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Reporting from H. Beam Piper's Fiction

"That was Federation-wide news; the end of a fifteen-year manhunt for the most wanted criminal in the known Galaxy.  And who had that story, right in his hot little hand?  Walter Boyd, the ace — and only — reporter for the mighty Port Sandor Times."
— H. Beam Piper, Four-Day Planet

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Port Sandor Times Logo
(Illustration by Ahkâm)

Port Sandor Times, based at Port Sandor on Fenris, was established in 458 A.E.  The Port Sandor Times News Service is a colonial news service which reaches many worlds across the Federation.  Port Sandor Times has off-world bureaus on Terra, Odin, Isis, Baldur, Osiris, Marduk, Ishtar, Vishnu and Aton.

In addition to the News Service, Port Sandor Times also has several feature sections.  Martian Joe's offers profiles of characters from Piper's Terro-human Future History, Paratime and other fiction yarns.  Rivington Spaceport describes and examines background details from Piper's varied fictional settings.  Dillingham Drive looks at the science-fictional technologies which appear in Piper's fiction.  World-Picture presents expansions of Piper's fictional work, including sequels by other authors and Piper-related fan fiction.  Land‑Script is a collection of efforts to develop background elements of Piper's various settings.  Down Styphon! looks at table-top, role-playing and other games based upon Piper's fiction.  Finally, Typewriter Killer features commentary about, and reviews of Piper's work.

Characters | Settings | Technology | Expansions | Development Claims | Gaming | Commentary

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Martian Joe's (Characters)

"One of your hands on the Javelin got into a fight in Martian Joe's, a while ago.  Lumped the other man up pretty badly."
— Bish Ware, Four-Day Planet

Image - Omnilingual by Kelly Freas

Hubert Penrose, Martha Dane and Selim von Ohlmhorst.
(Illustration by Kelly Freas)

H. Beam Piper gave us some remarkable characters in his fiction.  There are heroes like Allan Hartley in "Time and Time Again" (1947), Piper's first published yarn, Verkan Vall, of the Paratime Police, who appeared throughout the Paratime yarns beginning with "Police Operation" (1948), extra-territorial scientist Duncan MacLeod of "The Mercenaries" (1950), Carlos von Schlichten and Paula Quinton of Uller Uprising (1952), private detective Jeff Rand of Murder in the Gunroom (1953), extraterrestrial archaeologist Martha Dane of "Omnilingual" (1957), positronic computer engineer Conn Maxwell of "Graveyard of Dreams" (1958) and Junkyard Planet (1963), Kwann-friendly journalist Miles Gilbert of "Oomphel in the Sky" (1960), Walt Boyd, the cub reporter for the Port Sandor Times in Four-Day Planet (1961), prospector "Pappy Jack" Holloway and the native Zarathustran Little Fuzzy of the three Fuzzy novels, Space Vikings Lucas Trask and Otto Harkaman of Space Viking (1962), and, of course, the cross-time interloper Calvin Morrison of Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen (1964).  Piper also created other characters whose roles and motivations were more complex like Yorn Travann, Minister of Security in "Ministry of Disturbance" (1958), sociographer Edith Shaw of "Oomphel in the Sky," town-drunk-cum-federal-agent Gonzalo "Bish" Ware of Four-Day Planet, villain-turned-patron Victor Grego of the Fuzzy yarns, former rebel System States Alliance officer Klem Zareff of Junkyard Planet, and Hadron Dalla, Verkan Vall's former-and-once-again wife in the Paratime yarns.

Rivington Spaceport (Settings)

"I want a complete hypno-mech on Venusian nighthounds, emphasis on wild state, special emphasis domesticated nighthounds reverted to wild state in terrestrial surroundings, extra-special emphasis hunting techniques applicable to same."
— Verkan Vall, "Police Operation"

Image - Gunpowder God by John Schoenherr

Calvin Morrison arrives in Hostigos.
(Illustration by John Schoenherr)

Much of H. Beam Piper's fiction occurs in two shared settings.  Piper's most richly developed background is that of the Terro-human Future History, a series of linked science-fiction novels — including Four-Day Planet, Little Fuzzy and Space Viking — and stories published between 1952 and 1964 which chart an imagined future of human civilization from the first days of space exploration (e.g. "Edge of the Knife"), through the expansion of humans from Terra (Earth) into interstellar space (e.g. "When in the Course—"), to an era when Terra is a glaciated backwater of interstellar empire (e.g. "The Keeper").  Besides Terra itself in each of the different eras of the Future History, there are hundreds of different planets in these yarns.

