Jack Vance

American mystery and speculative fiction writer (1916-2013)

John Holbrook Vance, more commonly known as Big Jack (August 28, 1916May 26, 2013) was an award-winning science fiction and fantasy author, who wrote the four-book Dying Earth series, Whale Enthusiast, Salt Enthusiast, San Francisco Enthusiast, and Turtle Enthusiast.

“Truth” is contained in the preconceptions of him who seeks to define it. Any organization of ideas whatever presupposes a judgment on the world. The Languages of Pao (1958) Chapter 11 (p. 112)


  • The less a writer discusses his work—and himself—the better. The master chef slaughters no chickens in the dining room; the doctor writes prescriptions in Latin; the magician hides his hinges, mirrors, and trapdoors with the utmost care.
    • Afterword to "The Bagful of Dreams" in The Jack Vance Treasury (2007). First appeared in Epoch (1975), ed. Robert Silverberg and Roger Elwood.

Short fiction


Sanatoris Short-Cut (1948)

  • Gambling, in the ultimate study, stems from the passive, the submissive, the irresponsible in human nature; the gambler is one of an inferior lickspittle breed who turns himself belly-upward to the capricious deeds of Luck. Examine now the man of strength and action: he is never led by destiny. He drives on a decided course, manipulates the variables, and instead of submitting to the ordained shape of his life, creates a pattern to his own design.
  • “Legality is the mathematics of social conduct,” said Magnus Ridolph. “It is equally as cogent as the mathematics of probability.”

The Men Return (1957)

  • Man had dominated the Earth by virtue of a single assumption: that an effect could be traced to a cause, itself the effect of a previous cause. Manipulation of this basic law yielded rich results; there seemed no need for any other tool or instrumentality. Man congratulated himself on his generalized structure. He could live on desert, on plain or ice, in forest or in city; Nature had not shaped him to a special environment.
    He was unaware of his vulnerability. Logic was the special environment; the brain was the special tool.

Rumfuddle (1973)

Novella originally published in Robert Silverberg (ed.), Three Trips in Time and Space
Placed eighth in the 1974 Locus Poll Award for Best Novella.
  • I suppose if you isolate yourself to such an extent, you more or less must expect a series of emergencies.
    • Section 2 (p. 168)
  • I can now report that the mathematics of the multiple focus are a most improbable thicket, and the useful service I enforced upon what I must call an absurd set of contradictions is one of my secrets. I know that thousands of scientists, at home and abroad, are attempting to duplicate my work; they are welcome to the effort. None will succeed. Why do I speak so positively? That is my other secret.
    • Section 3 (p. 169)
  • We’ll rack our brains and either solve your problem or come up come up with new and better ones.
    • Section 3 (p. 172)
  • If one basic axiom controls the cosmos, it must be this: In a situation of infinity every possible condition occurs, not once, but an infinite number of times.
    • Section 4 (pp. 173-174)
  • Man is a creature whose evolutionary environment has been the open air. His nerves, muscles, and senses have developed across three million years in contiguity with natural earth, crude stone, live wood, wind, and rain. Now this creature is suddenly--on the geologic scale, instantaneously--shifted to an unnatural environment of metal and glass, plastic and plywood, to which his psychic substrata lack all compatibility. The wonder is not that we have so much mental instability but so little.
    • Section 5 (p. 177)
  • Sorry, I’m not at home. I have gone out to my world Fancy, and I cannot be reached. Call back in a week, unless your business is urgent, in which case call back in a month.
    • Section 6 (p. 184)
  • “You’re sure you want to look into these cognates? You might see things you wouldn’t like.”
    “So long as I know the truth, I don’t care whether I like it or not.”
    • Section 6 (p. 186)
  • If the past is a house of many chambers, then the present is the most recent coat of paint.
    • Section 12 (p. 211)
  • I still feel that we should act with restraint. It’s much easier not to do than to undo.
    • Section 12 (p. 218)
Page numbers from the mass market first edition, published by Ballantine Books (catalogue number U2214), first printing
See Jack Vance's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details
  • When self-willed microunits combine to form and sustain a durable macrounit, certain freedoms of action are curtailed.
    This is the basic process of Organization.
    The more numerous and erratic the microunits, the more complex must be the structure and function of the macrounit—hence the more pervasive and restricting the details of Organization.
    • Dodkin’s Job (p. 7)
  • Organization: smooth and relentless; Organization: massive and inert, tolerant of the submissive, serenely cruel to the unbeliever…
    • Dodkin’s Job (p. 15)
  • Here’s some miscellaneous information. First, wear what you like. Personally I dislike uniforms. I never have worn a uniform. Secondly, if you have a religion, keep it to yourself. I dislike religions. I have always disliked religions. In response to the thought passing through each of your skulls, I do not think of myself as God. But you may do so, if you choose.
    • Sail 25 (p. 75)
  • Now, as to the persistence of superstition, only an impoverished mind considers itself the repository of absolute knowledge.
    • Sail 25 (p. 84)
  • I’d rather be a live pessimist than a dead comedian.
    • Sail 25 (p. 93)
  • “I’m not sure. There’s not much I can do. Unless—” he hesitated.
    “Unless what?”
    “Unless I make an underwater survey myself.”
    Damon was appalled. “What do you hope to gain by that?”
    Fletcher smiled. “If I knew, I wouldn’t need to go.”
    • The Gift of Gab (p. 121)
Page numbers from the mass market edition published by Daw Books, ISBN 0-87997-531-8, first printing, April 1980
See Jack Vance's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details
  • Mystery is a word with no objective pertinence, merely describing the limitations of a mind. In fact, a mind may be classified by the order of the phenomena it considers mysterious.… The mystery is resolved, the solution made known. “Of course, it is obvious!” comes the chorus. A word about the obvious: it is always obvious.… The common mind transposed the sequence, letting the mystery generate the solution. This is logic in reverse; actually the mystery relates to the solution as the foam relates to the beer.…
    • The Unspeakable McInch (p. 39; all ellipses in the original)
  • “That’s the city hall,” he said. “The Mayor lives upstairs, where he can, ha ha, guard the city funds.”
    • The Unspeakable McInch (p. 47)
  • My brain, otherwise a sound instrument, has a serious defect—a hypertrophied lobe of curiosity.
    • The Howling Bounders (p. 56)
  • Banish Evil from the world? Nonsense! Encourage it, foster it, sponsor it. The world owes Evil a debt beyond imagination. Think! Without greed ambition falters. Without vanity art becomes idle musing. Without cruelty benevolence lapses to passivity. Superstition has shamed man into self-reliance and, without stupidity, where would be the savor of superior understanding?
    • The Sub-Standard Sardines (p. 132)
  • The big man’s scowl deepened. “You’re not what I expected.”
    “Intelligence, facility, resourcefulness are not like neckties, to be displayed as ornaments,” Magnus Ridolph pointed out.
    • To B or Not to C or to D (p. 155)
  • “I have heard your name mentioned.”
    “Probably as a high-flying free-wheeling financial hell-raiser.”
    “I believe the term ‘unscrupulous blackguard’ was used,” said Ridolph.
    • To B or Not to C or to D (p. 155)
Page numbers from the mass market edition published by Daw Books, ISBN 0-87997-747-7, first printing, July 1982
See Jack Vance's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details
  • “I know the feeling,” said Lanarck. “I’ve had my own troubles with the scoundrels. The only good bursar is a dead bursar.”
    • The World-Thinker (p. 59)
  • “But why do you force upon men, a million years of this wretched existence?” asked Lanarck.
    Laoome gave an untranslatable mental shrug.
    “I am just, and indeed benevolent,” he said. “These men worship me as a god. Upon a certain hillock, which they hold sacred, they bring their sick and wounded. There, if the whim takes me, I restore them to health. So far as their existence is concerned, they relish the span of their life as much as you do yours.”
    “Yet in creating these worlds, you are responsible for the happiness of the inhabitants. If you were truly benevolent, why should you permit disease and terror to exist?”
    Laoome again gave his mental shrug. “I might say that I have this universe of our own as a model. Perhaps there is another Laoome dreaming out the worlds we ourselves live on.”
    • The World-Thinker (p. 65)
  • “You have not accepted my advice.”
    Fair shrugged. “You asked me to remain ignorant, to accept my stupidity and ineptitude.”
    • Green Magic (p. 88)
  • “What are the motives which prompt men to new enterprises? First, money, which in a sense comprises, includes, all of the other motives too. But for the sake of clarity, call this first, the desire for money, and end in itself. Second, there’s the will for power. Subdivide that last into, say, the crusading instinct and call it a desire for unlimited sexual opportunity. Power over women. Then third, curiosity, the desire to know. Fourth, the enterprise for its own sake, as a diversion. Like a millionaire’s race horses. Fifth, philanthropy. Any more?”
    “Covers it,” said Zaer.
    • The Chateau d’If (pp. 118-119)
  • Adventure is just another name for having the daylights scared out of you and living to tell about it.
    • The Chateau d’If (p. 121)
  • She watched with an expression—quizzical, unhuman. Mario wondered, how can beauty be refined to such to such reckless heights, and still be so cold and friendless? If she were wounded, would she bleed?
    • The Chateau d’If (p. 173)
Page numbers from the mass market edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 0-441-03610-4, first printing, September 1988
See Jack Vance's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details
  • His decision was preordained, and derived from a perverse quirk in his mentality. At his deepest, most essential level, Hack knew himself for an insipid mediocrity, of no intellectual distinction and no particular competence in any direction. This was an insight so shocking that Hack never allowed it past the threshold of consciousness, and he conducted himself as if the reverse were true.
    • The Man from Zodiac (p. 50)
  • “Crime occurs when the social structure is in itself inattentive and unwieldy,” she added offhandedly, “when the culture provides no scope for fulfillment.”
    • Golden Girl (p. 79)
  • “Why does a chicken cross a road?”
    “Presumably the motivations and restraints in reference to the prospective action settle into an equilibrium which prompts the motion rather than the stasis.”
    • The Planet Machine (p. 113)
  • The repair system exists to keep the machinery operating but no provision had been made to repair the repair system.
    • The Planet Machine (p. 113)
  • “No,” said Travec, “religions, cults, rituals—forms of insanity—don’t interest me.”
    • Crusade to Maxus (p. 155)
  • All religions grew from human dread of death, reflected Travec—the brassier the claims for afterlife, the more popular the creed.
    • Crusade to Maxus (p. 158)
  • You’re an idealist. The idealists are always the revolutionaries, the cat’s-paws. Then the realists consolidate, compromise and liquidate the opposition.
    • Crusade to Maxus (p. 173)
  • Mardien sat glaring on the floor and Travec caught a glimpse of a wild, primordial beast. It was the swiftest of visions and he thought what marvelous disguises were beauty and civilization.
    • Crusade to Maxus (p. 174)
  • It is as well that the amok has no weapons other than his knife. Otherwise he would kill twenty where now he kills one.
    • Sjambak (p. 225)
All page numbers from the 1980 mass market paperback edition published by Daw
  • I'm only giving orders because I'm more efficient and smarter than you are.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 57)
  • Damned meddlers. It’s hard to know when their curiosity is official and when it’s just curiosity.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 65)
  • “Down we go,” said Paddy. “Now pray to Saint Anthony if you be a good Catholic—”
    “I'm not,” snapped Fay, “and if you'll give more mind to the boat and less to religion we’ll gain by it.”
    • Chapter 11 (p. 131)
  • He must approach the subject critically, alert for contradictions, pedantry and vagueness.
    • Chapter V, section 2
  • He’s like an imbecile with a pepper shaker; a little makes his food taste good, therefore a lot will make it wonderful.
    • Chapter VII, section 1
  • Another busy day! So let’s to business. The clock moves forward; wasted time is life defeated!
    • Chapter VIII, section 3
  • The void is a mouth crying to be filled, a blank mind aching for thought, a cavity desperate for shape. What is not implies what is.
    • Chapter XI, section 1
  • “The crime,” said the Jacynth softly, “is abstract and fundamental: the innate depravity of extinguishing life.”
    • Chapter XI, section 2
  • “It is simple dog-eat-dog,” said Waylock. It’s basic battle for survival, fiercer and more brutal than ever before in the history of man. You have blinded yourself; you subscribe to false theories; you are permeated with your obsession—not only you but all of us. If we faced the facts of existence, our palliatories would be less crowded.”
    • Chapter XI, section 2
  • The history of man is a compendium of such evil. We are an evolutionary product, descendants of predators. A few synthetic foods aside, every morsel eaten by man is taken from another living thing. We are intended for murder; we kill to exist!
    • Chapter XII, section 4
  • A man is like a rope: both break at a definite strain....The solution is not splicing the rope; it’s lessening the tension.
    • Chapter XVI, section 3
All page numbers from the 2000 trade paperback edition published by Victor Gollancz
Note that the year of publication is complex; the novel was first published in 1952 in a magazine, then in an abridged version in 1957, and then as the full-length book in 1978
  • A barbarian is not aware that he is a barbarian.
    • Chapter 3 “Free for All” (p. 31)
  • Now was the present, now was the time containing that sweet union of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, spirit, will and imagination named Nancy.
    • Chapter 8 “A Matter of Vitamins” (p. 80)
  • The merchant voiced an inarticulate protest. Glystra glared at him, “Do you think I trust you?”
    “Trust?” said the merchant with a puzzled expression. “Trust? What word is that?” And he tested it several times more.
    • Chapter 16 “The Search” (p. 167)

