Charles Sheffield

British-American scientist and science fiction writer

Charles Sheffield (25 June 1935 – 2 November 2002) was an English-born mathematician, physicist and science fiction writer who served as a President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society.

Quotes edit

Short fiction and essays edit

The Compleat McAndrew (2000) edit

Page numbers from the mass market first edition, published by Baen Books; ISBN 0-671-57857-X first printing, April 2000
See Charles Sheffield's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details
Italics as in the book
  • The more foolproof you think something is, the worse the failure when it happens.
    • Moment of Inertia (p. 38)
  • “Captain Roker, I don’t like your insinuation,” he said. “McAndrew is a physicist—so am I. You may not be smart enough to realize it, but physics is a field of study, not a surgical operation. Castration isn’t part of the Ph.D. Exams, you know.”
    • Moment of Inertia (p. 41)
  • As usual he looked tired, but that was normal. Geniuses worked harder than anyone else, not less hard.
    • All the Colors of the Vacuum (p. 68)
  • The first space colonies had been conceived as utopias, planned by Earth idealists who wouldn’t learn from history. New frontiers may attract visionaries, but more than that they attract oddities. Anyone who is more than three sigma away from the norm, in any direction, seems to finish out there on the frontier. No surprise in that. If a person can’t fit, for whatever reason, he’ll move away from the main group of humanity. They’ll push him, and he’ll want to go.
    • All the Colors of the Vacuum (p. 69)
  • We got the way we are, Jeanie, because life on Earth is one long fight for limited resources. Our bloody-mindedness all started out as food battles, three billion years ago.
    • The Manna Hunt (p. 125)
  • The first ten-thousandth of a second after the Big Bang is far more interesting that the entire rest of the history of the universe.
    • The Hidden Matter of McAndrew (pp. 157-158)
  • You just can’t tell. Brains won’t correlate with appearance.
    • The Hidden Matter of McAndrew (p. 158)
  • It’s no surprise that there are people like Anna Griss in the world. There always have been. Go back fifty thousand years, to a time when most of us were just grubbing along, looking for a decent bush of ripe berries or a fresher lump of meat. A few, like McAndrew, were busy inventing language or numbers, or painting the walls of the cave. And some, just a handful but too many in every generation, were seeking an edge over the rest of us: Water access, or mating rules, or restricted entry to heaven. No matter how few they were, Anna Griss would have been one of them.
    • The Invariants of Nature (pp. 196-197)
  • And there you had it. Most people hate to learn that they are wrong. Not McAndrew. When he’s proved wrong, he’s ecstatic. It means he’s learned something new, and that’s his main reason for existence.
    • The Invariants of Nature (p. 200)
  • I think my inner voices are pretty good when it comes to warning of trouble. The problem is, I don’t always listen to them.
    • The Invariants of Nature (p. 201)
  • The laws of probability not only permit coincidences; they absolutely insist on them.
    • Rogueworld (p. 223)
  • The mills of bureaucracy may or may not grind fine, but they certainly grind exceeding slow.
    • Rogueworld (p. 240)
  • If I’ve learned one thing wandering around inside and outside the Solar System, it’s this: Nature has more ways of killing you than you can imagine. When you think you’ve learned them all, another one pops up to teach you humility—if you’re lucky. If not, someone else will have to decide what did you in.
    • Rogueworld (p. 247)
  • “It doesn’t make sense,” he said huskily. “Nothing ever does before you understand it, and then it seems obvious.”
    • Rogueworld (p. 270)
  • That’s the trouble with the younger generation. They don’t understand why a thing can’t be done, so they go ahead and do it.
    • Rogueworld (p. 276)
  • One thing you have to teach the young is that it’s wrong to run away from problems.
    • Rogueworld (p. 276)
  • Like many things in life, the problem I had been so sure I could solve proved more difficult than it sounded.
    • McAndrew and the Fifth Commandment (p. 333)
  • The Asteroid Belt contains everything from substantial bodies like Ceres, seven hundred and fifty kilometers across, all the way down to house-sized boulders, pebbles, and grains of sand. One good rule of thumb is that for every object of a given size, there will be ten times as many one-third that size.
    • McAndrew and the Fifth Commandment (p. 335)
  • It is remarkable that observation of the faint agglomerations of stars known as galaxies leads us, very directly and cleanly, to the conclusion that we live in a Universe of finite and determinable age. A century ago, no one could have offered even an approximate age for the Universe. For an upper bound, most nonreligious scientists would probably have said “forever.” For a lower bound, all they had was the age of the Earth.
    • Science & Science Fiction (p. 374)

