Robert A. Heinlein
See also pages for the novels:
- How can I possibly put a new idea into your heads, if I do not first remove your delusions?
- "Doctor Pinero" in Life-Line (1939)
- One can judge from experiment, or one can blindly accept authority. To the scientific mind, experimental proof is all important and theory is merely a convenience in description, to be junked when it no longer fits. To the academic mind, authority is everything and facts are junked when they do not fit theory laid down by authority.
- "Doctor Pinero" in Life-Line (1939)
- There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.
- Life-Line (1939)
- You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.
- I think that science fiction, even the corniest of it, even the most outlandish of it, no matter how badly it's written, has a distinct therapeutic value because all of it has as its primary postulate that the world does change. I cannot overemphasize the importance of that idea.
- "The Discovery of the Future," Guest of Honor Speech, 3rd World Science Fiction Convention, Denver, Colorado (1941)
- An armed society is a polite society.
- Beyond This Horizon (1942)
- The door dilated.
- This offhand mention has become the simplest (three words!) and often-quoted exposition of the wonders of a different world, where what would be novel today has become simply the way things work. Beyond This Horizon (1942)
- Every law that was ever written opened up a new way to graft.
- Red Planet (1949)
- How anybody expects a man to stay in business with every two-bit wowser in the country claiming a veto over what we can say and can't say and what we can show and what we can't show — it's enough to make you throw up. The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak.
- Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do.
- Waldo & Magic, Inc. (1950)
- Man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal.
- Assignment in Eternity (1953)
- Reason is poor propaganda when opposed by the yammering, unceasing lies of shrewd and evil and self-serving men.
- Assignment in Eternity (1953)
- Take sex away from people. Make it forbidden, evil. Limit it to ritualistic breeding. Force it to back up into suppressed sadism. Then hand the people a scapegoat to hate. Let them kill a scapegoat occasionally for cathartic release. The mechanism is ages old. Tyrants used it centuries before the word "psychology" was ever invented. It works, too.
- Revolt in 2100 (1953)
- The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed.
- Revolt in 2100 (1953), postscript
- The death rate is the same for us as for anybody ... one person, one death, sooner or later.
- Tunnel in the Sky (1955), Captain Helen Walker, Ch. 2
- I also think there are prices too high to pay to save the United States. Conscription is one of them. Conscription is slavery, and I don't think that any people or nation has a right to save itself at the price of slavery for anyone, no matter what name it is called. We have had the draft for twenty years now; I think this is shameful. If a country can't save itself through the volunteer service of its own free people, then I say : Let the damned thing go down the drain!
- Guest of Honor Speech at the 29th World Science Fiction Convention, Seattle, Washington (1961)
- The Quotable Heinlein
- The difference between science and the fuzzy subjects is that science requires reasoning, while those other subjects merely require scholarship.
- In: Time Enough for Love: the lives of Lazarus Long; a novel , (1973), p.366
- I started clipping and filing by categories on trends as early as 1930 and my "youngest" file was started in 1945.
Span of time is important; the 3-legged stool of understanding is held up by history, languages, and mathematics. Equipped with these three you can learn anything you want to learn. But if you lack any one of them you are just another ignorant peasant with dung on your boots.
- "The Happy Days Ahead" in Expanded Universe (1980)
- (E)ach generation thinks it invented sex; each generation is totally mistaken. Anything along that line today was commonplace both in Pompeii and in Victorian England; the differences lie only in the degree of coverup -- if any.
- Introduction to "Cliff and the Calories," in Expanded Universe, (1980), pg. 355
- Widows are far better than brides. They don't tell, they won't yell, they don't swell, they rarely smell, and they're grateful as hell.
- To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987)
- How you behave toward cats here below determines your status in Heaven.
- To Sail Beyond the Sunset (1987)
- I would say that my position is not too far from that of Ayn Rand's; that I would like to see government reduced to no more than internal police and courts, external armed forces — with the other matters handled otherwise. I'm sick of the way the government sticks its nose into everything, now.
- The Robert Heinlein Interview, and other Heinleiniana (1990) by J. Neil Schulman
- My wife Ticky is an anarchist-individualist ... When she was in the Navy during the early 'forties she showed up one morning in proper uniform but with her red hair held down by a simple navy-blue band — a hair ribbon. It was neat (Ticky is always neat) and it suited the rest of her outfit esthetically, but it was undeniably a hair ribbon and her division officer had fits.
"If you can show me," Ticky answered with simple dignity, "where it says one word in the Navy Uniform Regulations on the subject of hair ribbons, I'll take it off. Otherwise not."
See what I mean? She doesn't have the right attitude.
- Tramp Royale (1992)
If This Goes On (1940)
- When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, "This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know," the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything — you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
The Puppet Masters (1951)
- Listen, son. Most women are damn fools and children. But they've got more range than we've got. The brave ones are braver, the good ones are better — and the vile ones are viler, for that matter.
- The "Old Man" to "Sam", when discussing "Mary", Ch. 11
- Don't ask me why it was top secret, or even restricted; our government has gotten the habit of classifying anything as secret which the all-wise statesmen and bureaucrats decide we are not big enough girls and boys to know, a Mother-Knows-Best-Dear policy. I've read that there used to be a time when a taxpayer could demand the facts on anything and get them. I don't know; it sounds Utopian.