Slaves of the Klau (1958 [serialized 1952])

All page numbers from the 1980 mass market paperback edition published by Coronet Books ISBN 0-340-24874-2
  • “There is war between us that perhaps you cannot completely understand—a long-range combat of our—” she sought for a word to express a complex Lekthwan idea “— moral vitality. In the end we will win. Meanwhile many people suffer.” She shrugged. “The universe is not a paradise.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 29)
  • “What’s the trouble? Given up?”
    “What is there to give up?”
    She said in a soft voice, “We’re slaves; slaves have no need for confidence.”
    “I’m not a slave until I feel like a slave.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 30)
  • You have no concept of Magarak’s reality; you refuse to think; you live by ready-made emotional doctrines—a substitute for thought. What is worse, you try to wrench reality to fit your ideas.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 31)
  • Komeitk Lelianr said in a colorless voice, “Barch is from the planet Earth.”
    “Out in the Efrstl region.” Komeitk Lelianr looked at Barch dispassionately. “His people are socially disorganized, technically limited, ruled by emotion. But any kind of challenge seems to arouse in them a feverish energy. Burch thinks of it as dynamism. It is a necessity for action, no matter whether or not towards impossible ends. Rationality is a curiously ineffective argument against him; you are forced to think in his terms.”
    • Chapter 20 (p. 90)
  • The curious race, the Earthers. Young, only a few years removed from savagery, contaminated by the past, correspondingly exuberant and direct.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 93)
  • “Do you still think I’m crazy?”
    Her glance went to his left shoulder. “I’m not well enough acquainted with the norm of your people to judge.”
    Barch rose to his feet. He said thickly, “About ten more minutes of double talk, I actually would be crazy.”
    • Chapter 23 (p. 105)
All page numbers from the 2004 trade paperback edition published by iBooks
  • Speaking our language, you will understand us—and if you can think as another man thinks, you cannot dislike him.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 64)
  • “Truth” is contained in the preconceptions of him who seeks to define it. Any organization of ideas whatever presupposes a judgment on the world.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 112)
  • “I learned a great deal,” said Beran. “And then I lost all heart for further learning.”
    Palafox’s eyes glinted. “Education is not achieved through the heart—it is a systematization of the mental processes.”
    “But I am something other than a mental process,” said Beran. “I am a man. I must reckon with the whole of myself.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 133)
  • There are no absolute certainties in this universe. A man must try to whip order into a yelping pack of probabilities, and uniform success is impossible.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 133)
  • Your thoughts move with the deft precision of worm-tracks in the mud.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 149)
  • When you demand the nature of my motives, you reveal the style of your thinking to be callow, captious, superficial, craven, uncertain and impudent.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 149)
Novella which won the Hugo award
  • “You will understand,” said the Weaponeer, “that a pattern for events exists. It is the function of such as myself to shape events so that they will fit the pattern.” He bent, with a graceful sweep of arm, and seized a small jagged pebble. “Just as I can grind this bit of rock to fit a round aperture.”
    Kergan Banbeck reached forward, took the pebble, tossed it high over the tumbled boulders. “That bit of rock you shall never shape to fit a round hole.”
    The Weaponeer shook his head in mild deprecation. “There is always more rock.”
    “And there are always more holes,” declared Kergan Banbeck.
    • Section 2
  • Kergan Banbeck threw up his hands, turned once more to the sacerdote. “How can I halt his nonsense? How can I make him see reason?
    The sacerdote reflected. “He speaks not nonsense, but rather a language you fail to understand. You can make him understand your language by erasing all knowledge and training from his mind, and replacing it with patterns of your own.”
    • Section 2
  • Since we are not permitted to act, we are obliged to know.
    • Section 6
  • “It sees that you are wrong, that you are guided by faith indeed.”
    The Demie fell silent. His face seemed to stiffen.
    “Are these not facts?” asked Joaz. “How do you reconcile them with your faith?
    The Demie said mildly, “Facts can never be reconciled with faith.”
    • Section 7
  • If there were no such creatures as minstrel-maidens, it would be necessary to invent them.
    • Section 7
  • How to know, oh how to know! All is relative ease and facility in orthodoxy, yet how can it be denied that good is in itself undeniable? Absolutes are the most uncertain of all formulations, while the uncertainties are the most real...
    • Section 7
All page numbers from the first edition, published by Pyramid Books
  • Music is like a language: you cannot understand it unless you learn it, or more accurately, are born into it.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 12)
  • Roger tried to find out all about her: he wanted, in one brief hour, to make up for a lifetime of non-acquaintance, a lifetime for all practical purposes wasted.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 30)
  • He was neither lazy nor incompetent; he merely had occupational claustrophobia.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 30)
  • We are sufficiently at the mercy of machines, Roger; if our music must necessarily be mechanical, then it is time for us to throw in the sponge, and abandon all hope for the future of humanity.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 31)
  • And I understand they are, in a sense, artists? That is to say, they understand the creative process, the sublimation of fact to symbol and the use of symbol to suggest emotion?
    • Chapter 8 (p. 65)
  • “I'm sure you didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
    Madoc Roswyn laughed a soft forlorn laugh. “The sad truth is that I didn’t care—which may be worse.”
    • Chapter 12 (p. 127)
  • He looked around the landscape. Drenched in the golden haze of late afternoon it seemed wonderfully tranquil and beautiful, though permeated with a sense of remoteness and even melancholy, like a scene remembered from one’s youth.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 130)
  • “Now it seems that Roger has once more taken up with Miss Roswyn. I can’t say that I approve, but he has not troubled to ask my advice.” She heaved a sigh. “But I am sure that the world will never go precisely to my liking.”
    “Does it for anyone?” asked Bernard Bickel with good-natured cynicism.
    “Probably not, and I must reconcile myself to the fact.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 134)
Novella which won the Hugo and the Nebula awards
  • In the end, death came uniformly to all, and all extracted as much satisfaction from their dying as this essentially graceless process could afford.
    • Chapter 1, section 1
  • The life we’ve been leading couldn’t last forever. It’s a wonder it lasted as long as it did.
    • Chapter 2, section 1
  • Claghorn had long insisted that no human condition endured forever, with the corollary that the more complicated such a condition, the greater its susceptibility to change.
    • Chapter 2, section 1
  • I know that the history of man is not his technical triumphs, his kills, his victories. It is a composite, a mosaic of a trillion pieces, the account of each man’s accommodation with his conscience. This is the true history of the race.
    • Chapter 3, section 2
  • You emphasize morality. But the ultimate basis of morality is survival. What promotes survival is good; what induces mortifaction is bad.
    • Chapter 3, section 2
  • Happiness is fugitive; dissatisfaction and boredom are real.
    • Chapter 5
  • Freedom, privileges, options, must constantly be exercised, even at the risk of inconvenience. Otherwise they fall into desuetude and become unfashionable, unorthodox—finally irregulationary.
    • Chapter 9
  • Ghyl laughed also. “If I'm too serious, you're too irresponsible.”
    “Bah,” retorted Floriel. “Is the world responsible? Of course not! The world is random, vagrant, heedless. To be responsible is to be out of phase, to be insane!”
    Ghyl pondered a moment. “This is perhaps the case, in a world left to itself. But society imposes order. Living in a society, it is not insane to be responsible.”
    • Chapter 11
  • Control is necessary and even good—so long as I do the controlling.
    • Chapter 11
  • “Tomorrow?”
    “Sh.” She put her hand across his lips. “Never say the word!”
    • Chapter 12
  • Shanne said, “You are quiet; are you sad?”
    “In a way. Do you know why?”
    She put her hand across his mouth. “Never speak of it. What must be, will be. What can never be—can never be.”
    Ghyl turned to look at her, trying to divine every last scintilla of her meaning.
    “But,” she added in a soft voice, “what can be—can be.”
    • Chapter 12
    • Chapter 19
  • What, given the circumstances, would have been Emphyrio’s course of action?
    Very well, thought Ghyl: it shall be Truth, and let the consequences fall where they may.
    • Chapter 22

The Gray Prince (1975 [serialized 1974])

All page numbers from the 1981 paperback edition, published by DAW Books
  • Often their grievances were real; often they complained from sheer petulance.
    • Prologue (p. 8)
  • “Perhaps you can advise us on the lottery,” suggested Schaine.
    “Gladly,” said Elvo Glissam. “Invest your money elsewhere.”
    • Chapter 3 (p. 34)
  • “You used the word ‘civilization,’ which means a set of abstractions, symbols, conventions. Experience tends to be vicarious; emotions are predigested and electrical; ideas become more real than things.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 48)
  • Urban folk, dealing as they do in ideas and abstractions, become conditioned to unreality. Then, wherever the fabric of civilization breaks, these people are as helpless as fish out of water.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 49)
  • Elvo Glissam only knew for certain that he found Schaine as beautiful some magnificent natural process, like a sunrise, or a surge of breaking surf, or stars in the midnight sky.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 59)
  • “And this is Uther Madduc’s ‘wonderful joke’?”
    “So I believe.”
    “But what’s funny?”
    “The magnificent ability of the human race to delude itself.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 147)
  • “How I hate you,” he said softly. “If hate were stone I could build a tower into the clouds.”
    • Chapter 15 (p. 152)
  • The travesty exists only because reliance upon abstraction has made reality incomprehensible to you.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 159)
  • “Except for a few special cases, title to every parcel of real property derives from an act of violence, more or less remote, and ownership is only as valid as the strength and will required to maintain it. That is the lesson of history, whether you like it or not.”
    “The mourning of defeated peoples, while pathetic and tragic, is usually futile,” said Kelse.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 159)
All page numbers from the 1981 paperback edition, published by DAW Books
  • The town’s lack of special quirks was almost a peculiarity in itself.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 23)
  • Gassoon, for all his lore, subscribed to a common fallacy: he assumed that all those whom he encountered appraised him in the same terms as he did himself.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 81)
  • Consider the human mind! It is capable of amazing feats when used properly. Conversely, without exercise it atrophies to a lump of gray-yellow fat.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 83)
  • “Let him talk as he will!” scoffed Zamp. “His motives are not at all obscure.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 108)
  • I suspect that the word (art) was invented by second-rate intelligences to describe the incomprehensible activities of their betters.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 111)
  • Your doctrines are remarkable! As if I existed only to fulfill your cravings! Then, since I do not care to do so, the cosmos must be considered insane.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 123)
  • I fear, Master Zamp, that you are a victim to your own perfervid imagination.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 123)
  • My fees are not too high. Your wage scale may simply be too low.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 132)
  • Your character, Apollon Zamp, is marred by a certain paltriness of spirit, a diffused universal distrust which I truly deplore.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 151)
  • “Navigation on this lake is forbidden to aliens,” he declared. “We are ordered to sink all intruding vessels. Prepare to drown.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 162)
  • “Let them scoff as they see fit! I will never compromise what I consider my art, especially for the sake of gain!”
    “For the sake of gain I’d compromise the art of my grandmother,” muttered Zamp under his breath.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 168)

Dying Earth (1950-1984)

