Catherynne M. Valente

American writer

Catherynne M. Valente (born Bethany Thomas, May 5, 1979) is an American fiction writer, poet, and literary critic.

Catherynne M. Valente, 2012


All page numbers are from the hardcover first edition published by Saga Press, ISBN 978-1-4814-9749-7, 4th printing
Nominated for the 2019 Campbell Memorial Award and the 2019 Hugo Award.
Italics as in the book
  • Life is beautiful and life is stupid. This is, in fact, widely regarded as a universal rule not less inviolable than the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Uncertainty Principle, and No Post on Sundays.
    • Chapter 1 “Boom Bang-a-Bang” (p. 4)
  • But in the end, all wars are more or less the same. If you dig down through the layers of caramel corn and peanuts and choking, burning death, you’ll find the prize at the bottom and the prize is a question and the question is this: Which of us are people and which of us are meat?
    • Chapter 1 “Boom Bang-a-Bang” (p. 5)
  • I don’t know why you would even bring up the Internet. The xeno-intelligence officer responsible for evaluating your digital communication required invasive emergency therapy after an hour’s exposure. One glance at that thing is the strongest argument possible against the sentience of humanity. I wouldn’t draw attention to it, if I were you.
    • Chapter 4 “Sing Little Birdie” (p. 39)
  • Everyone you know is a monster, sweetie. We’ve watched a lot of your media, you know. It’s an excellent way to evaluate societal sentience. You seem to be very concerned with monsters. Monsters from above, monsters from below, monsters among you, monsters from the sea, radioactive monsters, machine monsters, magical monsters, serial monsters who can only be stopped by monsters with badges. It’s a whole thing with you people. We got terrifically bored after a while. After all, you always win against the monsters, even though you’re the ones slowly cooking your planet because you can’t be bothered not to, butchering one another for fun and profit, making up elaborate stories that start with being calm and treating everyone with kindness and equality but somehow always end with somebody getting enslaved, absolutely obliterating the other species with whom you share a world so you can take a photograph with their corpses or gobble up their best features in hopes of achieving a more satisfying erection, and being generally willing to sell the fleeting, unique, fragile lives of everyone you’ve ever met if it means you can consume a slightly larger share of resources than they can. You can’t even agree on whether or not a sick child should get a tissue without having to really work for it. None of you seems to be able to stand one another. How will you treat us, if you are allowed to swarm across the galaxy? Which of us have horns or tusks or claws we feel quite attached to that might arouse your sluggish organs? Yes, of course, you’ve done some clever things with your time. No one is denying that rhythmic gymnastics are really just terrific. But in a clinch, you lot would rather watch someone suffer untold horrors than watch them enjoy so much as a cool drink if you don’t have two of your own, and yours have cherries in them as well as more ice and little paper umbrellas, and even then most of you would still prefer to take theirs and have three. This is not the behavior of a sentient race. It is the behavior of wild animals. Even your babies view anyone who doesn’t look just exactly like their parents with seething suspicion. It’s baked in to you. I’ll put this in words you can understand: humans are hideous, pain-guzzling, pollution-spouting space monsters who might threaten our way of life. Now, how does that usually pan out in the movies, kitten? At least we let you try to convince us we’re wrong. I doubt you asked the dodo birds what they thought about it before you blasted the last one in the face with a blunderbuss.
    • Chapter 4 “Sing Little Birdie” (pp. 39-40)
  • What was magical at two in the morning was tawdry and cheap and dangerous to your health at two in the afternoon.
    • Chapter 5 “We Wear Spring Clothes in the Wintertime” (p. 54)
  • Failure was here before you and she’ll be here after you and she won’t even notice you go.
    • Chapter 5 “We Wear Spring Clothes in the Wintertime” (p. 55)
  • He’d only said what he meant, which was, when you thought about it, a minor superpower, because so few people ever did.
    • Chapter 7 “Miracles Are Happening From Time to Time” (p. 64)
  • Though any species on any dumb gobworld may develop sentience (the poor bastards), no government ever does.
    • Chapter 8 “White and Black Blues” (p. 79)
  • The universe is a very large and very complicated demonstration of having one’s cake and eating it too. It sees no reason not to have it all.
    • Chapter 11 “1944” (p. 97)
  • The only question is this:
    Do you have enough empathy and yearning and desperation to connect to others outside yourself and scream into the void in four-part harmony? Enough brainpower and fine motor control and aesthetic ideation to look at feathers and stones and stuff that comes out of a worm’s more unpleasant holes and see gowns, veils, platform heels? Enough sheer style and excess energy to do something that provides no direct, material benefit to your personal survival, that might even mark you out from the pack as shiny, glittery prey, to do it for no other reason than that it rocks?
