The Flying Sorcerers

infobox Book |
name = The Flying Sorcerers
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of first edition (paperback)
author = Larry Niven &
David Gerrold
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Science fiction novel
publisher = Ballantine Books
release_date = 1971
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Paperback)
pages = 316 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-345-02331-5
preceded_by =
followed_by =
"The Flying Sorcerers" is a humorous 1971 science fiction novel by David Gerrold and Larry Niven.

Plot summary

The plot concerns the efforts of an astronaut and geologist/anthropologist, Purple to get away from a primitive world where he is stranded, and return to his people. The events are seen from the perspective of Lant, one of the natives, who becomes, in the course of the novel, Speaker, or chieftain, of his people.

The natives, a fur covered people, believe in magic and the book shows how sufficiently advanced technology would be perceived by a primitive society.

Purple lands in an egg-shaped vehicle. He casually disrupts the lives of Lant's people, and thoughtlessly demeans Shoogar, the village magician. Shoogar gets revenge by destroying Purple's vehicle--while the magician certainly tries to destroy it, he is more successful than he could have dreamed--it turns out to be an atomic explosion! Many of the villagers are dead or injured, the rest, including Lant and Shoogar, are forced to flee. Purple is presumed dead.

The villagers eventually wind up on a fertile peninsula, which, as the summer approaches, is rapidly becoming an island (thanks to the influence of the two suns, the shorelines on this world are somewhat variable). To the annoyance of the existing inhabitants of the area, the villagers contrive to be trapped in the verdant area by the rising seas. The villagers are less happy when they learn that Purple is here, serving ineffectively as local magician, having succeeded the incumbent, Dorthi, by killing him by landing on him in a fall from the sky in an impact suit.

Lant's people wish to flee, but have nowhere to go. Lant, who becomes Speaker of the villagers more or less by default, and the local Speaker persuade the two magicians to swear to a peace treaty.

Purple can call his mother ship to get him, but must return to the distant area of the old village to do so. Everyone is stranded on the island for a considerable length of time. Purple conceives the idea of fabricating a flying machine to return him to the area. He persuades his villagers (who are actually anxious to get rid of him) and Lant's, to join in the scheme.

The ship will have balloons, sails, and pedal-driven steering. A good part of the book deals with the tribulations of Purple in trying to create this work, beyond the technology of the local people. He creates 'aircloth' (a thin, airtight cloth), a rubber-equivalent, and splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. He is successful in building the ship.

But in so doing, he has changed the lives of the villagers forever. Not only do they have these new technologies, but he has created problems with crime, intoxication, the ecology, and has altered the relationship between the sexes. In addition, he has introduced money into the culture.

Purple, Shoogar, Lant, and Lant's adult two sons take off for the old village. They get there, and Purple is able to summon the mother ship and depart. There is a brief epilogue -- after the return home, Lant notes that a new flying machine, much larger than the first, is to be built thus continuing the industrial revolution started by Purple.


Most of the names in the book are jokes primarily dealing with the Science Fiction universe. This is known as Tuckerization. David Langford says "Some sort of record for over-the-top Tuckerization was set by David Gerrold and Larry Niven in their very silly novel The Flying Sorcerers (1971)." Cite web|url=|author=David Langford|accessdate=2007-05-16|title=Product Placement|work=Ansible (a column in SFX maxazine)]


*Virn - The blue sun - Jules Verne. PostFact|date=March 2007 by Tennant Stuart on alt.books.larry-nivenFact|date=March 2007 ]
*Ouells - The red sun - H.G. Wells.


*Rotn'bair "god of sheep" - Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek.
*Nils'n "god of mud creatures" - Nielsen ratings, arch enemy of Rotn'bair (Star Trek had poor ratings).
**Lant explains that the "Sign of Nils'n" is" a diagonal slash with an empty circle on either side", i.e. "%".
*Filfomar "god of rivers" - Philip José Farmer, known for his Riverworld series.
*Caff "god of dragons" - Anne McCaffrey, known for her Dragonriders of Pern series.

*Hitch "god of birds" - Alfred Hitchcock, directed The Birds.
*N'veen "god of tides & map makers" - Larry Niven wrote about tides in Neutron Star and maps in Ringworld.
*Blok "god of violence" - Robert Bloch, author of Psycho.
*Musk-Watz "wind god" - Sam Moskowitz, known for his loud voice and long speeches. [ PostFact|date=March 2007 by Gary Farber on rec.arts.sf.writtenFact|date=March 2007 ]
*Elcin "God of Thunder and Lighting" - Harlan Ellison, known for a stormy personality, and short stature (The god is described as "tiny").
*Fineline "God of engineers" - Robert A. Heinlein
*Acker the Man - Forrest J Ackerman
*Tiz-turgin "God of Love" - Ted Sturgeon, who wrote many stories about variations of love and sex

Characters and other inhabitants

*Purple - The literal translation of "as a mauve" (for most of the book, this is "as a color, shade of purple-grey") - Isaac Asimov.
*Wilville and Orbur - Bicycle makers who build the first flying machine - Wright brothers.
*Dorthi - A wizard killed by Purple falling on him from the sky - A reference to Dorothy from the "Wizard of Oz".


*Cathawk - The first flying machine, recalling the Wright brothers' flight at Kitty Hawk.
*Smith's Son's Clearing - Where the Cathawk is on display - The Smithsonian Institution.


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