"Omnilingual" and "Oomphel in the Sky" by H. Beam Piper  





 h. beam piperThere is no shortage of subjects in the trove of Golden Age of Science Fiction.  This week we have one of Science Fiction's best kept secrets, or perhaps one of it's lost ones.  H. Beam Piper, despite never ascending to the level of SFWA "Grandmaster" is considered by many of his contemporaries to be one of the most mimicked writers of the day.  He originated, and expanded on many themes such as organizations that monitor and police time for Paradoxes.  A few movies have had this as a central theme and several television shows such as Star Trek have made use of it as well.  Another concept that he was known for was the usage of interspecies cultural misunderstandings.  A sort of "cultural anthropology" or "social" science fiction.   His "Little Fuzzy" series is famous for this dynamic.

One of the most interesting things about Piper is how he got his start in Science Fiction.  Many of the old masters of that day studied Science or Engineering, though that was certainly not a prerequisite.  Others were writers or journalists, or particpated in professions that lent themselves to writing.  Piper spent most of his early adult life as a laborer for the railroads in Pennsylvania.  The particularly amazing thing about this is the incredibly scientific nature of the stories he wrote.  Obviously by todays' standards, much of his work would not be considered "Science Fiction" in the strictest sense.  But then, much of the concepts and dynamics contained in much of his work makes a lot of today's Sci-Fi look fantastical by comparison.  By all accounts, Piper is a self taught scientist who wrote science fiction.

In 1964 Beam killed himself.  The exact date is not known since his body was not discovered for some time.  The precise motivation of his suicide is also somewhat muddled in confusion.  It believed that since he cancelled his life insurance policy, he took his own life to spite his ex-wife.  There are also some other theories having to do with his finances and having an agent who died before being able to notify him of some major purchases.  I do not recount these events for sordid reasons, nor to sensationalize this particular article.  I do it to highlight the premature loss of a potential giant, and likely, an eventual recipient of Grandmaster status in Science Fiction.  Most of his outstanding works were purchased by Ace Publishing and some of the incomplete works were subsequently completed by Jerry Pournelle, the then editor of Ace and long time friend of Piper.

We have provided two works by Piper below.  The first "Oomphel in the Sky" is a timely share.  It has to do with the arrogance and cynicism of dominant power structures, the percieved gullability and self destructiveness of a non-dominant culuture beguiled by the trappings of modernity, and the selfishness and hypocrisy embodied in the main character who is a representation of the aforementioned system.  The second work is a wonderful short piece about the translation of language between humans and another species.  They have to work backward from concepts that define the very universe.  It is a classic hard sci-fi tale making use of the cerebral in favor of the more swashbuckling space adventure.  The methodology and process are as exciting as any space battle.

Oomphel in the Sky