Fifty stories for fifty years!
A collection-and celebration-of the work of Harry Harrison
From his first sale in 1950 on, Harry Harrison has been one of the science fiction world's creative dynamos, working in every subgenre of the field, always bursting with provocative ideas. Parodic one moment, serious the next, Harrison has been called by Brian Aldiss "one of the few authors capable of carrying the old vigor of earlier days forward into a new epoch."
On the occasion of his fiftieth anniversary as a professional writer, Harrison has gathered together fifty of his best stories-one for each year-along with substantial notes and introductory material. 50 in 50 is at once a memoir, a compendium of an engaging body of work, and a look at the history of science fiction in the second half of the 20th century.
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Harry Harrison is the author of Deathworld, Make Room! Make Room! (filmed as Soylent Green), the popular Stainless Steel Rat books, and many other famous works of SF.
50 in 50
ALIEN SHORES I am one of those doubters who believe that UFOs and alien contacts are just mere figments of imagination, part of mankind's demented search for help from supernatural powers. Big daddy in the sky defying all logic--as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind--drops down to save mankind. Not only don't I believe in salvation by aliens, but I also doubt quite strongly that there is anyone out there to send us SETI signals. It would sure be nice to chat with neighbors from the stars; I doubt if we ever will. That doesn't mean, though, that I can't write about aliens. I don't believe in time machines either--or faster-than-light travel. This does not stop me from writing stories using these themes. They are important SF hardware, and are there to be utilized. The alien-as-other is too rich a seam not to be mined. And distant planets are there to be mined as well. We visited the moon in fiction long before the astronauts walked on it. Exploring other planets is just another step in the same direction. So these stories of alien shires divide neatly between tales of physical adventure on distant planets--and close encounters of a fictional kind. The Streets of Ashkelon Somewhere above, hidden by the eternal clouds of Wesker's World, a thunder rumbled and grew. Trader Garth stopped suddenly when he heard it, his boots sinking slowly into the muck, and cupped his good ear to catch the sound. It swelled and waned in the thick atmosphere, growing louder. "That noise is the same as the noise of your sky-ship," Itin said, with stolid Wesker logicality, slowly pulverizing the idea in his mind and turning over the bits one by one for closer examination. "But your ship is still sitting where you landed it. It must be, even though we cannot see it, because you are the only one who can operate it. And even if anyone else could operate it we would have heard it rising into the sky. Since we did not, and if this sound is a sky-ship sound, then it must mean--" "Yes, another ship," Garth said, too absorbed in his own thoughts to wait for the laborious Weskerian chains of logic to clank their way through to the end. Of course it was another spacer, it had been only a matter of time before one appeared, and undoubtedly this one was homing on the S.S radar reflector as he had done. His own ship would show up clearly on the newcomer's screen and they would probably set down as close to it as they could. "You better go ahead, Itin," he said. "Use the water so you can get to the village quickly. Tell everyone to get back into the swamps, well clear of the hard ground. That ship is landing on instruments and anyone underneath at touchdown is going to be cooked." This immediate threat was clear enough to the little Wesker amphibian. Before Garth had finished speaking Itin's ribbed ears had folded like a bat's wings and he slipped silently into the nearby canal. Garth squelched on through the mud, making as good time as he could over the clinging surface. He had just reached the fringes of the village clearing when the rumbling grew to a head-splitting roar and the spacer broke through the low-hanging layer of clouds above. Garth shielded his eyes from the down-reaching tongue of flame and examined the growing form of the gray-black ship with mixed feelings. After almost a standard year on Wesker's World he had to fight down a longing for human companionship of any kind. While this buried fragment of herd-spirit chattered for the rest of the monkey tribe, his trader's mind was busily drawing a line under a column offigures and adding up the total. This could very well be another trader's ship, and if it was his monopoly of the Wesker's trade was at an end. Then again, this might not be a trader at all, which was the reason he stayed in the shelter of the giant fern and loosened his gun in its holster. The ship baked dry a hundred square meters of mud, the roaring blast died, and the landing feet crunched down through the crackling crust. Metal creaked and settled into place while the cloud of smoke and steam slowly drifted lower in the humid air. "Garth--you native-cheating extortionist--where are you?" the ship's speaker boomed. The lines of the spacer had looked only slightly familiar, but there was no mistaking the rasping tones of that voice. Garth had a twisted smile when he stepped out into the open and whistled shrilly through two fingers. A directional microphone