Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Harry Harrison

I was 23 when I met Harry Harrison, thirty years ago. We met at Seacon 84, a science fiction convention in Brighton. I asked him if I could interview him for Knave, and he said yes. We did the interview, and took photos, around the Natural History Museum, as Harry had written a novel called West of Eden, about intelligent dinosaurs.

I'd been a fan of Harry's since reading the first Stainless Steel Rat story in an ancient copy of Astounding Science Fiction I'd found as a boy. I'd loved his books and stories. I had them all.

I instantly and hugely liked the man - and his wife, Joan, of whom I said on this blog, when she died, a decade ago,

 Joan was the kind of person who made you feel, instantly, like family, if she liked you, and she liked me. When they'd talk about the famous SF people of the 40s, 50s and 60s, she was the one who'd say things like, "Well, of course his wife left him, and I couldn't blame her, it was just after that party, the one where he hit Bob Sheckley with a glass ashtray, you remember, Harry?" giving me a much more interesting and personal version of the history of the Science Fiction field than I might otherwise have had.

Harry agreed to write (for nothing, which was good as Kim and I had no money) an introduction to my first SF related book, Ghastly Beyond Belief, by me and Kim Newman - a huge boost and vote of confidence for two nervous young authors.

We stayed friends as years passed.

He was crusty, curmudgeonly, opinionated and a real delight to know. We last had quality time in 2004, when we had breakfast together in Boston.

I heard this morning that Harry had passed away.

I went looking for the original interview to post here. I could only find the last two pages, but seeing they end with Harry Harrison's advice to young writers, here they are. (If you click, they should be readable.)

Edit to add, Shield Bonnichsen just sent me the missing pages. Here's the whole interview.

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