Dave Switzer's Quotations

Douglas Adams

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.
This planet has -- or rather had -- a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.
--The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about humans was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in It’s a nice day, or You’re very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you all right? At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.
--The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

‘You know,’ said Arthur, ‘it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space, that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.’
’Why, what did she tell you?’
‘I don’t know, I didn’t listen.’
--The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

The problem had been with cars. The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm’s way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to another -- particularly when the place you arrived at had probably become, as a result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e. covered with tar, full of smoke and short of fish.
--The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

There were so many different ways in which you were required to provide absolute proof of your identity these days that life could easily become extremely tiresome just from that factor alone, never mind the deeper existential problems of trying to function as a coherent consciousness in an epistemologically ambiguous physical universe.
--Mostly Harmless

The people with whom we populate our universes are the shadows of whole other universes intersecting with our own.
--Mostly Harmless

The great thing about being the only species that makes a distinction between right and wrong is that we can make up the rules for ourselves as we go along.
--Last Chance to See...

The system of life on this planet is so astoundingly complex that it was a long time before man even realised that it was a system at all and that it wasn't something that was just there.
--Last Chance to See...

Isaac Asimov

The psychohistoric trend of a planet full of people contains a huge inertia. To be changed it must be met with something possessing a similar inertia. Either as many people must be concerned, or... enormous time for change must be allowed.

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

We’ve got to get rid of violence for the simple reason that is serves no pupose anymore, but points us all in a useless direction… The new enemies we have today--overpopulation, famine, pollution, scarcity--cannot be fought by violence. There is no way to crush those enemies, or slash them, or blast them, or vaporize them.
--The Roving Mind

The increasing tendency to be interested in science fact and science fiction is indeed part of the same phenomenon--the desire to accept and understand and, therefore, just possibly to guide change, both with the mind (science) and the heart (science fiction).
--The Roving Mind

Paolo Bacigalupi

We arent’t equipped to care about things that are remote, abstract and complex; we’re built to worry about tigers. And now we’ve got this huge, complex society that creates really big tigers that you can’t see or hear or feel.
--“Paolo Bacigalupi: Facing the Tiger” in Locus (July 2007, Vol 59 No 1)

Stephen Baxter

The ecosystem is like a vast life-support machine. It is built on the interactions of species on all scales of life, from the humblest fungi filaments that sustain the roots of plants to the tremendous global cycles of water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide… How does the machine stay stable? We don’t know. Which are its most important components? We don’t know. How much of it can we take out safely? We don’t know that either.

Life isn’t just about competition… It’s also about cooperation. Interdependence. It always has been. The first cells depended on the cooperation of simpler bacteria. So did the first ecologies, the stromatolites. Now, our lives are so interdependent that they must, in the future, develop with a common purpose.

Christopher L. Bennett

An argument didn't have to be about silencing or sabotaging the opposition; it could be a cooperative act, a way to participate in seeking a resolution to a conflict.
--Over a Torrent Sea

Judith Berman

Though nobody realized it at the time, I think Calvin and Hobbes was a defining cultural moment, in that it changed the way mainstream American culture thought of fantasy -- not necessarily genre fantasy, but the way the mind worked. Calvin’s mental landscape was a fantastic landscape.
--“Judith Berman: Zombies & Spaceships” in Locus (Aug 2005, Vol 55 No 2)

Alfred Bester

The Universe is a great place to visit, but I'd sure hate to live there.

Every man is a balance of two opposed drives... The Life Instict and the Death Instinct. Both drives have the identical purpose... to win Nirvana. The Life Instinct fights for Nirvana by smashing all opposition. The Death Instinct attempts to win Nirvana by destroying itself.
--The Demolished Man

The relentless force of evolution... insisted on endowing man with increased powers without removing the vestigial vices that prevented him from using them.
--The Demolished Man

Deliver science fiction from any necessity to have purpose and value. Science fiction is far above the utilitarian yardsticks of the technical minds, the agency minds, the teaching minds. Science fiction is not for Squares. It’s for the modern Renaissance Man… vigorous, versatile, zestful… full of romantic curiosity and impractical speculation.
--“Science Fiction and the Renaissance Man” in Redemolished

Usually, ideas don’t just come to you out of nowhere; they require a compost heap of germination, and the compost is diligent preparation.
--“My Affair with Science Fiction” in Redemolished

Patricia Bow

Tourism is a two-faced giant that, at its best, has rescued many communities from depression and poverty. At its worst, it has created an international market for child prostitution and left a trail of destroyed natural habitats from Mount Everest, with its garbage-littered slopes, to resorts where bewildered sea turtle hatchlings head for the lights of hotels instead of into the sea.
--“Lightening the heavy tread of tourism” in University of Waterloo Magazine (Summer 2002)

Ray Bradbury

For only the very young saw Life ahead, and only the very old saw Life behind; the others between were so busy with Life they saw nothing.
--"Perhaps We Are Going Away" in The Machineries of Joy

It doesn't matter what you do... so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away.
--Fahrenheit 451

We're remembering. That's where we'll win out in the long run. And someday we'll remember so much that we'll build the biggest goddamn steamshovel in history and dig the biggest grave of all time and shove war in and cover it up.
--Fahrenheit 451

Digressions, incontestably, are the sunshine, the life, the soul of reading! Take them out and one cold eternal winter would reign in every page.
--1979 afterword to Fahrenheit 451

Bill Bryson

Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result -- eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly -- in you.
--A Short History of Nearly Everything

As humans we are doubly lucky, of course: We enjoy not only the privilege of existence but also the singular ability to appreciate it and even, in a multitude of ways, to make it better. It is a talent we have only barely begun to grasp.
--A Short History of Nearly Everything

Edward Bulwer-Lytton

It was a dark and stormy night and the rain fell in torrents -- except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.
--Paul Clifford

Ian Caldwell

Adulthood is a glacier encroaching quietly on youth. When it arrives, the stamp of childhood suddenly freezes, capturing us for good in the image of our last act, the pose we struck when the ice of age set in.
--The Rule of Four

Orson Scott Card

At the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it's impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves.
--Ender's Game

Welcome to the human race. Nobody controls his own life... The best you can do is choose to fill the roles given to you by good people, by people who love you.
--Ender's Game

This is how humans are: We question all our beliefs, except for the ones we really believe, and those we never think to question.
--Speaker for the Dead

Sickness and healing are in every heart. Death and deliverance are in every hand.
--Speaker for the Dead

Even the most evil of men and women, if you understand their hearts, had some generous act that redeems them, at least a little, from their sins.
--Speaker for the Dead

The desire that is the very root of life itself: to grow until all the space you can see is part of you, under your control. It's the desire for greatness.
--Speaker for the Dead

The tragedy of language... Those who know each other only through symbolic representations are forced to imagine each other. And because their imagination is imperfect, they are often wrong.

Human beings do metamorphose. They change their identity constantly. However, each new identity thrives on the delusion that it was always in possession of the body it has just conquered.

The wise are not wise because they make no mistakes. They are wise because they correct their mistakes as soon as they recognize them.

Even if there is no such thing as free will, we have to treat each other as if there were free will in order to live together in society. Because otherwise, every time somebody does something terrible, you can't punish him, because he can't help it, because his genes or his environment or God made him do it, and every time somebody does something good, you can't honor him, because he was a puppet, too. If you think that everybody around you is a puppet, why bother talking to them at all? Why even try to plan anything or create anything, since everything you plan or create or desire or dream of is just acting out the script your puppeteer built into you.

