Obscure, memorable scene: It’s the Law!

It’s amazing how some scenes from a story just stick out in your mind, and become part of your psyche, even when the rest of the story has mostly faded.

There are many reasons that this might happen, of course, but for me, as an author, it’s usually a sense of wishing that I had written a particular scene myself. 

A scene is sometimes so powerful or moving or poignant that I wish I could put my own name on it.

Other times, the scene simply becomes a point of personal amusement. 

Which is the case with a strange, somewhat out of place scene in Larry Niven’s 1998 novel “Destiny’s Road.”

In this story, a young man named Jemmy journeys, over the course of a life-time, from one end of the Road (a line of melted bedrock created by an ancient colony ship) to the other, meeting the people and merchants of the Road along the way, and allowing the reader (though not the protagonist) to discover the secret of the Road, and the nature of the valuable “speckles” which the merchants use to control the population.

Years after reading the book, most of that story is lost on me. I had to look up the protagonist’s name in Wikipedia just now.

However, there is a scene in the story which still sticks out at me: Jemmy has had to escape the road via the sea, and when he comes ashore, he discovers himself in a speckle farm, which is run by convicted criminals.

At one point one of the prisoners shouts “No birdfuc**** allowed,” and a chorus of prisoners around him shout back “It’s the law!” 

One of the prisoners explains that this is an inside joke among the group, and, though it happens several more times, no further background is ever


To this day, whenever I hear someone shout “No [X] allowed!” (where X is anything), I have to restrain myself before I shout back “It’s the Law!”

I’ve found that I’m not the only person who has experienced this phenomenon in regards to this novel.

[Image Owner: Tor Science Fiction]