Robert Charles Wilson

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Robert Charles Wilson

Robert Charles Wilson (born December 15, 1953) is a Canadian science fiction author.

Sourced[edit]

Memory Wire (1987)[edit]

All page numbers from the first edition mass market paperback published by Bantam Spectra Books
  • “You think Wexler is lying?”
    “I think he’s fallible,” Byron had replied.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 20)
  • It was amazing how these events lost their impact, translated through the flat gaze of a video screen.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 33)
  • He had come out of the war twice-decorated and with a thoughtful respect for the horrors of combat. He had seen terrible things, participated in terrible things...but that was the nature of war, and it was not something you could enter into halfway. War was a state of mind, war was all or nothing.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 134)
  • There were times when his life had seemed to him like one prolonged act of sleepwalking.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 142)
  • They allow us access to the experience of the past—the only kind of time machine we are ever likely to have.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 160)
  • For them, the idea of forgetting was indistinguishable from the idea of death. To pass out of memory was to pass out of the world. To conserve memory was to confer immortality.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 161)
  • The past was gone, the dead were dead and did not speak, and everybody dies; one day Oberg would be dead and silent, too, and that was as it should be: the broad and welcoming ocean of oblivion. It made life bearable. It was sacred. It should not be tampered with.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 179)
  • He was not accustomed to thinking about these things so bluntly, but the facts were as obvious as they were painful.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 181)

The Perseids and Other Stories (2000)[edit]

All page numbers from the trade paperback edition published by Tor Books
  • Ziegler said, “You know the story in the Bible, the story of Abraham and Isaac?”
    “Of course.”
    “God instructs Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice. Isaac makes it as far as the chopping block before God changes his mind.”
    Yes. Jacob had always imagined God a little appalled at Abraham’s willingness to cooperate.
    Ziegler said, “What’s the moral of the story?”
    “Faith.”
    “Hardly,” Ziegler said. “Faith has nothing to do with it. Abraham never doubted the existence of God—how could he? The evidence was ample. His virtue wasn’t faith, it was fealty. He was so simplemindedly loyal that he would commit even this awful, terrible act. He was the perfect foot soldier. The ideal pawn. Abraham’s lesson: fealty is rewarded. Not morality. The fable makes morality contingent. Don’t go around killing innocent people, that is, unless you're absolutely certain God want you to. It’s a lunatic’s credo.
    “Isaac, on the other hand, learns something much more interesting. He learns that neither God nor his own father can be trusted. Maybe it makes him a better man than Abraham. Suppose Isaac grows up and fathers a child of his own, and God approaches him and makes the same demand. One imagines Isaac saying, ’No. You can take him if you must, but I won’t slaughter my son for you.’ He’s not the good and faithful servant his father was. But he is, perhaps, a more wholesome human being.”
    • The Fields of Abraham (pp. 21-22)
  • The attacking piece displaces its victim. The vanquished piece leaves the plane of the board entirely. But it does not, in a higher sense, cease to exist.
    • The Fields of Abraham (p. 37)
  • To capture the pawn, threaten the queen.
    • The Fields of Abraham (p. 37)
  • “Goddamn you,” Jacob said.
    “There’s no damnation, Jacob. No Heaven but the forest and no God but the hive.”
    • The Fields of Abraham (p. 37)
  • Ecstasy hates company.
    • The Inner Inner City (p. 72)
  • We contrast the urban and the natural, but that’s a contemporary myth. We’re animals, after all; our cities are organic products, fully as “natural” (whatever that word really means) as a termite hill or a rabbit warren. But how much more interesting: how much more complex, dressed in the intricacies and exfoliations of human culture, simple patterns iterated into infinite variation. And full of secrets, secrets beyond counting.
    • The Inner Inner City (p. 74)
  • You have a knack for turning your eyes inside out, so you see them. And they see you. And you're afraid, because they’re from the uncreated future, from a place, I think, where the human race has reached its last incarnation, from the end of the material world. Perhaps the end of all worlds. And they’re sad—melancholy is the better word—because you're like an angel to them, the angel of the past, the angel of infinite possibility. Possibility lost. The road not taken.
    • The Observer (p. 111)
  • One doesn’t have to understand in order to look. One has to look, in order to understand.
    • The Observer (p. 112)
  • I understand so very little. But I am not afraid to look: I am a good observer at last. My eyes are open, and I am not afraid.
    • The Observer (p. 113)
  • Does it strike you, Mr. Keller, that we live every day in the science fiction of our youth?
    • Divided by Infinity (p. 172)
  • Don’t despise life.
    • Divided by Infinity (p. 173)
  • “Ah, books.” Ziegler, smiling, came up behind me. “They bob like corks on an ocean. Float between worlds, messages in bottles.”
    • Divided by Infinity (p. 179)
  • “Don’t tell me. It changed your life.” I was smiling.
    She smiled back. “It didn’t even change my mind.”
    • Divided by Infinity (p. 180)
  • And death?
    I don’t fear death.
    I dread the absence of it.
    • Divided by Infinity (p. 195)
  • “Consciousness,” according to current scientific thought, was something the higher mammals had evolved in order to help them reproduce, much the way a garden slug secretes slime. It had no special ontological status. The “self” was a genetically modulated and biologically useful illusion.
    • Pearl Baby (p. 211)
  • The Mysteries are the Mysteries, and ultimately personal—maybe the most personal thing in the universe. Evangelism, in my opinion, is a failure of the imagination. Beware of prophets: the best visions are the ones they leave in the desert.
    • Afterword (p. 220)

