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Daniel Abraham

speculative fiction writer from the United States
I want my villains to be understood and forgiven.

Daniel Abraham (born November 14, 1969) is a Hugo-nominated, American fantasy/science-fiction writer. He is the author of the The Long Price Quartet series and the The Dagger and the Coin series.

QuotesEdit

  • I was listening to Tim Powers talking and he said he didn't want his villains just defeated, he wanted them humiliated and destroyed. And I thought: 'I don't. I want my villains to be understood and forgiven.
  • Writers are a basically insecure bunch. We are convinced that everything we do sucks, all the time. It's something you have to fight. The best way to make sure that your writing will never be particularly good is to use it for something besides telling the story. And I think there's a real tension between sophistication and accessibility.
    • interview with Locus Magazine, June 2008
  • I don't find fantasy to be more or less suited to philosophical questions than any other genre, really. I think that the soul of fantasy—or second-world fantasy at least—is our problematic relationship with nostalgia. The impulse to return to a golden age seems to be pretty close to the bone, at least in western cultures, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's a human universal. For me, it's tied up with the experience of aging and the impulse to recapture youth. Epic fantasy, I think, takes its power from that. We create golden eras and either celebrate them or—more often—mourn their loss.
  • I think that the successful genres of a particular period are reflections of the needs and thoughts and social struggles of that time. When you see a bunch of similar projects meeting with success, you’ve found a place in the social landscape where a particular story (or moral or scenario) speaks to readers. You’ve found a place where the things that stories offer are most needed.
    And since the thing that stories most often offer is comfort, you’ve found someplace rich with anxiety and uncertainty. (That’s what I meant when I said to Melinda Snodgrass that genre is where fears pool.)
  • For the moment, it's called the Dagger and the Coin, but with any luck, that'll swap out for a better name. There are some things in the proposal that need to get smoothed out so that everyone's on board, but I think it'll happen.
    It's a very different from the Long Price books. It looks and feels more like traditional epic fantasy -- quasi-Europe, ferinstance, and some dragons in the background, no 15-year gaps between books -- but the plot structure is packed with everything I think is cool. There are echoes I'm intentionally building in of from things as familiar as Firefly and The Count of Monte Cristo and as obscure as Tevis' Queen's Gambit and Reck-Malleczewen's Diary of a Man in Despair. And the magic system is all about faith and deception, which will be tricky and fun both.
    What I want to do is write something that I could read now (39 years old, married, raising a kid, 10 year IT career behind me, post 9-11, post-Bush, etc.) with the same joy I read the Belgariad when I was 16.

