Harry Harrison (writer)

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Each of us has only this one brief experience with the bright light of consciousness in that endless dark night of eternity and must make the most of it. Doing this means we must respect the existence of everyone else and the most criminal act imaginable is the terminating of one of these conscious existences.

Harry Harrison is the pen name of Henry Maxwell Dempsey (12 March 192515 August 2012), an American science fiction author most famous for his character the Stainless Steel Rat and the novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966), the basis for the film Soylent Green (1973).

Quotes[edit]

Just because you know a thing is true in theory, doesn't make it true in fact.

Deathworld (1960)[edit]

  • With a mental effort, he grabbed hold of his thoughts and braked them to a stop. There was something new here, factors he hadn't counted on. He kept reassuring himself there was an explanation for everything, once you had your facts straight.
    • p. 85
  • The compartment was getting crowded as other Pyrrans pushed in. Kerk, almost to the door, turned back to face Jason.
    "I'll tell you what's wrong with armistice," he said. "It's a coward's way out, that's what it is. It's all right for you to suggest it, you're from off-world and don't know any better. But do you honestly think I could entertain such a defeatist notion for one instant? When I speak, I speak not only for myself, but for all of us here. We don't mind fighting, and we know how to do it. We know that if this war was over we could build a better world here. At the same time, if we have the choice of continued war or a cowardly peace — we vote for war. This war will only be over when the enemy is utterly destroyed!"
    The listening Pyrrans murmured in agreement, and Jason had to shout to be heard above them. "That's really wonderful. I bet you even think it's original. But don't you hear all that cheering offstage? Those are the spirits of every saber-rattling sonofabitch that ever plugged for noble war. They even recognize the old slogan. We're on the side of light, and the enemy is a creature of darkness. And it doesn't matter a damn if the other side is saying the same thing. You've still got the same old words that have been killing people since the birth of the human race. A 'cowardly peace,' that's a good one. Peace means not being at war, not fighting. How can you have a cowardly not-fighting. What are you trying to hide with this semantic confusion? Your real reasons? I can't blame you for being ashamed of them — I would be. Why don't you just come out and say you are keeping the war going because you enjoy killing? Seeing things die makes you and your murderers happy, and you want to make them happier still!"
    • p. 112
  • "What about it, Meta?" he snapped. "No doubts? Do you think that destruction is the only way to end this war?"
    "I don't know," she said. "I can't be sure. For the first time in my life I find myself with more than one answer to the same question."
    "Congratulations," he said. "It's a sign of growing up."
    • p. 113
  • Just because you know a thing is true in theory, doesn't make it true in fact. The barbaric religions of primitive worlds hold not a germ of scientific fact, though they claim to explain all. Yet if one of these savages has all the logical ground for his beliefs taken away — he doesn't stop believing. He then calls his mistaken beliefs 'faith' because he knows they are right. And he knows they are right because he has faith. This is an unbreakable circle of false logic that can't be touched. In reality, it is plain mental inertia. A case of thinking 'what always was' will also 'always be.' And not wanting to blast the thinking patterns out of the old rut.
    • p. 151
  • The crossbows twanged like harps of death.
    • p. 154

The Stainless Steel Rat[edit]

Quotes from stories involving the character James Bolivar DiGriz aka "Slippery Jim"" aka "The Stainless Steel Rat"
I was going to keep on doing the loneliest job in the universe — only I wasn't going to be doing it alone.
We must be as stealthy as rats in the wainscoting of their society. … Only a stainless steel rat can be at home in this environment.
  • When the office door opened suddenly I knew the game was up. It had been a money-maker — but it was all over. As the cop walked in I sat back in the chair and put on a happy grin. He had the same sombre expression and heavy foot that they all have — and the same lack of humour. I almost knew to the word what he was going to say before he uttered a syllable.
    "James Bolivar diGriz I arrest you on the charge—"
    I was waiting for the word charge, I thought it made a nice touch that way. As he said it I pressed the button that set off the charge of black powder in the ceiling, the crossbeam buckled and the three-ton safe dropped through right on the top of the cop's head. He squashed very nicely, thank you. The cloud of plaster dust settled and all I could see of him was one hand, slightly crumpled. It twitched a bit and the index finger pointed at me accusingly. His voice was a little muffled by the safe and sounded a bit annoyed. In fact he repeated himself a bit.
    "On the charge of illegal entry, theft, forgery—"
    He ran on like that for quite a while, it was an impressive list but I had heard it all before. I didn't let it interfere with my stuffing all the money from the desk drawers into my suitcase. The list ended with a new charge and I would swear on a stack of thousand credit notes that high that there was a hurt tone in his voice.
    "In addition the charge of assaulting a police robot will be added to your record."
  • You're not a homicidal, I checked that on your record before I came out after you. That is why I know you will join the Corps and get a great deal of pleasure out of going after the other kind of criminal who is sick, not just socially protesting. The man who can kill and enjoy it.
    • Inskipp the Uncatchable, recruiting Jim diGriz into the Special Corps, in "The Stainless Steel Rat" in Astounding magazine (August 1957)
  • The human race is gregarious, I knew that even though I had been denying it for years.
    I was going to keep on doing the loneliest job in the universe — only I wasn't going to be doing it alone.
    • Jim diGriz, in "The Stainless Steel Rat" in Astounding magazine (August 1957)
  • Cold-blooded killing is just not my thing. I've killed in self-defence, I'll not deny that, but I still maintain an exaggerated respect for life in all forms. Now that we know that the only thing on the other side of the sky is more sky, the idea of an afterlife has finally been slid into the history books alongside the rest of the quaint and forgotten religions. With heaven and hell gone we are faced with the necessity of making a heaven or hell right here. What with societies and metatechnology and allied disciplines we have come a long way and life on the civilised worlds is better than it was during the black days of superstition. But with the improving of here and now comes the stark realisation that here and now is all we have. Each of us has only this one brief experience with the bright light of consciousness in that endless dark night of eternity and must make the most of it. Doing this means we must respect the existence of everyone else and the most criminal act imaginable is the terminating of one of these conscious existences.
    • The Stainless Steel Rat's Revenge (1970)
  • We must be as stealthy as rats in the wainscoting of their society. It was easier in the old days, of course, and society had more rats when the rules were looser, just as old wooden buildings have more rats than concrete buildings. But there are rats in the building now as well. Now that society is all ferrocrete and stainless steel there are fewer gaps in the joints. It takes a very smart rat indeed to find these openings. Only a stainless steel rat can be at home in this environment.
    • A Stainless Steel Rat is Born (1985)


Misattributed[edit]

  • The principles we live by, in business and in social life, are the most important part of happiness.
    • This is the radio personality Harry Harrison (born 20 September 1930), quoted in Think Vol. 21, No. 1 (January 1955), and The Book of Positive Quotations (2007) edited by John Cook, Steve Deger, and Leslie Ann Gibson

External links[edit]

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