Robert A. Heinlein

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A generation which ignores history has no past — and no future.

Robert Anson Heinlein (7 July 1907 – 8 May 1988) was one of the most popular, influential, and controversial authors of science fiction of the 20th Century.

See also pages for the novels:

Starship Troopers (1959)
Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)
Glory Road (1963)
The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966)
Time Enough for Love (1973)
Job: A Comedy of Justice (1984)


Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
Take sex away from people. Make it forbidden, evil. Limit it to ritualistic breeding. Force it to back up into suppressed sadism. Then hand the people a scapegoat to hate. Let them kill a scapegoat occasionally for cathartic release. The mechanism is ages old. Tyrants used it centuries before the word "psychology" was ever invented. It works, too.
As for libertarian, I've been one all my life, a radical one. You might use the term "philosophical anarchist" or "autarchist" about me, but "libertarian" is easier to define and fits well enough.
  • I think that science fiction, even the corniest of it, even the most outlandish of it, no matter how badly it's written, has a distinct therapeutic value because all of it has as its primary postulate that the world does change. I cannot overemphasize the importance of that idea.
    • "The Discovery of the Future," Guest of Honor Speech, 3rd World Science Fiction Convention, Denver, Colorado (4 July 1941)
  • How anybody expects a man to stay in business with every two-bit wowser in the country claiming a veto over what we can say and can't say and what we can show and what we can't show — it's enough to make you throw up. The whole principle is wrong; it's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't eat steak.
    • On censorship, in The Man Who Sold the Moon (1950), p. 188; this may be the origin of a remark which in recent years has sometimes become misattributed to Mark Twain: Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it.
  • Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do.
  • The answer to any question starting, "Why don't they—" is almost always, "Money".
    • Shooting Destination Moon (1950)
  • Take sex away from people. Make it forbidden, evil. Limit it to ritualistic breeding. Force it to back up into suppressed sadism. Then hand the people a scapegoat to hate. Let them kill a scapegoat occasionally for cathartic release. The mechanism is ages old. Tyrants used it centuries before the word "psychology" was ever invented. It works, too.
  • The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed.
  • The death rate is the same for us as for anybody ... one person, one death, sooner or later.
  • I also think there are prices too high to pay to save the United States. Conscription is one of them. Conscription is slavery, and I don't think that any people or nation has a right to save itself at the price of slavery for anyone, no matter what name it is called. We have had the draft for twenty years now; I think this is shameful. If a country can't save itself through the volunteer service of its own free people, then I say : Let the damned thing go down the drain!
    • Guest of Honor Speech at the 29th World Science Fiction Convention, Seattle, Washington (1961)
  • The difference between science and the fuzzy subjects is that science requires reasoning, while those other subjects merely require scholarship.
    • In: Time Enough for Love: the lives of Lazarus Long; a novel , (1973), p. 366
  • At the time I wrote Methuselah’s Children I was still politically quite naive and still had hopes that various libertarian notions could be put over by political processes… It [now] seems to me that every time we manage to establish one freedom, they take another one away. Maybe two. And that seems to me characteristic of a society as it gets older, and more crowded, and higher taxes, and more laws. I would say that my position is not too far from that of Ayn Rand's; that I would like to see government reduced to no more than internal police and courts, external armed forces — with the other matters handled otherwise. I'm sick of the way government sticks its nose in everything, now.
    • The Robert Heinlein Interview, and other Heinleiniana (1973) by J. Neil Schulman (published in 1990)
  • I would say that my position is not too far from that of Ayn Rand's; that I would like to see government reduced to no more than internal police and courts, external armed forces — with the other matters handled otherwise. I'm sick of the way the government sticks its nose into everything, now.
    • The Robert Heinlein Interview (1973)
  • I think that describes me, too — still a democrat not because I love the Common People and not because I think democracy is so successful (look around you) but, because in a lifetime of thinking about it and learning all that I could, I haven't found any other political organization that worked as well.
    As for libertarian, I've been one all my life, a radical one. You might use the term "philosophical anarchist" or "autarchist" about me, but "libertarian" is easier to define and fits well enough.
    • 1975 Statement to Judith Merrill, who had called herself a democrat and a libertarian, stating that such terms described him as well, as quoted in Robert A. Heinlein : In Dialogue with His Century, Volume 2: The Man Who Learned Better | 1948-1988 (2014), p. 389
  • I started clipping and filing by categories on trends as early as 1930 and my "youngest" file was started in 1945.
    Span of time is important; the 3-legged stool of understanding is held up by history, languages, and mathematics. Equipped with these three you can learn anything you want to learn. But if you lack any one of them you are just another ignorant peasant with dung on your boots.
  • Each generation thinks it invented sex; each generation is totally mistaken. Anything along that line today was commonplace both in Pompeii and in Victorian England; the differences lie only in the degree of coverup — if any.
  • My wife Ticky is an anarchist-individualist ... When she was in the Navy during the early 'forties she showed up one morning in proper uniform but with her red hair held down by a simple navy-blue band — a hair ribbon. It was neat (Ticky is always neat) and it suited the rest of her outfit esthetically, but it was undeniably a hair ribbon and her division officer had fits.
    "If you can show me," Ticky answered with simple dignity, "where it says one word in the Navy Uniform Regulations on the subject of hair ribbons, I'll take it off. Otherwise not."
    See what I mean? She doesn't have the right attitude.

Short fiction

Page numbers from the hardcover first edition, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons
See Robert A. Heinlein's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details
All ellipses and italics as in the book
  • How can I possibly put a new idea into your heads, if I do not first remove your delusions?