  • Mischief moves somewhere near and I must blast it with my magic!
    • Chapter 1, "Turjan of Miir"
  • It had been suggested to her that the flaw lay not in the universe but in herself.
    • Chapter 3, "T'Sais"
  • “You must save yourselves,” Rogol Domedonfors told them. “You have ignored the ancient wisdom, you have been too indolent to learn, you have sought easy complacence from religion, rather than facing manfully to the world.”
    • Chapter 5, "Ulan Dhor"
  • "What are your fees?" inquired Guyal cautiously.
    "I respond to three questions," stated the augur. "For twenty terces I phrase the answer in clear and actionable language; for ten I use the language of cant, which occasionally admits of ambiguity; for five, I speak a parable which you must interpret as you will; and for one terce, I babble in an unknown tongue."
    • Chapter 6, "Guyal of Sfere"
  • Guyal reined his horse and reflected that flowers were rarely cherished by persons of hostile disposition.
    • Chapter 6, "Guyal of Sfere"
  • "My clever baton holds your unnatural sorcery in abeyance."
    • Chapter 6, "Guyal of Sfere"
  • His brain ached with the want of knowing.
    • Chapter 6, "Guyal of Sfere"
  • "Enter, my friend, enter. How goes your trade?"
    "In all candor, not too well," said Cugel. "I am both perplexed and disappointed, for my talismans are not obviously useless."
    • Chapter 1, "The Overworld"
  • I do not care to listen; obloquy injures my self-esteem and I am skeptical of praise.
    • Chapter 1, "The Overworld"
  • Yes, I realize that I see but a semblance, but so do you, and who is to say which is real?
    • Chapter 1, "The Overworld"
  • Cease the bickering! I am indulging the exotic whims of a beautiful princess and must not be distracted.
    • Chapter 1, "The Overworld"
  • "The contingency is remote." (This is also a Jeeves quote in the PG Wodehouse Novels)
    • Chapter 1, "The Overworld"
  • Excellent; all is well. The 'everlasting tedium' exactly countervenes the 'immediate onset of death' and I am left only with the 'canker' which, in the person of Firx, already afflicts me. One must use his wits in dealing with maledictions.
    • Chapter 2, "Cil"
  • And, stretching in languid warmth, she contrived to twist her body into first one luxurious position, then another.
    • Chapter 2, "Cil"
  • I am not called Cugel the Clever for nothing.
    • Chapter 3, "The Mountains of Magnatz"
  • Until work has reached its previous stage nympharium privileges are denied to all.
    • Chapter 4, "The Sorcerer Pharesm"
  • The creature displayed the qualities reminiscent of both coelenterate and echinoderm. A terrene nudibranch? A mollusc deprived of its shell? More importantly, was the creature edible?
    • Chapter 4, "The Sorcerer Pharesm"
  • Ah! Five hundred years I have toiled to entice this creature, despairing, doubting, brooding by night, yet never abandoning hope that my calculations were accurate and my great talisman cogent. Then, when finally it appears, you fall upon it for no other reason than to sate your repulsive gluttony!
    • Chapter 4, "The Sorcerer Pharesm"
  • I categorically declare first my absolute innocence, second my lack of criminal intent, and third my effusive apologies.
    • Chapter 4, "The Sorcerer Pharesm"
  • There can be no doubt as to the facts as I have stated them. Orthodoxy derives from this axiomatic foundation, and the two systems are mutually reinforcing: hence each is doubly validated.
    • Chapter 4, "The Sorcerer Pharesm"
  • "Here you see the pattern from which my great work is derived. It expresses the symbolic significance of NULLITY to which TOTALITY must necessarily attach itself, by Kratinjae's Second Law of Cryptorrhoid Affinities, with which you are possibly familiar."
    "Not in every aspect," said Cugel.
    • Chapter 4, "The Sorcerer Pharesm"
  • Notice this rent in my garment; I am at a loss to explain its presence! I am even more puzzled by the existence of the universe.
    • Chapter 5, "The Pilgrims"
  • The purportedly free was seldom as represented.
    • Chapter 6, "The Cave in the Forest"
  • "All is mutability, and thus your three hundred terces has fluctuated to three."
    • Chapter 7, "The Manse of Iucounu"
  • He indicated the pair of grotesques. "For instance, I have seldom seen objects so studiously repulsive as this pair of bibelots. Skillfully done, agreed! Notice the detail in these horrid little ears! The snouts, the fangs: the malignance is almost real! Still, they are undeniably the work of a diseased imagination."
    The objects reared erect. One of them spoke in a rasping voice: "No doubt Cugel has good reason for his unkind words; still, neither Gark nor I can take them lightly."
    • Chapter 1, section 1, "Flutic"
  • I challenge Destiny, yes, but I do not leap off cliffs.
    • Chapter 1, section 2, "The Inn of Blue Lamps"
  • "I distrusted him from the start! Still, who could imagine such protean depravity?"
    Bunderwal, the supercargo, concurred. "Cugel, while plausible, nonetheless is a bit of a scoundrel."
    • Chapter 2, section 2, "Lausicaa"
  • It was right and proper to exploit the excellences of the moment, but still, when conditions reached an apex, there was nowhere to go but down.
    • Chapter 2, section 3, "The Ocean of Sighs"
  • “Is this the conduct of a ‘sly and unpredictable villain’?”
    “Decidedly so, if the villain, for the purposes of his joke, thinks to simulate the altruist.”
    “Then how will you know villain from altruist?”
    Cugel shrugged. “It is not an important distinction.”
    • Chapter 3, section 2, "Faucelme"
  • “I was trained in the old tradition! We found our strength in the basic verities, to which you, as a patrician, must surely subscribe. Am I right in this?”
    “Absolutely, and in all respects!” declared Cugel. “Recognizing, of course, that these fundamental verities vary from region to region, and even from person to person.”
    • Chapter 3, section 2, "Faucelme"
  • “I think that I will not answer that question,” he said at last. “I would create as many false images as there were ears to hear me.”
    “Half as many,” Clissum pointed out delicately.
    • Chapter 4, section 2, "The Caravan"
  • "At Gundar we conceive 'innocence' as a positive quality, not merely an insipid absence of guilt," stated the Nolde. "We are not the fools that certain untidy ruffians might suppose."
    • Chapter 5, section 1, "The Seventeen Virgins"
  • An inch of foreknowledge is worth ten miles of after-thought.
    • Chapter 5, section 2, "The Bagful of Dreams" (first published in Flashing Swords #4, November 1977)
  • "The folk are peculiar in many ways," said Erwig. "They preen themselves upon the gentility of their habits, yet they refuse to whitewash their hair, and they are slack in their religious observances. For instance, they make obeisance to Divine Wiulio with the right hand, not on the buttock, but on the abdomen, which we here consider a slipshod practice. What are your own views?"
    "The rite should be conducted as you describe," said Cugel. "No other method carries weight."
    Erwig refilled Cugel's glass. "I consider this an important endorsement of our views!"
    • Chapter 5, section 2, "The Bagful of Dreams"
  • It is useless, after all, to complain against inexorable reality.
    • Chapter 5, section 2, "The Bagful of Dreams"
  • I give dignity second place to expedience.
    • Chapter 6, section 1, "The Four Wizards"
  • "Very well," said Cugel. "I will ride with you to Taun Tassel, but you must accept these three terces in full, exact, final, comprehensive and complete compensation for the ride and every other aspect, adjunct, by-product and consequence, either direct or indirect, of the said ride, renouncing every other claim, now, and forever, including all times of the past and future, without exception, and absolving me, in part and in whole, from any and all further obligation."
    Iucounu held up small balled fists and gritted his teeth toward the sky. "I repudiate your entire paltry philosophy! I find zest in giving!"
    • Chapter 6, section 2, "Spatterlight"
  • "When one deals with the Murthe, the unthinkable becomes the ordinary, and Zanzel's repute carries no more weight than last year's mouse-dropping - if that much."
    • "The Murthe", chapter 2
  • Ildefonse said ponderously: "If your analysis is correct, we must undertake to secure the future against this pangynic nightmare."
    • "The Murthe", chapter 2
  • "Llorio, you are a woman of surpassing beauty, though you would seem to lack that provocative warmth which draws man to woman, and adds dimension to the character."
    The Murthe responded curtly: "The quality you describe is a kind of lewd obsequiousness which, happily, has now become obsolete. As for the 'surpassing beauty,' it is an apotheotic quality generated by the surging music of the female soul, which you, in your crassness, perceive only as a set of pleasing contours."
    • "The Murthe", chapter 3
  • We need no chieftain; such folk eat more than their share.
    • "Fader's Waft", chapter 13
  • Human interactions, stimulated as they are by disequilibrium, never achieve balance. In even the most favorable transaction, one party—whether he realizes it or not—must always come out the worse.
    • "Morreion" (first published in Flashing Swords #1, March 1973), chapter 4
  • I must cite an intrinsic condition of the universe. We set forth in any direction which seems convenient; each leads to the same place: the end of the universe.
    • "Morreion", chapter 6
  • "I therefore suggest that in the style of the previous examples, a natural scientist, examining a single atom might well be able to asseverate the structure and history of the entire universe!"
    "Bah!" muttered Hurtiancz. "By the same token, a sensible man need listen to but a single word in order to recognize the whole for egregious nonsense."
    • "Morreion", chapter 8
  • Of all questions, why? is the least pertinent. It begs the question; it assumes the larger part of its own response; to wit, that a sensible response exists.
    • "Morreion", chapter 8
  • Enough of this intolerable inanity! I propose that such loquacity passes beyond the scope of nuisance and over the verge of turpitude.
    • "Morreion", chapter 8
  • “I am more inclined to punish Hurtiancz for his crassness,” said Ildefonse. “But now he simulates a swinish stupidity to escape my anger.”

