Robert Sheckley

American writer

Robert Sheckley (July 16, 1928December 9, 2005) was a Hugo- and Nebula-nominated American science fiction author.



The Search for the Marvellous (1976)

Essay published in Science Fiction at Large, edited by Peter Nicholls, ISBN 0-06-013198-5
Spelling as in the essay
  • When the first man sets foot on the surface of Mars, we will participate only to the extent of watching a shadowy replay of the great event on television. You know already how it will go: announcers with sonorous voices will tell us exactly what is happening. And they will also cue us as to the proper emotions we should feel it every stage of the great adventure. That will be our share in the conquest of other worlds.
    • p. 190
  • The scientist, who examines everything, should look at himself. Tentatively I would define him as a discovery-producing animal whose products fall from him as naturally and as thoughtlessly as a hen produces eggs. Like the hen, he is largely indifferent to the use made of his products. Scientists are mostly not in favour of atom bombs, of course, and hens presumably dislike omelettes; but both are realists and go along with the conditions they find.
    The trouble is, science is oriented towards practical results, with no regard for the possible consequences. Thus, science is morally an imbecile, dishing up its confections blindly for whoever is able to use them. The likeliest user is always the exploiter—the manufacturer, military man, businessman and politician. Science produces what these highly motivated men require—processes characterized by repeatability and controllability, with which populations can be enchanted and enslaved.
    For what, after all, is the politician’s dream? It is a docile and predictable population, cheerful and well content with their compensations. This sheep-like state is precisely the great hope that the sciences hold out to us. For science is not deeply concerned about our differences but focuses instead on our similarities, the vulnerable places through which we can be manipulated and controlled.
    If the unseen worlds that surround and interpenetrate us were ever understood according to the criteria of science, what a nightmare existence would become! For discovery is followed by exploitation, which is followed by laws which confirm the exploiters in the possession of their spoils. That is to say, after the scientist comes the industrialist, and after him comes the lawyer. And after the lawyer, cheerfully smiling, ready to explain the divine inevitability of it all, comes the cleric.
    • pp. 190-191
  • I believe that many people read science fiction for a sense of participation in the wonders to come. The quest for non-ordinary reality is something more than curiosity and wishful thinking. We are too crowded in our every day lives by replicas of ourselves and by the repetitious artifacts of our days and nights. But we do not quite believe in this prosaic world. Continually we are reminded of the strangeness of birth and death, the vastness of time and space, the unknowability of ourselves. One would like to live differently, more significantly. One would like to participate in events more meaningful than our daily round, feel sensations more exquisite than is our usual lot. One reads science fiction in order momentarily to transcend the dull quality of everyday life.
    There is a reason behind the search for the ineffable. The death of God is argued by the theologians; but for most of us it is a fact of everyday life. ‘God’ is a word with unfortunate connotations for many. By it I mean the fundamental mystery forever untouched by our rationality.…
    This mystery is what we do not have any more. Our meagre substitute is the religion of man living on the Earth. We understand our ethical duties very well, we believe in them and try to follow them. But there is the secret sadness still remaining, the sense that we were born to quest, that our essence is unknowable, that we are plant and phantom, creatures of unknown dimensions. But all we come face to face with is our actual condition: we are ghosts smothered in bread and butter.
    • pp. 192-193 (ellipsis represents the elision of a few sentences for the sake of continuity)
  • Although the mystics have left us many ways and means for achieving this enlightened state of mind, few of us ever realise it. It is self-defeating to believe in a method when it does not bring the desired results, not for you nor for anyone you know.
    The tool for encountering enlightenment is meditation—a word one usually intones in reverential manner. Meditation purports to do for the mind what organic foods do for the body. It is extremely good for you, although admittedly not as much fun as a good movie. Or even a bad movie.
    It is a disarmingly simple practice, but there are difficulties. I have followed an ancient system of counting my breaths. You count up to ten, and then begin again, always focusing on the breath. Unfortunately, I usually lose count and after I’ve lost count a few times I lose interest.
    But when I finally do succeed in quieting my mind and achieving a measure of one-pointedness, something very strange happens. I find that I have plugged into my own internal music station. This music system broadcasts in my head continually, interrupted only by spot news flashes from 1951. I don’t even like most of the stuff it dishes up, and the arrangements are uniformly terrible.
    So, in my own experience, meditation is just like waiting at an airport, with its piped-in music and meaningless announcements. But with one important difference—in an airport you know that sooner or later you are going to takeoff and fly.
    So much for meditation. And so much for backpacking through the inner world.
    • pp. 194-195
  • Esotericism, which is legal, but not too much fun, prescribes to our condition. But when one tries to follow a spiritual path, nothing much happens for most of us. Faced with this lack of results, the esoteric schools put the blame squarely on us rather than on any insufficiency in their doctrines or methods. Finally, they explain our failure by taking refuge in paradoxes. They tell us, for example, that we can attain only by not wanting to attain—a neat double bind.
    Some esoteric schools caution the disciple not to practise the extraordinary powers which we will acquire in the course of our work. This is surely an extraordinary statement. Most of us can’t muster the power to give up smoking, much less to levitate.
    • p. 195
  • As a matter of fact, I am amazed at what has happened to science fiction in recent years. It has become a heavy academic field. And science fiction writers are being accorded a respect now, which I, as one of their peers and well-wishers, can only view with alarm and suspicion.
    It seems like only yesterday, though it was in fact some 20 years ago, that all of us were writing pulp-action stories about a nebulous and ill-defined region that we called the future. Now our yarns are analysed in university classrooms for virtues we never suspected that they had. This is particularly true in America, the country that coined the word ‘overkill’ and then demonstrated its practical applications.
    • p. 196
  • In this talk I have tried to present some of my own reality, as far as I am able, at one particular time in my life. These are the things that make up my momentary universe. No summary is possible, even though I am at the end of my time here. Everything must remain unresolved, just as it in fact is. My subject matter escapes the confines of my definitions, for there is no datum that is not somehow pertinent to my situation. It is all part of the vast and uncompleted jigsaw puzzle that is our lives.
