So, that Super Secret Thing That I Cannot Tell You About? I can tell you about it now. It’s a novel, and it’s called Fuzzy Nation, and it’s a reboot of the Hugo-nominated 1962 science fiction novel Little Fuzzy, by H. Beam Piper.
And now, your questions:
Uh, “reboot”? Don’t you mean a sequel?
Nope, I mean a reboot, as in, I took the original plot and characters of Little Fuzzy and wrote an entirely new story from and with them. The novel doesn’t follow on from the events of Little Fuzzy; it’s a new interpretation of that first story and a break from the continuity that H. Beam Piper established in Little Fuzzy and its sequels.
Why did you do this?
Because as far as I know it’s never been done before. Science fiction TV and movie series are rebooted all the time — see Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek for recent examples of this — but I can’t think of a significant, original universe in science fiction literature in which this has been done, at least, not by someone who is not the original author. So I thought, hey, this seems like it could be a fun thing to do. So I did it.
Why Little Fuzzy?
Because I am a huge fan of the original novel and of H. Beam Piper’s work. It’s a good story and he’s a very good story teller; Little Fuzzy wasn’t nominated for a Hugo on accident, you know. And while the original novel is still, as they say, a “cracking good tale,” I thought there was an opportunity to revisit the story and put a new spin on it to make it approachable to people who had not read the original or did not know about Piper, and also to give fans of the original the fun of seeing some old friends in new settings.
While Fuzzy Nation is a “reboot” of Little Fuzzy, the idea behind it is not to replace the original, but to celebrate it and hopefully draw new readers to it and to other work by Piper. I hope that when people get done with Fuzzy Nation they’ll pick up Little Fuzzy, and compare and contrast the two approaches to the same story.
How can you do this? Aren’t there copyright issues involved?
Little Fuzzy itself is in the public domain, but its sequels are still under copyright. While it might have been technically possible to write Fuzzy Nation without the permission of the Piper estate, because of the status of the sequels there were enough (forgive the pun) fuzzy legal areas that I didn’t want to have to deal with them. Beyond this, because Fuzzy Nation is in many ways meant to be a tribute to Little Fuzzy and to Piper himself, I wanted the blessing, so to speak, of the Piper estate.
So, after I wrote Fuzzy Nation, my super-invaluable and incredibly awesome agent Ethan Ellenberg approached the rights holders to the Piper estate and started talking to them about it. The discussions took, well, a long time. But we reached agreement on it, and I’m happy to say Fuzzy Nation is an authorized work.
Wait. You said you asked for permission only after you wrote Fuzzy Nation?
Well, because I originally wrote it for fun. I was doing it mostly to see what a version of Little Fuzzy by me would be like. And when I was done, I thought, well, that’s not too bad, I wonder if I can do something with it? And that’s when Ethan started talking to folks.
What if you had asked for permission and the answer was “no”?
Well, then I guess Fuzzy Nation would be The Super Secret Project That You Will Never Ever Find Out About. But, you know, look. Sometimes you do things not for any particular profit motive, but because it interests you, and you enjoy it, and you have a good time with it, and it’s good for your outlook on life. I decided to write Fuzzy Nation right after I had a particularly contentious and annoying negotiation for a completely different Super Secret Project That You Will Never Ever Find Out About, and I needed to do something to sort of cleanse my palate, as it were. Fuzzy Nation was it. And you know what? I had a ball with it, and it reset my attitude and made writing fun once more. If it never saw the light of day, it still would have been worth writing for that alone.
So you had another Super Secret Project That You Couldn’t Tell Us About?
How many of those do you have going, anyway?
Quite obviously, I can’t tell you.
Fair enough. So when can we read Fuzzy Nation?
After it’s published!
And when will that be?
No idea. Because I was writing it on my own time, it’s not on any particular publisher’s schedule. It’s not even been sold yet. Ethan will start shopping it around now.
You mean to say you’re telling us you’ve written a novel but we can’t read it yet, and you don’t know when we can?
Yup, pretty much.
You are an evil little man, Scalzi.
Fuzzy Nation had better be good, man.
Oh, it is.
Update. 4/13: sold the book!