No more Stainless Steel Rat

I’m sad to report that another author from my personal golden age of science fiction, Harry Harrison, has died. I also have fond memories of his extremely Darwinian Deathworld novels, and of course, the satirical Bill, the Galactic Hero stories.


  1. briansmith says

    I also really enjoyed The Hammer and the Cross. Also a running theme in his works were questioning your basic assumptions of what is true or not, good or not, and so on.

    And his books were just so much fun.

  2. says

    Not to mention Make Room! Make Room! which was the basis for the film Soylent Green. Oddly, Soylent Green was NOT people in the book. It was a mix of soybeans and lentils. Hence the name.

    Very sad news, though. I loved the SSR novels.

  3. larrylyons says

    Another one gone. Sigh I really liked his humanist views. I was just reading The Ethical Engineer on my ipad on the flight to Minneapolis. I will remember him with joy.

  4. darwinharmless says

    “Bill, the Intergalactic Hero” held the distilled essence of sci fi. So sad to hear its author is gone.

  5. says

    A great loss. Mr. Harrison is survived by an extended family of crooked De Grizs, a soldier with two right arms and a mood foot, and a cliched sci-fi cry of horror.

  6. Gregory in Seattle says

    The Man from R.O.B.O.T was one of the first science fiction stories I ever read, and I liked Slippery Jim (aka The Stainless Steel Rat) so much that I wanted to be just like him when I grew up (yeah, yeah, but I was 10, ok?)

    Harrison was a fine author who could write funny stories that did not insult the reader’s intelligence. He will be missed.

  7. daved says

    He was also a superb parodist: “Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers” is a hilarious send-up of both John Campbell/E.E. Smith pulp SF, and of the Tom Swift genre. I think he also wrote a short story, “Capt. Honario Harpplayer, RN”, which was a spoof of Horatio Hornblower in an SF mold.

    Naturally, I loved the Stainless Steel Rat and many of his other stories. Sad to hear he’s gone.

  8. says

    Good old Harry Harrison, as shameless a parodist as ever spawned by the universe! Remember the flagship on which Bill the Galactic Hero served? The Christine Keeler!

    And Harrison’s wonderful Technicolor Time Machine! Time to dig that out of the archives…

  9. says

    A stainless steel rat has died -.-

    The sci-fi world is diminished somewhat :/

    (Although I did think a society where thieves are so rare they’re spotted less than one to a planet was pretty unrealistic, lol)

  10. Moggie says

    Oh no!

    Just this last weekend, I got rid of a metric fuckton of books to make room, make room. But I couldn’t bring myself to part with a single Harry Harrison book.

  11. says

    I never heard of this “Honario Harpplayer”. Are you thinking of Ferdinand Feghoot? That was a spoof on the genre, but it was by Reginald Bretnor.

  12. Andrew G. says

    “Captain Honario Harpplayer, R.N.” is a short story collected in Two Tales and Eight Tomorrows. (Which also includes “The Streets of Ashkelon”, Harrison’s most explicitly anti-religious story as far as I know.)

  13. daved says

    Thank you, Andrew G. I read that story decades ago and couldn’t have told you where to find it to save my life.

  14. DLC says

    now this just sucks. Harrison was one of my favorites from my early days as an atheist. His Stainless Steel Rat stories were brilliant — comedic and intriguing all at once. Harrison’s “Slippery Jim” gave the world one of the rare Megaweapon Insults.
    “The major was perfect. He was a perfect asshole”

    He will be missed.

  15. Richard Austin says

    I picked up my first Stainless Steel Rat book at an old library book sale in the 80s for like 10 cents (the same way I got my first Asimov books, and an original US printing of “The Colour of Magic”, and a 2nd-run printing of “Leaves of Grass”…).

    While the series had its problems, it was entertaining in a reverse-Sherlock Holmes kind of way.

    So long, Jimmy boy.

  16. didgen says

    No, no, no! I don’t want sad news today. Slippery Jim was a large part of how I survived as a kid.

  17. dragon says

    Sadness overcomes me.
    Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers was my first Harrison novel as a kid. West of Eden was another I can’t forget.
    And of course, all the SSRs, but they have already been mentioned by so many people here.
    He will be missed.

  18. Menyambal --- Sambal's Little Helper says

    The Stainless Steel Rat and other Harry Harrison works were the most iconoclastic stuff that I read. Some authors had a single theme, Harrison brought everything out, and made it entertaining and educational.

  19. says

    I read practically everything of his the library had when i was a kid (I never got around to West of Eden for some reason). There goes another little piece of SF history. I has a sad now.

