Michael Shea

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Michael Shea 2008

Michael Shea (July 3, 1946 – February 16, 2014) was an American fantasy, horror, and science fiction author.


A Quest for Simbilis (1974)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Daw Books
  • I will be succinct, eschewing vainglorious hyperbole.
    • Chapter 4, “The Exorcism” (p. 58)
  • Present action, though futile, is preferable to passive acceptance of such a fate as awaits us.
    • Chapter 6, “The House on the River” (p. 112)
  • Is it not unsettling to consider the blind unlikelihoods that shape one’s fate?
    • Chapter 7, “The Stronghold of Simbilis” (p. 134)

Nifft the Lean (1982)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Daw Books ISBN 0-87997-783-3
Won the World Fantasy Award in 1983.
  • It is a bitter thing that each of us must finally be blown out like a candle, and have the unique ardor of his individual flame choked off, and sucked utterly away like smoke in the dark. Do we ever accept this in our hearts, any of us? The waste of knowledge! It never ceases to be...infuriating.
    • Prologue, “Shag Margold’s Eulogy of Nifft the Lean, His Dear Friend” (p. 5; ellipsis in the original)
  • By his twentieth year he was a thorough adept in all of what we may term the “carnival arts,” and already a widely traveled young man. From mastery of the mountebank’s larcenous skills to the study of outright felonious appropriation, and all its subsidiary sciences, proved but a short step for Nifft, who always credited his early “dramatic training” with his success as a thief, vowing it had given him a rare grasp of his trade’s fundamentals: lying, imposture and nimble movement.
    • Prologue (pp. 6-7)
  • While it is foolish to deny the dark around us, it is futile to exaggerate it.
    • Prologue (p. 8)
  • And I make bold to say that I am not the only one of my countrymen who could profit from taking this admonition to heart.
    • Prologue (p. 8)
  • I have in mind the notion that is so fashionable nowadays, namely that we live in a Dark Age where puny Science quails before many a dim Unknown on every hand. Surely this sort of facile pessimism dampens the energy of inquiry even as it leads to obscurantism—toward a despair of certainty which encourages us to embrace truths, half-truths, and the most extravagant falsehoods with a promiscuous lack of discrimination.
    • Prologue (pp. 8-9)
  • Granting that our knowledge be limited, what can it profit us to traffic in lurid fantasies and errant imaginings? When—certainty failing us—we must speculate, let us recognize the difference between careful enumeration of reasonable hypotheses, and the reckless multiplication of bizarre conceptions.
    • Prologue (p. 9)
  • I shall present as certain only those data corroborated by exhaustive research, or by my own personal investigations, as I am not untraveled for a bookish man. Wherever doubt exists, I shall unambiguously state its degree and nature, along with whatever grounds I may have for preferring one hypothesis over another. If, despite all I have said, the reader disdains such honest ambiguity, and stubbornly prefers the unequivocal assertiveness to be found in factitious travelogues penned by raffish “explorers,” or in the specious “natural histories” compiled by crapulous and unprincipled hacks who have never left their squalid lofts in Scrivener’s Row, then there is nothing further I can do, and I leave him, with apologies, to his deception.
    • Prologue (p. 10)
  • Those feats of deep cunning and brave flair—we’re all allotted a few of them, and we get no more, no matter what our longing is. And you know, you’re lucky if you even recognize when you’re having your best moments. Half the time your soul is looking the other way when they come. And you never grow wise enough to know what they were until you have passed the hope of of having more.
    • Part 1, “Come Then, Mortal. We Will Seek Her Soul,” Chapter 2 (p. 20)
  • Dalissem chuckled. It felt like being grinned at by a big mountain cat—delightful for the beauty of the animal, disturbing for the possible sequel.
    • Part 1, Chapter 2 (p. 27)
  • And you could see at a glance that Defalk was a simple man who wanted no more than to be brilliantly rich, admired, and unencumbered with work. His face said it so plainly: “I’m an excellent fellow. Isn’t such a life no more than my proper portion?”
    • Part 1, Chapter 3 (p. 31)
  • We all thought you such a daring romantic then, and so outspoken about all us more conventional souls! Remember what you used to say about the world of business? All toadying and chicanery, lean purses fawning on fat ones for favors? Were those not the days? How far we wander from our youthful views!
    • Part 1, Chapter 3 (p. 32)
  • And most important, nothing was to be taken for granted in that place. In Death’s world, any covenant, no matter how mighty, can fall null—any spell, however cogent, can be abrogated. The only certain law in that place is Death itself.
    • Part 1, Chapter 6 (p. 49)
  • Can it be your spirit does not thrive? Can it be you’ve weighed your life of kissing arse and crouching before fat purses, and have found it wanting?
