Charles Sheffield

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Charles Sheffield (25 June 1935 – 2 November 2002) was an English-born mathematician, physicist and science fiction writer who served as a President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society.


Summertide (1990)[edit]

Page numbers from the revised version included in the omnibus mass market paperback edition Convergent Series published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-87791-7 (first printing, October 1998)
  • But humans had to learn to ignore appearance. No two beings who shared common thinking processes and common goals should be truly alien to each other.
    • Chapter 5, “Summertide Minus Thirty” (p. 61)
  • But mere plausibility did not make the statement true.
    • Chapter 6, “Summertide Minus Twenty-Nine” (p. 65)
  • Mathematics is universal. But very little else is.
    • Chapter 10, “Summertide Minus Eighteen” (p. 119)
  • Everyone was polite; no one was happy.
    • Chapter 11, “Summertide Minus Thirteen” (p. 126)
  • The partners were there; gravity was calling the changes, and the cosmic dance was ready to begin.
    • Chapter 11, “Summertide Minus Thirteen” (p. 127)
  • That’s what logic says. But I say, phooey, who wants logic? Not you, and not me. We want results.
    • Chapter 13, “Summertide Minus Ten” (p. 150)
  • What does one do when a madman suggests an appealing course of action? One worries—but probably goes along with it.
    • Chapter 13, “Summertide Minus Ten” (p. 151)
  • Be an optimist! It’s the only way to live.
    • Chapter 13, “Summertide Minus Ten” (p. 151)
  • “We’re just too nosy, Commander,” he went on. “Most humans have their patience level set a little too low, and their curiosity a bit too high.”
    • Chapter 13, “Summertide Minus Ten” (p. 153)
  • We are creatures of conditioning, Commander. We assume that what we know is easy, and we find mysterious whatever we do not.
    • Chapter 18, “Summertide Minus Five” (p. 197)
  • It might be an impossible task, but at least it was a well-defined one. The rules for performance were no problem. He had learned them long ago on Teufel: you succeed, or you die trying. Until you succeed, you never relax. Until you die, you never give up.
    • Chapter 21, “Three Hours to Summertide” (p. 232)
  • No purpose is served by making private suffering into a public event.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 254)

Divergence (1991)[edit]

Page numbers from the revised version included in the omnibus mass market paperback edition Convergent Series published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-87791-7 (first printing, October 1998)
  • Human history extends for approximately ten thousand years before the Expansion, with written records available for roughly half that time. Unfortunately, the human tendency for self-delusion, self-aggrandizement, and baseless faith in human superiority over all other intelligent life-forms renders much of the written record unreliable. Serious research workers are advised to seek alternative primary data sources concerning humans. —From the Universal Species Catalog (Subclass: Sapients)
    • Chapter 1 (p. 282)
  • Human culture is built around four basic elements: sexual relationships, territorial rights, individual intellectual dominance, and desire for group acceptance. The H’Sirin model using just these four traits as independent variables enables accurate prediction of human behavior patterns. On the basis of this, human culture is judged to be of Level Two, with few prospects for advancement to a higher level. —From the Universal Species Catalog (Subclass: Sapients)
    • Chapter 1 (p. 282)
  • The universe is all extremes. Monstrous gravity fields, or next-to-nothing ones; extreme cold, or heat so intense that solids and liquids cannot exist; multimillion atmosphere pressures, or near-vacuum.
    Ice or fire. Niflheim or Muspelheim: the ancient alternatives, imagined by humans long before the Expansion.
    It’s planets that are the oddities; the strange neutral zone between suns and space, the thin interface where moderate temperatures and pressures and gravity fields can exist. And if planets are anomalies, then planets able to support life are rarer yet—a zero-measure subset in that set of strangeness.
    And within that alien totality, where do humans fit?
    • Chapter 5 (p. 304)
  • The prevailing theory to resolve this paradox comes from limited studies of Lo’tfian physiology. The male brain, it is believed, is highly organized and possesses powerful intelligence. However, it contains an unknown physical inhibitor, chemical in nature, that forbids the employment of that intelligence when in the presence of a Lo’tfian female. Confronted by such a female, the reasoning ability of the male Lo’tfian simply switches off. (A much weaker form of this phenomenon has been attributed to other species. See Human entry of this catalogue.) —From the Universal Species Catalog (Subclass: Sapients)
    • Chapter 5 (p. 312)
  • That’s why we want it. Impossible gadgets are always the most valuable.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 433)
  • Birdie cringed. If there was one thing worse than being a coward, it was being mistaken for a hero.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 441)
  • Don’t confuse caution with cowardice.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 495)

