teela has become a Protector-stage human. Her new instincts force her to protect the Ringworld population. When she realizes those instincts are driving her toward an unacceptable choice, she manipulates the other characters into killing her.
Further details of her life become sketchy as the Ringworld story continues through three more novels. Her story is the subject of guesswork and deduction by the other characters, and subject to inconsistent retconning among the works. The influence of her luck is a significant factor in several[vague] parts of the narrative.
According to the story in Ringworld (expanded in the Known Space novel Juggler of Worlds), the Puppeteers intervened with human reproduction beginning several generations in the past, with the intention of breeding humans for luck. This would be possible because they believed luck to be an inheritable psionic ability. They suspected such an ability was latent in humans already, having come to regard humanity as an unusually lucky species.
The plan worked by manipulating the reproductive laws of Earth. To stem overcrowding, the planet had strict birth control laws, limiting the number of children each person could have. The Puppeteers caused the further adoption of a Birthright Lottery, whereby any person could win the opportunity to reproduce more often. Since reproduction could be affected by pure chance, luckier people would have more children, who would inherit that luck. Therefore, the power of luck should become stronger and more widespread in each generation.
In Ringworld's Children we learn that Teela Brown and Seeker had a child, who remained on the Ringworld after the end of the Fringe War. Louis speculates that Teela's luck might work for the survival of her genes, rather than Teela herself.
The existence and nature of Teela's luck is debated back and forth by the characters throughout the four-book series. For most of the first book, Louis believes her to be only a statistical fluke. That is, he believes that Nessus only picked a person who had been lucky in her life so far, not one who actually causes luck to happen. But by the end of the series Louis says he believes the luck is real, because he sees no other explanation for the appalling coincidences that have swirled around her life.
Niven has described the problems that such a character and such a trait pose to his story and to his fictional universe. He calls it "Author Control" to illustrate the plot and story limitations it imposes on the creative process. The story "Safe at Any Speed" is set in a time when the Teela Gene is more common among humans. Niven says there will not be more stories from this time: "Stories about infinitely lucky people tend to be dull." This indicates that the author felt constrained to develop story lines around Teela consistent with the view that luck is genetic and inheritable—any hardship inflicted upon Teela which appears unlucky on first glance must thereafter be revealed as concealing a silver lining of greater import in order to maintain indeterminacy, at the expense of dissipating plot tension (Teela was never in any danger really)—regardless of the views expressed by various characters within the narrative.
Teela can also be viewed as a lampshade trope, by bending narrativium to function as a plot device ("a hero will always win when outnumbered, since million-to-one chances are dramatic enough to crop up nine times out of ten").
Gilbert Gilgamesh Hamilton is one of the few science fiction detectives to appear in the genre. He is often called "Gil the Arm", both due to his affiliation with the ARM world police force, and his unusual psychic ability.
Born in Topeka, Kansas, to flatlander parents near the end of the 21st century (it is established he was born in the month of April, but 2086, 2091, 2093, and 2097 are all given as years in various stories), he emigrates to the Belt as soon as he becomes an adult. There he begins work on an arduous ten-year apprenticeship towards the acquisition of his singleship licence. During this time he works as a member of small multi-person crews.
After completing several successful trips, Gil loses his right arm. While attempting to move an asteroid with explosives, crew leader "Cubes" Forsythe miscalculates, which results in the destruction of the valuable rock. A fast moving piece of shrapnel penetrates the ship, slicing off Gil's arm and killing Forsythe instantly. The remaining crewmember, Owen Jennison, quickly seals the hull breach, stops Gil's bleeding, and manages to get him to life-saving medical facilities in time.
While recuperating from his injury, Gil broods over his future as a Belter. Their ship is missing a crew member, Gil is missing an arm, and Owen's reputation is ruined because he took (what Belters consider) unacceptable risks to get Gil back to safety.
In the low gravity of Ceres base, Gil discovers that he has a psi power. His brain, still remembering the "image" of his lost arm, can use it much as he did his own arm. He can feel and manipulate objects via ESP and telekinesis, respectively. Finding a third crewman, Homer Chandrasekhar, they make several highly profitable trips over the following year. Gil finds his "imaginary arm", though not strong, to be an asset, as he can reach through walls, and accomplish tasks beyond the ability of a normal person. After six months, Gil has earned enough to repay all his medical fees, with a comfortable cash reserve left over.
Despite much disapproval from Owen and Homer, Gil decides to return to Earth and seek to get his citizenship back. On Earth, he can easily get a transplant to replace his missing arm. In the Belt he would have to pay exorbitantly high fees for a transplant, or settle for a prosthetic. Gil, by a quirk of his own nature, can not live with a prosthetic.
Gil receives his new arm, but finds he can still dissociate his imaginary arm from his real one, and reach through walls, flesh, and even vidphone screens to manipulate objects he sees in them. Shortly afterward, Gil finds out that his new arm had not come from a condemned criminal as he had hoped, but from the captured stock of "organleggers", black market dealers in illicit organ transplants. To make amends, Gil joins the ARM, the elite global police force.
As an ARM, Hamilton is a high-tech detective, who hunts organleggers and other criminals for a living. With his unusual psi power, he is formidable and highly feared among his enemies.
