Mark Clifton

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Mark Clifton (1906 – 1963) was an American science fiction writer.


Short fiction[edit]

Sense From Thought Divide (1955)[edit]

Page numbers from the reprint in Judith Merril (ed.) SF: The Year's Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy
See Mark Clifton's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details
  • It took two thousand years for man to move from the concept that amber was a stone with a soul to the concept of static electricity.
    • p. 143
  • There are two basic approaches to the meaning of life and the universe about us. Man can know: That is the approach of science, its whole meaning. There are mysteries which man was not meant to know: That is the other approach. There is no reconciling of the two on a reasoning basis.
    • p. 145
  • Somehow I got the impression that instead of looking into a crystal ball, they would be more inclined to look out of one.
    • p. 152

They'd Rather Be Right (1954)[edit]

Written with Frank Riley. All page numbers from the hardcover edition published by Gnome Press. Winner of the 1955 Hugo award for best novel.
  • He quickly lowered his eyes to his knees again, to conceal the pain in them, to conceal his broken faith in the innate goodness of men, the profound despair of realization that reason might not after all triumph over ignorance.
    “Perhaps,” he murmured aloud, “To believe in the inevitable triumph of rationality might, in itself, be no more than another expression of those same superstitions which we deplore in the ignorant. It is apparently an occupational disease, perhaps a fatal one, for the scientist to be too sanguine about eventual rule by reason. There is so little evidence...”
    • p. 16.
  • The suppressed hunger to think was like an epidemic.
    • p. 17.
  • Logical rationality is neither subversive nor nonsubversive. It is simply a statement of fact.
    • pp. 17-18.
  • It (objection to a machine that could think) was the hook used by the rabble rousers, whose monopoly of moral interpretation might be challenged.
    • p. 18.
  • There had been many times when man had been forced to adopt the only right opinion. Each time man’s forward thrust had slackened, vegetated, and died. Once, through the dark ages, the period had lasted almost a thousand years.
    • p. 19.
  • Early in his career Hoskins had realized that no field of science is remote from the affairs of men, that there is a sociological implication inherent even in the simple set of screwing a nut on a bolt.
    • pp. 29-30.
  • The universe does not care whether man unlocks its secrets or leaves them closed. Water does not care whether man bathes in it or drowns in it; whether it waters his fields or washes them away. If man masters its laws and utilizes his knowledge, water becomes a force in his favor. But enemy or servant, water does not care.
    • p. 48.
  • A human being is seldom bothered with insufficient data; often the less he has the more willing he is to give a firm opinion; and man prefers some answer, even a wrong one, to the requirement that he dig deeper and find out the facts.
    • p. 49.
  • The public wants miracles. The public demands miracles; and if one source ceases to provide them, they will turn to another source which seems to accomplish the spectacular. Even while they resented and opposed the scientific attitude, they lapped up the miracles which this attitude accomplished with glee.
    • pp. 76-77.
  • In either event he could only adhere to the letter of the law, but then for every yea in the law there was a nay, and it always boiled down to simple expediency. Like a psychiatric diagnosis, it could always be juggled around to fit anything you chose.
    • p. 79.
  • Think back through all the eras of history—the major ones, the tiny obscure ones known only to scholars. Can you think of a man, ever, who was capable of fashioning the future development of mankind to suit his own idea of it—no matter how noble that ideal may have been? Wouldn’t that be just another form of opinion control—no matter how splendid the conception?”
    Kennedy did not turn around.
    “It takes a great deal of faith in mankind to keep from directing it the way we think it should go,” he said at last.
    • p. 92.
  • To say that man has already achieved the ultimate and absolute truth is like a tribal taboo which says that a given river may never be crossed because the witch doctor proves beyond all reason that there is only chaos beyond.
    The most puzzling of all contradictory concepts given me is the human will to set up such arbitrary limits to his comprehension.
    • p. 109.
  • He was not psychotic enough to set himself up as a chosen arbiter of mores and laws.
    • p. 122.
  • That kind of therapy, the use of force to make a man give up his convictions, has been tried since the dawn of history. I think we should have learned by now that it won’t work.
    • p. 130.
  • Instant acceptance of an idea is as self-defeating as instant rejection.
    • p. 163.
  • Everyone recognized that only five percent of all the people born ever amount to anything at all. Everyone humbly thanked his providential stars that through his own personal efforts and merit he had become one of the superior five percent. Everyone looked with pity and contempt upon the ninety-five percent who did not share his grace.
    • p. 175.
  • People will tie in with a fanatic if for no other reason than to break the monotony of their lives.
    • p. 176.
  • At this stage of man’s evolution, our scientists have been like little children facing a table piled high with the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. One piece is picked up and its holder says, “This is the important piece. I hold the one key to everything in my hands.” Well, of course, he does. Because every piece is a key piece.
    • p. 177.
  • It’s pretty human to smash the guy or the thing which tries to tell us something we don’t want to hear.
    • p. 179.
  • “There’s only one way to guard a secret so effectively that no one can misuse it to his own advantage and the detriment of others,” Kennedy mused slowly, “And that’s to give it away—make it open knowledge. Give it to everybody.”
    “Scientists have known that for a long time,” Hoskins said, “That’s why we keep insisting on free trade of ideas.”
    • p. 180.
  • Truth frightens man. He plants illusion in the debris of his mind to hide him from the clean white light she brings. His arguments defeat her wisdom. In his preconceptions and prejudices he dictates, in advance, what form she must take, what garments she must wear; and because of this he often does not recognize her when they meet. His illusion drives her from him.
    And yet he still yearns and seeks for truth.
    • p. 187.
  • Water does not care whether you bathe in it or drown in it. The mountains do not care whether you climb them or go around them. The stars do not care whether man reaches them or not. The universe does not care whether man masters all the relationships of its forces and processes, or dies because he refuses to master them. Life continues as it uses those relationships to further its growth. It ceases when it becomes overcome by still other forces which it cannot master.
    • p. 188.

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