Transcendence (1992)[edit]

Page numbers from the revised version included in the omnibus mass market paperback edition Transvergence published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-57837-5 (first printing, November 1999)
  • Darya stood up, heard her voice rising, and knew she was doing what she insisted what a scientist should never do: allowing passion and the defense of personal theories to interfere with logical analysis.
    • Chapter 5, “Sentinel Gate” (p. 45)
  • Old habits did not just die hard. They refused to die at all.
    • Chapter 7, “The Torvil Anfract” (p. 70)
  • Once you were committed to a course of action, you didn’t waste your time looking back and second-guessing the decision, because every action in life was taken on the basis of incomplete information. You looked at what you had, and you did all you could to improve the odds; but at some point you had to roll the dice—and live or die with whatever you had thrown.
    • Chapter 9, “Genizee” (pp. 91-92)
  • The answers come pat and fast. You see, what the downsiders want isn’t an explanation; it’s a catchphrase they can use instead of an explanation.
    • Chapter 9, “Genizee” (p. 101)
  • Darya found the logic of her thought processes so compelling that it never occurred to her that others might have a different reaction. But they did.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 122)
  • If you win too easy, better ask what’s going on that you don’t know about.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 125)
  • But no one, no matter how intelligent, could make good inferences from bad data.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 126)
  • Darya was beginning to understand why she might be ruined forever for academic life. Certainly, the world of ideas had its own pleasures and thrills. But surely there was nothing to compete with the wonderful feeling of being alive, after knowing without a shadow of doubt that you would be dead in one second.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 160)
  • Nothing was more fascinating than information. It was infinite in quantity, or effectively so, limited only by the total entropy of the universe; it was vastly diverse and various; it was eternal; It was available for collection, anywhere and anytime. And, perhaps best of all, E. C. Tally thought with the largest amount of self-satisfaction that his circuits permitted, you never knew when it might come in useful.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 165)
  • Darya had a few moments of wild hope before logic intruded.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 194)
  • Hans Rebka sat on a rounded pyramid never designed for contact with the human posterior, and thought about luck.
    There was good luck, which mostly happened to other people. And there was bad luck, which usually happened to you. Sometimes, through observation, guile, and hard work, you could avoid bad luck—even make it look like good luck, to others. But you would know the difference, even if no one else did.
    Well, suppose that for a change good luck came your way. How should you greet that stranger to your house? You could argue that its arrival was inevitable, that the laws of probability insisted that good and bad must average out over long enough times and large enough samples. Then you could welcome luck in, and feel pleased that your turn had come round at last.
    Or you could hear what Hans Rebka was hearing: the small, still voice breathing in his ear, telling him that this good luck was an impostor, not to be trusted.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 202)
  • “We’re all here,” said Louis Nenda’s voice.
    “Where’s here? Can you see?”
    “Not a thing. Black as a politician’s heart.”
    • Chapter 19 (p. 209)
  • Kallik’s explanation was neat, logical, and complete. Like most such explanations, it was, in Hans Rebka’s view, almost certainly wrong. That was not the way the real world operated.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 212)
  • “To a logical entity, such as myself, the behavior of organic intelligences such as yourself, provides many anomalies. For example, the history of humanity, the species concerning which my data banks have most information, is replete with cases where humans, on little or no evidence, have believed in impossibilities. They have accepted the existence of a variety of improbable entities: of gods and demons, of fairies and elves, of ‘good luck’ charms, of magic potions, of curses and hexes and evil eyes.”
    “Tally, if you’re going to blather about—”
    “But at the same time, humans and other organic intelligences often seem unwilling to accept the implications and consequences of their own legitimate scientific theories.”
    • Chapter 23 (pp. 256-257)

Convergence (1997)[edit]

