Tom Clancy

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The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense.
There's nothing that's ever happened in the world that didn't start in one human mind.

Thomas Leo Clancy, Jr. (April 12, 1947 - October 1, 2013) was an American author of both fiction and non-fiction, mostly related to the military, terrorism, and international affairs.

See also: The Hunt for Red October (film)


I’ve made up stuff that’s turned out to be real, that’s the spooky part.
If you want to tell me I'm a bum, that's okay.
The army is always looking for better ways to do its job.
Black people are pretty much the same as white people, they just tend to be a little bit darker. They make just as good soldiers.
Never ask what sort of computer a guy drives. If he's a Mac user, he'll tell you. If not, why embarrass him?
What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It's not good at much else.
  • I’ve made up stuff that’s turned out to be real, that’s the spooky part.
    • The New York Times (27 July 1986).
  • I like writing. It's the most fun I've ever had at anything. You can build your own little world and — like a kid with his toy trains, — except instead of trains I have tanks and ships and airplanes and things... I get to make them do all the things I want them to do, and if I don't like the way things work out, I start again.
  • I write strictly for fun... as long as it stays fun I'll continue to do it.
    • Interview with Don Swaim (1986).
  • "If a hero must have an unmarked grave, it should at least be close to where his comrades fell."
    "One way or another we all fight for the things we believe in. Doesn't that give us some common ground?"
  • There's two kinds of people in the world, the ones who need to be told and the ones who figure it out all by themselves.
  • Man is a creature of hope and invention, both of which belie the idea that things cannot be changed.
  • Things rarely happen for a single reason. Even the cleverest and most skilled manipulators recognize that their real art lies in making use of that which they cannot predict.
  • Nothing is as real as a dream. The world can change around you, but your dream will not. Your life may change, but your dream doesn't have to. Responsibilities need not erase it. Duties need not obscure it. Your spouse and children need not get in its way, because the dream is within you. No one can take your dream away.
    • As quoted in Writers (1995) Published by A. Deutsch.
  • Never ask what sort of computer a guy drives. If he's a Mac user, he'll tell you. If not, why embarrass him?
    • As quoted in Escape The Pace: 100 Fun And Easy Ways To Slow Down And Enjoy Your Life (2002) by Lisa Rickwood; this quote appears at least as early as 1996 online.
  • Back then "cruel and unusual punishment" meant the rack and burning at the stake — both of those things that had been used in pre-Revolutionary America — but in more recent rulings it has been taken to mean the absence of cable television and denial of sex-change operations, or just overcrowding in the prisons.
  • The difference between reality and fiction? Fiction has to make sense.
    • Attirbuted to an interview on Larry King Live; also quoted in Quotable Quotes (1997) edited by Deborah Deford
      Attributed variant: The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense.
      • Clancy here expresses an idea evoked in similar statements made by others, all derived from the orignial made by Lord Byron:
        Lord Byron: Truth is always strange; stranger than fiction.
        Mark Twain : Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, truth isn't.
        G. K. Chesterton: Truth must necessarily be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind and therefore congenial to it.
        Leo Rosten : Truth is stranger than fiction; fiction has to make sense. (attributed).
  • The difference between me and you is that I do good fiction.
    • Jokingly to news reporters. Speech at the National Press Club (18 May 1999)
    • The hard part is discriminating between factual reporting and journalistic fiction. Last year at the National Press Club I said out loud and in public [C-SPAN was there] that the difference between me and a lot of reporters is that I do good fiction. Some were polite enough to chuckle.
  • People, I am actually fairly smart. Why has this not occurred to anyone? The information is all out there, if you go looking for it, and the classified stuff just comes from analyzing the unclassified stuff and connecting the dots...
    • "Clancy Speaks Again, Briefly" (12 February 2000).
  • Wars are begun by frightened men. They fear war, but more than that, they fear what will happen if they don't start one — or take equivalent action, I suppose.
  • Life is about learning; when you stop learning, you die.
    • As quoted in The Appraiser's Handbook : A Guide for Doctors (2007) by Nick Lyons, Susanne Caesar, Abayomi McEwen, p. 11.