Behrooz Wolf (aka The Proteus Trilogy) edit

Sight of Proteus (1978) edit

Page numbers from the revised version included in the omnibus mass market paperback edition Proteus Combined published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-87603-1 (first printing, May 1994)
  • “I wonder why somebody would go to all that trouble to make a complete fool of himself.”
    “Come on, Gina, we both know why.”
    “Oh, I guess you’re right. Money will always do it.”
    Of course.
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 18-19)
  • It’s the usual sensation mongering; the news services will say anything for an effect.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 73)
  • The ship climbed steadily and laboriously up, away from the plane of the ecliptic. Finally, the parallax was sufficient to move the planets from their usual apparent positions. Mars, Earth, Venus, and Jupiter all sat in constellations that were no part of the familiar zodiac. Mercury was cowering close to the sun. Saturn alone, swinging out at the far end of her orbit, seemed right as seen from the ship. Bey Wolf, picking out their positions through a viewport, wondered idly how the astrologers would cope with such a situation. Mars seemed to be in the House of Andromeda, and Venus in the House of Cygnus. It would take an unusually talented practitioner to interpret those relationships and cast a horoscope for the success of this enterprise.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 173)

Proteus Unbound (1989) edit

Page numbers from the revised version included in the omnibus mass market paperback edition Proteus Combined published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-87603-1 (first printing, May 1994)
  • “I think I’ll have a sign made for that far wall,” said Bey at last.
    “Yes. It will say, ‘If you have nothing to do, please don’t do it here’.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 271)
  • Hormones are everything, Turpin,” she said to the bird on her shoulder. “Brains are nice, and looks are nice, and logic’s even nicer; but hormones run the show. For everyone, even for me and you.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 285)
  • War was senseless. And yet war came creeping steadily closer.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 330)
  • They saw every event through the distorting lens of their own paranoia.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 332)
  • “Did you do what I asked you to?”
    “As much as I could. Have you ever tried to brief your boss, without telling her what’s going on?”
    “A hundred times. It’s the first rule of self-preservation.”
    • Chapter 22 (p. 409)
  • He was still young enough to hate looking like a fool more than anything in the world.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 419)
  • He had achieved his objective, but his little inside voice would not keep quiet. Too easy, it said, much too easy. When a difficult goal is achieved with no effort, it’s time to be suspicious.
    • Chapter 24 (pp. 433-434)

Proteus In The Underworld (1995) edit

Page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-87659-7 (first printing)
  • You can learn more about a person by watching them eat one meal than by listening to them speak for a whole day.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 11)
  • To a political mind, everything is politics.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 23)
  • When in doubt, follow the money trail. People could lie, motives could be disguised, even acts could be misunderstood. Money was as constant as human nature.
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 148-149)
  • He had defined intuition for Sondra: it was what remained after all the facts had been forgotten. But intuition could also be something else. Sometimes it was the subconscious mind, establishing deep connections long before the thinking part of the brain could explain them.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 149)
  • When you got right down to it, every important decision in life was made with inadequate information.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 190)
  • Not it. He. Bey was sure he would have determined that for himself after a few more seconds. There were a hundred clues as to the innate sex of a form, and most of them had nothing to do with appearance or dress.
    • Chapter 14 (pp. 191-192)
  • Sometimes wealth and power merely created the desire for more of the same.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 217)
  • See, everybody looks at the world from his own point of view. I call it the ground state of the resting mind. And your brain does the same thing, left alone it returns to and thinks about what it’s really interested in.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 227)
  • “It sounds reasonable to me.”
    “Reasonable, but not true. Big difference.”
    • Chapter 19 (p. 251)
  • “Lop the top-end tail off the distribution of human intelligence and creativity,” he went on, “and it would make no measurable difference to the population. Only one person in a billion is out beyond the six-sigma level. That’s what we’re talking about here. But eventually those one-in-a-billion make a huge difference. Ninety-five percent of all human progress comes from less than one thousandth of one percent of the population.”
    • Chapter 22 (p. 285)

