Book Name: Little Fuzzy
Author: H. Beam Piper
First Published: 1962
Won the 1963 Hugo Award for Best Novel
H. Beam Piper was a self-educated man, with a great deal of interest in history and science, the two subjects which would figure prominently in his later writings. Being expelled from high school, Piper went to work at the age of 18 as a common laborer at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Altoona Yards in Pennsylvania and later became a night watchman for the third shift at the same railroad yard. He was married to Betty Hirst for several years, but their marriage was unhappy and eventually they divorced without children.
Piper’s writing career began in 1953 with the novel Murder in the Gunroom, a story that would be linked to his death due to the similarity of the plot and his own demise. Soon after his novel Little Fuzzy won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1963, H. Beam Piper committed suicide by pistol in early November of the following year. He was a member of the National Rifle Association and owned a large collection of guns, swords and knives with over 100 antique and modern weapons and accessories. It is said that Piper felt burdened by financial hardships in the wake of his divorce and the mistaken belief that his career was going under. He died without gaining critical attention for his work or knowing of the large sales his books were starting to gain for him. After his apparent suicide, his stories began to gain a cult-like following that continues to this day.
Little Fuzzy is the story of Jack Holloway, a crusty prospector on the planet Zarathustra. While humans have been on the planet for decades, he is the first to encounter these tiny humanoid life forms. He befriends a small group of them, taking them in as curious pets. As the days go on, he begins to realize that the Fuzzies, as he calls them, show signs of being more than simple animals, but as thinking beings. If they are sapient, this could ruin the commercial charter of Zarathustra Company and disrupt their taking of the natural resources of the world and in particular, the rare sunstone jewel that is found no where else in the galaxy. It is up to Jack and his friends to protect the Fuzzies and to help them win their day in court.
When I first encountered Little Fuzzy on the book shelf, I mistook it for a children’s book. Who would not with a little furry alien on the cover and a story about cute child-like animals that are “adopted”? Yet, there is an undercurrent to Little Fuzzy in it’s courtroom drama that questions who gains the rights of citizenship and who is considered a second class citizen a reservation that strikes home even today. The notions of corporate interests stifling scientific discoveries that might hurt their bottom line and of environmentalism are all woven into this tale of delightful aliens and the crusty libertarian prospector. The story is memorable and has inspired many sequels. I highly recommend checking out this classic science fiction tale that has inspired many authors down through the years.
Little Fuzzy is in the public domain and can be found for free download at Project Gutenberg.