    • Life-Line (p. 15)
  • He seeks order, not truth. Suppose truth defies order, will he accept it? Will you? I think not.
    • Life-Line (p. 16)
  • There are but two ways of forming an opinion in science. One is the scientific method; the other, the scholastic. One can judge from experiment, or one can blindly accept authority. To the scientific mind, experimental proof is all important and theory is merely a convenience in description, to be junked when it no longer fits. To the academic mind, authority is everything and facts are junked when they do not fit theory laid down by authority.
    • Life-Line (p. 24)
  • There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute nor common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back, for their private benefit.
    • Life-Line (p. 25)
  • There is nothing in this world so permanent as a temporary emergency.
    • The Man Who Sold the Moon (p. 100)
  • He decided to stay in his space suit; explosive decompression didn’t appeal to him. Come to think about it, death from old age was his choice.
    • The Long Watch (p. 214)
  • High I.Q., good compatibility index, superior education—everything that makes a person pleasant and easy and interesting to have around.
    • The Long Watch (p. 255)
  • History is never surprising—after it happens.
    • Logic of Empire (p. 333)
  • You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.
    • Logic of Empire (p. 335); this is one of the earliest known variants of an idea which has become known as Hanlon's razor.
  • Don’t pay any attention to what she says. Half of it’s always wrong and she doesn’t mean the rest.
    • The Menace from Earth (p. 351)
  • I think perhaps of all the things a police state can do to its citizens, distorting history is possibly the most pernicious.
    • If This Goes On— (p. 401)
  • I began to sense faintly that secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy...censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, “This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,” the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.
    • If This Goes On— (p. 401)
  • I was too busy to oblige them by dying just now.
    • If This Goes On— (p. 412)
  • Just now I’m writing a series of oh-so-respectful articles about the private life of the Prophet and his acolytes and attending priests, how many servants they have, how much it costs to run the Palace, all about the fancy ceremonies and rituals, and such junk. All of it perfectly true, of course, and told with unctuous approval. But I lay it on a shade too thick. The emphasis is on the jewels and the solid gold trappings and how much it all costs, and I keep telling the yokels what a privilege it is for them to be permitted to pay for such frippery and how flattered they should feel that God’s representative on earth lets them take care of him.
    • If This Goes On— (p. 426)
  • “Do you seriously expect to start a rebellion with picayune stuff like that?”
    “It’s not picayune stuff, because it acts directly on their emotions, below the logical level. You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic. It doesn’t have to be a prejudice about an important matter either.
    • If This Goes On— (p. 426)
  • From my point of view, a great deal of openly expressed piety is insufferable conceit.
    • If This Goes On— (p. 431)
  • “Johnnie, the nice thing about citing God as an authority is that you can prove anything you set out to prove. It’s just a matter of selecting the proper postulates, then insisting that your postulates are ‘inspired.’ Then no one can possibly prove that you are wrong.”
    • If This Goes On— (p. 432)
  • First they junked the concept of “justice.” Examined semantically “justice” has no referent—there is no observable phenomenon in the space-time-matter continuum to which one can point, and say, “This is justice.” Science can deal only with that which can be observed and measured. Justice is not such a matter; therefore it can never have the same meaning to one as to another; any “noises” said about it will only add to confusion.
    But damage, physical or economic, can be pointed to and measured. Citizens were forbidden by the Covenant to damage another. Any act not leading to damage, physical or economic, to some particular person, they declared to be lawful.
    • Coventry (pp. 500-501)
  • Mass psychology is not simply a summation of individual psychologies; that is a prime theorem of social psychodynamics—not just my opinion; no exception has ever been found to this theorem. It is the social mass-action rule, the mob-hysteria law, known and used by military, political, and religious leaders, by advertising men and prophets and propagandists, by rabble rousers and actors and gang leaders, for generations before it was formulated in mathematical symbols. It works.
    • Methuselah’s Children (p. 535)
  • “What course of action do you favor?”
    “Me? Why, none. Mary, if there is any one thing I have learned in the past couple of centuries, it’s this: These things pass. Wars and depressions and Prophets and Covenants—they pass. The trick is to stay alive through them.”
    • Methuselah’s Children (p. 539)
  • “The truth of a proposition has little or nothing to do with its psychodynamics. The notion that ‘truth will prevail’ is merely a pious wish; history doesn’t show it.”
    • Methuselah’s Children (p. 606)
  • “Yes, maybe it’s just one colossal big joke with no point to it.” Lazarus stood up and stretched and scratched his ribs. “But I can tell you this, Andy, whatever the answers are, here’s one monkey that’s going to keep on climbing, and looking around him to see what he can see, as long as the tree holds out.”
    • Methuselah’s Children (p. 667; closing words)
Page numbers from the trade paperback edition, published by Tor, ISBN 0-312-87557-6
See Robert A. Heinlein's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details
All dashes as in the book
  • I don’t believe he would have conceded that he had five fingers on his right hand without an auditor to back him up.
    • Magic, Inc. (p. 20)
  • “We must make the fee contingent on results.”
    “Did you ever hear of anyone in his right mind dealing with a wizard on any other basis?”
    • Magic, Inc. (p. 21)
  • We white men in this country are inclined to underestimate the black man—I know I do—because we see him out of his cultural matrix. Those we know have had their own culture wrenched from them some generations back and a servile pseudo culture imposed on them by force. We forget that the black man has a culture of his own, older than ours and more solidly grounded, based on character and the power of the mind rather than the cheap, ephemeral tricks of mechanical gadgets. But it is a stern, fierce culture with no sentimental concern for the weak and the unfit, and it never quite dies out.