    • p. 198

Short fiction

See Robert Sheckley's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details
  • It is not very logical to look over the attributes you possess and then declare that they are the most important attributes in the universe.
    • In a Land of Clear Colors (published in Thomas M. Disch (ed.), New Constellations: An Anthology of Tomorrow’s Mythologies (1976)), p. 87
  • I know you’re sane and you know you’re sane. But what if we’re both wrong?
    • Death of the Dreammaster (published in Martin H. Greenberg (ed.), The Further Adventures of Batman (1989)), p. 24
  • “The last cigarette is a sort of souvenir and something to remember Earth by. It's the perfect symbol of men's greatest invention.”
    “And what would that be?”
    “Something desirable that's not good for you.”
    • Visions of the Green Moon (published in Peter Crowther (ed.), Moon Shots (1999)), p. 200
  • When the people have to leave a place, their dreams leave first.
    • Visions of the Green Moon (published in Peter Crowther (ed.), Moon Shots (1999)), p. 201
  • I’ve heard that some of the larger spiders hunt songbirds. I have no objection to that. The spiders belong here, too. Let nature do what it needs to do. We who are people know more than to guide ourselves by nature’s practices.
    • The Tales of Zanthias (published in Weird Tales (July-August, 2003); reprinted in David G. Hartwell (ed.), Year’s Best Fantasy 4 (pp. 400-401))
Page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ballantine (Catalogue number U2855), first Bal-Hi printing, December 1967
  • This planet’s secret menace was—freedom!
    • Shape (p. 44)
  • Paradox is the inevitable forerunner of chaos.
    • The Impacted Man (p. 49)
  • “What kind of intelligent beings would evolve on a planet that is all mountains?”
    “Stupid ones!” Casker said.
    • Untouched by Human Hands (p. 75)
  • “Now look,” Janice said. “If the king is so rich, why can’t he pay?”
    “The king never pays for anything he can get free,” the ferra said. “That’s why he’s so rich.”
    • The King’s Wishes (p. 93)
  • All very unreasonable, but Arthur Gammet was beginning to suspect that most wizards were unreasonable people.
    • The King’s Wishes (p. 112)
Page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ballantine (Catalogue number 126)
  • Ifs and buts could erode the soundest of principles.
    • Hands Off (p. 86)
  • Few individuals of any race murder for pleasure. There are perfectly adequate reasons to kill, though, reasons which might satisfy any philosopher.
    But, once accepted, there are more reasons, and more and more. And murder, once accepted, is hard to stop. It leads irresistibly to war and, from there, to annihilation.
    • Hands Off (p. 89)
  • “Credit is, of course, an automatic privilege. But, eventually, everything must be paid for.”
    Collins didn’t like the sound of that. Pay? This place wasn’t as civilized as he had thought. No one had mentioned paying. Why did they bring it up now?
    “Why didn’t someone stop me” he asked desperately. “They must have known I didn’t have a proper rating.”
    Flign shook his head. “The credit ratings are suggestions, not laws. In a civilized world, an individual has the right to his own decisions. I’m very sorry, sir.”
    • Something for Nothing (p. 105)
  • “That’s so like you Terrans,” Melith remarked sadly. “You want responsibility only if it doesn’t incur risk. That’s a wrong attitude for running a government.”
    • A Ticket to Tranai (p. 143)
Page number from the mass market paperback first edition published by Bantam Books (Catalogue number A1672)
  • “Love and war,” he said, “are Earth’s two staple commodities. We’ve been turning them both out in bumper crops since the beginning of time.”
    • Pilgrimage to Earth (pp. 5-6)
  • That’s the whole point! Anyone can buy sex. Good Lord, it’s the cheapest thing in the universe, next to human life.
    • Pilgrimage to Earth (p. 7)
  • “The mind of Human Man is murky and dark,” said Gunga-Sam, “but it is as crystal compared to the mind of Human Woman.”
    “Where did you get that?” Flaswell asked.
    “It is an ancient robot proverb.”
    • Human Man’s Burden (p. 68)
  • Mr. Rath’s iron face registered a rather corrugated disgust. People were useless as witnesses. Worse than useless, since they were frequently misleading. For reliability, give him a robot every time.
    • Bad Medicine (p. 85)
  • We denizens of Earth have a common vice: We take what we’re offered, whether we need it or not.
    You can get into a lot of trouble that way.
    • Protection (p. 101)
  • I poured Franklin another cup of coffee and he looked at me, his big eyes pleading. The deadheads always look like that when we reach this point. They think that Mars is like Alaska in the ’70s, or Antarctica in 2000; a frontier for brave, determined men. But Mars isn’t a frontier. It’s a dead end.
    • Deadhead (p. 114)
  • Society as a whole, he reminded himself, must be protected against the individual, just as a human body must be protected against malfunction of any of its parts. As fond as you might be of your gall bladder, you would sacrifice it mercilessly if it were going to impair the rest of you.
    • The Academy (p. 125)
  • “You must remember,” the doctor said, “Society must be protected against the individual.”
    “Yes,” Feerman said drowsily, “but who is to protect the individual against society?”
    • The Academy (p. 139)
Page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Bantam Books (Catalogue number A2003)
  • You simply can’t throw strangers together at random and expect the fiery, quick romance to turn into love. Love has its own rules and enforces them rigidly.
    • Gray Flannel Armor (p. 9)
  • Had he been right or was he just another visionary?
    • Watchbird (p. 44)
  • Sven had the sensation of discovering a new world, a world no civilized man had ever encountered. He was amazed to discover that weirder customs could be found on Earth than anywhere else in the galaxy.
    • Holdout (p. 146)
Page number from the mass market paperback first edition published by Bantam Books (Catalogue number A2170)
  • A tremor ran through him. He had chosen, he reminded himself. He alone was responsible. The psychological test had proved that.
    And yet, how responsible were the psychologists who had given him the test? How responsible was Mike Terry for offering a poor man so much money? Society had woven the noose and put it around his neck, and he was hanging himself with it, and calling it free will.
    • The Prize of Peril (p. 16)
Page number from the mass market paperback first American edition published by Bantam Books (Catalogue number J2443)
  • Hope could be dangerous, desire could be catastrophic.
