Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson

Poul William Anderson (November 25, 1926July 31, 2001) was a prominent American science fiction author who wrote during a Golden Age of the genre. Anderson also authored several works of fantasy.


  • You know what they say about bold spacemen never becoming old spacemen.
    • "Garden in the Void" (1952)
  • A man isn't really alive till he has something bigger than himself and his own little happiness, for which he'd gladly die.
    • "Ghetto" (1954)
  • We're mortal - which is to say, we're ignorant, stupid, and sinful - but those are only handicaps. Our pride is that nevertheless, now and then, we do our best. A few times we succeed. What more dare we ask for?
    • Ensign Flandry (1966)
  • We live with our archetypes, but can we live in them?
    • "The Fatal Fulfillment" (Short Story), March 1970. Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
  • Timidity can be as dangerous as rashness.
    • "The Saturn Game" (1981)

Brain Wave (1954)Edit

Page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ballantine Books (#B80)
  • Keep on thinking. Keep your thinking close to the ground, where it belongs. Don’t ever trade your liberty for another man’s offer to do your thinking and make your mistakes for you.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 25)
  • And ninety-nine percent of the human race, no matter how smart they are, will do the convenient thing instead of the wise thing, and kid themselves into thinking they can somehow escape the consequences. We’re just built that way.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 28)
  • The end of the world—was the sky going to open up, would the angels pour down the vials of wrath on a shaking land, and would God appear to judge the sons of men? He listened for the noise of great galloping hoofs, but there was only the wind in the trees.
    That was the worst of it. The sky didn’t care. The Earth went on turning through an endlessness of dark and silence, and what happened in the thin scum seething over its crust didn’t matter.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 40)
  • A little careful pushing, and they’ll bury the hatchet all right—in each other.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 76)
  • The city was breaking state and national laws every day—it had to—and the governor was outraged. He wanted to bring the whole state back under his own authority. It wasn’t an unreasonable wish, but the times weren’t ripe; and when they eventually were, the old forms of government would be no more important than the difference between Homoousian and Homoiousian. But it was going to take a lot of argument to convince the Albany man of that.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 76)
  • Too far a retreat from reality is insanity.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 82)
  • “You have to have some kind of morality,” he said.
    “Sure. Like you have to have motives for doing anything at all. Still, I think we’re beyond that smug sort of code which proclaimed crusades and burned heretics and threw dissenters into concentration camps. We need more personal and less public honor.”
    • Chapter 20 (p. 152)

The Broken Sword (1954)Edit

Page numbers from the 1971 mass market paperback revised edition published by Del Rey (sixth printing, August 1983, Ballantine 31171)
  • Hurry and hurry, autumn leaves hurrying on the rainy wind, snow hurrying out of the sky, life hurrying to death, gods hurrying to oblivion.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 9)
  • There are three Powers in the world which not gods nor demons nor men can stay, against which no magic shall prevail and no might shall stand, and they are the White Christ, Time, and Love.
    From the first you may await only thwarting of your desire, and you must be careful that He and His in no way enter the struggle. This you can do by remembering that Heaven leaves lesser beings their free will, and thus does not force them into its own ways; even the miracles have done no more than leave open a possibility to men.
    The second, which has more names than I myself—Fate, Destiny, Law, Wyrd, the Norns, Necessity, Brahm, and others beyond counting—is not to be appealed to, for it does not hear. Nor can you hope to understand how it exists together with the freedom whereof I spoke, any more than you can understand how there are both old gods and new. But for the wreaking of the greatest spells, you must ponder on this until you know in your inmost being that truth is a thing which bears as many shapes as there are minds which strive to see it.
    And the third of the Powers is a mortal thing, therefore it can harm as well as help, and this is the one you must use.
    • Chapter 6 (pp. 26-27)
  • Men, whose span is cruelly short, rush nonetheless to death in their youth as to a maiden’s arms.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 55)
  • For a space he faltered, when Goltan fell with a spear through him. “Now I am one friend poorer,” he said, “and that is a wealth not gained back.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 65)
  • You should pay no heed to what some yokel priest has prated of. What does he know?
    • Chapter 11 (p. 70)
  • Over unforced love, the gods themselves had no might.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 76)
  • I say that a God who would come between two who have been to each other what we have been, is not one I would heed.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 141)
  • “I think you look on death as your friend,” she murmured. “That is a strange friend for a young man to have.”
    “The only faithful friend in this world,” he said. “Death is always sure to be at your side.”
    • Chapter 21 (p. 148)
  • ’Tis colder outside than a well-born maiden’s heart.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 171)
  • She rarely saw priest—and knowing her heart sinned, was glad of that. Dreary was a church after the woodlands and hills and sounding sea. She still loved God—and was not the earth His work, and a church only man’s?—but she could not bring herself to call on Him very often.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 174)
  • Better a life like a falling star, bright across the dark, than a deathlessness which can see naught above or beyond itself.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 206)
    • Note: In the first edition of the book, this quote reads: Better a life like a falling star, brief and bright across the dark, than the long, long waiting of the immortals, loveless and cheerlessly wise.

