Neutron Star

Neutron StarsNeutron Star is 1968 collection of short stories written by Larry Niven. It was republished in an Omnibus edition in 1991 together with World of Ptavvs and A gift from Earth. Includes the short stories Neutron Star 1966, At the Core 1966, Flatlander 1967, Grendel 1968, The Handicapped, The Soft Weapon and A Relic of the Empire. All of them set in the Known Space Universe.

Neutron Star

A short story written by Larry Niven. It was originally published in the August 1966 issue (Issue 107, Vol 16, No 10) of Worlds of If. It was later reprinted in Neutron Star (1968) and in Crashlander (1994) . The story  is notable for including a neutron star before their (then hypothetical) existence was widely known.

“Neutron Star” is the first to feature Beowulf Shaeffer, the ne’er-do-well ex-pilot and reluctant hero of many of Niven’s Known Space stories. It also marked the first appearance of the nearly indestructible General Products starship hull, as well as its creators the Pierson’s Puppeteers. The star itself, BVS-1, is featured in the novel Protector (1973), where it is named “Phssthpok’s Star”. A prelude to the story is also included in the novel Juggler of Worlds.

Neutron Star

At the Core

A short story written in 1966 by Larry Niven. It is the second in the series of Known Space stories featuring crashlander Beowulf Shaeffer. The short story was originally published in Worlds of If, November 1966, and reprinted in Neutron Star (1968).

The novel Fleet of Worlds is set in the aftermath of the story, from the Puppeteer point of view. The story is retold, from the point of view of Sigmund Ausfaller, in Juggler of Worlds. The events are also referred to in Ringworld.

Four years after the events in the other short story “Neutron Star”, spaceship pilot Beowulf Shaeffer is on Jinx, a planet orbiting Sirius B, when he is again contacted by the Puppeteers, this time by the Regional President of General Products on Jinx, who offers him a chance to guide a cramped (but very fast) experimental ship to the center of the galaxy as a promotional stunt. Shaeffer is offered one hundred thousand stars to make the trip, plus fifty thousand stars to write about it; he is also given the rights to sell the story. Shaeffer, seeing the value of such a promotion (as well as the value of his pay) agrees to go, naming the ship Long Shot.


The short story was originally published in Worlds of If, November 1966, and reprinted in Neutron Star (1968) and Crashlander (1994).

Traveling to Earth after his trip to the core of the Milky Way Galaxy, Beowulf “Bey” Shaeffer befriends Gregory Pelton, a fabulously wealthy and gregarious flatlander who calls himself Elephant. Irritated at always being labeled a flatlander despite having logged many hours in space, Elephant decides to visit the most unusual system in or near Known Space, and has his agents put in a call to meet with the nearest Outsider vessel. Elephant show Shaeffer around Earth for a few days.

Four days after landing on Earth, Elephant and Shaeffer travel to the edge of Known Space in Elephant’s ship, the Slower Than Infinity, to meet the Outsiders for information on the location of the most unusual system in Known Space. The Outsiders charge one million “stars” (the interstellar currency) for the whereabouts of the system and Elephant accepts; the Outsiders also offer to explain, for an additional two hundred thousand stars, what exactly makes the star system unusual. Elephant declines when they reveal that he will be able to find this out for himself.


A short story written in 1968 by Larry Niven. It is the fourth in the series of Known Space stories featuring crashlander Beowulf Shaeffer. The short story was originally published in Neutron Star (1968) and Crashlander (1994).

Beowulf “Bey” Shaeffer is on a flight between Down and Gummidgy when the ship’s captain, Margo Tellefsen, announces that she is dropping of out hyperdrive so passengers can witness a starseed setting sail. Just after this happens, all passengers are knocked out by a gas introduced in the ship’s life system; while no cargo is missing, a Kdatlyno touch sculptor named Lloobee has gone missing…

The Handicapped

A science fiction short story written in 1967 by Larry Niven. Published in Neutron Star (1968).

The story introduces the Grogs; the sessile but sentient inhabitants of the planet known as Down.

