Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Larry Niven is full of crap

In 1971, Hugo winning science fiction author Larry Niven published an essay called Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex. (which can be found here- )  It postulated that Superman (fictional though he may be) is on the fast track to extinction. Now I’ll grant you though this is a work of not just fiction, but outright parody. After reading it for the first time, I realized that his work was interesting, geeky, and flat out wrong!  Niven made errors in his quest to help get the man of steel laid. And I felt that it was my duty (O.K. Fine my flat out ego, and dorkish attention to useless trivia) that compels me to show why Superman is not doomed to be a virgin and has a decent chance of having sex and potentially offspring. He has as good of a chance as those who read, and collect his books anyway.

A couple of notes before we start the first is that being that his essay is over 40 years old and the world superman inhabits has had about 40+ years to plug up the holes in and explain away many of Larry Niven’s arguments it wouldn’t be much of a challenge to simply point to things that happened with in the last say 10 years of comics that may contradict this work and then pat myself on the back for disproving a famed science fiction author after most of the heavy lifting was done by writers and artists who were well aware of his work and could easily reverse engineer solutions to the problems plaguing the man of steel that the essay brought up. Instead everything I am bringing up is something that could have countered his arguments as they have happened before his essay was published not after DC say corn-holed the universe to reboot it in the 1980s, or again in the 1990s, etc.  What’s more Larry Niven spends a decent chunk of time talking about the use of Red kryptonite to enlarge the man of steel’s sperm, which is the first myth I want to bust. Red Kryptonite does not simply make things large, it’s effects on kryptonian physiology are chaotic and almost never the same twice. Red Krypotnite may indeed make superman larger but it could make him smaller, make him a woman, a chimpanzee or even a republican, we simply do not know. I feel it is important to bring this up as since Niven is trying to use science in his hypothesis this seems like shoddy or even dangerous piece of reasoning. It would be akin to suggesting that workers in fast food would be more efficient if we dosed them with LSD. Sure it may make them more efficient, but it is far more likely to cause psychosis, and be a serious detriment on productivity than to help especially an unwary patient. Now without further adieu here are the 5 ways that the man of steel can still procreate despite what an award-winning author says about the situation.

5- Superman’s extended family - Now to his credit Larry Niven did indeed mention that Superman did have a female and teenage cousin, Supergirl. And while he stated that only a “cad” would suggest that Superman copulate with his first cousin. We must also keep in mind that if the plight of the Kryptonian species is as dire as Niven suggests, this could be their only option. As alien refugees, living on a strange world, why would they let their species die due to human Christian sensibilities,this would be like finding out that the a member of the Donner party was carrying a consignment of chocolate eggs but degraded to cannibalism because it wasn’t Easter and eating Easter candy before would just be wrong.  Of course she isn’t really his only option. With the multitude of alternate Earths there are multiple variant Kryptonians that might be a bit more acceptable to our conservative human sensibilities. Including alternate dimensions in which Krypton survived.

4-The phantom zone- As I said in the last section, Supergirl isn’t actually his only option, nor is she the only Kryptonian with compatible private parts, nor are Clark Kent and his teenage cousin the only Kryptonians who survived the explosion of their world. The Phantom Zone is an alternate dimension which works as a sort of Riker’s Island for the law abiding citizens of Krypton, People in the zone are ageless ghosts who are not able to interact with our physical world. It also turned out to be a perfect way to escape the destruction of his planet. Perhaps the scientific Genius who built a rocket to send his only born safely to our planet should have suggested using the zone as a safety measure to protect law-abiding kryptonians and put the criminals in, you know an actual physical jail. After all isn’t jail supposed to be at least a little bit bad for you? And since there are females and males in this state we have additional DNA and give us an additional populace to work with granted breeding criminals still doesn’t sound all that enticing, but keep in mind that many progeny of criminals need not necessarily make them criminals. Take Australia for an example, a colony formed by the British depositing their criminals on a distant island an entire hemisphere away. Today Australia has a violent crime rate lower than the United States and Canada.  Not to mention as an alien culture some of these criminals may not even be criminals by our standards, refusal to acknowledge Rao, the science god as the supreme force in the universe for example may be a kryptonian act of high treason, for us it’s no worse than being an atheist.
So how do we turn these criminals into baby makers, it is simple, an underground complex with lighting to simulate krypton’s Red sun will prevent someone leaving the phantom zone from developing the bulletproof, flying awesome powers of a Superman, making them no more dangerous than human prisoners. A few conjugal visits later we have a genetically diverse next generation of Kryptonians that we can mold into a race of flying boy/girl scouts.

