Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Harry Harrison RIP


I know Harry Harrison has nothing to do with Doctor Who but I wanted to pay a brief tribute to one of the writer's who had such an impact on me as a teenager and whose death has had a surprising impact on me.

Perhaps that's because when I was 12 or thereabouts I stumbled across 'The Stainless Steel Rat'. I can't remember where initially. I have a feeling it was either via 2000 AD or an extract in a SF Collection. So I went out and found every single Stainless Steel Rat story I could and read them all. I scoured libraries and bookshops. There was something so vivid about the writing that bought to life not just Slippery Jim DiGriz himself but also the multitude of other characters that mad up The Stainless Steel Rat's universe: Angelina, Inskipp, The Bishop etc.

I wanted to be The Stainless Steel Rat - still do perhaps - flitting across the Universe committing clever crimes, out-witting the police of a thousand systems and - when push comes to shove - risking life and limb to save the World.

Harry Harrison's writing was punchy, sharp, witty and funny. He was the first writer I came across to mix humour and science-fiction (I discovered Douglas Adams a little later if my creaking memory serves me correctly).  'The Stainless Steel Rat' was funny and noirish. The Stainless Steel Rat himself was hard-bitten but not entirely cynical. Why no one ever tried to make a film out of it I'll never know. Perhaps they did.

Harrison wrote lots of other books, short-stories etc. The Deathworld series; Bill, The Galactic Hero etc. He also wrote 'Make Room! Make Room!", which I have on my shelf waiting to be re-read. Perhaps I'll start tonight. Turned into the film 'Soylent Green' starring Charlton Heston this is Harrison in serious mode. Reflecting on the dangers of out of control population growth it is a dark but excellent written tale. Worth a read if you get the chance. The film isn't exactly a faithful reproduction of the book but I like it well enough.

In recent weeks various people from my childhood (and geekhood) have passed away. I suppose I'm getting to that age: Caroline John, Mary Tamm and now Harry Harrison. Bits of my past, to mangle a quote, are drifting off like icebergs.

You might wonder why I put this blog here but as I hinted at before Harry Harrison - alongside Doctor Who and Blake's 7 - opened my eyes to science-fiction as a genre and James Bolivar DiGriz alongside The Doctor and Villa Restal - remains one of my heroes. Unblemished by growing up and attempting to get sensible and in my dreams I suppose I'd still like to be 'The Stainless Steel Rat'.

RIP Harry Harrison and thanks.

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