Between the Strokes of Night (1985) edit

Page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-55977-X (first printing)
  • Earth has been regarded for centuries as a giant self-regulating machine, absorbing all changes, great and small, and diluting their effects until they become invisible on a global scale. Mankind has taken that stability for granted. Careless of consequences, we have watched as forests were cleared, lakes poisoned, rivers dammed and diverted, mountains leveled, whole plains dug out for their mineral and fuel content. And nothing disastrous happened. Earth tolerated the insults, and always she restored the status quo.
    Always—until now. Until finally some hidden critical point has been passed. The move away from a steady state is signalled in many ways: by increasing ocean temperatures, by drought and flood, by widespread loss of topsoil, by massive crop failure, and by the collapse of worldwide fishing industries.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 69)
  • “My aunt doesn’t even believe there is a Ship. She says we’ve been here on Pentecost forever.”
    “What did you tell her?”
    “Nothing. For someone with that view, logic is irrelevant—she’ll believe what she chooses, regardless of evidence. Her religion says God placed us here on Pentecost, and for her that’s the end of the argument.”
    “And you?” Peron was aware that she had moved in very close to him. “What do you think?”
    “You know what I think. I’m cursed with a logical mind, and a lot of curiosity.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 145)
  • Where orbits are wildly varying, life has no chance to develop. Changes are too extreme. Temperatures melt tin, then solidify nitrogen. If it is once established, life is persistent; it can adapt to many extremes. But there is a fragility in the original creation that calls for a long period of tightly-controlled variations.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 151)
  • “It is my personal belief that nothing can exceed light speed,” said Sy at last. “I will mistrust anyone, government or Immortal, man or woman, human or alien, who attempts to tell me otherwise without providing convincing evidence.”
    • Chapter 15 (p. 157)
  • “I’ve been testing Kallen’s Law—my name for it, not his. Remember what he said? ‘Anything that can be put into a data bank by one person can be taken out of it by another, if you’re smart enough and have enough time.’ That’s one problem with a computer-based society, and one reason why computers were so tightly controlled on Pentecost: it’s almost impossible to prevent access to computer-stored information.”
    • Chapter 26 (p. 289)
  • A long time ago humans talked of terraforming Mars and Venus, but we never did it. Just too busy blowing ourselves up, I guess, ever to get round to it.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 322)
  • And now I think about it, I never really wanted to live forever. I just want to live well.
    • Chapter 29 (p. 342)

The Heritage Universe edit

Summertide (1990) edit

Page numbers from the revised version included in the omnibus mass market paperback edition Convergent Series published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-87791-7 (first printing, October 1998)
  • But humans had to learn to ignore appearance. No two beings who shared common thinking processes and common goals should be truly alien to each other.
    • Chapter 5, “Summertide Minus Thirty” (p. 61)
  • But mere plausibility did not make the statement true.
    • Chapter 6, “Summertide Minus Twenty-Nine” (p. 65)
  • Mathematics is universal. But very little else is.
    • Chapter 10, “Summertide Minus Eighteen” (p. 119)
  • Everyone was polite; no one was happy.
    • Chapter 11, “Summertide Minus Thirteen” (p. 126)
  • The partners were there; gravity was calling the changes, and the cosmic dance was ready to begin.
    • Chapter 11, “Summertide Minus Thirteen” (p. 127)
  • That’s what logic says. But I say, phooey, who wants logic? Not you, and not me. We want results.
    • Chapter 13, “Summertide Minus Ten” (p. 150)
  • What does one do when a madman suggests an appealing course of action? One worries—but probably goes along with it.
    • Chapter 13, “Summertide Minus Ten” (p. 151)
  • Be an optimist! It’s the only way to live.
    • Chapter 13, “Summertide Minus Ten” (p. 151)
  • “We’re just too nosy, Commander,” he went on. “Most humans have their patience level set a little too low, and their curiosity a bit too high.”
    • Chapter 13, “Summertide Minus Ten” (p. 153)
  • We are creatures of conditioning, Commander. We assume that what we know is easy, and we find mysterious whatever we do not.
    • Chapter 18, “Summertide Minus Five” (p. 197)
  • It might be an impossible task, but at least it was a well-defined one. The rules for performance were no problem. He had learned them long ago on Teufel: you succeed, or you die trying. Until you succeed, you never relax. Until you die, you never give up.
    • Chapter 21, “Three Hours to Summertide” (p. 232)
  • No purpose is served by making private suffering into a public event.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 254)

