It was 1973. My husband and I rushed to the Crosstown Theatre to see the new screen adaptation of Harry Harrison’s novel Make Room! Make Room! Most of you won’t remember the Crosstown, any more than you will know this story as the basis for the movie Soylent Green. Few were prepared for the dystopian right hook to the jaw that was Harrison’s contribution to the national zeitgeist. Now there are few of us who can forget Heston’s anguished cry,“Soylent Green is people!”
There was even more to the man: He wrote of Jim Bolivar DiGriz, a.k.a Slippery Jim DiGriz, The Stainless Steel Rat. Slippery Jim was a con man with morals, a man who could slip through the walls of convention with skill and great tongue-in-cheek (hence the title of Stainless Steel Rat). He stood up for the little guy. He killed only once, and then agonized over this transgression. Where so many classics of Science Fiction are rooted in time and place, there is a timelessness in these stories of moral thieves and evil lawmen that keeps them fresh and new. Many critics dismiss these books, and yet they all adore them.
Harrison wrote some of the novels of The Saint, even though the original author’s name appears on the cover. He wrote a treatise on sex in Science Fiction art called, believe it or not, Great Balls of Fire! He was prolific, he was an artist, and he left an indelible mark on my life.