Thursday, August 21, 2008

Larry Niven’s “The Hole Man” (1974)

Originally published in Analog magazine in January 1974, “The Hole Man,” by Larry Niven, won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story that year. Here’s a description of the work, taken from Fictionwise:

“A team of astrophysicists land on Mars to study an abandoned alien base that was used to study humans during the Ice Age. All the environmental and communications systems are still running … but their operation remains a mystery. When one member of the team tries to prove his crazy quantum black hole theory about how the alien communications unit works, he inadvertently unleashes an astrophysical time bomb that threatens the very existence of the Red Planet.”

A hard-science read of about twenty pages, Niven considers “The Hole Man” a “straightforward crime story rendered distinctive only by an unusual murder weapon.” According to Niven's website, he wrote the piece after he and fellow sci-fi author Jerry Pournelle interviewed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking about Hawking’s work on black holes.

The blog Variety SF rates Niven's story a “B.”

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database indicates that "The Hole Man" has been reprinted in several anthologies, but we purchased it through Fictionwise for less than $1.

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