AUTHOR: H. Beam Piper
CATEGORY: Short Fiction
PUBLISHER: Ace Books, New York, 1981, ISBN: 0-441-23189-6-295
FORMAT: Paperback, 284 pages
- Preface, by Jerry Pournelle
- Introduction, by John F. Carr
- Oomphel in the Sky
- Graveyard of Dreams
- When in the Course-
The book starts with a brief Preface by Jerry Pournelle, a short but fitting tribute to H. Beam Piper and his writing. This is followed by a lengthy twenty-page Introduction by John F. Carr, which is a much more detailed and even more fascinating essay on the life and writings of Piper.
The five stories themselves are from Piper’s acclaimed TerroHuman Future History cycle, one of the most complex and detailed future histories in science fiction literature. This collection, Federation, is made up of stories from the earlier stages of that Future History, and a later collection, Empire, completes the stories from the later part of the cycle.
There are certainly some very good stories in this collection, but the stand-out for me is definitely Omnilingual, which I first read a long time ago, way back in my teens. Along with He Walked Around the Horses (which isn’t in this collection, and isn’t part of the Future History), this has always been one of my favourite pieces of SF short fiction, and I’ve always regarded both Omnilingual and He Walked Around the Horses as Piper’s two best short stories, although his other stories are also of an extremely high calibre.
As far as I’m concerned, the collection is worth buying just for Omnilingual alone. But the other four stories are nothing to turn your nose up at either. This is H. Beam Piper we’re talking about here, and he simply did not write bad SF stories.
A very good collection.
I think Piper is actually the creator of the ‘Men in Black’ of ufo lore.
They were there Paratime Patrol from the 1947 story published just weeks after the Kenneth Arnold ‘flying saucer’ incident. Never seen him given credit for it.
I remember you telling me about this, which was something that I had previously been unaware of. It’s nice to learn new little factoids like this from time to time.
SF authors have often come up with many original ideas and concepts like this, but have rarely received due credit. Once something passes into the mainstream consciousness, it’s almost as though it has “always been there”, and the author of the original idea is long forgotten.