Outsider (Known Space)
The Outsiders are a fictional alien race in Larry Niven
Larry Niven
Laurence van Cott Niven / ˈlæri ˈnɪvən/ is an American science fiction author. His best-known work is Ringworld , which received Hugo, Locus, Ditmar, and Nebula awards. His work is primarily hard science fiction, using big science concepts and theoretical physics...

's Known Space
Known Space
Known Space is the fictional setting of some dozen science fiction novels and several collections of short stories written by author Larry Niven. It has also in part been used as a shared universe in the Man-Kzin Wars spin-off anthologies sub-series....

 series. They are many-limbed beings that are invariably described as a cat o'nine tails with a fattened handle. Their body composition includes ultra-cold superfluid
Superfluidity is a state of matter in which the matter behaves like a fluid without viscosity and with extremely high thermal conductivity. The substance, which appears to be a normal liquid, will flow without friction past any surface, which allows it to continue to circulate over obstructions and...

Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...


Outsiders are estimated to be the most advanced species in Known Space, possibly the Galaxy, but the extent of their development remains unknown. Though they have the technology to produce advanced faster-than-light
Faster-than-light communications and travel refer to the propagation of information or matter faster than the speed of light....

 drives, they rarely use them, preferring to travel the "slow" way, just below the speed of light
Speed of light
The speed of light in vacuum, usually denoted by c, is a physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its value is 299,792,458 metres per second, a figure that is exact since the length of the metre is defined from this constant and the international standard for time...

. They do possess a "reactionless drive" technology that allows them to reach this speed almost instantaneously. In Ringworld's Children
Ringworld's Children
Ringworld's Children is a 2004 science fiction novel by Larry Niven, the fourth in the Ringworld series set in the Known Space universe. It describes the continuing adventures of Louis Wu and companions on Ringworld.-Plot summary:...

Louis Wu
Louis Wu
Louis Gridley Wu, a fictional character, is the main protagonist in the Ringworld series of books, written by Larry Niven.Louis Wu was born in 2650 to Carlos Wu and Sharrol Janss. When he appears in Ringworld, Louis is 6'2" tall...

 says that the Outsiders have "something better" than hyperdrive but this is not elaborated on.

They spend all of their time following starseed
Starseeds, also called sailseeds, are a fictional life form in the Known Space science fiction series by Larry Niven. These large "seeds" travel through interstellar space...

s and acting as information brokers to space-faring sentient races throughout the Milky Way
Milky Way
The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Solar System. This name derives from its appearance as a dim un-resolved "milky" glowing band arching across the night sky...

. Their prices can be very high and scaled to the estimated impact the information will have on the civilization of the client race. Their most common wares are interstellar propulsion systems
Hyperdrive is a name given to certain methods of traveling faster-than-light in science fiction. Related concepts are jump drive and warp drive....

 of various types. The Outsiders maintain a strict commercial ethos regarding any form of knowledge, which shrouds them in a secrecy only wealth can penetrate. They do not haggle. They will answer any question, even those about themselves, if you are willing to pay the price. Personal questions about the Outsiders have been priced beyond the ability of any individual or government to pay (on the order of a trillion credits). In "Peace and Freedom", it is revealed that starseeds are in fact packages of microorganisms designed to seed new planets with life, thus creating new customers for the Outsiders. They are reluctant to reveal this information because they are ashamed, since one of their starseeds created the Thrint
The Thrintun , in Larry Niven's fictional Known Space universe, were a long-extinct species which ruled the galaxy through telepathic mind control. Humans knew them as "Slavers", since "Thrint" is unpronouncable to the human larynx...

, which destroyed nearly all intelligent life in the galaxy several billion years ago.

The Outsiders are thought to have evolved on a cold world with no atmosphere, similar to Neptune
Neptune is the eighth and farthest planet from the Sun in the Solar System. Named for the Roman god of the sea, it is the fourth-largest planet by diameter and the third largest by mass. Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth and is slightly more massive than its near-twin Uranus, which is 15 times...

's moon Nereid
Nereid (moon)
Nereid , also known as Neptune II, is the third-largest moon of Neptune. It has a highly eccentric orbit. Nereid was discovered by Gerard Kuiper in 1949 and was the second moon of Neptune to be discovered.- Discovery and naming :...

, which they lease from the Earth government. They live on thermoelectricity by lying with their heads in sunlight and their tails in shadow; the temperature difference sets up a current. The novel A Darker Geometry by Gregory Benford
Gregory Benford
Gregory Benford is an American science fiction author and astrophysicist who is on the faculty of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine...

 and Mark O. Martin revealed that the Outsiders were created by a race of extra-dimensional aliens seeking to escape the heat death of their own universe. Edward M. Lerner revealed in an online chat (as 'EML') that Larry Niven had ruled A Darker Geometry as definitely non-canonical and incompatible with the then forthcoming Juggler of Worlds
Juggler of Worlds
Juggler of Worlds is the sequel novel to Fleet of Worlds by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner.It is set in the Known Space universe. Most of the book revisits earlier stories...

, which was co-authored by Niven and Lerner. Juggler of Worlds introduces a number of possible retcon
Retroactive continuity is the alteration of previously established facts in a fictional work. Retcons are done for many reasons, including the accommodation of sequels or further derivative works in a series, wherein newer authors or creators want to revise the in-story history to allow a course...

s to established Outsider history.

While in most of the Known Space Series, the name "Outsiders" refers to the aforementioned species, in stories that happen before the discovery of aliens the term "Outsider" refers to any alien that might make contact with mankind.

The Outsiders may have inspired the Melnorme, from Star Control 2, another highly advanced and very mysterious species. The Investor species in Shaper/Mechanist
The Shaper/Mechanist universe is the setting for a series of science fiction short stories written by the author Bruce Sterling. The stories combined cover approximately 350 years of future history, for the period ranging from AD 2200-2550...

stories by Bruce Sterling
Bruce Sterling
Michael Bruce Sterling is an American science fiction author, best known for his novels and his work on the Mirrorshades anthology, which helped define the cyberpunk genre.-Writings:...

have a similar ethos but an altogether different biology.
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