    • Magic, Inc. (p. 49)
  • He couldn’t be wrong, basically, yet the doctor had certainly pointed out logical holes in his position. From a logical standpoint the whole world might be a fraud perpetrated on everybody. But logic meant nothing—logic itself was a fraud, starting with unproved assumptions incapable of proving anything. The world is what it is!—And carries its own evidence of trickery.
    But does it? What did he have to go on? Could he lay down the line between known facts and everything else and then make a reasonable interpretation of the world, based on facts alone—an interpretation free from complexities of logic and no hidden assumptions of points not certain. Very well—
    First fact, himself. He knew himself directly. He existed.
    Second facts, the evidence of his “five senses,” everything that he himself saw and heard and smelled and tasted with his physical senses. Subject to their limitations, he must believe his senses. Without them he was entirely solitary, shut up in a locker of bone, blind, deaf, cut off, the only being in the world.
    And that was not the case. He knew that he did not invent the information brought to him by his senses. There had to be something else out there, some otherness that produced the things his senses recorded. All philosophies that claimed that the physical world around him did not exist except in his imagination were sheer nonsense.
    But beyond that, what? Were there any third facts on which he could rely? No, not at this point. He could not afford to believe anything that he was told, or that he read, or that was implicitly assumed to be true about the world around him. No, he could not believe any of it, for the sum total of what he had been told and read and been taught in school was so contradictory, so senseless, so wildly insane that none of it could be believed unless he personally confirmed it.
    Wait a minute—The very telling of these lies, these senseless contradictions, was a fact in itself, known to him directly. To that extent they were data, probably very important data.
    The world as it had been shown to him was a piece of unreason, an idiot’s dream. Yet it was on too mammoth a scale to be without some reason. He came wearily back to his original point: Since the world could not be as crazy as it appeared to be it must necessarily have been arranged to appear crazy in order to deceive him as to the truth.
    Why have they done it to him? And what was the truth behind the sham? There must be some clue in the deception itself. What thread ran through it all? Well, in the first place he had been given a superabundance of explanations of the world around him, philosophies, religions, “common sense” explanations. Most of them were so clumsy, so obviously inadequate, or meaningless, that they could hardly have expected him to take them seriously. They must have intended them simply as misdirection.
    • They— (pp. 115-116)
  • It is true that most religions which have been offered me teach in mortality, but no the fashion in which they teach it. The surest way to lie convincingly is to tell the truth unconvincingly. They did not wish me to believe.
    • They— (p. 118)
  • It may possibly be urged the shape of a culture—its mores, evaluations, family organizations, eating habits, living patterns, pedagogical methods, institutions, forms of government, and so forth—arise from the economic necessities of its technology.
    • Waldo (p. 134)
  • It was fairly evident that at least 90 per cent of all magic, probably more, was balderdash and sheer mystification.
    • Waldo (p. 186)
  • Stop fidgeting, Mr. Randall! I know this is difficult for your little mind, but for once you really must think about something longer than your nose and wider than your mouth believe me!
    • The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag (p. 242)
  • Why stay in Chicago; what did the town have to justify its existence? One decent boulevard, one decent suburb to the north, priced for the rich, two universities and a lake. As for the rest, endless miles of depressing, dirty streets. The town was one big stockyard.
    • The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag (p. 261)
  • I sometimes think that my own weakness lies in not realizing the full depths of the weakness and stupidity of men. As a reasonable creature myself I seem to have an unfortunate tendency to expect others unlike myself to be reasonable.
    • The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag (p. 267)
  • “Once there was a race, quite unlike the human race—quite. I have no way of describing to you what they looked like or how they lived, but they had one characteristic you can understand: they were creative. The creating and enjoying of works of art was their occupation and their reason for being. I say ‘art’ advisedly, for art is undefined, undefinable, and without limits. I can use the word without fear of misusing it, for it has no exact meaning. There are as many meanings as there are artists.”
    • The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag (p. 303)
  • “But this is crazy, Pete. They must be absolute, complete and teetotal nuts.”
    “Any law says a cop has to be sane to be on the force?”
    • Our Fair City (p. 322)
Page numbers from the hardcover first edition, published by The Science Fiction Book Club, ISBN 1-58288-184-7
See Robert A. Heinlein's Internet Science Fiction Database page for original publication details
All ellipses and italics as in the book, unless noted
  • Rotation through a fourth dimension can’t affect a three-dimensional figure any more than you can shake letters off a printed page.
    • And He Built a Crooked House (p. 33)
  • “Why do you like to play chess so well?”
    “Because it is the only thing in the world where I can see all the factors and understand all the rules.”
    • They (p. 55)
  • “People who looked like me and who should have felt very much like me, if what I was told was the truth. But what did they appear to be doing? ‘They went to work to earn the money to buy the food to get the strength to go to work to earn the money to buy the food to get the strength to go to work to get the strength to buy the food to earn the money to go to—’ until they fell over dead. Any slight basic variation in the basic pattern did not matter, for they always fell over dead. And everybody tried to tell me that I should be doing the same thing. I knew better!”
    • They (pp. 55-56)
  • It is true that most religions which have been offered me teach immortality, but note the fashion in which they teach it. The surest way to lie convincingly is to tell the truth unconvincingly. They did not wish me to believe.
    • They (p. 60)
  • It is very difficult to tuck a bugle call back into a bugle. Pandora’s Box is a one-way proposition. You can turn a pig into sausage, but not sausage into pig. Broken eggs stay broken.
