Harry Harrison! Harry Harrison!

Harry Harrison
Harry Harrison! Harry Harrison! Cover

Harry Harrison! Harry Harrison!: A Memoir by Harry Harrison


I picked this up on a whim, not expecting too much out of it, but it turned out that Harrison had quite an interesting career. He started out in comics, but soon turned to SF, and in the world of SF he was everything from fan to author to editor to critic to anthologist (including the Best SF series from 1967-75), and even his famous brush with Hollywood. He also co-created (with Brian Aldiss) the John W. Campbell award. In his personal life he lived all over the world - Mexico, Italy, Denmark, England, Ireland as well as NY, Texas and California.

The style of the book is something akin to Harrison sitting with you in a bar, telling stories over a beer (or three). Harrison seemed to have known practically everyone in the SF community, and he had stories about them all, as well as stories about all the places he'd lived. The stories had the feel of well-polished bar stories - fun to hear, but it's not clear how accurate they really were (at one point the editor felt impelled to point out that Harrison's chronology of events was off by several decades). Perhaps the most noticable issue with the book is the lack of objective analysis of his experience within the field. A glaring example was an offhand comment that, in retrospect, the creation of the John W. Campbell award was a mistake. Huh? Why? Harrison never says. Harrison also seemed to go out of his way to avoid introspection, as bourne out by the subtitle of the book: It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time. This is especially invoked when the question of his many moves comes up, whereas I've heard it said that tax avoidance was a primary motivation.

Anyhow, it was a fun but flawed book. Read this one with a large glass of your favorite libation at your elbow!