H. Beam Piper

H. Beam Piper  Henry Beam Piper (1904 – 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.

iper 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.

He killed himself in November 1964 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, bringing his career to a premature conclusion. 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An unpublished story, "Only the Arquebus", has gone missing since his suicide; it is probable that he destroyed it along with many of his personal papers.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 works have been reprinted recently. Many of his earlier copyrights have been allowed to lapse, permitting Project Gutenberg to distribute his work online.

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 did not live to see how influential he was to other science fiction writers.

Michael McCollum's first novel, A Greater Infinity, was inspired by Piper's notion of the Paratime Police (and to a lesser extent by Isaac Asimov's The End of Eternity). The Paradox Patrol, in a series of stories by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, are a parody of Piper's Paratime Police, although they also pay homage to Alfred Bester in their enforcement of "Bester's Law".

Robert Adams' Castaways in Time is similar in many ways to Piper's Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen. Adams' book has a group of late-1970s Americans transported to an alternate medieval England where the Roman Catholic Church controls the supply of gunpowder. Jerry Pournelle's Janissaries series is an obvious tribute to Lord Kalvan, with several early scenes being very close echoes of scenes in Piper's work. Charles Stross's Merchant Princes series explicitly acknowledges H. Beam Piper's Paratime as an influence.

Piper's story Omnilingual has been much reprinted and has been referred to in many subsequent stories dealing with the translation of alien languages.

Elizabeth Bear has stated that she often describes her novel Undertow as “Little Fuzzy meets The Italian Job”.

Terro-Human Future History

Federation series


  • Uller Uprising (1952) (also published as Ullr Uprising)
  • Four-Day Planet (1961) (also published as Lone Star planet)
  • Junkyard Planet (1963), (also published as The Cosmic Computer) Based on the short story "Graveyard of Dreams", published in Galaxy Magazine February 1958.
  • Space Viking (1963)

Short stories


  • Federation (1981), including Piper's Foundation? (1981, Jerry Pournelle), Introduction (1981, John F. Carr), Omnilingual (1957, H. Beam Piper), Naudsonce (1962, H. Beam Piper), Oomphel in the Sky (1960, H. Beam Piper), Graveyard of Dreams (1958, H. Beam Piper), When in the Course (H. Beam Piper)
  • Empire (1981), including Introduction (1981, John F. Carr), Terro-Human Future History Chronology (1981, John F. Carr), The Edge of the Knife (1957, H. Beam Piper), A Slave Is a Slave (1962, H. Beam Piper), Ministry of Disturbance (1958, H. Beam Piper), The Return (1954, H. Beam Piper and John J. McGuire?), The Keeper (1957, H. Beam Piper).
  • Ministry of Disturbance and Other SF (2007), A Slave Is a Slave (1962, H. Beam Piper), Ministry of Disturbance (1958, H. Beam Piper), The Keeper (1957, H. Beam Piper), Omnilingual (1957, H. Beam Piper) and Oomphel in the Sky (1960, H. Beam Piper).
  • Flight from Tomorrow (2006), (H. Beam Piper), Graveyard of Dreams (1958, H. Beam Piper)

Fuzzy series


Short stories

The Adventures of Little Fuzzy (1983) with Benson Parker?


  • The Fuzzy Papers (1980) omnibus collecting Little Fuzzy and Fuzzy Sapiens.
  • The Complete Fuzzy (1998) omnibus collecting Little Fuzzy, Fuzzy Sapiens, and Fuzzies and other People.

Game Books

Thousand Suns

Thousand Suns: Transmissions from Piper, 2009, with John Appel, James Maliszewski, Vaclav G. Ujcik and Greg Videll

More: Wikipedia, ISFDB, Project Gutenberg, Zarthani.net, H. Beam Piper Memorial site,