    • Solution Unsatisfactory (p. 67)
  • Imperialism degrades both oppressor and oppressed.
    • Solution Unsatisfactory (p. 98)
  • There is no science of sociology. Perhaps there will be, some day, when a rigorous physics gives a finished science of colloidal chemistry and that leads in turn to a complete knowledge of biology, and from there to a definitive psychology. After that we may begin to know something about sociology and politics. Sometime around the year 5000 A.D., maybe—if the human race does not commit suicide before then.
    • Solution Unsatisfactory (p. 98)
  • “The trouble with you youngsters,” Joe said, “is that if you can’t understand a thing right off, you think it can’t be true. The trouble with your elders is, anything they didn’t understand they reinterpreted to mean something else and then thought they understood it. None of you has tried believing clear words the way they were written and then tried to understand them on that basis. Oh, no, you’re all too bloody smart for that—if you can’t see it right off, it ain’t so—it must mean something different.”
    • Universe (p. 119)
  • It is an emotional impossibility for any man to believe in his own death.
    • Elsewhen (p. 152)
  • “I think that’s unfair, Doctor. You certainly don’t expect a man to believe in things that run contrary to his good sense without offering him any reasonable explanation.”
    Frost snorted. “I certainly do—if he has observed it with his own eyes and ears, or gets it from a source known to be credible. A fact doesn’t have to be understood to be true. Sure, any reasonable mind wants explanations, but it’s silly to reject facts that don’t fit your philosophy.”
    • Elsewhen (pp. 161-162)
  • “But that’s not possible!”
    Frost looked more weary than ever. Don’t you think it is about time you stopped using that term, son?”
    • Elsewhen (p. 164)
  • Narby had no particular respect for engineers, largely because he had no particular talent for engineering.
    • Elsewhen (p. 182)
  • Bob Wilson admitted to himself that a Ph.D. and an appointment as an instructor was not his idea of existence. Still, it beat working for a living.
    • By His Bootstraps (p. 234)
  • In Wilson’s scale of evaluations breakfast rated just after life itself and ahead of the chance of immortality.
    • By His Bootstraps (p. 238)
  • Like many a man before him, he found himself forced into a lie because the truth simply would not be believed.
    • By His Bootstraps (p. 243)
  • Is it not better to be in ignorance than to believe falsely?
    • By His Bootstraps (p. 249)
  • Time after time he had fallen into the Cartesian fallacy, mistaking clear reasoning for correct reasoning.
    • By His Bootstraps (p. 257)
  • He thought of a way to state it: Ego is the point of consciousness, the latest term in a continuously expanding series along the line of memory duration. That sounded like a general statement, but he was not sure; he would have to try to formulate it mathematically before he could trust it. Verbal language had such queer booby traps in it.
    • By His Bootstraps (p. 257)
  • Free will was another matter. It could not be laughed off, because it could be directly experienced—yet his own free will had worked to create the same scene over and over again. Apparently human will must be considered as one of the factors which make up the processes in the continuum—”free” to the ego, mechanistic from the outside.
    • By His Bootstraps (p. 271)
  • When I was a young student, I thought modern psychology could tell me the answers, but I soon found out that the best psychologists didn’t know a damn thing about the real core of the matter. Oh, I am not disparaging the work that has been done; it was badly needed and had been very useful in its way. None of ’em know what life is, what thought is, whether free will is a reality or an illusion, or whether that last question means anything. The best of ’em admit their ignorance; the worst of them make dogmatic assertions that are obvious absurdities.
    • Lost Legacy (p. 284)
  • In the first place there isn’t a distinguished anthropologist in the world but what you’ll find one equally distinguished who will call him a diamond-studded liar. They can’t agree on the simplest elements of their alleged science.
    • Lost Legacy (p. 301)
  • Convinced of their destiny to rule, they convinced themselves that the end justified the means.
    • Lost Legacy (p. 315)
  • “We see the history of the world as a series of crises in a conflict between two opposing philosophies. Ours is based on the notion that life, consciousness, intelligence, ego is the important thing in the world.”...“That puts us in conflict with every force that tends to destroy, deaden, degrade the human spirit, or to make it act contrary to its nature.”
    • Lost Legacy (p. 318; ellipsis represents a minor elision of description)
  • Cold calculated awareness that their power lay in keeping the people in ignorance.
    • Lost Legacy (p. 333)
  • And all over the country the antagonists of human liberty, of human dignity—the racketeers, the crooked political figures, the shysters, the dealers in phony religions, the sweat-shoppers, the petty authoritarians, all of the key figures among the traffickers in human misery and human oppression, themselves somewhat adept in the arts of the mind and acutely aware of the danger of free knowledge—all of this unholy breed stirred uneasily and wondered what was taking place.
    • Lost Legacy (p. 339)
  • For vice has this defect; it cannot be truly intelligent. Its very motives are its weakness.
    • Lost Legacy (p. 339)
  • Good government grows out of the people; it cannot be handed to them.
    • My Object All Sublime (p. 357)
  • A half hour later I had a headache and a plan, but it called for an accomplice. The plan, I mean. The headache I could manage alone.
    • My Object All Sublime (p. 360)
  • He had the high degree of courage so common in the human race, a race capable of conceiving death, yet able to face its probability daily, on the highway, on the obstetrics table, on the battlefield, in the air, in the subway—and to face lightheartedly the certainty of death in the end.
    • Goldfish Bowl (p. 381)
  • It takes all nations to keep the peace, but it only takes one to start a war.
