The kzin were initially introduced in Niven's story "The Warriors" (originally in Worlds of If, 1966) and "The Soft Weapon," (1967), both collected in Neutron Star (1968). A Kzin character, Speaker-to-Animals, subsequently played a major role in Niven's Hugo and Nebula award-winning Ringworld (1970), giving considerably more background of the Kzin and their interactions with human civilizations. Following this, Niven gave permission to several friends to write stories taking place in the time following "The Warriors" but before "The Soft Weapon;" these stories (including a handful by Niven) were collected in a number of volumes of The Man-Kzin Wars, which eventually reached eleven volumes, the first published June 1988.
Kzinti evolved from a plains hunting cat on a slightly colder, drier planet than Earth. The Kzin word for their home planet translates as Homeworld. The world is often known as Kzinhome by the Kzinti themselves. The Kzin home world is the third planet circling the star 61 Ursae Majoris.
The Kzin civilization was at a roughly 20th century technological level when an alien race called the Jotok landed and made stealthy First Contact with a tribe of primitive hunter/gatherer Kzin. The Jotok were interstellar merchants looking for a species they could use as mercenaries.
Once the Jotok had taught the Kzin how to use high technology weapons and other devices including spacecraft, the Kzin rebelled and made their former employers/masters into slaves, as well as the occasional meal.
Kzinti society is extremely male-dominated. The leader of the race is called the Patriarch, which is a hereditary title. The Kzin call themselves "Heroes" or the "Heroes Race" and because they believe themselves to be "heroes", their society places a very high value on "acting Heroic" and behaving in a heroic fashion.
To Kzin society, "heroic" means being honorable and having integrity. Kzin honor is similar in many ways to the samurai code of Bushido. Strakh serves as almost a sort of currency or favour system, since they do not use money in their culture. For example, if the patriarch gets meat from a sellers' market stand, the seller gains considerable strakh which will bring honour to the seller allowing him to get better customers - which leads to more strakh, which gives the seller a higher status within the community.
Once Kzin gained access to genetic manipulation technology, they started manipulating themselves in order to bring out the most "heroic" qualities and recede undesired ones. To this end, because females are not valued except as bearers of children, the male-dominated Kzin society bred (most of) their own females into sub-sapience.
Kzin are often described as anthropomorphic tigers, but there are significant and visible differences. Kzin are larger than humans, standing around tall and weighing around . These tiger-sized bipeds have large membrane ears, a barrel-chested torso with a flexible spine, and large fangs and claws.
Unlike popularly-depicted anthropomorphic animals, Kzin stand on two legs like humans do; they do not have digitigrade or "backwards-bending" legs. While their feet have five toes, their hands end in three fingers and an opposable thumb.
They are covered with a thick coat of long fur that comes in various combinations of orange, yellow, and black. Full black coats are rare, however, and all who have them are taken by the black priests.
Their tails are naked and are similar in appearance to a rat's tail, and their noses are black. Kzinti ears have fur only on the outside of the ear and only about half way up the ear itself, usually appear pink, and are shaped liked a segment of a Chinese parasol (or cocktail umbrella; they are also sometimes described as "bat-winged"); they can fold back flat against the head for protection during a fight.
They speak in a hissing language called the Hero's Tongue, which in its written form resembles commas and periods. A small percentage of Kzinti are stunted, and forced into addiction of a drug derived from the lymph of an animal called a sthondat. 99% of such Kzinti are driven insane by the process, and the few who survive are left with telepathic ability.
Telepaths are tolerated by the warrior class due to the specialized use of their skill, otherwise they endure a low-caste position in society; just above the status of slaves, with the occasional slave being considered of a higher social status. Telepaths rarely, if ever, earn a name, and they aren't legally allowed to breed.
Most Kzinti females (s. Kzinrett, pl. Kzinretti) are sub-sapient, with a vocabulary of less than a hundred word/sounds and primarily instinct-driven behavior, and are treated as chattel by males (s. Kzintosh, pl. Kzintoshi). This was not always the case: archaic Kzinrret were sapient until the Kzin used Jotoki biotechnology to drive them to their current state while boosting their males' martial prowess.
