H. Beam Piper

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
/wiki/H. Beam Pipercreator
H Beam Piper.jpg

H. Beam Piper was an American SF writer, best known for the series Paratime (which is about exploiting The Multiverse for fun and profit); the Terrohuman Future History, or TFH, which is about the human race spreading throughout the stars, and the cultural rising and falling that happens as a result; and Little Fuzzy, an arc within the TFH series about the discovery of intelligent life on a settled planet. He committed suicide in 1964 because of financial problems. A check was literally in the mail.

H. Beam Piper provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Accidental Truth: In Space Viking, Trask staves off difficulties with his men by claiming the murderer he's pursuing has joined forces with an Expy of Adolf Hitler to take over the planet Marduk. His lie makes good sense. It's also correct.

Trask began to wonder. What would Hitler have done if he'd told one of his big lies, and then found it turning into the truth?

  • Alternate Universe: A bare minimum of Once Per Episode in Paratime.
    • His first published story, "Time and Time Again" (1947), launched an alternate universe when the dying main character's consciousness was flung thirty years back in time to his then-thirteen-year-old body -- and decided to change history to prevent the World War Three in which he'd been killed. His plans involved having his father, Blake Hartley, become President in 1960; two later stories, set in '65 and '68, mention President Hartley, so the plan was successful to that extent at least....

"All right, son; I'll do just what you tell me, and when you grow up I'll be president...."

    • Another story, a sort of proto-Paratime, had a mysteriously vanished diplomat from our Earth stumble into a parallel universe where the American and French Revolutions failed.
      • Although the one about the diplomat isn't explicitly labelled a Paratime story, the first specifically Paratime story makes an apparent reference to the incident as having been accidentally caused by a Paratime policeman. At least the dates and a one-sentence description of the events match up.
  • Awesome McCoolname
  • Battle Cry: "Down Styphon!" in Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen; the religion of Styphon is the main antagonist.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Provided the page quote; nevertheless, generally an aversion
  • But Not Too Foreign
  • Canis Latinicus
  • Come to Gawk
  • The Constant
  • Continuity Nod: Carlos von Schlichten and Paula Quinton have a romance in Uller Uprising; the short story "Oomphel in the Sky" has a reference to a Paula von Schlichten Fellowship, which is in sociography, Paula Quinton's field.
    • The short story "Naudsonce" named a exploratory starship Hubert Penrose after an important character in "Omnilingual."
  • Crusading Widower: Lucas Trask in Space Viking. He slides right into What the Hell, Hero? by nuking cities and looting them to pay for all that crusading. Bonus points? He delivers the "what the hell" speech to himself.
  • Death From Above: Dire Dawn in Uller Uprising
  • Death World: Fenris in Four-Day Planet comes very close, if not outright qualifying
  • Due to the Dead: Are the Little Fuzzies intelligent? Well, they bury their dead. With a small but unmistakable ceremony.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: In Space Viking, the main character worries about his home planet's civilization declining, and a historian agrees: "That's what happened to the Terran Federation, by the way. The good men all left to colonize, and the stuffed shirts and yes-men and herd-followers and safety-firsters stayed on Terra and tried to govern the Galaxy."
  • Elements Do Not Work That Way: Gadolinium is essential to hyperdrives. (Although, can you prove that it isn't?)
    • "Tallow-wax," an organic compound found in the body of the Jarvis's sea monster on Fenris, is useful for shielding against radioactivity; "a suit of waxed coveralls weighing only a couple of pounds will stop as much radiation as half an inch of lead."
  • Eternal English: Averted. Most of the TFH uses a kind of linguistic potpourri that's basically every modern language run through a blender at once — especially the ones from the Southern Hemisphere, which didn't get nuked quite as badly in World Wars III and IV.
  • Everybody Smokes
  • Fake Real Turn: Conn Maxwell intends searching for Merlin, the fabled, non-existent super-computer, to be a pretext for actually building up industry and trade. Then he finds Merlin....
  • Fantastic Slurs: Ullerans are known as "geeks". Partially through onomatopoeia from some local languages, partially because some Ulleran cultures kill small, iguana-like food animals by biting off their heads.
    • The Khooghra of Yggdrasil are officially sapient, but so stupid that calling a Terran a "son of a Khooghra" once led to a shooting. The man so described knew how badly he was being insulted.
  • The Federation: The Terran Federation during the early part of the TFH
  • Feudal Future
  • Genius Bruiser: Otto Harkaman in Space Viking, who's a talented historian and as big as a house.
  • Giving Radio to the Romans: Calvin Morrison in Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen
  • God Guise
  • He Knows Too Much/Killed to Uphold the Masquerade: Invoked with regard to the Paratime Secret.
  • Hermaphrodite: Ullerans. It's mentioned that the "dynasty" of the Kragans carries on by the king getting "himself" pregnant.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: Not actually hideous or a hangover cure; the "alcodote-vitimine pill" won't let you get drunk at all. This is rather disappointing to a man who'd like to get wasted enough to forget what he saw and did on his first Space Viking raid.
  • High-Class Glass: General Carlos von Schlicten wears a monocle. There's a pool running on how shocking an event would have to be to make it fall from his eye. It turns out no gentleman wears a monocle when kissing a lady — while an A-bomb detonates in the background....
  • Homage: Traveller revises the Sword Worlds of Space Viking to suit the Traveller universe.
  • Horny Vikings: Only on the covers for a number of editions of Space Viking. One clever variant had the "horns" represented by communications antennae. Many viewers might never think of those as horns at all.
  • Horse of a Different Color: Freyan oukry, which are used to make Westerns. Most people in the TFH seem to think horses are extinct; a minor news story in Four Day Planet mentions a movie shot using real horses.
  • Human Aliens: The Freyans, spelled out in the novella "When In the Course..." They're human enough to interbreed with Terrans, despite the Terran doctor insisting it's impossible. Piper apparently had some explanation in mind, most likely some variant of Transplanted Humans, but it was never revealed. The story was Retconned out of Future History, and substantially rewritten to become Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen in the Paratime milieu.
    • Although Paula Quinton from Uller Uprising states that she's part Freyan, so the concept wasn't completely eliminated.
    • Also Martians, in the TFH: they died out 50 millennia ago, but statues, paintings, and mummified corpses in "Omnilingual" are specifically stated to look fully human. Considering the short story "Genesis" and the Paratime series both claimed Earth humans are descended from Martian colonists, Piper may very well have had this origin in mind for the TFH too.
  • Humans Are White: Averted. While explicit physical descriptions of characters are rare, the prevalence of multiethnic names indicates that most of them are some shade of brown.
  • It Gets Easier: A Space Viking says of what they do: "We're professional murderers and robbers, as one of my fellow tradesmen says. The worst of it is that robbery and murder become just that: a trade, like servicing robots or selling groceries."
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Except in Paratime, where the Paracops' handgun of choice is the "sigma-ray needler", because it leaves a victim who knew too much dead with no discernible cause.
  • Lie Detector: TFH law is based around the "veridicator", a 100% accurate lie-detector.
  • Like a Fish Takes to Water: Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen. He quickly goes from State Trooper to Great King.
    • Lucas Trask takes to being a Space Viking like said fish.
  • The Masquerade: One of the primary tropes of the Paratime stories: you can go visit other universes, but you're not supposed to let the locals catch on that you're from another universe... It might cut into the 'profit' end. The Paracops wish they didn't have to murder those who've learned the secret, but they don't let that preference stop them. Lord Kalvan was one of the few they spared -- because he was working to keep the secret for his own reasons.
  • Master Computer: both played straight and subverted.
  • Multiethnic Name: Particularly common in Uller Uprising, where just about every major character's given name and surname are of distinctly divergent ethnic origin.
  • Mundane Utility: We're going mining on Flourine-Tainted Niflheim, the Planetary Hell...volcano mining with atomic warheads.
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: "I'll fix the expurgated unprintability!"
  • Nuke'Em: Ship-to-ship combat in Space Viking, and the climax of Uller Uprising.
  • Our Souls Are Different: One story involved a world where reincarnation was a proven scientific fact, and the resulting cultural changes. Most important: death was considered a temporary inconvenience at worst, and people who felt they'd accomplished all they could in their current incarnation would sometimes cheerfully kill themselves (or have a trusted agent kill them) at parties.
  • The Plan: "Ministry of Disturbance"
  • Planet Looters
  • Planet Terra: Used throughout the TFH.
  • Quick Draw: Bish Ware in Four-Day Planet. Being the town drunk hasn't slowed him down or impaired his aim. Hmmmm....

