Harry Harrison

On this date in 1925, American science fiction author and editor Harry Harrison (ne Henry Maxwell Dempsey) was born in Stamford, Conn. His mother was Russian (from Latvia) and his father, of Irish descent, was born in New York state. Growing up in New York City, Harrison spent a lot of time alone, excelling in science at school and devouring science fiction books. At age 13, he was one of the founding members of the Queens chapter of the Science Fiction League. He graduated high school in 1943 and immediately joined the United States Air Corps, where high marks on technical aptitude tests secured him training in computers. Discharged in 1946, Harrison enrolled in the Cartoonists and Illustrators School in New York City where he met many artists who gained prominence in the comic book industry. Harrison became an exemplary comic book artist himself, designing hundreds pages of comics and comic book covers over the next few years, including Worlds Beyond: A Magazine of Science Fiction Fantasy. As the Red Scare in the 1950s advanced, comic books became a political target, blamed for “corrupting America’s youth.” The comic book boom came to an end, forcing artists like Harrison to take up other trades. Harrison stuck with his childhood love of science fiction and began writing science fiction stories, which came naturally to him. He was one of the main writers of the Flash Gordon comic strip in the 1950s and 1960s. One of his novels, Make Room! Make Room! (1966), was the basis of the sci-fi classic film “Soylent Green” (1973). Some of his other prominent books (there are dozens) include The Stainless Steel Rat (1961), Bill, the Galactic Hero (1965), The Technicolor Time Machine (1967) and A Rebel in Time (1983). Harrison married Joan Merkler, a dress designer and ballet dancer, in 1954 and they had two children together. Joan died in 2002. Harrison, who has lived in Mexico, England, and other countries, currently resides in the Republic of Ireland. 

“We atheists lead happy lives, never concerned with the-dying-and-burn forever-in-hell nonsense. We know better. We enjoy happiness with our friends and neighbors and ignore all the greed and rituals that pay the parasite priests. Let them wallow in their medieval superstition while we enjoy all the wonders of our God-free universe.”

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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