Divergence (1991) edit

Page numbers from the revised version included in the omnibus mass market paperback edition Convergent Series published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-87791-7 (first printing, October 1998)
  • Human history extends for approximately ten thousand years before the Expansion, with written records available for roughly half that time. Unfortunately, the human tendency for self-delusion, self-aggrandizement, and baseless faith in human superiority over all other intelligent life-forms renders much of the written record unreliable. Serious research workers are advised to seek alternative primary data sources concerning humans. —From the Universal Species Catalog (Subclass: Sapients)
    • Chapter 1 (p. 282)
  • Human culture is built around four basic elements: sexual relationships, territorial rights, individual intellectual dominance, and desire for group acceptance. The H’Sirin model using just these four traits as independent variables enables accurate prediction of human behavior patterns. On the basis of this, human culture is judged to be of Level Two, with few prospects for advancement to a higher level. —From the Universal Species Catalog (Subclass: Sapients)
    • Chapter 1 (p. 282)
  • The universe is all extremes. Monstrous gravity fields, or next-to-nothing ones; extreme cold, or heat so intense that solids and liquids cannot exist; multimillion atmosphere pressures, or near-vacuum.
    Ice or fire. Niflheim or Muspelheim: the ancient alternatives, imagined by humans long before the Expansion.
    It’s planets that are the oddities; the strange neutral zone between suns and space, the thin interface where moderate temperatures and pressures and gravity fields can exist. And if planets are anomalies, then planets able to support life are rarer yet—a zero-measure subset in that set of strangeness.
    And within that alien totality, where do humans fit?
    • Chapter 5 (p. 304)
  • The prevailing theory to resolve this paradox comes from limited studies of Lo’tfian physiology. The male brain, it is believed, is highly organized and possesses powerful intelligence. However, it contains an unknown physical inhibitor, chemical in nature, that forbids the employment of that intelligence when in the presence of a Lo’tfian female. Confronted by such a female, the reasoning ability of the male Lo’tfian simply switches off. (A much weaker form of this phenomenon has been attributed to other species. See Human entry of this catalogue.) —From the Universal Species Catalog (Subclass: Sapients)
    • Chapter 5 (p. 312)
  • That’s why we want it. Impossible gadgets are always the most valuable.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 433)
  • Birdie cringed. If there was one thing worse than being a coward, it was being mistaken for a hero.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 441)
  • Don’t confuse caution with cowardice.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 495)

Transcendence (1992) edit

Page numbers from the revised version included in the omnibus mass market paperback edition Transvergence published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-57837-5 (first printing, November 1999)
  • Darya stood up, heard her voice rising, and knew she was doing what she insisted what a scientist should never do: allowing passion and the defense of personal theories to interfere with logical analysis.
    • Chapter 5, “Sentinel Gate” (p. 45)
  • Old habits did not just die hard. They refused to die at all.
    • Chapter 7, “The Torvil Anfract” (p. 70)
  • Once you were committed to a course of action, you didn’t waste your time looking back and second-guessing the decision, because every action in life was taken on the basis of incomplete information. You looked at what you had, and you did all you could to improve the odds; but at some point you had to roll the dice—and live or die with whatever you had thrown.
    • Chapter 9, “Genizee” (pp. 91-92)
  • The answers come pat and fast. You see, what the downsiders want isn’t an explanation; it’s a catchphrase they can use instead of an explanation.
    • Chapter 9, “Genizee” (p. 101)
  • Darya found the logic of her thought processes so compelling that it never occurred to her that others might have a different reaction. But they did.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 122)
  • If you win too easy, better ask what’s going on that you don’t know about.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 125)
  • But no one, no matter how intelligent, could make good inferences from bad data.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 126)
  • Darya was beginning to understand why she might be ruined forever for academic life. Certainly, the world of ideas had its own pleasures and thrills. But surely there was nothing to compete with the wonderful feeling of being alive, after knowing without a shadow of doubt that you would be dead in one second.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 160)
  • Nothing was more fascinating than information. It was infinite in quantity, or effectively so, limited only by the total entropy of the universe; it was vastly diverse and various; it was eternal; It was available for collection, anywhere and anytime. And, perhaps best of all, E. C. Tally thought with the largest amount of self-satisfaction that his circuits permitted, you never knew when it might come in useful.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 165)
  • Darya had a few moments of wild hope before logic intruded.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 194)
  • Hans Rebka sat on a rounded pyramid never designed for contact with the human posterior, and thought about luck.
    There was good luck, which mostly happened to other people. And there was bad luck, which usually happened to you. Sometimes, through observation, guile, and hard work, you could avoid bad luck—even make it look like good luck, to others. But you would know the difference, even if no one else did.
    Well, suppose that for a change good luck came your way. How should you greet that stranger to your house? You could argue that its arrival was inevitable, that the laws of probability insisted that good and bad must average out over long enough times and large enough samples. Then you could welcome luck in, and feel pleased that your turn had come round at last.
    Or you could hear what Hans Rebka was hearing: the small, still voice breathing in his ear, telling him that this good luck was an impostor, not to be trusted.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 202)
  • “We’re all here,” said Louis Nenda’s voice.
    “Where’s here? Can you see?”
    “Not a thing. Black as a politician’s heart.”
    • Chapter 19 (p. 209)
  • Kallik’s explanation was neat, logical, and complete. Like most such explanations, it was, in Hans Rebka’s view, almost certainly wrong. That was not the way the real world operated.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 212)
  • “To a logical entity, such as myself, the behavior of organic intelligences such as yourself, provides many anomalies. For example, the history of humanity, the species concerning which my data banks have most information, is replete with cases where humans, on little or no evidence, have believed in impossibilities. They have accepted the existence of a variety of improbable entities: of gods and demons, of fairies and elves, of ‘good luck’ charms, of magic potions, of curses and hexes and evil eyes.”
    “Tally, if you’re going to blather about—”
    “But at the same time, humans and other organic intelligences often seem unwilling to accept the implications and consequences of their own legitimate scientific theories.”
    • Chapter 23 (pp. 256-257)

