Friday, September 16, 2016

Astounding Science Fiction

My favourite writer of the moment is H. Beam Piper. Well, I say "of the moment", he died in 1964, but from my perspective he's new and exciting. Most of his works can be found for free on the internet (a concept his future worlds couldn't imagine; they still use a lot of film reels and radio) and I heartily recommend them! Try Police Operation as a starter - the first in the wonderful series of "Paratime" stories, written in 1948 and providing a creative explanation for the flying saucer mania that had gripped the USA in the previous year. The exploits of Verkan Vall, policing the countless alternate universes, are my favourites, but you should also check out the extensive series of future-set adventures, creating a whole universe and describing its progress over the millennia.

I'll admit there's nothing strikingly original about Piper's works, but the appeal lies in the way he tells it, and the detail he goes into; far beyond the call of duty for a 1940s pulp sci-fi writer. And there's a great kitsch value to the worlds he depicts where men are real men, always with a pipe or cigarette in their mouths and a wide range of guns in their hands and holsters, getting the job done in the face of namby-pamby bureaucrats. Women are 'girls' and exist solely to be lusted over; atomic energy is the be-all and end-all and the most important development in history, even in stories set thousands of years in the future; and democracy is a silly idea that would never really work. A clear preference for a hereditary feudal system of government is perhaps Piper's most distinctive quirk. But all his works are well-written, imaginative and creative, and hugely enjoyable. Check them out, do!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some women like to be lusted over by men with big cigars.