- Ch. 24
This I Believe (1952)
- Written for the Edward R. Murrow radio show, This I Believe (1952) - full transcript and audio online
- I am not going to talk about religious beliefs, but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them.
I believe in my neighbors.
I know their faults and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults. Take Father Michael down our road a piece — I'm not of his creed, but I know the goodness and charity and lovingkindness that shine in his daily actions. I believe in Father Mike; if I'm in trouble, I'll go to him. My next-door neighbor is a veterinary doctor. Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat. No fee — no prospect of a fee. I believe in Doc.
- Decency is not news; it is buried in the obituaries — but it is a force stronger than crime.
I believe in the patient gallantry of nurses...in the tedious sacrifices of teachers. I believe in the unseen and unending fight against desperate odds that goes on quietly in almost every home in the land.
- I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones.
- I believe that almost all politicians are honest. For every bribed alderman there are hundreds of politicians, low paid or not paid at all, doing their level best without thanks or glory to make our system work. If this were not true, we would never have gotten past the thirteen colonies.
- I believe in — I am proud to belong to — the United States. Despite shortcomings, from lynchings to bad faith in high places, our nation has had the most decent and kindly internal practices and foreign policies to be found anywhere in history.
And finally, I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown — in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability … and goodness … .of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth, that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth — but that we will always make it … survive … endure. I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching, oversize brain case and the opposable thumb, this animal barely up from the apes, will endure — will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets, to the stars, and beyond, carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage — and his noble essential decency.
This I believe with all my heart.
The Rolling Stones (1952)
- Everything is theoretically impossible, until it is done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.
- Free will is a golden thread running through the frozen matrix of fixed events.
Double Star (1956)
- Aside from a cold appreciation of my own genius I felt that I was a modest man.
- I have never been impressed by the formal schools of ethics. I had sampled them — public libraries are a ready source of recreation for an actor short of cash — but I had found them as poor in vitamins as a mother-in-law’s kiss. Given time and plenty of paper, a philosopher can prove anything. I had the same contempt for the moral instruction handed to most children. Much of it is prattle and the parts they really seem to mean are dedicated to the sacred proposition that a “good” child is one who does not disturb mother’s nap and a “good” man is one who achieves a muscular bank account without getting caught. No, thanks!
- Take sides! Always take sides! You will sometimes be wrong — but the man who refuses to take sides must always be wrong.
- His bow to me must have been calculated on a slide rule; it suggested that I was about to be Supreme Minister but was not quite there yet, that I was his senior but nevertheless a civilian — then subtract five degrees for the fact that he wore the Emperor’s aiguillette on his right shoulder.
- Son, suppose you tend to your knitting and I tend to mine.
- People don’t really want change, any change at all — and xenophobia is very deep-rooted. But we progress, as we must — if we are to go out to the stars.
- There is solemn satisfaction in doing the best you can for eight billion people. Perhaps their lives have no cosmic significance, but they have feelings. They can hurt.
The Door Into Summer (1957)
- If you would know a man, observe how he treats a cat.
- Chapter 1
- Nobody ever wins a lawsuit but the lawyers.
- Chapter 2
- Cats have no sense of humor, they have terribly inflated egos, and they are very touchy.
- Chapter 2
- My old man claimed that the more complicated the law the more opportunity for scoundrels.
- Chapter 5
- Paymasters come in only two sizes: one sort shows you where the book says that you can’t have what you've got coming to you; the second sort digs through the book until he finds a paragraph that lets you have what you need even if you don’t rate it.
- Chapter 5
- An invention is something that was “impossible” up to then—that’s why governments grant patents.
- Chapter 6
- I counted to ten slowly, using binary notation.
- Chapter 8
- By the laws of statistics we could probably approximate just how unlikely it is that it would happen. But people forget—especially those who ought to know better, such as yourself—that while the laws of statistics tell you how unlikely a particular coincidence is, they state just as firmly that coincidences do happen.
- Chapter 8
- I had taken a partner once before—but, damnation, no matter how many times you get your fingers burned, you have to trust people. Otherwise you are a hermit in a cave, sleeping with one eye open.
- Chapter 10
- “Er, will your grandmother tell that fib for you?”
“I guess so. Yes, I'm sure she will. She says people have to tell little white fibs or else people couldn’t stand each other. But she says fibs were meant to be used, not abused.”
“She sounds like a sensible person.”
- Chapter 11
- They made the predictable fuss about taking a cat into a room and an autobellhop is not responsive to bribes—hardly an improvement. But the assistant manager had more flexibility in his synapses; He listened to reason as long as it was crisp and rustled.
- Chapter 12
- The future is better than the past. Despite the crepehangers, romanticists, and anti-intellectuals, the world steadily grows better because the human mind, applying itself to environment, makes it better. With hands...with tools...with horse sense and science and engineering.
- Chapter 12
Methuselah's Children (1958)
- Age is not an accomplishment, and youth is not a sin.
- No philosophy that he had ever heard or read gave any reasonable purpose for man's existence, nor any rational clue to his proper conduct. Basking in the sunshine might be as good a thing to do with one's life as any other — but it was not for him and he knew it, even if he could not define how he knew it.
- A committee is the only known form of life with a hundred bellies and no brain.
- Life is short, but the years are long.