- "Death by Ecstasy" (1968)
- "The Defenseless Dead" (1973)
- "ARM" (1975): Hamilton is called to the scene of a murder. The victim is Dr. Raymond Sinclair, a brilliant scientist who has invented a mysterious device that creates a bubble of accelerated time. The murder scene is a locked apartment at the top of a high-rise, where the prime suspect is a beautiful young woman whom Gil refuses to believe is the killer.
- The Patchwork Girl (1980)
- The Woman in Del Rey Crater (1995)
Emil Horne, a native of Jinx, is a top-flight computer programmer. He meets Shaeffer on a trip from Down to Gummidgy and they struck up a quick friendship. Horne is short and strongly built like most natives of Jinx, a high-gravity world. His ability to ask the right questions when programming complex problems also helps him deduce the probable identities of the kidnappers when the Kdatlyno touch sculptor Lloobee is kidnapped from the Argos as it was about to enter Gummidgy system. Despite Shaeffer's caution and some misleading comments that led Horne to believe he was wrong about Larchmont Bellamy and his crew being the kidnappers (Horne wasn't wrong but Shaeffer didn't want him running in with stun-guns blazing), they are taken prisoner when they attempt to infiltrate the location where Lloobee is being held, a cave created with a Slaver disintegrater tool, which Horne locates by having Shaeffer fly high above the ground to see the dust created by the tool. When he attempts to enter the cave, however, a stun-gun set in the "on" position a facing the door renders Horne unconscious. He is returned along with Lloobee after Shaeffer escapes from the kidnappers with Lloobee's help.
Sharrol Janss, a native of Earth, is Shaeffer's wife and the mother of their daughter, Jeena and another child, name unknown, whom she was pregnant with when Shaeffer encountered Ander Smittarasheed on Fafnir in 2655. Sharrol first met Beowulf Shaeffer on Earth when she picked his pocket, and was later formally introduced to him by Dianna and Elephant as a fourth for bridge. Sharrol also has two children by Carlos Wu, Tanya and Louis, as part of an arrangement between the three so that Bey and Sharrol could raise children together on Earth. Sharrol suffers from Flatland Phobia, a fear of changes to a person's environment, gravity, etc. which makes them psychologically unable to bear space travel or being away from Earth. She was employed at the time she met Shaeffer as a computer analyst for Donovan's Brains, Inc. She had been previously employed by the Epcot-Atlanta police. During her childhood her father ran a lobster ranch in Boston. She was able to travel to Fafnir asleep inside Carlo Wu's special autodoc and later was frozen for travel to Home when Ander Smittarasheed located Bey on Fafnir.
Alice Jordan is a Belter and a Goldskin, a member of the Belt Police in the mid-twenty-fourth century. Together with flatlander Roy Truesdale, they set out for the Kuiper Belt in search of Jack Brennan, a human turned Protector who has been abducting humans for study.
In Destroyer of Worlds (by Niven and Edward M. Lerner), Alice is found in a stasis field in a singleship by Outsiders. They sell the singleship containing her to Sigmund Ausfaller who releases her from stasis. Ausfaller deduces that Brennan put Alice in stasis and sent her far from the danger described in Protector because she is pregnant with his descendant. Alice later becomes involved with Louis Wu, in (by the same authorial team) Betrayer of Worlds and Fate of Worlds.
Nessus is a member of the technologically advanced alien race known to Humans as Pierson's Puppeteer, and amongst themselves as Citizens.
Nessus, like almost all Puppeteers ever met by humans, is insane by Puppeteer standards. Sane Puppeteers are far too cautious (cowardly from the human perspective) to go off-world or interact with non-Puppeteers, thus only insane individuals like Nessus can manage to act as business liaisons or ambassadors to other species, as he does with humans and others. Nessus demonstrates traits that in humans would be diagnosed as manic-depressive disorder, displacement, and at times, extreme suggestibility. His interactions with humans cause him to be one of the few Puppeteers to ever show any support for Human interests as coequal to Puppeteer interests. He is also directly responsible for the presence of Sigmund Ausfaller on New Terra
Nessus is featured in the short story "The Soft Weapon" (printed in the 1968 collection Neutron Star) and is one of the expeditionaries to the Ringworld in the 1970 book of the same name. Nessus is also a central character of the Fleet of Worlds series of Ringworld companion novels (Fleet of Worlds, Juggler of Worlds, Destroyer of Worlds, Betrayer of Worlds, and Fate of Worlds), which opens about 200 years before Ringworld and ends following Ringworld's Children.
Peter Nordbo is an astronomer and noble on Wunderland, and during the First Man-Kzin War, was pressed into service for the Kzin following their occupation of the world. At the height of the occupation, he discovered a source of bizarre radiation on a world many lightyears away, and was taken to investigate by the scientifically minded Kzin who oversaw him.
During the flight, forces under Buford Early and Ulf Reichstein Markham liberated Wunderland, and Nordbo was convicted of collaboration and stripped of all of his possessions. In order to secure his release and clear his name, his daughter Tyra secured the help of Robert Saxtorph and his ship to investigate. They found that Peter had discovered a remnant of the Tnuctipun, a black hole powered hyperdrive that could also be used as a powerful Hawking radiation beam weapon. Peter had freed himself from the Kzinti and was reunited with Tyra, and after the weapon was destroyed by the Kzin, returned to Wunderland to free his name.
