(1904-1964) US writer and gun collector, employed as a detective on the Pennsylvania Railroad until made redundant in the mid-1950s. Though he wrote for other genres, he is best remembered for his sf, much of which appeared in Astounding from 1947, when he began with "Time and Time Again" (April 1947 Astounding). Though he shared John W Campbell Jr's views on various fields of interest, including Politics and General Semantics, and clearly had a Campbellian sense of the appropriate kind of story in which to propound conviction-theses, it is probably wrong to think of Piper as a mouthpiece for the great editor: he was (in the end tragically) his own man.
Piper's first novel, Murder in the Gunroom (1953), is a mystery with some Recursive SF references, including one to J W Dunne, whose time theories also figure in the later Paratime Police sequence (see below); his first sf novels – Crisis in 2140 (February-March 1953 Astounding as "Null-ABC"; 1957) and A Planet for Texans (1958), both with John J McGuire – are straightforward adventures, one set in an America that has revolted from literacy for fear of its consequences, the other on a planet set up like a Western, where the murder of a serving politician is treated in law as justifiable homicide. Much of his later work fits very loosely into a fairly standard Future History that has become retroactively known as the Terro-Human Future History, in which, after World War Three, a Terran Federation has been formed only to end in interregnum and diaspora, a time of troubles succeeded by various Galactic Empires. At his death, large gaps remained in the sequence, though its congenial looseness would have been resistant to closure. Two series can be read under the overall rubric. The Federation sequence – some tales set during the first Federation in, some during the interregnum, a few later – includes Uller Uprising (as "Ullr Uprising" in The Petrified Planet, coll 1953, ed anon Fletcher Pratt; 1983), Four-Day Planet (1961), Junkyard Planet (February 1958 Galaxy as "Graveyard of Dreams"; exp 1963; vt The Cosmic Computer 1964), Space Viking (November 1962-June 1963 Analog; 1963) and two posthumous collections, Federation (coll 1981) and Empire (coll 1981); of these stories "Omnilingual" (February 1957 Astounding) is perhaps the finest (> Linguistics). Though his series clearly resembles Isaac Asimov's Foundation sequence, Piper applies no more than a generalized Libertarian SF instinct to otherwise straightforward Space Operas. The Fuzzy series – set in the first Federation period, where Piper's enterprising clarity shows to best advantage – includes Little Fuzzy (1962) and The Other Human Race (1964; vt Fuzzy Sapiens 1976; the original, singularly stupid title was the choice of the book's first publisher), both assembled as The Fuzzy Papers (omni 1977), and the long-lost Fuzzies and Other People (1984). The small, joyful, sapient Fuzzies are natives of the planet Zarathustra (> Colonization of Other Worlds). The first two volumes – which feature some gripping courtroom-drama sequences – centre on the attempts of the mining corporation which runs Zarathustra first to prevent recognition of Fuzzy Intelligence (so as to retain mining rights) and then, when it has become inevitable, to exploit this recognition. The third volume resolves the conflict between the company and those humans who are fathering the Fuzzies, whose neotenous, childlike nature (> Björn Kurtén) both demands the attention of adults and reveals Piper's skill at the juvenile. The series was continued in Fuzzy Bones (1981) by William Tuning and Golden Dream: A Fuzzy Odyssey (1984) by Ardath Mayhar.
A second distinct sequence, the Paratime Police/Lord Kalvan tales, most of which were published originally in Astounding, are assembled as Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen (November 1964, November 1965 Astounding as "Gunpowder God" and "Down Styphon!"; fixup 1965; vt Gunpowder God 1978) and Paratime (coll 1981). The series was continued in Great Kings' War (1985) and Siege of Tarr-Hostigos (2003), both by Roland Green and John F Carr; the latter also edited The Worlds of H. Beam Piper (coll 1983) and presented his work in other contexts. As a series of Alternate-History variations linked by the eponymous Time Police, the sequence showed Piper in perhaps excessively argumentative vein, the alternate-world structure allowing him great latitude to express his political feelings.
Not in general an innovative writer, Piper was at his best when he applied an Astounding-derived firmness of setting and plausibility of characterization to emotionally arousing adventure plots whose political agendas could be enjoyed by those who did not espouse (for instance) the murder of bureaucrats. In 1964, his career apparently on the skids, and prevented by reticence and Libertarian principles from asking anyone to help him with temporary financial difficulties, he committed suicide. He died in his prime. [JC]
see also: Aliens; Anti-Intellectualism in SF; Crime and Punishment; Lie Detectors; Nuclear Energy; Pastoral; Positronic Robots.
Henry Beam Piper
born Altoona, Pennsylvania: 23 March 1904
died Williamsport, Pennsylvania: 5-8 November 1964 [body found 8 November]
Terro-Human Future History
Terro-Human Future History: Federation
- Uller Uprising (New York: Ace Books, 1983) [first published in 1953 in The Petrified Planet (coll 1953) edited anonymously by Fletcher Pratt: comprising part of the first Shared-World anthology in Genre SF: Terro-Human Future History: Federation: pb/Gino D'Achille]
- Four-Day Planet (New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1961) [Terro-Human Future History: Federation: hb/Charles Geer]
- Four-Day Planet/Lone Star Planet (New York: Ace Books, 1979) [omni of the above plus Lone Star Planet below: only Four-Day Planet is Terro-Human Future History: Federation: pb/Michael Whelan]
- Junkyard Planet (New York: G P Putnam's Sons, 1963) [Terro-Human Future History: Federation: hb/uncredited]
- Space Viking (New York: Ace Books, 1963) [Terro-Human Future History: Federation: pb/uncredited]
- Federation (New York: Ace Books, 1981) [coll: Terro-Human Future History: Federation: pb/uncredited]
- Empire (New York: Ace Books, 1981) [coll: Terro-Human Future History: Federation: pb/Michael Whelan]
Terro-Human Future History: Fuzzies (for convenience, we list here Fuzzy books by other authors as well)
- Little Fuzzy (New York: Avon Books, 1962) [Terro-Human Future History: Fuzzies: pb/Victor Kalin]
- The Other Human Race (New York: Avon Books, 1964) [Terro-Human Future History: Fuzzies: pb/uncredited]
- Fuzzy Sapiens (New York: Ace Books, 1976) [vt of the above: Terro-Human Future History: Fuzzies: pb/Michael Whelan]
- The Fuzzy Papers (Garden City, New York: Nelson Doubleday, 1977) [omni of the above two: Terro-Human Future History: Fuzzies: hb/Michael Whelan]
- Fuzzies and Other People (New York: Ace Books, 1984) [Terro-Human Future History: Fuzzies: pb/Michael Whelan]
- The Complete Fuzzy (New York: Ace Books, 1998) [omni of the above three: Terro-Human Future History: Fuzzies: pb/Michael Whelan]
Paratime Police/Lord Kalvan
- Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen (New York: Ace Books, 1965) [Paratime Police/Lord Kalvan: pb/Jack Gaughan]
- Gunpowder God (London: Sphere Books, 1978) [vt of the above: pb/uncredited]
- Paratime (New York: Ace Books, 1981) [coll: Paratime Police/Lord Kalvan: pb/uncredited]
- The Complete Paratime (New York: Ace Books, 2001) [omni of the above two: Paratime Police/Lord Kalvan: pb/Dave Dorman]
about the author
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