Larry Niven

The Man-Kzin Wars 04


Last month a stranger in New Jersey asked permission to use the kzinti in his fanzine. (Fanzines, fan magazines, exist strictly for recreation.) Gary Wells wanted nothing of Known Space, just the kzinti, embedded in a Star Trek backgrounds

I wrote I hereby refuse you permission to use the kzinti in any literary property.

The last guy who did that involved the kzinti in a sadomasochistic homosexual gang, bang, badly, and published it on a computer network. A friend alerted me and we spoke the magic word and frightened him away. (Lawsuits) I'm still a little twitchy on the subject, so don't take any of this too personally…

Wells persisted. He sent me the Fleet bio for his kzin: a crewman aboard a federation battlewagon. He's got his format well worked out. It would have been fun to see what he might do with it; but I'm going to refuse him anyway. I don't want the playground getting too crowded.

I hope the network bandit doesn't turn up again.

I wouldn't be so picky with a story set in someone else's territory… but when you play in my playground you don't vandalize the equipment. Jim Baan and I have solicited stories which we bought and then rejected because they didn't fit my standards.

The bandit's kzin was ridiculous. Large warm-blooded animals that have to fight don't have big impressive dongs. There's no flexibility in their mating habits. (We have some partial understanding of why humans are an exception.) Humans will smell wrong; this is established as important to kzinti.

Yet such matters can be handled with taste, or at least verisimilitude.

If you once read Donald Kingsbury's Courtship Rite… but the nightmares have since gone away… 'The Survivor' is your chance to get them back. Kingsbury writes horror stories for bright people. You will come to understand his cowardly kzin, and even to sympathize with him, but not, I hope, to love him. Grass-Eater is not normal.

'The Man Who Would Be Kzin,' as portrayed by Greg Bear and S. M. Stirling, isn't normal either.

There are writers out there who know considerably more about the kzinti than I do. The Man-Kzin Wars authors have already delved deep into normal kzinti family life. The kzinti are mean and dangerous and intelligent. I fear I've been taking them too lightly.

Larry Niven


Donald Kingsbury


(2391 A.D.)

His tail was cold. Where could he run to?

The Short-Son of Chirr-Nig fluffed the fur inside his suit to help him keep warm. At the airlock exit he hadn't had time to appropriate better surface garb from the public racks. The suit was non-standard, too large and good only for a limited surface excursion. Eventually he would freeze. The oxygen mask and support pack should last indefinitely.

Ruddy light from an enormous red sun gilded the snow-swept rocks. A dim rose cast itself across the hunching sprawl of atmosphere-tight buildings that spread down into the valley gloom. The scene demanded infra-red goggles to penetrate the shadows but Short-Son had no goggles. Could he run to the mountains? The jags against the sky had been named the Mountains of Promised Victory by the founding warriors of Hssin, but they were mountains of death.

Dim as R'hshssira was, the sanguine glare from the snow peaks drowned the stars along the horizon. But above, undismayed by the pale glow of R'hshssira, the heavens peered from a darkly mauve sky, seeming to give more light than Hssin's litter-runt-of-a-star, even as they peered through wisps of cirrus.

If there was little light, there was warmth. But one had to be standing out on the open plain of Hssin in full daylight forge-red R'hshssira looming full round in the sky to feel the warmth. Nevertheless it was real warmth that soaked into space armor if one was willing to freeze his backside and tail.

Short-Son of Chirr-Nig turned his back to the sun, his tail held up to the radiation.

His warrior elders sometimes joked about whether Hssin was a planet or a moon because no kzin was really sure whether the pitiful primary, R'hshssira, was a father star or a mere lost whelp with slave. R'hshssira was too cool, too small to be a star, already having collapsed, without igniting its hydrogen, to the density of a heavy metal. Still it bathed them in a bloody warmth.

A star-beast in hibernation, its metabolism inactive.

A beast with no rotation, no magnetic field, fighting nothing. It slept and the slave satellite Hssin patrolled protectively close to the master's lair.

Short-Son couldn't go to the mountains. He had to escape back into the city he had just run from. He stared up at the constellations, at five brilliant, distant giants that lay across the River of Heaven. If there was no place to run to then let the Fanged God Who Drank at the River of Heaven take him to the stars.

Hssin served as a forward military base of the Kzin Patriarchy, barren as a moon, yet with atmosphere like a planet. The gas was thin, wicked, noxious, sometimes as stormy as the surface of R'hshssira was docile. The temperatures ranged over extremes impossible for life to endure. Nothing worth hunting could Eve in those hills and plains of shattered rock and ice.

The kzinti who stayed here were pitied by the kzinti who passed through on their way to greater glory.

…And, thought Short-Son bitterly, who mock and torture the loyal kzin whose heroism keeps this wretched base open for the use of the Patriarchy. He envied the outward-bound warriors their journey, their wily females, the wood and leather and tapestry in their starships. He scorned their petty complaints about the hardships of space. He openly hated their sons who used him as sport, but kept private his thoughts about violating their soft- furred daughters.

The Short-Son of Chirr-Nig knew where they were running to. The brightest star on the horizon of Hssin was the beacon that made them endure both their travels and the tedious duty at bleak military bases along the way. Looking at it, he refused to call that white binary by its Kzin name, Ka'ashi he always called it by its unpronounceable exotic alien name, Alpha Centaurs. What did those weird sounds mean?

An old warrior had once told him that the monkey aliens had named it after a beast that was half monkey, half herbivore; four cloven hooves and two hands. Just the name could make him smell the hunting and stalking of strange beasts!

He had salivated over smellpictures of the six-legged underland gagrumphers.

But it was he who was being hunted!

The Son of Chirr-Nig thought of himself as a freak, as the only kzin in the Patriarchy who had ever felt fear. Perhaps others had felt fear but they did not run.

What was a half-grown kzin youth doing on the surface, hurrying in a pressure suit so hastily donned that he had forgotten his thermal underwear? He had also forgotten his oxygen. His mask-pack was rumbling to make up the lack by the dissociation of atmospheric carbon dioxide and his fur was not keeping him warm. His tail was already numb. Heroes as stupid as he was, died, he castigated himself. He was alone. He didn't even have his mother to protect him.

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