    • Free Men (p. 414)
  • “Joe, I’ve learned by bitter experience not to trust statements set off by ‘naturally,’ ‘of course,’ or ‘that goes without saying.’”
    • Free Men (p. 418)
  • No, chum, there’s a lot of guff talked about freedom. No man is free. There is no such thing as freedom. There are only various privileges.
    • Free Men (p. 425)
  • There’s one thing this has taught me: You can’t enslave a free man. Only person can do that to a man is himself. No, sir—you can’t enslave a free man. The most you can do is kill him.
    • Free Men (p. 430)
  • He was beginning definitely to dislike Mrs. Van Vogel, despite his automatic tendency to genuflect in the presence of a high credit rating.
    • Free Men (p. 450)
  • Men! Their minds were devious—they seemed to like twisted ways of doing things. It confirmed her opinion that men should not be allowed to vote.
    • Jerry Was a Man (p. 458)
  • “Mooncraft isn’t a game; it’s the real thing. ‘Did you stay alive?’ If you make a mistake, you flunk—and they bury you.”
    • Nothing Ever Happens on the Moon (p. 485)
  • “If you know any prayers, better say them.”
    Sam shook his arm. “It’s not time to pray; it’s time to get busy.”
    • Nothing Ever Happens on the Moon (p. 497)
  • A man without cash had one arm in a sling.
    • Gulf (p. 525)
  • Luck is a bonus that follows careful planning—it’s never free.
    • Gulf (p. 534)
  • “Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.
    “For explanations of a universe that confuses him he seizes onto numerology, astrology, hysterical religions, and other fancy ways to go crazy. Having accepted such glorified nonsense, facts make no impression on him, even if at the cost of his own life. Joe, one of the hardest things to believe is the abysmal depth of human stupidity.”
    • Gulf (p. 542)
  • “For a hundred and fifty years or so democracy, or something like it, could flourish safely. The issues were such as to be settled without disaster by votes of common men, befogged and ignorant as they were. But now, if the race is simply to stay alive, political decisions depend on real knowledge of such things as nuclear physics, planetary ecology, genetic theory, even system mechanics. They aren’t up to it, Joe. With goodness and more will than they possess less than one in a thousand could stay awake over one page of nuclear physics; they can’t learn what they must know.”
    • Gulf (p. 544)
  • Reason is poor propaganda when opposed by the yammering, unceasing lies of shrewd and evil and self-serving men. The little man has no way to judge and the shoddy lies are packaged more attractively. There is no way to offer color to a colorblind man, nor is there any way for us to give the man of imperfect brain the canny skill to distinguish a lie from a truth.
    • Gulf (p. 544)
  • A totalitarian political religion is incompatible with free investigation.
    • Gulf (p. 545)
  • The arrangement, classification, and accessibility of knowledge remains in all ages the most pressing problem.
    • Gulf (p. 555)
  • Don’t say that I don’t mix with the common people, Joe; I sell used ’copters for a living. You can’t get any commoner. And don’t imply that my heart is not with them. We are not like them, but we are tied to them by the strongest bond of all, for we are all, each every one, sickening with the same certainly fatal disease—we are alive.
    • Gulf (pp. 556-557)
  • Apparently she believes she is safe. Evil is essentially stupid, Joe; despite her brilliance, she believes what she wishes to believe. Or it may be that she is willing to risk her own death against the tempting prize of absolute power.
    • Gulf (p. 559)
  • “Jim, you’re a fool,”Bowles answered.
    “No, I’m a bachelor. Why? Because I can’t stand the favorite sport of all women.”
    “Which is?”
    “Trying to geld stallions. Let’s get on with the job.”
    • Destination Moon (p. 570)
  • “They’re crazy.”
    “No, Meade. One such is crazy; a lot of them is a lemming death march.”
    • The Year of the Jackpot (p. 622)
  • To be sure, some humans were always doing silly things—but at what point had prime damfoolishness become commonplace? When for example, had the zombie-like professional models become accepted ideals of American womanhood?
    • The Year of the Jackpot (p. 628)
  • “But you were right!”
    “Since when has being right endeared a man to his boss?”
    • The Year of the Jackpot (p. 632)
  • Aside from mathematics, just two things worth doing—kill a man and love a woman. He had done both; he was rich.
    • The Year of the Jackpot (p. 642)
  • What good is the race of man? Monkeys, he thought, monkeys with a spot of poetry in them, cluttering and wasting a second-string planet near a third-string star. But sometimes they finish in style.
    • The Year of the Jackpot (p. 644)
  • Earth, seen from space, looked as it had looked in color-stereo pictures, but he found that the real thing is as vastly more satisfying as a hamburger is better than a picture of one.
    • A Tenderfoot in Space (p. 689)
  • “Funny sort of science! I guess they were pretty ignorant in those days.”
    “Don’t go running down our grandfathers. If it weren’t for them, you and I would be squatting in a cave, scratching fleas. No, Bub, they were pretty sharp; they just didn’t have all the facts. We’ve got more facts, but that doesn’t make us smarter.”
    • A Tenderfoot in Space (p. 691)
  • “I don’t like cats.”
    “Ever lived with a cat? No, I see you haven’t. How can you have the gall not to like something you don’t know anything about? Wait till you’ve lived with a cat, then tell me what you think. Until then...well, who told you you were entitled to an opinion?”
    “Huh? Why, everybody is entitled to his own opinion!”
    “Nonsense, Bub. Nobody is entitled to an opinion about something he is ignorant of. If the Captain told me how to bake a cake, I would politely suggest that he not stick his nose into my trade...contrariwise, I never tell him how to plan an orbit to Mars.”