Convergence (1997) edit

Page numbers from the revised version included in the omnibus mass market paperback edition Transvergence published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-57837-5 (first printing, November 1999)
  • Are we perhaps guilty of temporal chauvinism, believing that our own time is uniquely important, as all generation tend to think that their time is of unique importance?
    • Chapter 5 (p. 312)
  • “Professor Lang’s important work, with all due respect, does not answer that question.”
    The knife, sliding in hidden behind the compliment. “With all due respect” meant “with no respect at all.”
    • Chapter 5 (p. 313)
  • Theories were a dime a dozen. The partition that separated science and wishful thinking was evidence: observations and firm facts.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 317)
  • Science wasn’t a show-business talent, conducted in large halls and decided by audience applause.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 321)
  • “How did you do that?”
    The Hymenopt inclined her head. “With respect, Professor Lang, great intellectual power, even at the level you possess it, is not always a substitute for humble practical experience.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 347)
  • His sin was something that scientists had done for thousands of years. Scientists didn’t usually change data, not unless they were outright charlatans. But when facts didn’t agree with theory, there was an awful temptation to find reasons for rejecting the offending data and and hanging on to the theory. Ptolemy had done it. Newton had done it. Darwin had done it. Einstein had done so explicitly.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 353)
  • Trouble comes in a thousand different ways. Not usually anything you expect, either. That’s why it’s trouble.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 381)
  • Didn’t anything scare the two aliens? Sometimes she wondered if humans were the only beings in the universe with a sense of cowardice (be charitable, and call it and instinct for self-preservation).
    • Chapter 14 (p. 396)
  • He realized a profound truth: there is no one so generous as a bureaucrat spending other people’s money.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 400)
  • Logic was good, but too much logical analysis inhibited action. Darya had heard it seriously suggested that the original human cladeworld, Earth, had degenerated to an ineffectual backwater of a planet because computer trade-off analysis had increasingly been used as the basis for decision making. On purely logical grounds, no one would ever explore, invent, rejoice, sing, strive, fall in love, or take physical and psychological risks of any kind. Better to stay in bed in the morning; it was much safer.
    • Chapter 23 (pp. 481-482)
  • When a person was so consistently wrong, it was time to give up having opinions.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 488)
  • Nothing in life produce a more powerful joy than a near miss by the Angel of Death.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 516)
  • He was a professional trouble-shooter. That was a fancy name for an idiot.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 516)
  • Improbable as it seems, I think she admires you more than me.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 524)
  • His mind was as furiously active as his hormones.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 528)
  • Happy endings were for children’s stories and fool. You live in misery, and then you die. Life, by definition, was not designed to end happily.
    Louis continued aft. No happy ending, then. That was a fact, certain as death itself. He was living at the moment in a dream, an imagined world where everything went right.
    But—dreams are real while they last. Could you say more of life?
    A dream sequence was no more than a happy interlude, but maybe a happy interlude could last for an awful long time.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 529)