Mr Garvey arrives at the planet Down, having heard about the natives called Grogs. Garvey Limited, a company owned by his father, makes artificial limbs and other tools for the “Handicapped” species; sentient beings that evolved minds but with nothing that would serve as hands, like dolphins. A local reluctantly agrees to show him a living Grog in the desert, but the Grog turns out to be a disappointment. It is sessile enough, being a furry cone living anchored to a rock, but it seems utterly void of sentience. The latter observation is later confirmed by a local exobiologist.

The next morning, Garvey has a revelation. Somehow he knows the Grogs are sentient, without knowing why he knows. He returns to the desert and finds another Grog that begins to communicate with Garvey telepathically. It turns out the Grogs are indeed sentient beings with strong telepathic abilities, but for fear of being perceived as a threat for this very reason, they have concealed this until now. But having read Garvey’s mind, seeing he can help them break their isolation, they are willing to take their chances…

The Soft Weapon

A science fiction short story written in 1967 by Larry Niven. It was the basis of the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode, The Slaver Weapon. The original idea for the episode later became Niven’s novellette The Borderland of Sol.

The Soft Weapon was first published in If (magazine) in 1967 and has since been included in the short story collections Neutron Star (1968) and Playgrounds of the Mind (1991)

The story introduces the character of Nessus, who later became one of the main characters of the novel Ringworld. The story is retold, from the point of view of Nessus, in Juggler of Worlds.

Nessus is returning from a diplomatic mission to the Outsiders, having purchased what is apparently a Thrint stasis box, on a passenger ship run by a human couple, Jason and Anne Marie Papandreou.

They stop at Beta Lyrae to sightsee where they unexpectedly discover, by deep radar, another stasis box. However, the box is a trap by Kzinti pirates. The rogue Kzinti are using a dummy stasis box to lure ships that they detect to be in possession of stasis boxes. The Kzin capture the crew and open the looted stasis box, which is revealed to be a Tnuctipun stasis box, not Thrintun. Stasis boxes (which are rare) often contain advanced technological products of immense military value. The Kzinti hope to use the contents of the box to develop weapons technology that will allow them to wage wars of conquest.

The box contains a Tnuctipun weapon which is capable of morphing into several devices, none of which are deemed useful by the Kzinti as war weapons. However, one setting, an energy absorber, causes the Kzinti restraint field to fail, allowing Jason and Nessus to escape with the weapon. They are recaptured, but not before Jason manages to discover a hidden setting. This setting is a matter-to-energy conversion beam, which is far more powerful than anything possessed by either Human or Kzinti.

The Kzinti, desperate to know how to access the hidden setting, threaten Jason’s wife in attempt to get him to divulge it, but he refuses. Her life is spared when the device, which is intelligent (and loyal to its long-extinct Tnuctipun masters), begins to speak. The Kzinti converse with the weapon, believing they are getting knowledge of how to access the setting. However, the weapon, believing itself to have fallen into the possession of an enemy, tricks the Kzin into activating a self-destruct mechanism. The Kzinti are killed, the humans and Puppeteer survive, in part thanks to the restraint technology used protecting them from the blast impact.

A Relic of the Empire

Larry Niven implicitly joined hist two previous timelines (The Belter Series and Neutron Star/Ringworld) in the story A Relic of the Empire, in which the background elements of the Slaver civilization (introduced in World of Ptavvs, from the Belter series) was used as a plot element of a story in the faster-than-light setting. Roughly 300 years separates the timeline of the last stories of the early setting (which are set roughly between 2000 and 2350), from the earliest stories in the later Neutron Star/Ringworld setting (which are set in 2651 (Neutron Star) and later).

Beowulf Shaeffer stories

Neutron Star, the first story in the Beowulf Shaeffer series.
At the Core, the second story in the series.
Flatlander, the third story in the series.
Grendel, the fourth story in the series.
Borderland of Sol, fifth story about Beowulf Shaeffer. Published in Crashlander.
Procrustes, the sixth story in the series. Published in Crashlander
Ghost, the framing story in the collection Crashlander.
Fly-By-Night, the seventh story in the series, written after Crashlander.

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References on Neutron Stars: WikipediaNASA,