Friday, March 13, 2009

H. Beam Piper

H. Beam Piper remains one of the lesser known science fiction writers. In my opinion, he also qualifies as one of the great ones. And from the evidence of his writings, his study of Korzybski's work influenced him profoundly. I judge that Piper had a much better grasp of Korzybski's work than either Heinlein or Van Vogt, who also made use of it.

Piper had an interesting but tragic life which John F. Carr writes about in H. Beam Piper: A Biography

Piper began to publish stories in John W. Campbell's Astounding Science Fiction magazine in the late 1940s, at the tail-end of what has been called the "Golden Age of Science Fiction." Piper committed suicide in the early 1960s. That's the tragic part. I have liked just about every story of his that I've read.

Murder in the Gunroom (1953) remains his only detective novel. It features a private eye, Jeff Rand, who has seriously studied Korzybski's work:
"That sounds like Korzybski," Pierre said, as they turned onto Route 19 in the village and headed east. "You've read Science and Sanity?"

Rand nodded. "Yes. I first read it in the 1933 edition, back about 1936; I've been rereading it every couple of years since. The principles of General Semantics come in very handy in my business, especially in criminal-investigation work, like this. A consciousness of abstracting, a realization that we can only know something about a thin film of events on the surface of any given situation, and a habit of thinking structurally and of individual things, instead of verbally and of categories, saves a lot of blind-alley chasing. And they suggest a great many more avenues of investigation than would be evident to one whose thinking is limited by intensional, verbal, categories."
Murder in the Gunroom, like many if not all of Piper's works, has gone into what is called "the public domain" and is available free as text at: Murder in the Gunroom-Project Gutenberg and as an audiobook at Murder in the Gunroom-Librivox

I'm going to go now and listen to the audiobook.


Jason Adams said...

Just popped in to say "hello." I recently submitted my thesis for approval to a symposium at my college. I referenced your name a few times, particular from your coauthored "Driving Yourself Sane." It's a nice, concise outline of GS, so thank you for that.

I'll be reading your blog from now on, I just found it through Google Blog search.

Keep up the great posts!

Bruce Kodish said...

Hey, Jason!

Thanks for the kind words.

Anonymous said...

Greetings & Salutations,

I just discovered Manhood of Humanity in Project Gutenberg. I have been reading sci-fi since the 60s but not much H.Beam Piper. Since I haven't read Murder in the Gun Room I had no idea he was into General Semantics.

I have noticed that economics is mentioned a lot in discussions of GS and Piper's book The Cosmic Computer has a lot to do with economics. But I don't see any mention of "planned obsolescence" in relation to General Semantics.

Economists talk about "economic growth" but General Semanticists should want to know what that REALLY MEANS. Is manufacturing more junk that is designed to become obsolete and then ignoring the DEPRECIATION of the junk really growth?


This is the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing. How can Americans, especially economists, not know about PO after all of this time?