Wednesday, August 15, 2012

RIP: Harry Harrison (1925-2012)

Harry Harrison, science fiction writer and author of the Stainless Steel Rat series (about which I've written before), has died at the age of 87. I'd be lying to say that Harrison was one of my favorite SF writers -- his worldview was, for the most part, very different than my own -- but I nevertheless have a great fondness for him, so news of his death saddens me. My fondness comes from the fact that Harrison didn't take himself or science fiction too seriously. Most of his literary output was satirical or contained elements of satire, both of sci-fi and of the real world. For that reason alone, I think he's a writer deserving of approbation. My fondness also derives from Harrison's championing of the international auxiliary language of Esperanto, an adolescent fixation of mine that I was delighted to see represented in his stories. He will be missed.

11 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to hear that he's died. Although, probably best known for his science fiction novels, such as The Stainless Steel Rat series, or Make Room! Make Room! (adapted to cinema as Soylent Green), I best liked his alternate history trilogy: Warriors of the Way, consisting of The Hammer and the Cross, One King's Way, and King and Emperor, in which he speculates what might have happened if Vikings had conquered England.

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    1. The vikings did conqer England. Denmark owned a huge chunk of northern England and one Dane named Cnute was actually king of England in 1018.

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  2. I found Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat around 1990, and thoroughly enjoyed the snarkiness of Jimmy DiGriz. He will be missed.

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  3. For me it will always be Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers. But then it is widely agreed that I am strange.

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  4. That's odd I just mentioned to my brother about him this morning...

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  5. I took an Esperonto class in high school in the 80's. There were three of us in the class and one hot chick. She later owned a strip club where we reconnected. It's true, Esperanto led to free beer. Who knew?


    La Eliro Steel Rat Vivoj!

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  6. Bill The Galactic Hero was one of my favorite series. The humorous side of H.H. was my favorite.

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  7. He was definitely on to something in layering up meanings and throwing the doors open beyond English, even if only in a functional sense. In a genre that's often about experiencing the extraordinary, there are good reasons to explore the various approaches we have on just this one world.

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  8. Read the SST in Jr High and liked it at that time. R.I.P.


    On a side note: does anyone know if Esperanto was the basis for the " Common" in D&D? I always thought so...

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  9. Jerry Pournelle has a nice story about Harry Harrison sneaking a message into a CalTech lecture hall during a science fiction convention:


    Harry and I were on a panel with Sir Fred Hoyle, and, I think Richard Feynman although I may be mistaken in that memory. It was in a big well shaped lecture hall with a slate top table for speakers and high motorized blackboards behind us. Just after the introductions were done one of the blackboards began to rise, revealing the blackboard behind it, where someone had chalked in bold letters GET SCIENCE FICTION OUT OF THE CLASSROOM AND BACK IN THE GUTTER WHERE IT BELONGS. Of course Harry had arranged that.

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  10. I met Harry (along with James P. Hogan at the Daicon V con in Osaka Japan, back in...damn, 1987? Harry was a really nice guy and a hell of a ranconteur. (As was Hogan.) I was seated with them at the banquet, along with the man sometimes called "the Issac Asimov of Japan," Tetsu Yano (he's written over 300 books--original SF, science fact, and tanslations). He was also a great raconteur, and it was a wonderful, hilarious evening. At one point Yano and Harrison discovered they had both fought on Okinawa (I think it was) and many toasts were had to the atomic bombs. I remember Harry was unamused by the frest sushi (so fresh the tail of the fish was still twitching).
    All three are gone now, alas. So many of Great Old Ones are.

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