[People with] inner strength and outward respect. These are the people who hold a community together, who lead. Unlike the sheep and the wolves, they perform a better role than the script given to them by their inner fears and desires. They act out the script of decency, of self-sacrifice, of public honor--of civilization. And in the pretense, it becomes reality.

It slowed him down to have his own thoughts move around in circles--without outside stimulation it was hard to break free of his own assumptions. One mind can think only of its own questions; it rarely surprises itself.
--Ender’s Shadow

Not many people are enemies to anyone. But the ones full of greed or hate, pride or fear -- their passion is strong enough to lever all the world into war.
--Ender’s Shadow

All the universe is just a dream in God's mind, and as long as he's asleep, he believes in it, and things stay real.
--Seventh Son

A man might have plenty of help finding the short path to hell, but no one else can make him set foot upon it.
--Seventh Son

What human life is, what it's for, what we do, is create communities.
--Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus

All the causes or purposes of all our acts are just stories we tell ourselves, stories we believe or disbelieve, changing all the time. But still we live, we act, and all those acts have some kind of cause. The patterns fit together into a web that connects everyone who's ever lived with anyone else.
--"The Changed Man," in Maps in a Mirror

The universe resists causality... But human intelligence demands it. So we tell stories to impose causal relationships among the unconnected events of the world around us.
--"Flux," in Maps in a Mirror

For science fiction, at its best, has the capacity to take its readers into societies that have never existed, or give ironic twists to the familiar milieux so that all meanings are transformed. By reading science fiction we are given a different kind of revelation… that gives, not easy answers, but extremely perplexing questions; it is a revelation that, at its truest, shows us a world of extraordinarily complex moral dilemmas in which there are few clear choices, and yet in which choices must be made.
--Future on Ice

But no human society can survive without religion, and few human individuals are able to conceal the innate human need for it. When the old religions are struck down, new ones rise, though because religion itself has been given a bad name by those who opposed the old ones, the new ones insist they are not religions at all. But all the quacking suggests there are still ducks around.
--Introduction to Future on Ice

People doing the best they can often get it wrong, and all you can do afterward is try to ameliorate the damage and avoid the same mistakes in the future. Good people aren’t good because they never cause harm to others. They’re good because they treat others the best way they know how, with the understanding that they have.
--Preface to Rebekah

Love is finding that the things you like best about yourself are not in you at all, but in the person who completes you.

Social disapproval is the single strongest tool for social change. People will often engage in forbidden behavior in spite of criminal penalties, but abandon it the moment it is clear that their friends will turn away from them in disgust when they behave that way.
--“The Children of Divorce” on The Ornery American web site (www.ornery.org, Nov 13, 2005)

Nicholas Carr

The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author's words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas.
--"Is Google Making Us Stupid?" in The Atlantic (Jul/Aug 2008)

Bryan Cholfin

Science fiction and fantasy are not genres. They’re marketing categories. A genre is a set of stories related by particular characteristics or conventions. Yet there are no characteristics that are universally and exclusively true of all SF stories.
--The Best of Crank!

Noam Chomsky

To confront power is costly and difficult; high standards of evidence and argument are imposed, and critical analysis is naturally not welcomed by those who are in a position to react vigorously and to determine the array of rewards and punishments.
--Necessary Illusions

the Dalai Lama

Your enemies are your best spiritual teachers because their presence provides you with the opportunity to enhance and develop tolerance, patience and understanding.
--The Essential Dalai Lama

Peter David

Ignorance can be cured by education, apathy attended to by finding something, somehow that can stir the blood and move the soul to take action. But ignorance and apathy, entwined inseperably around each other, form a wall that is nearly insurmountable.
--The Long Night of Centauri Prime

Children are the greatest philosophers in existence. The purpose of the adult is to beat that drive out of children, because it threatens the status quo as created by the adult.
--The Long Night of Centauri Prime

The right way is not necessarily the only way.
--Before Dishonor

Richard Dawkins

Politicians who invent external threats from foreign powers, in order to scare up economic or voter support for themselves, might find that a potentially colliding meteor answers their ignoble purpose just as well as an Evil Empire, an Axis of Evil, or the more nebulous abstraction ‘Terror’, with the added benefit of encouraging international co-operation rather than divisiveness.
--The Ancestor’s Tale

John de Lancie & Peter David

Now no one likes to go to war against another race, unless there are some good reasons for it; like, they eat too much garlic, or they eat with their feet, or better yet, their skin looks different… The most outlandish, of course, is when two groups try to kill each other because they don’t like each other’s god. And the fact that both gods preach peace on the planet doesn’t stand in their way for a moment.
--I, Q

Charles de Lint

“Then how do you change [the world]?”
“By being strong and true.”

“The best change you can make is to hold up a mirror so that people can look into it and change themselves. That’s the only way a person can be changed.”
“By looking inside yourself,” Zia said. “Even if you have to look into a mirror that’s outside yourself to do it.”
“And you know,” Maida added. “That mirror can be a story you hear, or just somebody else’s eyes. Anything that reflects back so that you see yourself in it.”
--Someplace to Be Flying

"Imagine if life was fair," she says to me one time. "I think maybe that'd be worse."
"How do you figure that?"
"Well, then we'd deserve all the awful things that happen to us, wouldn't we? It'd mean that at some point in our lives--or maybe some life we had before this one--we were pretty creepy people."
--Someplace to Be Flying

If you don't believe in magic, then it won't happen for you. If you don't believe that the world has a heart, then you won't hear it beating, you won't think it's alive and you won't consider what you're doing to it.
--Someplace to Be Flying

Sure, when we see [evil people] starting on causing some hurt, we've got to try and stop 'em, but mostly what the rest of us should be concerning ourselves with is doing right by others. Every time you do a good turn, you shine the light a little farther into the dark. And the thing is, even when we're gone, that light's going to keep shining on, pushing the shadows back.
--Someplace to Be Flying

If we don't change the world to suit us... then it'll change us to suit it.
--Memory and Dream

Everything, no matter how small or large it might be, was the perfect example of what it was. It was the artist's sacred task to illuminate that beauty.
--Memory and Dream

Not only are our minds these singular islands, each separate from the other, but we're not even necessarily operating in the same reality... We run into trouble communicating, not because we lack a common language, but because the facts I've selected don't usually fit with the ones you have.
--Memory and Dream

Wayland Drew

If we destroy ourselves, it will be because we persisted in asking that question, Why? If we save ourselves it will be for the same reason.
--The Gaian Expedient

Only questions counted. Questions led to questions, and so on to infinity, blossoms of surprise opening forever. Not answers. Answers killed. Answers led to progress. Answers reduced joy to satisfaction, divine stasis to human restlessness.
--The Gaian Expedient

What were problems, after all, but crystallized opportunities? Was not all progress made by defining problems, by simplifying and eliminating them, and by stepping over the places where they had been?
--The Master of Norriya

When no one is listening, that is when it is most important to speak the truth.
--The Master of Norriya

Terry Eagleton

As with bad breath, ideology is always what the other person has.
--quoted on the Making Light web site (www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight)

Julia Ecklar

The only thing worse than a human who had no respect for other animals was a human who assumed all other animals thought and felt just like he did.