    • Chapter 13 “Everything Has Rhythm” (p. 106)
  • Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything pulses to a beat laid down by the Big Bang. Everything feels the drumline of creation from star to sex to song.
    • Chapter 13 “Everything Has Rhythm” (p. 106)
  • Are you kind enough, on your little planet, not to shut that rhythm down? Not to crush underfoot the singers of songs and tellers of tales and wearers of silk? Because it’s monsters who do that. Who extinguish art. Who burn books. Who ban music. Who yell at anyone with ears to turn off that racket. Who cannot see outside themselves clearly enough to sing their truth to the heavens. Do you have enough goodness in your world to let the music play?
    Do you have soul?
    • Chapter 13 “Everything Has Rhythm” (pp. 106-107)
  • Everyone’s always saying love is the element that binds the universe together, but that’s a load of bollocks; it’s convenience.
    • Chapter 15 “The Ship Is Leaving Tonight” (p. 121)
  • People are mostly happiest when they think they’re just about to get the thing they want most.
    Before and after, they’re all monsters.
    • Chapter 16 “I Am a Real Boy” (p. 128)
  • Oh, certainly it had been alarming at first. But adjusting to certain changes in your circumstances was easy when you didn’t really care about anything. As far as she was concerned, she’d always talked. By some miracle, everyone else had recently achieved the ability to listen properly. She was over the novelty within half an hour. No one listened to her or asked for her input or attended gratefully to her needs any more than they ever had. They were too busy making big monkey fusses over their big monkey problems.
    • Chapter 18 “All the Things That Nobody Sees” (p. 140; the speaker is a cat)
  • I felt like I was the only one who understood that the only wall we could ever build against What’s Going On was the glitter and the shine and the synth and the knowing grin that never stops knowing. The show. Because the opposite of fascism isn’t anarchy, it’s theater. When the world is fucked, you go to the theater, you go to the shine, and when the bad men come, all there is left to do is sing them down.
    • Chapter 18 “All the Things That Nobody Sees” (p. 144)
  • Dying happens to everyone, even stars. Even the stuff between the stars. But if you believe in yourself and achieve your goals, you can die so hard that no one will ever forget you, and that’s almost as good as not dying at all. Well, it isn’t, really, it isn’t at all, and believing and achieving is just something sportscasters say, but what are you gonna do, not die? Try it. I’ll wait.
    • Chapter 18 “All the Things That Nobody Sees” (p. 147)
  • And then another song began, better than that one. Each song was so impossible, so perfect, so complex, so anatomically baffling, and they only grew more heartbreaking and piercing, the special effects more dazzling, the fire in the ice and the psychic manipulation of the audience, that both of them sobbed and sobbed as if they had lost every last thing in the world. Hours passed.
    The humans watched in an agony of feeling, in a rictus of involuntary ecstasy and horror and grief and artistic nirvana, their bodies shuddering, their brains a sea of flaming blue emotion.
    The cat watched with semi-mild interest. It was all right, she supposed, if you were into that sort of thing.
    • Chapter 18 “All the Things That Nobody Sees” (pp. 150-151)
  • A cow goes moo; a sheep goes baa; a celebrity correspondent goes who are you wearing?
    • Chapter 24 “Party for Everybody” (p. 192)
  • We have always believed that one of the hallmarks of sentience is the ability to look down upon others. It separates us from the lichen.
    • Chapter 24 “Party for Everybody” (p. 197)
  • My percussionist thinks you have a touch of Metastasized Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Blek. My diagnosis? You’re an asshole. Sadly, the only known cure is being set on fire and dropped off a balcony.
    • Chapter 24 “Party for Everybody” (pp. 199-200)
  • Everyone imitates our groove these days. But we were into poisoning our competition and performing an extended dance sequence on their graves before it was cool.
    • Chapter 24 “Party for Everybody” (p. 200)
  • “And how does that make you feel?” he crooned in the comforting tone of a therapist who may or may not actually care.
    • Chapter 24 “Party for Everybody” (p. 202)
  • Everybody fucks.…Being ashamed of it makes about as much sense as being ashamed of the speed of light.
    • Chapter 30 “Silence and So Many People” (p. 248; ellipsis represents elision of two sentences)
  • Sex is universal, it’s just not evenly distributed.
    • Chapter 30 “Silence and So Many People” (p. 251)
  • You can’t stop people being assholes. They do love it so. The best you can hope for is that some people, sometimes, will turn out to be somewhat less than the absolute worst. When they manage to trip and fall over that incredibly low bar, they’ll make you want to end it all. But when they leap over it, they’ll make you believe this whole mess really was created for a reason—the bastards. Except me, of course. I’m superb. Ask anyone. And you’re all right, I suppose. Welcome to being a people, kid. It’s just dreadful up here.
    • Chapter 30 “Silence and So Many People” (p. 258)
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