Gregory Pelton, (aka "Elephant" for a certain anatomical resemblance to a feature of the large Earth land animal), a native of Earth, is probably the richest human alive. His great-to-the-eighth grandmother invented the transfer booth. It is rumored that he actually owns known space, and gets income from renting it out, and that General Products Corporation is actually a front for him.
Pelton lives in a house on the side of a cliff in the Rocky Mountains on Earth, and having spent a lot of time in space resents being called a flatlander. Pelton is of average height but strongly built, looking not so much overweight as solid. Most humans in this period of time on Earth are in excellent health, with autodocs to maintain their bodies and boosterspice to prevent aging; Pelton presumably uses both.
Pelton and Shaeffer's personalities tend to complement each other, and they quickly made friends when Shaeffer first encountered him aboard the Lensman, bound for Earth from Jinx after Shaeffer's fateful trip to the core of the Milky Way galaxy. Pelton can be cordial and pleasant but also very direct and blunt when it suits him. He is patient but his patience has limits, and while he is as cautious as anyone he can sometimes act without thinking, a trait that would have gotten him killed if Shaeffer had not talked him out of landing on the protosun's planet when they visited it in 2645, as the planet, named "Cannonball Express" by Pelton and Shaeffer, was composed of antimatter, which would have destroyed even Pelton's General Products-hulled ship, the Slower Than Infinity. Indeed, the hull eventually disintegrated due to annihilations by antimatter particles but Pelton and Shaeffer were able to escape and managed to return to Jinx.
After Shaeffer and Pelton returned from Cannonball Express Pelton made plans to return but when government agencies became involved the plan bogged down in details. Ander Smittarasheed told Shaeffer that as of 2655 it was unclear whether Pelton was still involved in the project at all. Shaeffer and Pelton still maintained contact after the trip to Cannonball Express; when Shaeffer secretly emigrated to Fafnir with Sharrol, their children, and Carlos Wu and Feather Filip, Elephant gave him the money he received from General Products Corporation for the indemnity on his General Products hull, destroyed by exposure to antimatter particles from the Fast Protosun's solar wind; the money was deposited on accounts in Fafnir and Home, where the group planned to emigrate to, using assumed identities, after secretly arriving on Fafnir.
In Juggler of Worlds, Pelton is powerful enough to control the SecGen of the fictional UN, and becomes a wanted criminal on the run, the authors' way of explaining why he never returns to the Known Space universe.
Regional President of We Made It
This Pierson's Puppeteer, a native of the Fleet-of-Worlds working for General Products in Known Space, contracted with Shaeffer to pilot a spaceship in a close fly-by of newly discovered neutron star BVS-1 to discover what killed the first two explorers to make the attempt, Peter and Sonya Laskin. After Shaeffer's return from BVS-1, the puppeteer also agreed to pay Shaeffer one million stars in return for his silence concerning whether the puppeteer homeworld had a moon.
The Regional President of We Made It appears in the Beowulf Shaeffer story Neutron Star.
Regional President of Jinx
This puppeteer (called "Honey" by an overly tired Shaeffer at one point, due to his female-sounding voice), also worked for General Products. He contracted with Shaeffer to pilot a Quantum II hyperdrive ship (named Long Shot by Shaeffer) to the core of the Milky Way galaxy, where Shaeffer discovers the core explosion.
The Regional President of Jinx appears in the Beowulf Shaeffer story At the Core.
Ulf Reichstein-Markham was born on Wunderland in 2390, the son of a solar system Belter. Following the occupation of Wunderland by the Kzinti in the First Man-Kzin War, at the age of 18 he joined the "Free Wunderland Navy," what purported to be a resistance group but was little more than a band of space pirates occupying the Serpent Swarm (Alpha Centauri's asteroid belt). He was responsible for the capture of the United Nations spaceship Catskinner, whose crew later were responsible for the assassination of Chuut-Riit. He also came under the control of a Thrint who escaped its Slaver stasis field before being destroyed by the Catskinner AI.
By the time Wunderland was liberated in 2420, Reichstein-Markham had become an admiral, and then was chosen to be Minister of War for the free Wunderlander government. He finally died in the year 2443 after being selected to chair the Interworld Commission, an early form of pan-human government established after the peace treaty with the Kzin was signed. Prior to his death, he had used his position to give the secret of hyperdrive to the Kzin disguised as a diplomatic packet, in the hopes of creating a lasting peace of equality between the two races. Although he did not live to see it, Reichstein-Markham's treachery meant that, far from his intentions, the Kzin would grow strong enough to launch four additional wars of conquest against the human worlds.
Charles Martin Shaeffer is nicknamed "Little" Shaeffer and is known to most of his friends simply as "Lit". A Belter, born in the late 21st century, he is First Speaker for the Belt Political Section when Kzanol the thrint is revived from stasis in the early 22nd century. He is friends with Lucas Garner and has visited with him at least once on Farmer's Asteroid, one of the Belt Bubbleworlds. Lit's nickname comes from the fact that he spent a good deal of time in low and zero-g during his body's growth period, and is now unusually tall. The Shaeffer family is very active in Belt politics, and are likely ancestors of Beowulf Shaeffer, but this is never established definitively.
Ander Smittarasheed, a native of Earth, was hired by Shaeffer to ghostwrite his neutron star story and again four years later to write his galactic core story. Athletic and well-built, easily able to have any woman for the asking, Ander tends to dress in wild flatlander style even when offworld. He has a square face, thin blond hair and a solid-looking jaw that Shaeffer compared to a prey turtle's.