Scott Edelmen

Soon it won't just be that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer--soon the rich will get healthier and smarter and longer-lived as well. And the poor will not be happy about that. What will become of this misery and frustration I leave to your imagination.
--Science Fiction Weekly editorial (Mar 5, 2001, Vol 7 No 10)

Greg Egan

Widespread caffeine use explains a lot about the twentieth century.

Albert Einstein

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.

The positive development of a society in the absence of creative, independent thinking, critical individuals is as inconceivable as the development of an individual in the absence of the stimulus of the community.

Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.

You cannot prevent and prepare for war at the same time.

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

Suzette Haden Elgin

I want a society where a parent would react to seeing violence being portrayed on a tv screen with the same repulsion as he/she would to seeing defecation being portrayed on a tv screen--where the programme would be turned off instantly, without hesitation, not as censorship but out of genuine deep revulsion. I want a society in which someone who finds violence interesting and desirable is considered mentally ill and in need of medical treatment.
--“The Profession of Science Fiction, 53: Towards a Society of Non-Violence” in Foundation (Summer 2000, Vol 29 No 79)

When you pay attention to what other people say, when you really listen and don’t decide what they’re going to say before they open their mouths, they often surprise you.
--Peacetalk 101

Charles Coleman Finlay

I’m a believer in promiscuous creativity. Creativity is like other exercise -- you don’t have to be a professional to benefit from it as a person.
--“Charles Coleman Finlay: All in the Details” in Locus (Apr 2004, Vol 52 No 4)

Dietrich Fischer

Some have argued that we can never disinvent nuclear weapons and thus will have to live with them as long as civilization exists. But nobody has disinvented cannibalism either, we simply abhor it.
--“Towards a comprehensive and proactive security policy” in The Ploughshares Monitor (Dec 2000, Vol 21 No 4)

Jeffrey Ford

It always amazes me that people don't get into that stuff: painting, drawing, reading, listening to music, seeing films. It adds such a quality to life... When people avoid the creative, they seem to have a tendency to only think in one particular way, but art allows you to get impressions of the ways other people think and feel.
--“Jeffrey Ford: Shadow Years” in Locus (Jun 2008, Vol 60 No 6)

Daniel Francis

Every generation claims a clearer grasp of reality than its predecessors. Our forebears held ludicrous ideas about certain things, we say confidently, but we do not.
--The Imaginary Indian

Michael Jan Friedman

There's no such thing as a meaningless sacrifice... Any positive act, no matter how hopeless or insignificant, is ultimately worthwhile.

John Kenneth Galbraith

Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.

Biruté M. F. Galdikas

If you are studying an animal, or a people, or even a language that is struggling for survival, how can you not interfere? To turn your back on your subject is to turn your back... on what it means to be human. The essence of being human is the capacity for disinterested compassion... Disinterested compassion is helping the helpless, with no expectation of reward.
--Reflections of Eden

James Alan Gardner

Everyone’s life is a mess. Everyone’s. We all make mistakes… and not just little slip-ups. Major mistakes that hurt us and other people. We all go down wrong paths because we don’t know better… or because we’re too lazy, lonely, and afraid to change… No matter how tempting avoidance may be, you have to confront life… If you don’t, your problems just fester. Nothing gets cleaned up. The messes you’ve made just grow worse.

David Gerrold

In cyberspace, everybody can hear you dream.
--"Anything Can Happen" web column

William Gibson

You ‘know’ in your limbic brain. The seat of instinct. The mammalian brain. Deeper, wider, beyond logic. That is where advertising works, not in the upstart cortex. What we think of as ‘mind’ is only a sort of jumped-up gland, piggybacking on the reptilian brainstem and the older, mammalian mind, but our culture tricks us into recognizing it as all of consciousness. The mammalian spreads continent-wide beneath it, mute and muscular, attending its ancient agenda. And makes us buy things.
--Pattern Recognition

We have no future. Not in the sense that our grandparents had a future, or thought they did. Fully imagined cultural futures were the luxury of another day, one in which 'now' was of some greater duration. For us... futures like our grandparents' have insufficient 'now' to stand on. We have no future because our present is too volatile.
--Pattern Recognition

André Gide

What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. What another would have said as well as you, do not say it, written as well as you, do not write it. Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself--and thus make yourself indispensable.
--Fruits of the Earth

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you treat people the way they are, you make them worse. If you treat them the way they ought to be, you make them capable of becoming what they ought to be.

Jane Goodall

There are many windows through which we can look out into the world, searching for meaning... Most of us, when we ponder on the meaning of our existence, peer through but one of these windows onto the world. And even that one is often misted over by the breath of our finite humanity. We clear a tiny peephole and stare through. No wonder we are confused by the tiny fraction of a whole that we see. It is, after all, like trying to comprehend the panorama of the desert or the sea through a rolled-up newspaper.
--Through a Window

You may not believe in evolution, and that is all right. How we humans came to be the way we are is far less important than how we should act now to get out of the mess we have made for ourselves. How should the mind that can contemplate God relate to our fellow beings, the other life-forms of the world? What is our human responsibility? And what, ultimately, is our human destiny?
--Reason for Hope

Words can enhance experience, but they can also take so much away. We see an insect and at once we abstract certain characteristics and classify it -- a fly. And in that very cognitive exercise, part of the wonder is gone. Once we have labeled the things around us we do not bother to look at them so carefully. Words are part of our rational selves, and to abandon them for a while is to give freer reign to our intuitive selves.
--Reason for Hope

My reasons for hope are fourfold: (1) the human brain; (2) the resilience of nature; (3) the energy and enthusiasm that is found or can be kindled among young people worldwide; and (4) the indomitable human spirit.
--Reason for Hope

Thom Hartmann

When enough people change the way they view things, then solutions become evident, often in ways we couldn’t even imagine before we looked with new eyes.
--The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

Most people’s major life regrets are not about the things they’ve done, but about the things they’ve not done, the goals they never reached, the type of lover or friend or parent they wished they’d been but know they failed to be. Yet our culture encourages us to sit in front of a flickering box for dozens (at least) of hours a week, hundreds to thousands of hours a year, and thereby watch, as if from a distance, the time of our lives flow through our hands like dry sand.
--The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

Human history is an experiment with preliminary findings indicating that power-centered cultures have always self-destructed.
--The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight

Robert A. Heinlein

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
--Time Enough for Love

One pupil can make a teacher feel that his years were not wasted.
--The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Man, a social animal, could not avoid government, any more than an individual could escape bondage to his bowels. But simply because an evil was inescapable was no reason to call it "good."
--Stranger in a Strange Land

A desire not to butt into other people's business is eighty percent of all human wisdom.
--Stranger in a Strange Land

The mind's ability to rationalize its own shortcomings is unlimited.
--Stranger in a Strange Land

Submission to God's will is not to be a robot, incapable of choice and thus of sin. Submission can include -- does include -- utter responsibility for the fashion in which I, and each of us, shape the universe.
--Stranger in a Strange Land

Dave Hubert

If we are unwilling to let our ideals cost us anything, our ideals aren't worth anything.