Leviathan Wakes (2011)Edit

All page numbers from the trade paperback first edition published by Orbit Books ISBN 978-1-335-00510-6
Published in collaboration with Ty Franck under the pseudonym James S. A. Corey
Nominated for the 2012 Hugo Award
  • Say what you will about organized crime, at least it’s organized.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 20)
  • If Miller had ever been called upon to describe her, the phrase deceptive coloration would have figured in.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 21)
  • “Too many dots,” Miller said. “Not enough lines.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 109)
  • The enlisted guys will be okay, but the officers get the sense of humor trained out of ’em.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 113)
  • It was a real book—onionskin pages bound in what might have been actual leather. Miller had seen pictures of them before; the idea of that much weight for a single megabyte of data struck him as decadent.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 150)
  • If things got out of hand, it would mean six or seven million dead people and the end of everything Miller had ever known.
    Odd that it should feel almost like relief.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 164)
  • He couldn’t fix the cancer of war, couldn’t even slow down the spread, but at least he could admit it was happening.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 164)
  • She didn’t care. Not caring was how she got through the day.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 170)
  • “See, this is why I can’t ever be in command,” she said.
    “Don’t like making tough calls with incomplete information?”
    “More I’m not suicidally irresponsible,” she replied.
    • Chapter 17 (pp. 178-179)
  • The beautiful thing about losing your illusions, he thought, was that you got to stop pretending.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 184)
  • Never knew if you had any luck left unless you pushed it.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 187)
  • It’s the problem with politics. Your enemies are often your allies. And vice versa.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 194)
  • He probed himself like a doctor searching for inflammation. Did it hurt here? Did he feel the loss there?
    He didn’t. There was only a sense of relief so profound it approached giddiness.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 226)
  • All bluster, no balls.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 228)
  • This was the kind of man who’d killed Julie, Miller thought. Stupid. Shortsighted. A man born with a sense for raw opportunity where his soul should have been.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 281)
  • When, Miller wondered, does someone stop being human? There had to be a moment, some decision that you made and before it, you were one person, and after it, someone else...If he’d seen it in someone else—Muss, Havelock, Sematimba—he wouldn’t have taken more than a minute to realize they’d gone off the rails. Since it was him, he had taken longer to notice. But Holden was right. Somewhere along the line, he’d lost himself.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 284)
  • “There’s a right thing to do,” Holden said.
    “You don’t have a right thing, friend,” Miller said. “You’ve got a whole plateful of maybe a little less wrong.”
    • Chapter 36 (p. 363)
  • “We regret the necessity of this action,” she said to everyone everywhere. “But in the cause of freedom, there can be no compromise.”
    That’s what it’s come to, Miller thought, rubbing a hand across his chin. Pogroms after all. Cut off just a hundred more heads, just a thousand more heads, just ten thousand more heads, and then we’ll be free.
    • Chapter 36 (p. 364)
  • There was life out there. They had proof of it now. And the proof came in the shape of a weapon, so what did that tell him?
    • Chapter 38 (p. 379)
  • Holden decided that he was okay with not feeling any remorse for them. The moral complexity of the situation had grown past his ability to process it, so he just relaxed in the warm glow of victory instead.
    • Chapter 41 (p. 412)
  • Liquor doesn’t make you feel better. Just makes you not so worried about feeling bad.
    • Chapter 42 (p. 427)
  • “Stop,” Holden said. “I don’t care. I don’t want to hear any more of your stories about how being a cop makes you wiser and deeper and able to face the truth about humanity. As far as I can tell, all it did was break you. Okay?”
    “Yeah, okay.”
    “Dresden and his Protogen buddies thought they could choose who lives and who dies. That sound familiar? And don’t tell me it’s different this time, because everyone says that, every time. And it’s not.”
    • Chapter 43 (p. 437)
  • And now they were making music from the screams of the dying. Of the dead. The were dancing to it in the low-rent clubs. What it must be like, Miller thought, to be young and soulless.
    But no. That wasn’t fair. Diogo was a good kid. He was just naive. The universe would take care of that, given a little time.
    • Chapter 44 (p. 445)
  • Miller was staring at him like an entomologist trying to figure out exactly where the pin went.
    • Chapter 45 (p. 457)
  • If Fred couldn’t build himself a peace treaty, the OPA would never win against the discipline and unity of an inner planet navy. But they would also never lose. War without end.
    Well, what was history if not that?
    And how would having the stars change anything?
    • Chapter 46 (p. 467)
  • He considered recording it. His suit would be able to make a simple visual file and stream the data out in real time. But no. This was his moment. His and Julia’s. The rest of humanity could guess what it had been like if they cared.
    • Chapter 48 (p. 488)
  • It was as easy as keying in a door code. Somehow he felt that arming fusion bombs to detonate around him should have been more difficult.
    • Chapter 50 (p. 504)
  • He cut the connection before she could answer. Long goodbyes weren’t anyone’s strong suit.
    • Chapter 50 (p. 504)
  • That man could take a visitation from God with thirty underdressed angels announcing that sex was okay after all and make it seem vaguely depressing.
    • Epilogue (p. 560)

