H. Beam Piper

Henry Beam Piper (March 23, 1904 – c.  November 6, 1964) was an American science fiction author. He wrote many short stories and several novels. He is best known for his extensive Terro-Human Future History series of stories and a shorter series of "Paratime" alternate history tales.

He wrote under the name H. Beam Piper. Another source gives his name as "Horace Beam Piper" and a different date of death.[1] His gravestone says "Henry Beam Piper". Piper himself may have been the source of part of the confusion; he told people the H stood for Horace, encouraging the assumption that he used the initial because he disliked his name. On a copy of "Little Fuzzy" given to Charles O. Piper, Beam's cousin and executor, he wrote "To Charles from Henry."

H. Beam Piper
H. Beam Piper
BornHenry Beam Piper
March 23, 1904
United States
Diedc.  November 6, 1964 (aged 60)
Williamsport, Pennsylvania, United States
Pen nameHorace Beam Piper, Herbert Beam Piper
NationalityUnited States
Period20th century
GenreScience fiction, alternate history


Piper was largely self-educated; he obtained his knowledge of science and history "without subjecting myself to the ridiculous misery of four years in the uncomfortable confines of a raccoon coat." He went to work at age 18 as a laborer at the Pennsylvania Railroad's Altoona yards in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He also worked as a night watchman for the railroad.

Piper published his first short story, "Time and Time Again", in 1947 in Astounding Science Fiction; it was adapted for the radio program Dimension X and first broadcast in 1951, and was re-produced for X Minus One in 1956. He was primarily a short story author until 1961, when he made a productive, if short-lived, foray into novels. He collected guns and wrote one mystery, Murder in the Gunroom.

In 1964, his career apparently on the skids, and prevented by reticence and his Libertarian principles from asking anyone to assist him with his financial difficulties, Piper committed suicide.[2][3] The exact date of his death is unknown; the last entry in his diary was dated November 5 ("Rain 0930"), and the date his body was found is reported as November 9 or November 11 by various sources. According to Jerry Pournelle's introduction to Little Fuzzy, Piper shut off all the utilities to his apartment, put painter's drop-cloths over the walls and floor, and took his own life with a handgun from his collection. In his suicide note, he gave an explanation that "I don't like to leave messes when I go away, but if I could have cleaned up any of this mess, I wouldn't be going away. H. Beam Piper'".

Some biographers attribute his act to financial problems, others to family problems; Pournelle wrote that Piper felt burdened by financial hardships in the wake of a divorce, and the mistaken perception that his career was foundering (his agent had died without notifying him of multiple sales). Editor George H. Scithers, who knew Piper socially, has stated that Piper wanted to spite the ex-wife he despised: by killing himself, Piper voided his life insurance policy, and prevented her from collecting.

An unpublished story, "Only the Arquebus", has gone missing since his suicide; it is probable that he destroyed it along with many of his personal papers.

His output was eventually purchased by Ace Science Fiction and reprinted in a set of paperbacks in the early 1980s. Many of these have since gone out of print, though his two best-known arcs were again reprinted by Ace in 1998 and 2001. Late in his career, Piper corresponded with Pournelle, who was the Ace editor who helped reprint some of his novels.

Many of his earlier copyrights have been allowed to lapse, permitting Project Gutenberg to distribute his work online.

Themes and hallmarks

Piper's stories fall into two camps: stark space opera, such as Space Viking, or stories of cultural conflict or misunderstanding, such as Little Fuzzy or the Paratime stories.

A running theme in his work is that history repeats itself; past events will have direct and clear analogues in the future. The novel Uller Uprising is the clearest example of this, being based on the Sepoy Mutiny. A similarly clear example is the very name of Space Viking; although that novel is not a direct reinterpretation of a specific historical precedent, a later theme in the book involves the takeover of a planet in a manner reminiscent of the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Piper's characterization was rooted in the notion of the self-reliant man: a man able to take care of himself and both willing and able to tackle any situation which might arise. This is perfectly exemplified in a bit of dialogue found in his short story "Oomphel in the Sky" (1960):

He actually knows what has to be done and how to do it, and he's going right ahead and doing it, without holding a dozen conferences and round-table discussions and giving everybody a fair and equal chance to foul things up for him.