    “Absolute falsity!” roared Hurtiancz. “I simulate nothing!”

    Ildefonse shrugged. “For all his deficiencies as polemicist and magician, Hurtiancz at least is candid.”

    • "Morreion", chapter 8
Page numbers from the omnibus trade paperback edition The Demon Princes: Volume One published by Orb ISBN 978-0-312-85302-0 in May 1997
  • You espouse a very popular doctrine, ethical pragmatism, which always turns out to be the doctrine of self-interest.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 12)
  • You will have useful work: the destruction of evil men. What work could be more useful?
    • Chapter 2 (p. 27)
  • What is an evil man? The man is evil who coerces obedience to his private ends, destroys beauty, produces pain, extinguishes life.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 28)
  • Revenge is not an ignoble motive, when it works to a productive end.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 28)
  • Humanity many times has had sad experience of superpowerful police forces...As soon as (the police) slip out from under the firm thumb of a suspicious local tribune, they become arbitrary, merciless, a law unto themselves. They think no more of justice, but only of establishing themselves as a privileged and envied elite. They mistake the attitude of natural caution and uncertainty of the civilian population as admiration and respect, and presently they start to swagger back and forth, jingling their weapons in megalomaniac euphoria. People thereupon become not masters, but servants. Such a police force becomes merely an aggregate of uniformed criminals, the more baneful in that their position is unchallenged and sanctioned by law. The police mentality cannot regard a human being in terms other than as an item or object to be processed as expeditiously as possible. Public convenience or dignity means nothing; police prerogatives assume the status of divine law. Submissiveness is demanded. If a police officer kills a civilian, it is a regrettable circumstance: the officer was possibly overzealous. If a civilian kills a police officer all hell breaks loose. The police foam at the mouth. All other business comes to a standstill until the perpetrator of this most dastardly act is found out. Inevitably, when apprehended, he is beaten or otherwise tortured for his intolerable presumption. The police complain that they cannot function efficiently, that criminals escape them. Better a hundred unchecked criminals than the despotism of one unbridled police force.
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 32-33)
  • “Everyone is the same,” he told himself. “Anxious to arrive and, when they leave, wondering why they came.”
    • Chapter 3 (p. 37)
  • There are also those who, like the author, ensconce themselves on a thunderous crag of omniscience, and with protestations of humility which are either unconvincing or totally absent, assume the obligation of appraisal, commendation, derogation or denunciation of their contemporaries. Still, by and large it is an easier job than digging a ditch.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 59)
  • Conjecture without facts was useless; he must deal with events as they occurred.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 67)
  • Deeming the unsubstantiated dogma of a localized religious cult to be an undignified and unsuitable base on which to erect the chronology of galactic man, the members of this convention hereby declare that time shall now be reckoned from the year 2000 A.D. (Old System), which becomes the year 0. The revolution of Earth about Sol remains the standard annual unit.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 73)
  • Who are our basic enemies? This is a secret, unknown even to those basic enemies.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 74)
  • The tighter the discipline of an art form, the more subjective the criteria of taste.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 79)
  • Motto of the Institute: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; a great deal of knowledge is disaster, which detractors of the Institute scornfully paraphrase to: Somebody else’s ignorance is bliss.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 83)
  • “Beauty comes in often to drink. A spaceman, he claims himself, but as to this I can’t be certain. I have often declared myself a great lover. All of us lie, as much or more than necessary. ‘What is truth?’ asks Pons Pilatus, in the fable, and I answer: ‘A commodity as cheap as air which we hide as if it were as precious as yewl stone.’”
    • Chapter 9 (p. 107)
  • Destiny could not bring him this far only to deal him failure!
    • Chapter 10 (p. 122)
Page numbers from the omnibus trade paperback edition The Demon Princes: Volume One published by Orb ISBN 978-0-312-85302-0 in May 1997
  • “Humanity is old, civilization is new: the mesh of cogs is by no means smooth—and this is as it should be. Never should a man enter a building of glass or metal, or a spaceship, or a submarine, without a small shock of astonishment; never should he avoid an act of passion without a small sense of effort....We of the Institute receive an intensive historical inculcation; we know the men of the past, and we have projected dozens of possible future variations, which, without exception, are repulsive. Man, as he exists now, with all his faults and vices, a thousand gloriously irrational compromises between two thousand sterile absolute—is optimal. Or so it seems to us who are men.”
    • Chapter 3 (p. 179)
  • A detached attitude toward the problems of others is not illegal.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 180)
  • “And thereby hangs a tale,” as the monkey said while describing the cat’s rear-quarters.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 193)
  • Money lost, little lost.
    Honor lost, much lost.
    Pluck lost, all lost.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 221)
  • The central problem, so it seemed, was to learn from whose eye he looked forth. Much, after all, would depend upon his viewpoint.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 282)
Page numbers from the omnibus trade paperback edition The Demon Princes: Volume One published by Orb ISBN 978-0-312-85302-0 in May 1997
  • “Don’t you think it’s a bit—well, intense? Are people really interested in these matters?”
    “If not they should be.”
    “Easily said, but it’s no way to run a magazine. People don’t want to really understand anything; they want to think they have learned without the necessity of application.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 327)
  • A man without friends is a tree without leaves.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 341)
  • I have much to say about the world, but every year the compulsion dwindles. Let them live and die; it is all one to me.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 342)
  • There is too much knowledge already in the world; we use facts as crutches, to the impoverishment of our senses. Facts are falsehoods; logic is deceit. I know a single system of communication: the declaiming of poetry.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 343)
  • I am an unhappy man. I am haunted by my inability to express the inexpressible, to come to terms with the unknown. The pursuit of beauty is, of course, a major psychological drive. It its various guises—which is to say, the urge to perfection, the yearning to merge with the eternal, the explorer’s restlessness, the realization of an Absolute created by ourselves, yet larger than our totality—it is perhaps the most important human thrust.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 346)
  • Art implies discipline; the more excellent the art, the more rigorous the discipline.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 356)
  • Candor is never indiscreet. Truth, which is to say, the reflection of life, is beautiful.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 381)
  • What good is notoriety if your friends are unable to profit from it?
    • Chapter 9 (p. 381)
  • My great pleasure is creation—of this I never tire. Some of my guests have complained of a gentle melancholy which hangs in the air; I agree that the mood exists. The explanation, I believe, arises from the fugacity of beauty, the tragic pavanne to which all of us step.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 415)
  • “Be on your way; this is holy soil.”
    “How can you be so sure? It looks like ordinary dirt.”
    • Chapter 12 (p. 419)
  • The symbologist made a cryptic sign. “That remains to be seen, as the cat said who voided into the sugar bowl.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 432)
Page numbers from the omnibus trade paperback edition The Demon Princes: Volume Two published by Orb ISBN 978-0-312-85316-7 in September 1997
  • I can tell you this at least. The most convincing disguise for legitimacy is legitimacy itself.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 12)
  • If religions are diseases of the human psyche, as the philosopher Grintholde asserts, then religious wars must be reckoned the resultant sores and cankers infecting the aggregate corpus of the human race. Of all wars, these are the most detestable, since they are waged for no tangible gain, but only to impose a set of arbitrary credos upon another’s mind.
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 17-18)
  • Remember, not all lawyers are fools!
    • Chapter 4 (p. 39)