Resurgence (2002) edit

Page numbers from the mass market paperback version published by Baen Books ISBN 0-7434-8819-9 (first printing, April 2004)
  • Somehow he felt more resigned than surprised. Things had been going far too well for far too long. Just when you thought you had the universe by the tail, it turned round and bit you on the ass.
    • Chapter 2, “On Xerarchos, at the Far End of the Zardalu Communion” (p. 16)
  • When you have something to do, do it. When you have nothing to do, sleep.
    • Chapter 4, “Sleepless in Miranda Port” (p. 33)
  • If you wanted to get yourself killed, there was no better way than to think you knew all the tricks. It took experience to make you realize that the universe could always pull another one out of the bag and throw it at you.
    • Chapter 8, “Theories, Theories, Theories” (p. 84)
  • As you will one day discover, a leader is not a leader because of the way that he or she behaves. He is a leader only because of the way that he is treated by others.
    • Chapter 16, “And Then There Were None” (p. 187)
  • I do not like to concatenate implausibilities.
    • Chapter 16, “And Then There Were None” (p. 188)
  • Idle wishing for circumstances different from what you had was a waste of time.
    • Chapter 20, “Tally on Down” (p. 245)
  • When you had little or no information, it was unreasonable to have any expectations. But somehow you did, even if they were often wrong.
    • Chapter 20, “Tally on Down” (p. 246)
  • Arabella Lund had been full of “rules,” and one of her most basic was this: Anything in the universe can happen once, or at least it can seem to happen. If you want to obtain information, make it happen again.
    • Chapter 21, “In Limbo, and out of it” (pp. 251-252)
  • You crazy? You’ve got me confused with a guy who cares about other people.
    • Chapter 30, “Stripping the Ship” (p. 368)
  • “That’s a whole lot of ifs you got there.”
    “True. But which would you prefer, Louis Nenda?” Atvar H’sial rose from her crouched position. “A substantial set of contingent possibilities, or a single unpleasant certainty?”
    • Chapter 32, “Escape Clause” (p. 385)

Supernova Alpha edit

Aftermath (1998) edit

Page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Spectra, ISBN 0-553-57738-7 (first printing, August 1999)
All italics as in the book
  • Decisions based on incomplete information are one thing, a fact of political life. Decisions made with no information are another.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 58)
  • A thousand friends have less weight than a single enemy.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 61)
  • Forrest Singer, it always seemed to Saul, spoke as though the two of them were equals. Saul possibly held the slightly inferior position in the doctor’s eyes. Saul was the President of the United States, true; but Forrest Singer was an M.D.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 88)
  • When hard times come to the party, dignity is one of the first guests to leave.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 98)
  • “He was acquitted; he must have been.”
    “Right. Good lawyer, tainted evidence. But that doesn’t mean he was innocent.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 121)
  • At stake with something more important than sex. At stake was life and death.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 122)
  • The same thing happens to every President. People tell a chief executive what they think he wants to hear. Rosy economic reports, high popularity figures, promising international changes, you name it. There’s a competition to be the first with good news. Anyone who tells bad news tends to get weeded out—even if all the real news is bad.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 201)
  • The lead prosecutor told the jury at my trial that I was “A sick parasite, preying on society.”
    Parasite on society; this, mind you, from a lawyer.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 223)
  • It is one of the unfortunate aspects of the legal profession that excess carries no penalty. There is never, for a lawyer, such a thing as too much.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 224)
  • The important question wasn’t whether or not you thought you were the right one to lead. It was whether others believed you were.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 233)
  • You pursue progress, even if you suspect that it is an illusion.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 255)
  • It was the age-old conundrum: How do I know that the ‘me’ who wakes after a night’s sleep is the same ‘me’ who went to bed? I don’t. I merely employ it as a working assumption, for lack of anything better.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 319)
  • Richard Nixon was protected from impeachment, so long as Spiro Agnew was Vice President and would assume the presidency in Nixon’s place. Half of Washington knew that Agnew was a crook, and a boneheaded one at that. They had to get rid of Agnew before they could really go after Nixon.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 335)
  • More and more, she felt certain that the members of the Legion of Argos from the top down were mental cases. Prophecies, penances, holy cleansings, arbitrary murders to settle grievances, ethnic entry requirements, guns everywhere, regimented behavior, visitors who were effectively prisoners—all the signs of a paramilitary religious cult.
    • Chapter 30 (p. 370)
  • The leaders of the Legion of Argos were out-of-this-world mad. Rigid in outlook, intolerant of minor differences. In other centuries they would have led the Inquisition, tortured the heretics, burned the witches.
    • Chapter 31 (p. 382)
  • Right decision or wrong decision, it was a leader’s job to make it.
    • Chapter 31 (p. 391)
  • The heirs, naturally, wanted everything to be theirs as soon as possible. No one is more rapacious, ruthless, and impatient than a loving family member.
    • Chapter 33 (p. 414)
  • “But remember, it was all hearsay.”
    “In Washington, hearsay’s the same as gospel truth.”
    • Chapter 37 (p. 454)
  • What purpose and will didn’t tell you, unfortunately, was how to do something that must be done.
    • Chapter 39 (p. 474)
  • If deadly violence were to be committed, he was like me. He would think it better to give than to receive.
  • “Could it wipe out life on Earth?”
    “Oh, I very much doubt that. Single-celled and oceanic forms will presumably survive. But it might make life impossible for humans.”
    “Actually, that tends to be my primary concern. Sponges and oysters will have to take care of themselves.”
    • Chapter 41 (pp. 488-489)
  • Is that what it takes to go all the way in politics? Ambition first, everything else back in the pack?
    And if it is, would any
    sane human want to have what it takes?
    • Chapter 41 (p. 493)

