One morning of Noreascon, the Worldcon in 2004, Harry Harrison called me. I answered my phone and there was this amazingly pleasant fellow, grand master of sf, chatting with me. Me! I bubbled about it for the rest of the con.
I'd met him the day before, in my role as at-con assistant to Neil Gaiman, who describes his friendship with him here. I hadn't thought about this incident until I read Neil's piece this morning. Because yeah, wow. I held it together meeting Harry Harrison. I stayed all businesslike, and gave him my phone number so he could call me to arrange having breakfast with Neil.
But then when he called me, well, of course we settled arrangements, and then he went on to ask how my con was going. Clearly from other memoirs I have read today, it was that sort of kindness that everyone remembers about him. I mean, besides his amazing writing, most of which I had already read when I met him.
The next day, they met for breakfast. I was there at the restaurant to make sure they met up all right, and they very sweetly invited me to join them. Regretfully, I had to go run the SFOHA table right then, so I couldn't stay. I really do regret that. I'm sure it would have been delightful.
But I will never forget answering that phone, hearing his voice saying his name, and telling people about it later. It wasn't like it was actually a personal call, yet he made it personal with his warmth and further conversation. And for all the instances of interacting with established authors I've enjoyed during my conrunning, I believe that was the one that most bowled me over. I mean, I was giddy when I got off the phone. I probably could have gotten away with staying for breakfast the next day, but I was too shy. And I'm not generally a shy person. But Harry Harrison was one of the greats. One of the giants.
So well known that I probably don't have to say anything about his writing right now, yet I'm going to mention that I was particularly impressed by the fantasy trilogy he wrote in the 90s, The Hammer and the Cross. I'd read a lot of such types of things by then, yet that stood out. And if you haven't read A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah, that's also a treat.
Rest in Peace, Harry Harrison. You were one of the good ones. Thank you for all that you did.