Ander presents himself as cool yet affable, but manages to come off (at least to Shaeffer) as being smug. When Shaeffer advertised for a ghostwriter after his neutron star episode Ander answered and managed to push himself into the situation before Shaeffer's guard was completely up. He was a very competent writer, which surprised Shaeffer, and the neutron star recording sold well, as did the core piece they did together four years later. That was the last Shaeffer saw of Ander until he appeared on Fafnir ten years later, looking for him.
Smittarasheed is in the employ of Sigmund Ausfaller, an ARM and agent for the Bureau of Alien Affairs. Ander was tasked with finding Shaeffer and questioning him about the threat level of certain alien races, notably the puppeteers. This may have been done to delay Shaeffer until Ausfaller could arrive and take him into custody, but Ander did not have time to contact Ausfaller until after his initial interview with the crashlander. However, when Shaeffer offers to sell Ander the location of Carlos Wu's nanotech autodoc, Ander understands the impact of such technology (evidenced by Shaeffer's altered appearance) and is interested in spite of himself.
The lure of Carlos Wu's special autodoc proves too tempting for Smittarasheed. When Ausfaller appears to take Shaeffer into custody, along with local money (probably for bribing local officials; he never intended to give it to Shaeffer), Smittarasheed kills him with the ARM punchgun left in Shaeffer's hotel room by Sharrol and taken by Ander and offers to split the money with Shaeffer for the location of Carlos's autodoc. Shaeffer agrees but leaves Fafnir without the money, knowing that the Fafnir police can link the punchgun to another crime, a survival jacket with a ragged hole through it, made by the same weapon. With Ander holding the weapon, he would be linked to that death as well as Ausfaller's. And Smittarasheed did not reckon, Shaeffer knew, on just how many Fafnir police were Kzinti who had elected to stay on that world when it was acquired by Earth in the Fourth Man-Kzin War. Smittarasheed's final fate is revealed in “In Juggler of Worlds”, where Ander is killed in a firefight with Kzniti Fafnir police.
Ander Smittarasheed appears in the framing story Ghost.
Nicholas Brewster Sohl is a Belter, born in the mid 21st century, he is First Speaker for the Belt Political Section when Phssthpok the Pak Protector arrives in the Solar System in the early 22nd century.
Together with Lucas Garner they track Phssthpok and Jack Brennan to Mars, where they find Brennan has become a protector himself (and has killed Phssthpok).
Speaker-to-Animals (or later Chmeee) is a junior diplomat who is trained to deal with other species without reflexively killing them. He is recruited by Nessus, a Pierson's Puppeteer, as a member of an expedition to explore the Ringworld.
Speaker is a Kzin, a member of an extraterrestrial race of large tiger-like beings. He is a trained diplomat posted to the United Nations. His title (in place of a name he has yet to earn) is a polite reference to how Kzinti refer to non-Kzin races. Following their return to Known Space, he is given the name of "Chmeee" (the "ch" is pronounced like a guttural German "ch", as in "ach") and given breeding rights by the Kzinti Patriarch. In the sequel The Ringworld Engineers Chmeee, along with Louis Wu, is kidnapped by the Hindmost (the exiled leader of the Puppeteers). The Hindmost wants Louis and Chmeee to uncover the secret behind the creation of the Ringworld. Chmeee appears briefly in The Ringworld Throne and Ringworld's Children. His son, Acolyte, is a supporting character in these novels. As a member of the Kzin species, Speaker-to-Animals is extremely dangerous and always ready to fight despite the fact that he is a diplomat. He was the one that caused the most damage to the Ringworld village of Zignamuclikclik and were he not a part of the Docile Kzinti project, he probably would have leveled the village to the ground. He is also responsible for the expedition's safety on Ringworld and therefore is in charge most of the time.
Chmeee is approximately 8 feet (2.4 m) tall and weighs 400–500 pounds (180–230 kg). He, like all kzinti, is covered with a thick coat of long fur that comes in various combinations of orange, yellow, and black. His face has black fur across the eyes resembling a bandit's mask, or the facial markings of a raccoon. His tail is naked and similar in appearance to a rat's tail. Kzinti ears are hairless, pink, and shaped liked a segment of a Chinese parasol (or cocktail umbrella); they can fold back flat against the head for protection during a fight. Chmeee was badly burned during Ringworld; and as a result, his body was covered with scars. After involuntarily receiving an injection of the Kzinti analog of boosterspice, his scarring gradually disappeared. However, he acquired new scars after a fight with a Pak protector in The Ringworld Engineers.
Margo Tellefsen, a native of Earth, is the captain of the Argos, bound for Gummidgy, when it is boarded and one of its passengers is kidnapped. She is slim and lovely with long, dark hair that she wore in a "free fall" effect. She has green eyes. Shaeffer considered her lovely enough (by flatlander standards) to make a fast fortune on tridee if she wanted to. Shaeffer believes that Margo is in collusion with the kidnappers, which she confirms when Shaeffer confronts this after his escape. Margo revealed that she is Bellamy's mother and therefore well over 300 years old. Shaeffer, intrigued by her request for him to stay with her for two years while Sharrol and Carlos Wu are having children for Bey and Sharrol to raise on Earth, agrees to stay with her during that time.
Margo Tellefsen appears in the Beowulf Shaeffer story Grendel.