- Part of the secret "call and response" codewords by which members of the long-lived Howard Families can identify others:
- Life is short.
But the years are long.
Not while the evil days come not.
- Life is short.
Have Space Suit—Will Travel (1958)
- “Dr. Russell, I concede that Washington has an atrocious climate. But you will have air-conditioned offices.”
“With clocks, no doubt. And secretaries. And soundproofing.”
“Anything you want, doctor.”
“The point is, Mr. Secretary, I don’t want them. This household has no clocks. Nor calendars. Once I had a large income and a larger ulcer; I now have a small income and no ulcer. I stay here.”
“But the job needs you.”
“The need is not mutual.”
- Chapter 1
- There is no such thing as luck; there is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.
- Chapter 2
- Television leaves no external scars.
- Chapter 3
- Daddy says that, in a dilemma, it is helpful to change any variable, then reexamine the problem.
- Chapter 5
- We lived like that “Happy Family“ you sometimes see in traveling zoos: a lion caged with a lamb. It is a startling exhibit but the lamb has to be replaced frequently.
- Chapter 7
- When I don’t understand, I have an unbearable itch to know why.
- Chapter 7
- You're in bad shape when your emotions force you into acts which you know are foolish.
- Chapter 8
- Some people insist that “mediocre” is better than “best.” They delight in clipping wings because they themselves can’t fly. They despise brains because they have none. Pfah!
- Chapter 9
- Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.
- Chapter 9
- “Peewee!” I said sharply. “You're not listening.”
“What were you doing talking,” she answered reasonably, “when I wasn’t listening?”
- Chapter 10
- The less respect an older person deserves the more certain he is to demand it from anyone younger.
- Chapter 10
- I've heard all the usual Sweetness and Light that kids get pushed at them—how they should always forgive, how there’s some good in the worst of us, etc. But when I see a black widow, I step on it; I don’t plead with it to be a good little spider and please stop poisoning people. A black widow spider can’t help it—but that’s the point.
- Chapter 10
- “Die trying” is the proudest human thing.
- Chapter 11
- When a fact came along, he junked theories that failed to match.
- Chapter 12
- The best things in history are accomplished by people who get “tired of being shoved around.”
- Chapter 12
Starship Troopers (1959)
- These are just a few samples; for more quotes from this work, see Starship Troopers.
- Morals — all correct moral laws — derive from the instinct to survive. Moral behavior is survival behavior above the individual level.
- Correct morality can only be derived from what man is — not from what do-gooders and well-meaning aunt Nellies would like him to be.
Stranger in a Strange Land (1961; 1991)
- These are just a few samples; for more quotes from this work, see Stranger in a Strange Land
- Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
- "Jubal Harshaw" in the first edition (1961); the later 1991 "Uncut" edition didn't have this line, because it was one Heinlein had added when he went through and trimmed the originally submitted manuscript on which the "Uncut" edition is based. Heinlein also later used a variant of this in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls where he has Xia quote Harshaw: "Dr. Harshaw says that 'the word "love" designates a subjective condition in which the welfare and happiness of another person are essential to one's own happiness.'"
- Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often confuses one for the other, or assumes the greater the love, the greater the jealousy. In fact they are almost incompatible; both at once produce unbearable turmoil.
- "Jubal Harshaw" in the first edition (1961); this is another line not in the "Uncut" edition of 1991 based on his original manuscripts, because this was one of the lines that Heinlein added, rather than trimmed down, during the editing process of the first edition.
- Ben, the ethics of sex is a thorny problem. Each of us is forced to grope for a solution he can live with — in the face of a preposterous, unworkable, and evil code of so-called "morals." Most of us know the code is wrong; almost everybody breaks it. But we pay Danegeld by feeling guilty and giving lip service. Willy-nilly, the code rides us, dead and stinking, an albatross around the neck.
You, too, Ben. You fancy yourself a free soul — and break that evil code. But faced with a problem in sexual ethics new to you, you tested it against that same Judeo-Christian code ... so automatically your stomach did flip-flops ... and you think that proves you're right and they're wrong. Faugh! I'd as lief use trial by ordeal.
- "Jubal Harshaw"
- There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk "his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor" on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else.
Glory Road (1963)
- These are just a few samples; for more quotes from this work, see Glory Road
- Logic is a feeble reed, friend. "Logic" proved that airplanes can't fly and that H-bombs won't work and that stones don't fall out of the sky. Logic is a way of saying that anything which didn't happen yesterday won't happen tomorrow.
- Democracy can't work. Mathematicians, peasants, and animals, that's all there is — so democracy, a theory based on the assumption that mathematicians and peasants are equal, can never work. Wisdom is not additive; its maximum is that of the wisest man in a given group.
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966)
- These are just a few sample quotations; for more quotes from this work, see The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
- A rational anarchist believes that concepts, such as "state" and "society" and "government" have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame ... as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world ... aware that his efforts will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.
- I will accept the rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.
- Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws — always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: Please pass this so that I won't be able to do something I know I should stop. Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them for their own good.
- Acronym for "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch." The origin of this phrase is often misattributed to Heinlein or Milton Friedman, but it actually dates back to at least the 1930s. Heinlein's contribution was to make the acronym for it.
- There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.
I Will Fear No Evil (1970)
- All page numbers from the 1987 mass market edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 0-441-35917-5
- “Going to dance at my wake?”
