Little Fuzzy as an award-winning audiobook

I just finished listening to the Audio Realms audio edition of H Beam Piper's classic science fiction novel Little Fuzzy and fell in love with the book all over again. Little Fuzzy was the first book I ever bought for myself: it was on my first trip to Bakka, the world's oldest surviving science fiction bookstore, at the age of nine or ten. Tanya Huff -- now a bestselling writer in her own right -- was working that day and I asked her for some recommendations. She marched me back to the used section of the store and took down a copy of Little Fuzzy, promising that I'd love it.

I did.

Little Fuzzy is Piper's masterpiece, a tight, neat science fiction story that epitomizes the golden age of sf. It concerns a prospector on a distant world who discovers a potentially sentient aboriginal race (the "Fuzzies), and his ensuing fight -- fists, lawyers and even guns -- to get them recognized as sentient beings. Along the way, Piper explores the nature of colonial economies, the deepest questions of consciousness and intelligence, paternalism and self-determination, and the nature of the rule of law. All in a package that a nine-year-old will find riveting and delightful.

The Audio Realms 5-CD unabridged recording just won Publishers Weekly's annual Fantasy Audiobook of the Year award (why "fantasy" I'm not sure), and it's easy to see why. Brian Holsopple's reading brings the characters -- warm, human, flawed and passionate -- to life. The editing is not exactly perfect (there's a couple of pickup lines that Holsopple recorded that are left in, which is a little distracting), but the story is every bit as wonderful as I remember it, and the reading is a great match.

Little Fuzzy is in the public domain, so there's both a free ebook and a free recording available of the text. And for the record, I got Tanya Huff's job at Bakka when she retired to write full time. Link to Audio Realms award-winning Little Fuzzy audiobook on CD, Link to free, public domain reading of Little Fuzzy, Link to free text for Little Fuzzy


  1. Hehe. This was my first sci-fi purchase as well. This is the book that started my love of science-fiction. I bought it in 5th grade at the Bookmobile!

  2. This was one of my early favourites as well – for anyone who loved Piper’s books I would suggest you seek out the works of Bob Shaw, a British writer less well known over on this side of the Atlantic.

  3. I loved the Fuzzy books, incl. Fuzzy Sapiens. I’ll bet the paperbacks are lurking in boxes somewhere in the attic.

  4. Everyone who read them experienced a flash of recognition upon seeing Ewoks for the first time.

  5. I’d forgotten all about those. I loved them as a kid, probably some of my first SF as well. Just ordered a used copy of The Fuzzy Papers for my kid off amazon.

  6. I was given the Ace omnibus The Fuzzy Papers, which with its publication date (1980) makes it not quite the first SF book I owned (Heinlein’s Space Cadet, if I had to guess), but it’s close.

    Certainly Piper’s work affected my life immensely. I’ve had two books published for the Traveller roleplaying game, one of which was a gazetteer for their version of the Sword Worlds — name not-so-subtly lifted from Piper’s “Fuzzy” universe by Marc Miller (I think).

    And I write an on-going column about alternate history for Pyramid magazine, and that interest roots itself in Piper’s Paratime stories.

    Huh. Enumerating the influences in as I wrote this has made me realize that I owe even more to Little Fuzzy than I understood.

  7. “And for the record, I got Tanya Huff’s job at Bakka when she retired to write full time.”

    Funny, Tara always credited Tanya’s retirement with opening up the space for her to get her job at Bakka. I guess she left a big enough hole it took two people to fill it. :-)

  8. I’m surprised that this is in the public domain. It had been reprinted a few years before it would have come up for renewal, indicating that there was probably still some economic value in the title.

  9. The version recently released into the Project Gutenberg archive, which was probably the basis for the audio book, was produced by Distributed Proofreaders, the all-volunteer collective/crowdsourcing effort where books are scanned, OCRed and released for free.

    Everybody’s welcome!