Tanya Wilson, a native of Earth, is a companion of Larch Bellamy and one of the four people who kidnapped the Kdatlyno touch sculptor Lloobee from the spaceship Argos. Shaeffer met her when he arrived at Elephant's house during lush-hour one day. She is about 300 years old.
Details on her physical appearance are sparse. She has a voice that is rich and fruity, according to Shaeffer, with a flatlander accent that doesn't ring quite true and is probably displaced in time.
When Emil attempted to storm the cave where Lloobee was being held, he stunned Wilson before being stunned himself. After Shaeffer was captured she returned to the campsite, the cover story for her injury was that she was scratched by one of the native species of Gummidgy. After Bellamy was dead, Margo Tellefsen, who was Bellamy's mother, warned Shaeffer that Tanya Wilson had been in love with her son and would probably try to kill him.
Tanya Wilson appears in the Beowulf Shaeffer story Grendel.
Carlos Wu, a native of Earth, is one of only about 120 people with an unlimited parenthood license due to his incredible genius and resistance to disease and injury. His intelligence allowed him to solve the Sealeyham Limits Problem, and to design a new autodoc based on nanotechnology. Along with being a genius mathematician, he is also a playwright and composer. Wu is an easygoing and pleasant fellow, although he broods over feeling trapped by the ARM keeping constant track of his whereabouts and activities. He is reluctant to disclose his thoughts on the cause of ships disappearing near Sol system, even when the hyperdrive in Sigmund Ausfaller's ship, Hobo Kelly, completely disappears as they approach Earth. Carlos and Bey are returning to Earth; Bey in order to be with his love, Sharrol Janss, and their two children, Tanya and Louis (both of whom were fathered by Carlos). Carlos, perhaps having a resurgence of flatland phobia, has agreed to return there with Ausfaller. Carlos and Bey meet with Dr. Julian Forward and discover that he has found a quantum black hole and is using it to make ships in hyperdrive disappear. Forward takes them hostage and attempts to destroy the Hobo Kelly, but Ausfaller fires on his ships and Shaeffer manages to damage his equipment, temporarily losing control of the quantum black hole, which Forward, sensing defeat, allows himself to be drawn into. Ausfaller rescues Bey and Carlos and they continue on to Earth where Bey rejoins Sharrol and their children and Carlos resumes his own life on Earth.
Carlos and Sharrol Janss had a casual sexual relationship before Sharrol met Shaeffer, although Carlos may have been more interested in her than she in him, since he tried to convince her at one point to leave Earth with him because he felt smothered by the overprotective ARMs who were tasked with protecting his life. When Shaeffer and Janss decided to have children but Shaeffer was denied a parenthood license due to his albinism, they agreed that Carlos would father two children with Sharrol and she and Bey would raise them.
Eventually Wu formed a relationship with Feather Filip, an ARM agent tasked to protect him and he and she created a plan to secretly emigrate from Earth to another planet. To minimize the chance they would be found they planned to bring others along to disguise the size of their group (the ARM would presumably be looking for two people, not a larger group). They brought Bey and Sharrol into the plan. Feather had located a ship that would transport them to Fafnir. From there, they would take the place of a family named Graynor, a group of two men, two women and two children. That family would secretly emigrate to Wunderland, where Feather had set up funding for them, while they would move on to Home. However, after reaching Fafnir, Feather turned on them, shooting Shaeffer in the chest with the punchgun, to show Carlos what she was capable of, so he would stay with her. Instead, Carlos ran with the children, Tanya and Louis, and managed to emigrate to Home without Feather's help. A year and a half later, when Ander Smittarasheed caught up to Bey and Sharrol on Fafnir, she was frozen for shipment to Home along with their daughter Jeena and their unborn child.
While on Earth Carlos lived underwater at the United Nations-protected Great Barrier Reef on Earth.
Fictional alien species
In the process of exploring space, humankind encounters several intelligent alien species, including the following (in alphabetical order):
Winston Doheny, our biologist, took one look at these monsters and dubbed them frumious bandersnatch. This species name is now in the goddam log.— World of Ptavvs, Larry Niven
Bandersnatchi are described as enormous herd animals, twice the size of an Apatosaurus with a slug-like shape and completely white, slick skin. A sauropod-like neck, with no head, extends about as high as the bandersnatch's body. The tip is thick and rounded, entirely featureless, other than two tufts of black bristles (sense organs). At the front of the body, low to the ground, is a large mouth adapted to scooping a form of mutated yeast out of shallow ocean-like yeast colonies.
Niven's works describe Bandersnatchi as one giant cell with long chromosomes as thick as a human finger, rendering them impervious to the mutagenitive effects of radiation and therefore unable to mutate. As single cells, they reproduce asexually by budding. Their nerves have no cell body and no nuclei; nothing to separate them from other specialized protoplasm. The Bandersnatchi also have 6 large hearts, each weighing about 11 pounds. The brain is large, shaped long and narrow, and is encased in a bony cage. The skull is one end of this jointless, flexible, very strong cage that keeps them from ever shifting position.
In the Known Space universe, the Bandersnatchi were created by the Tnuctipun during the Thrintun empire (~1.5 billion BCE) as a food source with a nearly irresistible taste to the predatory Thrintun. As such, the Thrintun had no objection to their large size. While the Thrintun believed that the Bandersnatchi possessed no intelligence, they were actually sentient beings resistant to their telepathic mind control abilities and were used by the Tnuctipun to spy on the Thrintun until a slave rebellion. This immunity to the Thrintun psychic abilities also allowed them to survive the mass-suicide command used at the end of the Tnuctipun-Thrintun war. However, because Bandersnatchi chromosomes are so thick and resilient that they never mutate, they therefore cannot evolve, and have remained biologically unchanged for the past two billion years.
