Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Monday, August 20, 2012

Harry Harrison - RIP

One of the greats of science fiction has just died: Harry Harrison. All the obits correctly say that his most important work is Make Room, Make Room! on which the film Soylent Green was based, and his best-known arguably the Stainless Steel Rat series. I have a Stainless Steel Rat gamebook - one of those programmed-text affairs that predate the computer game era, where you are posed questions and jump to different chapter numbers depending on your answers. The thing that I always loved about Jim deGriz (the titular Rat) was the way he always had the right gadget handy, and never ran out of ammunition: like an SF James Bond.

My personal favourite of Harrison's books, though, is easily Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers, a parody of the "backyard spaceship" sub-genre in which two smart kids invent a starship drive based on irradiated cheese ("Cheddite"). They head off into space and encounter hosts of wittily-named aliens such as the Garnishee, and my personal favourites the Hagg-Inder and the Hagg-Loos (maybe that only works if you remember that in Greek the doubled gamma is pronounced -"ng-"?). Invariably these aliens speak human languages (including English) because their incredibly powerful radio receivers have been tuning in to Earth broadcasts for many years. (I especially loved the denizens of a planet where everyone speaks English with terribly upper-class accents because they've been listening to the broadcasts of a country called "BBC Third Programme".)

Harry, we'll miss you.

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