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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Grist for the Mill » The Stainless Steel Rat has been caught...

   
Author Topic: The Stainless Steel Rat has been caught...
babooher
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RIP Harry Harrison. You'll be missed and loved.
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snapper
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I miss him already. So much he has done.

Stainless Steel Rat
Bill the Galactic Hero
Deathworld
West of Eden

He left a mark on our society with Make Room, Make Room - the story that inspired the film Soylent Green

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LDWriter2
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Ahhh, indeed he will be missed.

Loved the SSR.

I forget if I read "West of Eden".

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Robert Nowall
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So I heard---on CBS Radio News on the way home from work, of all places. (Someone working there must be an SF fan...it isn't the first time I've heard of something like this from them.)

I can't say I was even into "Deathworld" or "Stainless Steel Rat," but I did enjoy his more recent "Stars and Stripes" alternate Civil War trilogy.

Also Harrison edited Astounding: John W. Campbell Memorial Anthology, one of the first anthologies I picked up, some of the stories proving to be influences on what I like and what I write.

(Looking over the title page of the book...it's sad to know that, now, nearly everybody who contributed is no longer with us...)

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History
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I have a number of his works on my shelves, most obtained in my youth when I could only afford SF Book Club editions and paperbacks.

I loved the romp with Slippery Jim in the first three Stainless Steel Rat books [and recall, after the many intervening decades, the ending scene in the first one where Jim feels he deserves some accolades for the successful completion of his mission and his boss takes out a gold star stamp (one of thouse our grade school teachers used to put on our papers), lick it, and stick it to his shirt]. Perfect.

I collected a number of his other books over the years (actually Bill the Galactic Hero is still unread) and read them when time permitted and when appropriately inspired, knowing I could count on a relatively quick and entertaining read. His Deathworld and To The Stars trilogies, for example (the latter with Jewish characters, to my surprise until I discovered his mother was of the Tribe). Later, I read his much longer and more adult Eden trilogy that occurs in parallel history when the dinosaurs did not become extinct and humans were slaves to a technically advanced saurian species. This series truly demonstrated his professional writing chops to me. A series worth reading and quite different than his other space operas.

He edited the excellent NOVA sf anthologies for Dell books with stories from some of the greatest writers of that day (Bradbury, Silverber, Dickson, Aldiss, Bryant, Triptree Jr, Bester, Farmer). And, yes, he edited Astounding: John W. Campbell Memorial Anthology, a truly wonderful collection. Great stuff, all.

Of his contemporaries, I say the late Keith Laumer was closest to him in style, with Retief and Slippery Jim being cut from the same mold--how great it woud have been to have them be in a story together! Interestingly both have made the transition to comic books, as did Deathworld. Jack Vance also comes to mind, especially his 5-book Demon Princes series. Vance, G-d bless, is still living though no longer writing in his 90's and, in my opinion, the better author (though admittedly this is merely a personal taste).

Another sad loss to science fiction. RIP, Harry.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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snapper
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The first chapter of Bill the Galactic Hero is the funniest opening to a book that I have ever read. Nothing set a tone for an entire series like that did. Loved the sequel but when Robert Scheckley co-wrote the third in the series - well lets just say I stillhave an intense hatred for Scheckley even though I have yet to read another work of his.

The Stainless Steel Rat is the fore-runner for the 13 line hook theory. He came up with the idea while practicing writing single page openings as an exercise to capture an editors attention (true stoy).

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wise
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His "West of Eden" series is one of my all-time favorites. The alternate history he developed was detailed and intriguing. Intelligent dinosaurs and their technology based on biology instead of artifacts thoroughly fascinated me. If you've never read it, I highly recommend it!
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by snapper:
The Stainless Steel Rat is the fore-runner for the 13 line hook theory. He came up with the idea while practicing writing single page openings as an exercise to capture an editors attention (true stoy).

Hmm, snapper, I didn't know that. Thanks for that information.

As I've said before, I based our 13-line limit on Damon Knight's offer on GEnie (a defunct online bulletin board) to read the first 13 lines for aspiring writers and tell them if he'd read on and why or why not.

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Robert Nowall
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Neglected to mention A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!, which was serializing in one of the first SF magazines I bought, which, I think, introduced to me to alternate-universe SF, too.

*****

I always thought the 13-line hook grew out of that being how many lines were on the title page of a story below the title...

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I always thought the 13-line hook grew out of that being how many lines were on the title page of a story below the title...

Exactly. And that was what Damon Knight based his offer to read on. He told us that the first 13 was what should go on the first manuscript page, and he offered to tell us if he'd turn the page or not. And why.
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snapper
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Let me clarify. Harry Harrison would write short openings for practice. He surmized the editors of the day received so many submissions that it was likely they would pass on most of them on the first page or two. He assumed if he captured an editors attention, it would be enough to get them to read his entire script. It was in one of those exercises that he produced the Stainless Steel Rat.

Although he never set a limit on the amount of lines, he did first come up with the concept of the hook.

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Robert Nowall
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I think I remember reading something from Harrison about his practice of that---but I did not think the, er, "codification" of the First Thirteen and the Hook came from Harrison...which proves nothing, actually.
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