    • The Girls and Nugent Miller (p. 24)
  • It was one hell of an inspection when you went around finding how many sane men you had left.
    • Fool’s Mate (p. 87)
  • “I’m going to leave you here,” Margraves said. “I’ve got some unfinished business to attend to.”
    “Right,” Branch said, since it was all he could say. He knew that Margraves’ unfinished business concerned a bottle.
    • Fool’s Mate (p. 88)
Page numbers from the mass market paperback first American edition published by Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-13031-5, first printing (July 1982)
  • I found her charming, went home and thought no more about her. Or, I thought I would think no more about her. But in the following days and nights her image remained obsessively before my eyes. My appetite fell off and I began sleeping badly. My computer checked out the relevant data and told me that I might conceivably be having a nervous breakdown; but the strongest inference was that I was in love.
    • The Robot Who Looked Like Me (p. 3)
  • Charlie Gleister had invented a time machine, but he hadn’t invented it right because it didn’t work.
    • Slaves of Time (p. 11)
  • Nothing happens for the first time, especially if what you’re trying to do is to invent something absolutely novel and unprecedented. Of course, if nothing happens for the first time, that leaves the apparent problem of how anything happens at all. But the difficulty is entirely semantic: in the eternal recurrence of subatomic configurations of which our world is a simulacrum, there is no question of beginnings or endings. There are only middles, continuations, repetitions. Originality is a concept possible only to a limited viewpoint.
    • Slaves of Time (pp. 14-15)
  • It is all so familiar! I suppose that an electron, traveling from one atom to another, also expects to enter a realm of unimaginable novelty. But perhaps the scenery in every part of the universe is roughly similar; since one sees in accordance with who one is rather than with what is there.
    • Slaves of Time (p. 16)
  • Linguistic accommodation as well. Are they speaking my language or am I speaking theirs? I can never know: the transaction cannot watch itself being transacted.
    • Slaves of Time (p. 16)
  • Not only can you not step into the same river twice; it is not even the same you who can’t step into the same river twice. Everything modifies everything. There is no niche in the past waiting for him to come back and occupy it. Nature will tolerate a paradox, but she abhors a vacuum.
    • Slaves of Time (p. 18)
  • From one viewpoint there were (potentially) a multiplicity of Gleisters; but from another viewpoint there was only one, and he was that one. After all, it didn’t matter what these other people called themselves or where they came from; he was only the person he was here and now, the person whom he experienced. Reality is positional, ego is relational, and nature doesn’t deal in abstractions.
    • Slaves of Time (p. 19)
  • “Should I have lectured them on all men being equal? Those people knew that all men were not equal, and that justice was the exclusive prerogative of the ruling class. They viewed all egalitarian ideas as devilish perversions, to be resisted to the death.
    “Democracy is not natural law. Men must be educated to it. Democracy is a difficult and advanced concept for men whose instinct is to band together in wolf packs under a single leader. Effective democracy requires the exercise of responsibility and fairness to others. For the people of the future Earth, this was an outlandish concept: others were there only to be used.”
    • Slaves of Time (p. 28)
  • He turned to Mingus. “Why don’t you just leave them alone? I really don’t care what your motives are. Hasn’t Earth had enough emperors, dictators, generalissimos, war lords, Great Khans, Shahinshahs, Caesars, whatever you want to call them? Some of them had admirable motives—but the only people they really helped were themselves.”
    “I suppose you feel that a state of anarchy is preferable?” Mingus asked.
    “I think it probably is,” Hieronymous said. “The main defect of anarchy is its vulnerability to people like you.”
    • Slaves of Time (p. 29)
  • Kettelman bristled. Nothing got him angrier than when people implied he was paranoid. It made him feel persecuted.
    • A Supplicant in Space (p. 60)
  • He exaggerated somewhat. In fact, not one word did he say that was true.
    • A Supplicant in Space (p. 61)
  • “You argue too damned well!”
    “It is just my good luck,” Detringer said, “that logic happens to be on the side of helping me.”
    • A Supplicant in Space (p. 64)
  • “For information concerning the afterlife,” Miss Ophelia said, “kindly contact your nearest priest, minister, rabbi, mullah or anyone else on the accredited list of God’s representatives. Thank you for calling.”
    There was a sweet tinkle of chimes. Then the line went dead.
    “What did the Big Fellow say?” asked General Muller.
    “All I got was double-talk from his secretary.”
    “Personally, I don’t believe in superstitions like God,” General Muller said. “Even if it happens to be true, I find it healthier not to believe. Shall we get on with it?”
    They got on with it.
    • Zirn Left Unguarded, the Jenghik Palace in Flames, John Westerley Dead (p. 75)
  • Love, the secret and unofficial heart of pair-bonding behavior, is a force to be reckoned with but never predicted. Love supersedes all other directives and cancels previous obligations. The shared look of love is love’s preview, presenting a foretaste of the joys and sorrows to come, and setting into motion the automatic mating machinery upon which the success and stability of the State depends.
    • Sneak Previews (p. 85)
  • It takes a particular kind of a man to endure the shattering immensities of space and the paranoid-inducing stresses of threats from the unknown. It takes a man with a large and impervious ego and a consistently high degree of aggressive self-confidence. It takes a kind of a nut.
    • Welcome to the Standard Nightmare (p. 88)
  • What is the purpose of being really intelligent if not to have the substance of what you want without mistaking it for the shadow?
    • Welcome to the Standard Nightmare (p. 102)
  • “But what’s it all for?”
    “That’s a stupid question. You might as well ask what reality is for.”
    “Well...what is reality for?”
    • End City (p. 107)
  • “Curly,” I say, “I know they can’t help being young, but isn’t there something they can do about being so stupid?”
    “I reckon not, Mr. Washburn,” Curly says.
    • The Never-Ending Western Movie (p. 119)
  • “The disease may not be too difficult to live with.”
    “I thought you said it was terminal?”
    “So I did. But then, everything is terminal, even health, even life itself. The only question is how long, and in what manner.”
    • I See a Man Sitting on a Chair, and the Chair Is Biting His Leg (p. 142)
  • Love is always a risk; but hate is a deadly peril.