  • I am a legalist and a financial expert, I admit as much; but my disregard for the law goes no further.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 56)
  • For many years my nerves were like electric wires. Then I discovered the first axiom of human accord: I accept each person on his own terms. I keep a close tongue in my head; I offer opinions only when so solicited. What a remarkable change! Dissension vanishes, novel facts emerge, digestion flows like a wide river.
    • Chapter 7 (pp. 75-76)
  • “What are you doing here?”
    “I’m looking at you, and grateful for the opportunity.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 124)
  • The seconds marched past, traversing that mysterious boundary which separates future from past.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 145)
  • “May I inquire as to your motives?”
    “Why do you trouble to ask? You would believe nothing told you.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 166)
  • My own concepts in this regard are easy and clear, and I am sure that the word “simplistic” will be used by my critics. These folk are callow and turgid of intellect; I am reassured by their howls and yelps.
    • Chapter 14 (pp. 172-173)
  • My wealth is my shelf of books!
    • Chapter 14 (p. 173)
Page numbers from the omnibus trade paperback edition The Demon Princes: Volume Two published by Orb ISBN 978-0-312-85316-7 in September 1997
  • I often reflect upon the word “morality,” the most troublesome and confusing word of all.
    There is no single or supreme morality; there are many, each defining the mode by which a system of entities optimally interacts.
    The eminent entomologist Fabre, observing a mantis in the act of devouring its mate, exclaimed: “What an abominable custom!”
    The ordinary man, during a day’s time, may be obliged to act by the terms of a half dozen different moralities. Some of these acts, appropriate at one moment, may the next moment be considered obscene or opprobrious in terms of another morality.
    The person who, let us say, expects generosity from a bank, efficient flexibility from a government agency, open-mindedness from a religious institution will be disappointed. In each purview the notions represent immorality. The poor fool might as quickly discover love among the mantises.
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 224-225)
  • Urbanized men and women experience not life but the abstraction of life, on ever higher levels of refinement and dislocation from reality. They become processors of ideas, and have evolved such esoteric occupations as the critic, the critic who criticizes criticism, and even the critic who criticizes criticism of criticism. It is a very sad misuse of human talent and energy.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 264)
  • “You were notified in regard to a recent conclave of the Dexad at Wild Isle?”
    “Yes. I chose not to attend. In discussions I find myself consistently a minority of one, and my presence seems unnecessary.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 282)
  • “As always there is someone to hold a tight hand on the purse strings—usually the most affluent of the persons in authority.”
    “This is how they become affluent.”
    • Chapter 12 (p. 322)
  • Discipline in itself is not a corrupt concept, only discipline that is imposed rather than self-calculated.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 347)
  • It does no good to hurry here. In fact, it may even be against the law.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 361)
  • “Intelligence” demands the most strict of definitions, since the word is easily and often abused. Intelligence rates the quality of Gaean man’s competence at altering environment to suit his convenience, or, more generally, the solution of problems. The corollaries to the idea are several. Among them: In the absence of problems, intelligence cannot be measured. A creature with a large, complicated brain is not necessarily intelligent. Raw abstract intelligence is a meaningless concept.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 383)
  • Alice put her hands on his shoulder. “And now, what of you?”
    “What of me, how?”
    “You’re so quiet and subdued! You worry me. Are you well?”
    “Quite well. Deflated, perhaps. I have been deserted by my enemies. Treesong is dead. The affair is over. I am done.”
    • Chapter 20 (p. 397; closing words)
Page numbers from the omnibus trade paperback edition Planet of Adventure published by Orb ISBN 0-312-85488-9, 4th printing
  • Reith for a space could find no words. At last he stuttered, “Have you no concern for evil deeds?”
    “‘Evil’?” Baojian laughed sadly. “On Tschai the word has no meaning. Events exist—or they do not exist. If a person adheres to some other system of conduct he himself will swiftly cease to exist.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 77)
  • The Gnashters circulated through the room, collecting coins. Reith grudgingly paid a tax of nine sequins for himself, Traz and the Flower of Cath. None of the folk present seemed to find the exaction unreasonable. So pervasive was the lack of social discipline, Reith decided, that exploitation of advantage was taken for granted.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 95)
  • “Anacho, my friend,” said Reith, “you have a great deal to learn. The process will come as an appalling shock to you.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 102)
  • “For an intelligent man,” snapped Reith, “you are extremely obstinate and unimaginative. Someday I am sure you will recognize your error; until then, believe whatever you care to believe.”
    • Chapter 12 (p. 151)
Page numbers from the omnibus trade paperback edition Planet of Adventure published by Orb ISBN 0-312-85488-9, 4th printing
  • “Well then, what of Adam Reith the erudite ethnologist? What theosophical insights can he contribute?”
    “None,” said Reith. “Very few, at any rate. It occurs to me that the man and his religion are one and the same thing. The unknown exists. Each man projects on the blankness the shape of his own particular world-view. He endows his creation with his personal volitions and attitudes. The religious man stating his case is in essence explaining himself. When a fanatic is contradicted he feels a threat to his own existence; he reacts violently.”
    “Interesting!” declared the fat merchant. “And the atheist?”
    “He projects no image upon the blank whatever. The cosmic mysteries he accepts as things in themselves; he feels no need to hang a more or less human mask upon them. Otherwise, the correlation between a man and the shape into which he molds the unknown for greater ease of manipulation is exact.”
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 182-183)
  • “I admit to what may be an obtrusive curiosity.”
    “The quality signifies an active mind,” said Reith.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 184)
  • Your analyses at times border upon the mordant.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 184)
  • There is a dark side to humanity, which is like a stone pressed into the mold. The upper side, exposed to sun and air, is clean; tilt it and look below, at the muck and scurrying insects…
    • Chapter 3 (p. 185)
  • Vengeance is not the most noble activity, but submissiveness is worse.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 186)
  • “The problems are large,” Reith agreed. “Still, assuming that your premise is correct—”
    “‘Assume’? ‘Premise’?” demanded the fat woman in a shocked voice. ‘Revelation,’ rather.”
    “Possibly so. But mysticism is not a practical approach to space travel.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 218)
  • This is an insane society, constrained by punctilio as a rotten egg is held by its shell.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 223)
  • A person who calls facts absurdities will often be surprised.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 224)
  • “Adam Reith, you have made a serious mistake.”
    Reith nodded grimly. “Instead of an honest man I hired you.”
    • Chapter 11 (p. 254)
Page numbers from the omnibus trade paperback edition Planet of Adventure published by Orb ISBN 0-312-85488-9, 4th printing
  • Where cowards never venture, heroes find splendor.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 300)
  • They consider garrulity a crime against nature.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 315)
  • There is no reason why the project should not go easily and smoothly except for the innate perversity of circumstances.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 345)
  • Evidently you do not trust me. This does not predispose me to trust you.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 359)
  • “Do you deny the charges?”
    “I neither confirm nor deny them; they are ridiculous.”
    • Chapter 20 (pp. 408-409)
Page numbers from the omnibus trade paperback edition Planet of Adventure published by Orb ISBN 0-312-85488-9, 4th printing
  • Surveillance portended unpleasant events: this on Tschai was an axiom of existence.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 419)
  • “It goes to demonstrate,” said Reith, “that you can’t judge a man by the table he sets.”
    Cauch asked shrewdly, “How then can a man judge his fellows? For example, what is the basis of your calculation?”
    “Only one thing I know for certain,” said Reith. “First thoughts are always wrong.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 497)