Caliban's War (2012)Edit

All page numbers from the trade paperback first edition published by Orbit Books ISBN 978-0-316-12906-0, 17th printing
Published in collaboration with Ty Franck under the pseudonym James S. A. Corey
  • The mirror plummeting toward the surface of Ganymede—toward his greenhouse, his soybeans, his life’s work—hadn’t chosen anything. It was a victim of cause and effect, the same as everything else.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 26)
  • The rich scent of well-balanced soil was like incense.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 76)
  • I’ve been through a lot of hearings about one damn thing and another. Most of the time they’re exercises in ass covering. If the unvarnished truth ever came out at one, it would be because someone screwed up.
    • Chapter 9 (pp. 93-94)
  • Do not underestimate his capacity to fuck things up.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 100)
  • The intensity of your feelings isn’t evidence.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 243)
  • “I’m not a traitor,” Bobbie said to her reflection in the mirror. Mirror Bobbie looked unconvinced.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 268)
  • Familiarity might breed contempt, but Bobbie hadn’t much liked Soren right from the start.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 272)
  • When Bobbie tried to imagine being so wealthy you could own a spaceship just to compete in races, she failed. That the same girl had run away to be an OPA rebel probably said a lot about the relationship of wealth and contentment, but Bobbie had a hard time being that philosophical.
    • Chapter 30 (pp. 329-330)
  • Owning your own racing ship wasn’t even wealth. It was like speciation. It was conspicuous consumption befitting ancient Earth royalty, a pharaoh’s pyramid with a reaction drive.
    • Chapter 30 (p. 330)
  • “That’s not the game,” Avasarala said. “No one gets shot. They get marginalized. It’s worse.”
    “No, it’s not. I’ve seen people shot. I’ve seen my friends shot. When you say, ‘That’s not the game,’ you mean for people like you. Not like me.”
    Avasarala’s expression cooled.
    “Yes, that’s what I mean,” the old woman said. “The level we’re playing at has different rules. It’s like playing go. It’s all about exerting influence. Controlling the board without occupying it.”
    “Poker is a game, too,” Bobbie said. “But sometimes the stakes get so high that one player decides it’s easier to kill the other guy and walk away with the money. It happens all the time.”
    • Chapter 30 (p. 331)
  • She’d stopped looking tired a while ago and had moved on to whatever tired turns into when it became a lifestyle.
    • Chapter 30 (p. 334)
  • “I’m not asking you to sleep with him.”
    “Good, because I don’t use sex as a weapon,” Bobbie said. “I use weapons as weapons.”
    • Chapter 30 (p. 335)
  • It took his breath away. The elegance and functionality of the structure lay out before him, as beautiful and simple and effective as a leaf or a root cluster. To have something so much like the fruits of evolution, but designed by human minds, was awe-inspiring. It was the pinnacle of what creativity meant, the impossible made real.
    • Chapter 31 (p. 344)
  • There was justice to be had.
    He just couldn’t afford it.
    • Chapter 31 (p. 350)
  • They were willing to risk a hole in the ship emptying out half the ship’s air rather than let her up to the bridge. It was sort of gratifying to be scarier than sudden decompression.
    • Chapter 38 (p. 420)
  • The proportions, the black hair, the dark eyes, everything was the same. Only, giant. It short-circuited his neural wiring. The lizard living at the back of his brain kept jumping back and forth between Mate with it! and Flee from it!
