By: H. Beam Piper (1904-1964)
Five Sci-Fi Short Stories by H. Beam Piper
Henry Beam Piper’s book “Five Sci-Fi Short Stories“ is a collection of: The Answer, Temple Trouble, Flight From Tomorrow, Police Operation and Graveyard of Dreams. “The Answer” is about two nuclear scientists who have successfully made a very powerful weapon and are planning to drop it from space on un-expecting earthlings. The story is set in 1984, many years after a supposed nuclear war between the US and the Soviet Union had ended. The stories "Temple Trouble" and "Police Operation" deal with alternate histories which is a theme that Piper is well known for...
The Cosmic Computer
Conn Maxwell returns from Terra to his poverty-stricken home planet of Poictesme, “The Junkyard Planet”, with news of the possible location of Merlin, a military super-computer rumored to have been abandoned there after the last war. The inhabitants hope to find Merlin, which they think will be their ticket to wealth and prosperity. But is Merlin real, or just an old rumor? And if they find it will it save them, or tear them apart?
A galactic war has left the Terran Federation in ruins. Formerly civilized planets have decivilized into barbarism. Space Vikings roam the wreckage, plundering and killing for gain. Lord Lucas Trask of Traskon was no admirer of the Space Vikings, but when murder takes his wife on his wedding day, Trask trades everything he has for his own Space Viking ship and sets out on a galaxy-wide quest for revenge.
Murder in the Gunroom
The Lane Fleming collection of early pistols and revolvers was one of the best in the country. When Fleming was found dead on the floor of his locked gunroom, a Confederate-made Colt-type percussion .36 revolver in his hand, the coroner’s verdict was “death by accident.” But Gladys Fleming had her doubts. Enough at any rate to engage Colonel Jefferson Davis Rand—better known just as Jeff—private detective and a pistol-collector himself, to catalogue, appraise, and negotiate the sale of her late husband’s collection.
An expedition to Mars discovers the remains of an advanced civilization, which died out many thousands of years ago. They recovered books and documents left behind, and are puzzled by their contents. Would the team find their “Rosetta Stone” that would allow them to unlock the Martian language, and learn the secrets of this long-dead race?
Two-hundred years after a global nuclear war, two explorers from a research outpost, that largely survived the cataclysm, discover a settlement of humans who have managed to maintain their civilisation despite ferocious cannibal neighbours, the Scowrers. However, the explorers must turn detective in order to understand the mystery of their hosts philosophy and religion. (Description by Reynard)
Uller Uprising is the story of a confrontation between a human overlord and alien servants, with an ironic twist at the end. Like most of Piper’s best work, Uller Uprising is modeled after an actual event in human history; in this case the Sepoy Mutiny (a Bengal uprising in British-held India brought about when rumors were spread to native soldiers that cartridges being issued by the British were coated with animal fat. The rebellion quickly spread throughout India and led to the massacre of the British Colony at Cawnpore.). Piper’s novel is not a mere retelling of the Indian Mutiny, but rather an analysis of an historical event applied to a similar situation in the far future.
Fenris isn't a hell planet, but it's nobody's bargain. With 2,000-hour days and an 8,000-hour year, it alternates blazing heat with killing cold. A planet like that tends to breed a special kind of person: tough enough to stay alive and smart enough to make the best of it. When that kind of person discovers he's being cheated of wealth he's risked his life for, that kind of planet is ripe for revolution. (Introduction from the Gutenberg text)
Oomphel in the Sky
Natives of the distant planet of Kwannon believe that their world is about to end, and in preparing for the apocalypse, may be unnecessarily bringing about their own demise. The planetary government can’t overcome its own bureaucracy to help them, and the military is overwhelmed. Can a single newsman change the course of a whole people, and save their world?
The Edge of the Knife
The Terro-Human Future History is Piper’s detailed account of the next 6000 years of human history. 1942, the year the first fission reactor was constructed, is defined as the year 1 A.E. (Atomic Era). In 1973, a nuclear war devastates the planet, eventually laying the groundwork for the emergence of a Terran Federation, once humanity goes into space and develops antigravity technology.The story “The Edge of the Knife” (collected in Empire) occurs slightly before the war, and involves a man who sees flashes of the future. It links many key elements of Piper’s series.
Jack Holloway, a prospector on the planet Zarathustra discovers small furry creatures. These creatures are obviously intelligent, but are they animals or are they sapient? If they are sapient the planet will be declared a protected zone and the company that is developing the planet commercially will lose their exclusive rights to the resources…
H. Beam Piper (1904–1964) was an American science fiction author. He wrote many short stories and several novels. He is best known for his extensive Terro-Human Future History series of stories and a shorter series of “Paratime” alternate history tales.
An undercover Paratimer has disappeared on assignment while in an alternate time line, and it’s up to Verkan Vall of the Paratime Police to save her. To do so, he must infiltrate a universe in which assassination is an honorable profession, and reincarnation a scientific fact. Will Verkan Vall survive in a world of killers and the undead?
A Slave is A Slave
The Galactic Empire is slowly 'welcoming' into the family of civilized worlds those systems so far off in the backwater of the galaxy that they have been overlooked and ignored for the past 500 years or so. This is purely routine work because every planet offered the chance has eagerly accepted the invitation. Mainly because the enlightened Empire lets the planetary government continue to rule and do whatever it wants...with a few minor restrictions of course; and because the they are shown what happens to planets who decide not to accept the invitation...
"There's some reaction these days that holds scientists responsible for war. Take it one step further: What happens if "book-learnin'" is held responsible ...?"
I'll bet you did not know that our little earth is not limited to the single time line on which we happen to exist. That's right; There are actually thousands, no many millions of parallel times, each existing alongside all the rest, using the same real estate, but following their own path. Some extremely primitive, some very advanced, but all blissfully unaware of the others. Of course this does not affect us at all, unless ... unless one of these time lines discovers the existence of the others and then a way to move easily back and forth from one to the other...
The Paratime Police had a real headache this time! Tracing one man in a population of millions is easy--compared to finding one gang hiding out on one of billions of probability lines!
|Time and Time Again
|He Walked Around the Horses
|Flight From Tomorrow
|Crossroads of Destiny
|Day of the Moron
|Graveyard of Dreams
Naudsonce? What does THAT mean? Well, to find out you will need to listen to this story where Piper's unique mind explores what we mean by 'communication' and how it happens. The joint Space Navy-Colonial Office expedition was looking for new planets suitable for colonization; they had been out, now, for four years, which was close to maximum for an exploring expedition. They had entered eleven systems, and made landings on eight planets. Three had been reasonably close to Terra-type but were all disqualified by terrible animals or warlike inhabitants...
Omnilingual (version 2)
This short story was first written and published in the year 1957, as part of a collection of short science fiction stories in the collection Astounding Science Fiction. Piper's story is unusual in focusing on the problem of archaeology on an alien culture. How is is possible to decipher writings of an alien race that died out 50,000 years ago? What could we possibly have in common with them? There can be no 'Rosetta Stone' with a shared language so is it impossible? That is the struggle of the protagonist and against all odds she does indeed find a way for our two cultures to meet. An excellent story well written.
Omnilingual (Version 3)
This short story published in 1957 is unusual for its time in that its protagonist is a female scientist, and there is no romantic subplot. Helped by some of her teammates on the Mars exploration crew, and hindered by others, she struggles to decipher the meanings of the artifacts left by an extinct alien species. What possible frame of reference can humans and the long-gone Martians have in common? The answer is very satisfying in this well told tale. - Summary by Trish E. Matson