“I don’t dance,” the lawyer answered, “but you tempt me to learn.”
- Chapter 1 (p. 13)
- From my point of view it is better to be alive and young again, and broke, than it is to be the richest corpse in Forest Lawn.
- Chapter 1 (p. 24)
- What we think of as ‘Physical beauty’ is almost certainly a tag for a complex of useful survival characteristics. Smartness—intelligence—among them.
- Chapter 2 (p. 35)
- Fighting continued on a token basis, and the dead did not complain.
- Chapter 12 (p. 171)
- I’m not trying to frighten you, but only a fool makes predictions based on ignorance; I am not that sort of fool.
- Chapter 12 (p. 177)
- A man who marries at my age isn’t taking a wife, he’s indenturing a nurse.
- Chapter 14 (p. 224)
- Between being ‘right’ and being kind, I know which way I vote.
- Chapter 24 (p. 400)
- We may eliminate death someday but I doubt if we’ll ever eliminate taxes.
- Chapter 24 (p. 406)
- When you’re rich, you don’t have friends; you just have endless acquaintances.
- Chapter 24 (p. 408)
- It’s impossible for a woman to lay it on too thick with a man. If you tell a man he’s eight feet tall and say it often enough, with your eyes wide and a throb in your voice, he’ll start stooping to go through seven-foot doors.
- Chapter 25 (p. 427)
- I have never been able to see life as anything but a vast complicated practical joke, and it’s better to laugh than cry.
- Chapter 25 (p. 442)
- Boats and ships are female because they are beautiful, lovable, expensive—and unpredictable.
- Chapter 26 (p. 452)
- I don’t think Father Hugo is any more mistaken than the most learned theologian and he might be closer to the truth. Jacob, I don’t think anyone knows Who’s in charge.
- Chapter 26 (p. 459)
- I think the major problem in growing up is to become sophisticated without becoming cynical.
- Chapter 27 (p. 473)
- Death is an old friend; I know him well. I lived with him, ate with him, slept with him; to meet him again does not frighten me—death is as necessary as birth, as happy in its own way.
- Chapter 27 (p. 488)
Time Enough for Love (1973)
- Most, if not all, of these quotations are of the recurring Heinlein character "Lazarus Long", and most were labeled within that work as "Excerpts from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long". Many of these were later published as a separate poster book. The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (1978).
- If the human animal has any value at all, he is too valuable to be property. If he has an inner dignity, he is much too proud to own other men. I don't give a damn how scrubbed and perfumed he may be, a slave owner is subhuman.
- It’s not enough to be able to lie with a straight face; anybody with enough gall to raise on a busted flush can do that. The first way to lie artistically is to tell the truth — but not all of it. The second way involves telling the truth, too, but is harder: Tell the exact truth and maybe all of it…but tell it so unconvincingly that your listener is sure you are lying.
- Progress doesn't come from early risers — progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.
- $100 placed at 7 percent interest compounded quarterly for 200 years will increase to more than $100,000,000 — by which time it will be worth nothing.
- A "critic" is a man who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men. There is logic in this; he is unbiased — he hates all creative people equally.
- A "pacifist male" is a contradiction in terms. Most self-described "pacifists" are not pacific; they simply assume false colors. When the wind changes, they hoist the Jolly Roger.
- A brute kills for pleasure. A fool kills from hate.
- A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity.
- A fake fortuneteller can be tolerated. But an authentic soothsayer should be shot on sight. Cassandra did not get half the kicking around she deserved.
- A generation which ignores history has no past — and no future.
- Paraphrased variant: A generation without history has no past — and no future.
- 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. p.248
- A motion to adjourn is always in order.
- A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits.
- A touchstone to determine the actual worth of an "intellectual" — find out how he feels about astrology.
- A woman is not property, and husbands who think otherwise are living in a dreamworld.
- All men are created unequal.
- All societies are based on rules to protect pregnant women and young children. All else is surplusage, excrescence, adornment, luxury, or folly, which can — and must — be dumped in emergency to preserve this prime function. As racial survival is the only universal morality, no other basic is possible. Attempts to formulate a "perfect society" on any foundation other than "Women and children first!" is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly — and no doubt will keep on trying.
- A society that gets rid of all its troublemakers goes downhill.
- Always listen to experts. They'll tell you what can't be done, and why. Then do it.
- Always store beer in a dark place.
- An elephant. A mouse built to government specifications.
- Another ingredient in a happy marriage: Budget the luxuries first!
- Any government will work if authority and responsibility are equal and coordinate. This does not insure "good" government; it simply insures that it will work. But such governments are rare — most people want to run things but want no part of the blame. This used to be called the "backseat-driver syndrome."
- Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proved innocent.
- Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.
- Avoid making irrevocable decisions while tired or hungry. N.B.: Circumstances can force your hand. So think ahead!
- Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors — and miss.
- Being intelligent is not a felony. But most societies evaluate it as at least a misdemeanor.
- Beware of altruism. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil.
- By the data to date, there is only one animal in the Galaxy dangerous to man — man himself. So he must supply his own indispensable competition. He has no enemy to help him.
- Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win.
- Cheops' Law: Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.
- Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.
- Courage is the complement of fear. A man who is fearless cannot be courageous. (He is also a fool.)
