Algis Budrys

American writer

Algis Budrys (January 9, 1931 – June 9, 2008) was a Lithuanian-American science fiction author, editor, and critic.

Algis Budrys, 1985



Short fiction

  • We are born of Humankind—
    This our destiny:
    To bitter dwell in discontent
    Wherever we may be.
  • Are our souls so much perverted?
    Can we not relent?
    Or are the stars the madman’s cost
    For his inborn discontent?
  • Only gods and television audiences see the pattern of human events.
    • On Clouds of Glory, in Astounding, July 1955, p. 25
  • Charging back and forth isn’t progress. Small but steady forward motion is.
    • On Clouds of Glory, in Astounding, July 1955, p. 32
  • By the time of his adolescence, he had discovered an absolute lack of involvement with the human race. He studied it, because it was the salient feature of his environment. He did not live with it. It said nothing to him that was of personal value; its motivations, morals, manners and morale did not find responsive reactions in him. And his, of course, made absolutely no impression on it.
    • Nobody Bothers Gus, in Astounding, November 1955, p. 76
  • I do what seems best—I live, I let live; so far I’ve done well. I don’t see why I should act like a predator, simply because I’m in a predatory society. I’m a human being, I’m myself—if I make my life something vicious, who’ll give me another if, too late, I regret what I’ve done?
  • He wondered, as he often had during his life, at people’s ability to think so intricately and to still be wrong.
Page numbers from the mass market first edition, published by the Ballantine Books (388K)
  • “Can I drive you down to your house?”
    The man flicked an expressive glance along the car’s length and shook his head. “Thanks. I’ll walk. There’s still a law of averages.”
    And you can take that phrase and carve it on Humanity’s headstone, Fay thought bitterly, but did not reply.
  • Williamson threw his hands carefully up to heaven and snorted again. Apparently, everything Fay said served to confirm some judgment of mankind on his part.
    • The End of Summer, p. 22
  • “You look like any other brainless jackanapes,” he mused, “but apparently there’s some gray matter left in your artfully coiffed skull after all.”
    • The End of Summer, p. 22
  • There are various uses for time, and I have better ones than this.
    • The End of Summer, p. 23
  • Young man, you’re living proof that our basic policy is right. I wouldn’t trust an ignoramus like you with the information required to cut his throat.
    • The End of Summer, p. 23
  • Amnesia was the price of immortality.
    • The End of Summer, p. 27
  • Wasn’t being a dilettante the result of an inner conviction that you were too good for routine living?
    • The End of Summer, p. 30
  • There has to be an end somewhere, he thought. Each thing has to end, or there will never be any room for beginnings.
    • The End of Summer, p. 32
  • Sentiment was the easy thing. But logic reminded a man that some people insisted on living their neighbor’s lives, that some people were offensive.
    There were people with moral codes they clung to and lived by, people who worshiped in what they held to be the only orthodox way, people who clung to some idea—some rock on which their lives rested. Well and good. But if they tried to inflict these reforms on their neighbors, patience could only go so far, and the tolerance of fanaticism lasts just so long.
  • “Armies!” he burst out. “The day Freemen organize to invade another area is the day they stop being Freemen. They become soldiers, loyal to the army and their generals. They lose their identification with their homes and families. They become a separate class—an armed, organized class of military specialists no one family can stand against. And on that day, freedom dies for everybody.
    • The Burning World, pp. 57-58
  • It isn’t given to very many men to have their dreams come true in their lifetimes.
    • The Burning World, p. 58
  • It hadn’t had to take the form of this terrible bubble. It might as easily have been a sudden sharp burst behind his eyes or a slower, subtler gnawing at his vitals. But he’d known it was coming, as every man knows and tries to forget it is coming.
    • The Burning World, p. 64
  • Once he’d been in his twenties, looking forward. Now he was a shade past fifty, and what he looked back on was subtly less satisfactory than what he had looked forward to.
  • Does it not seem to you, Justice Joyce, that this series of statistics might well occur without the intervention of any Divine Will whatsoever?
    • The Executioner, p. 136