Kzinti society explains this by stating the Fanged God removed Kzinrrets' souls as punishment for an attempted rebellion against him shortly after he created Kzin. Even by the period of the novels, certain bloodlines produce sentient females, as well as some if not most primitive tribes. These tribes, long isolated from the Patriarchy, were spared the genetic modifications.
They are the first on-going alien contact that humanity has met within the Known Space universe. The first contact with humanity ends the human golden era of peace, where even history has been rewritten in a non-violent whitewash; organized violence was virtually eliminated, being reduced to roughly 1 in 1000 people, and there was no interpersonal violence, except occasional outbursts in the asteroid belt where medical and psychological care were spread too thinly.
Kzintoshi are born without names which they must earn through valorous deeds. They are originally known by their relation to their father when they are kittens. After maturity, they are known by their rank or occupation. A Kzin who has performed a great deed will be granted a partial name by a superior; a further, greater deed earns a full name, the second of which is the family name.
In rare instances, a sufficiently illustrious accomplishment will earn a nameless one a full name in one fell swoop. An example of the latter is the granting of a full name to Trainer-of-Slaves, who singlehandedly delivered a fully-working hyperdrive to the Patriarchy in the novella "The Heroic Myth of Lieutenant Nora Argamentine" by Donald Kingsbury (appearing in Man-Kzin Wars VI, 1994), thus earning the full name Graaf-Nig
An exception to this rule seems to accrue to the members of the -Riit family, who have held the office of Kzinti Patriarch for uncounted generations. These appear to earn names upon reaching adulthood. However, in the 2006 novel Destiny's Forge by author Paul Chafe, the heir-apparent to the Riit throne, "Pouncer", does not receive a name until it is earned by deed.
Only those Heroes who have earned a full name are allowed to breed.
An example of a Kzin's naming transition would be:
In several different stories by other authors playing in the universe we see references to a total of five Man-Kzin wars take place. The net effect of these wars is summed by a retrospective comment from Beowulf Schaeffer in the short story "Grendel": "The Kzinti aren't really a threat. They'll always attack before they're ready." With decreasingly impressive logistical and technological advantages, each Man-Kzin War results in the confiscation or liberation of one or more Kzinti colony planets by the humans. In this way humanity contacts the Pierin and Kdatlyno, former slave species, and takes over worlds such as Canyon (formerly Warhead) and Fafnir (formerly Shasht). Several of the stories of the Man-Kzin Wars depict the nearest Human colony at Alpha Centauri, called Wunderland, which was occupied by the Kzinti for over 50 years.
Eventually (in Ringworld) we learn that the Kzin reverses were deliberately engineered by the Pierson's Puppeteers, who lured the Outsiders to We Made It in the first place. This allowed the mayor of We Made It to purchase a Faster-Than-Light drive on credit from the Outsiders. Once the humans had FTL warships, the kzinti couldn't defeat the humans in space combat. The Puppeteers had hoped that the culling of a quarter to a third of the more aggressive members of the Kzinti with every war would result in a more peaceful race, or at least one that was capable of coexisting with other species without instantly trying to kill and eat them. This shift in Kzin attitudes succeeded spectacularly, although the Kzinti themselves do not think very highly of the changes, nor of the price they paid to achieve them. In fact, a fringe faction of the Kzinti known as the Kdaptists, frustrated with the reversals their race had suffered against humanity, went so far as to adopt the human concept that God had created humanity (not Kzinti) in His image, and that He favors and protects humans over other races.
As the Puppeteers expected, a form of "natural" selection occurred, with the more mindlessly aggressive Kzinti dying in the wars with humans, and the more moderate, intelligent, and cautious Kzinti surviving, presumably to think long and hard about the consequences of starting yet another pointless war. By the time the Kzinti attained the level of sophistication and foresight needed to win against humans, they no longer had the numbers or the drive to do so.
