Flashback Fridays: Something Fuzzy This Way Comes

Sorry for the day late post–BEA  made me a little too tired last night to post this!  It’s a short one tonight!

Now, I’ll break my rules a tad bit here.  I think that’s fair to do on a flashback Friday.   Way back in my voracious reading youth, I didn’t always have the ability to snag books from the library.  Sometimes I ran out.  That’s when I often turned to fairy tales from my mother’s and father’s collections.  Or some of the other classics they had collected.  But my dad had one book that stood out for me.  It was a rather worn looking paperback, not very thick.  It had a silver haired guy on the cover holding some kind of gun . . . and a handful strange fur covered creatures with big eyes all holding what were clearly weapon like things of some sort.

It was  the kind of cover to intrigue a kid like me.   Anyone remember this series?



I will make it clear here and now that Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper (Avon, 1962)  is not written as a middle grade children’s book (which is why I admit I’m breaking my rules a tad).  While it falls into the ‘juvenile’ realm, it is really more of a young adult title and contains elements that  just wouldn’t be considered appropriate for classifying it as middle grade.  That said,  I read H. Beam Piper’s book  when I was about ten years old and loved it.   This is pure delightful science fiction.  Other worlds, human colonization,  alien creatures  (this was the first book that taught me the word ‘sapient’), just all of it went straight into my head and has never left.

If you’ve never read the book, here’s a quick description: Little Fuzzy takes place on the planet Zarathustra  where Jack Holloway is a sunstone prospector.   The entire planet, which is classified as having no sentient life, is owned by the Zarathustra  coroporation that reaps the profits of all discoveries and resources on the planet.  The corporation has no obligations to protect the planet or explain their actions on the surface because it’s been determined there are no “natives” to contend with.   All that is about to change when Jack Holloway comes back to his home to encounter a little bipedal creature covered in fur.  It’s a creature no one has ever seen before . . . and Jack becomes convinced quickly that these critters are more than critters . . . they’re sapient.  That’s going to mean a world of hurt for the Zarathustra company if it’s proven true.  And company execs are ready to do everything it takes to see that the Fuzzies never get declared as being sapient creatures.  Jack Holloway is going to have a fight on his hands to protect his new friends.

H. Beam Piper also wrote Fuzzy Sapiens  (1964) which continues the trials and tribulations of Fuzzy-human interactions. One more manuscript was discovered after Piper’s death and published as Fuzzies and Other People (1984).

There have been a handful of other authors that have lent their talents to creating more Fuzzy Tales which you can see here. 

I can’t say Piper’s science fiction is the best around.  There are plenty of criticisms I can make about the slim volume based simply on how times have changed between then and now.  But I wouldn’t have traded reading it when I did for anything.  It’s still one of the pivotal early books of my science fiction reading. sort of a gateway book that hooked me on the genre.  It set a pretty high standard for what I wanted to see in my stories, as well as setting me up to discover adult science fiction.  Every few years I dust off my old copy and give it another read.

It still makes me smile.

Science fiction fans out there, what was your gateway book?  Please share!



About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on June 2, 2013, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I’m rather embarrassed about my gateway book — I adored fantasy as a teen and then read Tad William’s Otherland series which is a science fiction/fantasy hybrid. At that point I started reading all sci-fi I could get my hands on — I read almost all the Hugo winners (well, up to the late 2000s — so around 44/50 odd winners) — then all of Heinlein’s juveniles and then realized that I adore 50s/60s/70s science fiction the most — which my entire blog is devoted to…. Almost fanatically so 😉

    • That’s a massively huge quartet to kick off your love of SF! I don’t think you should be embarrassed by it, it takes dedication to get through wrist-breaker books like those. I enjoyed them, but they require a lot of committed reading!

      • Eh, I was older than you might think (mid-teens) — I was reading rather more sophisticated/thought-provoking works of literature and fantasy (Mervyn Peake, Tolkein, etc).

        I find the series (Otherworld) rather vapid in retrospect…. Science fiction obviously can be as well — although I tend to steer towards more metafiction/experimental/satirical sci-fi.

      • WordPress won’t let me reply to your later reply for some reason. I appreciated the world building and range of characters from many different places in the world that Williams managed to craft. A lot of Virtual World stories tend to be a little too wish fulfillment (Omnitopia, Ready Player One). I think in general Williams tends to pad stories where he could trim them. I like Otherland a heck of a lot more than the whole Memory Sorrow and Thorn series. Still, Otherland doesn’t quite have the power of some slimmer novels. One of my favorite books that deals with virtual reality in part is The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson.

    • I loved The Diamond Age as well. But, haven’t read any sci-fi written after 1980 in a good 4 years — hehe.

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