The High Crusade (1960)Edit

Nominated for the 1961 Hugo Award. Page number from the mass market paperback edition published by Baen Books
  • On our Earth, we’ve perforce learned all the knavery there is to know.
    • p. 131

Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961)Edit

Expanded from the 1953 novella, which was nominated for the Hugo Award. Page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Baen Books
  • It was lonely, not even knowing yourself.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 41)
  • “You are much too kind,” said Holger, overwhelmed.
    “Nay.” Alfric waved his hand. “You mortals know not how tedious undying life can become, and how gladly a challenge such as this is greeted. ’Tis I should thank you.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 64)
  • Holger wished he had read the old tales more closely; he had only a dim childhood recollection of them.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 88)
  • They were not plagued that night, which Hugi said was without doubt because something worse was being prepared. Holger was inclined to share the dwarf’s pessimism.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 101)
  • As evil waxes, the very men who stand for good will in their fear use ever worse means o’ fighting, and thereby give evil a free beachhead.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 102)
  • “But your sign says you can conjure up ever-filled purses,” Holger began.
    “Advertising,” Martinus admitted. “Corroborative detail intended to lend artistic verisimilitude.”
    • Chapter 17 (p. 162)
  • You cannot imagine how wearisome existence grows, alone and immortal.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 177)

The Star Fox (1965)Edit

Nominated for the 1965 Nebula Award. All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition (third printing) published by Signet Books (July 1971; T4763)
  • “My mother taught me a Spanish saying,” he remarked, “that it takes four men to make a salad: a spendthrift for the oil, a philosopher for the seasonings, a miser for the vinegar, and a madman for the tossing.”
    • Section 1 “Marque and Reprisal”, Chapter V (pp. 37-38)
  • Heim ignored the mob scene on the 3V, rested his eyes on the cold serenity of the Milky Way and thought that this, at least, would endure.
    • Section 1 “Marque and Reprisal”, Chapter IX (p. 69)
  • Another irritating thing about Naqsans was their habit of solemnly repeating the obvious. In that respect they were almost as bad as humans.
    • Section 2 “Arsenal Port”, Chapter III (p. 90)
  • He’d seen too often how little of the universe is designed for man to neglect any safety measure.
    • Section 2 “Arsenal Port”, Chapter III (p. 93)
  • The last thing any sane person wants is a jihad.
    • Section 2 “Arsenal Port”, Chapter VIII (p. 133)
  • There really wasn’t much in a man’s life that mattered. But those few things mattered terribly.
    • Section 3 “Admiralty”, Chapter IX (p. 200)
  • Life isn’t a fairy tale; the knight who kills the dragon doesn’t necessarily get the princess. So what? Who’d want to live in a cosmos less rich and various than the real one?
    • Section 3 “Admiralty”, Chapter X (p. 207)

Tau Zero (1970)Edit

Nominated for the 1971 Hugo Award. All page numbers from the first mass market paperback edition published by Lancer Books (June 1971; #75185)
  • “Are you that afraid to die?”
    “No. I simply like to live.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 78)
  • What’s to explain? I’ve scant use for those types whose chief interest is their grubby little personal neuroses. Not in a universe as rich as this.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 80)