Bandersnatchi are portrayed as surviving on the planet Jinx, with isolated populations also scattered throughout the galaxy, including the planet Beanstalk and the 'Maps of Jinx' in the Great Oceans of the Ringworld. On Jinx, Bandersnatchi allow themselves to be hunted in exchange for specialized tools and devices, such as mechanical 'arms' specifically designed for their massive bodies, along with keeping the Bandersnatchi population in check and providing the humans with something to fight. The Hunter's equipment is restricted by agreement to make things more equal; about 40% of the hunters do not return.
The Chunquen are a slave species of the Kzinti, remarkable to their captors for the sentience of both sexes. ("They fought constantly.") Their homeworld is watery; they resisted the Kzinti invasion with missiles fired from submarines. Apparently they were exterminated before the Kzinti first encountered humans.
The Grogs are Sessile sentient creatures, shaped like furry cones. They are eyeless, earless, and have a prehensile tongue. They can also control animals telepathically. The Grogs are thought by some to be the descendants of the Thrintun species, after 1.5 billion years of atrophy.
The Gw'oth resemble starfish and inhabit the ocean under the ice of their home world, the moon Jm'ho. When linked together – using a vestigial talent that few Gw'oth retain – they can form a powerful biological computer. One such instance is named Ol't'ro. Ol't'ro is composed of 16 Gw'oth individuals that link themselves together into a 'meld' or ensemble mind called a Gw'otesht. Ol't'ro is featured prominently throughout the Fleet of Worlds series.
Ol't'ro's ultimate fate is unknown after the Fate of Worlds book in the series. Whether Ol't'ro died in the explosion of planets or somehow escaped is left unanswered. Ol't'ro had just solved the mystery of Type II hyperspatial travel so it is possible but unknown that the Gw'otesht managed to escape in that fashion.
Jotoki resemble large, spindly starfish. They have a torochord (ring-shaped) instead of a notochord, with five "self-sections" (apparently semi-independent brains) that operate the Jotok's body cooperatively. The Jotoki begin life as small aquatic swimmers, most of which are eaten by predators; in time, five of the survivors will merge to form one collective organism, which grows into an arboreal adolescent form; its tails become arms, and its fins differentiate into fingers. When it grows large enough, the Jotok imprints itself on an adult (if one is available) and enters a stage of rapid learning and brain growth. A Jotok who desires a family can simply go into the wilderness and "harvest" an adolescent of the proper age (a property that Kzin slavers later exploit). Unimprinted adult Jotoki are considered feral, and regarded as little more than animals. Since the five subunits that make up one Jotok individual are not necessarily genetically related, reproduction does not require sex; a Jotok can simply find a pond and deposit its offspring to begin the cycle again. Before their enslavement, Jotoki operated in groups called "clanpods", as part of their former planet-wide tradeweb. Details of this arrangement are not known. Jotok technological specialties included gravity polarizers, linguistics and biotechnology. They had the ability to force-grow clones to adulthood.
The Jotoki were also experts at trade. Their interstellar trade empire was quite developed for its time, but after using Kzin as mercenaries for many years, the Kzinti revolted and conquered the Jotoki. The Jotoki became the slaves and food-animals of the ferocious Kzinti. In "modern" times (i.e. during most of the Known Space stories), Jotoki are a seldom-seen slave race of the Kzinti. The Kzinti believe that there is a free Jotoki fleet wandering amongst the stars, which would have provided their most strenuous opposition (excepting humans).
In Man-Kzin Wars XI, it is established that surviving Jotoki swimmers inhabited a Wunderland swamp near a crashed Kzin cruiser. Although the swamp was rendered uninhabitable, by the end of the book it is established that humans recovered some Jotoki and are attempting to breed a free Jotok species. The success of this is unknown, since earlier-written but chronologically later Niven works do not mention free Jotoki.
In appearance they are a physically large and powerful bipedal species with muscular build, rough scaly skin, retractile claws and thick hides, growing up to eight feet tall. They have no eyes, having evolved on a world which instead drove the development of echolocation rather than vision.
Kdatlyno are one of the few sentient races that can physically intimidate an adult Kzin, and there is at least one mention of them being used as elite Imperial Guards for the Kzinti Patriarch, presumably due to both their great strength and their uninvolvement in Kzin imperial court politics.
The short story "Grendel" features the Kdatlyno Lloobee, a touch-sculptor who works primarily for a human audience.
The Martians are primitive but intelligent humanoids who lived beneath the sands. Martians burst into flames when brought in contact with water. Martians killed many of the early human explorers on Mars, principally because they concealed their existence, and they weren't suspected. In the novel Protector, the Martians were wiped out when Jack Brennan caused an ice asteroid to crash into the surface of Mars, raising the average humidity of the atmosphere. Some Martians still exist on the "Map of Mars" on the Ringworld.
The Morlocks are semi-sentient humanoid cave dwellers on Wunderland. They, like humans, descended from a failed attempt by Pak Protectors to colonize Sol and nearby star systems. Named by humans for the creatures in H.G. Wells' The Time Machine.