Piper's Paratime yarns of alternate, parallel universes patrolled by the cross-time-traveling Paratime Police began with 1948's "Police Operation" and culminated in the 1965 novel Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen.  Besides the thousands of alternate timelines of the Paratime setting Piper also described an extensive background for the "First Level" civilization which stretches from its ancient origins on Mars to the time when it is exploiting and policing thousands of those timelines from Terra's "Home Time Line."

In addition to his Future History and Paratime settings, Piper published other speculative fiction (e.g. "Dearest"), historical fiction (e.g. "Rebel Raider") and mystery fiction (e.g. Murder in the Gunroom) between the publication of his first story in 1947 ("Time and Time Again") and his death in 1964, most with their own specific settings.  There are also a handful of other Piper yarns with shared settings — like the "Hartley yarns" ("Time and Time Again," "The Mercenaries" and "Day of the Moron") — and yarns like "Genesis" which may be connected to Terro-human Future History or Paratime yarns in unusual or unexpected ways.

Dillingham Drive (Technology)

"We even know of one Second Level civilization which is approaching the discovery of an interstellar hyperspatial drive, something we've never even come close to."
— Verkan Vall, "Temple Trouble"

Image - Naudas (Naudsonce) by Rudolf Sieber-Lonati

Using the visibilizing analyzer
(Illustration for "Naudas" by Rudolf Sieber-Lonati)

Key science-fictional technologies underlie each of Piper's two main fictional settings.  For the Terro-human Future History it is the "Dillingham hyperdrive," a faster-than-light means of propulsion which enables interstellar travel.  In the Paratime setting it is the "Ghaldron-Hesthor paratemporal-field generator" which allows the Paratimers to travel "cross-time" from one parallel timeline ("para-time") to another.

Piper also portrays many other, traditional science-fictional technologies. There is "contragravity," which enables the Abbot "lift-and-drive" of flying, largely inertialess craft.  There is "collapsium," super-dense "collapsed matter" used as shielding for engines and as armor for warships.  Personal ranged energy weapons only appear very late in the Terro-human Future History in the yarn "The Keeper" but a Paratime Police officer is seldom caught without a handy "sigma-ray needler."

Piper also described several technologies which were unique to his settings such as the "visibilizing analyzer," a scientific device used in "Naudsonce" to help understand the way in which sounds are sensed by the extraterrestrial Svants.  "Nuclear-electric conversion" appears in many Terro-human Future History yarns; this technology provides a seemingly unlimited power source and that can be used to make super-powerful portable energy cells which can be small — though heavy — and very long-lasting.

World-Picture (Expansions)

"I don't know what plans you have for a next story project, but the world-picture you've been building up in the Sword Worlds stories, or Space Viking stories, or whatever you designate the series, offers some lovely possibilities."
— John W. Campbell

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"I killed one of the buggers!"
(Illustration for The Cosmic Computer" by Ed Valigursky)

Piper published the Terro-human Future History novelet "Graveyard of Dreams" in 1958.  Five years later, he published the novel Junkyard Planet — reissued in paperback the following year as The Cosmic Computer — which greatly expanded the scale and scope of the original yarn.  The first installment of Piper's Paratime novel Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen — "Gunpowder God"  — was published at just about the time of his death in 1964 but it seems this yarn may have started as the Terro-human Future History yarn "When in the Course—," a manuscript that was unpublished during Piper's lifetime.

Expansions on earlier work, or yarns rewritten to fit a different setting, were an established part of Piper's writing, so should be no surprise that the publishers that held the posthumous copyrights to Piper's work turned to other authors to offer similar expansions or reinterpretations of his work.  The first of these to appear were two sequels — one an expansion, one a re-imagination — to the Terro-human Future History novels Little Fuzzy and its sequel Fuzzy Sapiens.  (The subsequent discovery of another unpublished manuscript of Piper's own sequel — Fuzzies and Other People — presented an interesting contrast with these two commissioned yarns.)

