The Bill, the Galactic Hero Series Critical Essays

Harry Harrison


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Bill, the Galactic Hero books are designed to poke fun at a number of aspects of both science fiction and reality. From the outset, the books were a satire of space opera, a subgenre of science fiction consisting of adventure stories set in futuristic worlds or on spaceships. Harrison himself wrote such novels, the most famous being his Stainless Steel Rat series (1961-1987), involving an interplanetary intelligence operative.

Sequels to the original Bill, the Galactic Hero satirized more recent science fiction. In The Planet of Bottled Brains, Bill is rescued by the ship Gumption, run by Captain Dirk and First Officer Splock, an obvious takeoff on the Star Trek television series. In the same book, a brave captain, Ham Duo, and his mate, Chewgumma, are parodies of the heroes of the film Star Wars (1977). Harrison even deliberately parodies his own work: Ottar, a character in a Drunkards and Flagons game (a parody of the game Dungeons and Dragons), is lifted directly from Harrison’s The Technicolor Time Machine (1967).

At another level, science fiction in general is satirized by the use of names that are ridiculous or clearly based either on reality and cultural icons or on other fiction. Deathwish Drang is a sadistic drill sergeant, Eager Beager is an insanely helpful recruit, and Rambette is a female warrior.

Harrison savages the military and political...

(The entire section is 571 words.)