Volume 17, Number 03, Fall 1999

Jerry Pournelle's Acceptance Speech for H. Beam Piper

This was originally published, I think, as A Planet for Texans, as an Ace Double, and I believe that Beam had a collaborator on this who seems to have vanished, John McGuire. McGuire may even still be alive. He was in an institution at one time that I know. I never met him. I do not know Mr. McGuire and never did.

I knew Beam Piper—he actually told some people I was his best friend. He had not told me that. He was an odd man in many ways. He was a quintessential writer; he didn't do anything else. He was very much a gentleman in any sense of the word that you would want to put it, and he was very concerned about freedom. Lone Star Planet isn't the only one—Four Day Planet is another one that probably is of interest to libertarians.

Beam's major work before he died was of course the Paratime Series and Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen was probably the last of them. The thing he is probably best known for is the Fuzzies, which is another strange set of stories largely intended to look at legal ramifications of what could be sentience and intelligence.

And he liked to have a whacking good time.

As to the wish fulfillments of libertarians—In Lone Star Planet there is a murder, and the question becomes the motive for the murder because it is admitted that the murdered person is a politician, and given that the murdered person is a politician it is no crime to kill him. So the question then becomes why is there to be a trial involved in this. There were all the weird legal ramifications as to maybe he wasn't killed because he was a politician, he was killed for some other reason, in which case he has a right to the protection of the state. But as a politician he has no right to the protection of anybody other than his own quick wits and his ability to outdraw his opponent.

The planet is itself a weird one, because you have what amount to enormous steers, "supercow" so called, which are probably the size of this room and which are herded with small helicopters or airships of one kind or another. As a result, you have a planet where everyone has to be armed, because you have to have something with which to shoot the supercows or they will stampede and destroy your ranch.

He had a lot of fun with it. He had a lot of fun with everything. Beam Piper was a man I remember as having a great love of life and he—When he thought he could no longer write and that no one would buy his books he shot himself. He did so in Beam Piper's fashion: He laid out tarpaulins to make it less messy and easier for people to clean up, and shot himself. The tragic part is that his stories had all sold, but his agent had died of a heart attack a few weeks before and no one had told him. As a result the money that would have paid his rent and bailed him out of his financial difficulty was sitting in a desk drawer in a dead man's office. So by the time they found that out it was too late.

If he had bothered to call me I could have loaned him the money. There were any number of people who could have, would have. But that was not his way. He was dependent essentially on himself and he took that way out of a financial difficulty out of which he had no other recourse.

He was a good friend. I liked him a lot and I wish he were here—although he would be about 90 years old now; he was 65 when I met him in nineteensixty something. He lived in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. He enjoyed living there. He never wanted to leave there; he liked that area. He had been a railroad detective for the Pennsylvania Railroad at one time. I think that was one of the few jobs he had other than being a writer.

He was a private man and the stories he told about his life weren't always true, as it turned out. But he was a very good man. I think he would have appreciated being here and I'm sorry he couldn't be.

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