The Chronoliths (2001)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor Books
  • Kait was immediately bored. Children Kaitlin’s age possess no context; one video event is much like another.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 32)
  • Personally, I don’t believe in anything more supernatural than what you read about in the Bible, and I only believe that one day out of seven.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 112)
  • Try to imagine that Minkowski cube, Ray said, as a block of liquid water freezing (as contrary as this seems) from the bottom up. The progression of the freeze represents at least our human experience of the march of time. What is frozen is past, immutable, changeless. What is liquid is future, indeterminate, uncertain. We live on the crystallizing boundary.
    • Chapter 9 (pp. 114-115)
  • Children wear their natures like brightly-colored clothes; that’s why they lie so transparently. Adulthood is the art of deceit.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 156)
  • The most fundamental parental urge is the urge to nurture and protect. To grieve for a child is to admit ultimate impotence. You can’t protect what goes into the ground. You can’t tuck a blanket around a grave.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 156)
  • I suppose every decade gets the music it deserves.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 175)
  • I suppose he could have said this more gently, but what would be the point?
    • Chapter 15 (p. 189)
  • Sometimes the conscience makes demands that are non-negotiable. Courage has nothing to do with it. We weren’t here because we were brave. We were here because we had to be here.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 189)
  • There’s no point living if you can’t, at least occasionally, live.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 224)
  • When does loyalty become martyrdom?
    • Chapter 19 (p. 240)
  • It was possible at last to hear the silence—to appreciate that there was a silence, deep and potent, out there beyond the pretension of the light.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 272)
  • I want them not to forget. Which is, I suppose, what all aged veterans want. But they’ll forget. Of course they will. And their children will know less of us than they do, and their children’s children will find us barely imaginable.
    Which is as it should be. You can’t stop time.
    • Chapter 28 (pp. 314-315)

Blind Lake (2003)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor Books
  • Times like this, with the wind moving the grass and curling around her like a huge cool hand, Tess felt the world as a second presence, as another person, as if the wind and the grass had voices of their own and she could hear them talking.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 23)
  • If you understood the facts they needed no embroidery: all the wonder was already there, the more spellbinding because it was true.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 69)
  • Nobody wants to conduct an autopsy on a dead saint.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 116)
  • Promises were like bad checks, easy to write and hard to cash.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 179)
  • “Wow,” Sue said. “You actually stole this?”
    “We don’t use that word,” Elaine told her. “Chris has an unnamed high-level source.”
    • Chapter 20 (p. 238)
  • His heart was in the right place. He wanted a religion that could plausibly comfort widows and orphans without committing them to patriarchy, intolerance, fundamentalism, or weird dietary laws. He wanted a religion that wasn’t in a perpetual fistfight with modern cosmology.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 255)
  • We live in an enlightened age, however, an age that has learned to see and to value other living things as they are, not as we wish them to be. And the long and creditable history of science has taught us, if nothing else, to look carefully before we judge—to judge, if we must, based on what we see, not what we would prefer to believe.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 258)
  • Understanding is better than ignorance. Ignorance, unlike life, unlike narrative, is static. Understanding implies a forward motion, thus the possibility of change.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 263)
  • This would have been less annoying had it been untrue.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 347)
  • His fertility cycles meant little to him. In his lifetime, he knew, he might make only one or two real contributions to the City’s genetic continuity, his viral gametes combining with others in the bodies of the night feeders to become morphologically active. It was abstractly pleasing, though, to realize he had cast his own essence into the ocean of probability, where it might come floating back unknown to him, as a fresh citizen with new and unique ideas and odors.
    • Chapter 33 (p. 358)

