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.
I first was introduced to Sara King’s writing when I happened upon a draft her novel Outer Bounds on a writing review site that we both frequent. I wrote an editorial review of the first chapter of her book and asked if she would send me the rest so I could find out what would happen next. We’ve stayed in touch via facebook ever since. With her latest novel about to drop on Amazon, I thought it a good time to introduce this intrepid author to you here on No Wasted Ink.
My name is Sara King. Really. And no, I’m not related to Stephen King, though his writing was a very strong influence on me in my early years. I’m a 29-year-old born and raised Alaskan, who’s known since she was a toddler that she was going to be a writer when she grew up. Unlike all the other would-be astronauts, paleontologists, and fish biologists out there, no one really managed to dissuade me from that particular hare-brained notion, so here I am. To give you an example of how stubborn and single-minded I’ve been about the whole writing affair, when I was explaining to my agent that I wanted to release one of my series of books out of order, he laughed and blinked at me and said, “You’re not George Lucas, Sara.” And the first thing that flashed into my mind? “YET!!”
When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote my first documented story when I was 4. I know, because my grandmother dated Sammy the Snake and stuck it in a file folder in her dresser, about six pages long, with plenty of illustrated curly-cues of snakes that looked like twisty wads of poop. I say my first ‘documented’ because I wrote more before that, including Bob the Brontosaurus, which I lovingly stapled together while destroying my mother’s favorite stapler by standing on it when regular means would not suffice, but I’m afraid that my mother’s filing habits are not as complete, and Bob is probably a goner.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As soon as I decided that’s what I was going to be. I knew as a really young kid that I had to be an entertainer of some sort, and looking back, I judged all the positives and negatives of each entertainment profession with kind of creepily-mature decision-making skills. Writing, I decided, had the best collection of traits that I was looking for. It meant I could work from home—any home I wanted, anywhere—it had great opportunities for making a buck, it had huge pre-existing networks in which I could disseminate my ideas, it left me with no huge need to be under intense public scrutiny, and it was something I could basically teach myself to do. I chose writing over art because I felt writing had a bigger chance of making more money and going viral. This all when I was 3 or 4. From that point on, I started teaching myself to write, in earnest.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
Alaskan Fury is about a Fury who, 3000 years ago, was told by her Lord to go kill a djinni. The Fury won the duel (think a sword-slinging, super-powered Batman going up against Shakespeare) and the djinni, hoping to prolong his life, submitted, binding himself to her for 3 wishes. The Fury raised her sword to kill him anyway, and, out of desperation, realizing she wasn’t going to take his bribe, the djinni cursed her never to commit violence (a Fury’s stock-in-trade). The book starts with 3000 years of bitterness and despair from their predicament already tainting their every action. It begins when the two of them finally hit rock-bottom, and is about the love story that develops from there.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Actually, yes. I am one of those freakish authors that subscribes fully to the Butterfly Effect. (i.e. The Pull It Out Of Your Ass Syndrome) This wreaks hell with my ability to edit or plot out a story, but it draws people along like nobody’s business. I’d say 1/100 of the authors I know write this way. Stephen King is a perfect example of a writer who writes like this. Basically, the characters will lead you along from beginning to end, so that you never get bored, but the plot doesn’t have perfect arcs and there are random tangents. I have always—ALWAYS—found myself unable to write based on a plot outline. I always take the tangents, always. For years, I agonized over it, but still couldn’t stop myself, even after I’d spent weeks on an outline…I’d throw it all away to take a single interesting tangent in the first 20 minutes because my characters said or did something that was unexpected. So, after about 5 years of struggling to write based on what I was told I had to do, I finally just gave in to that random-ass thrill-seeker part of me and stopped trying to conform. That was when I was 11. Immediately after, I finished my first novel at the age of 12. I think it was 145k words, or something like that, and you can imagine that I thought it was the cat’s meow. (shudder)
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Alaskan Fury takes place in (gasp!) Alaska. I was born and raised here, so I can get pretty detailed without someone screaming ‘hack.’ The characters are me. I’ll blatantly admit it. I pick a facet of myself and channel that baby onto paper, then switch POVs and pick another one. Though I often use what I have observed of other people in my writing, in Fury, it’s pretty much all me except for the dragon. The dragon was based off of my fiancé and his curious—but cute!!—hoarding instinct. Anything valuable or shiny is fair game.
What authors have most influenced your life?
