The Fuzzy Papers, by H. Beam Piper
Posted January 4, 2012on:
The Fuzzy Papers (includes Little Fuzzy and The Other Human Race) by H. Beam Piper
originally published in 1962 and 1964
where I got it: off the bookshelf
When my husband and I got our first apartment, one of our first purchases was a bookcase, for we both showed up with boxes and boxes of books. I had a lot of Heinlein and Herbert and Asimov and random chick lit, he had a lot of McCaffrey and Herbert and Heinlein and Tolkien, and lots and lots of H. Beam Piper, who at the time, I’d never heard of.
I’m embarrassed to say it’s taken me this long to pick up a Piper. The volume we own is called The Fuzzy Papers, and it includes the first two Fuzzy novels – Little Fuzzy (originally published 1962) and The Other Human Race (originally published in 1964 and later titled Fuzzy Sapiens). No one should have to wait this long to read Little Fuzzy, one of the cutest books ever written. I suppose it should be considered Young Adult, as there is no overt violence or sex or danger. Unless you’ve been living under a rock and never, and never go to the movies, you’re sure to recognize some themes here.
Taking place on the planet Zarathustra, in a future where humanity has colonized the stars, Jack Holloway is a freelance sunstone miner. The planet is fully owned by the Chartered Zarathustra Company, whose chief export is the highly valued sunstones – the fossilized remains of ancient bioluminescent sea creatures who went extinct eons ago.
Holloway gets the surprise of his life when he returns home to his cabin one day to find a small, fuzzy, golden creature sitting on his bed. Naming the creature Little Fuzzy, Holloway immediately adopts it, and treats it like a treasured pet. It’s not long before Little Fuzzy brings his entire family to live with Holloway. It quickly becomes obvious that the fuzzies are more than just animals. They communicate with each other and build tools and hunt. They know what foods they like, and what to avoid because it will make them sick. They might be adorable and cuddly and playful and have the mind of a child, but they are smarter than they look. Holloway introduces his Fuzzies to anyone he knows who might be interested in them – Ben Rainsford and Gerd van Riebeek, xenobiologists; Ruth Ortheris a psychologist, and a handful of local constables.
And thus we get to the crux of the matter: are the Fuzzies sapient people, or just really smart animals? Even more complicated, what is the definition of sapience? By the time Holloway and his mining friends realize what a native sapience race will do to the company’s charter (void it), the company has already started campaigning against the sapience of the Fuzzies. During an altercation with The Company, a Fuzzy is killed. The story culminates in a large trial to determine their sapience, and further, if killing one is considered murder.
Zarathustra is a frontier planet, so during the trial there is much in the way of frontier law, which mostly includes biased judges and bribery. Witnesses don’t even need to swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, as they are hooked up to a high tech lie detector test as they are questioned.
Like I said, this book is beyond cute. I never for one moment thought it wouldn’t have a happy ending. And it does have quite the happy ending. The Fuzzies want to live with humans, they know humans may be the only people who can help them.
Like a lot of stories written at the time, Little Fuzzy is amusingly sexist. I say amusingly, because I know no harm was meant. Men are men, yet all women, from licenced doctors to secretaries are “girls” who are simply waiting for a man to propose marriage to them. Totally sexist, but don’t be too mad, as Piper gets in a last laugh.
The Other Human Race (also published as Fuzzy Sapiens)
The Fuzzies have been determined sapient, helped by the fact that not only do they communicate with each other, but the military discovered they have a developed language, albeit spoken in a pitch too high for humans to hear. With the aid of specially created hearing aids, humans can understand and communicate with the Fuzzies.
The Zarathurstra company, now charterless, still operates as a mining company, just not one that has any control over the planet. The company’s owner, Victor Grego, has a change of heart, and after finding a Fuzzy in his apartment, becomes completely pro-Fuzzy.
Fuzzy reservations are set up, and as they do seem to want to live with humans, an adoption agency is also set up. But as more and more Fuzzies literally come out of the woodwork, for easy living and free food, Holloway and his friends discover something disconcerting – the birthrate among Fuzzies is dangerously low, and few infants survive more than 24 hours after birth. It’s now a race against time to figure out Fuzzy physiology and what’s causing the low birth rates, and more importantly, how to cure it.
While Little Fuzzy is nearly pure light heartedness and fun, The Other Human Race is not only more scientifically based, but also more about the politics of Zarathustra. It’s an easy read, but very different from Little Fuzzy. I can see younger readers loving Little Fuzzy, but feeling a little lost in the second book. There is also a third Fuzzy book, Fuzzies and Other People.
Stay tuned tomorrow, for a short bio of H. Beam Piper, and some information about his other works.