  10. Any other recommendations for kids audio?

    We’ve enjoyed “Citizen of the Galaxy” and the Tiffany stories…

  11. OMG, I remember this book! I read it a very long time ago and totally forgot it existed. All I remember is that it left me with a very melancholy feeling.

    I’ll have to listen to the audio now.

  12. Wow.

    I remember borrowing this book from my dad’s collection when I was in grade school, and promptly losing it. I managed to track down a copy in paperback from an online used book store after I got out of college and giving it to him.

    I’ll have to snag the audio reading and stick it on my son’s mp3 player.

  13. This is one of the first books I can remember buying with my allowance and literally devouring when I got home. I must have read this book a handful of times when I was younger. Perhaps it’s time to reacquaint myself with it now…!

  14. To say nothing of the Piggies / Pequeninos from the latter Ender’s Game novels, which I felt were a major theft. This was one of the few books my mother owned which I considered “cool.” Also, the first Dune trilogy and the War of the Worlds musical album (not a book, but still cool).

  15. I always enjoy seeing recommendations of copyright-free works on this blog! One thing always confuses me though. According to

    Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook.

    Okay, I do live elsewhere. (Germany) Far as I know, no work falls into public domain here until 70 years after the death of the author (Piper died 1964. – At least, 70 years is the last I remember. Doubtlessly they introduced another Mickey Mouse law since then.)

    I understand there’s virtually no risk if I just go and download this content. But if a German publisher still may hold the rights to this book, could they come after me? Can I redistribute this content without fear of prosecution?

    I’d love to share free audiobooks like this with friends and on P2P. You know, just to show that people can. But I don’t even know if I’m allowed to openly admit that I downloaded it and that I’m in possession of the content!

    If some of this content may not be legal outside the US, are good old and dangerous illegal sites for Germans? PG has German mirror sites; aren’t they in trouble too?

    If the reading was created outside Germany and was released into the public domain by its creator, but is based on a (here) copyrighted text, am I still allowed to use it or to distribute it here?

    This just doesn’t make sense. (But I guess you already know that…) Any insights?

  16. words cannot describe how much i love this book. it was among my early introductions to science fiction, too. i’m so happy to see so many people love it — i barely run in to anyone who has even heard of it or H. Beam Piper. his life was pretty tragic, too, sadly ending too early. i will definitely get this.

  17. Many of Piper’s stories were a part of that history, including Space Viking. I think of Space Piper every time my screen saver kicks in, because I have a huge array of John Schoenherr covers including Space Viking in my Google Screen saver art folder. I loved his stories, and it might just be time for to get them out again and reread them all. I do that with LORD OF LIGHT about every ten years too.

  18. I read this series so many times growing up, but I have a distinct memory of being on vacation with the family near lake tahoe, and a nine-year-old me sitting up in the cabin room devouring one of these books.

    Another memory, a 30-something me discovering a strange collection of crayfish shells and what looked like tiny pottery bowls near my parent’s fish pond. I immediately thought of these books, and my eyes scanned the nearby bushes, but no little eyes stared back at me from the shadows.

  19. David@7: indeed it did take two of us! Tanya was F/T, we were both P/T to start!


  20. Wow, I had almost forgotten about the Fuzzies too. It was also my first sf purchase. I made friends with a guy that worked at Waldenbooks. He was probably in his early 30’s while I was about 9 or 10 years old. He was truly interested in helping me find good sf to read without there being any weird intentions on his part. I miss those days..

  21. @ Cochituate (#16) — lord of light?? ME TOO! instead of all the craptacular stuff that the scifi channel churns out, i keep hoping they will decide to make a zelazny miniseries out of lord of light or the first 3 or 4 books of the amber series. come on, scifi! pick up zelazny or piper and do some GOOD scifi (besides BSG, of course) for a change!

  22. I’ve read and reread the Fuzzy books several times, and I do love them, but what always gets me is how they represent The Fifties In Space. There’s no Verne/Clarke-style prescience whatsoever. (The Martian Chronicles has the same problem, but it’s so much more obvious in the Fuzzy books.)