Spin (2005)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor Books
  • Everybody falls, and we all land somewhere.
    • p. 1 (opening words)
  • Along with a dozen other students I had dissected a human cadaver and sorted its contents by size, color, function, and weight. There was nothing pleasant about the experience. Its only consolation was its truth and its only virtue was its utility.
    • p. 59
  • The world is what it is and won’t be bargained with.
    • p. 62
  • He’s exactly what she wants. He’s the last thing she needs.
    • p. 72
  • “We might have destroyed ourselves, but at least it would have been our own fault.”
    “Would it, though? Whose fault exactly? Yours? Mine? No, it would have been the result of several billion human beings making relatively innocuous choices: to have kids, drive a car to work, keep their job, solve the short-term problems first. When you reach the point at which even the most trivial acts are punishable by the death of the species, then obviously, obviously, you’re at a critical juncture, a different kind of point of no return.”
    • p. 128
  • The suicidally disgruntled were legion, And their enemies included any and all Americans, Brits, Canadians, Danes, et cetera; or, conversely, all Moslems, dark-skinned people, non-English-speakers, immigrants; all Catholics, fundamentalists, atheists; all liberals, all conservatives...For such people the consummate act of moral clarity was a lynching or a suicide bombing, a fatwa or a pogrom. And they were ascendant now, rising like dark stars over a terminal landscape.
    • p. 191
  • It was the kind of experience, Molly said, that would grow calluses on an angel’s ass.
    • p. 204
  • I don’t believe money is evil, but it can be terribly corrosive.
    • p. 225
  • I loved Molly. Or at least I told myself I did. Or, if what I felt for her was not love, it was at least a plausible imitation, a convincing substitute.
    • p. 248
  • An honest book is almost as good as a friend.
    • p. 261
  • He rolled his eyes. “Those are things people say, Tyler. Talking about multilateralism and diplomacy is like saying ‘I love you’—it serves to facilitate the fucking.
    • p. 306
  • All the brands and flavors of Big Salvation. At the last minute we would devise a technological fix and save ourselves. Or: the Hypotheticals were benevolent beings who would turn the planet into a peaceable kingdom. Or: God would rescue us all, or at least the true believers among us. Or. Or. Or.
    Big Salvation. It was a honeyed lie. A paper lifeboat, even if we were killing ourselves trying to cling to it. It wasn’t the Spin that had mutilated my generation. It was the lure and price of Big Salvation.
    • p. 340
  • “When was it obvious she was ill?”
    “Weeks ago. Or maybe—looking back on it—well—months.”
    “Has she had any kind of medical attention?” Pause. “Simon?”
    “No.”
    “Why not?”
    “It didn’t seem necessary.”
    “It didn’t seem necessary?
    “Pastor Dan wouldn’t allow it.”
    I thought: And did you tell Pastor Dan to go fuck himself?
    • p. 363
  • His eyes were closed, shut tight on whatever battle his common sense was conducting with his faith.
    • p. 377
  • “It never fails to astonish me,” Carol said. “The tenacity of love.”
    • p. 403
  • Don’t be upset. The world is full of surprises. We’re all born strangers to ourselves and each other, and we’re seldom formally introduced.
    • p. 438
  • We’ll do what life always does—defy expectations.
    • p. 451

Axis (2007)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor Books
  • “You learning anything from this?” Tyrell asked.
    Turk stood up and brushed his hands. “Yeah. I'm learning that I know even less than I thought I did.”
    • Chapter 3 (p. 36)
  • [There was] only one news channel, overseen by a bland and complexly multicultural board of advisors. It broadcast in fifteen languages and was, as a rule, interesting in none of them.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 40)
  • There’s no drug that’ll make a stupid man smart.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 81)
  • Fortune had done him few favors in the past, and he wasn’t sure he trusted it.
    • Chapter 7 (pp. 92-93)
  • What we cannot remember, we must rediscover.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 100; repeated on p. 355 at the end of the book)
  • Average people seldom talked about anything interesting and often hurt each other savagely.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 107)
  • The village muezzin called the faithful to prayer. Diane ignored the sound.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 149)
  • We spent a lot of time discussing cosmology first. I think that was your father’s unique way of evaluating people. You can tell a lot about a person, he once said, by the way they look at the stars.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 235)
  • I believed there were no Hypotheticals in the sense of consciously acting agents—conscious entities. There was only the process. The needles of evolution, endlessly knitting.
    • Chapter 35 (p. 348)

Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd-Century America (2009)[edit]