    • Chapter 42 (p. 459)
  • “No,” Avasarala said.
    “Uh, no? You might be forgetting whose ship you’re on.”
    “I’m sorry, did I seem to give a fuck that this is your ship? If I did, really, I was just being polite.”
    • Chapter 42 (p. 462)
  • Desperate psychotic people do desperate psychotic things when they’re exposed. I refuse to grant them immunity from exposure out of fear of their reaction. When you do, the desperate psychos wind up in charge.
    • Chapter 42 (p. 463)
  • “Reputation never has very much to do with reality,” she said. “I could name half a dozen paragons of virtue that are horrible, small-souled, evil people. And some of the best men I know, you’d walk out of the room if you heard their names. No one on the screen is who they are when you breathe their air.
    • Chapter 45 (p. 491)
  • “Why aren’t you doing that?”
    “Do you want the real reason, or my justification?”
    • Chapter 45 (p. 492)
  • The holy fool who’d dragged the solar system into war and seemed utterly blind to the damage he caused. An idealist. The most dangerous kind of man there was.
    • Chapter 45 (p. 493)
  • If life transcends death, then I will seek for you there. If not, then there too.
    • Chapter 45 (p. 494)
  • That man’s asshole must be tight enough right now to bend space.
    • Chapter 45 (p. 497)
  • The truth was her version wasn’t any more or less a fantasy than his. No one would know for sure until everyone knew for sure.
    • Chapter 47 (p. 510)
  • “Space is too fucking big. It’s the same old story.”
    He’d guessed right. She just wanted to talk, so he let her. “What story?”
    “Empire. Every empire grows until its reach exceeds its grasp. We started out fighting over who got the best branches in one tree. Then we climb down and fight over a few kilometers’ worth of trees. Then someone starts riding horses, and you get empires of hundreds or thousands of kilometers. Ships open up empire expansion across the oceans. The Epstein drive gave us the outer planets...”
    She trailed off and tapped out something on the comm panel. She didn’t volunteer who she was sending messages to, and Holden didn’t ask. When she was done, she said, “But the story is always the same. No matter how good your technology is, at some point you’ll conquer territory that you can’t hold on to.”
    “You’re talking about the outer planets?”
    “Not specifically,” she said, her voice growing soft and thoughtful. “I’m talking about the entire fucking concept of empire. The Brits couldn’t hold on to India or North America because why should people listen to a king who’s six thousand kilometers away?”
    • Chapter 47 (p. 511)
  • I hope we don’t start shooting, but what I hope will happen and what actually happens are almost never the same.
    • Chapter 47 (p. 514)
  • There was a time, Prax knew, that the violence would have bothered him. Not the blood or bodies. He’d spent more than enough time doing dissections and even autonomous-limb vivisection to be able to wall off what he was seeing from any particular sense of visceral horror. But that it was something done in anger, that the men and women he’d just seen blown apart hadn’t donated their bodies or tissues, would have affected him once. The universe had taken that from him, and he couldn’t say now exactly when it had happened. Part of him was numb, and maybe it always would be. There was a feeling of loss in that, but it was intellectual.
    • Chapter 51 (p. 563)
  • That night’s selection was called Windblown Grass. It didn’t exactly smell like grass to Holden, but it was nice. Just a hint of earthiness to it. Holden had a suspicion that all perfumes were named randomly, anyway.
    • Chapter 53 (p. 579)
  • That’s not a government, it’s a rugby scrum with a currency.
    • Chapter 53 (p. 582)