    • A Tenderfoot in Space (p. 692)
  • Hundred dollar bills have a hypnotic effect on a person not used to them.
    • —All You Zombies— (p. 732)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books (#73330)
  • Hans had courage to burn. If he had been willing to knuckle under to the Nazis he would have stayed at Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. But Hans was a scientist. He wouldn’t trim his notion of truth to fit political gangsters.
    • Chapter 4, “The Blood of Pioneers”, p. 34
  • “I was just trying to show you,” he went on, “just how insubstantial a ‘common sense’ idea can be when you pin it down. Neither ‘common sense’ nor ‘logic’ can prove anything. Proof comes from experiment, or to put it another way, from experience, and from nothing else.”
    • Chapter 10, “The Method of Science”, p. 105
  • “You know the answers, but just between ourselves, that sketch smells a bit. It’s sloppy.”
    “I never did have any artistic talent,” Art said defensively. “I’d rather take a photograph any day.”
    “You’ve taken too many photographs, maybe. As for artistic talent, I haven’t any either, but I learned to sketch. Look, Art—the rest of you guys get this, too—if you can’t sketch, you can’t see. If you really see what you’re looking at, you can put it down on paper, accurately. If you really remember what you have looked at, you can sketch it accurately from memory.”
    “But the lines don’t go where I intend them to.”
    “A pencil will go where you push it. It hasn’t any life of its own. The answer is practice and more practice and thinking about what you are looking at. All of you lugs want to be scientists. Well, the ability to sketch accurately is as necessary to a scientist as his slipstick. More necessary, you can get along without a slide rule.”
    • Chapter 10, “The Method of Science”, p. 108

Beyond This Horizon (1948; originally serialized in 1942)

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Signet (Q5695)
  • The door dilated.
    • Chapter 1, “All of them should have been very happy—”, p. 5 and several other times
    • This offhand mention has become the simplest (three words!) and often-quoted exposition of the wonders of a different world, where what would be novel today has become simply the way things work.
  • “He posed me a question which I must answer correctly—else he will not co-operate.”
    “Huh? What was the question?
    “I’ll ask you. Martha, what is the meaning of life?”
    “What! Why, what a stupid question!”
    “He did not ask it stupidly.”
    “It’s a psychopathic question, unlimited, unanswerable, and, in all probability, sense free.”
    • Chapter 2, “Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief—”, p. 35; see also pages 31, 33
  • Since when did a mathematician need any tools but his own head? Pythagoras had done well enough with a stick and a stretch of sand.
    • Chapter 4, “Boy meets Girl”, p. 45
  • “Can I trust you, my friend?”
    “If you can’t, then what is my assurance worth?”
    • Chapter 4, “Boy meets Girl”, p. 48
  • “But what you’re talking about means giving up all that—just the noble primitive, simple and self-sufficient. He’s going to chop down a tree—who sold him the ax? He wants to shoot a deer—who made his gun?...There never was and there never could be a noble simple creature such as you described. He’d be an ignorant savage, with dirt on his skin and lice in his hair. He would work sixteen hours a day to stay alive at all. He’d sleep in a filthy hut on a dirt floor. And his point of view and his mental processes would be just two jumps above an animal.”
    • Chapter 6, “We don’t speak the same lingo”, pp. 73-74
  • Babies are fun. And they’re not much trouble. Feed ‘em occasionally, help them when they need it, and love them a lot. That’s all there is to it.
    • Chapter 7, “Burn him down at once—”, p. 75
  • So-called instincts are instructive, Felix. They point to survival values.
    • Chapter 7, “Burn him down at once—”, p. 76
  • The police of a state should never be stronger or better armed than the citizenry. An armed citizenry, willing to fight, is the foundation of civil freedom. That’s a personal evaluation, of course.
    • Chapter 9, “When we die, do we die all over?”, p. 97
  • I venture to predict that, when we get around to reviewing their records, we will find that the rebels were almost all—all, perhaps—men who had never been outstandingly successful at anything. Their only prominence was among themselves.
    • Chapter 10, “—the only game in town”, p. 104
  • “If there was anything, anything more at all, after this crazy mix-up we call living, I could feel that there might be some point to the whole frantic business, even if I did not know and could not know the full answer while I was alive.”
    “And suppose there was not? Suppose that when a man’s body disintegrates, he himself disappears absolutely. I’m bound to say I find it a probable hypothesis.”
    “Well— It wouldn’t be cheerful knowledge, but it would be better than not knowing. You could plan your life rationally, at least. A man might even be able to get a certain amount of satisfaction in planning things better for the future, after he’s gone. A vicarious pleasure in the anticipation.”
    • Chapter 10, “—the only game in town”, p. 105
  • Hamilton took a deep breath, let it out, then said, “Listen to me. I don’t know much about women, and sometimes it seems like I didn’t know anything about them. But I’m sure of this—she won’t let a little thing like you taking a pot shot at her stand in the way if you ever had any chance with her at all. She’ll forgive you.”
    “You don’t really mean that, do you?” Monroe-Alpha’s face was still tragic, but he clutched at the hope.
    “Certainly I do. Women will forgive anything.” With a flash of insight he added, “Otherwise the race would have died out long ago.”
    • Chapter 10, “—the only game in town”, pp. 108-109
  • There is no subject inappropriate for scientific research. Johann, we’ve let you fellows have a monopoly of such matters for too long. The most serious questions in the world have been left to faith or speculation. It is time for scientists to cope with them, or admit that science is no more than pebble counting.
