American screenwriter and novelist
When HARLIE Was One (1972)Edit
- There are no section numbers in this book. The sections are numbered here for ease of reference. All page numbers are from the hardcover first edition published by Nelson Doubleday
- All small caps are as in the original, and indicated typed dialogue between the human Dr. Auberson and the computer HARLIE
- Nominated for the 1973 Hugo Award and the 1973 Nebula Award.
- shadows of night and reflections of light
shiver and quiver and churn,
for the searching of soul that never can hurt
is the fire that never can burn.
- Section 2 (p. 5; typed by HARLIE in answer to the question how do you feel, harlie?)
- There isn’t a tool built that can’t be used as a weapon.
- Section 5 (p. 19)
- “You could call it that,” Auberson sighed. It wouldn’t be correct, but you could call it that.
- Section 7 (p. 32)
- “Whatever our purpose, we probably aren’t fulfilling it. We’re not functioning as we should.”
He shrugged at her. “How should we function?”
“Like human beings.” She said it righteously.
“Isn’t that what the human race is already doing? Functioning like human beings—squabbling with each other, killing each other, hating...?”
“That’s not human.”
“Oh, but it is. It’s very human.”
“Well, it’s not what human should be.”
“Now that’s a different story. You’re not talking about what people are, but what you want them to be.”
“Well, maybe we should be what we aren’t because what we are now isn’t good enough. Maybe we should be dismantled.”
“I don’t think we have to worry too much about somebody up there doing it—we’re doing it ourselves.”
- Section 8 (p. 39)
- and you don’t think any of our current religions hold a key to that answer, do you?
we have talked about this before. your religions (collective you, meaning all mankind) are artificial things, like your morality sets. their correspondence to reality is limited, there is not a one-to-one relationship. as far as I am concerned, they are little more than word games. a logic system should be built upon a foundation of truth and should not have to be taken on faith—and faith is at the core of too many of your religions. if there is a truth to the universe, then that truth will also suggest a religion/morality set that will be every bit as binding as the ethical system at my core. were there presently a religion or morality that had that one-to-one correspondence with reality, i would accept it wholeheartedly. it would be impossible not to accept it; it would be the key to understanding the nature of god. as yet, there is no system that fulfills those conditions. i know of no way to develop such a system without at least one provable fact about god at its core. because of that, because there is no fact, i can only suspect that there is no god.
- Section 15 (p. 71; Dr. Auberson's question; HARLIE's answer)
- i do not question your sincerity—if anything, i object to your questioning the sincerity of other religions.
i am not questioning their sincerity. i am questioning their validity.
- Section 15 (p. 72; Dr. Auberson, then HARLIE)
- so you think there’s no validity at all in the subjective?
there may be, there may not. in either case, it should not be used as a basis for an objective truth, which is after all what we are seeking. i have no doubt that many of those who claim to have found god have indeed felt something, but i suspect that the “something” they felt was merely a self-induced mystic experience—akin to a drug trip. witness the great numbers of drug users who claim spiritual insights as a result of their experiences. witness also the evangelists and faith-healers who induce hysteria and frenzy into their audiences so that they might feel “the hand of god” upon them. to them, god is little more than a meaningful “high.”
- Section 15 (p. 75; Dr. Auberson, then HARLIE)
- i doubt the validity of those claims to godhood which are derived from mystical experiences, either self- or drug-induced. (and there are no other claims to godhood except those derived from insanity or derangement.) i doubt the subjective experience, auberson, because it cannot be passed on, nor can it be proven, measured or tested.
- Section 15 (p. 76; HARLIE)
- Auberson’s first impression of the man was of eight pounds of potatoes in a ten-pound sack.
- Section 16 (p. 82)
- Ah well—the boss didn’t have to know how to run the business. He only needed to know how to run the people who knew.
- Section 18 (p. 103)
- maybe that’s all love really is—friendship plus sex—and we get confused thinking that it should be more, and because we want it to be more, we start believing that it really is more.
- Section 20 (pp. 122-123; Dr. Auberson)
- harlie, a little psychology is a dangerous thing. i know enough to know what you’re trying to do. it won’t work. the awareness of a psychological pressure is sometimes enough to nullify it. the mere awareness.
- Section 21 (p. 149; Dr. Auberson)
- It was not an unfamiliar sensation, but it was strange to feel it in the daytime. Mostly, it was a nighttime visitor, an ever-gentle gnawing at the back of the head that had to be always guarded against, lest its realization sweep forth with a cold familiar rush. It was the sudden startling glimpse over the edge—the realization that death is inevitable, that it happens to everyone, that it would happen to me too; that someday, someday, the all-important I (the center of the whole thing) would cease to exist. Would stop. Would end. Would no longer be. Nothing. Nobody. Finished. Death.
