Literature / Little Fuzzy
A fascinating Sci-Fi
story by H. Beam Piper
about what truly makes a creature sapient.
Jack Holloway, an elderly, individualistic sunstone miner, lives a solitary life in a wilderness area of planet Zarathustra. The planet is basically "owned" by the Chartered Zarathustra Corporation (under Victor Grego), which installed basic services and colonial outposts initially, and now reaps the benefits of new discoveries, such as the valuable sunstones.
One day, Holloway returns to his cabin to discover a tiny humanoid, covered in golden fur. The creature has armed itself with a chisel from his workbench, but is peaceful and mostly unafraid. The miner gives the little fuzzy some Extee-Three, a kind of canned emergency ration cake, and the fuzzy devours it greedily. It is soon apparent that the creature is highly intelligent, and he soon brings his family band to join "Pappy Jack" at the shack.
Victor Grego soon tries to intervene, claiming that the Fuzzies are just animals, not sapients. If ruled sapient, the entire planet would be declared a protected aboriginal zone, and the Chartered Zarathustra Company would lose its exclusive rights to the resources there. Leonard Kellogg, one of Grego's staff, kills a fuzzy and this leads to a court case which hinges on whether the fuzzies are animals or sapients.
After much discussion of what it means to be "sapient" (speech and fire use being one definition), the matter goes to court. In the midst of the proceedings, the Terran Navy commander reveals that his people have been studying Fuzzies, and that they can indeed speak. The tiny people use ultrasonic frequencies, which to human ears sound like "yeek." When processed with the proper electronics, the sounds are rendered as a complex language. The Navy experiments prove that Fuzzies have at least the mental capacity of a ten-year-old human, and are therefore protected under Terran law. Judge Pendarvis declares them to be aborigines, and the Charter of the Zarathustra Company is immediately invalidated.Enjoy it courtesy of Project Gutenberg.
Piper wrote two sequels, Fuzzy Sapiens
and Fuzzies and Other People
; the latter was thought lost after Piper's suicide, but a manuscript eventually turned up in his papers. Prior to this discovery, two sequels to the first two books were written by other authors (Fuzzy Bones
by William Tuning and Golden Dream: A Fuzzy Odyssey
by Ardath Mayhar). It is also the subject of a Continuity Reboot
by John Scalzi
(licensed by the H. Beam Piper
estate), called Fuzzy Nation
A new sequel Fuzzy Ergo Sum
written by Wolfgang Diehr was published in 2011. (T V Tropes page pending)
Tropes used in Little Fuzzy:
- Air-Vent Passageway: In Fuzzy Sapiens, the bad guys send Fuzzies through the CZC's ventilation system to steal sunstones.
- Alternate Timeline: Fuzzies and Other People and Fuzzy Bones are mutually exclusive sequels to Fuzzy Sapiens.
- Alternative Number System: The fuzzies initially use a modified form of base 5. 1, 2, 3, 4, one hand. By 125, they've reached a hand of hands. It then goes to many, and many many. They soon adopt the human's base 10 system.
- Artificial Gravity: Played straight with the "contragravity generator" and the "Abott Lift and Drive".
- Badass Grandpa: Jack Holloway is well into his seventies.
- BFG: Jack's 12.7mm Double Express rifle. For perspective, cartridges for this artillery piece are described as being approximately thumb sized in diameter and as long as his hand. The M2 Browning .50 cal MG is also a 12.7mm of sorts.
- Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit"/Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Zarabunnies get mentioned plenty but are never really described. Goofers are described as being rodent-like, so... But we do get a very clear mental image of a zebralope in spite of not being described. At all.
- Call-Back: The start of the Xenofiction arc of Fuzzies and Other People picks up at the beginning of a minor scene in the middle of Fuzzy Sapiens.
- Cannot Tell a Lie: Fuzzies just don't get the concept of saying things that aren't true, which leads to a major legal problem in Fuzzies and Other People: it has to be proven that the veridicator works on Fuzzies before they can testify in court, and the veridicator can't be tested without a false statement to detect. It's resolved when they encounter a Fuzzy who resorted to a lie in desperation.
- Courtroom Antics: The murder trial of Jack Holloway and Leonard Kellogg. The antics start even before the trial begins, with the two murder cases being combined into a single trial, the appointment of the defense attorneys as special prosecutors, and key witnesses being seized as "evidence." It goes on to mutate from a civilian trial into a court-martial and an academic seminar, with two flavors of surprise witnesses, and the continued prosecution of a dead man after one of the defendants commits suicide. And there are in-universe precedents for most of this: "You could find a precedent for almost anything in colonial law."
