Bill, the Galactic Hero

Bill, the Galactic Hero is a satirical science fiction novel by American writer Harry Harrison, first published in 1965.

Harrison reports having been approached by a Vietnam veteran who described Bill as "the only book that's true about the military."[2]

Bill, the Galactic Hero
Cover of the first edition.
AuthorHarry Harrison
Cover artistLarry Lurin[1]
GenreScience fiction
Publication date
Media typePrint
Followed by(Bill, the Galactic Hero) The Planet of the Robot Slaves 

Plot summary

Bill is a farmboy on a small backward agricultural planet who is drugged, hypnotised, then shanghaied into the Space Troopers and sent to recruit training under a fanged instructor named Deathwish Drang. After surviving boot camp, he is transferred to active duty as a fuse tender on the flagship of the space fleet in battle with the Chingers, a small reptilian race. Injured and with the fleet almost destroyed, he fires off a shot witnessed by an officer and is proclaimed a hero.

As a reward he is sent to the city-planet Helior to receive a medal from the emperor. Bill's city plan is stolen on a sightseeing tour; because it takes him days to get back to the transit centre, he arrives to find himself AWOL and considered a deserter after missing his transport. He escapes and flees into the depths of the city, where he first falls in with a gang of similarly "deplanned" outlaws, then finds employment with Helior's garbage disposal service. His unwilling recruitment as a spy to infiltrate an ineptly-run anarchist plot leads to his arrest.

He is sent to a prison unit working on the planet where the Human-Chinger war continues. Escaping during an attack, he rescues some prisoners and meets a dying Deathwish Drang. He then shoots off his own foot to get off-planet.

The book ends with the story coming full circle as Bill, with an artificial foot and Deathwish Drang's fangs, returns to his home planet and recruits more gullible young men including his own younger brother into the Troopers without recognizing him. (A recruiter's term of service is reduced for each new trooper they enlist).


Six sequels were published, from 1989 to 1992:

  • The first, Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Robot Slaves (1989), is by Harry Harrison.

After this, the sequels were penned by other writers and edited by Harrison. Harry Harrison expressed his own disappointment in the series in an interview with Brian Ireland, quoted on Ireland On-Line.:[3]

They have a thing in the States called 'share cropping' where you have a series or character, and you have other writers do work with it [...] I never wanted to do it, I'm not interested. But one of the packagers said, coming back to this thing I said about the pornography of violence: Harry, why don't we do a Bill, the Galactic Hero series and actually do some anti-war propaganda instead of all pro war. So they eventually talked me into it. The second one — Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Robot Slaves — I did myself, that was a lot of fun. If they could all be like that. But no, no. We all make mistakes. I'm a professional writer. I earn a living at it. These are the only ones where I did it wrong.

  • The second, Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Bottled Brains (1990), is by Robert Sheckley and Harry Harrison
  • The third, Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Tasteless Pleasure (1991), is by David Bischoff and Harry Harrison
  • The fourth, Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Zombie Vampires (1991), is by Jack C. Haldeman and Harry Harrison
  • The fifth, Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Ten Thousand Bars (1991), is by David Bischoff and Harry Harrison (Was also published under the title: "Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of the Hippies from Hell")
  • The sixth, Bill, the Galactic Hero: The Final Incoherent Adventure (1991), is by David Harris and Harry Harrison

"Bill, the Galactic Hero's Happy Holiday" appeared as a short story in Galactic Dreams (1994) by Harry Harrison

Plot elements

Bloater Drive

The standard ways of circumventing relativity in 1950s and 1960s science fiction were hyperspace, subspace and spacewarp. Harrison's contribution was the "Bloater Drive". This enlarges the gaps between the atoms of the ship until it spans the distance to the destination, whereupon the atoms are moved back together again, reconstituting the ship at its previous size but in the new location. An occasional side-effect is that the occupants see a planet drifting, in miniature, through the hull.


Harrison introduced a new euphemism, "bowb", in the series to cover the vulgarity necessary to render military life accurately.[4] It is used extensively in Bill, the Galactic Hero.

Film adaptation

Before his death in 2012, Harrison gave filmmaker Alex Cox an "academic license" to make a student film version of the novel with his students at the University of Colorado at Boulder, which Cox and the students completed and released in 2014.


  1. ^
  2. ^ fanac Con Report.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Bowb as a Gaming Term".

External links

Alex Cox

Alexander B. H. Cox (born 15 December 1954) is an English film director, screenwriter, nonfiction author, broadcaster and sometime actor. Cox experienced success early in his career with Repo Man and Sid and Nancy, but since the release and commercial failure of Walker, he has directed his career towards independent films. Cox received a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Terry Gilliam's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) for previous work on the script before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam.

