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Jack McDevitt (born April 14, 1935) is an American science fiction author.
The Hercules Text (1986)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published in 1986 by Ace Books
- Gambini was addicted to asking the sort of ultimate questions about which one could speculate endlessly with no fear of ever arriving at a solution.
- Chapter 2 (p. 19)
- We’re talking about something we all want very much to find. And that automatically makes Ed’s conclusions suspect.
- Chapter 2 (p. 30)
- It had occurred to Rimford, at about the time he approached fifty, that the chief drawback in contemplating the enormous gulfs of time and space that constitute the bricks and mortar of the cosmologist is that one acquires a dismaying perception of the handful of years allotted a human being.
- Chapter 3 (p. 37)
- Ah, Lord, if I doubt You, it is perhaps because You hide Yourself so well.
- Chapter 4 (p. 63)
- Secrecy is a compulsive reflex in this country. It strangles thought, delays scientific progress, and destroys integrity.
- Chapter 7 (p. 105)
- “I can’t imagine,” said Dupre, “a better way to unnerve people than to tell them there’s no cause for alarm.”
- Chapter 9 (p. 132)
- Politicians always seemed to be willing to sacrifice the general welfare to win votes.
- Chapter 9 (p. 138)
- The stars are silent.
Voyager among dark harbors, I listen, but the midnight wind carries only the sound of trees and water lapping against the gunwale and the solitary cry of the night swallow.
There is no dawn. No searing sun rises in east or west. The rocks over Calumal do not silver, and the great round world slides through the void.
- Chapter 10 Monitor (p. 162)
- “I suspect we would be wise,” he said without looking up, “to avoid declaring what God will or will not allow.”
- Chapter 12 (p. 194)
- A man is entitled to only one great passion in a lifetime. Whether it’s music or a profession or a woman, everything else pales in its afterglow. The searing shock so changes one’s chemistry that if the object is lost, the experience can never be repeated. Only anticlimax remains.
- Chapter 14 (p. 209)
- He’d grown a mustache since Randall had last seen him. It was hard to understand why: He looked devious enough without it.
- Chapter 15 (p. 224)
Academy Series - Priscilla "Hutch" Hutchins
The Engines of God (1994)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in 2003 by Ace Books
- How does it happen that the most intractable types always rise to the top?
- Chapter 6 (p. 81)
- The cultures we can look at had already grasped the essential unity of nature. No board of gods can survive that knowledge.
- Chapter 8 (p. 107)
- Henry had been around long enough to know better than to disagree. But he forgot to implement.
- Chapter 10 (p. 142)
- He would make a good manager, but he had a little too much integrity to survive in a top job.
- Chapter 12 (p. 161)
- He objected on principle to the powerful.
- Chapter 16 (p. 213)
- The problem is that too often the only people who can act don’t want change. Power doesn’t so much corrupt as it breeds conservatism.
- Chapter 25 (p. 356)
- Show me what a people admire, and I will tell you everything about them that matters.
- Chapter 30 (p. 398)
- Maybe the universe doesn’t approve of places like New York.
- Chapter 30 (p. 408)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in 2002 by Eos
- The impending collision out there somewhere in the great dark between a gas giant and a world very much like our own has some parallels to the eternal collision between religion and common sense. One is bloated and full of gas, and the other is measurable and solid. One engulfs everything around it, and the other simply provides a place to stand. One is a rogue destroyer that has come in out of the night, and the other is a warm well-lighted place vulnerable to the sainted mobs.
- Chapter 1 (p. 15)
- The only people he knew of who would have leveled material advantage so that no one had any were of course those who had none to start with.
- Chapter 3 (p. 55)
- During his sixty-odd years, he had found there were as many louts in the patrician classes as there were ignoramuses farther down the social spectrum.
- Chapter 4 (p. 72)
- (He remarked) that anyone who truly wished to develop tolerance toward other human beings should start by casting aside any and all religious affiliation. When challenged by one of the other guests, he had asked innocently whether anyone could name a single person put to death or driven from his home by an atheist over theological matters.