There Will Be Time (1972)Edit

Nominated for the 1973 Hugo Award. All page numbers from the first mass market paperback edition published by Signet Books (March 1973; #Q5401)
  • Don’t get me wrong. These people are mine. I like and in many ways admire them. They’re the salt of the earth. It’s simply that I want other condiments too.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 10)
  • Bombing: A method of warfare which delivers high explosives from the air, condemned because of its effects upon women, children, the aged, the sick, and other non-combatants, unless these happen to have resided in Berlin, Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, Osaka, etc., though not Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Cf. missile.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 27)
  • Missile: A self-contained device which delivers high explosives from the air, condemned because of its effects upon women, children, the aged, the sick, and other non-combatants, unless these happen to have resided in Saigon, Da Nang, Hué, etc. Cf. bombing.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 30)
  • One man, one vote: A legal doctrine requiring that, from time to time, old gerrymanders be replaced with new ones. The object of this is the achievement of genuine democracy.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 30)
  • History does not tend to the better, Doc, it does not, it does not. We imagine so because events have produced our glorious selves. Think, however. Put aside the romantic legends and look at the facts. The average Frenchman in 1800 was no more unfree than the average Englishman. The French Empire could have brought Europe together, and could have been liberalized from within, and there might have been no World War I in which Western civilization cut its own throat. Because that’s what’s happened, you know. We’re still busy bleeding to death, but we haven’t far to go now.
    • Chapter 5 (pp. 50-51)
  • As related, the bank was one of those eastern ones, with Roman pillars and cathedral dimness and, I suspect, a piece of Plymouth Rock in a reliquary.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 52)
  • “We need a reserve of life, every kind of life,” he explained. “Today for the spirit—a glimpse of space and green. Tomorrow for survival, flat-out survival.”
    • Chapter 5 (p. 53)
  • “Yeah. ‘Environment’ was very big for a while. Ecology Now stickers on the windshields of cars belonging to hairy young men—cars which dripped oil wherever they parked and took off in clouds of smoke thicker than your pipe can produce...Before long, the fashionable cause was something else, I forget what. Anyhow, that whole phase—the wave after wave of causes—passed away. People completely stopped caring...
    I feel a moral certainty that a large part of the disaster grew from this particular country, the world’s most powerful, the vanguard country for things both good and ill...never really trying to meet the responsibilities of power.
    We’ll make halfhearted attempts to stop some enemies in Asia, and because the attempts are halfhearted we’ll piss away human lives—on both sides—and treasure—to no purpose. Hoping to placate the implacable, we’ll estrange our last few friends. Men elected to national office will solemnly identify inflation with rising prices, which is like identifying red spots with the measles virus, and slap on wage and price controls, which is like papering the cracks in a house whose foundations are sliding away. So economic collapse brings international impotence...As for our foolish little attempts to balance what we drain from the environment against what we put back—well, I mentioned that car carrying the ecology sticker.
    At first Americans will go on an orgy of guilt. Later they’ll feel inadequate. Finally they’ll turn apathetic. After all, they’ll be able to buy any anodyne, any pseudo-existence they want.”
    • Chapter 5 (pp. 53-54)
  • The air was cold and smelled of earth. Birds twittered. “Beyond one or two hundred years back,” Havig once said to me, “the daytime sky is always full of wings.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 60)
  • “If anything does change man,” he said, “it’s science and technology. Just think about the fact—while it lasts—that parents need not take for granted some of their babies will die. You get a completely different concept of what a child is.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 60)
  • “I really liked that girl.”
    “Not loved, evidently,” I observed.
    “N-n-no. I supposed not. Though what is love, anyway? Doesn’t it have so infinitely many kinds and degrees and mutations and quantum jumps that— Never mind.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 83)
  • A cultured, sensitive, observant man is a pleasure to be with in any age.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 97)
  • His conscience must have gotten tired of nagging him and delivered an ultimatum.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 104)
  • Mortal combat corrupts, and war corrupts absolutely.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 107)
  • “Do you actually hope to convert the whole of mankind?”
    “Belay that! Anyhow, if you mean, Do we hope to make everybody into copies of us? The answer is, No. Mind, I’m not in Parliament or Admiralty, but I follow debates and I read the philosophers. One trouble with the old machine culture was that, by its nature, it did force people to become more and more alike. Not only did this fail in the end—disastrously—but to the extent it succeeded, it was a worse disaster.” Lohannaso smote the rail with a mighty fist. “Damnation, Thomas! We need all the diversity, all the assorted ways of living and looking and thinking, we can get!”
    • Chapter 11 (p. 119)
  • The old man murmured: “Aye, we draw to an end. Dying hurts. Nonetheless the forefathers were wise who in their myths made Nan coequal with Lesu. A thing which endured forever would become unendurable. Death opens a way, for peoples as well as for people.”
    • Chapter 11 (p. 124)
  • Be calm. A man can do but little. Enough if that little be right.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 126)
  • Did ignorance save his freedom, or merely his illusion of freedom?
    • Chapter 12 (p. 130)
  • Above everything else, perhaps, was today’s concept of working together. I don’t mean its totalitarian version, for which Jack Havig had total loathing, or that “togetherness,” be it in a corporation or a commune, which he despised. I mean an enlightened pragmatism that rejects self-appointed aristocrats, does not believe received doctrine is necessarily true, stands ready to hear and weigh what anyone has to offer, and maintains well-developed channels to carry all ideas to the leadership and back again.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 155)
  • Look, these were none of them supermen. In fact, they were either weaklings who’d been assigned civilian-type jobs, or warriors as ignorant and superstitious as brutal. Aside from what specialized training fitted them for Wallis’s purposes, he’d never tried to get them properly educated. If nothing else, that might have led to questioning of his righteousness and infallibility.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 165)
  • Silence fell. The clock on my mantel ticked aloud and the wind outside flowed past like a river.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 175)
  • I walk beyond town, many of these nights, to stand under the high autumnal stars, look upward and wonder.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 176; closing words)