The Outsiders are many-limbed beings that are invariably described as a cat o'nine tails with a fattened handle. Their body composition includes ultra-cold superfluid helium. Outsiders are estimated to be the most advanced species in Known Space, possibly the Galaxy, but the extent of their development remains unknown. Though they have the technology to produce advanced faster-than-light drives, they rarely use them, preferring to travel the "slow" way, just below the speed of light. They do possess a "reactionless drive" technology that allows them to reach this speed almost instantaneously. In Ringworld's Children Louis Wu says that the Outsiders have "something better" than hyperdrive but this is not elaborated on.
They spend all of their time following starseeds and acting as information brokers to space-faring sentient races throughout the Milky Way. Their prices can be very high and scaled to the estimated impact the information will have on the civilization of the client race. Their most common wares are interstellar propulsion systems of various types. The Outsiders maintain a strict commercial ethos regarding any form of knowledge, which shrouds them in a secrecy only wealth can penetrate. They do not haggle. They will answer any question, even those about themselves, if you are willing to pay the price. Personal questions about the Outsiders have been priced beyond the ability of any individual or government to pay (on the order of a trillion credits). In "Peace and Freedom", it is revealed that starseeds are in fact packages of microorganisms designed to seed new planets with life, thus creating new customers for the Outsiders. They are reluctant to reveal this information because they are ashamed, since one of their starseeds created the Thrint, which destroyed nearly all intelligent life in the galaxy several billion years ago. Another theory behind the Outsiders-Starseed connection is that Starseeds actually carry Outsider 'spores;' as the Outsiders are a small numbered species their offspring are of great importance to them.
The Outsiders are thought to have evolved on a cold world with no atmosphere, similar to Neptune's moon Nereid, which they lease from the Earth government. They live on thermoelectricity by lying with their heads in sunlight and their tails in shadow; the temperature difference sets up a current. In some of the later Known Space stories it has been suggested that the Outsiders do not use Hyperspace as its conditions are lethal to them because they would be unable to generate thermoelectricity. Outsider 'ships' are equipped with an artificial 'sun' for their journeys between systems, but because of the nature of their 'ships' the Hyperspace 'blind spot' would absorb this artificial light, killing Outsiders if they would remain in Hyperspace too long. (The canon of this material is debatable as it was not written by Niven directly.)
The novel A Darker Geometry by Gregory Benford and Mark O. Martin revealed that the Outsiders were created by a race of extra-dimensional aliens seeking to escape the heat death of their own universe. Edward M. Lerner revealed in an online chat (as 'EML') that Larry Niven had ruled A Darker Geometry as definitely non-canonical and incompatible with the then forthcoming Juggler of Worlds, which was co-authored by Niven and Lerner. Juggler of Worlds introduces a number of possible retcons to established Outsider history.
While in most of the Known Space Series, the name "Outsiders" refers to the aforementioned species, in stories that happen before the discovery of aliens the term "Outsider" refers to any alien that might make contact with mankind.
The Outsiders may have inspired the Melnorme, from Star Control 2, another highly advanced and very mysterious species. The Investor species in Shaper/Mechanist stories by Bruce Sterling have a similar ethos but an altogether different biology.
The Pierin are a rare multi-limbed species that developed on a planet with lower gravity than Earth, thus they spend much time in the air. They have horns on their heads and wide membranous wings. They speak in raspy screeches and atonal clicks. Pierin are described as curious and friendly to the point of being nosy. They were able to develop a small space-faring civilization before being enslaved by the Kzin.
Their planet of origin is known as Pierin, orbiting a star in the constellation Reticulum. At some point Human beings tried to ally with them against the Kzin. They eventually were liberated from slavery during the Man-Kzin wars.
The Thrintun are an ancient species that ruled a large empire, including the region of Known Space, through telepathic mind control about 1.5 billion years ago. A technology created by one of their slave races was the stasis field, which makes its contents impervious to harm and provides indefinite suspended animation, which has figured in several Known Space stories. Thrintun were small (approximately 1.25 meters tall), highly telepathic but not particularly intelligent (with their mind control, they did not need to be), reptilian, with green scaly skin, pointed teeth, and a single eye. The species were depicted in Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials
The Tnuctipun (singular Tnuctip) were small, arboreal pack predators, averaging about 3–4 feet long. Their heads were long and lean, and their eyes opened laterally. They were highly intelligent (IQ estimated around 130–140, according to the short story "In the Hall of the Mountain King") and social. As befits their carnivorous nature, they were also ruthless, aggressive, and cunning. Their word for alien most closely translates to "food that talks". Two billion years before humans evolved, the galaxy was ruled by the Thrintun, who telepathically enslaved other species, including the Tnuctipun.
The Tnuctipun invented most of the technologies from that era, including stage trees (trees containing solid rocket fuel in their trunks, originally used as cheap rocket boosters, which in the present era of the Known Space universe had evolved to seed themselves across star systems), sunflowers (flowers with integral parabolic mirrors that can focus sunlight to deadly effect), and stasis fields (a time dilation device). They were also known to have direct conversion of mass to energy and a telepathy shield (these two technologies are lost by the time most Niven stories take place). In order for the Tnuctipun to think creatively, the Thrintun allowed them some limited freedom. The Tnuctipun used that freedom to stage a rebellion against their masters, the culmination of a carefully thought out, centuries-long plan.