- Chapter 4 (pp. 72-73)
- Throughout our long and sorry history it has been men who supposed themselves to be exemplars of integrity who have done all the damage. Every crusade, whether for decent literary standards or to cover women’s bodies or to free the holy land, had been launched, endorsed, and enthusiastically perpetrated by men of character.
- Chapter 6 (p. 94)
- Faith has its price. When misfortune strikes the true believer, he assumes he has done something to deserve punishment, but isn’t quite certain what. The realist, recognizing that he lives in a Darwinian universe, is simply grateful to have made it to another sunset.
- Chapter 10 (p. 165)
- He took particular delight in neutralizing those who desperately needed to be neutralized, those overblown, self-important, arrogant half-wits who were always running about dictating behavior, morals, and theology to everyone else. And he never looked back.
- Chapter 11 (p. 180)
- Tides are like politics. They come and go with a great deal of fuss and noise, but inevitably they leave the beach just as they found it. On those few occasions when major change does occur, it is rarely good news.
- Chapter 22 (p. 323)
- “Sometimes,” he said, “I think life is just one long series of blown opportunities.”
- Chapter 22 (p. 327)
- Few of the virtues are really useful. Fidelity leads to lost opportunity, truth-telling to injured feelings, charity to additional solicitations. The least productive, and possibly the most overrated, is faith. The faithful deny reason, close their minds to the evidence of their senses, and remain unfailingly optimistic in the face of disaster. They inevitably get just what they deserve.
- Chapter 27 (p. 375)
- Mac continued to write scathing commentary on assorted hypocrisies in high places and low, without which hypocrisies, he cheerfully conceded, civilized life would be impossible.
- Epilogue (p. 506)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in 2003 by Ace Books
- “One should always be skeptical. That’s always been our problem. We have too many believers.”
“Believers in what?”
- Chapter 5 (p. 72)
- The man was either foolish or fearless. Assuming there was a difference.
- Chapter 10 (p. 139)
- So long as you believe in some truth you do not believe in yourself. You are a servant. A man of faith.
- Chapter 12 (p. 158), quoting Max Stiner
- What would happen is that people like Geroge and Alyx would grow old and die chasing a dream. Although there were probably worse things to do with one’s life.
- Chapter 12 (p. 165)
- One could not always put safety up front as the prime goal. Do that, and who would ever achieve anything of note?
- Chapter 14 (p. 191)
- There’d been studies over the years supporting the proposition that groups composed exclusively of women usually made intelligent decisions, that exclusively male groups did a bit less well, and that mixed groups did most poorly of all, by a substantial margin. It appeared that, when women were present, testosterone got the upper hand and men took greater risks than they might otherwise. Correspondingly, women in the mixed group tended to revert to roles, becoming more passive, and going along with whatever misjudgment the males might perpetrate.
- Chapter 24 (p. 335)
- Her experience had taught her that people who insisted on having others recognize their outstanding qualities usually didn’t have any.
- Chapter 26 (p. 369)
- The Peacekeepers had a tradition that every problem had a solution. It was a nice slogan. Wasn’t true, but it sounded good.
- Chapter 31 (p. 432)
- “Organized mayhem,” Nick commented, “seems to be the chief preoccupation of intelligent species everywhere.”
- Chapter 31 (p. 432)
- “Alyx,” she said, “you're going to be a legend.”
“I already am, Captain,” she said.
- Chapter 34 (p. 471)
- Embrace your life, find what it is that you love, and pursue it with all your soul. For if you do not, when you come to die, you will find that you have not lived.
- Chapter 36 (p. 487)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in 2004 by Ace Books
- Our generation faces only one danger, that we might say to ourselves this is not our problem, and that we will pass it off to the distant future. That we might shrug and say to ourselves that a thousand years is a long time. That we will become complacent and conclude that this problem will take care of itself.
But I say to you, we should take no satisfaction in the fact that we ourselves are in no physical danger. This is a hazard to our world, to everything we hope to pass on to future generations. And it is clear that we should act now, while we have the time.
- Prudence, and experience, suggested she expect the worst.
- Chapter 3 (p. 46)
- Defend your opinion only if it can be shown to be true, not because it is your opinion.
- Chapter 33 (p. 348)
- The queen of virtues is the recognition of one’s own flaws.