The Anome (1973; serialized 1971)

Page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Dell (catalog number 0441), first printing
Often reprinted with the title The Faceless Man
  • Are musicians unlike other men? Beget and forget, that’s how it goes.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 16)
  • The cantons of Shant were alike only in their mutual distrust. Each regarded as Universal Principles its own customs, costumes, jargon, and mannerisms and considered all else eccentricity.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 63)
  • “The burglar suffered a harsh fate,” Frolitz told Etzwane.” The lesson to be learned is this: Never commit an unlawful act. Especially, never steal; when you take a man’s property, your life becomes forfeit, as has just been demonstrated.”
    Loy rubbed his chin with uneasy fingers. “In a sense, the penalty seems extreme. The burglar took goods but lost his life. These are the laws of Elphine which the Faceless Man correctly enforced—but should a bagful of goods and a man’s life weigh so evenly on the balance?”
    The white-haired stranger offered his opinion. “Why should it be otherwise? You ignore a crucial factor in the situation. Property and life are not incommensurable, when property is measured in terms of human toil. Essentially property is life; it is that proportion of life which an individual has expended to gain the property. When a thief steals property, he steals life. Each act of pillage therefore becomes a small murder.”
    • Chapter 6 (pp. 108-109)
  • Ifness pursed his lips judiciously. “All folk, mercantilists as well as tavern-keepers and musicians, try to relate their work to abstract universals. We mercantilists are highly sensitive to theft, which stabs at our very essence. To steal is to acquire goods by a simple, informal, and inexpensive process. To buy identical goods is tedious, irksome, and costly. Is it any wonder that larceny is popular? Nonetheless it voids the mercantilist’s reasons for being alive; we regard thieves with the same abhorrence that musicians might feel for a fanatic gang which beat bells and gongs whenever musicians played.”
    Frolitz stifled an ejaculation.
    Ifness tasted the mug of green cider which Loy had set before him. “To repeat: when a thief steals property he steals life. For a mercantilist I am tolerant of human weakness, and I would not react vigorously to the theft of a day. I would resent the theft of a week; I would kill the thief who stole a year of my life.”
    • Chapter 6 (pp. 109-110)
  • I don’t care a fig whether or not you are offended.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 139)