Zora Neale Hurston

There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.
--Their Eyes Were Watching God

The world and the heavens boiled down to a drop. Man attempting to climb to painless heights from his dung hill.
--Their Eyes Were Watching God

Inter Pares

Long ago it was discovered that the best way to care for the sick is to prevent illness in the first place… So why do health programs not focus more on promoting economic and social justice, human rights, and corporate responsibility? Why do we not emphasize the fundamental causes of poverty and chronic ill-health among the more than two billion absolutely poor, and develop policies and programs with the potential to transform these causes permanently?
--“Promoting health through justice” in Inter Pares Bulletin (Jun 2001, Vol 23 No 3)

Events in the world do not just happen, but are the result of actions and choices of real people and institutions, public and private… The way our world is organized and governed has been invented, and can be re-invented over time by citizens, by our communities, our clubs and associations, and by our governments.
--Inter Pares Bulletin

Visions vary about what makes life human and humane. This diversity is central to the ideal of justice. Justice is not a specific way of life, nor a single way of life, but the right to life itself--autonomous, dignified, and self-determined.
--Inter Pares Annual Report 2001

If the world is truly to become a better place it will take profound solidarity, significant generosity, and a long-term commitment to support the local action of citizens to assert their rights, guarantee their will-being and security, and participate in shaping their world.
--“Bearing Witness Together” in Inter Pares Bulletin (Mar 2002, Vol 24 No 2)

Militarization and freedom cannot co-exist. The right arm of militarization is propaganda, and propaganda also is its shield. It is for this reason that military means so rarely bring about the ends of freedom that are so often used to justify aggression.
--Inter Pares Annual Report 2002

The failure to address inequality and impoverishment is not due to any shortage of good ideas. Rather it is the unwillingness of powerful institutions to recognize the failure of many of their past efforts, and to allow people to influence public policy choices to address their specific needs and determine their own destiny.
--“The Power of Ideas: Third World Network” in Inter Pares Bulletin (Jun 2003, Vol 25 No 3)

Seed saving among farmers… is the basis of global food security and ensures that biological diversity is maintained through the continuous evolution of plants in diverse environments. By contrast, when genetically-engineered seeds are purchased, costs are increased and their use is tied to the signing of a contract that states that the farmer will not save seeds for reuse. Ultimately this results in the concentration and privatization of the most basic of all human endeavors -- the production of food.
--“Sustaining Agriculture: Voices from the South” in Inter Pares Bulletin (Jun 2005, Vol 27 No 2)

Alison Jolly

If we see that our own marvelous bodies are produced by a parliament of genes evolved to work in their common interest, it is easier to see that we organisms could also work together for society's survival and take less than another billion years to getting around to doing so.
--The Evolution of Primate Behavior

If a Martian zoologist matched George Schaller's 2900 hours of Serengeti lion watching by spending 2900 hours observing aggression in a randomly chosen human population, he would probably see only juvenile play fights and a few angry shouting matches among adults. Humans by this test are "a relatively pacific species."
--The Evolution of Primate Behavior

Sarah Kamal

In the do-gooder world, I find, we often aspire toward purity. But it doesn't exist: not in us, not in them. We expect applause for our humanitarianism, not realizing the help is on our own terms, conditioned on their thankfulness and "progess." We require them to be noble victims, not allowing for the glorious intransigence of incivility and selfishness everywhere. Yet deep down, we believe them to be incapable, corrupt -- unclean somehow.
--“We are all simply people” in University of Waterloo Magazine (Fall 2009)

Guy Gavriel Kay

‘I had no choice about that,’ Ranald said fiercely.
‘Not so.’ It was, surprisingly, Valery of Talair… ‘We can say no and die. It is a choice, my lord of Garsenc. In the face of some things asked of us it is the only choice.’
--A Song For Arbonne

Ken (last name unknown)

The terrorists have won by transforming a significant -- or, at least, significantly noisy -- segment of American society. The terrorists have succeeded, at least to some extent, in marginalizing the culturally superior elements of American society -- bravery, fairness, open-mindedness, tolerance, and devotion to liberty and equality. They have also succeeded, in turn, in empowering and mainstreaming all that is willfully ignorant, bigoted, ineffectually fearful, and totalitarian in the dark recesses of the American psyche.
--“The Terrorists Have Won” on the Popehat web site (www.popehat.com, May 17, 2010)

Michael P. Kube-McDowell

The most significant development of the last few millenia has been the way human beings have supplemented and supplanted the oral tradition with a written one. The library is the defining symbol of civilization.
--"A Picture is Not Worth A Thousand Words" in Writer's Digest (Jan 1995)

A community is made of many parts, connected at many points. It takes a lot of glue to hold it all together.
--"A Picture is Not Worth A Thousand Words" in Writer's Digest (Jan 1995)

We mostly can't know what difference we're making--and because of that, we can't let ourselves worry overmuch about it. All you can do is follow your loves, or let your passions drive you--whichever is closer to the mark.
--"A Picture is Not Worth A Thousand Words" in Writer's Digest (Jan 1995)

Lewis Lapham

The games in the coliseum were based on high ratings. The affection, endorsement and trust of the people was to be won by amusing them. Today’s media is also based on high ratings, and it functions in the same manner to win viewers and garner high ratings.
--quoted in “Editor of Harper’s magazine blasts media” by Janice Jim in Blind Spot (May 2002, Vol 2 Issue 4)

Ursula K. Le Guin

The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.
--The Left Hand of Darkness

If civilization has an opposite, it is war.
--The Left Hand of Darkness

It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
--The Left Hand of Darkness

Most things grow old and perish, as the centuries go on and on. Very few are the precious things that remain precious, or the tales that are still told.
--The Tombs of Atuan

The Earth is beautiful, and bright, and kindly, but that is not all. The Earth is also terrible, and dark, and cruel.
--The Tombs of Atuan

Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one.
--The Tombs of Atuan

And though I came to forget or regret all I have ever done, yet would I remember that once I saw the dragons aloft on the wind at sunset above the western isles; and I would be content.
--The Farthest Shore

An act is not... like a rock that one picks up and throws, and it hits or misses, and that's the end of it. When that rock is lifted, the earth is lighter; the hand that bears it heavier.
--The Farthest Shore

But we, insofar as we have power over over the world and over one another, we must learn to do what the leaf and the whale and the wind do of their own nature. We must learn to keep the balance.
--The Farthest Shore

There, he is the earth and sunlight, the leaves of trees, the eagle's flight. He is alive. And all who ever died, live; they are reborn and have no end, nor will there ever be an end.
--The Farthest Shore

The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting… Happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive.
--“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” in The Wind's Twelve Quarters

Even if we are present at some historic event, do we comprehend it -- can we even remember it -- until we can tell it as a story?
--Foreward to Tales From Earthsea

All times are changing times, but ours is one of massive, rapid moral and mental transformation. Archetypes turn into millstones, large simplicities get complicated, chaoes becomes elegant, and what everybody knows is true turns out to be what some people used to think.
--Foreward to Tales From Earthsea

Paul Levitz

Take something you love, tell people about it, bring together people who share your love, and help make it better. Ultimately, you’ll have more of whatever you love for yourself and for the world.
--“Julius Schwartz 1915-2004” in Locus (Apr 2004, Vol 52 No 4)

J. E. Lovelock

Life was thus an almost utterly improbable event with almost infinite opportunities of happening. So it did.

City wisdom became almost entirely centred on the problems of human relationships, in contrast to the wisdom of any natural tribal group, where relationships with the rest of the animate and inanimate world are still given due place.