As of 2012, Cox has taught screenwriting and film production at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Bill, the Galactic Hero (film)

Bill, the Galactic Hero is a 2014 science fiction student film directed by Alex Cox and six student co-directors based on Harry Harrison's 1965 novel of the same name.

Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Bottled Brains

Bill, the Galactic Hero on the Planet of Bottled Brains (BtGH:PoBB) is a novel by Harry Harrison and Robert Sheckley, published in 1990.

David Bischoff

David F. Bischoff (December 15, 1951 – March 19, 2018) was an American science fiction and television writer.

Fanny Hill

Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure—popularly known as Fanny Hill (an anglicisation of the Latin mons veneris, mound of Venus)—is an erotic novel by English novelist John Cleland first published in London in 1748. Written while the author was in debtors' prison in London, it is considered "the first original English prose pornography, and the first pornography to use the form of the novel". It is one of the most prosecuted and banned books in history.The book exemplifies the use of euphemism. The text has no "dirty words" or explicit scientific terms for body parts, but uses many literary devices to describe genitalia. For example, the vagina is sometimes referred to as "the nethermouth," which is also an example of psychological displacement.

A critical edition by Peter Sabor includes a bibliography and explanatory notes. The collection 'Launching "Fanny Hill"' contains several essays on the historical, social and economic themes underlying the novel.

Foundation series

The Foundation series is a science fiction book series written by American author Isaac Asimov. For nearly thirty years, the series was a trilogy: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation. It won the one-time Hugo Award for "Best All-Time Series" in 1966. Asimov began adding to the series in 1981, with two sequels: Foundation's Edge, Foundation and Earth, and two prequels: Prelude to Foundation, Forward the Foundation. The additions made reference to events in Asimov's Robot and Empire series, indicating that they were also set in the same fictional universe.

The premise of the series is that the mathematician Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory, a concept of mathematical sociology. Using the laws of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale. Seldon foresees the imminent fall of the Galactic Empire, which encompasses the entire Milky Way, and a dark age lasting 30,000 years before a second great empire arises. Seldon's calculations also show there is a way to limit this interregnum to just one thousand years. To ensure the more favorable outcome and reduce human misery during the intervening period, Seldon creates the Foundation – a group of talented artisans and engineers positioned at the twinned extreme ends of the galaxy – to preserve and expand on humanity's collective knowledge, and thus become the foundation for the accelerated resurgence of this new galactic empire.

Harry Harrison (writer)

Harry Max Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey; March 12, 1925 – August 15, 2012) was an American science fiction author, known for his character The Stainless Steel Rat and for his novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966). The latter was the rough basis for the motion picture Soylent Green (1973). Harrison was (with Brian Aldiss) the co-president of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group.

Aldiss called him "a constant peer and great family friend". His friend Michael Carroll said, "Imagine Pirates of the Caribbean or Raiders of the Lost Ark, and picture them as science-fiction novels. They're rip-roaring adventures, but they're stories with a lot of heart." Novelist Christopher Priest wrote in an obituary,

Harrison was an extremely popular figure in the SF world, renowned for being amiable, outspoken and endlessly amusing. His quickfire, machine-gun delivery of words was a delight to hear, and a reward to unravel: he was funny and self-aware, he enjoyed reporting the follies of others, he distrusted generals, prime ministers and tax officials with sardonic and cruel wit, and above all he made plain his acute intelligence and astonishing range of moral, ethical and literary sensibilities.

Iggy Pop

James Newell Osterberg Jr. (born April 21, 1947), known professionally by his stage name Iggy Pop and designated the "Godfather of Punk", is an American singer, songwriter, musician, producer and actor. He was the vocalist of influential proto-punk band the Stooges, who reunited in 2003, and is well known for his outrageous and unpredictable stage antics.Iggy Pop's music has encompassed a number of styles over the course of his career, including garage rock, punk rock, hard rock, art rock, new wave, jazz, blues, and electronic. Though his popularity has fluctuated through the years, many of Iggy Pop's songs have become well-known, including "Search and Destroy" and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" by the Stooges, and his solo hits "Lust for Life", "The Passenger", and "Real Wild Child (Wild One)".

In 2010, the Stooges were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Jack C. Haldeman II

Jack Carroll "Jay" Haldeman II (December 18, 1941 – January 1, 2002) was an American biologist and science-fiction writer. He was the older brother of SF writer and MIT writing professor Joe Haldeman.

List of comic science fiction

This is current list of comic science fiction, mixing science fiction or science fantasy with comedy.