Harvest of Stars (1993)Edit

  • "I've heard assorted rhapsodies about humankind going to the stars, of course. Who hasn't? Each of them founders on the practical problems."
    "The fish that first ventured ashore had considerable practical problems."
    • Ch. 40
  • Light fills the air, wind is aglow, drink of it, breathe of it, make leafing.
    Rainfall sows itself, it grows down through soil to the secret places where stones abide; it brings the strength of them up rootward.
    Lie still, molder away, then be again grass.
    • Ch. 55
  • Anybody can find infinite Mandelbrot figures in his navel.
    • Ch. 60
  • All those agonizing philosophical-theological conundrums amount to "Ask a silly question, get a silly answer."
    • Ch. 63

Poul Anderson: Fifty Years of Science Fiction (1997)Edit

"Poul Anderson: Fifty Years of Science Fiction," Locus Magazine (April 1997)
  • I wrote the first book, Harvest of Stars, and as I was writing it, I saw that certain implications had barely been touched on... It's perfectly obvious that two completely revolutionary things are going on, with cybernetics, and biological science.
  • In Harvest of Stars, there is this notion, not original with me of course, that it will become possible to download at least the basic aspects of a human personality into a machine program...
  • So much American science fiction is parochial -- not as true now as it was years ago, but the assumption is one culture in the future, more or less like ours, and with the same ideals, the same notions of how to do things, just bigger and flashier technology. Well, you know darn well it doesn't work that way...


  • I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.
    • Often referred to as Anderson's Law.
    • Cited in:
      • Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling by Harold Kerzner. Google Books. Accessed September 5, 2009.
      • Checkland, P.B. (1985). Formulating problems in Systems Analysis. In: Miser, H. J. and Quade E. S. (eds.) (1985). Handbook of Systems Analysis: Overview of Uses, Procedures, Applications, and Practice. Chapter 5, pp. 151-170. North-Holland, New York.

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