Wangari Maathai

There can be no peace without equitable development; and there can be no development without sustainable management of the environment in a democratic and peaceful space.
--“The Nobel Peace Lecture for 2004” in The Ploughshares Monitor (Spring 2005, Vol 26 No 1)

David Macfarlane

Whenever someone who actually isn't God tells me what God has been up to, I get suspicious.
--"From Liverpool to eternity" in The United Church Observer (Jan 2008)

Michael A. Martin & Andy Mangels

Everything is connected... Even when you think it isn't. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes it's subtle, and sometimes it's paradoxical. It may take generations to see those connections, and longer still to understand them. Or those things may simply come all at once in a flash of insight.
--Taking Wing

Jim Munroe

Diversity is an incredibly important thing. Maybe more important than good or evil. The less diversity we have the fewer choices we have -- the fewer methods we have to find happiness, justice, love. The fewer examples on which to base our lives.
--Everyone in Silico

Alex Neve

We never know which action will be the tipping point for profound change.
--letter from Amnesty International Canada (Feb 2008)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Entire political parties and media networks are embarked on an explicit program to make us afraid, in order to gain power and status thereby. This is the very definition of terrorism, and they are terrorists, who deserve to be treated as such with all due diligence of public sentiment and the law.
--“Terrorism” on the Making Light web site (www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight, Aug 26, 2006)

Teresa Nielsen Hayden

Always side with the truth. It’s much bigger than you are.
--quoted on the Making Light web site (www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight)

Never believe in a meritocracy in which no one is funny-looking.
--quoted on the Making Light web site (www.nielsenhayden.com/makinglight)

Friedrich Nietzsche

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster; and when you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.
--Beyond Good and Evil

S. D. Perry

Falling in love was easy; maintaining a relationship was work, no matter how emotionally or intellectually developed the participants were, and it wasn’t always fun.
--Avatar, Book One of Two

Walter Pitman

To the extent that we applaud and elect governments that regard tax-cuts and personal wealth as the ultimate objects of our political will--in place of investment in peacemaking, economic justice around the globe, and environmental health and well-being--we are all terrorists.
--The Ploughshares Monitor

Daniel Quinn

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world... they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact in which they are the lords of the world, they will act like lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is a foe to be conquered, they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet, as the world is now.

Trial and error isn't a bad way to learn how to build an aircraft, but it can be a disastrous way to learn how to build a civilization.

Diversity is a survival factor for the community itself. A community of a hundred million species can survive almost anything short of total global catastrophe.... But a community of a hundred species of a thousand species has almost no survival value at all.

Man can never have the wisdom the gods use to rule the world, and if he tries to preempt that wisdom, the result won't be enlightenment, it will be death.

The world needs our consciousness the way the sun needs a kitchen match.... I don't mean to imply that consciousness isn't a treasure. It's all a treasure: the flight of the bird, the stride of the cheetah, the song of the whale, the web of the spider, the veins of a leaf.

To each is given its moment in the blaze, its spark to be surrendered to another when it is sent, so that the blaze may go on.... My death is the life of another, and I will stand again in the windswept grass and look through the eyes of the fox and take in the air with the eagle and run in the track of the deer.

Humans came into existence following the law of limited competition. This is another way of saying that they lived like all other creatures in the biological community, competing to the full extent of their capacity but not waging war on their competitors. They came into existence following the law and continued to follow the law until about ten thousand years ago, when the people of a single culture in the Near East began to practice a form of agriculture contrary to the law at every point, a form of agriculture in which you were encouraged to wage war on your competitors -- to hunt them down, to destroy their food, and to deny them access to food.
--The Story of B

It's not MAN who is the scourge of the world, it's a single culture. One culture out of hundreds of thousands of cultures. OUR culture.
--The Story of B

Before our era, the chorus of distress that had assembled over the ten thousand years of our cultural life consisted of nine voices: war, crime, corruption, rebellion, famine, plague, slavery, genocide, and economic collapse. Beginning in 1960, our own era found a tenth voice to add to the chorus, a voice never heard before, and this is the voice of cultural catastrophe -- a voice that wails the loss of vision, failure of purpose, and the collapse of values.
--The Story of B

Vision is the flowing river. Programs are sticks set in the riverbed to impede the flow. What I'm saying is that the world will not be saved by people with programs. If the world is saved, it will be saved because the people living in it have a new vision.
--The Story of B

Every culture's lunacy seems like sanity to the members of that culture.
--The Story of B

Any culture will become an obscenity when blown up into a universal world culture to which all must belong.
--The Story of B

As an explosive mixture, our culture also consists of three essential ingredients, and if any one of them had been missing, no explosion would have taken place here on this planet... Totalitarian agriculture... the belief that ours is the one right way... the Great Forgetting.... What was forgotten during the Great Forgetting... was the fact that Man was not born a totalitarian agriculturist and a city builder. What was forgotten was the fact that our way was not ordained from the beginning of time.
--The Story of B

It was a quirk, a fluke. Combine one never-before-seen cultural element with a second never-before-seen element, add a third just as odd, and you come up with a cultural monster that is literally devouring the world -- and will end by devouring itself if it isn't stopped.
--The Story of B

This is the Taker vision: The world was made for Man, and Man was made to conquer and rule it.
--The Story of B

The Leaver, or animist, vision.... The world is a sacred place and a sacred process... and we're a part of it.
--The Story of B

You'll hear people talk about turning the plains of North America back into what they were before the Takers arrived. This is nonsense. What the plains were five hundred years ago was not their final form, was not the final, sacrosanct form ordained for them from the beginning of time. There is no such form and never will be any such form. Everything here is on the way. Everything here is in process.
--The Story of B

Our nonhuman ancestors were tool-makers and -users but they weren't hunters, because they didn't have the mental equipment to be hunters. In other words, we became human by hunting -- and of course we became hunters by becoming human.
--The Story of B

[The Leavers] have a lifestyle that's healthier for people and healthier for the planet, but they don't hold on to it because they're noble, they hold on to it for the best reason in the world -- because they prefer it to ours and would rather be dead than live the way we do.
--The Story of B

You'll know you're among the people of your culture if the food is all owned, if it's all under lock and key.... But of course it once was another way. It was once no more owned than the air or the sunshine are owned.
--My Ishmael

The truth is that ten thousand years ago one people gave up the foraging life and settled down to become farmers. The rest of humanity -- the other ninety-nine percent -- went on exactly as before.
--My Ishmael

Thinkers aren't limited by what they know, because they can always increase what they know. Rather they're limited by what puzzles them, because there's no way to become curious about something that doesn't puzzle you.
--My Ishmael

There's only one way you can force people to accept an intolerable lifestyle... You have to lock up the food.
--My Ishmael

When [the Takers] arrived in the New World, no one was keeping the peace here... Rather, the peace was being kept in the traditional way, by people giving as good as they got and remaining unpredictable. The Takers put a stop to all that, and now the keeping of the peace is in their capable hands. Crime is a multibillion-dollar industry, children deal drugs on street corners, and maddened citizens vent their rage on each other with assault weapons.
--My Ishmael

A model of education that works for people. It works very simply, without cost, without effort, without administration of any kind. Children simply go wherever they want and spend time with whomever they want in order to learn the things they want to learn when they actually want to learn them. Not every child's education is identical. Why on earth should it be?
--My Ishmael

Children no more need schooling at age five or six or seven or eight than they need it at age two or three, when they effortlessly perform prodigies of learning.
--My Ishmael

A system based on exchanging products inevitably channels wealth to a few, and no governmental change will ever be able to correct that. It isn't a defect of the system, it's intrinsic to the system.
--My Ishmael