    • Part 1, Chapter 9 (p. 65)
  • Good soldiers stay alive by being unsentimental and having a quick eye for the main chance.
    • Part 2, “The Pearls of the Vampire Queen,” Chapter 8 (p. 105)
  • For the past three years, young Wimfort had enjoyed so ample a competence from his parent, that he’d been able to buy his way deep into the mysteries of the arts of Power. He purchased no real understanding, of course, for that’s bought by the coin of toil and thought.
    • Part 3, “The Fishing of the Demon-Sea,” Chapter 3 (p. 116)
  • At that age you invent extravagant compensations for bruises to your dignity.
    • Part 3, Chapter 3 (p. 118)
  • “You realize of course, Barnar, that it is simply not possible that we’re actually doing this?”
    “I’ve come to the same comforting conclusion, old friend. Therefore let’s away—an impossibility can only do us an unreal sort of harm, after all.”
    • Part 3, Chapter 8 (p. 139)
  • The assumption that we would ever be called upon to perform this second task now appeared quite clearly to me as the most extravagant folly, based on a wild delusion conceived by a raving idiot.
    • Part 3, Chapter 8 (p. 140)
  • But ah! what a drear hell it was we now had to venture through! What a maelstrom of relentless gorging, one creature upon another! The claws and jaws of the upper world are red enough—who denies it?—but the carnage has intermissions, periods of amiable association, zones of green peace and fructification. In the subworlds, the merciless seethe of appetites never simmers down.
    • Part 3, Chapter 8 (p. 142)
  • Now a true ocean is the sky’s open floor—that’s the feeling men love in it, the reason they venture upon it, apart from gain or exploration.
    • Part 3, Chapter 9 (p. 145)
  • This is not genuine scholarship! Real research is a coming-to-grips with phenomena. This, as a transcription of the ocean’s infinitely various text, is a fraud, an egregious counterfeit, which patly reduces the Primary Sea’s endlessness to a cozy finitude, such as it pleased this puny entity to regard it, for he must have had but a feeble stomach for enterprise of a dark or difficult kind.
    • Part 3, Chapter 11 (p. 168)
  • We’re none of us more than wisps of desire and imagining! What man is not, at the center of his mind, a ghostly wish-to-be haunting the jerry-built habitation of his imperfect acts? Haunting the maze of what-has-been?
    • Part 3, Chapter 11 (p. 171)
  • Deeper and deeper. Ever greater power. Ever greater evil.
    • Part 3, Chapter 12 (p. 181)
  • The great in Evil, and the great in [Goodness|Good]]—both leave an immortal residue.
    • Part 3, Chapter 12 (p. 181)
  • The demons are not our ancestors—we are theirs. The greeds and lusts, the wealth of horrors here, are not the archetypes of our own—they are the derivatives, the dreadful perfectings of all the evil that men have spawned and nourished. Call Man a great, roasting beast, spitted and turning above the fire of his own unending cruelty. The things of this world then, and of those yet farther down, are the drippings of the tortured giant, Man.
    • Part 3, Chapter 12 (p. 181)
  • “He’s here, of course, strictly through his own ambitious carelessness.”
    “Prime flaws of youth, of course—but also its strengths, this carelessness and ambition.”
    • Part 3, Chapter 14 (p. 191)
  • Ambitious dabblers in sorcery add much to the hell that is on earth.
    • Part 3, Chapter 14 (p. 191)
  • Rage and wounded pride look painful on a young face. Sixteen is a difficult age to get on with. There’s much to like—the freshness, the force of conviction. But there is also a certain arrogance, an inevitable concomitant of development, perhaps, which one must always struggle to forgive.
    • Part 3, Chapter 16 (p. 203)
  • It was more than sad, the eternal unteachability of youth.
    • Part 3, Chapter 16 (p. 208)
  • The essence of nightmare lies less in the simple experience of horrors than in the unpreventable fruition of horrors foreknown.
    • Part 3, Chapter 17 (p. 208)
  • The boy was unquestionably a great natural talent, if not an outright genius, in the art of complaint—tirelessly inventive, and completely shameless in the matter of interpreting his dissatisfactions as someone else’s—anyone else’s—criminal failures to content him.
    • Part 3, Chapter 18 (p. 215)
  • “Come on,” I said. “We have to try. The effort is utterly pointless, but inaction seems an even greater agony.”
    • Part 3, Chapter 18 (p. 221)
  • Freedom! That belabored word! It is a big, empty word, and yet, when some experience reminds us what freedom is, how clear and particular its meaning becomes, how unspeakably sweet, and full!
    • Part 3, Chapter 19 (p. 226)
  • Weigh then your wealth, and judge if it’s more dear
    To you than life. If not, your course is clear.
    • Part 4, “The Goddess in Glass,” Chapter 10 (p. 285)
  • It’s always been an exceedingly curious thing to me, just how incurious most people are about all save their own little island of time and place in the world.
    • Part 4, Chapter 13 (p. 301)

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