The hardest theme in science fiction is that of the alien. The simplest solution of all is in fact quite profound—that the real difficulty lies not in understanding what is alien, but in understanding what is self. We are all aliens to each other, all different and divided. We are even aliens to ourselves at different stages of our lives. Do any of us remember precisely what it was like to be a baby?
"Introduction to 'Plague of Conscience'", The Collected Stories of Greg Bear (2002)
Short story originally published in Universe 9 (1979), ed. Terry Carr
There is nothing finer in the world than the telling of tales. Split atoms if you wish, but splitting an infinitive—and getting away with it—is far nobler. Lance boils if you wish, but pricking pretensions is often cleaner and always more fun.
To fight an enemy properly, you have to know what they are. Ignorance is defeat.
“We must know our enemy, at least a little.”
“That’s dangerous,” Prufrax said, almost instinctively.
“Yes, it is. What you know, you cannot hate.”
When evenly matched, you cannot win against your enemy unless you understand them. And if you truly understand, why are you fighting and not talking?
She saw that in all wars, the first stage was to dehumanize the enemy, reduce the enemy to a lower level so that he might be killed without compunction. When the enemy was not human to begin with, the task was easier.
We’ve been fighting for so long, we’ve begun to lose ourselves. And it’s getting worse.
There is no war so important that to win it, we must destroy our minds.
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace (March 1986; ISBN 0-441-06796-4)
“I’m going to take you out tonight,” he said. “Another Heisenberg dinner.”
“Uncertainty,” Edward said crisply. “We know where we are going, but not what we are going to eat. Or vice versa.”
“Sounds wonderful. Which car?”
“The Quantum, of course.”
“Oh, Lord. We just had the speedometer fixed.”
“And the steering went out?”
“Shh! It’s still working. We’re cheating.”
Chapter 10 (p. 65)
Around her gulps of water, she repeated her prayer, until the monotony and futility silenced her.
Chapter 20 (pp. 116-117)
Can’t own a woman, Mike. Wonderful companions, can’t own them.
Chapter 39 (p. 207)
“You’re a romantic, aren’t you?” she said.
“I suppose I am.”
“I am too. The silliest people in the world are romantics.”
Chapter 39 (p. 210)
He may not have had time, but even allowing him the time, Vergil simply did not think such things through. Brilliant in the creation, slovenly in the consideration of consequences.
But wasn’t that true of every creator?
Didn’t anyone who changed things ultimately lead some people—perhaps many people—to death, grief, torment?
Chapter 41 (p. 219)
Nothing will ever be the same again.
Good! Wonderful! Wasn’t it all badly flawed anyway?
No, perhaps not. Not until now.
Chapter 41 (p. 219)
Information can be stored even more compactly than in molecular memory. It can be stored in the structure of space-time. What is matter, after all, but a standing-wave of information in the vacuum?
Chapter 45 (p. 237)
“Very evocative. He seems to be confirming what I said last year—that the universe really has no underpinnings, that when a good hypothesis comes along, one that explains the prior events, the underpinnings shape themselves to accommodate and a powerful theory is born.”
“Then there is no ultimate reality?”
“Apparently not. Bad hypotheses, those that don’t fit what happen on our level, are rejected by the universe. Good ones, powerful ones, are incorporated.”
Chapter 45 (p. 239)
Nothing is lost. Nothing is forgotten.
It was in the blood, the flesh,
And now it is forever.
Interphase: Thought Universe (p. 247; closing lines)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Tor Books
“We’d like to agree with you.” He glanced at Arthur.
“We can’t, however,” Arthur said.
“For the moment, then, amicable disagreement and open minds.”
Chapter 24 (p. 159)
Apocalypse could not be repealed by the democratic process.
Chapter 34 (p. 250)
“It’s not impossible,” Minelli said.
“No,” Edward admitted, “but it’s paranoid as hell, and that’s the last thing we need, more fear.”
Chapter 37 (p. 264)
I sometimes think we deserve to die, we’re all so goddamned stupid.
Chapter 50 (p. 342)
Life on earth is hard. Competition for the necessities of life is fierce. How ridiculous to believe that the law of harsh survival would not be true elsewhere, or that it would be negated by the progress of technology in an advanced civilization...
Chapter 52 (p. 352)
Altruism is masked self-interest. Aggressive self-interest is a masked urge to self-destruction.
Chapter 52 (p. 352)
A Stellar’s jay hopped along behind him, watching closely for dropped crumbs. “It’s dark,” he told the bird. “Go to sleep. I've eaten already. Where were you? No food now.” The bird persisted, however; it knew humans were liars.