Harness, Charles L(eonard) 1915-
HARNESS, Charles L(eonard) 1915-
(Leonard Lockhard, a joint pseudonym)
PERSONAL: Born December 29, 1915, in Colorado City, TX; son of Conrad T. and Lillian B. Harness; married; wife's name, Nell; children: Mollie, Charles. Education: George Washington University, B.S., 1942, LL.B., 1946.
ADDRESSES: Home—6705 Whitegate Rd., Clarksville, MD 21029. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: U.S. Bureau of Mines, Washington, DC, mineral economist, 1941-47; American Cyanamid Co., Stamford, CT, patent attorney, 1947-53; W. R. Grace and Co., Columbia, MD, patent attorney, 1953-81; writer, 1981—.
The Rose, Compact (London, England), 1966.
The Ring of Ritornel, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1968.
Wolfhead, Berkley Publishing (New York, NY), 1978.
The Catalyst, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1980.
Firebird, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1981.
The Venetian Court, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1982.
Redworld, DAW Books (New York, NY), 1986.
Krono, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1988.
Lurid Dreams, Avon (New York, NY), 1990.
Lunar Justice, Avon (New York, NY), 1991.
An Ornament to His Profession (short stories), New England Science Fiction Association (Boston, MA), 1998.
Rings (novels), New England Science Fiction Association (Boston, MA), 1999.
Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Startling Stories, Authentic Science Fiction, and Astounding Science Fiction.
(With F. M. Barsigian) Mining and Marketing of Barite, U.S. Department of the Interior (Washington, DC), 1946.
(With Theodore Lockard Thomas; under joint pseudonym Leonard Lockhard) The Curious Profession, [New York, NY], c. 1950.
(With Theodore Lockard Thomas; under joint pseudonym Leonard Lockhard) The Improbable Profession, and Other Astounding Adventures in Fantastic Patent Prosecution, [Washington, DC], 1962.
Also author of (with Nan C. Jensen) Marketing Magnesite and Allied Products, 1943.
SIDELIGHTS: Charles L. Harness has been writing science fiction since the late 1940s. Beginning as a contributor of stories to magazines such as Astounding Science Fiction, Harness wrote only four novels between 1953 and 1978, while holding a job as a patent lawyer and raising a family. Since 1980, however, his writing output has increased, with six novels published between 1980 and 1990. Harness's work is noted for its intellectual content—treating such themes as death, rebirth, and human evolution—and for the workman-like quality of his prose. His achievements have been praised by other noted science fiction writers, including Arthur C. Clarke and Brian Aldiss.
Flight into Yesterday, Harness's first novel, became a cult classic and was later republished as The Paradox Men. The book relates the fantastic adventures of Alar the Thief, a subversive operator with superhuman abilities, in a neo-feudal but high-tech future world. Charles L. Wentworth, in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, described the book as "an engrossing tale of action, intrigue, and time-travel paradoxes."
More than a decade passed before Harness's next work appeared in print. The Rose explores the conflict between science and art through the symbolic story of a love triangle. Wentworth stated that the The Rose is "probably Harness's best work. . . . The theme of rebirth is more beautifully delineated here than in any of his other work."
Two years later the full-length novel The Ring of Ritornel was published. Its complex plot involves the exploration of several alien religious belief systems. While some commentators observed a confusing story line and undeveloped themes, a Publishers Weekly contributor praised the "elevated and formal" language of the author, adding that the book is "filled with intellectual bypaths."
Harness's next work, published a decade later, was The Wolfhead, set on a post-holocaust Earth populated by mutants on its surface and beneath by descendants of the United States government—who want to return to the surface. The protagonist, telepathically linked to a wolf, undertakes a journey through this "underworld" in order to save his kidnapped wife. Richard Delap, writing in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, made note of the novel's use of what he called "familiar" plot devices, but also maintained that "Harness keeps his chapters swift and to the point as Jeremy and [his wolf companion] reach an uneasy truce in the name of survival on their danger-filled voyage."
