I’m usually not one to write eulogies for people I don’t know personally, but I have to admit that the news that Harry Harrison had died struck me very hard. Who was Harry? Well, to a lot of people he was the SF writer that influenced people yet they didn’t know his name. He wrote “Soylent Green”, or rather the novel it was based on “Make room, make room!” But to me, he was the author of the Stainless Steel Rat books.

Reading “The Stainless Steel Rat saves the world”, on loan from a good childhood friend, was literally the thing that made me think I could create worlds rather than just reading about them. After finishing that, I read every HH book I could get my hands on: all of Deathworld, Bill the Galactic Hero, Technicolour Time Machine, West of Eden… And of course, every Rat book. I think I slowed down at “A Stainless Steel Rat is Born” simply because it brought the series full circle. Harry’s writing had soul: his pulpy style of writing (and I mean that as an honorific) was fun, fast paced and respected. He knew how to have fun writing, like the grenade dispenser in “The Stainless Steel Rat wants you”… Yep, the tail… Of a dinosaur costume… 😉

Harry’s work was part of a perfect storm for me. It dovetailed with my teenage imagination at the same time I was heavily into the Traveller SF RPG and it led me to learn Esperanto and ultimately put pen to paper writing SF and Fantasy. Even as an artist he influenced me; through his books, I discovered Jim Burns artwork, which in turn influenced my art and writing (specifically his Mechanismo paintings and Planet Story, still influencing me today in the form of my novel).

Harry had a long and amazing career and published his last Rat book only two years ago. While i don’t think he was awarded the title Grand Master of SF, he was one in my eyes.

Sir, you deserve your break! I hope to meet you on the flip side, if there is one. /tips hat

If you want to honor him, go read his books.

Image Credit: the pioneering SF artist Peter Elson for Sphere Books, also sadly missed.