H. Beam Piper
mining history for fun and profit
I don't hear much about Piper these days, but in his day he was one of the greats of soft science fiction--which is to say, science fiction that's about people rather than technology. His work was infused with a sense of history, and he often based his plots on historical events. On top of that, he's just plain fun. I especially recommend Little Fuzzy and Space Viking. Don't let the lurid title of that last one fool you; it's a remarkably good book.
A tidbit of publishing history: the manuscript for Fuzzies and Other People, the sequel to Little Fuzzy and Fuzzy Sapiens, was known to exist when Piper died, but was not found and published until 1984. Ironically, this was just a couple of years after and separately wrote a pair of related sequels (Fuzzy Bones and Golden Dream: A Fuzzy Odyssey, respectively) to explain where the Fuzzies came from and why they were so different biologically from the other life on the planet Zarathustra. They made a compelling case, though Tuning's style was too different from Piper's to make Fuzzy Bones a comfortable read.
I remember predicting (with some annoyance), when Fuzzy Bones was published, that someday they'd discover Piper's manuscript and we'd discover that the two were flatly contradictory. And that, of course, is more or less what happened, and far more quickly than I though.
Here are a few of Piper's books.