How the greatest period of human inventiveness worked: The Industrial Revolution was the product of a million small beginnings, a million great little ideas, a million modest innovations and improvements over previous inventions.... Over a period of three hundred years, hundreds of thousands of you, acting almost exclusively from motives of self-interest, have transformed the human world by broadcasting ideas and discoveries and furthering these ideas and discoveries by taking them step-by-step to new ideas and discoveries.
--My Ishmael

Tribal life is not in fact perfect, idyllic, noble, or wonderful, but wherever it's found intact, it's found to be working well... with the result that the members of the tribe are not generally enraged, rebellious, desperate, stressed-out borderline psychotics being torn apart by crime, hatred, and violence... The tribal life doesn't turn people into saints; it enables ordinary people to make a living together with a minimum of stress year after year, generation after generation.
--Beyond Civilization

A tribe is a coalition of people working together as equals to make a living... Each tribe has a boss... but leadership carries little or nothing in the way of special benefits that are denied to other members of the tribe.
--Beyond Civilization

In our cultural mythology we see ourselves as having left tribalism behind the way modern medicine left the leech and the bleeding bowl behind, and we did so decisively and irrevocably. This is why it's so difficult for us to acknowledge that tribalism is not only the preeminently human social organization, it's also the only unequivocally successful organization in human history.
--Beyond Civilization

The greatest discovery any alien anthropologist could make about our culture is our overriding response to failure: If it didn’t work last year, do it AGAIN this year (and if possible do it MORE). Every year we pass more laws, hire more police, build more prisons, and sentence more offenders for longer periods--all without moving one inch closer to “ending” crime.
--Beyond Civilization

Because the tribe is its members, the tribe is what its members want it to be -- nothing more and nothing less... There's no one right way for this to be done.
--Beyond Civilization

The flaw in our civilization isn't in the people, it's in the system. It's true that the system has been clanking along for ten thousand years, which is a long time in the timescale of an individual life, but when viewed in the timescale of human history, this episode isn't remarkable for its epic length but for its tragic brevity.
--Beyond Civilization

I learned something about obsession… I learned it isn’t madness or even foolishness, though madness and foolishness have given it a bad name. How could anyone who wasn’t obsessed compose a symphony or write a thousand-page novel? How could anyone who wasn’t obsessed cross an uncharted ocean in a seventy-foot sailboat?
--After Dachau

The tribal organization was natural selection's give to humanity in the same way that the flock was natural selection's gift to geese.
--If They Give You Lined Paper, Write Sideways

The essence of tribal law is remedy... what must happen in order to minimize the effect of misbehavior and to produce a situation in which everyone feels that they've been made as whole again as it's possible to be.
--If They Give You Lined Paper, Write Sideways

Tribal law... presupposes that people are just the way we know they are: generally... well intentioned but perfectly capable of being foolish.
--If They Give You Lined Paper, Write Sideways

Almost nothing exerts a more powerful hold on people's minds than unexamined and unchallenged received wisdom.
--If They Give You Lined Paper, Write Sideways

During your lifetime, the people of our culture are going to figure out how to live sustainably on this planet -- or they’re not. Either way, it’s certainly going to be extraordinary.
--If They Give You Lined Paper, Write Sideways

The most dangerous idea in existence.... Humans belong to an order of being that is separate from the rest of the living community.
--If They Give You Lined Paper, Write Sideways

When you defeat a thousand opponents, you still have a thousand opponents. When you change a thousand minds, you have a thousand allies.
--The Ishmael Community web site

There is no single recipe for saving the world (anymore than there is a single recipe for making a cake or building an aircraft). Rather there are six billion recipes, one for each of us, since each of us is uniquely placed in the world, with unique talents, opportunities, and circles of influence.
--The Ishmael Community web site

Theodore Parker

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.
--quoted by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Randy Pausch

Too many people go through life complaining about their problems. I've always believed that if you took one-tenth the energy you put into complaining and applied it to solving the problem, you'd be surprised at how well things can work out.
--The Last Lecture

I've found that a substantial fraction of many people's days is spent worrying about what others think of them. If nobody ever worried about what was in other people's heads, we'd all be 33 percent more effective in our lives and on our jobs.
--The Last Lecture

People lie for lots of reasons, often because it seems like a way to get what they want with less effort. But like many short-term strategies, it's ineffective long-term. You run into people again later, and they remember you lied to them. And they tell lots of other people about it.
--The Last Lecture

There is more than one way to measure profits and losses. On every level, institutions can and should have a heart.
--The Last Lecture

Brick walls are there for a reason. And once you get over them -- even if someone has practically had to throw you over -- it can be helpful to others to tell them how you did it.
--The Last Lecture

Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens

In all of human history, everything has always been as complex as it is right now. The people change. The technology changes. But... the forces at work, whatever it is that drives us to be human, that's always the same.

And each next war brings crueler weapons. And the more cruel the weapons, then the more cruel the person who uses them.

Thus on a planetary scale, there was no distinction between life and habitat. Life itself and life's home were like space and time--they could not be thought of as independent entities, only as different reflections of each other.

Ernie Regehr

Terrorism is not amenable to military defeat. The defeat of terrorism requires a broad range of domestic security measures, effective national and international law enforcement capacity, and urgent attention to the political and social conditions that nurture it.
--The Ploughshares Monitor

Kim Stanley Robinson

What was valuable in the experience was that he had been out of control, living moment to moment with no plan, at the mercy of other people. What was valuable in the telling of the story was that he was in control, shaping the experience, deciding what it meant, putting other people in their proper place.The two values were complementary, they added up to something more than each alone could, something that… completed things.
--Pacific Edge

Young men and women, educated very carefully to be apolitical, to be technicians who thought they disliked politics, making them putty in the hands of their rulers, like always.
--Red Mars

So far we have not been living in a money economy, that's the way scientific stations are.... This arrangement resembles the prehistoric way to live, and it therefore feels right to us, because our brains recognize it from three millions years practicing it. In essence our brains grew to their current configuration in response to the realities of that life. So as a result people grow powerfully attached to that kind of life, when they get the chance to live it. It allows you to concentrate your attention on the real work, which means everything that is done to stay alive, or make things, or satisfy one's curiosity, or play. That is utopia, John, especially for primitives and scientists, which is to say everybody.
--Red Mars

There’s two big forces in the world, science and capitalism. Two ways of thought or controlling capital. One is a kind of absent minded professor, “Let’s just see how things work, that’s what I’m interested in, I’m not interested in world domination.” The other is just completely interested in getting control of as much as possible and piling up as much capital at the top as they can.
--“Axes of Evil” in Albedo One (Issue 25)

History is just six billion biographies added up and so we’re a part of it. It’s not just the movers and shakers or politicians or the rules of the past but no matter what was set down by parliaments a hundred years ago that seemed to trap us, we’re actually still free agents in the existential sense and if we all chose to tomorrow we could restructure all the rules, cancel all the debts. None of these things are binding physical forces, like gravity or even manacles, they’re all just things we have agreed to.
--“Axes of Evil” in Albedo One (Issue 25)

Rapid cultural change is obviously very possible -- we’ve seen it before -- so the attempt to forget that it can happen is one part of the power struggle that’s going on. The power structure always pretends that it’s impossible to change, inevitable that things are the way they are, but that’s obviously untrue; change is going to happen.
--“Kim Stanley Robinson: Chop Wood, Carry Water” in Locus (Apr 2007, Vol 58 No 4)

It’s always amazed me that people can be heard claiming that environmentalism is just one special interest among the rest. They should try holding their breath for an hour and then think it over.
--“Kim Stanley Robinson: Chop Wood, Carry Water” in Locus (Apr 2007, Vol 58 No 4)