  20. darrelle says

    I really enjoyed his stories, and started the kids off on the SSR stories when they were 7. They laugh and laugh. Sad news indeed. I’ll be sure to raise a shot of Syrian Panther Sweat tonight in his honor.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else mention his Deathworld novels. Still have those in an old single bound paper back release.

  21. seanhart says

    So, about ten years ago I was in the library looking at the Harry Harrison books when a guy started walking down the aisle I was on. As he walked passed he brushed the back of his hand against me penis. As it was a rather narrow aisle, I took it to be an honest mistake until he got to the end of the aisle, turned around, stared at my crotch and said “that’s nice.” And that is the story I think of when I think of Harry Harrison.

  22. bell says

    Andrew G mentioned “the streets of ashkelon.” I think that’s my favourite Harrison short story. Two tales and eight tomorrows contains another anti-religious story called “rescue operation” which is also pretty good from memory.

  23. mothra says

    The first Harry Harrison books I read were the West of Eden series. And so, decades later, when I see an article on Triceratops, Ankylosaurus, or Pteranodon, some little piece of memory reminds me: Nimentisk, Rutsa and Esketel. The ranks of GREAT science fiction writers are thinning.

  24. Hairhead, whose head is entirely filled with Too Much Stuff says

    “West of Eden” was his “big” series, all well and good, immaculately done.

    But my absolute fave remains “The Technicolor Time Machine”. I reread it a couple of weeks ago, and it would make a fine and VERY funny movie!


  25. shadow says

    I remember the line about the major as:

    The major was perfect. As a poisonous spider is a perfect poisonous spider and a vampire bat is a perfect vampire bat he was a perfect freewheeling bastard.

    Then there was the Ethanol IV in Bill the Galactic Hero and sending garbage to unsuspecting citizens — as presents.

    Comedic gold.

  26. alasdhair says

    I’m glad that The Streets of Ashkelon got a couple of mentions. That and Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers were my favourites…

  27. birgerjohansson says

    (Kw*k alert) This summer I learned Harry Harrison’s current address, and sent him a couple of SF novels from Amazon as a symbolic token of my appreciation of a lifetime of writing…
    He probably did not have time to read them, but I am glad that I did it before he passed on. I hope he got cheered up by the gesture.
    Earlier this summer he was in USA (Florida, I think). I hope he was well enough to enjoy himself, even if he was confined to a wheelchair.

  28. John Morales says

    Sad. :(

    Glad to see others also appreciated Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers — characters didn’t “say”, they hissed, croaked, revealed, intimated, mumbled, laughed, sneered, ejaculated, declaimed, rumbled, expostulated etc.

    (For a whole book!)

    And I loved the ending.

  29. bachfiend says

    My favorite Harry Harrison book was ‘A Rebel in Time’, which I read over 20 years ago, enjoyed so much that I immediately reread it, and enjoyed it just as much, and when it was released this year as a Kindle, reread it again and thought it was just as good.

    I tried to reread ‘the Technicolour Time Machine’, but failed. It just seemed too dated.

  30. says

    On the one hand it’s great to discover so many fellow Harry Harrison fans on Pharyngula and on the other, obviously, sad that he’s gone.

    By the third SSR novel I had a clear sense that he was an atheist. Some speech to his children that this is the only life you get, IIRC. He was an early influence on me, nudging me away from mushy deist nonsense.

  31. says

    Aww… I always named my ships in video games after his novels. And lent my Bill the Galactic Hero collection to my spouse when she was in the hospital for a week. Would you believe she offered to marry me after that? ^-^

  32. Crudely Wrott says

    Funny how things work. I was awoken last night by an unusual sound. A scritching-scratching sound from the wall near the head of my bed. When I roused the sense to put my ear to the wall I could only hear it recede, as if into some far distance. Puzzled, I lay back down and soon sleep reclaimed me. In the moments before dawn I had a rare and most welcomed flying dream and awoke with a wry sense of stolen pleasure.

    Then I heard that Harry Harrison had left us.

    His stories brightened and informed me over the years, especially the Stainless Steel Rat stories. How I envied Jim DeGriz for his wife, Angelina. She could kill a man while putting on her lipstick! Now that’s a real lady.

    Go well, old friend, and give Isaac a wink for me and tell Ted Sturgeon I promise to finish his entire bibliography, given sufficient time.

  33. says

    When I 1st read “The Streets of Ashkelon” (in the Esperanto version) I was awed that the obvious flaws of the brainworm that religion is could be shown in literary prose so clearly and yet so elegantly.

    HH was a great SF writer and it is sad to lose him.