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Willis E. McNelly Science Fiction Collection: Harry Harrison

Identifier: SC-06-HH

Scope and Contents

The collection contains manuscripts, books, and the authors correspondence and papers covering 15 anthologies, 22 novels, and dozens of short stories and articles.


  • 1962 - 1980


Biographical / Historical

Harry Harrison was born in March 1925. After finishing school, he was drafted into the army - this being World War II - where he learned both to shoot guns and repair analogue computers. Leaving the army at the end of the war, Harrison signed up for art college, but before he'd finished the course, he'd teamed up with Wally Wood and was producing professional comic book art: they did cowboy stories, and romance stories, and romantic cowboy stories. They also drew horror and science fiction stories for a company called EC Comics.

When the comic book boom came to an end, Harrison moved from drawing to writing; he wanted to be a science fiction writer, but discovered that he could make twice as much money writing 'true' stories for adventure magazines: stories like 'I Ate A Pygmy' appeared, accompanied by photographic 'evidence.' During this period there were also occasional forays into writing mystery stories, plus comic scripts for The Saint newspaper strip, and even a ghosted novel for Leslie Charteris (Vendetta for the Saint, filmed for TV years later). The writing paid the bills, but wasn't artistically satisfying: a few SF short stories written during this period were what Harrison really wanted to do. One of them, published in 1957 in Astounding, introduced a character which would stay with him for the next forty-odd years. The story was called 'The Stainless Steel Rat.'

Encouraged by John W. Campbell, Harrison wrote his first SF novel, Deathworld. Half-a-dozen more were to follow, some of them straight SF adventure novels, others a little more tongue in cheek. At the same time, he wrote the scripts for the Flash Gordon newspaper comic strips. A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah! was one of the 'Campbell era' novels, and was Harrison's first 'alternate history' novel. Stonehenge would come a little later, and later still the bestselling trilogies West of Eden, Hammer and the Cross, and Stars and Stripes.

Needing to flex his artistic muscles, Harrison wrote Bill, the Galactic Hero (1964) - an attack on the military and on militaristic SF - published in New Worlds. A number of daring and angry short stories were also written during this time.

Soylent Green marked Harrison's first brush with Hollywood. But his detective story set against the backdrop of dreadful overpopulation wasn't deemed dramatic enough, and so a cannibalism conspiracy was added to spice things up. Fortunately much of the novel's background appears on the screen, and there is Edward G. Robinson's last on-screen performance to enjoy.

Harrison novels were also successfully adapted for other media: radio plays and readings; a board game; at least one computer game; and - taking us full-circle - comic books, most notably 2000AD's excellent adaptations of the Stainless Steel Rat books.

In a professional career spanning sixty years, Harrison has produced in excess of 100 short stories, edited over 30 anthologies, and published more than 60 novels.


39 boxes

Language of Materials


Physical Location

Aisle 8B, Shelf 8-9

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the Patrons of the Library, 1974.

Willis E. McNelly Science Fiction Collection: Harry Harrison
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University Archives and Special Collections Repository

University Archives & Special Collections
Pollak Library South Room 352 (PLS 352)
Fullerton CA 92831-3599 USA
(657) 278-4751