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August 15 2012

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Jim Burns’ cover painting for Harry Harrison’s A Stainless Steel Rat is Born

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JIM BURNS (English b. 1948)
The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You, paperback cover, 1987
Oil on board
25 x 15.5 in.
Initialed lower left
This illustration was used on the cover of Harry Harrison’s novel, The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You!, Spectra/Bantam Books, 1988.

“Slippery Jim diGriz, the future’s master criminal turned super-spy, is recruiting for an all-out interstellar war. Loathsome, mind sucking creatures from an unknown star are closing in on Earth. Once again it’s up to the Stainless Steel Rat to save humanity. In a daring caper packed with action and laughs, the Rat goes undercover to stop the invasion-disguised as a hideous, bug-eyed extraterrestrial.”

(via JIM BURNS (English b. 1948) The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You!: Lot 87101)

17:31
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Cover of The Stainless Steel Rat Gets Drafted, artwork by Jim Burns

If Harry Harrison had only created “Slippery” Jim DiGriz, the roguish hero of the Stainless Steel Rat books, he would deserve a high place in science fiction history. But he also wrote dozens of other novels, including the hilarious Bill the Galactic Hero saga, the proto-Steampunk classic A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!, and the novel that became the movie Soylent Green, Make Room! Make Room!.

Amazingly, Harrison kept writing great novels, with the last Stainless Steel Rat book coming out just two years ago. He died today, aged 87, according to his official website. No details are yet known.

There are few really great comic space opera novels, aside from Douglas Adams. And Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat books qualify — Jim DiGriz is a really inspired creation, a rogue smuggler created years before Han Solo existed. Even as “Slippery” Jim sort of goes straight in the later books, he never stops being a source of ridiculous fun, and his romance with the equally criminal and devious Angelina is a really sweet, heartfelt relationship. I read the Stainless Steel Rat books at a very impressionable age, and a lot of clever bits stick in my mind — like the bit where “Slippery” Jim explains that intergalactic empires are impossible due to the problems with travel at relativistic speeds. This series was always smarter than a lot of other space operas, even alongside its gratifying levels of silliness. …

(via R.I.P. Harry Harrison, creator of the Stainless Steel Rat, Bill the Galactic Hero, and Soylent Green)

17:23

Harry Harrison obituary | Books | The Guardian

Harry Harrison, who has died aged 87, was a writer from the world of American comics and science-fiction magazines of the 1950s. An amazingly prolific author, who gradually took on more serious themes as he matured, Harrison is probably best known for the book that inspired the Hollywood film Soylent Green (1973). Directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charlton Heston and Edward G Robinson, Soylent Green was an uncompromising view of a world a quarter of a century into the future, in which massive overpopulation has created a critical food shortage. The solution is an alleged soya/lentil substitute – the plot concerns the discovery of the true nature of the stuff.

The original novel was called Make Room! Make Room! (1966). Harrison said wryly that the film “at times bore a faint resemblance to the book”. It was a serious, thoroughly researched novel, written at a time when there was little discussion of the population time-bomb. Although overpopulation was a common theme in far-future science fiction, Harrison’s idea was to depict a near-future society (year 2000) that many of us, or our children, would live to see. It marked a change of direction for Harrison, although it was an early sign of a trend in his work that was not to emerge in full until some years later.

His most popular and best-known work is contained in fast-moving parodies, homages or even straight reconstructions of traditional space-opera adventures. He wrote several named series of these: notably the Deathworld series (three titles, starting in 1960), the Stainless Steel Rat books (12 titles, from 1961), and the sequence of books about Bill, the Galactic Hero (seven titles, from 1965). These books all present interesting contradictions. While being exactly what they might superficially seem to be, unpretentious action novels with a strong streak of humour, they are also satirical, knowing, subversive, unapologetically anti-military, anti-authority and anti-violence. Harrison wrote such novels in the idiom of the politically conservative hack writer, but in reality he had a liberal conscience and a sharp awareness of the lack of literary values in so much of the SF he was parodying. …

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