Murray Leinster

Novelist, short story writer

Murray Leinster (June 16, 1896June 8, 1975) was a nom de plume of William Fitzgerald Jenkins, an award-winning American writer of science fiction and alternate history.

Leinster as depicted in Amazing Stories in 1953



Short fiction


Things Pass By (1945)

Published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, Summer 1945.
  • My specialty is the mechanics of research. But I test my theories about how to make discoveries by using them to make discoveries.
    • p. 14
  • “I’ve got an impossible job on my hands,” he told them, “and if I succeed at it, there’s an inconceivable one to follow.”
    • p. 19
  • My purpose is not to make profits, but to keep people from being killed. Quaint, eh? But I’m one of the people I don’t want killed.
    • p. 20

The Skit-Tree Planet (1947)

  • “Put dispassionately,” said Haynes cheerfully, “you sound like you’re crazy. But you’re stating facts. Okay so far.”

Planet of the Small Men (1950)

Published in Thrilling Wonder Stories, April 1950.
  • The unfamiliar is not necessarily unreasonable.
    • p. 24
  • Lon frowned. “They’re so far ahead of us,” he said uneasily, “that they could conquer us if they wanted to. And that’s bad!”
    “Lon!” said the older man severely. “They’re civilized! Civilized men don’t want to conquer other men!”
    • p. 46
Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 1956

Anthropological Note (1957)

