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Harry Harrison

AKA Harry Maxwell Harrison

Born: 12-Mar-1925
Birthplace: Stamford, CT
Died: 15-Aug-2012
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Novelist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Stainless Steel Rat series

Military service: US Army Air Corps

Science fiction author and comic book artist Harry Harrison is the award winning author of such popular series as The Stainless Steel Rat and Deathworld. Harrison has been the editor of scores of science fiction magazines, and (in collaboration with Brian Aldiss) he has put together numerous science fiction anthologies -- including nine annual Best SF collections, and three collections of the best science fiction of the decade for the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Other collaborations with Aldiss have included editing the SF Masters series, launching the SF Horizons, journal of science fiction criticism (begun in 1964), and founding the John W. Campbell Award.

Harrison was born in 1925 in Stamford, Connecticut, but his family moved to Queens, New York, when he was 2. Harrison's mother, Ria Kirjassoff, was a Latvian/Russian immigrant and former school teacher. His father, Henry Harrison, was a printer whose search for jobs, during the Great Depression, led the family move often. Consequently, the younger Harrison did poorly in school (he did win a drawing contest) and had no friends. Being an only child, and solitary by nature, Harrison preferred to spend his free time reading science fiction and adventure pulp magazines, as well as armfuls of books from the Queens Borough Public Library. By 13 he'd written his first sci-fi fan letter and, later, he founded the Queens chapter of the Science Fiction League.

When Harrison graduated from high school in 1943, in the midst of World War II, he expected to be drafted immediately after his 18th birthday. In order to land himself in his preferred branch of service, the Air Corps, he attended Eastern Aircraft Instrument School in New Jersey, becoming a certified aircraft instrument mechanic. He was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps, and ended up repairing not aircraft instruments but gunsight computers. Later his duties encompassed a variety of tasks including gunnery instructor, "teaching kids to shoot machine guns" -- a task for which he won the Sharpshooter medal. It was during his stint in the Army that he attended a lecture on Esperanto and received a booklet entitled Learn Esperanto in 17 Easy Lessons. Harrison reports that military life was so dull that he taught himself to read and write the artificial international language, just to pass the time.

After his discharge in February 1946, Harrison spent several months adjusting to his new role as an adult civilian. He eventually began an art course at Hunter College in New York City, where he studied under John Blomshield. Harrison didn't stay long, but he did continue private lessons with Blomshield for two years, while also attending the Cartoonists and Illustrators School. Here he was instructed by Burne Hogarth ("the fellow who drew Tarzan") as well as many other well known artists in the comics field. One such was Wally Wood. Wood and Harrison went on to collaborate on hundreds of projects, with titles like Captain Rocket and Rangeland Romances.

Later, Harrison set up his own comic book factory with Wood, assistant Roy Krenkle and an assortment of other artists that included Al Williamson and Frank Frazetta. While comic books formed the core of their work, they also provided illustrations for pulp magazines like Galaxy. Later he was commissioned to illustrate Worlds Beyond by Damon Knight. Knight was a friend Harrison knew from the Hydra Club, whose members included Isaac Asimov, Theodore Sturgeon, Lester del Rey, L. Sprague de Camp, and many other science fiction authors. It was Knight who would also purchase Harrison's first story, "I Walk Through Rocks" (aka "Rock Diver"). Frederik Pohl, who was Harrison's literary agent, later re-purchased the story for an anthology.

But in the mid-1950s, the comics boom came to a sudden end when an investigation by Congress decided that comics were corrupting the nation's youth. In response, Harrison drifted into editing and packaging pulp magazines. Titles included Science Fiction Adventures, Fantasy Fiction, Rocket Stories, Sea Stories, and Private Eye. Often he had to augment the content with stories of his own. Drawing on tips picked up at the Hydra Club, he churned out not only this material, but a slew of science fiction stories as well. In 1954 Harrison married dress designer and ballet dancer Joan Merkler, and after the birth of their son, the two began a lengthy period of traveling and living abroad -- often to save money, but also to further professional relationships such as his work with Flash Gordon artist Dan Barry. Harrison became his writer/partner, a collaboration that would last ten years.