In The Catalyst, a team of scientists look for a catalyst that will allow them to economically produce Trialine, a new drug that miraculously cures novarella, a fictional disease. While one critic maintained that the book might have worked better as a realistic novel, rather than science fiction, Stanley Schmidt, writing in Analog, found the book diverting. "Harness writes well, even charmingly," remarked Schmidt. "He gives the impression that his heros and heroines are favored by the gods."
Harness's Firebird is an alien love story that details an attempt to save the universe from imminent collapse, using black holes and time travel. A contributor to Library Journal noted that the book contains "some good twists of plot." Schmidt in Analog commented that "the love affair is . . . made poignant by isolation and temporal paradox," although the book's defining feature is a main storyline featuring "superscience on a cosmic scale."
In 1984 a new version of The Paradox Men was published, revised by the author and including a foreword by Isaac Asimov and an afterword by Brian Aldiss. A contributor to Publishers Weekly gave the novel an enthusiastic review, calling it "inventive, rich with ideas and as complexly plotted as an [A. E.] van Vogt epic." A Kirkus Reviews contributor concurred, calling the book "swashbuckling adventure at a breakneck pace, stuffed with intriguing ideas and unusually well-developed characters."
Harness's Redworld centers on the rival appeals of faith and science and a quest for immortality in a world inhabited by mutated humans. "Redworld is flawed but still worth a read," wrote Tom Easton in Analog. A contributor to s.f. chronicle noted that Harness's "writing is fluent, [and] the satire subtle."
Krono, Harness's next book, explores time travel "in what appears to be a parody of pulp-magazine prose from the 1930s and '40s," remarked Gerald Jonas, writing in the New York Times Book Review. Set in a post-holocaust future, James Konteau, a "Krono" or time traveler who locates regions in Earth's distant past in order to relieve the pressures of overpopulation, encounters political resistance and faces ethical dilemmas. "Harness handles both the melodrama and the pseudoscience with great aplomb," concluded Jonas. Ted White in the Washington Post Book World called Krono "at once old-fashioned and playful."
Harness also earned praise for Lurid Dreams, which combines academic politics, a research project on out-of-body experiences, and the historical figure of supernatural-writer Edgar Allan Poe. An s.f. chronicle reviewer termed it "an extremely strange and totally engrossing SF novel." In Lurid Dreams Reynold Williams and Alix Schnell are graduate students who are researching out-of-body experiences. When Williams actually leaves his own body, a skeptical dean denies further funding, but Colonel Reynolds Birch arrives. He offers Williams a grant to continue the study with the ulterior motive of altering history and the outcome of the Civil War by changing Poe's life. "Not quite time travel adventure, nor alternate world extrapolation," wrote Locus book reviewer Dan Chow, "Lurid Dreams is a masterful assembly of elements that no one in science fiction has ever put together before."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 8: Twentieth-Century American Science-Fiction Writers, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1981.
Analog, September, 1980, Stanley Schmidt, review of The Catalyst, pp. 168-169; October 12, 1981, Stanley Schmidt, review of Firebird, p. 165; December, 1986, Tom Easton, review of Redworld, p. 180.
Fantasy Review, September, 1986, p. 24.
Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 1984, review of The Paradox Men, p. 658.
Kliatt, spring, 1978, p. 12.
Library Journal, February 15, 1980, p. 532; January 15, 1981, review of Firebird, p. 169.
Locus, September, 1990, Dan Chow, review of Lurid Dreams, p. 63; September, 1991, p. 60.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, April, 1979, Richard Delap, review of The Wolfhead, pp. 33-39; July, 1980, pp. 44-52.
New York Times Book Review, July 19, 1953, p. 17; February 26, 1989, Gerald Jonas, review of Krono, p. 32.
Publishers Weekly, September 30, 1968, review of The Ring of Ritornel, p. 62; August 10, 1984, review of The Paradox Men, p. 75; September 16, 1988, p. 70.
Saturday Review, August 9, 1953, p. 40.
Science Fiction Review, February, 1985, p. 19.
s.f. chronicle, June, 1987, review of Redworld, p. 54; December, 1990, review of Lurid Dreams, p. 33.
Times Literary Supplement, August 15, 1968, p. 865.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1981, p. 38.
Washington Post Book World, February 26, 1989, Ted White, review of Krono, p. 9.