Homework for scatterbrains

“Scatterbrain” (2003) is the third general collection of science fiction writer Larry Niven’s works, much like “N-Space” and “Playgrounds of the Mind”. This volume contains 26 works of various kinds, from speculative articles and humorous essays to science fiction short stories and extracts from his novels, all previously published in previous works, except for the introduction and epilogue.

The Introduction is an interesting discussion of how the author comes up with his crazy ideas. It seems that he is “scatterbrained” (hence the title of the omnibus): notions just pop up in his mind and stick to each other. (Sounds like many teacher-librarians I know.) More than that, he has a tendency to daydream almost anywhere as these ideas pop up and breed. (Still sounds like many teacher-librarians I know.)

The Epilogue is also about the way the author thinks, but specifically “What I tell librarians”. As Niven summed up a talk he once made to a convention of librarians: “If there were only one thing you could teach a child, it ought to be this: to play with his [or her] mind“.

He then further elaborated that we should encourage students “… to make up his [or her] own homework”.

Niven reckons he has spent most of his life designing toys for imaginary playgrounds.