- Darling, a true lady takes off her dignity with her clothes and does her whorish best. At other times you can be as modest and dignified as your persona requires.
- Dear, don't bore him with trivia or burden him with your past mistakes. The happiest way to deal with a man is never to tell him anything he does not need to know.
- Delusions are often functional. A mother's opinions about her children's beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth.
- Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How's that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let's play that over again, too. Who decides?
- Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.
- Does history record any case in which the majority was right?
- Do not confuse "duty" with what other people expect of you; they are utterly different. Duty is a debt you owe to yourself to fulfill obligations you have assumed voluntarily. Paying that debt can entail anything from years of patient work to instant willingness to die. Difficult it may be, but the reward is self-respect.
But there is no reward at all for doing what other people expect of you, and to do so is not merely difficult, but impossible. It is easier to deal with a footpad than it is with the leech who wants "just a few minutes of your time, please — this won't take long." Time is your total capital, and the minutes of your life are painfully few. If you allow yourself to fall into the vice of agreeing to such requests, they quickly snowball to the point where these parasites will use up 100 percent of your time — and squawk for more!
So learn to say No — and to be rude about it when necessary.
Otherwise you will not have time to carry out your duty, or to do your own work, and certainly no time for love and happiness. The termites will nibble away your life and leave none of it for you.
(This rule does not mean that you must not do a favor for a friend, or even a stranger. But let the choice be yours. Don't do it because it is "expected" of you.)
- Don't ever become a pessimist, Ira; a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.
- Early rising may not be a vice ... but it is certainly no virtue. The old saw about the early bird just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed.
- Everybody lies about sex.
- Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.
- Expertise in one field does not carry over into other fields. But experts often think so. The narrower their field of knowledge the more likely they are to think so.
- Get a shot off fast. This upsets him long enough to let you make your second shot perfect.
- God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent — it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks, please. Cash and in small bills.
- History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.
- History has the relation to truth that theology has to religion — i.e., none to speak of.
- Human beings hardly ever learn from the experience of others. They learn; when they do, which isn't often, on their own, the hard way.
- I don't trust a man who talks about ethics when he is picking my pocket. But if he is acting in his own self-interest and says so, I have usually been able to work out some way to do business with him.
- If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion. It has long been known that one horse can run faster than another — but which one? Differences are crucial.
- If men were the automatons that behaviorists claim they are, the behaviorist psychologists could not have invented the amazing nonsense called "behaviorist psychology."
- If tempted by something that feels "altruistic," examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!
- If the universe has any purpose more important than topping a woman you love and making a baby with her hearty help, I've never heard of it.
- If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for, but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong. If this is too blind for your taste, consult some well-meaning fool (there is always one around) and ask his advice. Then vote the other way. This enables you to be a good citizen (if such is your wish) without spending the enormous amount of time on it that truly intelligent exercise of franchise requires.
- If you don't like yourself, you can't like other people.
- If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you'll abort it if you do. Be patient and you'll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait.
- In a mature society, "civil servant" is semantically equal to "civil master."
- It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.
- It is better to copulate than never.
- It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier.
- It's amazing how much "mature wisdom" resembles being too tired.
- Little girls, like butterflies, need no excuse.
- Masturbation is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrongdoing — and you don't have to go home in the cold. But it's lonely.
- Men are more sentimental than women. It blurs their thinking.
- Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.
- Money is a powerful aphrodisiac. But flowers work almost as well.
- Money is the sincerest of all flattery. Women love to be flattered. So do men.
- Most people can't think, most of the remainder won't think, the small fraction who do think mostly can't do it very well. The extremely tiny fraction who think regularly, accurately, creatively, and without self-delusion — in the long run these are the only people who count.
- Most "scientists" are bottle washers and button sorters.
- Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naïve, the unsophisticated deplore these formalities as "empty," "meaningless," or "dishonest," and scorn to use them. No matter how "pure" their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.
- Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage.
- Never attempt to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. (see also English proverbs)
- Never crowd youngsters about their private affairs — sex especially. When they are growing up, they are nerve ends all over, and resent (quite properly) any invasion of their privacy. Oh, sure, they'll make mistakes — but that's their business, not yours. (You made your own mistakes, did you not?)
- Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
- "No man is an island — " Much as we may feel and act as Individuals, our race is — a single organism, always growing and branching — which must be pruned regularly to be healthy.
This necessity need not be argued; anyone with eyes can see that any organism which grows without limit always dies in its own poisons. The only rational question is whether pruning is best done before or after birth.
Being an incurable sentimentalist I favor the former of these methods — killing makes me queasy, even when it's a case of "He's dead and I'm alive and that's the way I wanted it to be."
But this may be a matter of taste. Some shamans think that it is better to be killed in a war, or to die in childbirth, or to starve in misery, than never to have lived at all. They may be right.
But I don't have to like it — and I don't.
- No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and, in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: "Come back with your shield, or on it." Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome.
- Nursing does not diminish the beauty of a woman's breasts; it enhances their charm by making them look lived in and happy.
- Of all the strange "crimes" that human beings have legislated out of nothing, "blasphemy"is the most amazing — with "obscenity" and "indecent exposure" fighting it out for second and third place.
- One man's "magic" is another man's engineering. "Supernatural" is a null word.
- One man's theology is another man's belly laugh.