As a result, his yarns tend towards the heroic, and the conflict is usually driven externally.

Piper was interested in general semantics. It is explicitly mentioned in Murder in the Gunroom, and its principles, such as awareness of the limitations of knowledge, are apparent in his later work.

Influence on other works

Elizabeth Bear has described her novel Undertow as "Little Fuzzy meets The Italian Job".[4]

John Scalzi published a re-telling of Little Fuzzy, entitled Fuzzy Nation.

Major storylines

Terro-Human Future History

The Terro-Human Future History is Piper's detailed account of the next 6,000 years of human history. 1942, the year the first fission reactor was constructed, is defined as the year 1 A.E. (Atomic Era). In 1973, a nuclear war devastates the planet, eventually laying the groundwork for the emergence of a Terran Federation, once humanity goes into space and develops antigravity technology.

The story "The Edge of the Knife" (collected in Empire) occurs slightly before the war, and involves a man who sees flashes of the future. It links many key elements of Piper's series.

Most of the stories take place during the next millennium, during the age of the two Federations. Most notable among these novels are the three Fuzzy novels (starting with Little Fuzzy), which concern the recognition of a peculiar alien species as sapient, and the efforts of the two species to learn to live together on the Fuzzies' home world of Zarathustra.

The Federation collapses in the System States War and following Interstellar Wars (a bit of which can be seen in The Cosmic Computer), leading to a lengthy interregnum, during which there is no central human power. Space Viking is set in this chaotic period.

The interregnum ends with the founding of the first Empire. At least five empires rule humanity during the next four thousand years, but only a handful of short stories (collected in Empire) depict this period. Piper generally portrays these empires as benign, ruled by enlightened despots.

Piper's future history resembles in some ways Isaac Asimov's Foundation Trilogy, and was probably influenced by it, especially since both authors wrote for John W. Campbell.


A much shorter series of alternate history stories is Piper's Paratime sequence, collected in Paratime, followed by the novel Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen. These stories concern the Paratime Police, a law enforcement outfit from a parallel world which has learned how to move between timelines. They jealously guard the secret, even as they mine other worlds for their resources. Notably, it appears that humans are in fact Martian refugees who escaped a calamity on their home planet and migrated to Earth.

Unlike many alternate histories, these stories tend to focus on points of divergence far back in the past. For instance, Lord Kalvan involves a police officer who is accidentally transported to a world where the ancestors of modern Europeans failed to move into Europe. Instead, the nomadic tribes migrated across Asia and into North America. The people living on the eastern coast of North America in this novel settled the area from the west, and still live in a medieval society.

Many readers point towards the short story "Genesis" (anthologized in The Worlds of H. Beam Piper) to suggest that the Terro-Human Future History universe is in fact an alternate world in the Paratime universe, where the Martians' escape from Mars resulted in their forgetting their heritage and having to start over. However, in several letters to friends and in an article published in a fan magazine, Piper himself listed the true Paratime stories, and he never identified "Genesis" as one. On the other hand, "He Walked Around The Horses" is referenced in "Police Operation" so that is a sidebar story to the series.

By the same token, in spite of Piper's lack of explicit stipulation, "Omnilingual" (1957) — which concerns a near-future scientific expedition to Mars under the aegis of an international Earth government — may also be a Paratime story. The scientists and scholars involved in this effort are found in medias res excavating the ruins of the advanced human civilization which had been gradually destroyed on the fourth planet some 50,000 years before. It should be noted that in "Omnilingual" there is no mention of the northern hemisphere's thermonuclear devastation as a result of the NATO/Communist "cold war" kindled into an orgy of extermination by the impact of an antimatter meteorite, which was detailed by Piper in his story "The Answer" (1959). Throughout the Terro-Human Future History, that conflict and the destruction wrought across the nations of the First and Second Worlds is pervasive as an explanation of the precise manner in which the home planet's culture (by way of South America, Australia, and South Africa in particular) comes to influence the planets of Piper's Federation and Empire.