    They have cocktails every day at five. They have videophones, yet movies of the Fuzzies must be brought home on film reels and developed. The writings’s not as sexist as it could be, but it’s close.

    I’ve always thought these books’ only bow to the predictable march of progress was the ridiculous “melting pot” names of some supporting characters.

    Hirohito Bjornsen. SRSLY.

  23. @Richard Corey: A number of Piper’s works have fallen into the public domain because they were written and he died at a time when American copyright laws made it necessary to specifically renew copyright after a period of time.

    Of all the works he wrote before 1964, all fell in to the public domain in 2006 due to non-renewal except Space Viking and the sub-par Crisis in 2140. This includes “Little Fuzzy”.

    On the other hand, everything published after his death (including the second and the only recently rediscovered third Fuzzy books) are in copyright in the US until 2054 by my calculation. They’ll fall out of copyright elsewhere earlier than that, though.

  24. I wondered why my stats went up. :)

    Right now on my podcast, Maria Lectrix, I’m reading James H. Schmitz’s Trigger Argee novel, Legacy, one version of which has also fallen into the public domain. I’m also reading a bunch of other stuff which folks might enjoy.

    Maureen O’Brien
    (the person who read the free version)

  25. Richard Corey, Paul Drye, I believe Piper knew he was dying without heirs. If he’d been worried about his copyrights, it wouldn’t have been hard for him to do something about them.

    Jake von Slatt:

    This was one of my early favourites as well – for anyone who loved Piper’s books I would suggest you seek out the works of Bob Shaw, a British writer less well known over on this side of the Atlantic.

    A fine writer, Bob Shaw. While you’re at it, try BoSh’s old friend James White. His Sector General stories are good for brand-new SF readers, and for those who’ve been reading the stuff for decades.

    Cochituate, Franko: Me too! Or anyway I did, until I started being able to recite whole passages.

    The Amber novels are brilliant as long as you stop after #2. If you look closely at #3, you’ll find that almost nothing happens in it. It’s all characters telling each other what’s been happening in the meantime. That is: it’s a bolted-on support structure from which to hang a continuing series never contemplated in the first two titles. There are good moments in the later books, but the overall narrative is an ungainly mess. It’s a painful contrast with Nine Princes in Amber, which comes close to being formally perfect, and with Nine Princes in Amber plus The Guns of Avalon, which Steve Gould insists is necessary if you want to say it’s close to being structurally perfect. (Can you tell this is an old argument between us?)

    Lord of Light is just wonderful.

  26. well if he died without heirs who owns his copyrights now? because the book most certainly is in copyright in all Berne convention countries (life plus 70)

  27. I’ve been poking around looking for the old SF of my youth as free downloads. There’s enough of it out there that I’m inspired to acquire a Portable Device for reading it. I think it’s appropriate to find a busted and unloved PDA to restore for the purpose. What could be more proper for reading speculative fiction than an obsolete and valueless pocket computer of great speed and capacity? An homage to the writers who pushed us into this future with their imaginations.

  28. what could be more proper? More proper? Steampunk,vacuum tube old TV set converted to monitor on self-propelled chassis! Yeah? Yeah???
    You could convert one of those old three wheel Victorian wheelchairs with the tiller to carry it! Think of the technical joy in interfacing the digital memory with an analog display!! Ten years of busy work!!

  29. well if he died without heirs who owns his copyrights now?

    We, the public “own” them. That is, no one. At least within the jurisdiction of the US.

  30. @Richard Corey: The Berne Convention has the Rule of the Shorter Term, which most countries follow. Basically, an author is entitled to no more copyright in foreign countries than he is in his own.

    So other Berne countries are bound to recognize that most of Piper’s works are public domain in the US, so they’re also public domain elsewhere no matter what the laws in that country.

    That’s the legal framework and, as TNH says, the moral framework appears to be that Piper didn’t care what happened after his death.

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