March 12, 1925 - August 15, 2012
Harry Harrison was a famous American science fiction writer and comic book illustrator, the author of some of the most influential works in literature, a world traveler and promoter of Esperanto.
Harry Harrison - The Wandering Star
Harry Max Harrison was born in Stamford, Connecticut, to the family of Henry Dempsey, the son of Irish immigrants, and Ria Kirjassoff, who emigrated to the US from Riga (Lithuania , then - Russian Empire ). His mother came from a well regarded family in Riga, Latvia (then Russian Empire); her brother Max David Kirjassoff had been an American consul in Japan, who died in the destructive earthquake in Yokohama in 1923.
His father, infatuated with his newborn son, officially changed his surname from Dempsey to Harrison. This was kept in secret from the Harry, who found out about the change only in his 30s and immediately changed his name in honor of his father.
Harry took his original name Henry Dempsey as his pen name, becoming the only writer in history who used his real name as his pseudonym!
Harrison took an early interest in science fiction comic books and loved drawing, but had to postpone any aspirations in this avenue due to the breakout of World War II. In 1943, soon after graduating from high school, he was drafted into the US Air Force and became a specialist in computer-assisted aiming devices for bombers, a gunnery instructor and even a sharpshooter! Despite being quite a successful military specialist, he hated his job and this would show in his works - his characters were markedly anti-violence, anti-authority and anti-military.
After the war, he started writing and illustrating for several sci-fi magazines, and in the 50s and 60s was the main writer of the Flash Gordon newspaper strip, collaborating with a number of other writers. When the market of comics started to disappear, Harrison switched over to full-time writing. In 1960-61 he published his first signature works, Deathworld and The Stainless Steel Rat.
Harrison's personal life was a reflection of his worldview. He toured around the world, visiting at least 50 countries and living for a long time in Ireland, Denmark and Great Britain. Because of his frequent travels, he was fluent in seven languages and was an expert in Esperanto, becoming one of the most prominent advocates of the language in America and Europe.
In 1950 he married Evelyn Harrison, whom he would later depict as one of the characters in his comics. The marriage lasted only four years - the writer divorced and in the same year married Joan Merkler Harrison, who gave him two daughters.
One of his best known novels, Make room! Make room!, which was made into the award-winning Soylent Green movie in 1973 and for which he was awarded the prestigious Nebula prize, was dedicated to one of his daughters, Moyra Harrison.
In late 50s, the family moved to Ireland, where Harrison enjoyed tax-free status due to his trade, then - to Denmark, the best place to raise children in the writer's opinion, then - to California, the best place to save on heating, and then - to Great Britain, where he stayed for the rest of his life and where he created some of his most unusual works: Russian/Lithuanian/Polish-only Deathworld sequels in cooperation with Ant Skalandis.
The writer died of old age (87) on August 15, 2012.
Von Ruff, Al. "Harry Harrison - Summary Bibliography". Internet Speculative Fiction Database.
"Harry Harrison, 1925-2012". Tor Books. August 2012.