Published works

Terro-Human Future History

Federation series

  • Uller Uprising (1952) ISBN 0-441-84292-5 (refers to the 1983 edition)
  • Four-Day Planet (1961) ISBN 0-441-24891-8 (refers to the 1981 edition: Four-Day Planet/Lone Star planet)
  • The Cosmic Computer (1963, originally Junkyard Planet) ISBN 0-441-11759-7 (refers to the 1983 edition.) Based on the short story "Graveyard of Dreams", published in Galaxy Magazine February 1958.
  • Space Viking (1963) ISBN 0-441-77784-8 (refers to the 1983 edition)
  • Federation (1981) ISBN 0-441-23191-8
  • Empire (1981) ISBN 0-441-20557-7 (refers to the May 1983 Mass Market Paperback Ed.)

Fuzzy series

  1. Little Fuzzy (1962) ISBN 0-441-48498-0,
  2. Fuzzy Sapiens (1964, originally The Other Human Race) ISBN 0-441-26196-5
  3. Fuzzies and Other People (1984) ISBN 0-441-26176-0


  • The Complete Fuzzy (1998) ISBN 0-441-00581-0 (pbk.)--collecting Little Fuzzy, Fuzzy Sapiens, and Fuzzies and other People.
  • The Fuzzy Papers (September 1980) ISBN 0-441-26193-0 (pbk.) --collecting Little Fuzzy and Fuzzy Sapiens.
  • The Fuzzy Papers (?) ISBN ? (hdbk.)--collecting Little Fuzzy and Fuzzy Sapiens.


  • Paratime (1981) ISBN 0-441-65169-0
  • The Complete Paratime (2001) ISBN 0-441-00801-1
  • Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen (1965, reprinted 1984), ISBN 0-441-49055-7.
  • Short stories: "Last Enemy"; "Time Crime" in two parts; "Temple Trouble"; "Police Operation"; and according to some, "Genesis". "He Walked Around The Horses" is referenced in "Police Operation" so that is a sidebar story to the tale.

Other novels

Fantastic universe 195703
Lone Star Planet was originally published in the March 1957 issue of Fantastic Universe
  • Murder in the Gunroom (1953, not science fiction but rather a murder mystery) ISBN 1-882968-02-6
  • Crisis In 2140 (1957, with John J. McGuire, half of Ace Double D-227). This was first serialized in Astounding Science Fiction as Null-ABC, copyright 1953.
  • Lone Star Planet (1958, originally A Planet for Texans) with John J. McGuire ISBN 0-441-24892-6. The work is a clear and obvious tribute to H.L. Mencken's classic essay "The Malevolent Jobholder" (from The American Mercury, June 1924), in which Mencken proposed

    ...that it shall be no longer malum in se for a citizen to pummel, cowhide, kick, gouge, cut, wound, bruise, maim, burn, club, bastinado, flay, or even lynch a [government] jobholder, and that it shall be malum prohibitum only to the extent that the punishment exceeds the jobholder's deserts. The amount of this excess, if any, may be determined very conveniently by a petit jury, as other questions of guilt are now determined.

    In 1999, the novel won the Prometheus Award, Hall of Fame Award for Best Classic Libertarian SF Novel. This tongue-in-cheek tale features a planet of Texans whose dinosaur-sized cattle have to be herded with tanks, and whose system of government derives its character from Mencken's essay. The protagonist is an insubordinate junior diplomat who is appointed as ambassador to this cantankerously independent planet in the hope that he will be assassinated (as the previous ambassador had been), thereby justifying the forcible invasion and conquest of the Texans. The crux of the story is the trial of the previous ambassador's assassins—actually paid killers hired by an alien empire also planning invasion—under a legal system that considers the killing of a practicing politician to be justifiable homicide.
  • First Cycle (1982, Michael Kurland expanded this from a Piper outline) ISBN 0-441-23919-6
Hunter Patrol - Cover - H. Beam Piper - Project Gutenberg eText 18641
Cover of Hunter Patrol, written with John J. McGuire