At one point, Louis Wu, while visiting the Kzin homeworld and given access to the Kzinti Patriarch's game preserve, was confronted by a young Kzin and his father. When the youngster asked "Are they good to eat?", Louis Wu responded with a grin (baring of the teeth being a Kzin challenge to battle) and the older Kzin responded "NO". Wu muses that the Kzin have learned that it would be safer for the young Kzin to eat arsenic than a human being.
One of the reasons humanity is such a dangerous enemy is the psychological blind spot the Kzinti have toward human females. Since the Kzinti have bred intelligence out of their own females, an inexperienced Kzin is sometimes careless enough to leave human females to their own devices, usually with fatal results to that particular Kzin. It has been further described in the novels that a combat-trained human female is a Hero's worst nightmare. The Kzinti term for any particularly competent human female soldier is "Manrret" (singular) or "Manrretti" (plural), so named out of a sense of gallows humor regarding lethal encounters with same. From the Kzinti point of view a Manrret's stamina, speed, reflexes, pain tolerance, and reasoning capability (enhanced intuition by virtue of increased interconnectedness between the left and right halves of the human female brain) are far superior to a Man's. This gives some Kzin reason for considering each of the genders of humanity to be a separate alien species.
In the Star Trek Logs written by Alan Dean Foster, it has been hinted that the Caitians are an offshoot race of archaic Kzinti (where both genders are intelligent) who have renounced conquest. According to a memory of Lieutenant M'Ress, secondary communications officer in the Star Trek Logs, the Catian and Kzinti languages are similar enough that M'Ress can pass as a Kzin just long enough for her to send off a distress call from a Kzin raiding ship.
The Kzinti reappear in the comic The Wristwatch Plantation, also by Niven (and which included the Bebebebeque from his Draco Tavern stories). Kzin appeared on a star map seen in several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and a feline stripper from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was referred to backstage as a kzinrret. The name of the Tzenkethi mentioned in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was partially based on the Kzin, and had Star Trek: Enterprise not been cancelled, the Kzinti would have appeared in the fifth season.
The instruction manual for the PC game Star Fleet Command clearly refers to the Kzinti by name in the background story for the rival race, the Lyrans. This race is introduced in Star Fleet Command II: Empires at War by simply changing the Kzinti Hegemony to the Mirak Star League.
Please note that in the Star Fleet Universe, the Kzin/Kzinti distinction between singular and plural is replaced with Kzinti/Kzintis.
The Kzintis in the SFU - who have traits setting them apart (no bat ears, sentient females, Kzinti/Kzintis as singular/plural etc) from the Kzinti of Niven's works - have fought wars with all of their neighbours, the Federation, the Klingon Empire and their perennial nemesis, the Lyran Star Empire, and are long-standing allies - or more accurately, co-belligerents - of the Hydran Kingdom. The Hegemony eventually formed a tentative accord with the Federation and allied with them in the General War, but they have been involved in major wars with the Klingons and Lyrans, such as the Four Powers War and the General War itself, in which a substantial region of their territory was occupied by their Coalition enemies and two full-scale assaults were made on the Kzinti homeworld of Kzintai. Eventually with Federation assistance they forced the Coalition forces from their territory, but after the War ended they were involved in a Civil War as a disgruntled faction - which had been opposed to the Hegemony's ruling Patriarch and sought refuge and developed a power base in the WYN Cluster - launched an attempted coup of the Hegemony itself in the WYN War of Return.
In the fictional variant of the Star Fleet Universe as represented in the games Star Fleet Command II: Empires at War and Star Fleet Command: Orion Pirates from Taldren, the Kzintis were renamed as the Mirak.
Did you do it? Have a meat-free Monday, that is. Did the sound of Paul McCartney extolling vegetarianism once a week -- for the sake of the planet -- make you put down your pasty?
Jun 16, 2009; Did you do it? Have a meat-free Monday, that is. Did the sound of Paul McCartney extolling vegetarianism once a week -- for the...