Starfire (1999) edit

Page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Spectra, ISBN 0-553-57739-5 (third printing, May 2000)
Italics as in the book
  • When you have died once, you become most reluctant to do so again.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 1; opening sentence)
  • The game never ended. If Sol were guaranteed to go nova tomorrow, today she would hear from lobbyists for sunscreen.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 11)
  • TIG. Trust In Government. An old political principle, to give your organization a name that’s the opposite of what you mean.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 14)
  • An old axiom: when you are totally confused, don’t make things worse by talking.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 45)
  • Humans were inexplicable only if you assumed that they were logical.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 70)
  • The bad thing about being a world-class worrier was that being right was worse than being wrong.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 77)
  • If you tried really hard, you could take that as a compliment.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 82)
  • Engineers are dangerous because they’re obsessed by facts and you can’t divert them or buy them off.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 116)
  • Other people’s jobs always seemed easier than yours until you actually had to do them.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 146)
  • Maddy listened closely to John’s voice. It was calm, but with an odd undercurrent of excitement. She thought, That weirdo, he’s enjoying this. If I were a failing component, I’d get more of his attention than I do now. Engineers!
    • Chapter 22 (pp. 314-315)
  • Maddy was not consumed by the immediate pressures of the here and now. She had been provided with a fatal indulgence: time to think.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 318)
  • Some of the Argos Group records are awful strange. If I had to guess, I’d say there’s fiddlin’ going on that don’t sound like violins.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 332)
  • You went through life in public office, laying claim to high morality when you knew quite well that at heart you were totally immoral. You were well acquainted with the majority of the seven deadly sins. Certainly pride, anger, and greed had their place in your life. You could claim a lifelong familiarity with and affection for lust.
    And then, at an age when a man ought know himself, you discovered that your immorality had its limits.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 342)
  • The limits we assign to Nature sometimes define our own lack of imagination.
    • Chapter 29 (p. 388)
  • “D’you know what homeostasis is?”
    “I used to, before I rotted my brain with politics.”
    • Chapter 29 (p. 390)
  • Many plans featured that old standby, prayer. Its historical record of effectiveness apparently discouraged few people, although I, regrettably, am among the skeptics. All the churches were full. It is not clear to me exactly what prayers were being offered by their occupants. The temporary suspension, perhaps, of the laws of physics? The art galleries and theaters also reported record crowds. If religion is an opiate, art is an anodyne.
    • Chapter 31 (pp. 422-423)
  • It is not clear to me whether the insouciance of youth will be the doom of humanity or its salvation. I prefer to think the latter, but I have my doubts.
    • Chapter 35 (p. 446)
  • I’d make a case for saying anything that propagates itself in an intentional way qualifies to be thought of as alive.
    • Chapter 41 (p. 485)

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