American author Harry Harrison, whose space-age spoofs delighted generations of science fiction fans, passed away, a friend said. He was 87.

Irish sci-fi writer Michael Carroll yesterday said in a telephone interview that he learned of Harrison’s passing from the author’s daughter, Moira, earlier in the day. He said Harry Harrison died in southern England, but didn’t have much further detail.

Harry Harrison was a prolific writer whose works ranged from tongue-in-cheek inter-galactic action romps to dystopian fantasies, with detours through children’s stories and shambolic crime capers.

Michael Carroll said most of the works delivered a stream of sly humour with a big bucket of action.

“Imagine ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ or ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and picture them as science fiction novels. They’re rip-roaring adventures, but they’re stories with a lot of heart,” he said.

Harry Harrison was best known for his “The Stainless Steel Rat” series, starring the free-spirited anti-hero Slippery Jim DiGriz, a quick-witted conman who travels the universe swindling humans, aliens and robots alike.

His 1966 work, “Make Room! Make Room!” a sci-fi take on the horrors of overpopulation inspired the 1973 film “Soylent Green” starring Charlton Heston.

Born in Stamford, Connecticut, in 1925, Harry Harrison served in the US Army Air Corps during World War II before working freelance as a commercial artist and eventually embarking on a long career as one of science fiction’s leading writers, turning out more than 70 books and short stories.

Among them was “Bill, the Galactic Hero” a send-up of Robert Heinlein’s hard-edged “Starship Troopers,” and “The Technicolour Time Machine,” which took aim at Hollywood.

Other works included anthologies, collections, and children’s stories including one particularly goofy tale about an intergalactic guerrilla force of mutant pigs.

Harry Harrison’s publisher, Tom Doherty, described him as an illustrator, an anthologist, a critic, and a friend.

(This article was published on August 16, 2012)
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