- Peace is an extension of war by political means. Plenty of elbow room is pleasanter — and much safer.
- People who go broke in a big way never miss any meals. It is the poor jerk who is shy a half slug who must tighten his belt.
- Place your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.
- Political tags — such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth — are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
- Rub her feet.
- Sex should be friendly. Otherwise stick to mechanical toys; it's more sanitary.
- Sin lies only in hurting others unnecessarily. All other "sins" are invented nonsense. (Hurting yourself is not sinful —just stupid.)
- Being generous is inborn; being altruistic is a learned perversity. No resemblance.
- Small change can often be found under seat cushions.
- Stupidity cannot be cured with money, or through education, or by legislation. Stupidity is not a sin, the victim can't help being stupid. But stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.
- Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed.
- The first time I was a drill instructor I was too inexperienced for the job — the things I taught those lads must have got some of them killed. War is too serious a matter to be taught by the inexperienced.
- The more you love, the more you can love — and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just.
- The most preposterous notion that H. sapiens has ever dreamed up is that the Lord God of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of all the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration of His creatures, can be swayed by their prayers, and becomes petulant if He does not receive this flattery. Yet this absurd fantasy, without a shred of evidence to bolster it, pays all the expenses of the oldest, largest, and least productive industry in all history.
The second most preposterous notion is that copulation is inherently sinful.
- The phrase "we (I) (you) simply must —" designates some thing that need not be done. "That goes without saying" is a red warning. "Of course" means you had best check it yourself. These small-change clichés and others like them, when read correctly, are reliable channel markers.
- The profession of shaman has many advantages. It offers high status with a safe livelihood free of work in the dreary, sweaty sense. In most societies it offers legal privileges and immunities not granted to other men. But it is hard to see how a man who has been given a mandate from on High to spread tidings of joy to all mankind can be seriously interested in taking up a collection to pay his salary; it causes one to suspect that the shaman is on the moral level of any other con man.
But it's lovely work if you can stomach it.
- The second best thing about space travel is that the distances involved make war very difficult, usually impractical, and almost always unnecessary. This is probably a loss for most people, since war is our race's most popular diversion, one which gives purpose and color to dull and stupid lives. But it is a great boon to the intelligent man who fights only when he must — never for sport.
- The shamans are forever yacking about their snake-oil "miracles." I prefer the Real McCoy — a pregnant woman.
- The truth of a proposition has nothing to do with its credibility. And vice versa.
- The two highest achievements of the human mind are the twin concepts of "loyalty" and "duty." Whenever these twin concepts fall into disrepute — get out of there fast! You may possibly save yourself, but it is too late to save that society. It is doomed.
- There are hidden contradictions in the minds of people who "love Nature" while deploring the "artificialities" with which "Man has spoiled 'Nature.'" The obvious contradiction lies in their choice of words, which imply that Man and his artifacts are not part of "Nature" — but beavers and their dams are. But the contradictions go deeper than this prima-facie absurdity. In declaring his love for a beaver dam (erected by beavers for beavers' purposes) and his hatred for dams erected by men (for the purposes of men) the Naturist reveals his hatred for his own race — i.e., his own self-hatred.
In the case of "Naturists" such self-hatred is understandable; they are such a sorry lot. But hatred is too strong an emotion to feel toward them; pity and contempt are the most they rate.
As for me, willy-nilly I am a man, not a beaver, and H. sapiens is the only race I have or can have. Fortunately for me, I like being part of a race made up of men and women — it strikes me as a fine arrangement — and perfectly "natural" Believe it or not, there were "Naturists" who opposed the first flight to old Earth's Moon as being "unnatural" and a "despoiling of Nature."
- There is no conclusive evidence of life after death. But there is no evidence of any sort against it. Soon enough you will know. So why fret about it?
- There is no such thing as "social gambling." Either you are there to cut the other bloke's heart out and eat it — or you're a sucker. If you don't like this choice — don't gamble.
- There is only one way to console a widow. But remember the risk.
- Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as "bad luck."
- To be matter of fact about the world is to blunder into fantasy — and dull fantasy at that, as the real world is strange and wonderful.
- Touch is the most fundamental sense. A baby experiences it, all over, before he is born and long before he learns to use sight, hearing, or taste, and no human ever ceases to need it. Keep your children short on pocket money — but long on hugs.
- Was there ever a time when the majority was right?
- What a wonderful world it is that has girls in it!
- What are the facts? Again and again and again — what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what "the stars foretell," avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable "verdict of history" — what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!
- When a place gets crowded enough to require ID's, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere.
- When the need arises — and it does — you must be able to shoot your own dog. Don't farm it out — that doesn't make it nicer, it makes it worse.
- Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, "equality" is a disaster.
- Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of — but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.
- You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.
- You live and learn. Or you don't live long.
- Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate — and quickly.
- Pessimist by policy, optimist by temperament — it is possible to be both. How? By never taking an unnecessary chance and by minimizing risks you can’t avoid. This permits you to play out the game happily, untroubled by the certainty of the outcome.
- Being privileged to work hard for long hours at something you think is worth doing is the best kind of play.
The Pragmatics of Patriotism (1973)
- Quotations from Heinlein's address at the U.S. Naval Academy (5 April 1973), published in Analog : Science Fiction/Science Fact, Vol. 94, Issue 6 (1974), and in Expanded Universe (1980)
- In this complex world, science, the scientific method, and the consequences of the scientific method are central to everything the human race is doing and to wherever we are going. If we blow ourselves up we will do it by misapplication of science; if we manage to keep from blowing ourselves up, it will be through intelligent application of science.