- Chapter 33 (p. 349)
- Somewhere we taught ourselves that our opinions are more significant than the facts. And somehow we get our egos and our opinions and Truth all mixed up in a single package, so that when something does challenge one of the notions to which we subscribe, we react as if it challenges us.
- Chapter 41 (p. 404)
- Of course, they (i. e., demons) had always been observed with some regularity, but that could usually be ascribed to an overabundance of piety or wine or imagination. Take your pick.
- Chapter 45 (p. 439)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in 2007 by Ace Books
- Put the money into schools. Rational ones that train young minds to think, to demand that persons in authority show the evidence for the ideas they push. Do that, and we won’t need to provide a world for the Sacred Brethren who, given the opportunity, would run everyone else off the planet.
- Chapter 2 (p. 13)
- So we have progressed to the point where we can move politicians around faster than light. I'm not sure I see the advantage.
- Chapter 3 (p. 19)
- He was a decent enough guy, but he was always at his worst when he was trying to be sincere.
- Chapter 3 (p. 24)
- In the larger scale of things, his opinions didn’t count anyhow. The politicians made the decisions, and the voters paid no attention.
- Chapter 4 (p. 31)
- If you're right, and nobody really cares what’s out there, I wonder whether we’re even worth saving.
- Chapter 4 (p. 36)
- The reality is, we don’t want our kids to be smart. We want them to be like us. Only more so.
- Chapter 4 (p. 37)
- Most government and corporate leaders would have trouble getting people to follow them out of a burning building. One way you can tell the worst of them is that they talk about leadership a lot. I doubt Winston Churchill ever used the word. Or, for that matter, Attila the Hun.
- Chapter 5 (p. 38)
- Idiots are not responsible for what they do. The real guilt falls on rational people who sit on their hands while the morons run wild. You can opt out if you want to. Play it safe. But if you do, don’t complain when the roof comes down.
- Chapter 6 (p. 48)
- Freedom and idiots make a volatile mix. And the sad truth is that the idiocy quotient in the general population is alarmingly high.
- Chapter 7 (p. 59)
- The earliest religious feeling MacAllister could recall was being annoyed at Adam, because it was his fault that girls subsequently had to wear clothes.
- Chapter 7 (p. 66)
- Sometimes the cost of integrity is the loss of a friend.
- Chapter 7 (p. 69)
- When things go wrong, the standard management strategy is to decide who takes the blame. This should be an underling, as far down the chain as possible, but preferably with some visibility so people know management means business.
- Chapter 9 (p. 78)
- Talking with most people usually involves a search for truth. Talking with congressmen is strictly special effects.
- Chapter 10 (p. 85)
- Faith is conviction without evidence, and sometimes even in the face of contrary evidence. In some quarters, this quality is perceived as a virtue.
- Chapter 12 (p. 106)
- A child’s mind is open to learn, and it is a cruel and heartless thing to fill it with myth disguised as history, to impose upon it a bogus lifelong perspective, and close it up again, leaving it proof against common sense and all argument. Surely, if there is a hell, people who do this are the ones who will get their tickets punched.
A judgment by the God who devised the quantum system should be considerably different from the one the Reverend Koestler envisions. I gave you a sky full of stars, and you never raised your eyes. I gave you a brain, and you never used it.
- Chapter 12 (p. 113)
- An optimist is somebody who thinks our various political and social systems, schools and churches, support groups and Boy Scout troops, jury trials and congressional committees, are on the up-and-up. That they are intended for the benefit of the members. The reality is that they are designed to keep everyone in line.
- Chapter 13 (p. 114)
- There are few professions whose primary objective is to advance the cause of humanity rather than simply to make money or accrue power. Among this limited group of humanitarians I would number teachers, nurses, bookstore owners, and bartenders.
- Chapter 14 (p. 124)
- See what the world looks like from orbit. Well, in that way, at least, there was profit to be had. Nobody could look down at the planet, green and blue, with no borders in evidence and no sign of human habitation, and not get his perspective forever altered.
- Chapter 16 (p. 142)
- It had been his experience that the worst cynics all started out as idealists.
