Harrison, Harry, 1925-2012

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1925-03-12
Death 2012-08-15
Gender:
Male
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Born Henry Dempsey, March 12, 1925 in Stamford, Conn.; science fiction author, editor, and critic; author of over thirty books including The Deathworld trilogy and the Stainless Steel Rat series.

From the description of [Literary manuscripts] 1966-2003. (University of South Florida). WorldCat record id: 56903508

Harry Harrison (1925 - ) is a highly regarded writer of science fiction, most prolific in the 1960 – 1990 period, and was editor for a number of anthologies. Harrison is best known for his Deathworld series and his Stainless Steel Rat series of novels.

From the guide to the Inventory of the Harry Harrison Collection: Sci Fi MSS 00195., n.a., (Cushing Memorial Library)

Harry Harrison (1925 - ) was born Henry Maxwell Dempsey to Henry Leo and Ria (Kirjassoff) Harrison. During the Depression, the elder Harrison worked intermittently as a newspaper compositor and proof-reader. He first introduced Harry to science fiction as a seven-year-old, giving him a copy of the large-format pulp magazine Amazing Stories. At the age of thirteen, Harry became a founding member of the Queens Chapter of the Science Fiction League; at the age of fifteen, he wrote his first fan letter, published in the Fall 1940 issue of Captain Future.

Upon graduating from Forest Hills High School (NY), Harrison was drafted into the U.S. Army Air Corps. In 1944, while stationed in Laredo, Texas, he began studying the international language Esperanto, a lifelong pursuit and an influence on his later writings. Discharged in 1946, Harrison eventually began studying art, attending the Manhattan Cartoonists and Illustrators School. The young illustrator teamed up with Wally Wood, and the two garnered the attention of Bill Gaines at E.C. Comics. Wood and Harrison persuaded Gaines to create a science fiction comic, and the editor responded with Weird Science.

Harrison’s gradual move from illustration to writing began in the early 1950s when he was a member of the legendary New York Hydra Club (1946-1957/58), founded in Frederick Pohl’s Greenwich Village apartment. During this period, Harrison developed an illness that limited his drawing abilities. Using a typewriter, he wrote a short story called “I Walk through the Rocks,” which he sold to fellow Hydra member Damon Knight for $100. Worlds Beyond published the story under the title “Rock Diver” in February 1951. Harrison’s second science fiction story, published under the pseudonym Felix Boyd, appeared in the September 1953 issue of Rocket Stories.

In June 1954, Harrison married Joan Merkler, a dress designer and ballet dancer. Harrison worked as an art director, a freelance comics script-writer and editor until the mid-1950s, when the scandal of Congressional hearings focused on Bill Gaines resulted in backlash, censoring, and the demise of E.C. Comics. Harrison moved his family to Cuautla (Morelos) Mexico in 1956, so that he could work on Deathworld, his first full-length science fiction novel. In August of the following year, Harrison published the short story, “The Stainless Steel Rat,” in John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction. This work introduced Harrison’s most famous character, James Boliver, alias ‘Slippery Jim’ DiGriz. Campbell’s positive reception buoyed Harrison into writing more science fiction stories. He rapidly became one of “Campbell’s writers,” a group writers now equated with the Golden Age of American science fiction.

During the early 1960s, Deathworld, Planet of the Damned and Vendetta for the Saint appeared in serialized form. A novel he provisionally entitled If You Can Read This, You’re Too Damn Close appeared in Frederick Pohl’s Galaxy as “Starsloggers” and in Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds under the title “Bill, the Galactic Hero.” In 1965, he published his first short story collection, Two Tales and Eight Tomorrows, with an introduction by Brian Aldiss. The two writers became lifelong friends and collaborators on over 20 science fiction anthologies. Their most famous collaboration, the Best SF Series, was published consistently from 1967-1976.

During the late 1960s, the Harrisons returned to the United States, residing in San Diego, California. Harrison’s novels Plague from Space, The Technicolor Time Machine, Captive Universe, Spaceship Medic and Make Room! Make Room! appeared in print. The latter formed the basis of the 1973 film, Soylent Green, for which Harrison received a “Best Dramatic Presentation” Nebula Award (1973).

In the 19270, Harrison taught science fiction at San Diego State College and contributed to two college texts: A Science Fiction Reader (1973) and Science Fiction Novellas (1975). During the decade, he edited 25 science fiction anthologies, including one in honor of his mentor-patron, John W. Campbell, who died in 1971. Two years later, he and Brian Aldiss honored Campbell by establishing the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, an annual international juried award for the best science fiction novel.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Harrison published his West of Eden trilogy, the first part of his Stars and Stripes Forever trilogy, five Bill, the Galactic Hero novels, and a number of short stories. During this period, he formed collaborations with Tom Shippey, Jack Cohen, Robert E. Myers, and Marvin Minsky. The first full-length study of Harrison’s work, Harry Harrison by Leon Stover, appeared in 1990.

A prolific author, editor, fan, critic and historian of science fiction, Harrison’s professional career spans more than five decades. He was the first president of the World SF (1978-80) and has been nominated for three Nebula Awards and two Hugo Awards. In 2001, Harrison celebrated his 50th anniversary as a science fiction writer by publishing 50 in 50, an anthology of his finest short stories. He was inducted into the SF Hall of Fame in 2003. Today he resides in the United Kingdom and makes frequent appearances at international science fiction conferences.

From the guide to the Harry Harrison collection, 1964-, (USF Tampa Library - Special & Digital Collections)

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Subjects:

  • Science fiction
  • Science fiction, American
  • Fantasy fiction
  • Speculative fiction
  • Fantasy fiction, American

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