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Sci-fi author gives insight to lengthy career

Harry Harrison put the business of writing into perspective Tuesday afternoon when he told a small group what he said to a publisher who accused him of having no loyalty after Harrison left the publishing house.

“Yeah, I’ve got loyalty — to my wife’s dress bill, my kid’s school fees, [and] my drinking habit,” Harrison said.

The science fiction writer spoke in the Grace Allen room of the USF Library about his 50-year career.

He began his career in New York and has had books published in 33 languages since his first novel, Deathworld, was released in 1960. His works include such science fiction essentials as The Stainless Steel Rat and the novella Make Room! Make Room! which was the basis for the 1973 movie Soylent Green that starred Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson.

“My ambition is to write transparent prose,” Harrison explained. He said he admires writers like Ray Bradbury (author of Fahrenheit 451) who are able to write ornate “purple prose,” but he tries to write in a way that makes readers forget they are reading and absorbs them completely in the plot.

Harrison, who drew comics in the 1950s, said that even though he hated being a commercial artist, the experience had an impact on his writing.

“I’m a very visual writer, having been an artist,” he said.

Harrison has written several works of “alternate history,” which he said is a difficult endeavor most writers avoid. His 1999 novel Stars and Stripes Forever is based on the premise that an actual historical event — the seizure by the U.S. of two Confederate diplomats who were traveling to England on the British steamer Trent in 1861 — leads to war between America and Britain.

The Tampa campus Library holds a special collection of books, manuscripts, and correspondence given by the author. Harrison donated a handful of new items, including a spiral notebook of annotations for one of his novels, at his presentation.