James Blish

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James Benjamin Blish (May 23, 1921July 30, 1975) was an American author of fantasy and science fiction. Blish also wrote literary criticism of science fiction using the pen-name William Atheling Jr.


Short fiction[edit]

A Style in Treason (1970)[edit]

Originally published in Galaxy Science Fiction (May 1970). All page numbers from the collection Midsummer Century published by Daw Books (UQ1094)
  • In his opinion, neither justice nor mercy were very closely related to love, let alone being identical with it—otherwise, why have three words instead of one? A metaphor is not a tautology.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 144)
  • I suppose you burned the library—barbarians always do.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 154)

Midsummer Century (1972)[edit]

Originally published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (April 1972). All page numbers from the collection Midsummer Century published by Daw Books (UQ1094)
  • The tribesmen understand this very well, although they would not describe it in the same terms I have. It is simply a working part of their lives. Do you think they would continue to consult me if they found that the advice that I gave them did not work? They are uncivilized, but they are not insane.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 21)
  • “We hear you, Father,” he said surprisingly. “Yet we sense that though what you say is the truth, it is not the whole truth.”
    • Chapter 9 (p. 61)
  • Never assume that any fact is useless until it is so proven.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 62)
  • Martel still did not want to believe in it, but brute experience of it forced him to, whatever his preferences.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 63)
  • Telepathy and intelligence appear to be incompatible from the evolutionary point of view—if you’ve got one, you don’t seem to need the other, and they may even be evolutionary enemies.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 78)
  • Yet the closer he came to it, the more alert he felt; it was as though he were paying more and more attention to fewer and fewer things, so that at the heart of the mystery he would paradoxically be totally intent upon nothing at all.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 80)

A Case of Conscience (1958)[edit]

Won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1959
All page numbers from the trade paperback edition published by Del Ray Impact Books
  • “Your concept is a tremendous network of inconsistencies.”
    “In what way?” the countess said, not very much interested.
    “It seems to be based on reverence for the young, and an extremely patient and protective attitude toward their physical and mental welfare. Yet you make them live in these huge caves, utterly out of contact with the natural world, and you teach them to be afraid of death—which of course makes them a little insane, because there is nothing anybody can do about death. It is like teaching them to be afraid of the second law of thermodynamics, just because living matter sets that law aside for a very brief period.
    • Chapter 12 (pp. 149-150)
  • In retrospect, each of the steps toward this abyss seemed irrevocable, and yet they had all been so small!
    • Chapter 13 (p. 158)
  • The express pulled into the Stazione Termini in Rome five minutes ahead of schedule with a feminine shriek. Ruiz found a porter with no difficulty, tipped him the standard 100 lire for his two pieces of luggage, and gave directions. The priest’s Italian was adequate, but hardly standard; it made the facchino grin with delight every time Ruiz opened his mouth. He had learned it by reading, partly in Dante, mostly in opera libretti, and consequently what he lacked in accent he made up for in flowery phrases; he was unable to ask the way to the nearest fruit stall without sounding as though he would throw himself into the Tiber unless he got an answer.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 171)
  • Now that I'm a free agent I mean to make my own choices, and explain them to nobody if that’s what pleases me.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 206)
  • But now the shots began—not many, but one shot is a fusillade if there have been no shots before.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 213)

…And All the Stars a Stage (1971; [serialized in 1960])[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Avon (#27177)
  • The first thing a psychologist learns is to keep her mouth shut around laymen.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 180)
  • One death is as good as another, if death is what you are courting.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 186)
  • It is written:
    That given any one of a thousand million possible paths, life will take them all;
    That worlds which will support life will give birth to it;
    That worlds which cannot support intelligent life will be colonized;
    And that where both can take place, both will take place.
    It is written that this is what the vast, unknowing interstellar stage is for: To be given consciousness and purpose while its gift of existence lasts.
    It is written:
    That this is a random process;
    That in the end all will be darkness and silence again;
    But that while it lasts, life spreads through it, to make it aware of its own vastness and beauty, which otherwise it can never have known.
    This is a gift; but the Giver is unknown.
    That too is written.
    • Epilogue (p. 190)

The Quincunx of Time (1973)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Dell (#7244)
  • He was getting to be a little old for combat or for princesses, but what was worse, he had become a lot more cynical without having become even slightly the wiser.
    • Prologue, “A Frame on Randolph” (p. 18)
  • The technicians thought I was crazy. Now, five months later, I’ve proved it.
    • Chapter 7, “A Few Cosmic Jokes” (p. 72)
  • “The motto of the bureau,” Weinbaum said, “is, ‘sometimes something works.’”
    • Chapter 7, “A Few Cosmic Jokes” (p. 75)
  • “Something tells me that this isn’t going to be as simple as it looks.”
    “What is?” Wald said, raising his eyebrows.
    “Nothing, of course. But hope springs eternal in the human spleen.”
    • Chapter 7, “A Few Cosmic Jokes” (p. 77)
  • Actually, there are never motives behind actions. All actions are fixed. What we call motives evidently are rationalizations by the helpless observing consciousness, which is intelligent enough to smell an event coming—and, since it cannot avert the event, instead cooks up reasons for wanting it to happen...or ascribes it to the malice of God or man.
    • Chapter 8, “The Courtship of Posi and Nega” (p. 84; ellipsis in the original)
  • I’ve already given you the whole explanation of how that came about. It happened because it was going to happen. All other explanations for anything are superfluous. All other explanations for anything.
    • Chapter 8, “The Courtship of Posi and Nega” (p. 89)
  • We cannot count upon the secret being kept. It’s a fact of nature, and as somebody or other remarked long ago, Nature is a blabbermouth; ask the right question, and you’ll always get the answer.
    • Chapter 9, “A Comity of Futures” (p. 105)
  • We often resort to something called Hilbert space, which is described as n-dimensional—it’s like modern sex, any number may be played with.
    • Chapter 10, “Weinbaum on Sinai” (p. 116)
  • No exercise of will can make any of us other than what we are, or more than marginally better than who we are.
    • Chapter 10, “Weinbaum on Sinai” (pp. 118-119)

External links[edit]

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