In the novel World of Ptavvs, the protagonist Larry Greenberg, a telepath who reads the mind of a Thrint, theorizes that some of their inventions were traps: Bandersnatchi, thought to be non-sentient livestock, were in fact intelligent, created as spies immune to telepathy. Sunflowers turned against their masters and burned Thrint homes to the ground. Other Tnuctip inventions were designed to shape Thrint society to weaken it. Sunflowers encouraged a trend for the slavers to live in isolated manors, surrounded by slaves. Mutated racing viprin (fast-running creatures raced for entertainment and gambling) ruined the existing viprin herding business, which along with other similar inventions led to an economic depression prior to the Tnuctip revolt.
The war escalated until the Thrintun, rather than accept defeat, employed a device that amplified the sphere of influence of a Thrint's mind control to encompass the entire galaxy. And they gave a simple command: Die. And everything in the galaxy that had evolved a backbone perished, including any Thrintun not protected by a stasis field. The Bandersnatchi were one of the only sentient races that survived this on a large scale, because they were already immune to telepathic commands. This course of events is alluded to in the novel World of Ptavvs and a still functioning suicide amplifier itself is discovered in the short story "Peter Robinson" by Hal Colebach, at which point it is destroyed.
Several other Tnuctip inventions are inadvertently discovered in the various known space novels, including a prototype hyperspace shunt, discovered during the first Man-Kzin War (in the novelette Inconstant Star by Poul Anderson). The Kzinti lose the war before they can bring news of it home, and the device itself is lost.
A recent Man-Kzin Wars short story – "Teacher's Pet" by Matthew Joseph Harrington, in Man-Kzin Wars XI – claimed that the Tnuctipun are responsible for creating the Pak Protectors. As with most Man-Kzin Wars material, its canonicity has not been confirmed by Niven.
In 1968, Niven worked with Norman Spinrad to draft a story outline entitled Down In Flames, in which much of the history of Known Space is revealed to be a hoax, and in which it is revealed that the Kzin are the Tnuctipun. The outline was published in Tom Reamy's fanzine Trumpet, and released on the internet, but was never intended to be completed or published, and was superseded by the Ringworld series of novels.
The Trinocs are named for their three eyes; they also have three fingers on each hand and a triangular mouth. They are described as 5-foot-tall (1.5 m) bipedal humanoids, with long legs, short torsos, and improbably flexible neck vertebrae. An unconfirmed source states that they breathe a "primordial reducing atmosphere" mainly composed of methane and ammonia, and are culturally paranoid, at least by human standards. First encountered by Louis Wu in the short story "There is a Tide".
The Whrloo are meter-tall insectoids with long eyestalks, their homeworld has low gravity with a thick, dense atmosphere. They never saw the stars until they were enslaved by the Kzinti.
Also figuring in some stories are dolphins and other intelligent cetaceans, and various offshoots of Homo sapiens including the associate lineage of the hominids of the Ringworld. Most life in Known Space shares similar biochemistries, since they evolved from the Thrintun practice of seeding barren worlds with food yeast which they used to feed their slaves. Over a billion years, the Thrintun food yeast evolved into the different life forms in Known Space.
Rugged and highly individualistic, Belters make their living by mining the ores from the asteroidal rocks. Belters inhabit the main belt, trojan asteroids of the outer planets, centaur planetoids and NEA's.
Transient by nature, the only home they typically own is their pressure suit, and perhaps their singleship. As a form of heraldry, Belters decorate their skintight suits with elaborate (and often expensive) torso paintings. Most Belters, male and female, sport what is known as the Belter Crest: shaving their heads on the sides, leaving a strip of hair down the center resembling a mohawk. However, the hair in the back can be of any length, particularly for women.
In lieu of (or perhaps in addition to) a wake for their dead, Belters have a custom known as the ceremonial drunk. When a Belter dies, his or her close friends will typically get intoxicated (either alone or in groups according to one's nature or circumstance) and reminisce about the deceased.
The Belt Government collects a 30% tax on all cargo sold within the belt. However, one can avoid paying the tax by smuggling one's cargo to an Earth facility, which collects no taxes. The caveat is that, if one is caught smuggling by the Belt police (known as goldskins due to the color of their spacesuits), one will forfeit all of one's cargo to the Belt Government. To a Belter, smuggling is considered "illegal but not immoral". It is considered equivalent to a parking violation on Earth. If caught, one simply pays the fine and that is the end of it.
Flatlander refers to any human born on Earth, in contrast to those who live on other planets or space habitats. The derogatory term was coined by Belters, whose space habitats are either enclosed, or located on large asteroids with visibly curving horizons. Whereas from any point on the surface of Earth the horizon looks flat.
Of the stable population of approximately eighteen billion people living on Earth from about the 23rd century onwards, very few wind up leaving the planet for any length of time. Many suffer from the so-called flatland phobia, a chronic fear of leaving the confines of the environment in which humans evolved. Their reaction to changes in gravity, atmospheric composition, and sunlight hue can include nausea and continual panic attacks.
Those who do venture into space, of course, tend to take exception to the word, as they have left the planet with no ill effects, and even relish partaking of the same adventures and benefits of space travel that non-Earthbound humans enjoy. Gregory Pelton is one of these, goading Beowulf Shaeffer into calling him a flatlander even after having traveled to a number of planets in Known Space.
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