Short stories

  • "The Answer" (1959)
  • "Crossroads of Destiny" (1959)
  • "Day of the Moron" (1951)
  • "Dearest" (1951)
  • "The Edge of the Knife" (1957)
  • "Flight From Tomorrow" (1950)
  • "Genesis" (1951)
  • "Graveyard of Dreams" (1958)
  • "He Walked Around the Horses" (1948)
  • "Hunter Patrol" (1959, with John J. McGuire) (1959)
  • "The Keeper" (1957)
  • "Last Enemy" (1950)
  • "The Mercenaries" (1950)
  • "Ministry of Disturbance" (with John J. McGuire) (1958)
  • "Naudsonce" (1962)
  • "Omnilingual" (1957)
  • "Oomphel in the Sky" (1960)
  • "Operation R.S.V.P." (1951)
  • "Police Operation" (1948)
  • "Rebel Raider" (1950)
  • "The Return" (1954) (with John J. McGuire)
  • "The Return" (1960) (with John J. McGuire) expanded version of the original[5]
  • "A Slave is a Slave" (1962)
  • "Temple Trouble" (1951)
  • "Time and Time Again" (1947)
  • "Time Crime" (1955)
  • "When in the Course—" (1981)


Piper's Fuzzies in books by other authors

  • Fuzzy Bones, by William Tuning - Sequel to Little Fuzzy & Fuzzy Sapiens 1981 ISBN 0-441-26181-7
  • Golden Dream, by Ardath Mayhar - based on works by H. Beam Piper & William Tuning 1982 ISBN 0-441-29726-9
  • Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi ISBN 0-765-36703-3
  • Fuzzy Ergo Sum, by Wolfgang Diehr ISBN 0-937-91217-4
  • Caveat Fuzzy, by Wolfgang Diehr (A sequel to Fuzzy Ergo Sum) ISBN 0-937-91222-0
  • The Fuzzy Conundrum, by John F. Carr and Wolfgang Diehr ISBN 0-937-91266-2

Piper's "Terro-Human History" books by other authors

  • The Last Space Viking, by John F. Carr and Mike Robertson
  • Space Viking's Throne, by John F. Carr (A sequel to the Last Space Viking)
  • Space Viking Returns, by John F. Carr (A direct sequel to Space Viking, confirmed by the author for 2018 and is the long-awaited book once announced by Jerry Pournelle)
  • Rise of the Terran Federation, Edited by John F. Carr (A new anthology due in 2016)
  • Cosmic Computer Legacy: The Tides of Chaos, by Dietmar Wehr (A sequel to Cosmic Computer)
  • Space Viking Legacy: The Tanith Gambit, by Dietmar Wehr (A sequel to Space Viking released as an ebook in 2013)
  • Space Viking Legacy: Book II: The Loki Gambit, by Dietmar Wehr (released as an ebook in 2013)
  • Prince of Tanith: A Space Viking Novel (The Tanith Series)by Terry Mancour (A sequel to Space Viking on Amazon Kindle)
  • Princess Valerie's War: A Space Viking Novel (The Tanith Series Book II) by Terry Mancour on Amazon Kindle

"Paratime" books by other authors

The Paratime Trilogy

  • Time Crime, by H. Beam Piper and John F. Carr (Carr expanded the previous Novella with a brand new third act)


  1. ^ Carr, John F., H. Beam Piper: A Biography, McFarland, 2008 ISBN 978-0-7864-3375-9, p.10. According to Carr, during his lifetime Piper claimed the "H." stood for "Horace" and the son of Piper's good friend, Ferd Coleman, claimed it stood for Herbert.
  2. ^ F., Carr, John (2008). H. Beam Piper : a biography. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co. p. 1. ISBN 9780786433759. OCLC 173240831.
  3. ^ "Piper, H Beam". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Retrieved April 22, 2018.
  4. ^ Mandelo, Brit (July 30, 2010). "Queering SFF: Interview with Elizabeth Bear". Tor.com. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
  5. ^ "Bibliography of H. Beam Piper First Publications". Archived from the original on 2008-05-13. Retrieved 2008-07-23.

