The short story is perhaps a dying art in science fiction. Once, it was the number one venue for new authors to cut their teeth on. Giants like Heinline, Asimov, and Clark all got their start writing fiction for some of the many short story mags of the mid 20th century. In those earlier times, commuters would hit up the magazine stand at their local bus stop or train station for a copy of Weird Tales, Science Fiction Analog, or Galaxy magazine so they could pass the time with a quick yard during the ride home. It was a lucrative business, and many a novel that would go on to win Hugo Awards had its genesis as a pulp story.
H. Beam Piper was no exception of course. Now, I freely admit that Piper is one of my influences. Despite his occasional militarism and misogyny, I appreciate his craftsmanship and storytelling. He created a fully formed and believable future, warts and all, and I cut my teeth as a reader on his Little Fuzzy books when I was but a lad. Sadly, his career was cut short by his suicide in 1964, bringing his story to a rather abrupt conclusion.
However, he had friends and one of them, a guy named Jerry Pournelle, took the pains to collect his short stories and bind them together into one volume. The title of this posthumous pice is Federation, and I must say it’s one of my absolute favorite books of all time.
The stories all take place in Piper’s future interstellar federation, and it’s the same universe that Pappy Jack and the Space Vikings inhabit. Pournelle has taken pains to organize Piper’s stories chronologically so we can see the future unfolding through snippets and venues. My personal favorite has to be Piper’s Graveyard of Dreams, wherein a young man returns from college to a junkyard planet that was once the hub of an interstellar war. Now, possing advanced scientific knowledge, he hasn’t the heart to tell his father’s friends that their dreams of finding a lost military supercomputer are not going to come true and thus their world will forever be in the economic doldrums of the galaxy…unless he can spin a lie of gossamer that will take them to the stars!
If your a fan of Piper’s and haven’t read this amazing book yet, it is still available on Amazon. If your not a fan of pipers, however, the book is still available on Amazon so what are you waiting for?
Clayton J. Callahan