    • I See a Man Sitting on a Chair, and the Chair Is Biting His Leg (p. 150)
  • Silversmith lay in bed sipping seltzer and thinking deep brooding thoughts about the impossibility of happiness and the elusiveness of satisfaction. Despite having the world’s luxuries set before him—or because of it—he was bored and had been for weeks. It seemed damned unfair to him, to be able to get anything you wanted, but to be unable to enjoy what you could get.
    When you came right down to it, life was a disappointment, and the best it had to offer was never quite good enough. The roast duck was never as crisp as advertised, and the water in the swimming pool was always a shade too warm or too cold.
    How elusive was the quest for quality! For ten dollars you could buy a pretty fair steak; for a hundred dollars you could get a really good Porterhouse; for a thousand dollars you could buy a kilo of Kobe beef that had been massaged by the hands of consecrated virgins, together with a genius chef to prepare it. And it would be very good indeed. But not a thousand dollars good. The more you paid, the less progress you made toward that quintessence of beef that that the angels eat when God throws his yearly banquet for the staff.
    • Silversmith Wishes (p. 176)
All page numbers from the paperback first edition published by Bantam Books
  • Still, no matter how commonplace, one’s death is the most interesting event of one’s life.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 1)
  • Corpses shouldn’t be forced to answer questions. Death was man’s ancient privilege, his immemorial pact with life, granted to the slave as well as the noble. Death was man’s solace, and his right. But perhaps they had revoked that right; and now you couldn’t evade your responsibilities simply by being dead.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 7)
  • And yet, Blaine thought, mankind showed an historic ability to avoid the extremes of doom as well as the extremes of bliss. Chaos was forever prophesized and utopia was continually predicted, and neither came to pass.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 9)
  • The deed of dying transcends class and breeding. It is every man’s patent of nobility, his summons from the king, his knightly adventure, the greatest deed of his life. And how he acquits himself in that lonely and perilous enterprise is his true measure as a man.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 71)
  • Reilly was fairly sure he’d survive after death; but he saw no reason to take chances. Also, Mr. Kean says that the very rich, like the very religious, wouldn’t enjoy a hereafter filled with just anybody. They think that, by suitable rites and symbols, they can get into a more exclusive part of the hereafter.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 91)
  • Blaine remembered how strange, dark, atavistic and noble Hull’s lordly selection of death has seemed. Pretentious, of course; but then, life itself was a pretension in the vast universe of unliving matter.
    • Chapter 35 (p. 148)
All page numbers from the paperback first edition published by Signet Books
  • “I’m afraid not. According to the law, you must leave here at once.”
    “But they’ll kill me!”
    “That’s very true,” Frendlyer said. “Unfortunately, it can’t be helped. A victim, by definition, is one who is to be killed.”
    “I thought this was a protective organization.”
    “It is. But we protect rights, not victims. Your rights are not being violated.“
    • Chapter 3 (p. 19)
  • On Omega, the law was kept secret. Older residents used their knowledge of the law to enforce their rule over the newcomers. This system was condoned and reinforced by the doctrine of the inequality of all men, which lay at the heart of the Omegan legal system. Through planned inequality and enforced ignorance, power and status remained in the hands of the older residents.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 26)
  • “Evil,” the priest said, after he had settled comfortably into Barrent’s best chair, “is that force within us which inspires men to acts of strength and endurance. The worship of Evil is essentially the worship of oneself, and therefore the only true worship. The self which one worships is the ideal social being; the man content in his niche in society, yet ready to grasp any opportunity for advancement; the man who meets death with dignity, who kills without the demeaning vice of pity. Evil is cruel, since it is a true reflection of the uncaring and insensate universe. Evil is eternal and unchanging, although it comes to us in the many forms of protean life.”
    • Chapter 6 (pp. 28-29)
  • All his studies had been for extraterrestrial exploration. There was no place for him on Earth; and now he was barred from space.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 41)
  • On Omega, the law is supreme. Hidden and revealed, sacred and profane, the law governs the actions of all citizens, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high. Without the law, there could be no privileges for those who made the law; therefore the law was absolutely necessary. Without the law and its stern enforcement, Omega would be an unthinkable chaos in which a man’s rights could extend only as far and as long as he personally could enforce them. This anarchy would mean the end of Omegan society; and particularly, it would mean the end of those senior citizens of the ruling class who had grown high in status, but whose skill with a gun had long passed its peak.
    Therefore the law was necessary.
    But Omega was also a criminal society, composed entirely of individuals who had broken the laws of Earth. It was a society which, in the final analysis, stressed individual endeavor. It was a society in which the lawbreaker was king; a society in which crimes were not only condoned but were admired and even rewarded; a society in which deviation from the rules was judged solely on its degree of success.
    And this resulted in the paradox of a criminal society with absolute laws which were meant to be broken.
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 50-51)
  • His friends, who had been waiting for the death announcement, came to congratulate him. They were eager to hear the complete details of the Trial by Ordeal; but Barrent had learned now that secret knowledge was the road to power. He gave them only the sketchiest outline.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 52)
  • They were shunned, and they had reacted to exclusion by exclusiveness.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 56)
  • “The law,” he said, “is above the criminal and the judge, and rules them both. The law is inescapable, for an action is either lawful or unlawful. The law, indeed, may be said to have a life of its own, an existence quite apart from the finite lives of the beings who administer it. The law governs every aspect of human behavior; therefore, to the same extent that humans are lawful beings, the law is human. And being human, the law has its idiosyncrasies, just as a man has his. For a citizen who abides by the law, the law is distant and difficult to find. For those who reject and violate it, the law emerges from its musty sepulchers and goes in search of the transgressor.”
    • Chapter 15 (p. 65)
  • “Do you have any papers for Will Barrent?”
    “None,” the lawyer said. “His case is in different hands. I’m afraid it might not be completely processed until after the Games are over.”
    “But I’ll probably be dead then,” Barrent said.
    “That, I can assure you, won’t stop the papers from being properly served,” the fat lawyer said proudly. “Dead or alive, you will retain all your rights.”
