Thursday, September 24, 2009

Waking the volcanoes: 1997 interview with authors Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Locus Online has a few interesting excerpts from the magazine’s September 2009 interview with science fiction author Larry Niven. The section about “The Soviet Union was driven bankrupt by a plan evolved at my house in Tarzana, with Jerry Pournelle in charge” reminds me of an excerpt from an interview with Niven and Pournelle that was conducted by fellow author Geoffrey A. Landis in November 1997 and published in the magazine Science Fiction Age.
Larry Niven: OK, where are we? Every hard science fiction writer I know has written a Mars novel recently. So I did my take on Mars as a fantasy. You haven't seen it yet, because it's still out to auction. Svetz and the Beanstalk.

Jerry Pournelle: I did my Mars novel many years ago, and I see no reason to change it at all.

Larry Niven: That was Birth of Fire.

Jerry Pournelle: It's Mars as we know it now. I got it right to the best I know, and just after the Mariner probe. We haven't learned that much about Mars since then. It was no longer Lowell's Mars, there's no canals, no atmosphere. On the other hand, I postulated that you might be able to terraform it, and there is more and more reason to assume that that is possible. Terraform it, it probably wouldn't last more than a million years or so, but it'll last my time.

Larry Niven: If it didn't cost too bloody much -- and by that I mean, the world's output of wealth for about a year.

Jerry Pournelle: In Birth of Fire I made it a lot cheaper than that, by dropping nuclear weapons down Olympus Mons and waking the volcanoes.

Larry Niven: Bombardment with comets would cost a lot more.

Jerry Pournelle: Jim Oberg did a piece about terraforming planets with a whole chapter about the methods I implied in Birth of Fire. We probably could terraform Venus, too, tailor the right kind of bacteria to change that atmosphere. No? You don't think so?

Geoffrey A. Landis: Sagan proposed that in '61, but it turns out it won't work. Too much atmosphere.
Larry Niven’s collection Svetz and the Beanstalk was published under the title Rainbow Mars (1999). Jerry Pournelle's novel Birth of Fire was published in 1976.


Republibot 3.0 said...

I just love these guys. I love to just listen to them sitting around and talking. It's like more ideas fly out of them over coffee than NASA can produce in a year.

Paul said...

Niven and Pournelle certainly know a lot about science.