External links

Atlanta Radio Theatre Company

The Atlanta Radio Theatre Company. (ARTC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, promoting, performing, and educating people about the art of audio theatre (radio drama).

Empire (H. Beam Piper book)

Empire is a collection of short stories by American writer H. Beam Piper, edited by John F. Carr. The book was published in 1981 by Ace Books, and again in 1986. Most of these stories take place in his Terro-Human Future History, with the sole exception being "The Return".

Federation (short story collection)

Federation is a collection of short stories by American writer H. Beam Piper, edited by John F. Carr. The book was published in 1981 by Ace Books, and again in 1982, 1983 and 1986. Most of these stories take place in the early part of his Terro-Human Future History.

He Walked Around the Horses

"He Walked Around the Horses" is a science fiction short story by American writer H. Beam Piper. It is initially based on the true story of diplomat Benjamin Bathurst, who mysteriously disappeared in 1809. It was first published in the April 1948 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine (now Analog).

The story is told in epistolary style, as a series of reports, statements and memoranda by various government, army and police officials, and inn servants, stating what they know of the matter.

John F. Carr

John Francis Carr (born December 25, 1944) is an American science fiction editor and writer.

John J. McGuire

John Joseph McGuire (August 25, 1917; Altoona, Pennsylvania – August 1, 1981) was an American author of science fiction.He usually wrote with H. Beam Piper.

Kalvan (Calvin Morrison)

Kalvan, formerly known as Calvin Morrison, is a character from the fictional Kalvan series started by H. Beam Piper. He was a state trooper of the Pennsylvania State Police]], who was accidentally picked up by a cross-time flying saucer (really a Paratime conveyor) and carried to another timeline.

Kalvan series

The Kalvan series is a series of science fiction novels started by H. Beam Piper, about a Pennsylvania police officer who is transported to an alternate world. The series is part of Piper's Paratime series and features many of the characters from that series. The police officer, Calvin Morrison, is picked up by a "cross-time flying saucer" (really a Paratime conveyor) and dropped off in an alternate Pennsylvania where "Aryans" (speakers of Indo-European languages) migrated east across Asia and the Pacific Ocean and arrived in North America. This is different from the real world, where they moved west into Europe.

Last Enemy

"Last Enemy" is a science fiction short story written by H. Beam Piper, and is a part of his Paratime series. The title is a reference to 1 Corinthians 15:26, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (KJV)

It made its first appearance in August 1950, in Astounding Science Fiction magazine (now Analog).

Little Fuzzy

Little Fuzzy is a 1962 science fiction novel by H. Beam Piper, now in public domain. It was nominated for the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Novel.

The story revolves around determining whether a small furry species discovered on the planet Zarathustra is sapient, and features a mild libertarianism that emphasizes sincerity and honesty.

During a book signing at Strand Book Store, Piper alleged that the Little Fuzzy series was inspired by an acquaintance named Kevin "Fuzzy" Sheffield, whom Piper first met in a literary club in central Oregon. When asked about Sheffield, Piper described him as "a bizarre character, capable of writing little more than a couple of vaguely-legible remarks in each letter. While I'm sure he's full of insight and great ideas, it seems impossible to effectively communicate with him on a conventional human level...terribly nice fellow however."The book was followed by a sequel, Fuzzy Sapiens (original title The Other Human Race) published in 1964, the same year that Piper committed suicide in November.

In the wake of Piper's suicide, rumor spread of a lost "second sequel"; at the behest of Ace Books, William Tuning produced the critically acclaimed Fuzzy Bones. Later, Piper's lost manuscript was discovered, and published as Fuzzies and Other People. Ace also hired Ardath Mayhar to write Golden Dreams: A Fuzzy Odyssey, which tells the events of Little Fuzzy from the viewpoint of the Fuzzies (or Gashta, as they call themselves).

A new volume in the series, Fuzzy Ergo Sum by Wolfgang Diehr, was published by Pequod Press in April 2011. A second book, Caveat Fuzzy was released in August 2012. A third installment, this time by Wolfgang Diehr & well known Piper historian John F. Carr, titled “Fuzzy Conundrum” published in 2016. In 2011, John Scalzi published Fuzzy Nation, which he described as a "reboot" of Piper's original.