    • Chapter 18 (p. 77)
  • Remember, the inevitable inefficiency of a huge bureaucracy will be working for you.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 84)
  • “Would you define Good for me, Citizen Abbot?”
    “Certainly. Good is that force within us which inspires men to acts of conformity and subservience. The worship of Good is essentially the worship of oneself, and therefore the only true worship. The self which one worships is the ideal social being: the man content in his niche in society, yet ready to creatively advance his status. Good is gentle, since it is a true reflection of the loving and pitying universe. Good is continually changing in its aspects, although it comes to us in the... You have a strange look on your face, young man.”
    “I’m sorry, Citizen Abbot. I believe I heard that sermon, or one very much like it.”
    • Chapter 27 (p. 115)
  • What had he been taught? For the social good, you must be your own policeman and witness. You must assume responsibility for any crime which might conceivably be yours.
    The face of the informer stared impassively at him. It was Barrent’s own face, reflected back from a mirror on the wall.
    • Chapter 29 (p. 123)
All page numbers from the 1969 paperback edition published by Dell Books (#4268)
  • But Joenes then made a speech which was a beauty, and I cannot recall it word for word, but the idea was that laws are made by man and thus must partake of the evil nature of man, and that true morality lies in following the true dictates of the illuminated soul.
    “A Commie, huh?” said the lead cop.
    • Chapter 2 “Lum’s Meeting With Joenes” (p. 18)
  • Nature also gives rain and drought, heat and cold; and thoughtfully ensures that the rain rots man’s food, the drought parches it, the heat scalds man’s body, and the cold freezes his limbs.
    These are only nature’s milder aspects, not to be compared to the wrathfulness of the sea, the frigid indifference of the mountains, the treachery of the swamp, the depravity of the desert, or the terror of the jungle. But I noticed that nature, in her hatred of mankind, provided that most of the earth’s surface be covered with sea, mountains, swamp, desert, and jungle.
    • Chapter 6 “Joenes and the Three Truck Drivers” (pp. 44-45)
  • We have propounded our beliefs in various ways, and according to various doctrines. Often we have aroused the passions of men to murder and war. This was perfectly proper, since it brought the problems of morality and religion to their highest and most exquisite pitch, and gave many complicated matters for us theologians to talk about.
    We argued always, and we published our various dissenting opinions. But we argued like lawyers in a court, and nobody in his right mind listens to a lawyer. Those were the days of our pride, and we never noticed that men had ceased to pay attention to us.
    • Chapter 6 “Joenes and the Three Truck Drivers” (p. 50)
  • Joenes’s students quickly absorbed the material given to them, passed their tests, and quickly forgot the material. Like many vital young organisms, they were able to eject anything harmful, disturbing, distressing, or merely boring. Of course they also ejected anything useful, stimulating, or thought provoking. This was perhaps regrettable, but it was part of the educative process to which every teacher had to accustom himself.
    • Chapter 8 “How Joenes Taught, and What He Learned” (p. 69)
  • It was the college conservatives who had almost succeeded in electing John Smith to the Presidency of the United States during the last election. The fact that Smith had been dead for twenty years had not dampened their ardor; quite the contrary, many considered this the candidate’s best quality.
    • Chapter 8 “How Joenes Taught, and What He Learned” (pp. 70-71)
  • “And do not think,” Manisfree said, “that we absolve ourselves from blame in this situation. Although we teachers purport to know more than other men, we have usually chosen to remain aloof from public life. Practical, hardheaded men of the world have always frightened us; and those men, in their hardheaded way, have brought us to this.”
    “Nor is aloofness our only failure,” said Hanley of Anthropology. “Let me point out that we have taught—badly! Our few promising students became teachers, thus insulating themselves as we had. The rest of our students sat through the sleep-provoking drone of our lectures, eager only to depart and take their places in a mad world. We did not touch them, Joenes, we did not move them, and we did not teach them to think.”
    “In fact,” said Blake of Physics, “we did quite the contrary. We managed to equip most of our students with a definite hatred of thinking. They learned to view culture with the greatest suspicion, to ignore ethics, and to consider the sciences solely as a means of making money. This was our responsibility and our failure. The outcome of that failure is the world.”
    • Chapter 9 “The Need for the Utopia” (p. 74)
  • He distrusted all laws, even the best, while at the same time recognizing the necessity for them. For Joenes, a law took its goodness from the nature of the men who administered it. When the nature of those men changed, as Joenes believed was inevitable, then the nature of the law changed, too. When this happened, new laws and new lawgivers had to be found.
    • Chapter 16 “The End of the Journey” (p. 152)

The 10th Victim (1965)

All page numbers from the 1965 first edition published by Ballantine Books (#U5050)
  • Rome has an ambiance, puerile yet unmatchable. Rome hints at the possibility of becoming the main actor in the drama of one’s own life. (The hint is false, of course; but the stolid northern cities do not even possess the hint.)
    • Chapter 2 (pp. 19-20)
  • For the question inevitably remains, is Polletti’s admission of fear a magnificent conquest of the unconquerable, or a mere admission of the inadmissable?
    • Chapter 2 (p. 26)
  • It was as easy as falling off a precipice.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 28)
  • Even rulers, notoriously the slowest of men to change, realized that something had to be done.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 30)
  • She was an extremely attractive woman if you like the type, which could best be described as homicidal schizophrenic paranoiac with kittenish overtones.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 45)
  • He shook his head violently, pulled himself together and swallowed a stiff dose of Infradex, a drug designed to alleviate drug reactions. Within seconds he was his old, normally depressed self. This cheered him considerably, and he left the hut in a mood teetering on the edge of equanimity.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 125)
  • One moment’s inattention, and the long expected death came at last—unexpectedly! In that agonized moment, sprawled helpless upon the uncaring ground, Polletti realized that no preparation for one’s own death is possible. Death has had too much experience in catching men off guard, in piercing their attitudes and reducing their poses.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 126)
  • For Polletti, experience had brought only the bitter residue of pleasure which is the true essence of disenchantment. Certain delights which in his youth had seemed unique and unobtainable had turned out, upon acquisition, to be infinitely and drearily repeatable.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 130)
  • Love is a wonderful game which begins in fun and ends in marriage.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 131)
  • For love, as he knew it, was an aberration, a form of temporary insanity, a short-lived state of autosuggestion.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 132)
  • “Hey, what is this,” he asked.