- Due to the Dead: The Fuzzies bury their dead, which is what convinces the police that arresting Kellogg for murder is justified.
- Everybody Smokes: They also all drink.
- Even the Fuzzies smoke, although they don't drink.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Due to their small size, this is one of the Fuzzies' biggest problems.
- Fun with Acronyms: To avoid the expense of changing all those CZC logos on everything from buildings to stationery, Grego renames the Chartered Zarathustra Company to the Charterless Zarathustra Company.
- Heel–Face Turn: Grego in Fuzzy Sapiens
- Head Pet: Baby Fuzzy
- Heel Realization: Kellogg breaks down and commits suicide after admitting to himself that he murdered a sapient being.
- In the Local Tongue: Discussed. Some of the names of alien animals and plants are... strange.
You pointed to something and asked a native, and he’d gargle a mouthful of syllables at you, which might only mean, "Whaddaya wanna know for?" and you took it down in phonetic alphabet and the whatzit had a name.
- Karma Houdini: Hugo Ingermann escapes the planet with a fortune in sunstones in Fuzzies and Other People.
- Large and in Charge: Gustavus Brannard is described as being a large man. Also quite hairy, to Baby Fuzzy's delight.
- Large Ham: Gus Brannhard. Also Ben Rainsford, but he's kind of overshadowed by Gus.
- Law Procedural: Not only does the critical scene in the first book take place in a courtroom, the roles of the various court officers, the legal motions, rules of evidence, and even the shortcuts the court officers and lawyers take are important plot elements.
- Lie Detector: The veridicator is an infallible one, and consequently a vital part of the legal system. It works so well, that it even detects a lie that the speaker himself has forgotten that he lied about.
- Loophole Abuse: Played painfully straight by Hugo Ingermann. Zig-zagged all over the place by other cast members, including the legal system:
In colonial law, you can find a precedent for almost anything.
- There's even a precedent for putting a dead person on trial.note
- And an (averted) precedent for justifying the murder of a human infant via Loophole Abuse (on the grounds it couldn't talk or build a fire).
- Marry Them All: Fuzzy sisters Goldilocks and Cinderella briefly squabble over Ko-Ko before deciding to share him.
- Mega Corp.: The CZC.
- Morality Pet: Diamond, for Grego.
- One Nation Under Copyright: Zarathustra is essentially a planet sized Company Town. The whole thing is owned and administered by the Chartered Zarathusta Company, with oversight provided by a Terran Federation Navy Base on one of the moons.
- P.O.V. Sequel: The lateer chapters of Golden Dream is Little Fuzzy from the Fuzzies' point of view. The first 3/4 of the book represents 50 to 100 years worth of backstory for the Fuzzies.
- Reverse Mole: Ruth Ortheris is secretly a Navy spy.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: One word - "Yeek".
- Running Gag: You can find a precedent for anything in colonial law.
- Baby constantly tries to sit on people's heads.
- Straw Vulcan: Hoenveld in book two. Other characters go so far as to point out that his overly narrow and unimaginative outlook makes him a pretty crappy scientist.
Mallin: He has an encyclopediac grasp on his subject, an infallible memory, and an infinite capacity for taking pains.
Grego: ...A computer has all that, to a much higher degree, and a computer couldn't make an original scientific discovery in a hundred million years. A computer has no imagination, and neither has Hoenveld.
- Technology Marches On: Jack Holloway records the activities of the Fuzzies, then has to spend hours developing the film. Written a few decades before digital photography became common.
- Theme Naming: Many groups of Fuzzies "adopted" by humans promptly get tagged with these. A naturalist names two "Flora" and "Fauna"; a psychologist names four more "Id", "Ego", "Complex", and "Syndrome"...
- Trademark Favorite Food: Extee Three, a poundcake-like ration food, for the Fuzzies. Humans tend to hate having to eat the stuff. Extee Three contains trace amounts of titanium, a byproduct of the manufacturing process that happens to be an essential nutrient for the Fuzzies.
- Wham Line: "Lieutenant J.G. Ruth Ortheris, TFN Reserve."
- "Your Honors, I am ashamed to have to report that the defendant, Leonard Kellog, cannot be produced in court. He is dead; he committed suicide in his cell last night."
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The point of the whole book.
- Xenofiction: Golden Dream is written from the Fuzzies' viewpoint. Portions of Fuzzies and Other People were also written from a Fuzzy perspective.