Apologies for the lack of posts recently – I just upgraded to a new PC at home, and on the grounds that too much change can’t possibly be a bad thing, I’m also upgrading to a OS (Vista), and new versions of favourite applications, such as my OCR software: I’ve been using a version of OmniPage I got free on a magazine cover disk ages ago — it has served well for converting various bits of stuff for the website, the blog, and virtually all of the short stories for Harry’s 50 in 50 collection, but it’stime to try a newer version…

Still don’t have internet access on the PC at home, or my scanners working, but hopefully will be up and running by weekend.

In the meantime, here’s something I OCR’d a while back – a piece HH wrote for the 1987 WorldCon convention book. Contributors were asked to write on the theme of ‘breakthroughs,’ if I remember correctly, and this is what Harry wrote…


If a writer really cares about his art and his craft, then acquiring the skills to become an author can be a very exciting process. 

Talking with other writers, editors, literate readers; reading with insight, analysing and cogitating; all of these are a great aid. But they make up only a small percentage of the total gestalt of a writer’s skills. They should happen almost daily and should also be an ongoing process. Any writer whose reach does not exceed his grasp is loafing or on the skids — or both. 

But breakthroughs are exceedingly rare. I can remember only one that was truly important. By hindsight it might be considered obvious; most simple and vital things are. Or why didn’t you invent the paperclip first and get rich? 

Like many other SF authors I grew up in science fiction. I read all kinds of fiction — but liked SF the best. So when I started to write this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to read more of the kind of SF I liked. So at first I was more than happy to think as, and be, an Astounding-Analog author. Campbell was God and his magazine was prophecy. He liked my work, as did his readers, and it was a wonder to be alive in that world. 

Critical analysis came slowly. Fine as Astounding-Analog was it had been born in the pulps — as had the authors. This was a stricture. More than just the lack of profanity, absence of breasts, importance of action, necessity of back-plotting. It was the overall attitude. The absolute taking for granted that SF had built-in limitations, could never compete with the Joyces and the Faulkners. 

Which is nonsense. Literature is literature, prose is prose. 

The breakthrough I had was that all of the restrictions on SF were inside my head. If I felt the profanity taboo was a good thing I would never even consider a plot development that might contain a world like damp. If I thought that SF was a second-rate field of literary endeavour, as many fantasy writers today obviously do, then everything that I wrote would be second-rate. Thought control is self-imposed. Realise that you are free to create in any way you want and you are free. 

So after writing Deathworld at least five times under various guises I wrote Bill, the Galactic Hero. Read it and you will understand.   

From: Frontier Crossings: A Souvenir of the 45th World Science Fiction Convention. London: Science Fiction Conventions, Ltd., 1987.


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