    “I guess maybe you could call it like love,” Caroline said.
    “Whaddaya mean, love?” Chet asked. “Your contract expressly forbids you to fall in love during the duration of your tenth kill, and it furthermore explicitly forbids you to fall in love with your Victim.”
    “Love,” Caroline said coolly, “existed a long time before contracts.”
    “Contracts,” Martin said viciously, “are a lot more enforceable than love.”
    • Chapter 16 (pp. 136-137)

Mindswap (1966)

All page numbers from the 1966 first paperback edition published by Dell Books (#5643)
  • You have been bitten by the travel bug, which is very suitable for your time of life, and is a passion akin to falling in love, or fighting an idealistic war, or becoming disillusioned with the world, and other postures of the young.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 16)
  • Marvin did not give way to despair. He gave way instead to anger, which was a much healthier emotion, though equally unproductive.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 28)
  • Quite in vain did several lawyers point out to him that, if justice really existed, there would be no need for law and lawmakers, and thus one of mankind’s noblest conceptions would be obliterated, and an entire occupational group would be thrown out of work. For it is the essence of the law, they told him, that abuses and outrages should exist, since these discrepancies served as proof and validation of the necessity of law, and of justice itself.
    • Chapter 6 (pp. 28-29)
  • “You might say that,” Flynn said, thus avoiding an outright lie, since anyone might say anything whether it was true or not.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 44)
  • All of us live by the employment of countless untested assumptions, the truth or falsehood of which we can determine only through the hazard of our lives. Since most of us value our lives more than the truth, we leave such drastic tests for the fanatics.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 70)
  • “The acceptance of indeterminacy is the beginning of wisdom,” the hermit quoted.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 70)
  • And a great longing overcame him, a desire to be finished with desire, to forego pleasure and pain, to quit the petty modes of achievement and failure, to have done with distractions, and get on with the business of life, which was death.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 83)
  • “Time devours our feeble mortality, leaving us with but the sour residue of memory.”
    Marvin nodded. “Yet this ineffable and ungraspable quantity,” he replied, “this time which no man may possess, is in truth our only possession.”
    • Chapter 24 (p. 110)
  • Thus action serves as anodyne, whereas contemplation is revealed as the most direct form of involvement, and therefore much shunned by men.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 112)
  • Our roles are chose for us in this world by the stern dictates of an unrelenting Fate; and many a man who thought to play the emperor on Life’s stage found himself cast for a corpse instead.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 124)
  • “I feel no moral compunction in the slightest at my so-called crime. If a man cannot retain control of his own body, then he deserves to lose it. I have observed, during a long and varied lifetime, that men will give their bodies to any rogue who asks, and will enslave their minds to the first voice that commands them to obey. This is why the vast majority of men cannot keep even their natural birthright of a mind and body, but choose instead to rid themselves of those embarrassing emblems of freedom.”
    “That,” Detective Urdorf said, “is the classic apologia of the criminal.”
    “That which you call a crime when one man does it,” Kraggash said, “you call government when many men do it. Personally, I fail to see the distinction; and failing to see it, I refuse to live by it.”
    • Chapter 30 (pp. 141-142)
  • Nature abhors a vacuum, and I don’t like it much either.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 153)
  • All men are mortal, he tells us, but some are more mortal than others.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 153)
  • Last week we revoked his Godhead; we caught him operating a life without a license.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 153)
  • In a way it made no difference, since nothing is permanent except our illusions.
    • Chapter 33 (pp. 156-157)
All page numbers from the paperback first edition published by Dell Books (#1940)
  • He shared the common human hallmark: he was simultaneously predictable and unfathomable—a routine miracle.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 14)
  • “Well, no sense crying over unspilt blood,” the Prize Clerk said. “If we took full account of our eventualities, we’d soon run out of eventualities for us to take full account of.”
    • Chapter 3 (p. 23)
  • “Machines!” the Clerk said scornfully. “We have many of them, some exquisitely complex. But event the best of them are much like idiot savants. They do adequately on tedious straightforward tasks like building stars or destroying planets. But give them something tough, like solacing a widow, and they simply go to pieces. Would you believe it, the largest computer in our section can landscape an entire planet; but it cannot fry an egg or carry a tune, and it knows less about ethics than a newborn wolf cub. Would you want something like that to run your life?”
    “Of course not,” Carmody said. “But couldn’t someone build a machine with creativity and judgment?”
    “Someone has,” the Clerk said. “It has been designed to learn from experience, which means that it must make errors in order to arrive at truths. It comes in many shapes and sizes, most of them quite portable. Its flaws are readily apparent, but seem to exist as necessary counterweights to it virtues. No one has yet improved on the basic design, though many have tried. This ingenious device is called ‘intelligent life.’”
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 25-26)
  • “Earth, Earth,” the short, alien Carmody mused. “I think I remember the name now. There was a recent study of isolated worlds and the peculiarities of their development. Earth was mentioned as a planet covered with an obsessively overproductive species. Object manipulation is their outstanding modality. Their project is an attempt to live in their own, ever-accumulating waste products. In short, Earth is diseased place. I believe it is being phased out of the Galactic Master Plan on the basis of chronic cosmic incompatibility. The place will then be rehabilitated and turned into a refuge for daffodils.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 29)
  • Carmody’s jaw stiffened and he withdrew his hand. He had been pushed around long enough. Now, for the sake of his own self-esteem, he would not yield any more.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 31)
  • I’ll follow the reedy tenor of his excuses and blast them with the bellowy bass of irrefutable logic!
    • Chapter 4 (p. 33)
  • A malfunction of this type can be cured only by changing the nature of the universe, which is, of course, impractical.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 34)
  • A little prescience goes a long way, especially in a galaxy as disorganized as this one.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 34)
  • The only thing to think over was Me, of course. And the real problem about Me was, What was I supposed to do? Was I meant to be nothing but God? I had tried the God business and found it too limited. It was a job for a simple-minded egomaniac. There had to be something else for me to do—something more meaningful, more expressive of my true self. I’m convinced of it! That is my problem, and that is the question I ask of you: What am I to do with myself?