All page numbers from the hardcover edition published by Tor Books
  • These movies belonged to the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries—that period of great, unsustainable, and hedonistic prosperity, driven by the burning of Earth’s reserves of perishable oil, which culminated in the False Tribulation, and the wars, and the plagues, and the painful dwindling of inflated populations to more reasonable numbers.
    • p. 29
  • You must not make the mistake of thinking that because nothing lasts, nothing matters.
    • p. 35
  • Evolution can’t be predicted, Julian used to tell me; it’s a scattershot business; it fires, but it doesn’t aim.
    • p. 57
  • The Dutch at close proximity looked much like Americans, apart from their peculiar uniforms, and so it was their uniforms I fired at, half convinced that I was killing, not human beings, but enemy costumes, which had borne their contents here from a distant land; and if some living man suffered for his enslavement to the uniform, or was penetrated by the bullets aimed at it—well, that was unavoidable, and the fault couldn’t be placed at my feet.
    The private charade was not equivalent to Courage, but it enabled a Callousness that served a similar purpose.
    • p. 109
  • To fire a bullet into the heart or brains of one’s fellow man—even a fellow man striving to do the same to you—creates what might be called an unassimilable memory: a memory that floats on daily life the way an oil stain floats on rainwater. Stir the rain barrel, scatter the oil into countless drops, disperse it all you like, but it will not mix; and eventually the slick comes back, as loathsomely intact as it ever was.
    • pp. 110-111
  • Julian read the Bible as if it were a work of contemporary fiction, open to criticism or even revision. Once, when I queried him about the purpose of his unusual reinterpretations, he said to me, “I want a better Bible, Adam. I want a Bible in which the Fruit of Knowledge contains the Seeds of Wisdom, and makes life more pleasurable for mankind, not worse. I want a Bible in which Isaac leaps up from the sacrificial stone and chokes the life out of Abraham, to punish him for the abject and bloody sin of Obedience. I want a Bible in which Lazarus is dead and stubborn about it, rather than standing to attention at the beck and call of every passing Messiah.”
    • pp. 126-127
  • The rooms were confining, the windows minuscule, the ceilings perilously low. She could not have spent much money on the furnishings, which were shabby, threadbare, nicked, and splintered—I had seen better furniture abandoned at Montreal curbsides.
    But if her book-cases were humble, they were bowed under the weight of surprisingly many books—almost as many as there had been in the library of the Duncan and Crowley Estate back in Williams Ford. It seemed to me a treasure more estimable than any fine sofa or plush footstool, and worth all the rough economies surrounding it.
    • pp. 146-147
  • “Truth is a perilous commodity,” Julian admitted, “but so is ignorance, Adam—more so.”
    • p. 200
  • If I am an agnostic, Calyxa, it’s because I'm also a realist.
    • p. 216
  • I would confront the thieves, I thought, and the self-evident justice of my case would cause them to crumble before me. I don't know why I expected such extravagant results from the application of mere justice. That kind of calculation is seldom borne out by worldly events.
    • p. 217
  • I suppose the pursuit of fashion has always carried a price, monetary or otherwise.
    • p. 234
  • “Perpetual peace is a dream,” he said, “as much as we may yearn for it—but war! War is an integral part of God’s ordering of the universe, without which the world would be swamped in selfishness and materialism. War is the very vessel of honor, and who of us could endure a world without the divine folly of honor? That faith is especially true and adorable which leads a soldier to throw away his life in obedience to a blindly accepted duty, in a cause he little understands, during a campaign of which he has little notion, under tactics of which he does not see the use. On the field of battle, where a man lives or dies by the caprice of a bullet or the verdict of a bayonet, life is at its best and healthiest.”
    • p. 246 (spoken by the tyrannical president Deklan Comstock)
  • “Bloody indeed,” the President said. “But we’re not a nation that flinches at blood, nor are we a people constrained by feminine delicacy. To us all is permitted—even cruelty, yes, even ruthlessness—for we’re the first in the world to raise the sword not in the name of enslaving and oppressing anyone, but in the name of freeing them from bondage. We must not be miserly with blood! Let there be blood, if blood alone can drown the old secular world. Let there be pain, and let there be death, if pain and death will save us from the twin tyrannies of Atheism and Europe.”
    • pp. 247-248 (spoken by the tyrannical president Deklan Comstock)
  • Since Deacon Hollingshead’s arrival in town last July the Dominion had been hard at work, cleansing New York City of moral corruption.
    “Corruption” is a popular word with the enthusiasts of the Dominion, usually uttered as a prelude to the knife, the docket, or the noose.
    • p. 317
  • Later Julian would give me another book he had culled from among the Archival duplicates, a short novel called The Time Machine by Mr. H. G. Wells, about a marvelous but apparently imaginary cart which carried a man into the future—and it fascinated me—but the Archive itself was a Time Machine in everything but name. Here were voices preserved on browning paper like pressed flowers, whispering apostasies into the ear of a new century.
    • p. 332
  • “But you're a Philosopher!” Julian exclaimed at one point. “This is Philosophy, not Religion, since you rule out supernatural beings—you know that as well as I do!”
    “I suppose it is Philosophy, looked at from one angle,” Stepney conceded. “But there’s no money in Philosophy, Julian. Religion is far more lucrative as a career.”
    • p. 338
  • A man who submits himself wholeheartedly to God might handle them and not be harmed. That was the faith my father had professed. Certainly he trusted God, in his own case, and believed God manifested Himself in the rolled eyes of his congregants and in their babble of incomprehensible tongues. Trust and be saved, was his philosophy. And yet in the end it was the snakes that killed him. I wondered which element of the calculation had ultimately failed him—human faith or divine patience.
    • pp. 355-356
  • You never stop being a parent, Adam, no matter how old or wise your child becomes—you'll see.
    • p. 356
  • Do you want to tell the truth, or do you want to tell a story?
    • p. 361
  • Is there any evidence to the contrary? I don’t need certainty in order to act on a well-founded suspicion.
    • p. 368
  • “Sometimes he wears the crown,” Magnus Stepney once remarked, “and sometimes, by the grace of God, he takes the damned thing off.”
    • p. 377
  • Some pious men may find this truth unorthodox and bitter:
    But Nature, Chance, and Time ensure survival of the fitter!
    • p. 389
  • Deacon Hollingshead: “The history of the world is written in Scripture, and it ends in a Kingdom.”
    Julian Comstock: “The history of the world is written in sand, and it evolves as the wind blows.”
    • p. 404
  • The afternoon is too tempting to be denied. It isn’t Paradise here, or even close, but the mimosa is in bloom and the air from the sea is cool and pleasant. On days like this I think of poor old Magnus Stepney’s evolving Green God, harking us all up to Eden. The Green God’s voice is faint enough that few of us hear it clearly, and that’s our tragedy, I suppose, as a species—but I hear it very distinctly just now. It asks me to step into the sunshine, and I mean to do its bidding.
    • p. 413 (closing words)

