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.