List of short stories by Harry Harrison

This is a list of all short stories published by science-fiction author Harry Harrison, along with the collections they appeared in, if any.

Space opera

Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes space warfare, melodramatic adventure, interplanetary battles, chivalric romance, and risk-taking. Set mainly or entirely in outer space, it usually involves conflict between opponents possessing advanced abilities, futuristic weapons, and other sophisticated technology. The term has no relation to music, but is instead a play on the terms "soap opera" and "horse opera", the latter of which was coined during the 1930s to indicate clichéd and formulaic Western movies. Space operas emerged in the 1930s and continue to be produced in literature, film, comics, television and video games.

An early film which was based on space opera comic strips was Flash Gordon (1936) created by Alex Raymond. In the late 1970s, the Star Wars franchise (1977–present) created by George Lucas brought a great deal of attention to the subgenre. After the convention-breaking "New Wave", followed by the enormous success of the Star Wars films, space opera became once again a critically acceptable subgenre. Throughout 1982–2002, the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel was often given to a space opera nominee.

The Ballad of Halo Jones

The Ballad of Halo Jones is a science fiction comic strip written by Alan Moore and drawn by Ian Gibson, with lettering by Steve Potter (Books 1 & 2) and Richard Starkings (Book 3).

Halo Jones first appeared July 1984 in five-page instalments in the pages of the weekly British comic 2000 AD and is regarded as one of the high points of 2000 AD. The eponymous heroine is a highly sympathetic 50th-century everywoman, and the tone of the strip runs from the comic to the poignant. The three "books" span more than ten years of her life, and also serve as a tour of the well-realised futuristic universe which Moore and Gibson created. Originally, Halo Jones was planned to run to nine books, chronicling Halo's life from adolescence through old age. However, the series was discontinued after three books due to a dispute between Moore and Fleetway, the magazine's publishers, over the intellectual property rights of the characters Moore and Gibson had co-created.

The Culture (series)

The Culture series is a science fiction series written by Scottish author Iain M. Banks. The stories centre on the Culture, a utopian, post-scarcity space society of humanoids, aliens, and very advanced artificial intelligences living in socialist habitats spread across the Milky Way galaxy. The main theme of the novels is the dilemmas that an idealistic hyperpower faces in dealing with civilizations that do not share its ideals, and whose behaviour it sometimes finds repulsive. In some of the stories, action takes place mainly in non-Culture environments, and the leading characters are often on the fringes of (or non-members of) the Culture, sometimes acting as agents of Culture (knowing and unknowing) in its plans to civilize the galaxy.

The Forever War

The Forever War (1974) is a military science fiction novel by American author Joe Haldeman, telling the contemplative story of soldiers fighting an interstellar war between Man and the Taurans. It won the Nebula Award in 1975 and the Hugo and the Locus awards in 1976. Forever Free (1999) and Forever Peace (1997) are respectively, direct and thematic sequel novels. The novella A Separate War (1999) is another sequel of sorts, occurring simultaneously to the final portion of The Forever War. Informally, the novels compose The Forever War series; the novel also inspired a comic book and a board game. The Forever War is the first title in the SF Masterworks series.

Tombstone Rashomon

Tombstone Rashomon is a 2017 Western film directed by Alex Cox and starring Adam Newberry and Eric Schumacher. It tells the story of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona Territory from multiple differing perspectives in the style of Akira Kurosawa's 1950 film Rashomon.

Topps Comics

Topps Comics was a division of Topps Company, Inc. that published comic books from 1993 to 1998, beginning its existence during a short comics-industry boom that attracted many investors and new companies. It was based in New York City, at 254 36th Street, Brooklyn, and at One Whitehall Street, in Manhattan.

The company specialized in licensed titles, particularly movie and television series tie-ins, such The X-Files, based on the Fox TV show, and the films Bram Stoker's Dracula and Jurassic Park. It also licensed such literary properties as Zorro, and published a smattering of original series, including Cadillacs and Dinosaurs and several based on concepts by then-retired industry legend Jack Kirby.


Trantor is a fictional planet in Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series and Empire series of science fiction novels.

Trantor was first mentioned in Asimov's short story, "Black Friar of the Flame", later collected in The Early Asimov, Volume 1. It was described as a human-settled planet in the part of the galaxy not ruled by an intelligent reptilian race (later defeated). Later, Trantor gained prominence when the 1940s Foundation series first appeared in print (in the form of short stories). Asimov described Trantor as being in the center of the galaxy. In later stories he acknowledged the growth in astronomical knowledge by retconning its position to be as close to the galactic center as was compatible with human habitability. The first time it was acknowledged in novel form was in Pebble in the Sky.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.