Harry Harrison died today. I think I wanted to be him when I grew up. Him, or Daniel M. Pinkwater.
You might remember Harrison as the creator of The Stainless Steel Rat, Make Room! Make Room!(source for Soylent Green),and Bill, The Galactic Hero. I remember him for all those things and many others — not least of which was Deathworld, a trilogy of novels I got turned onto by my friend James Carstensen (where are you now, man?), which summed up Harrison's anti-war stance via a clever extended metaphor. He wrote prolifically, right up until the end, a habit and a trait I valued tremendously, and did his best not to repeat himself.
Among my unsung favorites of his was One Step From Earth, a collection of stories that used the gadget concept of matter transmission to explore a future history of humanity — everything from the first man transmitted to Mars in 1993 to mankind's disappearance from the universe. Another one of his many to fall sadly out of print, and like Deathworld before it, one which would have made a great and unconventional SF movie.
I never did meet the man, and I regret that. He was one of the few SF authors I not only read but admired as a person, someone whose stances on life and man's place in the universe were intelligent and humane. He disliked the military, having served in it himself, and his distaste stood apart from the pack of Baen/Tor spear-rattlers — where they were writing The Red Badge of Courage, so to speak, he was writing The Good Soldier Švejk. "My generation of writers were all fans," he said in a Locus interview, a situation that seems to have only deepened with the growth of fandom into an industry unto itself.
He will be missed, but I'm sure he'll be remembered. I also hope he will be emulated.