Page numbers from the revised version included in the omnibus mass market paperback edition Transvergence published by Baen Books ISBN 0-671-57837-5 (first printing, November 1999)
  • Are we perhaps guilty of temporal chauvinism, believing that our own time is uniquely important, as all generation tend to think that their time is of unique importance?
    • Chapter 5 (p. 312)
  • “Professor Lang’s important work, with all due respect, does not answer that question.”
    The knife, sliding in hidden behind the compliment. “With all due respect” meant “with no respect at all.”
    • Chapter 5 (p. 313)
  • Theories were a dime a dozen. The partition that separated science and wishful thinking was evidence: observations and firm facts.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 317)
  • Science wasn’t a show-business talent, conducted in large halls and decided by audience applause.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 321)
  • “How did you do that?”
    The Hymenopt inclined her head. “With respect, Professor Lang, great intellectual power, even at the level you possess it, is not always a substitute for humble practical experience.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 347)
  • His sin was something that scientists had done for thousands of years. Scientists didn’t usually change data, not unless they were outright charlatans. But when facts didn’t agree with theory, there was an awful temptation to find reasons for rejecting the offending data and and hanging on to the theory. Ptolemy had done it. Newton had done it. Darwin had done it. Einstein had done so explicitly.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 353)
  • Trouble comes in a thousand different ways. Not usually anything you expect, either. That’s why it’s trouble.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 381)
  • Didn’t anything scare the two aliens? Sometimes she wondered if humans were the only beings in the universe with a sense of cowardice (be charitable, and call it and instinct for self-preservation).
    • Chapter 14 (p. 396)
  • He realized a profound truth: there is no one so generous as a bureaucrat spending other people’s money.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 400)
  • Logic was good, but too much logical analysis inhibited action. Darya had heard it seriously suggested that the original human cladeworld, Earth, had degenerated to an ineffectual backwater of a planet because computer trade-off analysis had increasingly been used as the basis for decision making. On purely logical grounds, no one would ever explore, invent, rejoice, sing, strive, fall in love, or take physical and psychological risks of any kind. Better to stay in bed in the morning; it was much safer.
    • Chapter 23 (pp. 481-482)
  • When a person was so consistently wrong, it was time to give up having opinions.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 488)
  • Nothing in life produce a more powerful joy than a near miss by the Angel of Death.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 516)
  • He was a professional trouble-shooter. That was a fancy name for an idiot.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 516)
  • Improbable as it seems, I think she admires you more than me.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 524)
  • His mind was as furiously active as his hormones.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 528)
  • Happy endings were for children’s stories and fool. You live in misery, and then you die. Life, by definition, was not designed to end happily.
    Louis continued aft. No happy ending, then. That was a fact, certain as death itself. He was living at the moment in a dream, an imagined world where everything went right.
    But—dreams are real while they last. Could you say more of life?
    A dream sequence was no more than a happy interlude, but maybe a happy interlude could last for an awful long time.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 529)

Resurgence (2002)[edit]

Page numbers from the mass market paperback version published by Baen Books ISBN 0-7434-8819-9 (first printing, April 2004)
  • Somehow he felt more resigned than surprised. Things had been going far too well for far too long. Just when you thought you had the universe by the tail, it turned round and bit you on the ass.
    • Chapter 2, “On Xerarchos, at the Far End of the Zardalu Communion” (p. 16)
  • When you have something to do, do it. When you have nothing to do, sleep.
    • Chapter 4, “Sleepless in Miranda Port” (p. 33)
  • If you wanted to get yourself killed, there was no better way than to think you knew all the tricks. It took experience to make you realize that the universe could always pull another one out of the bag and throw it at you.
    • Chapter 8, “Theories, Theories, Theories” (p. 84)
  • As you will one day discover, a leader is not a leader because of the way that he or she behaves. He is a leader only because of the way that he is treated by others.
    • Chapter 16, “And Then There Were None” (p. 187)
  • I do not like to concatenate implausibilities.
    • Chapter 16, “And Then There Were None” (p. 188)
  • Idle wishing for circumstances different from what you had was a waste of time.
    • Chapter 20, “Tally on Down” (p. 245)
  • When you had little or no information, it was unreasonable to have any expectations. But somehow you did, even if they were often wrong.
    • Chapter 20, “Tally on Down” (p. 246)
  • Arabella Lund had been full of “rules,” and one of her most basic was this: Anything in the universe can happen once, or at least it can seem to happen. If you want to obtain information, make it happen again.
    • Chapter 21, “In Limbo, and out of it” (pp. 251-252)
  • You crazy? You’ve got me confused with a guy who cares about other people.
    • Chapter 30, “Stripping the Ship” (p. 368)
  • “That’s a whole lot of ifs you got there.”
    “True. But which would you prefer, Louis Nenda?” Atvar H’sial rose from her crouched position. “A substantial set of contingent possibilities, or a single unpleasant certainty?”
    • Chapter 32, “Escape Clause” (p. 385)

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