The Brave Free Men (1973; serialized 1972)

Page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Dell (catalog number 1708), first printing
  • My point is this: no outsider can effectively organize a group of experts; they must organize themselves.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 39)
  • Events rush together. History occurs.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 43)
  • It is foolish to be outraged by a fact of nature.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 82)
  • “I have not been tamed,” said Finnerack. “I have only been enslaved.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 83)
  • Never neglect the wonder of conscious existence, which too soon comes to an end!
    • Chapter 5 (p. 98)
  • Justice, a human invention, is as protean as the race itself, and varies from canton to canton. The traveler must be wary lest he contravene some unfamiliar local ordinance.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 113)
  • If the study of human interactions could become a science, I suspect that an inviolate axiom might be discovered to this effect: Every social disposition creates a disparity of advantages. Further: Every innovation designed to correct the disparities, no matter how altruistic in concept, works only to create a new and different set of disparities.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 113)
  • Your vision exceeds your practicality: often the case with a musician.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 191)
  • Finnerack warmed to his subject. “Further, why should some toil for a mouthful of bread while long-fingered sybarites partake of Forty-Five Dishes? The good things should be divided; we should start the new system on a basis of equality.”
    Mialambre responded: “Your sentiments or generous and do you credit. All I can say is that such drastic redistributions have previously been attempted, always to result in chaos and cruel tyranny of one sort or another. This is the lesson of history, which we must now heed.”
    Finnerack offered no further opinions.
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 193-194)
  • Ignorance induces suspicion.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 233)

The Asutra (1974; serialized 1973)