I’m going to revise your question a bit to ask which ‘storytellers’ have most influenced my life, because I spent a great portion of my life (and still do!) analyzing great storytellers and a great story isn’t just told via books. So here goes, in no particular order: Tom Brion, George Lucas, Joss Whedon, Anne McCaffery, Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, George R. R. Martin. You guys, I bow to you. Tom Brion is my grandfather, who can spin a tale that holds an entire room enraptured, from whom I literally learned all the basics of good storytelling as I sat on his knee, listening to him tell tales of his misadventures in Alaska beginning when I was a wee ‘human bean.’ Oh, and I would totally grovel at Martin’s feet, if he would let me. Arya is my favorite character of all time, followed closely by Jaime. Now that man can write…
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
My fiancé, David MacKey, did the cover. He’s normally a comic illustrator, but I kind of drafted him for this purpose because I love his art and I don’t mind being different. As to how I selected him, he basically selected me. The poor guy read my sci-fi novel Outer Bounds by random accident on the internet, felt compelled to look me up, had a little mini-freakout session with some of his friends when he realized I was single, then politely asked me if I’d like to chat. I think I told him to screw off a few times, but he was persistent…
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Your first novel is going to suck. Keep writing. Then write more. Then write some more. And then more. Do NOT get stuck on your first novel, thinking that’s going to be the best thing you ever write. It will be, bar none, your WORST. Keep analyzing your style and comparing it to what you like about other authors. Figure out how it ticks, then replicate it. Don’t concern yourself overly much with books on how to write. Most of them aren’t written by writers. Use your gut instinct as a READER to tell you what’s going to go over well as a WRITER, and then let all the egg-heads who write their 101 Simple Steps On How To Write The Perfect Novel In 5 Days—written by, I might add, people whose name you’ve never heard of—sell their books to the people who are insecure enough to think they need them. Storytelling is instinctive. You can teach yourself, esp. if you use a batch of first-readers to ‘shotgun’ their criticisms of your work and then analyze that, too. Clusters of comments citing the same problem generally means it’s something you need to address. If it’s a single comment here or there, it’s probably an outlier, so ignore it. Probably around book 4 or 5, you’re going to really start getting the hang of things.
Basically, with writing, everybody thinks they’re an expert, but it is my firm belief that the absolute best people you can get to help you with your work are people who hate to write, but love to read, and love to read the same types of books that you like to write. New writers are often very good at quoting the ‘rules’ without really looking much deeper and seeing the Grand Picture, and are hyper-critical and often wrong. When you’re looking for critiques, stick to readers who don’t write. You’ll get a better gut-instinct reaction, versus an ‘I read this’ reaction. Just because somebody with a couple of letters behind their name put one of their ideas down in a book does not mean it’s a good idea, but new writers, who are desperately seeking the Gospel that will transform their writing overnight into a huge success with little effort on their part, don’t have the confidence or experience to see that. That said, read Stephen King’s On Writing. You’ll love it.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I had a world-famous agent for about 4 years, after which, I broke off and decided to do my own thing. Edging your way into the traditional publishing system right now is ridiculously difficult if you’re a new author. Therefore, I’m stepping into the bold new world of e-publishing all on my lonesome, but I expect to be a great success. If romance isn’t really your thing, keep an eye out for my sci-fi and fantasy series. I’ve had them written for years, but they’ve been sitting on my hard-drive for much too long, languishing as I waited for some traditional editor to take notice. I’m finally to the point where, since I know that I can make a decent living at this without waiting around with my thumb up my ass for some editor to notice me, I’m going to start publishing my own stories on Amazon. If you’d like to stay updated on this utterly brazen—and some say foolhardy—endeavor, you can find me on Facebook or Email Me. My first book, Alaskan Fire, came out at the end of January, and it currently has 18 5-star reviews. In my opinion, Alaskan Fury is even better, by far.
Sara King was four years old when she wrote her first short story. Seventeen years later, she is currently working on her 16th book, the third novel in the Guardians of the First Realm Alaskan Paranormal world. Sara lives in Alaska with her soul mate and biggest fan, David.
Cover art by: David MacKey.
Alaskan Fire: Amazon Kindle Store (currently at 18 5-star reviews!!)
Alaskan Fury: Amazon Kindle Store
There was an explosion of great articles to link to this week and I had a hard time choosing among them. From why you need business cards to dealing with writer’s block. I hope you like this week’s offerings.