Rudy Rucker

Life is, after all, nothing more than a self-sustaining information process that feeds off the existence of an energy gradient.
--“Alien Contact,” in Alien Tongue by Stephen Leigh

People labor under the chronic illusion that the present moment is the apex and culmination of all past history.
--“Alien Contact,” in Alien Tongue by Stephen Leigh

Although science fiction provokes wonder, it can also cancel wonder. If you spend all your time staring at the sky thinking, If only, if only, always waiting for the big ships to land, well, if you do that then you don't notice the field you're standing in, the odd insects in the grass, the peculiar shapes of the grass seeds... the funny shape of your hand, and especially the funny shape of your foot, like if you straighten the foot out and look at the way the heel bulges out... odd, very odd.
--“Alien Contact,” in Alien Tongue by Stephen Leigh

The essential ingredient of any real, stimulating conversation is surprise: to learn, you must be told things you never knew, otherwise you might as well be talking to yourself.
--“Alien Contact,” in Alien Tongue by Stephen Leigh

Bertrand Russell

Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty… Neither a man nor crowd nor a nation can be trusted to act humanely or to think sanely under the influence of fear.
--“An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish”

Eric Frank Russell

Ignorance is bliss… Especially when you don’t know that what you’re playing with is the safety catch of something that goes bang.
--“…And Then There Were None” in Give Me Liberty edited by Martin Harry Greenberg & Mark Tier

Sean Russell

One can form habits in one’s heart as easily as in one’s day-to-day existence. Cha at dawn, a walk alone at sunset, meditation on the full moon… nostalgia, loss, bitterness, comfort. All of these habits shield us from the other parts of life. The journey to a new place, encountering people, considering new ideas, different landscapes, risks, excitement, joy… disappointment… grief.
--Gatherer of Clouds

Only from the abyss can one turn and see the world as it truly is.
--The Initiate Brother

The purpose of the move must not be merely hidden within another purpose. It must be concealed entirely, lost within the complexity of a plan that is even more plausible than the real one.
--The Initiate Brother

Robert J. Sawyer

With billions of years, who knows what science might make possible? Why, it might even make it possible for an intelligence, or data patterns representing it, to survive a big crunch and exist again in the next cycle of creation. Such an entity might even have science sufficient to allow it to influence the parameters for the next cycle, creating a designer universe into which that entity itself will be reborn already armed with billions of years worth of knowledge and wisdom.
--Calculating God

To my way of thinking, the central message of science fiction is this: “Look with a skeptical eye at new technologies.”
--“The Profession of Science Fiction, 54: The Future Is Already Here” in Foundation (Autumn 2000, Vol 29 No 80)

Joe Schlesinger

Elections are to democracy only what weddings are to marriage -- a start. The tough part begins after the honeymoon.
--"Democracy's always awkward march" on the CBC News web site (www.cbc.ca/news), Feb 25, 2011

Karl Schroeder

At some point, if you’ve grown up at all, you have to decide that something outside yourself is more important than you are. Otherwise you’ll be a miserable bastard, and you’ll die screaming.

Albert Schweitzer

Civilization can only revive when there shall come into being in a number of individuals a new tone of mind independent of the one prevalent among the crowd and in opposition to it, a tone of mind which will gradually win influence over the collective one, and in the end determine its character. It is only an ethical movement which can rescue us from the slough of barbarism, and the ethical comes into existence only in individuals.
--The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization

A new public opinion must be created privately and unobtrusively. The existing one is maintained by the press, by propaganda, by organization, and by financial and other influences which are at its disposal. The unnatural way of spreading ideas must be opposed by the natural one, which goes from man to man and relies solely on the truth of the thoughts and the hearer’s receptiveness for new truth.
--Civilization and Ethics

Revenge... is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.

George Bernard Shaw

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
--Man and Superman

When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.
--Caesar and Cleopatra

Michael Shermer

Rarely do any of us sit down before a table of facts, weigh them pro and con, and choose the most logical and rational belief, regardless of what we previously believed. Instead, the facts of the world come to us through the colored filters of the theories, hypotheses, hunches, biases, and prejudices we have accumulated through our lifetime. We then sort through the body of data and select those most confirming what we already believe, and ignore or rationalize away those that are disconfirming.
--Why People Believe Weird Things

Graham Sleight

There are books you admire and books you love. Ulysses is easy to admire; Pride and Prejudice is easy to love. I think that when you love a book, it’s almost always because of voice, because you want to know the person telling you the story.
--“Yesterday’s Tomorrows” in Locus (June 2006, Vol 56 No 6)

Joan Slonczewski

A lesser creature sees its rival in the water and jumps in to fight it. A human sees herself and knows that the sea names her. But a selfnamer sees every human that ever was or will be, and every form of life there is.
--A Door Into Ocean

Fear was the cause, and the wage for one who hastened death... Valans might imagine other wages and desires, but in the end, they killed because they feared being killed; they hastened death because they feared it, yet they feared it more, the more they hastened.
--A Door Into Ocean

Sharing works something like this: Think of those living molecules which you know so well. As molecules grow colder, very cold, fewer levels of energy remain that can bridge the barrier between them. But no matter how cold it gets, molecules never lose the lowest level, the zero-point energy. At zero point, they tunnel through the barrier to share electrons. Sharing between souls is like that; there is always a last door to tunnel through.
--A Door Into Ocean

How solitary we are... each one of us with our layered histories floating in the sea of time.
--Daughter of Elysium

The past and future clasp each other like knots of the same web: Tear one strand between two, but countless others still hold.
--Daughter of Elysium

An act of compassion anywhere breeds caring everywhere.
--Daughter of Elysium

Jon Snoddy

If you wait long enough, people will surprise and impress you.
--quoted by Randy Pausch in The Last Lecture

Allen Steele

One of the things that puzzles me about SF is that all too often we have futures in which science fiction doesn’t exist -- in other words, in the future there will be no SF. You have people walking around in the mid-21st century dealing with robots, and nobody ever says, “You know, Asimov wrote something about this with the Three Laws of Robotics, didn’t he?”
--“Allen Steele: The Next Questions” in Locus (Jan 2007, Vol 58 No 1)

I think sometimes the science fiction field underestimates its own importance. We tell ourselves we’re writing fiction for geeks or that it’s just escapism, and we forget that one way or another, we have a very deep influence on what’s going on in the real world, either directly or indirectly.
--“Allen Steele: The Next Questions” in Locus (Jan 2007, Vol 58 No 1)

Wilhelm Stekel

The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.
--quoted in Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Neal Stephenson

It’s a wonderful thing to be clever, and you should never think otherwise, and you should never stop being that way. But what you learn, as you get older, is that there are a few billion other people all trying to be clever at the same time, and whatever you do with your life will certainly be lost -- swallowed up in the ocean -- unless you are doing it along with like-minded people who will remember your contributions and carry them forward. That is why the world is divided into tribes.
--The Diamond Age

J. Michael Straczynski

It saddens me that literacy has become suspect, and degraded, given how many millions of years evolution spent developing the ability to create language. The quality of our thoughts is bordered on all sides by our facility with language. The less precise the usage, the less clear the process of language, the less you can achieve what you want to achieve when you open your mouth to say something. We have slowly bastardized and degraded and weakened the language, abetted and abided by a growing cultural disdain for literacy, a cyclical trend toward anti-intellectualism.
--Asked & Answered Part 1