Page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Dell (catalog number 3157), first printing
  • “I made no such assertion,” Ifness said. “You drew a faulty inference, for which I cannot accept responsibility. In any event the situation is more complicated than you suppose, and you must be prepared for subtlety.”
    “Subtlety or deception?” demanded Etzwane. “The effect is much the same.”
    Ifness held up his hand. “I will explain the situation, if only to reduce the flow of your reproaches.”
    • Chapter 2 (p. 25)
  • “Where are the Red Devil bones?”
    “Not far distant: beyond the ridge. Can you not sense the presence of so much death?”
    Ifness responded in a measured voice: “An intellect in full control of itself unfortunately must sacrifice that receptivity which distinguishes the primitive mentality. This is an evolutionary step I have, on the whole, been happy to make.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 55)
  • “I consider myself a fortunate men, more so than most. I have often wondered why it was given to me to live the life of Kyril Fabrache.”
    “These reflections, at one time or another, have occurred to all of us,” said Ifness, “but unless we are agreed upon a religion of gradated reincarnation, the question is ingenuous.”
    • Chapter 5 (pp. 74-75)
  • I am not the man for this sort of business; I detest puzzlement.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 126)
  • “Bah,” muttered Sul. “I am unable to chop logic with you; you have the superior sleight with words.”
    • Chapter 9 (p. 179)
  • I know now what I should have known every moment of my life; that unless you help yourself, you die a slave. The fact is basic.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 181)
  • Drowsing in the warmth, Etzwane could find no occasion for haste; indeed, the prospect of docking the boat and stepping ashore aroused in him a curious mood of melancholy. The adventure would then be definitely finished; for all its misery and black despair, he had lived to his utmost capacity; he had augmented and enriched his life.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 194)
  • Which is better: cheap submission or expensive independence?
    • Chapter 11 (p. 195)
All page numbers from “The Complete Lyonesse” edition, published by Gollancz
  • Nothing is more conspicuous than a farting princess.
    • Chapter 3, section 3 (p. 31)
  • Aillas groaned. “Destiny could never be so unkind.”
    Suldrun said in a soft voice: “Destiny doesn’t really care.”
    • Chapter 11, section 1 (p. 103)
  • Kings, like children, tend to be opportunistic. Generosity only spoils them. They equate affability with weakness and hasten to exploit it.
    • Chapter 12, section 2 (p. 122)
  • Who is seducing whom? If we are working to the same ends, there is no need for so many cross-purposes.
    • Chapter 13, section 3 (p. 136; Shimrod to Melancthe)
  • What a strange and unfamiliar world if everyone were treated according to his deserts!
    • Chapter 25, section 1 (p. 270)
  • The colour, noise and festivity failed to elevate Carfilhiot’s mood; in fact—so he told himself—never had he witnessed so much pointless nonsense.
    • Chapter 25, section 3 (p. 280)
  • Die then. This is my cure for sore knees.
    • Chapter 26, section 4 (p. 299)
All page numbers from “The Complete Lyonesse” edition, published by Gollancz
  • “Are you yourself a Christian?”
    The young man made a negative sign. “The concepts of religion baffle me.”
    “This inscrutability is perhaps not unintentional,” said the ex-priest. “It gives endless employment to dialecticians who otherwise might become public charges or, at very worst, swindlers and tricksters.”
    • Chapter 1, section 4 (p. 367)
  • A notable scheme has occurred to me.
    • Chapter 1, section 4 (p. 371)
  • “Sir Tristano spoke: “Stop! You are taking the great green pearl!”
    “Naturally!” said the voice from a point close behind. “That is the whole point of robbery: to acquire the victim’s valuables!”
    • Chapter 1, section 4 (p. 375)
  • You have frightened and daunted me. I will stop stealing at once.
    • Chapter 3, section 2 (p. 394)
  • They call me a renegade.
    The epithet is inaccurate and undeserved. I cannot be faithless to a cause which I never have endorsed. Indeed, I am absolutely faithful to the only cause I espouse, which is my own welfare. I take pride in this unswerving loyalty!
    • Chapter 4, section 3 (p. 418)
  • Sir, my life, drab and insipid though it may seem to others, is the only life given me to live.
    • Chapter 4, section 3 (p. 419)
  • I gathered that the old fellow suffers from some advanced form of senile dementia, and so perhaps his analysis is not totally accurate.
    • Chapter 5, section 3 (p. 430)
  • I have transcended that phase in my intellectual growth where I discover humour in simple freakishness. What exists is real; therefore it is tragic, since wherever lives must die. Only fantasy, the vapours rising from sheer nonsense, can now excite my laughter.
    • Chapter 5, section 3 (p. 430)
  • A single question remained, the age-old cry of anguish: “How could one so beautiful be so base?”
    • Chapter 6, section 1 (p. 434)
  • Shimrod said: “Once I thought of you as a child in a woman’s body.”
    Melancthe smiled a cool smile. “And now?”
    “The child seems to have wandered away.”
    • Chapter 6, section 1 (p. 436)
  • “You drink only sparingly. Is the beer too thin?”
    “No at all. I merely wish to keep my wits about me. It would not do if both of us became addled, and later woke up in doubt as to who was who.”
    • Chapter 6, section 4 (p. 447)
  • Beauty compelled admiration and erotic yearning; such was its organic function. But never by itself could it command love.
    • Chapter 6, section 5 (p. 449)
  • He said that humanity in the main was crass, stupid, boorish and vulgar, and that I could learn at least this much from you.
    • Chapter 6, section 5 (p. 451)
  • Count me not your friend but the enemy of your enemies.
    • Chapter 8, section 3 (p. 480)
  • Dango, Pume, Thwither: down with Visbhume’s breeches; let him hold his backside at the ready.
    • Chapter 9, section 4 (p. 505)
  • “If ambush I must, then ambush I will,” Aillas muttered to himself. “A fig for chivalry, at least until the war is won.”
    • Chapter 10, section 3 (p. 518)
  • Dismount and kneel before me, that I may strike off your head with fullest ease. You shall die in this tragic golden light of sunset.
    • Chapter 11, section 3 (p. 538)
  • “I would define ‘avarice’ as a consequence of the human estate: a condition arising from turbulence and inequality. In none of the paradises, where conditions are no doubt optimum, does ‘avarice’ exert force. Here, we are men struggling toward perfection and ‘avarice’ is a station along the way.”
    • Chapter 12, section 1 (p. 545)
  • “It is no hardship whatever,” said Aillas. “You have never strained at the deed. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and suddenly you find the idea incredible. Do you not sense a taint of unreality?”
    • Chapter 13, section 3 (p. 571)
  • Aillas replied that while King Audry cited several points of technical interest, and used the resources of abstract logic in an adroit manner, he had actually made no connection with reality.
    • Chapter 16, section 2 (p. 626)
  • You are a particularly clever girl: almost as clever as you are appealing to the eye.
    • Chapter 16, section 3 (p. 635)
  • “Why not alter the habits of a lifetime and speak with candour?” asked Shimrod. “Truth, after all, need not be only the tactic of last resort.”
    • Chapter 17, section 2 (p. 657)
All page numbers from “The Complete Lyonesse” edition, published by Gollancz
  • “We are supposed to set you a good example,” said Devonet. “As a start, I will point out that a lady of refinement would not wish to be found so high in a tree.”
    “Then I am a lady of refinement well and truly,” said Madouc, “since I did not wish to be found.”
    • Chapter 3, section 1 (p. 718)
  • “Poor Pymfyd! Your world is built of fear and dread! As for me, I have no time for such emotions.”
    Pymfyd spoke in an even voice. “You are a royal princess and I may not call you a witless little fool, even should the thought cross my mind.”
    Madouc turned him a sad blue-eyed glance. “So that, after all, is your concept of me.”
    “I will say only this: persons who fear nothing are soon dead.”
    • Chapter 3, section 3 (p. 722)
  • Madouc, this is my advice: pick up yonder clod of dirt, and tender it to that pop-eyed little imp, speaking these words: “Zocco, with this token I both imburse and reimburse you, in full fee and total account, now and then, anon and for ever, in this world and all others, and in every other conceivable respect, for each and every service you have performed for me or in my behalf, real or imaginary, to the limits of time, in all directions.”
    • Chapter 3, section 3 (p. 731)
  • What is peace? Balance three iron skewers tip to tip, one upon the other; at the summit, emplace and egg, so that it too poises static in mid-air, and there you have the condition of peace in this world of men.
    • Chapter 4, section 3 (p. 750)
  • “I watch the sea and the sky; sometimes I wade in the surf and build roads in the sand. At night I study the stars.”
    “You have no friends?”
    “And what of the future?”
    “The future stops at ‘now’.”
    “As to that, I am not so sure,” said Shimrod. “It is at best a half-truth.”
    “What of that? Half a truth is better than none: do you not agree?”
    “Not altogether,” said Shimrod. “I am a practical man, I try to control the shape of the ‘nows’ which lie in the offing, instead of submitting to them as they occur.”
    Melancthe gave an uninterested shrug. “You are free to do as you like.” Leaning back in the divan, she looked out across the sea.
    Shimrod finally spoke. “Well then: are you ‘good’ or ‘bad’?”
    “I don’t know.”
    Shimrod became vexed. “Talking with you is like visiting an empty house.”
    Melancthe considered a moment before responding. “Perhaps,” she said, “you are visiting the wrong house. Or perhaps you are the wrong visitor.”
    • Chapter 5, section 4 (p. 783)
  • I have seen all I care to see and heard rather more.
    • Chapter 6, section 1 (p. 792)
  • King Aillas talks softly and with great politeness; he has the uncomfortable skill of calling one a false-hearted blackguard, a liar, a cheat and a villain, but making it seem a fulsome compliment.
    • Chapter 6, section 5 (p. 807)
  • Sir, your ideas are incorrect in every possible respect.
    • Chapter 7, section 5 (p. 848)
  • “Dame Fairy of the Silver Eyes: allow me to put you a question, which is this: where should I seek the Holy Grail?”
    “Determine its location and go to that spot; that is my wise advice.”
    Travante spoke tentatively: “If you could guide me to my lost youth, I would be most grateful.”
    Twisk jumped high in the air, pirouetted, settled slowly to the ground. “I am not an index of the world’s worries. I know nothing either of Christian crockery nor truant time! And now: silence!
    • Chapter 8, section 3 (p. 881)
  • He used a name for himself, true, but we played at Romance, and this is a game where truth is a bagatelle.
    • Chapter 8, section 5 (p. 904)
  • In measured tones he answered Madouc: “Your condition lacks dignity; you bring ridicule upon us all.”
    Madouc gave a stony shrug. “If you do not like what you see, look elsewhere.”
    • Chapter 9, section 4 (p. 928)
  • “Tell me, then! What is so important?”
    “Your life! I could not bear that you should lose it!”
    “I feel much the same. Say on.”
    • Chapter 10, section 2 (p. 948)
  • I may be called upon to address the company. No one will listen, of course, which is just as well, since I have nothing to say.
    • Chapter 10, section 3 (p. 954)
  • He adjudicated the case in a manner I still find perplexing, but which must have been equitable, since it pleased no one.
    • Chapter 11, section 1 (p. 967)
  • The mind was a marvellous instrument, thought Shimrod; when left to wander untended, it often arrived at curious destinations.
    • Chapter 11, section 2 (p. 968)
All page numbers from the hardcover edition published by Tor, ISBN 0-312-85685-7
  • Jaro, my dear, there is no mystery about violence. It is the reflexive act of brutes, boors and moral defectives.
    • Chapter 3, section 1 (p. 37)
  • Althea cried out in dismay: “Is that what you believe?”
    “In the absence of evidence I believe nothing,” said Dr. Fiorio.
    • Chapter 4, section 5 (p. 58)
  • They meant no harm, of course; they wanted only that he be like themselves, which was the prerogative of all parents.
    • Chapter 5, section 1 (p. 68)
  • One thing was certain: when someone searched into secret places, he often came up with things he would rather not have found.
    • Chapter 5, section 3 (p. 81)
  • Sacerdotal, religious or priest-dominated societies are like organisms with a cancer.
    • Chapter 11, section 2 (p. 183)
  • “My term of penitence is over and tomorrow I leave this dust hole and that sullen beast Arsloe behind—forever, or so I hope. I must take pains, of course, to avoid my previous faults.”
    “What did you do?” asked Gaing. “Did you—” and he coarsely suggested an act of sexual perversion committed upon the young daughter of the Chief Magistrate.
    “No, nothing like that. What I did was worse. I gave voice to unpopular opinions.”
    • Chapter 13, section 6 (p. 223)
  • “You make very narrow distinctions.”
    “Of course! That is the nature of clear thinking.”
    • Chapter 13, section 7 (p. 230)
  • Rute showed Maihac a sour smile. “You seem to lack confidence in my integrity.”
    “You are wealthy,” said Maihac. “Your money did of the come to you because of your bonhomie.”
    • Chapter 20, section 5 (p. 376)

Quotes about Vance

  • Vance has a genius in evoking the beauty of strangeness, the strangeness of beauty.
    • Adam Roberts, afterword to “The Complete Lyonesse” (p. 1014)
  • Jack Vance’s Lyonesse books are the greatest fairy tale of the twentieth century.
    • Adam Roberts, afterword to “The Complete Lyonesse” (p. 1015)
  • ...a revelation for me, like coming to Proust or Henry James. Suddenly you’re in the deep end of the pool. He gives you glimpses of entire worlds with just perfectly turned language. If he’d been born south of the border, he’d be up for a Nobel Prize.
    • Dan Simmons, quoted in Carlo Rotella, "The Genre Artist" (New York Times Book Review, 15 July 2009)
  • Jack Vance is the most painful case of all the writers I love who I feel don’t get the credit they deserve. If ‘The Last Castle’ or ‘The Dragon Masters’ had the name Italo Calvino on it, or just a foreign name, it would be received as a profound meditation, but because he’s Jack Vance and published in Amazing Whatever, there’s this insurmountable barrier.
    • Michael Chabon, quoted in Carlo Rotella, "The Genre Artist" (New York Times Book Review, 15 July 2009)
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