The Stainless Steel Rat series from Harry Harrison is one of my childhood science fiction favorites. The books follow James Bolivar DiGriz, aka the Stainless Steel Rat, an anti-hero whose charm and quick-wit make him a likable criminal as he robs banks because it provides entertainment for the masses and the banks earn the money back through the insurance companies. Eventually, our Jim, is caught by the Special Corps and pressed into service catching other less scrupulous criminals.
What does this fictional character have to do with Julian Assange, the creator of WikiLeaks? Reading the article Love at first byte in the Economist today, they mentioned that Julian had once used a dating service and his handle was Harry Harrison. This in retrospect did not surprise me. The Stainless Steel Rat has always had a hacker mindset, similar to Robin Hood, except using quick wits and computer skills rather than a bow and arrow.
While I haven’t quite decided if WikiLeaks is good or bad, the story and the character of Julian Assange is entertaining. The poison pill that he will release if he is killed or arrested is right out of a Harry Harrison novel.
Am I saying that Julian created WikiLeaks because of reading the Stainless Steel Rat series? I’m not going to go that far. But I would say that James Bolivar DiGriz probably helped influence the person that is Julian Assange, who created WikiLeaks. I know he inspired me to pull of a daring caper involving a Snickers bar and an elaborate coat contraption, but that’s another story altogether.
If you still don’t believe me, read the publishers blurb from the original book and tell me what you think:
…We must be as stealthy as rats in the wainscoting of their society. It was easier in the old days, of course, and society had more rats when the rules were looser, just as old wooden buildings have more rats than concrete buildings. But there are rats in the building now as well. Now that society is all ferrocrete and stainless steel there are fewer gaps in the joints. It takes a very smart rat indeed to find these openings. Only a stainless steel rat can be at home in this environment…
And while you’re debating that little thought bomb, I’m going to go back to working on my next novel about AR gaming in the next century. Who knows? Maybe this next novel will convince a fledgling programmer to change the world. Or at the very least, use the handle Thomas K. Carpenter on his dating profile.