"Omnilingual" is a science fiction short story by American writer H. Beam Piper. Originally published in the February 1957 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, it focuses on the problem of archaeology on an alien culture.

Paratime series

The Paratime series written by H. Beam Piper consists of several short stories, one novella, and one novel; they deal with an advanced civilization that is able to travel between parallel universes with alternate histories, and uses that ability to trade for goods and services that their own, exhausted Earth cannot provide. Specifically, the Paratime series deals with the Paratime Police, the organization that protects the secret of paratime travel.

Space Viking

Space Viking is a science fiction novel by American writer H. Beam Piper, set in his Terro-Human future history. It tells the story of one man's search for his wife's murderer and its unexpected consequences. The story was originally serialized in Analog magazine (November 1962 – February 1963), then published by Ace Books in 1963.

The Answer (short story)

"The Answer" is a science fiction short story written by H. Beam Piper. It is not a part of either Piper’s Terro-Human Future History series nor his Paratime series.

It made its first appearance in the December 1959 issue of Fantastic Universe Science Fiction.

The Keeper

The Keeper, or its plural The Keepers, may refer to:


The Keepers (1959 film), English-language release of French film La Tête contre les murs

The Keeper (1976 film), starring Christopher Lee

The Keeper of Traken, a 1981 serial from the television programme Doctor Who

The Keeper (1995 film), starring Giancarlo Esposito

The Keeper (2002 film), starring Michael Neeley

The Keeper (2004 film), starring Dennis Hopper and Asia Argento

The Keeper: The Legend of Omar Khayyam, 2005 film starring Vanessa Redgrave

The Keeper (2009 film), starring Steven Seagal

The Keepers (2017 series), a film documentary series about the murder of American nun Cathy CesnikOther:

The Keeper (short story), a 1957 short story by H. Beam Piper

The Keeper, a character in "The Cage", the pilot episode of Star Trek

The Keeper, a character in "The Gamekeeper", an episode of Stargate SG-1

The Keeper (song), an English folk song associated with hunting

"The Keepers", the third single from Santigold's second album Master of My Make-Believe

The Keeper (short story)

"The Keeper" is a science fiction short story by American writer H. Beam Piper. It is the last story in Piper’s Terro-Human Future History series, being set in the 301st Century A.E. (Atomic Era).

It made its first appearance in the July 1957 issue of Venture Science Fiction.

The Return (short story)

"The Return" is a science fiction short story by American writer H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire. It is not a part of either Piper’s Terro-Human Future History series or his Paratime series.

It made its first appearance in the January 1954 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story was later edited and expanded for its appearance in the 1960 book The Science Fictional Sherlock Holmes. The differences between the two editions of the story are minor, mostly taking the form of added dialogue.

The Worlds of H. Beam Piper

The Worlds of H. Beam Piper is a collection of short stories written by H. Beam Piper, and edited by John F. Carr. The book was published in 1983 by Ace Books. None of these stories take place in either Piper’s Terro-Human Future History series nor in his Paratime series, except for "Genesis" which fits in with both series.

When in the Course

"When in the Course" is a science fiction short story by American writer H. Beam Piper. It is a part of Piper’s Terro-Human Future History series, and is nearly identical with his 1964 Paratime short story "Gunpowder God", which was later expanded into the novel Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen. It is most likely set in the 3rd Century A.E.

According to his introduction to the story, found in the book Federation, John F. Carr states that the unpublished manuscript for When in the Course was found among the late author’s papers by Ace Books. It was Mr. Carr’s belief that the story was the original story, but that it was rejected by editor John W. Campbell for its apparent use of parallel evolution as a part of the plot. He further contended that it was Mr. Campbell who recommended that the story be rewritten to make it a part of the Paratime storyline.“When in the Course” made its first appearance in the 1981 short story collection Federation. Unlike most Piper stories, the copyright for “When in the Course” has not lapsed.

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