I mentioned recently that some of my research on H. Beam Piper was quoted in John F. Carr's terrific biography -- go buy it now! One of my sources was an absolutely wonderful man named John Hunsinger, who was amazingly generous with a complete stranger. He shared his memories, took me through the local museum to show me the little sentry cannon Piper had fired at the local college's football games (Piper had been enlisted to help the college inventory a bunch of Civil War-era weapons from the Grand Army of the Republic Hall, and while cleaning up the cannon, had gotten a gleam in his eye and said, "You know, there's no reason this thing couldn't be fired..."), gave me names of other folks to talk to -- John was really terrific, and I've never forgotten his kindness. For his part, John was very interested to learn more about Piper, who'd never been very forthcoming to friends about his life. I told him what was generally known at that point, and what I'd found out in my own research. At the time, I planned to write a fanzine article, and so I promised I'd send him a copy.
And I never wrote the article.
I always felt very bad about that. So earlier this week, I found John's number in my notes and called him up. I reminded him of who I was, and of my promise, explained that the research had become a very small part of Carr's brilliant biography, and asked for his address so I could send him a copy of the book as a long-delayed thank-you. He was delighted, so he gave me his address, and I wrote it down.
And then he dropped the 900-lb. hammer.
John said, "You know, he signed some stuff for me!"
And I said, very intelligently, "Bwuh?!"
"Yeah! I was over at his apartment one night, and I think we were talking about the fact that I hadn't read any science fiction. So he pulled a couple of things off the shelves and signed them for me. It was an Amazing Stories, I think, [it turned out to be an Astounding] and Little Fuzzy."
My spine turned to water.
"Ump," I said. "Emp. Glerb. Sir, I know those must have extraordinary personal value for you, but if you're ever looking for a collector --"
And he said, "Well, I'm 80 years old, and I'm clearing out a lot of stuff."
That's pretty much the moment that my brain stopped working.
From what I dazedly remember of ensuing events, I made an offer, and he accepted. I had Amazon send off a book, and I sent off a check, and look what I got in the mail.
I feel like a guy writing to the SF geek's equivalent of Penthouse Forum. "Dear Penthouse, I can't believe this happened to me, but --" But in an amazing stroke of UTTERLY STAGGERING fortune which I in no way deserve, I now own the December, 1958 Astounding, with "Ministry of Disturbance," and the 1962 Ace Little Fuzzy. The Astounding is signed, "For John Hunsinger -- a small bit from the History of the Future, H. Beam Piper" and Little Fuzzy is signed "For my friend, John Hunsinger -- H. Beam Piper." Piper was fond of multi-colored pens, and he signed both that way. When. He pulled them down. Off his bookshelf.
An issue of Astounding and a cheerfully foxed Little Fuzzy, both signed, from H. Beam Piper's personal library.
I am going to go lie down now.
(From chat, last night:)
hradzka: ...every single H. Beam Piper fan in the world is going to hate me, aren't they?
mendori: hell, I'm not even that big of a fan and I'm pondering how to get you to will me everything you own once I kill you.