Very sad to hear of the death of science fiction writer Harry Harrison at the age of 87.
His anti-hero, James Bolivar DiGriz, alias “Slippery Jim” DiGriz, first appeared in the short story ”The Stainless Steel Rat” in Astounding magazine in 1957; The Stainless Steel Rat (1961) was the first in a series of hilarious novels featuring the adventures of the interplanetary crook and his expanding family.
Bill the Galactic Hero (1965) was an equally amusing novel but with a darker subtext, a satire on the militaristic science fiction of Robert A Heinlein, especially Starship Troopers (1960). Harrison drew on his own experiences as a machine gun instructor
His other work includes A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! (1973), an early example of what would later be termed ‘Steampunk‘, and the elaborate Alternative World Eden Trilogy (West of Eden, 1984, Winter in Eden, 1986, and Return to Eden, 1988), an exercise in World Building comparable in scope and ambition to Frank Herbert‘s Dune (1965) and Brian Aldiss‘s Helliconia Trilogy (1982-1985).
Harrison was a good friend and collaborator with Brian Aldiss, and they were co-presidents of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group. They edited numerous anthologies together.
He was a proselytizer for the auxiliary language Esperanto, which is spoken in the future of his Deathworld series (1960-2001) and The Stainless Steel Rat; Harrison was honorary president of the Esperanto Association of Ireland, as well as a member of Esperanto-USA, and also the Universala Esperanto-Asocio (World Esperanto Association).
He was also a notable atheist, and often used his fiction to criticise religion. His most widely anthologised short story was ”The Streets of Ashkelon” (1962), first published in Brian Aldiss’s anthology New Worlds (1962), a taboo-busting story about an interplanetary missionary; and Make Room! Make Room! was an attack on the Catholic Church’s opposition to contraception, not a gothic nightmare about cannibalism – Soylent Green is made from soy beans and lentils, not people!
- Aldiss, Brian (ed, 1962) New Worlds
- (1982) Helliconia Spring
- (1983) Helliconia Summer
- (1985) Helliconia Winter
- Harrison, Harry (1957) ”The Stainless Steel Rat” in Astounding
- Heinlein, Robert A (1960) Starship Troopers
- Herbert, Frank (1965) Dune