3- The Bottled City of Kandor- So the main concern that Niven points out is the lack of female kryptonians, however there is an entire city of them that was saved from the rest of the planet's fate. As 1 kryptonian male and female, may make it hard to repopulate a population of both genders the size of say twice that of Chicago  is a much less endangered species. The only real challenge is that the city was shrunken to a tiny size and bottles in action comic #242 (1958). There are 6 million kryptonians of both genders, sure they are only a couple of millimeters high, but and encased in glass and life support, but this also may be favorable to a city of 6,000,000 superbeings imposing their wills on humanity. And while they may not have been returned to normal size, and freed (by the time of Niven's writings) Superman had shrunken himself down and visited the tiny city on many occasions. in all of that time, it is hard to believe that the man who saved their city could get a little micro booty call. Hell for all we know Kal-el is a deadbeat dad to hundreds of mini Kandorian kids, thus meaning that we have solved both problems, Kal's desire to get laid and the population of Krypton is assured.

2-the rest of the galaxy- Beyond Kandor and beyond Mr. Niven's human ideal for a sexual partner for Kal-el, a certain lady initialed L.L. Niven assumes that the man of steel must choose a mate from the one planet he was raised on. As someone with access to flight and FTL travel, as he has visited other planets in the comics this seems like insisting that you only get to date and mate with the people you went to high school with. As a space faring race, Krypton may have colonies, not to mention species more in line with the man of steel's DNA. Take the Daxamites, of which Superboy had originally met Mon-el in 1961, (again before Niven's paper) who are genetic descendants of Kryptonians, thus and excellent choice to breed with. That is just one species in the 3300 sectors of space that the Green Lanterns patrol, any one could indeed have females capable of mating with a Kryptonian.

1-the Expanded Universe- This is the big one, the one that reoccurs as a massive plot hole in so many comic based movies set in a shared universe. In short Superman, or indeed Kryptonians are not the only defenders of the Earth. Yet in film after film we forget that there is an expanded universe. In the film Superman Returns Lois wrote an article called whey we do not need a Superman, while it was meant to talk up the idea of humans being independent enough to not rely on a flying godlike being, in the actual DC universe it probably would have read like, “Well for starters even without Superman, we still have Captain Marvel, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, and not one, not two but FOUR Green Lanterns patrolling a Single planet while most sectors of space only have 1 per sector. If anything we here on Earth are too heroed up!” So let’s look at this option, While Ms Lane’s uterus may not be able to stand up to the shotgun like spray of Kryptonian semen, there are quite a few females in the DC universe who can. Take the obvious choice of Wonder Woman. Amazons are far stronger than their mortal kin, and Diana Princess of Themiscrya in many ways a physical equal to the man of steel, It is also important to point out that her powers come from a magical source, being she was originally a clay form crafted by queen Hypolita and given life by the Olympian gods. Kryptonians have a vulnerability to magic and have no resistance to it. That coupled with Diana’s far superior physical form means that unlike the mortal Ms Lane, Diana’s lady parts to quote Betty White can “really take a pounding.” Now granted as Mr Niven pointed out there may still be hormonal and pheromone factors that would stop an alien being from being attracted to a human woman, yet with the similarity in physiology will make up for some of that, if you don’t believe me just look at the furry community, or any fan of Star Trek who would spank it to the green orion slave girls. Now I grant you the chromosomal issues would be the biggest hurdle making options 3-5 probably the most viable if not least easy to assure the continuation of the Kryptonian species, as well as relieving the sexual tensions of a man who can change the course of mighty rivers, and bend steel with his hands, after all he is the last person we would want to have pent up tensions.


  1. Why not just go transdimensional and hook up hit on himself (herself?) on Earth-11?

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  3. This is nonsense. The original essay doesn't address sex in a remotely plausible way, why not start with that before casting around the galaxy for someone to carry this child?