Who? (1958)

Novel which was nominated for the 1959 Hugo Award.
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Questar ISBN 0-445-20314-5
  • There’re limits to what civilized people can bring out into the open, no matter how savagely they can speculate.
    • p. 53
  • That was the way things worked out: you got a certain fair share of good breaks from life, and you had no right to expect things your way every time.
    • p. 96
  • Of course, you have to remind yourself that you might be seeing things that were never there. You might be maneuvering your memories to bring them into line with what you’d want them to be. You can’t be sure you’re not just daydreaming.
    • p. 119
Novel which was nominated for the 1961 Hugo Award.
All page numbers from the first edition mass market paperback published by Fawcett Publications (Gold Medal Book L1474)
  • “There’re all kinds of people in this world. But they break down into two main groups, one big and one smaller. There’s the people who get moved out of the way or into line, and then there’s the people who do the moving. It’s safer and a lot more comfortable to go where you’re pushed. You don’t take any of the responsibility, and if you do what you’re told, every once in a while you get thrown a fish.
    “Being a mover isn’t safe, because you may be heading for a hole, and it isn’t comfortable because you do a lot of jostling back and forth, and what’s more, it’s up to you to get your own fish. But it’s a hell of a lot of fun.” He looked into Hawks’ eyes. “Isn’t it?”
    • Chapter 1, Section 2 (pp. 12-13)
  • Claire threw her head and laughed. “There are all kinds of men. The only kind that’re worth anyone’s time are the ones I can’t mangle the first time out.”
    • Chapter 1, Section 3 (p. 22)
  • There are the people in this world who act, and the people who scheme. The ones who act get things done, and the ones who scheme try to take credit for it. You must know that as well as I do.
    • Chapter 1, Section 3 (p. 27)
  • Look, if I could guarantee what the results were going to be, I wouldn’t need a research program!
    • Chapter 3, Section 2 (p. 57)
  • A man is a phoenix, who must be reborn from his own ashes, for there is no other like him in the universe. If the wind stirs the ashes into a clumsy parody, then the phoenix is dead forever. Nothing we know of can bring you back.
    • Chapter 3, Section 5 (p. 71)
  • He saw Hawks, grunted, hefted the bottle and said, “I hate the stuff. It tastes lousy, it makes me gag, it stinks, and it burns my mouth. But they keep putting it in your hands, and they keep saying ‘Drink up!’ to each other, and ‘What’s the matter, Charlie, falling a little behind, there? Freshen up that little drinkee for you?” Until you feel like a queer of some kind, and a bore for the times you say you don’t want another one, positively. And they fill their folklore with it, until you wouldn’t dream you were having a good time unless you’d swilled enough of the stuff to poison yourself all the next day. And they talk gentleman talk about it—ages and flavors and brands and blends, as if it wasn’t all ethanol in one concentration or another. Have you ever heard two Martini drinkers in a bar, Hawks? Have you ever heard two shamans swapping magic?”
    • Chapter 5, Section 6 (p. 112)
  • I know what Claire is. You know I know it. I told you the first minute I met you. But did you ever stop to think it’s all worth it to me? Every time she makes a pass at another man, I know she’s comparing. She’s out on the open market, shopping. And being shopped for. I don’t have any collar around her neck She’s not tame. I’m not a habit to her. I’m not something she’s tied to by any law. And every time she winds up coming back to me, you know what that proves. It proves I’m still the toughest man in the pack. Because she wouldn’t stay if I wasn’t.
    • Chapter 5, Section 6 (p. 113)
  • The universe has resources of death which we have barely begun to pick at.
    • Chapter 5, Section 6 (p. 116)
  • Death is in the nature of the universe, Barker. Death is only the operation of a mechanism. All the universe has been running down from the moment of its creation. Did you expect a machine to care what it acted upon? Death is like sunlight or a falling star; they don’t care where they fall. Death cannot see the pennants on a lance, or the wreath of glory in a dying man’s hand. Flags and flowers are the inventions of life. When a man dies, he falls into enemy hands—an ignorant enemy, who doesn’t merely spit on banners but who doesn’t even know what banners are. No ordinary man could stand to find that out. You found it out today. You sat in the laboratory and were speechless at the injustice of it. You’d never thought that justice was only another human invention.”
    • Chapter 5, Section 6 (p. 117)
