PASSINGS: Harry Harrison, Nellie Gray

Harry Harrison

Science fiction author's work inspired 'Soylent Green'

Harry Harrison, 87, an author whose space-age spoofs delighted generations of science fiction fans, died Wednesday in southern England, according to his friend and fellow sci-fi writer Michael Carroll.

Harrison was a prolific writer whose works included tongue-in-cheek intergalactic action romps and dystopian fantasies, with detours through children's stories and shambolic crime capers.

He was best known for his "The Stainless Steel Rat" series, starring the free-spirited antihero Slippery Jim DiGriz, a quick-witted con man who travels the universe swindling humans, aliens and robots alike.

Harrison's 1966 work "Make Room! Make Room!" — a sci-fi take on the horrors of overpopulation — inspired the 1973 film "Soylent Green" starring Charlton Heston.

Most of Harrison's books delivered a stream of sly humor with a big bucket of action, Carroll said.

"Imagine 'Pirates of the Caribbean' or 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' and picture them as science-fiction novels," he said. "They're rip-roaring adventures, but they're stories with a lot of heart."

Born March 12, 1925, in Stamford, Conn., Harrison served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II before working as a commercial artist.

He eventually became one of science fiction's leading writers, turning out more than 70 books and short stories. Among them was "Bill, the Galactic Hero," a send-up of Robert Heinlein's hard-edged "Starship Troopers," and "The Technicolor Time Machine," which took aim at Hollywood.

Nellie Gray

Antiabortion activist founded yearly march

Nellie Gray, 88, who was the founder and chief organizer of an annual antiabortion march in Washington and helped lead efforts to overturn the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, was found dead Monday at her Washington home, where she had lived alone.

Her death appeared to be from natural causes, said Gene Ruane, an administrator with the March for Life Education and Defense Fund who found her body when he arrived at her home for a meeting.

Gray was a lawyer and former federal employee who quit her job and devoted herself full time to the antiabortion movement after the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision.

She was one of a few dozen abortion opponents who organized the first March for Life on the first anniversary of the ruling. The event remains one of the largest annual protests in Washington, and leading antiabortion politicians frequently address the crowd.

Gray was the primary organizer of the march throughout its 38-year history. A lifelong Catholic who did not marry or have children, she used the phrase "no exceptions, no compromise" to sum up her belief that life begins at conception and abortion should be illegal.

Born June 25, 1924, and raised in Big Spring, Texas, Gray joined the Women's Army Corps during World War II and served in Europe. After the war, she worked for the State Department and the Labor Department and earned a law degree from Georgetown University.

Gray founded the nonprofit March for Life Education and Defense Fund shortly after the first protest gathering in 1974 and served as president of the group until her death.

-- Times staff and wire reports

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