Schafer interview (1995)[edit]

"Vonnegut and Clancy on Technology" by David H. Freedman & Sarah Schafer
  • In case you haven't noticed, we live in a world that is for the first time in all of recorded human history unlikely to have a major war. There used to be this country called the Soviet Union; it's not there anymore. The reason is our technology was better than theirs. Probably what pushed the Russians over the edge was SDI. It was really a combination of SDI and CNN. They realized they couldn't beat us so they decided to change the ball game.
  • Look, this is simple. The good old days are now. OK? The human condition today is better than it's ever been, and technology is one of the reasons for that.
  • What underclass? I mean you know, what underclass? Do you know any of them? Do they have automobiles? Most of them probably do. Do most of them have television sets? Do most of them have telephones? Well, if they can afford automobiles, they can afford computers. And since they have television sets, they already have access to communications technology. And since they have telephones, they can talk to one another. Wherein are they deprived?
  • Look, technology is another word for tool. There was a time when nails were high-tech. There was a time when people had to be told how to use a telephone. We got past that. Technology is just a tool. People use tools to improve their lives.
  • Our tools keep getting better, and as a result of that, our lives keep getting better.
  • People live longer today than they ever have. They live happier lives, they have more knowledge, they have more information. All this is the result of communications technology and the tools with which man has equipped himself. How is any of that bad?
  • I was one of the first generations to watch television. That's technology. TV is like any other kind of tool. TV exposes people to news, to information, to knowledge, to entertainment. How is it bad? Computers are going to be even bigger. TVs are one-way. You sit there and you watch it. Computers, you interact with.
  • No matter what you or anyone else does, there will be someone who says that there's something bad about it. Whenever somebody comes up with a good idea, there's somebody else who has never had a good idea in his life who stands up and says, "Oh, you can't do that..."
  • I'd rather talk to people who do things than complain about other people who do things. I say they're idiots.
  • Fighting wars is not so much about killing people as it is about finding things out. The more you know, the more likely you are to win a battle. Take the AEGIS system in the navy. It's a radar computer system for air-battle management. What it does is give the commander an extra 15 minutes to decide what he's going to do to fight a battle, and those 15 minutes are decisively important.
  • A field commander never has the information he needs. He has to go with his best hunch. The more information he has, the easier it is for him to win the battle.
  • The more information a guy has, the more likely he is to say, "Hey, King Charlie, you really blew that call." That's why democracy happened. The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people.
  • Countries that do not control knowledge and information tend to do better because the average guy who is exposed to a lot of information can get ideas and profit from them.
  • America is the most inventive country in the world. Why? Because everybody has access to information. In the Soviet Union it was illegal to take a photograph of a train station. Look what happened to them. They tried to classify everything. The more information available to the average person, the greater the synergy that develops from it.
  • There are people in government who don't want other people to know what they know. It's just another example of elitism. And I spit on elitism. Show me an elitist, and I'll show you a loser.

CNN interview (1999)[edit]

Interview promoting Every Man a Tiger (1999), co-written with General Charles Horner. (12 May 1999)
  • My vision for this book and the others in the series is to let people know what kind of commanders we have. You don't pick generals off park benches. … They are experts at what they do and lot of thinking goes into it. And I want to get across to people the intellectual dimension of command, to let people know that it's hard to be a general. And the people we have with general stars on their shoulders are pretty smart and pretty good guys.
  • The thing you have to understand about fighter pilots is they never quite grow past the stage of little boys buzzing past girls on their bicycles.
  • That's the ultimate pornography... There's nothing more pornographic than glorifying war.
  • I think it's going to be remembered as the last major war on planet Earth, if we're lucky, if we maintain our foreign policy properly. … It will be remembered as the last time major countries had to put people in the field and put them in harm's way. It may be the last of all human nature wars, which is a nice way to remember any kind of a war, as the last one.

CNN interview (2000)[edit]

Interview (22 August 2000) promoting The Bear and the Dragon (2000)
  • My wife will tell you I'm practically addicted to the History Channel … and I read a lot of history.
  • There's been historical conflict between China and Russia for well over 1,000 years. … People forget that the Mongols came all the way to the Baltic Sea and all the way to where St. Petersburg is today … And the Russians have a good sense of history and they remember that.
  • China has a lot of people and not enough space and the Russians have not too many people and a lot of space.
  • Certainly, we live in a different world … for the first time in all of known human history, we live in a world absent of the likelihood of superpower conflict. Now we live in a world in which there are superpowers, but we're not butting heads all the time. That's a very good thing for the world... but... there's still a few bad guys out there.