    • Chapter 11, “—then a man is something more than his genes!”, p. 111
  • Protoplasm is protean; any simple protoplasm can become any complex form of life under mutation and selection.
    • Chapter 13, “No more privacy than a guppy in an aquarium”, p. 126
  • “The Great Egg must love human beings, he made a lot of them.”
    “Same argument applies to oysters, only more so.”
    • Chapter 13, “No more privacy than a guppy in an aquarium”, p. 127
  • Oh, we get along. She lets me have my own way, and later I find out I’ve done just what she wanted me to do.
    • Chapter 14, “—and beat him when he sneezes”, p. 130
  • At fourteen months he began speaking in sentences, short and of his own structure, but sentences. The subjects of his conversation, or, rather, his statements, were consistently egocentric. Normal again—no one expects an infant to write essays on the beauties of altruism.
    • Chapter 14, “—and beat him when he sneezes”, p. 131
  • Theobald ignored him. He could be deaf when he chose; he seemed to find it particularly difficult to hear the word “No.”
    • Chapter 14, “—and beat him when he sneezes”, p. 132
  • Natural selection—the dying out of the poorly equipped—goes on day in and day out, inexorable and automatic. It is as tireless, as inescapable, as entropy.
    • Chapter 14, “—and beat him when he sneezes”, p. 134
  • “What of it? I’d still be myself. I don’t care what people think.”
    “You’re mistaken, son. To believe that you can live free of your cultural matrix is one of the easiest fallacies and has some of the worst consequences. You are part of your group whether you like it or not, and you are bound by its customs.”
    • Chapter 15, “Probably a blind alley—”, p. 146
  • Well, in the first place an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. For me, politeness is a sine qua non of civilization. That’s a personal evaluation only. But gunfighting has a strong biological use. We do not have enough things to kill off the weak and the stupid these days. But to stay alive as an armed citizen a man has to be either quick with his wits or with his hands, preferably both. It’s a good thing.
    • Chapter 15, “Probably a blind alley—”, p. 147
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Del Rey Books (#26072)
  • Wong shook his head sadly. “I sometimes think that modern education is deliberately designed to handicap a boy.”
    • Chapter 6 “Reading, and ’riting, and ’rithmetic—”, p. 71
  • A military hierarchy automatically places a premium on conservative behavior and dull conformance with precedent; it tends to penalize original and imaginative thinking.
    • Chapter 9 “Long Haul”, p. 101
  • “People tend to fall into three psychological types, all differently motivated. There is the type, motivated by economic factors, money...And there is the type motivated by ‘face,’ or pride. This type is a spender, fighter, boaster, lover, sportsman, gambler; he has a will to power and an itch for glory. And there is the professional type, which claims to follow a code of ethics rather than simply seeking money or glory—priests and ministers, teachers, scientists, medical men, some artists and writers. The idea is that such a man believes that he is devoting his life to some purpose more important than his individual self. You follow me?”
    • Chapter 9 “Long Haul”, p. 111
  • Matt, you are suffering from a disease of youth—you expect moral problems to have nice, neat, black-and-white answers.
    • Chapter 10 “Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?”, p. 126
  • The sort of guardian you can hire is worth about as much as the sort of wife you can buy.
    • Chapter 12 “P.R.S. Pathfinder”, p. 143
  • “I wish Doc Pickering was here.”
    “Yeah, and if fish had feet, they’d be mice.”
    • Chapter 14 “The Natives are Friendly...”, p. 160
  • Precedent is merely the assumption that somebody else, in the past with less information, nevertheless knows better than the man on the spot.
    • Chapter 15 “Pie With a Fork”, p. 180
  • “Sometimes I think,” he told Tex, “that Th’Wing thinks that I am an idiot studying hard to become a moron—but flunking the course.”
    • Chapter 16 “P.R.S. Astarte”, p. 195
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books (#71140)
  • “Jim?”
    “Yes, Dad.”
    “What’s this about leaving your gun where the baby could reach it?”
    Jim flushed. “It wasn’t charged, Dad.”
    “If all the people who had been killed with unloaded guns were laid end to end it would make quite a line up. You are proud of being a licensed gun wearer, aren’t you?
    “Uh, yes, sir.”
    “And I’m proud to have you be one. It means you are a responsible, trusted adult. But when I sponsored you before the Council and stood up with you when you took your oath, I guaranteed that you would obey the regulations and follow the code, wholeheartedly and all the time—not just most of the time. Understand me?”
    “Yes, sir. I think I do.”
    • Chapter 2, “South Colony, Mars”, pp. 16-17
  • Never listen to newscasts. Saves wear and tear on the nervous system.
    • Chapter 2, “South Colony, Mars”, p. 17
  • Doc says the Company set-up is just one big happy family, and the idea that it is a non-profit corporation is the biggest joke since women were invented.
    • Chapter 4, “Lowell Academy”, p. 44
  • Every law that was ever written opened up a new way to graft.
    • Chapter 4, “Lowell Academy”, p. 49
  • I’m not going to give up my gun. Dad wouldn’t want me to. I’m sure of that. Anyhow, I’m licensed and I don’t have to. I’m a qualified marksman, I’ve passed the psycho tests, and I’ve taken the oath; I’m as much entitled to wear a gun as he is.
    • Chapter 4, “Lowell Academy”, p. 55
  • “He’ll pay no mind to me anyhow,” MacRae answered. “That’s the healthy thing about kids.”
    • Chapter 9, “Politics”, p. 133
  • I found out a long time ago that you have to take some chances in this life. Otherwise you are just a vegetable, headed for the soup pot.