Vortex (2011)[edit]

All page numbers from the hardcover edition published by Tor Books
  • Sandra had spent her days rendering pass/fail verdicts over troubled minds, applying tests most functional adults easily passed. Is the subject oriented to time and place? Does the subject understand the consequences of his actions? But if she could give the same test to humanity as a whole, Sandra thought, the outcome would be very much in doubt. Subject is confused and often self-destructive. Subject pursues short-term gratification at the expense of his own well-being.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 16)
  • Some things are taken away from you, some you leave behind—and some you carry with you, world without end.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 31)
  • She gave me a disdainful look. “Please don’t make facile judgments about things you don’t understand.”
    • Chapter 2 (p. 33)
  • To whom had he retailed his conscience, Sandra wondered, and what was the going price these days?
    • Chapter 9 (p. 118)
  • It was sad but completely understandable. Ten billion human beings without any cortical or limbic augmentation had simply acted to maximize their individual well-being. They hadn’t given much thought to long-term consequences, but how could they? They had no reliable mechanism by which they could think or act collectively. Blaming those people for the death of the ecosphere made as much sense as blaming water molecules for a tsunami.
    • Chapter 10 (pp. 126-127)
  • The problem was the Voxish prophecies. Our founders had written them into the Coryphaeus as unalterable axioms—embedded truths, permanently exempt from debate or revision. That hadn’t mattered when the rapture of the Hypotheticals was a distant goal toward which we moved in gradual increments. But now we had come to the blunt end of the question. Prophecy had collided with reality, and the obvious inference—that the prophecies might have been mistaken—was a possibility the Coryphaeus was forbidden to consider.
    • Chapter 22 (pp. 227-228)
  • What had been released into the desert vacuum and starry oases of the galaxy was the inexorable logic of reproduction and natural selection. What followed was parasitism, predation, symbiosis, interdependency—chaos, complexity, life.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 304)
  • From this new point of view, the universe I had inhabited became an object I could perceive in its entirety. It was a hypersphere embedded in a cloud of alternative states—the sum of all possible quantum trajectories from the big bang to the decay of matter. “Reality”—history as we had known or inferred it—was only the most likely of these possible trajectories. There were countless others, real in a different sense: a vast but finite set of paths not taken, a ghostly forest of quantum alternatives, the shores of an unknown sea.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 327)
  • What is inevitable is not death but change. Change is the only abiding reality. The metaverse evolves, fractally and forever. Saints become sinners, sinners become saints. Dust becomes men, men become gods, gods become dust.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 327)

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