Norman Spinrad

American science fiction writer and critic

Norman Spinrad (born September 15, 1940) is an American science fiction author, essayist, and critic.

Norman Spinrad, 2006



B. F. Skinner: The Man in the Maze

Essay published in the June 1973 issue of Analog
  • Thus human culture has been as much a product of the process of natural selection as the human species. We are not merely clockwork oranges, the clockwork itself, the social programming which determines our “repertoires of behavior,” how we respond to the world around us, is itself the product of a blind deterministic process.
    • p. 167
  • The carrot is mightier than the stick.
    • p. 169
  • To become aware of a controlling process is to transcend the determinism of that process.
    • p. 177
  • "The saddest day of your life isn't when you decide to sell out. The saddest day of your life is when you decide to sell out and nobody wants to buy."
All page numbers are from the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Spectra ISBN 0-553-25995-4
  • Any attempt at willful ignorance would now be futile or worse; the only talisman against excessive knowledge that might have puissance would be more knowledge.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 66)
  • Even now, I cannot decide whether I was foolish dupe or noble and tragic lover. Or whether the two are one and the same.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 82)
  • “Genius such as yours is a genetic gift.”
    “So I have heard from my parents.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 83)
  • The appreciation of the connoisseur is the highest pleasure of the artiste.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 104)
  • True civilization consists precisely of conventions, rituals, and modes of oblique communication whereby the chaos within and the void without may be expressed and contained within the harmonious consensus of shared social objectivity, thus maintaining our bubble of crafted reality, the necessary illusion.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 107)
  • Flaming torches arching from hand to hand, the silken rolling of flesh on flesh, tautened wire vibrating to the human word, ideogrammatic gestures of fear, love, and rage, the mathematical grace of bodies moving through space—all seemed revealed as shadows on the void, the pauvre panoply of man’s attempt to transcend the universe of space and time through the transmaterial purity of abstract form.
    Yet beyond this noble dance of human art, the highest expression of our spirit’s striving to transcend the realm of time and form, lay that which could not be encompassed by the artifice of man. From nothing are we born, to nothing do we go; the universe we know is but the void looped back upon itself, and form is but illusion’s final veil.
    We touch that which lies beyond only in those fleeting rare moments when the reality of form dissolves—through molecule and charge, the perfection of the meditative trance, orgasmic ego-loss, transcendent peaks of art, mayhap the instant of our death.
    Vraiment, is not the history of man from pigments smeared on the walls of caves to our present starflung age, our sciences and arts, our religions and our philosophies, our cultures and our noble dreams, our heroics and our darkest deeds, but the dance of spirit round this central void, the striving to transcend, and the deadly fear of same?
    • Chapter 10 (p. 117)
  • Here, in the company of the mindless trees, the free-flying birds, the bugs and frogs that passed from stimulus directly to response without the interval of consciousness between, did I hope to lose myself in the living mandala of evolution’s less self-tortured forms.
    • Chapter 10 (pp. 117-118)
  • Does something truly speak to me from beyond the void, or is it merely my own desire?
    • Chapter 10 (p. 123)
  • “In fifteen billion years did spirit out of less than dust evolve,” he said. “In fifteen billion more will not this universe of stars to less than dust return? Whence did it come? What is there when it is gone?”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 124)
  • “If the path exists for spirit to transcend this sorry scheme of things entire, vraiment, it must exist for all.”
    Or for none at all, I thought, but deigned not to voice.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 124)
  • Beneath all this gaiety and baroque complexity lay the simple and so carefully denied: beyond the thin metal surrounding us was the endless humorless void. Hollow rings the laughter of orphans in the night.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 139)
  • I could not deny that my spirit was amorally attracted to this ultimate temptation as my conscience was morally repelled by it.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 159)
  • Was not the arbitrary distinction between illusion and reality the ultimate illusion itself?
    • Chapter 13 (p. 164)
  • For truth be told, I was tormented by perceptions and their corollary temptation which from a social definition rendered me unsane, though from a more absolute viewpoint what I might be said to have been suffering from was an excess of insight.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 177)
  • Social morality requires a shared matrix of communal reality to which to relate thought and deed, and the illusion of an objective ethical esthetic requires at the very least the conviction that objective reality is more than a contradiction in terms.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 177)
  • What moral obligation do you have to those who willfully refuse to open their eyes and deem you mad for seeing?
    • Chapter 14 (p. 189)
  • I want to take you as close as you can get, I want to feel your ecstasy as you feel mine, I want to bridge the final gap between us, I want us to come together in a place where each can know the other does not lie.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 201)
  • At that moment, I do now truly believe, the deed was done, in the sense that the decision of the will is the true essence of the act.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 208)
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