- Chapter 18 (p. 166)
- We can create the appearance of knowledge, the illusion of knowing how to grapple with a problem. Far too many educational systems have done exactly that. The result is generations of mouthpieces who can pour forth approved responses to programmed stimuli that contribute nothing to rational discussion. Dogma is for those who only wish to be comfortable. Catechisms are for cowards; commandments, for control freaks who have so little respect for their species that they are driven to appeal to a higher power to keep everyone in line.
- Chapter 21 (p. 193)
- The idiots always rose to the top and made policy.
It explained a lot of things.
- Chapter 22 (p. 200)
- The notion that we need a higher power, that’s more a human failing than a reflection of reality. The universe pays no attention to what we need. Truth is what it is, and the inconveniences it might cause us don’t change anything.
- Chapter 22 (p. 203)
- Why is it that people want so desperately to shake hands with otherworldly beings? That people will even insist that they have seen visitors from Spica hovering above their backyards? In other times it was ghosts and fairies and goblins, and voices in the night. Is the company of our own species so dull that we need to invent the Other? On the other hand, maybe that explains it.
- Chapter 24 (p. 218)
- MacAllister wasn’t always right, but he was smart enough to know that. He was willing to change his mind when the evidence pointed in a different direction. That fact alone put MacAllister very nearly in a class by himself.
- Chapter 24 (p. 220)
- Yes, it was not journalism’s finest hour. But, MacAllister often argued, it never had been.
- Chapter 24 (p. 222)
- Well, kids are never much on history. Nor for that matter was anybody else. It had been MacAllister’s experience that most people think anything that happened before they were born didn’t count for a whole lot.
- Chapter 25 (p. 227)
- The invention of the printing press probably marks the beginning of the decline of civilization. Once you have it, science follows close behind. Next thing you know the idiots have better weaponry. Then atom bombs. Meantime, social organization becomes increasingly dependent on technology, which becomes increasingly vulnerable to error or sabotage. If we can judge by our own experience, it looks as if you get the printing press, then about a thousand years. After that it’s back to the trees.
- Chapter 27 (p. 243)
- “It’s so old,” she said, “that, had life developed, it would be billions of years older than we are. Imagine what such a civilization might be like.”
Dead, thought MacAllister. That’s what it would be like. The fact that no technologically advanced species had been found in all these years made it pretty clear that the damned things have no staying power. You could see it at home, where, starting with the Cold War, there’d already been a few close calls.
It explained the Fermi Paradox. Nobody visits us because they blow themselves up before they get that far.
- Chapter 27 (p. 248)
- The uplifters are forever running around telling blockheads they would do better if they would believe in themselves. But they already do. That is why they are blockheads.
- Chapter 29 (p. 262)
- Plato is correct about democracy. It is essentially mob rule. And once the mob gets an idea into its collective head, it’s almost impossible to get it out, or modify it in any way. In an era of mass communication and irresponsible media, it can be a deadly characteristic.
- Chapter 32 (p. 289)
- “The media have gone berserk.”
“The media always go berserk. A kid falls off a bike in Montana, they’re all over it. Until something else happens.”
- Chapter 32 (p. 292)
- Truth, beaten down, may well rise again. But there’s a reason it gets beaten down. Usually, we don’t like it very much.
- Chapter 33 (p. 296)
- “I'm not optimistic,” he said. “The issue clearly flies in the face of the First Amendment. People have a right to tell kids whatever they want about religion.”
“Do they have a right to push human sacrifice?”
“Of course not, Mac. But this isn’t human sacrifice. It’s just a church school.”
“I'm not sure the effect isn’t similar.”
- Chapter 34 (p. 314)
- The Reverend Pullman sat on the opposite side of the bench, wearing clerical garb and one of those unctuous smiles that proclaims a monopoly on truth.
- Chapter 35 (p. 331)
- Truth is slippery, not because it is difficult to grasp, but because we prefer our preconceptions, our beliefs, our myths.
- Chapter 38 (p. 355)
- Decisions are always made with insufficient information. If you really knew what was going on, the decision would make itself.
- Chapter 39 (p. 370)
- The beginning of wisdom is to admit to being inept. We’re all a bit slow. We have our moments, but in the end, we have to resort to bumbling through. It is what makes conviction so egregious.
