And here we are at the last work published by H. Beam Piper.
Review: Fuzzies and Other People, H. Beam Piper, 1984.
After The Other Human Race aka Fuzzy Sapiens, Avon Books was done with Piper’s Fuzzy series. At the time of his death on November 5, 1964, the manuscript was out with Ace Books.
Then it became a “lost work” only uncovered in 1982. The story of where it had been all that time and its authentication as Piper’s final draft of the work is covered in an appendix in John F. Carr’s Typewriter Killer.
The novel takes place shortly after the events of Fuzzy Sapiens. Zarathustra still doesn’t have a constitution yet in the wake of the formerly Chartered Zarathustra Company becoming the Charterless Zarathustra Company.
There are three main plot threads.
First, there are the problems Jack Holloway, discoverer of the Fuzzies and now head of Native Affairs, worries about regarding protecting the Fuzzies. While Fuzzy adoption is popular, they can’t all be adopted. Schools are set up to teach them basic skills they can use to be self-sufficient in the wilderness. Holloway is worried that they will become pitiful like the natives of other Federation planets. Some earn their keep by hunting pests whose population has been boosted by extensive shooting of harpies, a major predator on the planet. The idea of building firearms for them – eventually done – worries Jack because it will make them dependent on humans for ammo. It is pointed out that they already, living with humans, are dependent on the supplement hokfusine to maintain their population.
Like Little Fuzzy, a legal battle is the overarching conflict here. Ingermann, the villain of the previous novel, is also the villain here. He is the attorney for his criminal associates, the gang that kidnapped the Fuzzies for a theft of sunstones in Fuzzy Sapiens.
As well as theft, they have been charged with faginy (using minors to commit a crime) and enslavement of Fuzzies. Both of those carry with them, in the event of conviction, a mandatory death penalty. He instructs his clients to plead guilty to everything except faginy and enslavement and then prepares a poison pill. He will argue that the Fuzzies do not have the status of minor children under the law. If the Federation disputes that, holds that Fuzzies are minor children, then the lease agreements they have signed with the Charterless Zarathustra Company are invalid. If they hold Fuzzies are adults, then the adoption program is invalid. Ingermann bets the Federation won’t want a ruling either way and will drop the faginy and enslavement charges.
To further prove his point, he brings charges against the Fuzzies involved in the theft as accomplices to a crime. Further complicating matters, Fuzzies can’t testify in court because their testimony can’t be confirmed. The veridicator – a lie detector — can’t be calibrated by a Fuzzy lying. Coombes, the attorney for the Charterless Zarathustra Company, gets the idea that they just have to teach Fuzzies how to lie which turns out to be impossible and makes them rather neurotic. Jack also isn’t, in the name of saving Fuzzies, in favor of corrupting them by teaching them how to lie. He’s not the kind of man who will lose sight of the object of a war to win a battle.
The idea of lying is important to the other main plot thread that starts at the beginning of the novel. It follows a band of Fuzzies under the leadership of Wise One. They encounter a group of humans from afar after the humans shoot harpies that prey on Fuzzies. They find spent rifle cases and see the “Big Ones” footprints. Wise One wants to take a closer look, but most of his band is fearful. He eventually lies, telling them a predator is nearby when there is none, to move them in the direction he wants.
Another subplot begins when Jack’s Little Fuzzy, the first Fuzzy discovered, going with Diamond, adopted by Company head Grego to a mining site. He falls in a river there, and we follow his adventures as he puts into practice all the skills (making fire and stone tools) he has learned since meeting humans. (Scientists judge Little Fuzzy a genius among Fuzzies.)
He helps the band survive a forest fire, tells them about the Big Ones’ Place, and they are eventually rescued by humans. The ability of Wise One to lie is used in the trial.
Suffering a major defeat, Ingermann asks for a recess and takes a ship off planet with all the loot from his accomplices. Berefit of counsel, the accomplices are sentenced to 20 years imprisonment with their death sentence to be carried out afterwards though it will be subject to judicial review. The charges against the Fuzzies are also dropped once Ingermann bolts.
The novel ends satisfactorily for almost everyone.
A new sunstone deposit is found. The Fuzzies keep their minor status. The citizens of Zarathustra are still exempt from taxes. There is also talk of resettling some Fuzzies on another continent of the planet where they have never lived.
The novel ends on a reverie of Jack’s
That was what they were – permanent children. The race would mature, sometime in the far future. But meanwhile, these dear, happy, loving little golden-furred children would never grow up. . . . The Fuzzies wouldn’t ever tturn into everything else. They’d just say Fuzzies, active, intelligent children, who loved to hunt and romp and make things and find things out, but children who would always have to be watched over and taken care of and loved. . . .
Damned if he didn’t wish sometimes he was a Fuzzy!
There is one bit I found interesting in regard to Piper’s probable mental state when he finished this novel. One of the prisoners is resigned to her fate of being executed. She becomes agitated when she is given hope by Ingermann’s counsel and relaxes when Ingermann abandons her defense thus making her execution inevitable. I suspect that the hope a work would sell before his money ran out was becoming increasingly painful to Piper.
This is my favorite Fuzzy novel for, among other things, the idea of the scrupulously honest Fuzzies learning to lie. (How Machiavellian that they must do so to save themselves.) I also like it because a lot of the action takes place in the wilderness of Zarathustra and among the Fuzzies themselves with no humans around.