    • Chapter 7 (p. 53)
  • “It is the principle of Business, which is more fundamental than the law of gravity. Wherever you go in the galaxy, you can find a food business, a housebuilding business, a war business, a peace business, a governing business, and so forth. And, of course, a God business, which is called ‘religion,’ and which is a particularly reprehensible line of endeavor. I could talk for a year on the perverse and nasty notions that the religions sell, but I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. But I’ll just mention one matter, which seems to underlie everything the religions preach, and which seems to me almost exquisitely perverse.”
    “What’s that?” Carmody asked.
    “It’s the deep, fundamental bedrock of hypocrisy upon which religion is founded. Consider: no creature can be said to worship if it does not possess free will. Free will, however, is free. And just by virtue of being free, is intractable and incalculable, a truly Godlike gift, the faculty that makes a state of freedom possible. To exist in a state of freedom is a wild, strange thing, and was clearly intended as such. But what do the religions do with this? They say, ‘Very well, you possess free will; but now you must use your free will to enslave yourself to God and to us.’ The effrontery of it! God, who would not coerce a fly, is painted as a supreme slavemaster! In the face of this, any creature with spirit must rebel, must serve God entirely of his own will and volition, or must not serve him at all, thus remaining true to himself and to the faculties God has given him.”
    “I think I see what you mean,” Carmody said.
    “I’ve made it too complicated,” Maudsley said. “There’s a much simpler reason for avoiding religion.”
    “What’s that?”
    “Just consider its style—bombastic, hortatory, sickly-sweet, patronizing, artificial, inapropos, boring, filled with dreary images or peppy slogans—fit subject matter for senile old women and unweaned babies, but for no one else. I cannot believe that the God I met here would ever enter a church; he had too much taste and ferocity, too much anger and pride. I can’t believe it, and for me that ends the matter. Why should I go to a place that a God would not enter?”
    • Chapter 13 (pp. 88-89)
  • How nicely you put it! We may rant against fortune and the world, but we are left at the end with the stark proposition: “These are the things which are.”
    • Chapter 17 (p. 108)
  • “You want me to tell you why reality is the way it is,” Seethwright said. “But there is no explanation for that. You must simply learn to fit your preconceptions to what you find. You must not expect reality to adapt itself to you, except very infrequently.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 133)
  • “Isn’t there anything you can do about the predator?” Carmody asked.
    “Nothing. Nor would I if I could. Predation is a necessary circumstance. Even the Gods are eventually eaten by Fate. You will not be an exception to the universal rule.”
    • Chapter 21 (p. 136)
  • Remember, similitude need not imply exactitude.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 159)
  • Once upon a time men resisted the implications of actuality. That day is gone. We know now that art is the thing itself together with its extensions into superfluity. Not pop art, I hasten to say, which sneers and exaggerates. This is popular art, which simply exists. This is the age in which we unconditionally accept the unacceptable, and thus proclaim the naturalness of our artificiality.”
    • Chapter 28 (p. 187)
  • “Your predator is close behind you and will infallibly be your death.”
    “I don’t doubt it,” Carmody said, in a moment of strange calm.” But in terms of long-range planning, I never did expect to get out of this Universe alive.”
    “That is meaningless,” the Prize said. “The fact is, you have lost everything.”
    “I don’t agree,” Carmody said. “Permit me to point out that I am presently still alive.”
    “Agreed. But only for the moment.”
    “I have always been alive only for the moment,” Carmody said. “I could never count on more. It was my error to expect more. That holds true, I believe, for all of my possible and potential circumstances.”
    “Then what do you hope to achieve with your moment?”
    “Nothing,” Carmody said. “Everything.”
    “I don’t understand you any longer,” the Prize said. “Something about you has changed, Carmody. What is it?”
    “A minor thing,” Carmody told him. “I have simply given up a longevity which I never possessed anyhow. I have turned away from the con game which the Gods run in their heavenly sideshow. I no longer care under which shell the pea of immortality might be found. I don’t need it. I have my moment, which is quite enough.”
    “Saint Carmody,” the Prize said, in tones of deepest sarcasm. “No more than a shadow’s breadth separates you and death! What will you do now with your pitiable moment?”
    “I shall continue to live it,” Carmody said. “That is what moments are for.”
    • Chapter 28 (pp. 189-190; closing words)
Page numbers from the first American mass market paperback edition, published by Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-12900-7
  • Blount’s face registered psychopathic amazement, idiot incredulity, moronic disbelief.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 27)
  • Not even the thought of death can upset the man who is going into space for the first time. The journey into the unknown transcends the framework of anxiety, at least for a while.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 28)
  • But the description is not the described, as Amirra Tauba remarked as he chewed up the map of the galaxy!
    • Chapter 8 (p. 39)
  • Words, in the final analysis, are just about as futile as actions, and much less fun.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 39)
  • It wouldn’t be so bad. There was, after all, a certain joy in hard, dedicated work, a sort of pleasure in denying oneself pleasures, and a sour happiness to be found in steadiness, circumspection, dependability…
    To hell with that!
    • Chapter 13 (p. 69)
  • He said, “Don’t you think that pleas based on upon the assumption of one’s own objectivity are somewhat disingenuous, to say the least?”
    The crowd nodded. The tall man said easily, “Granted that all personal judgments are inherently biased. Still, judgment is the only instrument of discrimination at our disposal, and it is our work as living, developing creatures to make discriminations, from which value-judgments inevitably flow. This must be done despite the subjectivity paradox implied in making an ‘objective’ statement. That is why I say unequivocably that you were in the wrong, and no amount of reference to the observer observed dichotomy is going to change that.”
    • Chapter 38 (p. 147)
  • "We have sympathized with the misplaced obsessive emotionality you have thrown into your delusional activities.”
    “What do you mean, ‘delusional’? I know what I’m doing!”
    The priest shook his head gently. “Whatever you think is wrong. I suppose you feel that you live your own life and strive to achieve your goals?”
    “Well, of course!”