Abaddon's Gate (2013)Edit

All page numbers from the trade paperback first edition published by Orbit Books ISBN 978-0-316-12907-7, 1st printing
Published in collaboration with Ty Franck under the pseudonym James S. A. Corey
  • Even with all that metal and ceramic crammed into the same little corner of space, even with the relatively tiny thousand klicks across what was the inner face of the Ring, the chances that he’d run into anything were trivial. There was a lot more nothing than something.
    • Prologue (p. 6)
  • Ashford has only ever done a right thing because he’s afraid of being embarrassed. He’s a pretty uniform surrounding vacuum. And you can’t rely on that.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 29)
  • “We came out here with an operational plan,” she said. “If we start rewriting it every time we find an adjustment we’d like to make, we might as well not have bothered.”
    Privately, Bull thought the same thing, but with a different inflection. If he’d been XO, the operational plan would have been called a suggested guideline and only opened when he wanted a good laugh.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 51)
  • What had been logical became dumb, and all it took was changing the context.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 94)
  • “Same here, Cap’n,” Amos said. “I got a lot of past in my past.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 107)
  • There are no souls, Melba thought with a touch of pity. We are bags of meat with a little electricity running through them. No ghosts, no spirits, no souls. The only thing that survives is the story people tell about you. The only thing that matters is your name.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 121)
  • That kind of attention changes people, and it don’t make them better.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 122)
  • No one can blather on like a holy man with a trapped audience. Well, maybe a politician.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 128)
  • Theological anthropology is a lot simpler when humans are the only ones with souls.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 129)
  • Traveling between the planets had never eliminated murder. So many highly evolved primates in the same box for months on end, a certain death rate had to be expected.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 148)
  • It was a lesson he’d never forgotten. That humans only have so much emotional energy. No matter how intense the situation, or how powerful the feelings, it was impossible to maintain a heightened emotional state forever. Eventually you’d just get tired and want it to end.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 230)
  • If you’re aiming not to creep me the hell out, you need more practice.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 264)
  • “I don’t think he sees it that way,” Pa said. And then, “But I think he’s putting a lot of effort into not seeing it that way.”
    • Chapter 29 (p. 313)
  • Her fantasies of it were so strong, they were like memories.
    • Chapter 31 (p. 329)
  • “Trashy people puke,” Tilly said. “Ladies are unwell.”
    • Chapter 31 (p. 331)
  • History is made up of people recovering from the last disaster.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 335)
  • “The devil is here,” Cortez said. He shook his head at Anna’s protesting frown. “Not some cartoon demon. I’m not a fool. But the devil has always lived in men when they reach too far, when they fail to ask if they should do something just because they can do it.”
    • Chapter 32 (pp. 335-336)
  • Show a human a closed door, and no matter how many open doors she finds, she’ll be haunted by what might be behind it.
    A few people liked to paint this drive as a weakness. A failing of the species. Humanity as the virus. The creature that never stops filling up its available living space. Hector seemed to be moving over to that view, based on their last conversation. But Anna rejected that idea. If humanity were capable of being satisfied, then they’d all still be living in trees and eating bugs out of one another’s fur. Anna had walked on a moon of Jupiter. She’d looked up through a dome-covered sky at the great red spot, close enough to see the swirls and eddies of a storm larger than her home world. She’d tasted water thawed from ice as old as the solar system itself. And it was that human dissatisfaction, that human audacity, that had put her there.
    Looking at the tiny world spinning around her, she knew one day it would give them the stars as well.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 337)
  • “I’m getting a medal for falling into a pressure hatch, sacrificing an arm and a leg to keep seven sailors from being trapped in a compromised part of the ship. I was unconscious at the time, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Heroism is a label most people get for doing shit they’d never do if they were really thinking about it.”
    • Chapter 32 (p. 338)
  • Nothing ever killed more people than being afraid to look like a sissy.
    • Chapter 35 (p. 365)
  • If the UN wants to space her, I’ll push the damn button myself.
    • Chapter 36 (p. 375)
  • After a certain point, the past becomes irrelevant.
    • Chapter 38 (pp. 387-388)
  • God might not care about financial standing, but He was the only one.
    • Chapter 39 (p. 398)
  • We keep acting without thinking and you think the solution is to do it one more time. You have allied yourself with stupid, violent men, and you are trying to convince yourself that being stupid and violent will work. That makes you stupid too. I will never help you. I’ll fight you now.
    • Chapter 39 (p. 404)
  • He still wasn’t sure whether he believed it was true, even. But right now, it needed to be, and so it was.
    • Chapter 41 (p. 423)
  • I’ve been famous before. It’s not so great.
    • Chapter 43 (p. 436)
  • Violence is what people do when they run out of good ideas. It’s attractive because it’s simple, it’s direct, it’s almost always available as an option. When you can’t think of a good rebuttal for your opponent’s argument, you can always punch them in the face.
    • Chapter 44 (p. 444)
  • She wondered what it said about her that she’d watched a woman shot to death not two hours before and all she could think about now was lunch.
    • Chapter 46 (p. 466)
  • There’s a difference between tragedy and evil, and I am that difference.
    • Chapter 46 (p. 468)
  • When what came next didn’t matter, anybody could do anything. Nothing had consequences.
    • Chapter 46 (p. 472)
  • They’d made a plan, and so far everything was more or less going the way they’d hoped. The thought left Holden increasingly terrified.
    • Chapter 47 (p. 475)
  • Holden yelled in frustration. The universe kept waiting until he was thoroughly beaten, then tossing him a nibble of hope only to yank it away again.
    • Chapter 50 (p. 509)
  • “Well,” Holden said, his voice grim, “we have a major problem. We’re out of coffee.”
    “We’ve still got beer,” Amos said.
    “Yes,” Holden said. “But beer is not coffee. I’ve put in a request with the Behemoth, but I haven’t heard back, and I can’t see going into the vast and unknown void without coffee.”
    • Chapter 53 (pp. 529-530)
  • She was not a political creature. She felt that politics was the second most evil thing humanity had ever invented, just after lutefisk.
    • Epilogue (p. 538)

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