  • Now you think about this, too: you’re not charming, dashing, or debonair. You’re funny looking, as a matter of fact. You’re too busy to spare much time for me, and even if you did take me out night-clubbing somewhere, you’d be so out of place that I couldn’t enjoy it. But you do one thing: you let me feel that my rules are as worthwhile to me as yours are to you. When you ask me to do something, I know you won’t be hurt if I refuse. And if I do it, you don’t feel that you’ve scored a point in some kind of complex game. You don’t try to use me, cozen me, or change me. I take up as much room in the world, the way you see it, as you do. Do you have any idea of how rare a thing that is?
    • Chapter 6 (pp. 127-128)
Page numbers from the mass market first edition, published by the Regency Books (RB 110)
  • Tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow was always better, for someone. The difficult task lay in ensuring that the someone was one of yours.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 51)
  • There’s a certain step-by-step logic, inherent in human nature and the peculiarities of human psychology, which ensures that Man will always organize into the largest possible group. Civilization is inevitable, if you want a pat phrase.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 82)
  • Well, I suppose we have to have young intellectuals, if we’re ever to survive to be middle-aged philosophers.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 84)
  • “You’re sincere enough.” She laughed shortly. “Heaven protect the human race from the sincere idealist!”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 101)
  • People want to be safe, and comfortable. If safety and comfort is to be found in guns, then they will take up guns—of their own accord, in their own need. And when safety and comfort are found in libraries, then the guns rust.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 122)
  • And, in Cot’s mind as in that of every other human being, what had been a twinging secret shame was disastrous and disgusting as a public horror.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 133)
All page numbers from the first mass market paperback edition, published by Berkley Books ISBN 0-425-03812-2
  • The dead must not rise—they undermine everything their dying created.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 13)
  • Never try to reason with a man who can see the blade swinging for his head.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 14)
  • Always lobbying for his own emotions, he was the perfect man for a job the administration had tacitly committed to ineptitude.
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 26-27)
  • Man, is it wrong to miss being young and sure of yourself?
    • Chapter 3 (p. 31)
  • “Smart isn’t ‘Can you do it, is it good to do?’ Smart is ‘Can you make ’em believe what you’re doing is real?’ And real is ‘Can you get financing for it?’”
    • Chapter 3 (p. 34)
  • That was a classic maniacal farrago, and it boils down to his not being able to understand the world. It wasn’t necessary to count the contradictions after the first one.
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 35-36)
  • Time was when men of Horse Watson’s profession typically never slept sober, and died with their livers eroded. It must have been fun to watch the literate swashbucklers make fools of themselves in the frontier saloons, indulging in horsewhippings and shoot-outs with rival journalists and their partisans. But who stopped to think what it was to have the power of words and publication, to discover that an entire town and territory would judge, condemn, act, reprieve and glorify because of something you had slugged together the night before? Because of something you had handset into type, smudging your fingertips with metal poisons that inexorably began their journey through your bloodstream? For the sake of the power, you turned your liver and kidneys into spongy, irascible masses; you tainted the tissue of your brain with heavy metal ions until it became a house haunted by stumbling visions. Alcohol would temporarily overcome the effect. So you became an alcoholic, and purchased sanity one day at a time, and made a spectacle of yourself. It was neither funny nor tragic in the end—it was simply a fact of life that operated more slowly on the mediocre, because the mediocre could turn themselves off and go to sleep whether they had done the night’s job to their own satisfaction or not.
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 36-37)
  • I wonder if time-traveling cultures are playing with us. I wonder if they process our history for entertainment values.
    • Chapter 6 (pp. 62-63)
  • It was understood on occasions of this sort that crew technicians are too busy to stay, since it had long ago been discovered that even one cameraman at a buffet was worth a horde of locusts, and tended to make awkward small talk.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 87)