ground out of its casing on the ship's fin and turned in his direction. "What are you doing here, Singh?" he shouted towards the mike. "Too crooked to find a planet of your own and have to come here to steal an honest trader's profits?" "Honest!" the amplified voice roared. "This from the man who has been in more jails than cathouses--and that a goodly number in itself, I do declare. Sorry, friend of my youth, but I cannot join you in exploiting this aboriginal pesthole. I am on course to a more fairly at-mosphered world where a fortune is waiting to be made. I only stopped here since an opportunity presented, to turn an honest credit by running a taxi service. I bring you friendship, the perfect companionship, a man in a different line of business who might help you in yours. I'd come out and say hello myself, except I would have to decon for biologicals. I'm cycling the passenger through the lock so I hope you won't mind helping with his luggage." At least there would be no other trader on the planet now, that worry was gone. But Garth still wondered what sort of passenger would be taking one-way passage to an undeveloped world. And what was behind that concealed hint of merriment in Singh's voice? He walked around to the far side of the spacer where the ramp had dropped, and looked up at the man in the cargo lock who was wrestling ineffectually with a large crate. The man turned towards him and Garth saw the clerical dog-collar and knew just what it was Singh had been chuckling about. "What are you doing here?" Garth asked, and in spite of his attempt at self-control he snapped the words. If the man noticed this he ignored it, because he was still smiling and putting out his hand as he came down the ramp. "Father Mark," he said, "of the Missionary Society of Brothers. I'm very pleased to meet--" "I said what are you doing here." Garth's voice was under controlnow, quiet and cold. He knew what had to be done, and it must be done quickly or not at all. "That should be obvious," Father Mark said, his good nature still unruffled. "Our missionary society has raised funds to send spiritual emissaries to alien worlds for the first time. I was lucky enough--" "Take your luggage and get back into the ship. You're not wanted here--and have no permission to land. You'll be a liability and there is no one on Wesker's World to take care of you. Get back into the ship." "I don't know who you are sir, or why you are lying to me," the priest said. He was still calm but the smile was gone. "But I have studied galactic law and the history of this planet very well. There are no diseases or beasts here that I should have any particular fear of. It is also an open planet, and until the Space Survey changes that status I have as much right to be here as you do." The man was of course right, but Garth couldn't let him know that. He had been bluffing, hoping the priest didn't know his rights. But he did. There was only one distasteful course left for him, and he had better do it while there was still time. "Get back in that ship," he shouted, not hiding his anger now. With a smooth motion his gun was out of the holster and the pitted black muzzle only inches from the priest's stomach. The man's face turned white, but he did not move. "What the hell are you doing, Garth?!" Singh's shocked voice grated from the speaker. "The guy paid his fare and you have no rights at all to throw him off the planet." "I have this right," Garth said, raising his gun and sighting between the priest's eyes. "I give him thirty seconds to get back aboard the ship or I pull the trigger." "Well, I think you are either off your head or playing a joke," Singh's exasperated voice rasped down at them. "If it is a joke, it is in bad taste. But either way you're not getting away with it. Two can play at that game--only I can play it better." There was the rumble of heavy bearings and the remote-controlled four-gun turret on the ship's side rotated and pointed at Garth. "Now--down gun and give Father Mark a hand with the luggage," the speaker commanded, a trace of humor back in the voice now. "As much as I would like to help, Old Friend, I cannot. I feel it is time you had a chance to talk to the father; after all, I have had the opportunity of speaking with him all the way from Earth." Garth jammed the gun back into the holster with an acute feeling of loss. Father Mark stepped forward, the winning smile back now and a Bible, taken from a pocket of his robe, in his raised hand. "My son--" he said. "I'm not your son," was all Garth could choke out as the bitterness and defeat welled up within him. His fist drew back as the anger rose, and the best he could do was open the fist so he struck only with the flat of his hand. Still the blow sent the priest crashing to the ground and hurled the white pages of the book splattering into the thick mud. Itin and the other Weskers had watched everything with seemingly emotionless interest. Garth made no attempt to answer their unspoken questions. He started towards his house, but turned back when he saw they were still unmoving. "A new man has come," he told them. "He will need help with the things he has brought. If he doesn't have any place for them, you can put them in the big warehouse until he has a place of his own." He watched them waddle across the clearing towards the ship, then went inside and gained a certain satisfaction from slammin...
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