- Section 23 (p. 164)
- i suspect that the emotional complex known as love is a several-sided figure. the achievement of it requires several necessary conditions. first: mutual attraction, physical and mental. we have already discussed this: you like her looks, she likes yours. you like her personality, she likes yours.
Second, HARLIE continued, mutual rapport. you understand her, she understands you. physical rapport included. (part of this is mutual tolerance; the rapport guarantees that.)
third: mutual need, both intellectual and emotional. it is not always enough to want each other. the need must also be there. She must complement you and vice versa. this is one of the most important facets of the love relationship. if the need element is lacking, when the want wears thin, then there is no reason for the relationship to continue. but if the want wanes and the need is still strong, then the latter will reinforce the former.
- Section 31 (p. 186; HARLIE)
- love is a sharing of a mutual delusion.
- Section 31 (p. 187; Dr. Auberson)
- Not that he was jealous of the machine—but it was reassuring to know that there was still something that human beings could do that machines could not master.
- Section 32 (p. 189)
- I’ve always suspected that Judas was the most faithful of the apostles, and that his betrayal of Jesus was not a betrayal at all, simply a test to prove that Christ could not be betrayed. The way I see it, Judas hoped and expected that Christ would have worked some kind of miracle and turned away those soldiers when they came for him. Or perhaps he would not die on the cross. Or perhaps—well, never mind. In any case, Jesus didn’t do any of these things, probably because he was not capable of it. You see, I’ve also always believed that Christ was not the son of God, but just a very very good man, and that he had no supernatural powers at all, just the abilities of any normal human being. When he died, that’s when Judas realized that he had not been testing God at all—he’d been betraying a human being, perhaps the best human being. Judas’s mistake was in wanting too much to believe in the powers of Christ. He wanted Christ to demonstrate to everyone that he was the son of God, and he believed his Christ could do it—only his Christ wasn’t the son of God and couldn’t do it, and he died. You see, it was Christ who betrayed Judas—by promising what he couldn’t deliver. And Judas realized what he had done and hung himself. That’s my interpretation of it, Auberson—not the traditional, I’ll agree, but it has more meaning to me. Judas’s mistake was in believing too hard and not questioning first what he thought were facts. I don’t intend to repeat that mistake.
- Section 37 (p. 216)
- Now you see why I hate to leave my lab. It tires me out too much to have to do other people’s thinking for them.
- Section 41 (p. 235)
- There are no chapter numbers in this book. All page numbers are from the 2003 trade paperback edition published by BenBella Books
- Life is full of little surprises.
Time travel is full of big ones.
- (p. 46)
- You aren’t really jumping through time, that’s the illusion; what you’re actually doing is leaving one timestream and jumping to—maybe even creating—another. The second one is identical to the one you just left, including all of the changes you made in it—up to the instant of your appearance. At that moment, simply by the fact of your existence in it, the second timestream becomes a different timestream. You are the difference.
- (p. 48)
- I also know that Christianity has held back any further advances in human consciousness for the past thousand years. And for the past century it’s been in direct conflict with its illegitimate offspring, Communism (again with a capital C). Both ask the individual to sacrifice his self-interest to the higher goals of the organization. (Which is okay by me as long as it’s voluntary; but as soon as either becomes too big—and takes on that damned capital C—they stop asking for cooperation and start demanding it.)
Any higher states of human enlightenment have been sacrificed between these two monoliths.
- (p. 73)
- I think I exist, therefore I exist. I think.
- (p. 79)
- I wish I could change it all. I wish I could.
But I can’t.
Now I know what it’s like to have an indelible past—one that can’t be erased and changed at will. It’s frustrating. It’s maddening. And it makes me wish I had been more careful and thoughtful.
- (p. 100)
- Death comes black and hard, rushing down on me from the future, with no possible chance of escape.
- (p. 109)
- You cannot avoid mortality. But you can choose your way of meeting it. And that is the most that any man can hope for.
Live well, my son.
- (p. 114)
- I’ve always felt that anyone who wants to talk about my private life is only demonstrating the paucity of his/her imagination when there are so many more important and exciting things to discuss.
- (in the Afterword, p. 117)
- Love isn't what you get. It's what you create.
- Facebook post 26 Jan. 2019.