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RIP Harry Harrison: Stainless Steel Rat scurries no more

Hopefully he won't become Soylent Green

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Obituary It's been a bad summer for SF. In June, Ray Bradbury slipped the surly bonds of Earth, and now legendary icon Harry Harrison has passed away at age 87.

"Rest in peace, my friend. You touched the lives of millions with your exciting adventures, packed with unlikely but always hilarious and thrilling escapades and frequently rather dodgy, but loveable, characters... and, you know, your fiction was pretty damn good too!" said Michael Carroll, admin of Harrison's official website.

Among the SF community, Harrison, whose real name was Henry Maxwell Dempsey, is probably best known for the creation of James Bolivar DiGriz – aka the Stainless Steel Rat – who became a non-terminally violent antihero for the corporate age. The dozen-book series began in 1961 and the tales of "Slippery Jim," along with wife and twin sons, were only concluded in 2010.

He also earned support for taking a poke at Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers worldview with his Bill, the Galactic Hero series. Later books in the series were written by other authors and edited by Harrison, something he said he regretted.

For Hollywood, Harrison was the creative spark behind Soylent Green, which was very loosely based on his Nebula Award-winning novel Make Room! Make Room! (a story he dedicated to his children, Todd and Moira). In it he envisaged a massively overpopulated planet and its degrading effect on society. No spoilers, but the ending to the film is fairly well-known.

Harrison was one of the authors from the golden age of science fiction, where short story writers could make a living selling to the magazine market. He began his career as an illustrator and editor of comics and SF journals before transitioning into a full-time career as a novelist.

He was a life-long proponent of the global-language-that-isn't, Esperanto, and his fiction took a distinctly atheistic and dystopian point of view. For this El Reg hack, the To the Stars novels have the most resonance; a series of tales with an all-too-familiar theme in modern SF.

Harrison enjoyed nearly fifty years of marriage to his wife Joan, who passed from cancer in 2002. He is survived by two children. ®

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