The hardest thing in the world is to stand alone. Your friends will not understand, will resent you, will want you to just stop it and let life go back to where it was. But you have to follow the quiet turning of your own considered conscience.
--Asked & Answered Part 1

Follow your passion; the rest will take care of itself.
--Asked & Answered Part 1

Charles Stross

By and large, the world is getting better. Democracies, be they parliamentarian or republican, now account for more than 50% of the members of the United Nations. Lest we forget, if you go back to 1904 there were only a handful.
--“Charles Stross: Fast Forward” in Locus (Jan 2005, Vol 54 No 1)

As I see it, our biggest problem is that we’ve effectively got a planetary government that’s running on autopilot, governed by international treaty law and the fundamental systems of the way the global free-trade regime has been set up. Not only is there nobody at the controls, there’s nobody to complain to when things go wrong -- it’s unaccountable. Traditional empires had safety valves for public protest -- the current system doesn’t have one.
--“Charles Stross: Fast Forward” in Locus (Jan 2005, Vol 54 No 1)

Rieky Stuart

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Noting the fact that women fish too, Kumi [Naidoo, the Executive Director of Civicus] asked, “What if there are no fish, the water is polluted, or the trade rules won’t allow you to sell your fish?
--“Building global equity” in Oxfam Canada Annual Report 2001

David Suzuki & Holly Dressel

The notion that human beings are so clever that we can use science and technology to escape the restrictions of the natural world is a fantasy that cannot be fulfilled. Yet it underlies much of government’s and industry’s rhetoric and programs.
--From Naked Ape to Superspecies

Teresa of Avila

More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.
--quoted in Truman Capote's last unfinished book

Geoffrey Thorne

Pessimism is a waste of intellect.
--Sword of Damocles

James Tiptree, Jr.

If I could describe a “human being” I would be more than I am -- and probably living in the future, because I think of human beings as something to be realized ahead… But clearly, “human beings” have something to do with the luminous image you see in a bright child’s eyes -- the exploring, wondering, eagerly grasping, undestructive quest for life.
--Epigraph to Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, quoted in “Yesterday’s Tomorrows” by Graham Sleight in Locus (June 2007, Vol 58 No 6)

Leo Tolstoy

People know it is wrong to use violence, but they are so anxious to continue to live a life secured by “the strong arm of the law” that, instead of devoting their intellects to the elucidation of the evils which have flowed and are still flowing from admitting that man has a right to use violence to his fellow men, they prefer to exert their mental powers in defense of that error.
--Tolstoy on Civil Disobedience and Nonviolence

Chris Turner

The front pages of the newspaper might look like bad news, an ominous and intractable mess -- storm clouds on the horizon, the four horsemen at the gate -- but the back pages and the margins are filled with solutions.
--The Geography of Hope

Mark Twain

Why not go out on a limb? That's where the fruit is.

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Stan Ulam

I believe the brain plays a game--some parts providing the stimuli, the others the reactions, and so on.... One is only consciously aware of something in the brain which acts as a summarizer or totalizer of the process going on and that probably consists of many parts acting simultaneously on each other. Clearly only the one-dimensional chain of syllogisms which constitutes thinking can be communicated verbally or written down.... If, on the other hand, I want to do something new or original, then it is no longer a question of syllogism chains. When I was a boy I felt that the role of rhyme in poetry was to compel one to find the unobvious because of the necessity of finding a word which rhymes. This forces novel associations and almost guarantees deviations from routine chains or trains of thought. It becomes paradoxically a sort of automatic mechanism of originality.... And what we call talent or perhaps genius itself depends to a large extent on the ability to use one's memory properly to find the analogies... [which] are essential to the development of new ideas.
--Adventures of a Mathematician

Gordon Van Gelder

For me, the greatest strength of SF is its ability to challenge assumptions.
--“Gordon Van Gelder: Playing With Protocols” in Locus (Apr 2004, Vol 52 No 4)

Margaret Weis

Fantasy tales are today’s parables. They present problems and issues of today in a manner that is enjoyable and therefore is often dismissed. Fantasy tales are not less powerful simply because they are entertaining. Sometimes we see so much evil around us that we become hardened, inured. Move the problems into a different setting and we suddenly see them more clearly.
--Introduction to Treasures of Fantasy

H. G. Wells

It is a law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger, and trouble. An animal perfectly in harmony with its environment is a perfect mechanism... Only those animals partake of intelligence that have to meet a huge variety of needs and dangers.
--The Time Machine

Scott Westerfeld

If you’re a science fiction writer or reader… you’re still looking at the world and challenging it, saying ‘Does it have to be this way? Does it make any sense that we follow these rules?’ Science fiction is about thought experiments. What does it mean to tell stories set in a different place than this one? How does that affect our world?
--“Scott Westerfeld: New Kid in Town” in Locus (May 2006, Vol 56 No 5)

Laurie White

The failure to protect and rescue some of our most needy citizens from the largest natural disaster in the continental United States was a failure of civility as well as a failure of government. People dying in wheelchairs outside a football stadium -- a symbol of the displacement of millions of dollars every year into the wrong priorities -- is uncivilized, unfair, and wrong on a basic level that should be learned in kindergarten.
--“BlogHers Act: On Civility and Education, and a Few Other Things” on the BlogHer web site (blogher.org, Jun 15, 2007)

Elie Wiesel

We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. When men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must -- at that moment -- become the centre of the universe.
--on accepting his Nobel Peace Prize in 1986

Oscar Wilde

Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.

Thornton Wilder

We ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will be enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.
--The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Robert Charles Wilson

How authentic could a book of wisdom be if you understood it at a glance? Wisdom didn’t work like that. Wisdom was a mountain; you climbed it, short of breath, dizzy, unsure of yourself even as you approached the summit.
--The Harvest

We were implicit in the universe from the moment it began. We're the product of natural law. Every pondering creature in the deeps of the sky. We're the universe gazing back at itself. That's the mystery and the consolation. Every one of us is an eye of God.
--The Harvest

Gene Wolfe

...this insanity we are taught to fear consists in nothing but responding naturally and instinctively rather than with the culturally acquired, mannered thing called reason; an insane man talks nonsense because like a bird or a cat he is too sensible to talk sense.
--The Fifth Head of Cerberus

John C. Wright

As much as people would like fantasy to be tied into ancient literature, it really is an invention (like science fiction) of the Industrial Revolution, when people started to feel nostalgic about a worldview that they no longer believed. They wanted to tell stories about the way things used to be.
--“John C. Wright: The Moral Future” in Locus (Aug 2006, Vol 57 No 2)

John Wyndham

The essential quality of life is living; the essential quality of living is change; change is evolution: and we are part of it.
--The Chrysalids

Roger Zelazny

The personal strengths and weaknesses of a leader are no true indication of the merits of his cause.
--Lord of Light

Even a mirror will not show you yourself, if you do not wish to see.
--Lord of Light

Howard Zinn

Should we not begin to consider all children, everywhere, as our own? In that case, war, which in our time is always an assault on children, would be unacceptable as a solution to the problems of the world. Human ingenuity would have to search for other ways.
--A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, quoted in “Patriotism & The Fourth of July” on MichaelMoore.com, July 3, 2006

Want some more?

Here are some more quotations, from Aaron Fuegi. Here are some quotations from Babylon 5, also from Aaron Fuegi. And here are some quotations from Jeffrey Shallit.

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