This article addresses the difficulty of specifying the date the Outsiders sold
the secret of hyperdrive to the Human colony of
We Made It. This date also relates to the end of the First Man-Kzin War,
as that war was won by Humans using hyperdrive technology to defeat the Kzinti Empire.
Canonical information: According to the interstitial notes in Tales of Known Space
"The Outsiders... sold the secret of the faster-than-light drive to... We Made It. Two years later, a ship powered
by the Outsider hyperdrive arrived in Sol System. The crew had not known of the
war" (p. 153). Although the epilogue of A Gift from Earth (pp. 253-4) describes Outsiders moving toward
We Made It with the intention to sell this technology, it specifies they were in "No hurry" to get there. Thus,
this passage contains no indication when this occurred, although it had to be after the revolution on
Plateau, which we date 2341.
According to Ringworld, "Half a thousand years ago they [Outsiders] had leased Nereid" (ch. 4, p. 49). Clearly
this had to happen after Outsiders made first contact with Humans at We Made It. Ringworld is set in
2850-51, so "half a thousand" would be circa 2350. However, as noted in our
"Editor's Notes" for the Known Space Timeline, canonical references to a passage of several centuries
are often quite unreliable.
What we can be sure of is that it was some time after the start of the First Man-Kzin War; presumably closer to the end
of the war than to the beginning. "Madness Has Its Place" concerns events leading up to the first
Kzinti invasion of Sol System, and clearly this occurred before hyperdrive
technology reached Earth. "Madness" begins in 2375 (Man-Kzin Wars III p. 5), and a reference to
"eight years ago" (p. 29) later in the story indicates the Kzinti invasion took place more than eight years
after 2375, circa 2384. The only canonical indication of how long the First Man-Kzin War lasted is: "Slowed by
unexpected human resistance and by the barrier of lightspeed, the war had run for decades instead of years"
(Ringworld ch. 6, p. 82).
Semi-Canonical information: The Ringworld Role-Playing Game— Explorer Book specifies the
Outsider sale occurred in 2406 (p. 43), and that "The hyperdrive armadas of 2410-2420 finally drove the Kzinti
invaders from Human Space" (p. 30). We note that Larry Niven used some
information from this game as part of the "bible" for writers of Man-Kzin War stories ("Canon for the
Man-Kzin Wars", Scatterbrain p. 291). It therefore seems likely that the 2410-2420 date was given as
the "official" date for the end of the First Man-Kzin War. If this date is accepted, then it is also
reasonable to accept the date of 2406 for the first Outsider contact. This indicates the first hyperdrive ship
reached Earth in 2408, and two years later "hyperdrive armadas" began a counter-offensive against the Kzinti.
Continuity conflict: "Two years later, a ship powered by the Outsider hyperdrive arrived in
Sol System. The crew had not known of the war." The most straightforward
interpretation of this statement is that We Made It was sold the hyperdrive before a light-speed message could have
arrived at the colony warning of the attack on Sol System. (Since the attack on Sol System was a surprise, we assume
no warning message was sent at the earlier date when the Kzinti took Wunderland.)
Procyon (and We Made It) is only 11.3 light years from Sol. The first Kzinti attack on Sol was circa 2384; therefore it
seems We Made It should have been sold the hyperdrive no later than 2394, and the first hyperdrive ship
should have reached Sol no later than 2396.
It seems unreasonable to believe there would have been a 14 year delay between hyperdrive technology reaching Earth
and Humans beginning the counterattack. In "A Relic of the Empire", the Puppet Master was an old orbital shuttle from the slowboat era, retrofitted with hyperdrive, so there's
no reason to think the Human navy would have had to build their hyperdrive warships from scratch. If that were necessary,
we note during World War II the United States built aircraft carriers for the Pacific campaign which entered service
between 15 months and two years after construction was started, and it seems likely that under the threat of repeated
Kzinti invasions of Sol System, construction of hyperdrive cruisers and battleships would have been equally rapid.
Even if we imagine a paranoid scenario where the government of We Made It withheld the warning of the Kzinti attack on
Sol System from its citizens, they surely would have warned the crew of the hyperdrive ship traveling to Earth, because
of the danger it would be captured by Kzinti.
Resolution: Although it seems difficult to reconcile the dates given in the Ringworld Roleplaying Game for the advent of hyperdrive in Human Space with other canonical information, it appears those dates were likely offered as "official" information in the Man-Kzin War "bible". Therefore, we will use those dates until such time as more reliable information is presented or discovered.
Although it seems unlikely We Made It would have missed warnings of the Kzinti invasions of Sol System, it is at least
possible the first such warning was lost due to some occurrence such as receiver breakdown at We Made It, and
it may be possible the Kzinti somehow managed to block messages to We Made It regarding subsequent invasions.