- Patriotism is not sentimental nonsense. Nor something dreamed up by demagogues. Patriotism is as necessary a part of man's evolutionary equipment as are his eyes, as useful to the race as eyes are to the individual.
- I now define "moral behavior" as "behavior that tends toward survival." I won't argue with philosophers or theologians who choose to use the word "moral" to mean something else, but I do not think anyone can define "behavior that tends toward extinction" as being "moral" without stretching the word "moral" all out of shape.
- Selfishness is the bedrock on which all moral behavior starts and it can be immoral only when it conflicts with a higher moral imperative. An animal so poor in spirit that he won't even fight on his own behalf is already an evolutionary dead end; the best he can do for his breed is to crawl off and die, and not pass on his defective genes.
- The next higher level is to work, fight, and sometimes die for your own immediate family. This is the level at which six pounds of mother cat can be so fierce that she'll drive off a police dog. It is the level at which a father takes a moonlighting job to keep his kids in college — and the level at which a mother or father dives into a flood to save a drowning child ... and it is still moral behavior even when it fails.
- Evolution is a process that never stops. Baboons who fail to exhibit moral behavior do not survive; they wind up as meat for leopards.
- The next level in moral behavior higher than that exhibited by the baboon is that in which duty and loyalty are shown toward a group of your own kind too large for an individual to know all of them. We have a name for that. It is called "patriotism."
- Behaving on a still higher moral level were the astronauts who went to the Moon, for their actions tend toward the survival of the entire race of mankind.
- Many short-sighted fools think that going to the Moon was just a stunt. But the astronauts knew the meaning of what they were doing, as is shown by Neil Armstrong's first words in stepping down onto the soil of Luna: "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
- Men are expendable; women and children are not. A tribe or a nation can lose a high percentage of its men and still pick up the pieces and go on ... as long as the women and children are saved. But if you fail to save the women and children, you've had it, you're done, you're through! You join Tyrannosaurus Rex, one more breed that bilged its final test.
- I said that "Patriotism" is a way of saying "Women and children first." And that no one can force a man to feel this way. Instead he must embrace it freely. I want to tell about one such man. He wore no uniform and no one knows his name, or where he came from; all we know is what he did.
In my home town sixty years ago when I was a child, my mother and father used to take me and my brothers and sisters out to Swope Park on Sunday afternoons. It was a wonderful place for kids, with picnic grounds and lakes and a zoo. But a railroad line cut straight through it.
One Sunday afternoon a young married couple were crossing these tracks. She apparently did not watch her step, for she managed to catch her foot in the frog of a switch to a siding and could not pull it free. Her husband stopped to help her.
But try as they might they could not get her foot loose. While they were working at it, a tramp showed up, walking the ties. He joined the husband in trying to pull the young woman's foot loose. No luck —
Out of sight around the curve a train whistled. Perhaps there would have been time to run and flag it down, perhaps not. In any case both men went right ahead trying to pull her free ... and the train hit them.
The wife was killed, the husband was mortally injured and died later, the tramp was killed — and testimony showed that neither man made the slightest effort to save himself.
The husband's behavior was heroic ... but what we expect of a husband toward his wife: his right, and his proud privilege, to die for his woman. But what of this nameless stranger? Up to the very last second he could have jumped clear. He did not. He was still trying to save this woman he had never seen before in his life, right up to the very instant the train killed him. And that's all we'll ever know about him.
This is how a man dies.
This is how a man ... lives!
- Friday, don't despise assassins indiscriminately. As with any tool, merit or demerit lies in how it is used.
- All normal human beings have soi-disant mixed-up glands. The race is divided into two parts: those who know this and those who do not.
- Ch. XXI, p. 214
- Geniuses and supergeniuses always make their own rules on sex as on everything else; they do not accept the monkey customs of their lessers.
- Ch. XXI, p. 214
- A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion — any religion — is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak uncertainty of reason — but one cannot have both.
Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984)
- These are just a few sample quotations, for more from this work, see Job: A Comedy of Justice
- Wisdom includes not getting angry unnecessarily. The Law ignores trifles and the wise man does, too.
- Time is never a problem on the God level. Or space. Whatever needed to deceive you was provided. But no more than that. That is the conservative principle in art at the God level. While I can't do it, not being at that level, I have seen a lot of it done. A skillful Artist in shapes and appearances does no more than necessary to create His effect.
- I usually read the obituaries first as there is always the happy chance that one of them will make my day.
- Richard Ames; chapter 3, p. 27
- A monarch's neck should always have a noose around it. It keeps him upright.
- Richard Ames; chapter 9, p. 108
- Premenstrual Syndrome: Just before their periods women behave the way men do all the time.
- credited to Lowell Stone, M.D., born 2144; chapter 15, p. 185
- Women seem to have almost unlimited capacity for forgiveness. (Since it is usually a man who needs forgiveness, this must be a racial survival trait.)
- Richard Ames; chapter 16, p. 200
- The hardest part about gaining any new idea is sweeping out the false idea occupying that niche. As long as that niche is occupied, evidence and proof and logical demonstration get nowhere. But once the niche is emptied of the wrong idea that has been filling it — once you can honestly say, "I don't know", then it becomes possible to get at the truth.