  • “I’m not frightened.
    ”“None of us are ever frightened. Now and then, we’d just like more time to plan our responses.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 95)
  • I’m just an information processor like any other living thing.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 96)
  • You know, even more than playing chess, I dislike dealing with self-righteous chess players.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 98)
  • “The world is full of confusing coincidences.”
    “And a man’s mind insists on making patterns from random data.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 102)
  • It’s good for us; hot breath on your heels is what keeps you on your toes.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 120)
  • The way the world worked, once the word was out, the effect would take on exhaustibility. There was always not merely the event itself, but opinion of the event, and rebuttal of the opinion, and the ready charge of self-interest, and the countercharge. There was the analysis of the event, and the excavation of the root causes of the event, and the placement of the event in the correct historical context. Everyone would want to kick the can, and it would clatter over the cobblestones interminably, far from the toes of those who’d first impelled it.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 153)
  • “Even so, we’re the only animal whose signals can’t be trusted by its own kind.” He smiled. “Except for thee and me, of course.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 160)
  • I don’t know...but then, if God had intended Man to think, He would have given him brains, I suppose.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 163)
  • The horse is a stubborn, dirty, stupid animal that reminds me of a sheep. Its only use is to embody the wings a man feels within him, and to do this it lathers and sweats, defecates and steps in badger holes.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 184)
  • Bribes,” Michaelmas said. “They always go to bribes when they’re not sure they’re on top, and coercion when they are. That’s all they know. They really don’t believe anyone would help them just on their own merits.”
    • Chapter 11 (p. 204)
  • “I hate acting on probability.”
    “You go to your church and I’ll go to mine.”
    • Chapter 11 (p. 207)
  • “I—ah—have some idea.”
    “You argue?”
    “I propose.”
    “No. Another form of dialectical antagonism.”
    • Chapter 12 (p. 229)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition, published by Questar Science Fiction ISBN 0-446-36235-2, first printing
  • Any intelligent race you can hope to someday relate to is going to have to come up essentially the same developmental roads and deal with the physical laws of the Universe in about the same way.
    • Chapter 7, “The Rationale” (p. 48)
  • It’s amazing how self-perpetuating ignorance is.
    • Chapter 8, “About the Chaplain” (p. 61)
  • Well, you know, you do that kind of thing when you’re young. Then you get older. I think maybe most of the elders know all about that. They see but they don’t say, because they know everybody gets older.
    • Chapter 9, “Note on Dothan Stablits” (p. 65)
  • Cars seemed to me to speak more clearly of Earth than any single thing else.
    • Chapter 17, “Interpolation, Dwuord Arvan” (p. 128)
  • I understood, even then, that without question the best way to understand these people was to understand their infatuation with cars.
    • Chapter 20, “Cars” (p. 150)
  • Nobody liked him. Nobody loved him—and this bothered him. But everyone kowtowed to him, and that, it seems, was what he held most precious.
    • Chapter 22, “Statement, Ditlo Ravashan” (pp. 164-165)
  • I had had a good life. A somewhat shorter one than I had anticipated, but I had had the money, I had had the girls, and nobody told me what to do. Is there, really, anything else? Are you sure?
    • Chapter 23, “Statement II, Ditlo Ravashan” (p. 180)
  • Engineers do not particularly like PR men.
    • Chapter 25, “More Cars” (p. 188)


  • One fine evening I was having a conversation with Algis Budrys about rewriting and why so many writers believed that myth [that rewriting was necessary or essential]. He shrugged and said, "They don't know any better and no one has the courage to tell them." So I asked him if he ever thought rewriting could fix a flawed story. His answer was clear and I remember it word-for-word to this day: "No matter how many times you stir up a steaming pile of crap, it's still just a steaming pile of crap."
    • Dean Wesley Smith, Killing the Top 10 Sacred Cows of Publishing, WMG Publishing (2014); italics in original
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