Larry King Live (2000)[edit]

Larry King Live Weekend (27 August 2000)
  • I'm a spy... I worked for the CIA 15 years. The cover was I worked for the insurance business.
    • Said Jokingly.
  • America is a country with a First Amendment, and you're allowed to publish just about anything you want, as long as it's not real secret information. Of course, nobody really does that except for, you know, you guys in the media.
  • There are things I know I know about I don't write about, which I could not responsibly put into my books. Interestingly enough, though, the scariest one of those things is not classified at all. But nevertheless, I don't write about it, because it would make the world a somewhat more dangerous place.
  • The People's Republic of China is still a Marxist, Leninist, Maoist nation. So, you know, communism is still involved there. They haven't figured their way out of that particularly ideological box yet and that's their misfortune.
  • "Rainbow Six" was sort of a spinoff of one my books, which did pretty well. … Interestingly enough, I never play the games. I just sort of — it's more fun for me to help formulate them than it is to play them.
  • Historically, anything that gets information to people is good for the world. The most important human being who ever lived, if you want to leave out religious figures, would be Johannes Gutenberg... that's when the liberation of human thought happened, because people could read the thoughts of people across the world, and have thoughts of their own, and publish them and spread information around. Anything that gets information to people is good. America has prospered because we're the most information-friendly society in the world.
  • The average guy is smart enough to know the difference between what works and what doesn't, and if you have bad information, sooner or later, you figure it out and you get onto something else.
  • The average guy is fairly smart, if you give him the ability to make decisions for himself. That's the whole premise of America, and that's why America has prospered, and it prospers because if the average guy can get information, he can make his own decisions.
  • The Soviet Union is dead and gone and replaced by the Russian Federation, which is a country we can be friends with now, thank God — and we want the Russians to prosper, and should help the Russians prosper in every way we can within reason.
  • Fifteen years ago, there was this country called the Soviet Union that had over 10,000 nuclear warheads pointed at us... they're not there anymore. That's a good thing. And when people talk about how the world is more dangerous now than it was because we had these terrorists running around, my reply is, you know, a terrorist is like a buzzing mosquito. About 15 years ago, there was a great, big vampire bat; that's several orders of magnitude different from a mosquito. So the world is much safer — a lot safer than it was. It's not perfectly safe, but it's a heck of a lot safer than it was.

In Depth with Tom Clancy (2002)[edit]

In Depth with Tom Clancy, C-SPAN, (3 February 2002)
  • If you want to tell me I'm a bum, that's okay.
  • The military has always been a very introspective organization. One of the reasons why the army is so progressive is its always examining itself. The army is always looking for better ways to do its job.
  • The army recognized early on that, you know, black people are pretty much the same as white people; they just tend to be a little bit darker. They make just as good soldiers.
  • There's nothing that's ever happened in the world that didn't start in one human mind.

Kudlow & Cramer interview (2003)[edit]

Kudlow & Cramer interview (2 September 2003)
  • What the government is good at is collecting taxes, taking away your freedoms and killing people. It's not good at much else.
  • I've been telling people for 12 years that if you want to get a nuclear device into the United States, just bring it through the port of Miami disguised as cocaine.

GameSpy interview[edit]

I don't discuss works in progress...
Interview with Sacha A. Howells
  • I wanted a different way in which to tell my stories. Coming up with concepts for computer games gives me another avenue of creative expression. It's not just me telling the story, it's me designing the idea for a story and letting the players write their own ending.
  • When the first mission of Rainbow Six was actually coming together we really started to realize that we might have a hit on our hands, but hadn't really expected the runaway success.
  • To truly feel like we're fighting terrorism, we need as much intelligence and infiltration as possible into known rivals of democracy. Once that information is collected, a sincere commitment must be made to thwart their effects through unified/joint military resolve.
  • I don't discuss works in progress...
    • Attributed variant: I don't discuss future works or works in progress.

Quotes about Clancy[edit]

  • Clancy's got a very simple view of the world. Good versus evil. Evil seems to get the upper hand. Good triumphs with vastly superior automatic weapons!
    • Bill Bailey, as quoted in "Spooks, Kooks, Spies and Lies" by Les Marcott in Scene4 Magazine (May 2007).
  • If all you want is plot, go and read a Tom Clancy novel.
    • Warren Ellis, in Bad Signal

External links[edit]

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