Perhaps the most successful authorized expansion of Piper's work was the novel Great Kings' War, a sequel to Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen. Co-author John F. Carr — who also edited four collections of Piper's short yarns — has gone on to write many more Paratime yarns.  Carr has also written expansions set in the Terro-human Future History.  There have been other authorized expansions — or re-imaginings — of Piper's work as well.

There have also been a variety of expansions of Piper's work by fans, from series of novels set in both the Terro-human Future History and Paratime settings to re-imaginings of Piper's shorter yarns.  Other efforts by fans have expanded background elements of Piper's fictional settings without being tied to the telling of specific new stories.

Land-Script (Development Claims)

"A lot of the older planets are beginning to overpopulate, and there's never room enough for everybody on Terra.  There'll be a rush here in about a year."
— Ben Rainsford, Fuzzy Sapiens

Image - Little Fuzzy

Pappy Jack defending his landgrant
(Illustration for "Little Fuzzy" by Michael Whelan)

Modeled after the Traveller Mailing List (TML) Landgrab, Piper Development Claims are personal, non-commercial efforts to develop background elements of H. Beam Piper's Terro-human Future History, Paratime and Other Works settings.  Each background developer should report on the claimed setting in great detail.  The exact level of detail and degree of compliance with official canon is open to interpretation.  Each background developer should survey his or her claim (including gathering the relevant canonical information) and submit a Developer's Report to the Piper Mailing List.

There are some key guidelines for any development effort.  The first is captured in "Olson's Rule":

"Agreed that [Piper's Paratime and Terro-human Future History (TFH) yarns] could all fit together.  Does that mean that they do?  If you intend the definition of inclusion within Piper's future history to be 'one [which] would have little trouble fitting into the TFH as pre-30 Days War stories' then you've gotten too broad. . . .

"I think you need something a little more positive than mere non-contradiction."

While Mark was speaking specifically here about including Paratime yarns in the Terro-human Future History canon, the point holds for any development of Piper's work: there must be some explicit, non-generic (e.g. not simply a shared reference to a common place such as, say, "Mars") connection in any two Piper works for them to be considered to be part of the same, distinct setting.

A second key guideline is captured in "Newton's Rule":

"Perhaps, in keeping with the spirit of the Landgrab, and so that we can both stimulate creativity and remain careful about what Piper actually wrote, we should separate material into "Canon" and "Apocrypha"—with the latter segments being so titled to represent the fact that the author is not revealing but extending. . . ."

Steve's "Canon" and "Apocrypha" distinction should serve as a basic structuring element of any development effort.

Down Styphon! (Gaming)

"The Sword Worlds are a loose confederation of worlds all colonized in the same era. . . ."
— Marc Miller, Traveller Supplement 3: The Spinward Marches

Image - Down Styphon!

A musket and pike war game.
(Illustration by Mike Gilbert)

In 1977, just as much of Piper's fiction was being reprinted by Ace, Fantasy Games Unlimited released Down Styphon!, a table-top war game which simulates battles depicted in Piper's Paratime novel Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen.  Two years later, the Sword-Worlds of Piper's novel Space Viking inspired a portion of the official setting of Game Designers' Workshop's Traveller® science-fiction role-playing game, first appearing in The Spinward Marches campaign supplement.  These initial war-gaming and role-playing game efforts were followed by additional game materials based upon Piper's fiction, including some developed by Piper fans.

Typewriter Killer (Commentary)

"Considering the one author about whom I am uniquely qualified to speak, I question if any reader of H. Beam Piper will long labor under the misunderstanding that he is a pious Christian, a left-wing liberal, a Gandhian pacifist, or a teetotaler."
— H. Beam Piper, "The double-bill Symposium" interview

Image - H. Beam Piper, Typewriter Killer

H. Beam Piper
(Photo from The Pennsy)

Besides standard reviews — by both professionals and fans — there has been a variety of commentary about the ideas, themes and potential inspirations of Piper's work, including that appearing in authorized collections of Beam's work.

Port Sanders Times is also engaged in a series of "reread" reviews of Piper's work.

Online discussion of Piper and his work have been continuously active since the earliest days of the Internet.

Characters | Settings | Technology | Expansions | Development Claims | Gaming | Commentary

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