By August of 1957 Harrison had published his seventh short story, and in January of 1960, the first part of Deathworld appeared in Astounding. Harrison later admitted that he used the novel as a formulaic template for the next several books, all of which were commercially successful. Later, he began to "sneak in" more humorous novels, such as A Technicolor Time Machine and his still vibrant Stainless Steel Rat novels. Yet he chafed for more breadth of expression, and began to write novels like Make Room! Make Room!, Captive Universe, and In Our Hands, the Stars -- action tales with "two or three levels of intellectual content below the surface".

Despite the fact that his writing career spans more than five decades and that his books have been immensely popular with fans (a surprising number of older books remain in print), Harrison has received few accolades for his work. Nonetheless, his books have been translated into at least two dozen languages. It is rather appropriate therefore that the Harrison Award (created by Brian Aldiss) is now given to authors who improve the status of science fiction on an international level.

In 1975, Harrison and his wife moved to the Republic of Ireland where they lived the remainder of their years. He continued into his 80s to publish new work and to actively participate in world of science fiction conventions. On 9 July 2004 he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in Lawrence, Kansas, and on 22 July 2004 he was awarded the Inkpot Award for Outstanding Achievement in Science Fiction and Fantasy by the Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Father: Henry Harrison (born Henry Leo Dempsey)
Mother: Ria Kirjassoff
Wife: Joan Merkler (m. Jun-1954, d. 21-Apr-2002 cancer, one son, one daughter)
Son: Todd
Daughter: Moira (b. 1959)

    University: Hunter College (briefly)

    Esperanto speakers

Official Website:

Author of books:
Deathworld (1960)
Deathworld Two (1964)
Deathworld Three (1968)
The Stainless Steel Rat (1961)
The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge (1970)
The Stainless Steel Rat Saves the World (1972)
The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You! (1978)
The Stainless Steel Rat for President (1982)
The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat (1983)
A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born (1985)
You Can Be the Stainless Steel Rat (1985)
Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat (1986, omnibus)
The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted (1987)
The Stainless Steel Rat Sings the Blues (1994)
Stainless Steel Visions (1992)
The Stainless Steel Rat Goes to Hell (1996)
The Stainless Steel Rat Joins the Circus (1999)
A Stainless Steel Trio (2002, omnibus)
Vendetta for the Saint (1964, with Leslie Charteris)
Homeworld (1980)
Starworld (1981)
Wheelworld (1981)
To the Stars (1991, omnibus)
West of Eden (1984)
Winter in Eden (1986)
Return to Eden (1988)
The Hammer and the Cross (1993)
One King's Way (1994)
King and Emperor (1996, with John Holm, aka Tom Shippey)
Stars and Stripes Forever (1998)
Stars and Stripes in Peril (2000)
Stars and Stripes Triumphant (2001)
Planet of the Damned (1962, aka A Sense of Obligation)
Plague from Space (1965)
Make Room! Make Room! (1966)
Backdrop of Stars (1968)
The Man from P.I.G. (1968)
The Technicolor Time Machine (1968)
Captive Universe (1969)
In Our Hands, the Stars (1970)
The Jupiter Legacy (1970)
Spaceship Medic (1970)
Stonehenge: Where Atlantis Died (1972)
Tunnel Through the Deeps (1972, aka A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!)
The Men from P.I.G. and R.O.B.O.T. (1974)
Queen Victoria's Revenge (1974)
Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers (1974)
The California Iceberg (1975, with James E Barry)
The Lifeship (1976, with Gordon R. Dickson)
Skyfallauthor (1976)
The Daleth Effect (1977)
Great Balls of Fire (1977)
Mechanismo (1978)
Planet Story (1979)
The QEII Is Missing (1980)
Planet of No Return (1981)
Invasion: Earth (1982)
The Jupiter Plague (1982)
A Rebel in Time (1983)
Tales from the Planet Earth: A Novel with Nineteen Authors (1986, with Lino Aldani, Brian Aldiss, Karl-Michael Armer, Jon Bing, Andre Carneiro, A Bertram Chandler, Ljuben Dilov, Tong Enzheng, Carlos Maria Federici, Sam J Lundwall, Joseph Nesvadba, Frederik Pohl, Spider Robinson, Tetsu Yano, Ye Yonglie and Janusz A Zajdel)
Montezuma's Revenge (1987)
The Turing Option (1992, with Marvin Minsky)

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