Then there was a gun going off in his hand. I didn't see him reach for it, or where he drew it from. It was just in his hand, firing....

    • Jack Holloway in Little Fuzzy. Someone cried a warning. He turned, going for his pistol by reflex, and saw a Mook pointing a gun at him. The mook died without getting off a shot. As two different people commented afterward, pulling a gun on Jack Holloway is simply a way of committing suicide.
  • The Red Planet
  • Silicon-Based Life: Life on Uller, including four-armed humanoid reptiles and creatures like hexapodal pine cones.
  • Smoking Is Cool
  • Space Jews: The Gilgameshers in Space Viking. They tend to be merchants, and haggling appears to be the planetary sport. Also, an Expy of Adolf Hitler has getting rid of Gilgameshers as one of the key elements of his political platform.
  • Space Pirates: Or, more accurately, Space Vikings. They don't board and rob ships, they nuke cities from orbit and loot any cities that chose to surrender.
  • Stay in the Kitchen
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Ranging from exploding bullets to fusion fireball bombs that destroy everything within a thousand miles with a miniature sun that keeps "burning" for hours.
  • Suicide Is Painless
  • Technology Marches On: The TFH stories include videophones, antigravity, faster-than-light travel...and huge computers that fill whole rooms and are programmed via plugboards.
  • Tomato Surprise: "The Return"
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Lucas Trask gives himself one of these moments in Space Viking
    • Trask also gets one from a comrade after gunning down a local who was grieving for a dead spouse. His response was that he was putting the man out of his misery, and included the words: "How many more happinesses do you think we've smashed here today? And we don't even have Dunnan's excuse of madness."
    • He also says that he wished that Dunnan had done that for him, "so that none of this would have happened." (See Crusading Widower above.)
  • Writer on Board: Piper believed in reincarnation and wrote a Paratime story about a world where it was proven to the hilt. Even with this, it was still a pretty good story.
    • Perhaps more importantly, in that story? The problem is because reincarnation is proven to the hilt -- and they've started to get too good for The Masquerade's sake at retrieving memories of past lives. If someone from Home Time Line happens to die in that world, and his/her memories -- all of them -- are accessed by the locals, there goes the Paratime Secret...
  • You Can't Fight Fate