    “But that is not the case at all. Actually, you have no independent life of your own. You do not live, you are lived! You are a completely automatic mechanism with a built-in I-reflex. Your life has no meaning, since you are not even a person. You are nothing more than a short-lived, inconsistent, and accidental collection of tendencies. Your only possible relevance is as the unwitting vehicle for the purpose of bringing forth the Avatar.”
    • Chapter 44 (p. 165)
  • “Could he be an imposter?” the venerable priest mused. “No, I suppose not. So he must be from some other universe. That’s the usual explanation for the inexplicable.”
    • Chapter 44 (p. 168)
Page numbers from the mass market first paperback edition published by Signet Books ISBN 0-451-14864-9
  • After many centuries we have rediscovered nature’s way of keeping populations in hand. Nature does it the old-fashioned way, by killing people.
    • Prologue (p. 8)
  • Nobody says any longer, “When will the killing stop?” Now we know that the killing will stop only when life itself stops.
    • Prologue (p. 8)
  • “This is a shopping mall,” the Professor said. “At one time it was the central artifact of American life. It was to the Americans what the atrium was to the Romans or the plaza to the Spaniards, the great place of assemblage where one comes and ritually buys food and tries to arrange romantic assignations with attractive members of the preferred sex, whichever that might be.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 35)
  • The new city of Esmeralda was not the usual steel-and-glass rabbit warren that the modern world had developed in its long struggle to free itself from any hint of good taste.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 52)
  • Sarah Daubray was opposed to the entire Huntsworld philosophy. She had said on several occasion that only they poor should kill each other, since the wealthy were too valuable to sacrifice. Louvaine, however, was a liberal; he believed anyone had the right to kill anyone else, rich or poor.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 86)
  • “I’ve never been able to understand that custom.”
    “Not all customs have to have a reason.”
    • Chapter 20 (p. 88)
  • “Michelangelo,” Teresa said, “you shouldn’t blaspheme.”
    “Who’s blaspheming? I’m praying.”
    • Chapter 34 (p. 140)
  • “I’m proposing to pay you five thousand dollars to do something you’ll find quite enjoyable.”
    “Make it ten,” Foote said, “and I’ll enjoy it even more.”
    • Chapter 37 (pp. 151-152)
  • It was the sort of atmosphere of good humor which so often accompanies a total absence of good taste.
    • Chapter 48 (pp. 187-188)
  • It was an eccentric sort of event, even for Esmeralda, and needed a special kind of person to volunteer to do it. Luckily, the human race has never thought up anything so ludicrous, dangerous, and frivolous that it won’t attract many willing volunteers.
    • Chapter 56 (p. 207)
Page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Signet Books ISBN 0-451-15142-9
  • Outside the curtained windows, Paris stewed in its miasma of self-congratulation and diesel fumes.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 11)
  • The trip to South Lake took another three hours. Blackwell stared out the window the whole time looking at nothing, which is to say, New Jersey.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 18)
  • He was the sort of man the essence of whose presence is absence.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 27)
  • Population growth and the multifarious forms of pollution: the human animal was overgrazing his range. The human animal had destroyed everything in sight, killed off the other big animals, used up millions of years of deposits of fresh water, oil, coal, and minerals. Fragile ecosystems had been pushed to the limit, some of them beyond recovery. The death of the earth was undramatic, but it was happening, and fast. And the governments continued to squabble and defend their various economic, religious, and social doctrines. The wealth of nations large and small was bled into the continuing efforts to increase the size, ingenuity, and ferocity of the armed forces. The humans were killer ants, devoting all their time to breeding more powerful mandibles.
    Something had to be done immediately to preserve and maintain the great interlocking global system of ecosystems that sustained all life upon the earth. Only by managing the entire earth as a single unit could the basis of life continue on beyond the next century or two.
    But twentieth-century civilization was locked into its self-destructive groove. Nothing could be officially done until the various threats became much more threatening. But by the time that stage had been reached, it would probably be too late to do anything.
    • Chapter 12 (pp. 67-68)
  • It might have meant something, or it might not have. That was the thing about uncertainty, you were never sure.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 100)
  • There was a moist, fertile, decaying sort of odor in the air. Florida was the sort of place that always seemed to be threatening to slip out of time and go back to the Paleozoic where it belonged. The light was a tawny gold filtered through a fragmented wall of green.
    • Chapter 38 (p. 175)
  • I beg of you to take this warning seriously, even though these people may be crazies. Since the invention of gunpowder, crazies have been bad news.
    • Chapter 40 (p. 185)
  • Dickerson watched the telephone like a man looking at a sleeping cobra. It could spring into virulent life at any moment, bite him with its hollow fangs, flood his system with the intellectual equivalent of poison, force him to leave the tried-and-true path of safe routine and jump into the dangerous and unpredictable unknown.
    • Chapter 60 (p. 247)
  • Then the red telephone rang.
    Dickerson’s heart gave a tremendous lurch. He closed his eyes, composing himself by reciting the mantra Dr. Mensch had given him: “Om mane padme hum, I smell the blood of an Englishmun.”
    • Chapter 60 (p. 247; spelling as in the book)
  • We of the Hunt are part of the solution. We offer voluntary murder as a substitute for war. You know that mankind will never be satisfied unless it is killing something. People can’t even properly enjoy a landscape unless there’s something moving across it that can be shot at.
    • Chapter 65 (p. 258)
  • “My dear Dahl, the first, the primary, task is to bring the earth back into ecological balance. That’s your task, you and the Bahamas Corporation. Ours is to give people something exciting to do other than war while that is going on. Without us and our Hunt, you and your high-minded scientists will just be another group of dreamers living in an imaginary kingdom of sweet reason while the madness of real politics rages all around you. Be practical, Dahl, let’s do something together.”
    “There is something in what you say,” Dahl admitted. “I’ve been aware for some time of the shortcomings inherent in the sane, dispassionate thinking that we scientists advocate. People don’t pay any attention. Unless there’s an emergency like Love Canal or Chernobyl, the idea of maintaining and upgrading the earth and its ecosystems is not exactly box-office.”
    • Chapter 65 (p. 259)
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