Harry Harrison is gone, and the world loses an icon
My heroes have always been authors. Likewise, authors are my rock stars, and Harry Harrison rocked the page. I promise you that long after everyone has forgotten the lyrics to Rock Around the Clock, someone, somewhere will still be shouting, “Soylent Green is people!”
I didn’t really know Harry, but I got to meet him and hang out with him a little bit at the Campbell Conference here in Lawrence back in 2005. (I tried not to fanboy too much, and think I may have escaped with a tiny bit of dignity intact. I may or may not have giggled like a twelve-year-old schoolgirl at a certain point during a certain party. Accounts vary, and I will neither confirm nor deny.)
Harry and Brian Aldiss (who I also got to meet at the conference) together in person were like the Rowan and Martin of science fiction—especially after a couple of drinks. One of the high points of the conference (for me, anyway) was Brian and Harry sharing little anecdotes like the one about when they were drinking heavily while editing an anthology, and one of them wondered aloud (they seemed unclear on who came up with the idea first) if they could get away with choosing the final story without even reading it. Apparently the alcohol made it seem like a good idea, because that’s exactly what they did. As Harry quipped, “We just tell everybody Johnny Walker picked that story.”
That may not even sound that amusing or important to someone who wasn’t there, but it was important to me, both as a fan, and as an unknown author who at that time hadn’t even been published. Not even the story itself, but that they were willing to share it. Not only were they willing to step down from the pedestal we put them on, they didn’t acknowledge the pedestal to begin with. That’s not to say that Harry would hesitate to let you know if you said something stupid, because yeah, he’d definitely let you know. I don’t know if he was that way all the time, but I suspect so, and I liked that about him.
So yeah. Harry, I never really knew you, except through your stories, but I miss knowing you’re out there. We all do.