Piper (World 21)
H. Beam Piper (1904 – 1964; first SF publication, 1947) writes stories with simpler, more straightforward motivations and characters than some of the other authors in this list. That doesn’t make them less interesting; his stories of Fuzzies (beginning with Little Fuzzy) are among the most entertaining I’ve read.
Other Piper stories include the Paratime series (including Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, whose protagonist, Pennsylvania state trooper Calvin Morrison, is accidentally transported to another timestream and makes the absolute best of it) and the Federation series (including Omnilingual, a story close to my heart about the efforts of Martha Dane, linguistic archaeologist, to decipher the long-dead Martian language).
In Little Fuzzy, Victor Grego’s mining license to the uninhabited world Zarathustra will be lost if it turns out Zarathustra is actually inhabited. Independent prospector Jack Hollaway runs across a family of short, furry creatures who turn out to be toolmakers with a recognizable language. Even when we know the probably outcome, it’s fun to read the machinations between Grego’s minions and Hollaway’s allies as they work toward a resolution of whether the Fuzzies are sapient.
Meanwhile, one of the primary reasons Zarathustra is valuable to Grego’s corporation is its stock of sunstones, fossilized remains of something like a jellyfish, with a natural luminescence when warmed.