Harry Harrison died 15 August 2012 in England. Born Henry Maxwell Dempsey on 12 March 1925 in Stamford, Connecticut, The Guardian reports his father “changed his name to Harrison soon after Harry’s birth, but the son did not find out until he applied for a passport, aged 30, that his own name was still Dempsey. He then changed his name legally to Harrison, but in later years sometimes used Hank Dempsey as a pseudonym.” Harrison was inducted into the SF Hall of Fame in 2004, and awarded SFWA’s Grand Master Award in 2009.
At the age of 18, he was drafted into the US Army Air Corps. He served as a sharpshooter, military policeman, gunnery instructor, and more. It was his negative experiences during this period that imbued him with the desire to write many of his novels. However, while he was in the service, he learned Esperanto, of which he became a lifelong proponent (including using the language frequently in his novels, and serving for a time as the honorary president of the Esperanto Association of Ireland).
After his discharge, he studied art at New York City’s Hunter College. By the end of the decade, he was running a small studio that illustrated comics and magazines. For more on this phase of his life, see Glenn Hauman’s obituary on ComicMix. In the 1950s and 1960s, he also wrote for the comics, and was the main writer of the Flash Gordon comic strip.
His first novel, Deathworld, appeared in 1960. The Stainless Steel Rat debuted the next year, and served as the launching point for a series he would continue for the rest of his life (the last book in the series, The Stainless Steel Rat Returns, appeared in 2010). He parodied the genre in his Bill, the Galactic Hero series, which debuted in 1965.
In 1966, Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room! was first published. In 1973, it was made into the film Soylent Green starring Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson.
See this page for his ISFDb bibliography.
Harrison lived in several countries, starting in the 1960s, including: Mexico, Great Britain, Italy, Denmark, the US, and Ireland, where he eventually settled. Brian Aldiss was a close friend, and sometime co-author and co-editor. The two co-edited the SF criticism magazine SF Horizons in the mid-1960s, and the annual Best SF anthology series (1968-75). They also founded World SF. At Harrison’s death, Aldiss called him “a constant peer and great family friend.”
Harrison married Joan Merkler in 1954, and together they had two children, Todd and Moira, who survive him. Joan died of cancer in 2002.
There is a remembrance page here on Harrison’s blog.
Related articles previously published on SFScope:
Harry Harrison named SFWA Grand Master (18 July 2008)