- Gwen Novak (Hazel Stone); chapter 18, p. 230
- How can you argue with a woman who won't?
- Richard Ames; chapter 19, p. 235
- Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat.
- "The Almighty-God idea came under attack because it explained nothing; it simply pushed all explanations one stage farther away. In the nineteenth century atheistic positivism started displacing the Almighty-God notion in that minority of the population that bathed regularly. Atheism had a limited run, as it, too, explains nothing, being merely Godism turned upside down."
- p. 564
- "Of course the intellectual class did not notice this for many decades, as an intellectual is a highly educated man who can't do arithmetic with his shoes on, and is proud of the lack."
- p. 564
Grumbles from the Grave (1989)
- "How long has this racket been going on?"
- Remark after receiving a $70 US check for his first published story.
- I expect this to be my last venture in this field; 'tain't worth the grief
- Response to efforts to censor his first novel, Red Planet
- Criminals are never materially handicapped by such rules; the only effect is to disarm the peaceful citizen and put him fully at the mercy of the lawless. Such rules look very pretty on paper; in practice they are as foolish and footless as the attempt of the mice to bell the cat.
- Letter to Alice Dalgliesh, the editor who was censoring his manuscript for Red Planet, regarding gun control registration and control
Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, Volume I (1907–1949): Learning Curve (2010)
Authorized biography by William H. Patterson, Jr., ISBN 0765319608
- This is the great day. This is the greatest event in all the history of the human race, up to this time. That is — today is New Year's Day of the Year One. If we don't change the calendar, historians will do so. The human race — this is our change, our puberty rite, bar mitzvah, confirmation, from the change of our infancy into adulthood for the human race. And we're going to go on out, not only to the Moon, to the stars; we're going to spread. I don't know that the United States is going to do it; I hope so. I have — I'm an American myself; I want it to be done by us. But in any case, the human race is going to do it, it's utterly inevitable: we're going to spread through the entire universe.
- In a live interview with Walter Cronkite of CBS News, on the day of the first moonwalk (20 July 1969).
Quotes about Heinlein
- Alphabetized by author
- YOUR INFLUENCE ON US ALL, FROM 1939 ON, CANNOT BE MEASURED. I CAN ONLY SAY I REMEMBER, WARMLY, YOUR MANY KINDNESSES TO ME WHEN I WAS 19–20–21 YEARS OLD. THAT YOUNG MAN BASKED IN YOUR LIGHT AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE GRATEFUL FOR THE HELP YOU OFFERED WHEN I WAS SO POOR & NEEDFUL!
- Several years ago, when I was ill, Heinlein offered his help, anything he could do, and we had never met; he would phone me to cheer me up and see how I was doing. He wanted to buy me an electric typewriter, God bless him — one of the few true gentlemen in this world. I don't agree with any ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there. One time when I owed the IRS a lot of money and couldn't raise it, Heinlein loaned the money to me. I think a great deal of him and his wife; I dedicated a book to them in appreciation. Robert Heinlein is a fine-looking man, very impressive and very military in stance; you can tell he has a military background, even to the haircut. He knows I'm a flipped-out freak and still he helped me and my wife when we were in trouble. That is the best in humanity, there; that is who and what I love.
- Heinlein presents us, in terms of his sources and influences with a rope of many strands and the strength of the whole is in the multiplicity of the strands. To lift one strand out and examine it has two immediate effects: it magnifies the relative importance out of proportion to its place in the whole; and it weakens the whole. For all the good and interesting use Heinlein made of his encounter with Cabell, he was not a disciple or even a "Cabell minor." Rather, he used Cabellian materials to make his own figure in the world, and in so doing he has given the Biography of the Life of Manuel a Life of its own, flowing into literary history.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery — but in literature, transformation is the only form of progeny.
- I found Robert A. Heinlein in back issues of Astounding, and also in The Saturday Evening Post, and I read everything of his I could find. I was completely hooked on his "juveniles": Space Cadet. Red Planet. Starman Jones. Between Planets. Farmer in the Sky. Wonderful stories, and the only thing "juvenile" about them was that he took the trouble to explain what was happening. Robert once told me that young people want to know how things work, and you can tell them more in a "juvenile" than you can in an adult novel. In any event I devoured everything of his I could find, through high school, the army, college, and I couldn’t have cared less that many were "juveniles". They were wonderful.
I met Robert Heinlein years later, and through some kind of rare magic we became instant friends. We corresponded for a decade. In those days I was an engineering psychologist, operations research specialist, and systems engineer in aerospace. Most of my work was military aerospace, but I did get to work on Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. We were helping to make the dream come true!
I went from there to a professorship, and then into political management and city government. Robert visited me when I was working for Mayor Sam Yorty. "You probably don’t know this," he said, "but my political career ended when Yorty beat me for the Democratic nomination to the State Assembly."
When I finally decided to get out of politics, academia, and the aerospace industry and try my hand at writing, Mr. Heinlein was enormously helpful. Years later, when I was an established writer, I asked him how I could pay him back.
"You can’t," he said. "You don’t pay back, you pay forward." I never forgot that, just as I never forgot the wonderful things his ‘juvenile’ stories did for me.