Alexei Panshin

American writer and critic

Alexis Adams Panshin (August 14, 1940August 21, 2022) was an American author and science fiction critic.


All page numbers from the first edition mass market paperback published by Ace Books
  • Population pressure is the ultimate cause of every war.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 9).
  • You can’t stamp on people and not get hurt in return.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 39).
  • There’s no reason to trade insults. We have our way of life and they have theirs. I wouldn’t live as they do, but disrespect seems pointless. I’m sure there are good people among them.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 94).
  • I hadn’t gone into the subject of dorm living too deeply with him, not because I hesitated to probe his tender spots but because I would have been probing my own. This is called tact, and is reputed to be a virtue.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 97).
  • Some people get a feeling of power from being unpleasant.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 126).
  • I am completely convinced that the ultimate weapon is one that you can hold in your hand, point at a person, and thereby completely disrupt his sense of balance. All that he could do is lie in a huddled heap and puke. It would probably disrupt the concept of heroics for all time.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 139).
  • Whether or not your actions are determined, you have to act on the assumption that you have free will. If you are determined, your attempt at free will loses you nothing. However, if you are not determined and you act on the assumption that you are, you will never attempt anything. You will simply be a passive blob that things happen to.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 153).
  • The rest of our weekend—sleeping arrangements, hand-done work, hand-prepared food—was simple enough to please Thoreau, who I am convinced was a nice fellow who confused rustic vacations with life.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 157).
  • I finished by saying that it struck me that all the ethical systems I was discussing were after the fact. That is, that people act as they are disposed to, but they like to feel afterwards that they were right and so they invent systems that approve of their dispositions.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 166).
  • It left me there, the Compleat Young Girl, hell on wheels. I could build one-fifteenth of a log cabin, kill one-thirty-first of a tiger, kiss, do needlepoint, pass through an obstacle course, and come pretty close (in theory) to killing somebody with my bare hands. What did I have to worry about?
    • Chapter 14 (p. 187).
  • Brains are no good if you don’t use them.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 203).
  • A spear carrier is somebody who stands in the hall when Caesar passes, comes to attention and thumps his spear. A spear carrier is the anonymous character cut down by the hero as he advances to save the menaced heroine. A spear carrier is a character put in a story to be used like a piece of disposable tissue. In a story, spear carriers never suddenly assert themselves by throwing their spears aside and saying, “I resign. I don’t want to be used.“ They are there to be used, either for atmosphere or as minor obstacles in the path of the hero. The trouble is that each of us is his own hero, existing in a world of spear carriers. We take no joy in being used and discarded. I was finding then, that wet, chilly, unhappy night, that I took no joy in seeing other people used and discarded.”
    • Chapter 18 (p. 222).
  • I’ve always resented the word maturity, primarily, I think, because it is most often used as a club. If you do something that someone doesn’t like, you lack maturity, regardless of the actual merits of your action. Too, it seems to me that what is most often called maturity is nothing more than disengagement from life. If you meet life squarely, you are likely to make mistakes, do things you wish you hadn’t, say things you wish you could retract or phrase more felicitously, and, in short, fumble your way along. Those “mature” people whose lives are even without a single sour note or a single mistake, who never fumble, manage only at the cost of original thought and original action. They do without the successes as well as the failures. This has never appealed to me and that is another reason I could never accept the common image of maturity that was presented to me.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 241).
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