- Chapter 40 (p. 376)
- The creative act requires both will and intelligence. Breaking things is easy. You only need a hammer.
- Chapter 41 (p. 383)
- (He was) tall and lean, an aristocrat by inclination, born into money and influence and never recovered.
- Chapter 41 (p. 391)
- Fiction is unlike reality because it has an end, a conclusion, which allows the characters to stroll happily, or perhaps simply more wisely, out through the climax into the epilogue. But life is a tapestry. It has no satisfactory end. There are simply periods of acceleration and delay, victory and frustration, seasoned with periodic jolts of reality.
- Chapter 44 (p. 412)
- It is not faith per se that creates the problem; it is conviction, the notion that one cannot be wrong, that opposing views are necessarily invalid and may even be intolerable.
- Chapter 45 (p. 419)
- There is no justice. There are occasional acts of vengeance, or regret, but there’s no real justice. In the natural scheme of things, it is not possible.
- Epilogue (p. 421)
- MacAllister commented recently that Plato was right, that democracy is mob rule, that the voters can be counted on consistently to find the candidate with the fewest scruples and put him in office.
- Epilogue (p. 423)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in 2008 by Ace Books
- “If some of the current politicians had been around a few thousand years ago,” she’d said, “we never would have gotten out of Africa. Boats cost too much.”
- Chapter 4 (pp. 46-47)
- If you're paying attention to your wardrobe, Rudy believed, your mind isn’t sufficiently occupied.
- Chapter 5 (p. 54)
- If you want creative and successful children, resign yourself to jousting with rebels.
- Chapter 9 (p. 96)
- “It’s all PR,” said Hutchins. “If we ever produced a person who was unrelentingly honest, everybody would want him dead.”
- Chapter 13 (p. 127)
- The kids were both adolescents, at that happy stage where they could simultaneously make him confident about the future while they were sabotaging the present.
- Chapter 22 (p. 190)
- “Technology is dangerous.”
“How do you mean?”
“It can provide horrendous weapons to idiots.”
- Chapter 26 (p. 242)
- Technological civilizations don’t last long. You're all right until you get a printing press. Then a race starts between technology and common sense. And maybe technology always wins.
- Chapter 27 (pp. 248-249)
- If you want data to survive, carve it in rock.
- Chapter 28 (p. 256)
- At night the sea is very loud,
And voices ride the tide.
At another time, in another place,
Beneath the silent moon,
We laughed together.
- Chapter 30 (p. 279)
- He was usually easygoing, one of those guys with little respect for authority because of a conviction that people in charge tend to do stupid things.
- Chapter 36 (p. 322)
Ancient Shores (1996)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Eos/HarperCollins ISBN 0-06-105426-7
- Nominated for the 1998 Nebula award
- Max was the exception. He had no taste for military life or for the prospect of getting shot at. His father, Colonel Maxwell E. Collingwood, USAF (retired), to his credit, tried to hide his disappointment in his only son. But it was there nonetheless, and Max had, on more than one occasion, overheard him wondering aloud to Max’s mother whether there was anything at all to genetics.
- Chapter 2 (p. 17)
- He expected to have only one clear shot at the assorted joys of living, and he had no intention of risking it to meet someone else’s misconceived expectations.
- Chapter 2 (p. 18)
- Ev was a careful man, a model of caution. He took pride in not committing to a view until all the facts were in. Which meant, of course, that he was never quite on board. Or in opposition.
- Chapter 4 (p. 38)
- Never confuse perfection with production. People who don’t make mistakes aren’t doing anything.
- Chapter 6 (p. 55)
- Lasker mouthed, “Trust him,” and Max sighed. Trust a lawyer? It flew in the face of his most cherished principles.
- Chapter 8 (p. 78)
- “Most of my business comes from picking up the pieces when people get things wrong.” She grinned. “I’ll never lack for work.”
- Chapter 10 (p. 99)
- When do we reach a point where people become responsible for their own actions?
- Chapter 13 (pp. 124-125)
- But the old man had provided his kids with one priceless gift: He’d encouraged them to read, and he didn’t bother too much about the content, subscribing to the theory that good books ultimately speak for themselves.
- Chapter 16 (p. 168)
- A man without money is a bow without an arrow.
- Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, epigram for Chapter 18 (p. 180)
- We know that when change comes, no one is more adamant in holding on to the past than those in power. They know change is inevitable, but they would, if they could, parcel it out in measured pieces. Grain for chickens.
- Chapter 30 (p. 331)
- Cities have a social utility, if only as places to get away from.
- Chapter 33 (p. 366)
- New worlds are always hard on old ideas.
- Chapter 33 (p. 367)
Infinity Beach (2000)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in February 2001 by Eos ISBN 978-0-06-102005-6
- Nominated for the 2001 Nebula Award and the 2001 John W. Campbell Award.
- All italics as in the book
- Those who rise to the top of organizations, who live to direct others, to wield power, are inevitably afflicted by weak egos, by a need to prove themselves. This explains why they are so easily frightened and so easily manipulated. And why they are so dangerous.
- Chapter 5 (p. 65)
- The belief that society was in decline was a permanent characteristic of every era. People always believed they lived in a crumbling world. They themselves were of course okay, but everyone around them was headed downhill.
- Chapter 6 (p. 84)
- Starships, of course, have few limitations with regard to design, the prime specification being simply that they not disintegrate during acceleration or course change.
- Chapter 7 (p. 100)
- He was a good salesman, which was to say he could look people directly in the eye while making the most preposterous claims.
- Chapter 7 (p. 103)
- Truth is like nudity: It is on occasion indispensable, but it is dangerous and should not be displayed openly. It is truth that gives life its grandeur, but the polite fictions that make it bearable.
- Chapter 8 (p. 110)
- Emily had not been trained as a scientist, so she tended to draw conclusions based on emotional need rather than on evidence.
- Chapter 8 (p. 115)
- “We are forever trying to sell science because somebody somewhere will get a better toothbrush,” she grumbled. “Whatever happened to sheer curiosity?”
- Chapter 9 (p. 129)
- When she’d mentioned it to Matt, he had piously denied everything. Piety was always how you knew Matt was lying.
- Chapter 9 (p. 129)
- Never look for complexity in diplomatic decisions. With very few exceptions, actions always devolve—and that’s the exact term—from someone’s self-interest. Not the national self-interest, by the way. We are talking here about individual careers.
- Chapter 15 (p. 218)
- There is, he’d said, an inverse correlation between the amount of power a person has and the level at which his or her mind functions. A person of ordinary intelligence who acquires power, of whatever kind, tends to develop an exaggerated view of his own capabilities. Sycophants gather. There is little or no criticism of decisions. As his ability to disrupt the lives of others advances, these tendencies become stronger. Eventually you end with Louis the Fourteenth, who thinks he’s done a good job for France, although the country he left behind was ruined.
- Chapter 15 (p. 219)
- Sheyel had always maintained that few actions are driven by reason. People act out of emotion, perception, prejudice. They will believe what they’ve always believed, filtering out all evidence to the contrary. Until they go too far and run onto the rocks of reality.
- Chapter 23 (p. 357)
- The people who devised physical theory and constructed jump engines were not the same people who made political decisions, or who allowed themselves to be swept up by the current media craze, or to be ruled by centuries-old traditions that might once have served to hold nations together but now had become counterproductive.
Don’t assume that a species is intelligent because it produces intelligent individuals.
- Chapter 27 (p. 403)
- “How are you going to define ‘spiritual’?” asked Mona. No one had any idea.
- Chapter 32 (p. 476)
- What people do with their leisure tells us a great deal about the nature of a society, what its values really are, for example, as opposed to what its members say its values are.
- Chapter 32 (p. 476)
Time Travelers Never Die (2009)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published in 2010 by Ace Books
- But, come to think of it, there was no need to wait. Time travelers don’t have to wait for anybody.
- Chapter 5 (p. 50)
- And because she so desperately wanted it to be true, she knew she could not manage an objective judgment.
- Chapter 19 (p. 195)
- “We are not a debating club,” Franklin said. “Our goal is to get at the truth, where that is possible.”
- Chapter 29 (p. 270)
- Katie commented that Americans had lost the ability to enjoy themselves.
“We watch television,” Dave said.
- Chapter 44 (p. 378)