  • He’d caused the First Native War on Mars, by taking advantage of the fact that at that time human law had not defined the killing of Martians as murder.
All page numbers from the mass market first edition paperback published by Fawcett (Gold Medal Books) (s751, first printing)
  • Lane understood. Burke was one of that considerable part of humanity which enthusiastically believes in anything that’s sufficiently dramatic.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 71)
  • Herb doctor is the polite term used by witch doctors when they advertise their services in newspapers. It is commonly believed that they can relieve all situations not caused by a judge or a grand jury.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 96)
  • And this was no observation by a mere human, who might delude himself. This was a report from complex electronic devices. It was images formed on phosphors coated on radar screen tubes, excited by accelerated electrons whose pattern of impact was governed by echoes from the original of the image. Phosphors do not imagine. Electrons are not affected by panic. As a radar image it was a faithful report—in its own terms, without interpretation—of something that actually was.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 133)
Originally serialized under the title The Pirates of Ersatz
Nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1960
All quotes are from the public domain text of the novel, available at "The Pirates of Zan"
  • There are some people so stupid you have to show them everything. I didn’t realize that there are people so stupid you can’t show them anything.
    • Chapter 1
  • When in the course of human events somebody does something that puts somebody else to the trouble of adjusting the numb routine of his life, the adjustee is resentful. The richer he is and the more satisfactory he considers his life, the more resentful he is at any change, however minute. And of all the changes which offend people, changes which require them to think are most disliked.
    • Chapter 1
  • “Do you realize,” he asked, “that the whole purpose of civilization is to take the surprises out of life, so one can be bored to death? That a culture in which nothing unexpected ever happens is in what is called its Golden Age? That when nobody can even imagine anything happening unexpectedly, that they later fondly refer to that period as the Good Old Days?”
    “I hadn’t thought of it in just those words, sir—”
    “It is one of the most-avoided facts of life,” said the ambassador. “Government, in the local or planetary sense of the word, is an organization for the suppression of adventure. Taxes are, in part, the insurance premiums one pays for protection against the unpredictable.
    • Chapter 2
  • He signed himself prince of this, lord of that, baron of the other thing and claimant to the dukedom of something else.
    • Chapter 2
  • There was a beautiful row. You’ve really scared people, Hoddan! You deserve well of the republic! Every government and every person needs to be thoroughly terrified occasionally. It limbers up the brain.
    • Chapter 2
  • From the Near Rim to the farthest of occupied systems, planets circled their suns, and men lived on them, and every man took himself seriously and did not quite believe that the universe had existed before he was born or would long survive his loss.
    • Chapter 3
  • Again time passed. In one of the remoter galaxies a supernova flamed, and on a rocky, barren world a small living thing squirmed experimentally—and to mankind the one event was just as important as the other.
    • Chapter 3
  • He irritably suspected himself of a tendency to make enemies unnecessarily.
    • Chapter 3
  • “It’s no use!” it was the custom of his grandfather to say. “There’s not a bit o’ use in having brains! All they do is get you into trouble! A lucky idiot’s ten times better off than a brainy man with a jinx on him! A smart man starts thinkin’, and he thinks himself into a jail cell if his luck is bad, and good luck’s wasted on him because it ain’t reasonable and he don’t believe in it when it happens! It’s taken me a lifetime to keep my brains from ruinin’ me! No, sir! I hope none o’ my descendants inherit my brains! I pity ‘em if they do!”
    Hoddan had been on Darth not more than four hours. In that time he’d found himself robbed, had resented it, had been the object of two spirited attempts at assassination, had ridden an excruciating number of miles on an unfamiliar animal, and now found himself in a stone dungeon and deprived of food lest feeding him obligate his host not to cut his throat. And he’d gotten into this by himself! He’d chosen it! He’d practically asked for it!
    He began strongly to share his grandfather’s disillusioned view of brains.
    • Chapter 4
  • Hoddan angrily suspected fate and chance of plain conspiracy against him.
    • Chapter 4
  • This was the second time in his life he’d been on a horse. It was two too many.
    • Chapter 4
  • “You are wonderful!” she said with conviction.
    “I used to cherish that illusion myself,” said Hoddan.
    • Chapter 5
  • It couldn’t happen! Hoddan couldn’t conceive of such a thing. But a recently developed pessimism suggested that since everything else, to date, had been to his disadvantage, this was probably a catastrophe also.
    • Chapter 5
  • “You’ve got to do something!” insisted Fani. “I saw Father talking to them! He looked happy, and he never looks happy unless he’s planning some skulduggery!”
    • Chapter 6
  • A practical man can always make what he wants to do look like a noble sacrifice of personal inclinations to the welfare of the community.
    • Chapter 6
  • Hoddan felt the anger any man feels when he sees betrayal of that honor a competent machine represents.
    • Chapter 7
  • The hearts of the rich are hardened. The existence of the poor is a reproach to them.
    • Chapter 7
  • He needed some rather extensive changes in the relationship of the cosmos to himself.
    • Chapter 7
  • Twilight remained, a fairy half-light in which all things looked much more charming than they really were.
    • Chapter 7
  • But it might not be true enough. It might be less than...well...sufficiently true in a particular instance.
    • Chapter 9
  • It is the custom of all men, everywhere, to be obtuse where women are concerned.
    • Chapter 10
  • He’d gone to Walden in the hope of achievement. There, of course, he failed because in a free economy industrialists consider that freedom is the privilege to be stupid without penalty. In other than free economies, of course, stupidity is held to be the duty of administrators. But Hoddan now believed himself in the fascinating situation of having knowledge and abilities which were needed by people who knew their need.
    • Chapter 10
  • He was in a state of doubt which passed very well for modesty.
    • Chapter 10
  • Hoddan fumbled for her meaning. It wasn’t quite an apology for trying to get him killed. But at least it was a disclaimer of future intentions in that direction.
    • Chapter 12
All page numbers from the mass market paperback published by Avon Books (G1306, Third printing, December 1966)
  • They raise the question of whether I’ve been crazy, and am suddenly sane, or whether I’ve been sane up to now, and have suddenly gone crazy.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 12)
  • Eminent men were called on to take command and arrange suitable measures. They immediately acted as eminent men so often do; they took action to retain their eminence. Their first instinct was caution. When a man is important enough, it does not matter if he never does anything. It is only required of him that he do nothing wrong. Eminent figures all over the world prepared to do nothing wrong. They were not so concerned to do anything right.
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 32-33)
  • There was bitter resistance to the idea. It was demanded that Burke justify his views in a more reasonable way than by mere demonstration that they worked.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 65)
  • As a young man he was considered promising. If he had been interested in such matters, he might have had a moderately successful career in politics, as politics was practiced in his nation. But he liked things. Real things.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 84)
  • “It isn’t reasonable!” insisted Holmes. “It doesn’t make sense!”
    “The question,” observed Burke, “isn’t whether it makes sense, but whether it’s fact.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 96)
  • For once, no eminent figure assumed the undignified pose involved in standing on one’s dignity.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 118)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback published by Pyramid Books (R-1043, Fourth printing)
  • Most men develop convictions about the cosmos and such beliefs come in two varieties. One kind is a conviction that the cosmos does not make sense. That it exists by chance and changes by chance and human beings do not matter. This view produces a fine complacency. The other kind is a belief that the cosmos does make sense, and was designed with the idea that people were going to live in it, and that what they do and what happens to them is important. This theory seems to be depressing.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 8).
  • There is never a rational reason for a man to rejoice that a certain pretty girl exists and that he has found her. The experience, however, is universal.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 19).
  • It isn’t illegal to buy an artist’s work for peanuts and sell it again at any price one can get. But it is an outrage!
    • Chapter 2 (p. 21).
  • It was totally unrealistic to think that because there had been wildly unlikely coincidences in the immediate past, that there would be more wildly unlikely ones turning up in orderly succession. Yet...
    • Chapter 2 (p. 21).
  • I've never noticed that being nonsensical keeps things from happening. Don’t you ever read about politics?
    • Chapter 2 (p. 22).
  • “We’re fools!” said Harrison. “Morons! Idiots!”
    “If you speak of my altruism,” said Pepe cheerfully, “I agree. But if you speak of your interest in a very pretty girl, then I point out that nobody is ever as happy as while he is making a fool of himself over a woman.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 24).
  • It was a symptom of the insanity of human beings in a cosmos obviously designed for them to live in, but which they industriously prepare to make unlivable.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 45).
  • Desolate and dreary as the little town was in the world of today, it was infinitely more liveable than the same town of nearly two centuries before. There had been much progress in how to do things. It was regrettable that there was less progress in knowledge of things worth doing.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 59).
  • His reasoning was emotional, and therefore simple.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 102).
  • Facts are facts! And if they’re impossible, they’re still facts!
    • Chapter 9 (p. 140).
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