    • Chapter 10, “We’re Boxed In!”, p. 145
  • “You put me in mind of a case I ran into in the American West. A respected citizen shot a professional gunthrower in the back. When asked why he didn’t give the other chap a chance to draw, the survivor said, ‘Well, he’s dead and I’m alive and that’s how I wanted it to be.’ Jamie, if you use sportsmanship on a known scamp, you put yourself at a terrible disadvantage.”
    • Chapter 10, “We’re Boxed In!”, p. 148

Sixth Column (1949; originally serialized in 1941)

Reprinted often with the alternative title The Day After Tomorrow. All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Signet (T4227) using this alternate title, fourth printing
  • “Thanks, awfully,” said Thomas. “Now...uh...what do I owe you for this?”
    Finney’s reaction made him feel as if he had uttered some indecency. “Don’t mention payment, my son! Money is wrong—it’s the means whereby man enslaves his brother.”
    “I beg your pardon, sir,” Thomas apologized sincerely. “Nevertheless, I wish there were some way for me to do something for you.”
    “That is another matter. Help your brother when you can, and help will come to you when you need it.”
    • Chapter 2 (pp. 24-25)
  • Three things only do slaves require, food, work, and their gods, and of the three their gods must never be touched, else they grow troublesome.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 57)
  • These savages and their false gods! I grow weary of them. Yet they are necessary; the priests and the gods of slaves always fight on the side of the Masters. It is a rule of nature.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 62)
  • They made a good team. As a matter of fact their talents were not too far apart; the artist is two-thirds artisan and the artisan has essentially the same creative urge as the artist.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 68)
  • We don’t have to be convincing—not in the sense of getting converts. Real converts might prove to be a nuisance. We just have to be convincing enough to look like a legitimate religion to our overlords. And that doesn’t have to be very convincing. All religions look equally silly from the outside.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 70)
  • “Scheer, are you any good at counterfeiting?”
    “I’ve never tried it, sir.”
    “No time like the present. Every man needs an alternative profession.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 72)
  • Sex is rearing its interesting head.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 83)
  • A man has to grow up in a language to be able to understand it scrambled.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 108)
  • When had a slave religion proved anything but an aid to the conqueror? Slaves needed a wailing wall; they went into their temples, prayed to their gods to deliver them from oppression, and came out to work in the fields and factories, relaxed and made harmless by the emotional catharsis of prayer.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 108)
  • Any cipher can be broken, any code can be compromised. But the most exact academic knowledge of a language gives no clue to its slang, its colloquial allusions, its half statements, over statements, and inverted meanings.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 113)
  • “What sort of a remark?”
    “Just priestly mumbo-jumbo. Impressive and no real meaning. Can you do it?”
    “I think so—I used to sell magazine subscriptions.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 127)
  • “Look, Chief—is it really necessary to kill everybody here? I don’t relish it.”
    “Don’t get chicken, son,” admonished Ardmore with an edge in his voice. “This is war—and war is no joke. There is no such thing as a humane war.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 129)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Dell (#2518), first printing (February 1968)
  • “People have a funny habit of taking as ‘natural’ whatever they are used to—but there hasn’t been any ‘natural’ environment, the way they mean it, since men climbed down out of trees.”
    • Chapter 2, “The Green-Eyed Monster” (p. 21)
  • I think girls should be raised in the bottom of a deep, dark sack until they are old enough to know better.
    • Chapter 4, “Captain DeLongPre” (p. 50)
  • I looked it up later; he was right. Dad is an absolute mine of useless information. He says a fact should be loved for itself alone.
    • Chapter 9, “The Moons of Jupiter” (pp. 90-91)
  • See how involved it gets? Clover, bees, nitrogen, escape speed, power, plant-animal balance, gas laws, compound interest laws, meteorology—a mathematical ecologist has to think of everything and think of it ahead of time. Ecology is explosive; what seems like a minor and harmless invasion can change the whole balance.
    • Chapter 12, “Bees and Zeroes” (p. 125)
  • It was so darn quiet you could hear your hair grow.
    • Chapter 13, “Johnny Appleseed” (p. 131)
  • Bill, why is it that some apparently-grown men never learn to do simple arithmetic?
    • Chapter 14, “Land of My Own” (p. 142)
  • Pioneers need good neighbors.
    • Chapter 14, “Land of My Own” (p. 147)
  • For three hundred years the race had glazed windows. Then they shut themselves up in little air-conditioned boxes and stared at silly television pictures instead. One might as well be on Luna.
    • Chapter 16, “Line Up” (p. 161)
  • Gravity’s books have got to balance.
    • Chapter 17, “Disaster” (p. 177)
  • Horses can manufacture more horses and that is one trick that tractors have never learned.
    • Chapter 18, “Pioneer Party” (p. 187)
  • You can only grieve so much; after that it’s self pity.
    • Chapter 18, “Pioneer Party” (p. 188)
  • I said, “What do you think about it, Paul?”
    The boss smiled gently. “I don’t. I haven’t enough data.”
    • Chapter 18, “Pioneer Party” (pp. 193-194)
  • Life is not merely persistent, as Jock puts it; life is explosive. The basic theorem of population mathematics to which there has never been found an exception is that population increases always, not merely up to the extent of the food supply, but beyond it, to the minimum diet that will sustain life—the ragged edge of starvation.
    • Chapter 18, “Pioneer Party” (p. 196)
  • I’m not raising any kids to be radioactive dust.
    • Chapter 18, “Pioneer Party” (p. 198)
  • I’m going to put it to you straight. Never mind about being chief engineer of a planet; these days even a farmer needs the best education he can get. Without it he’s just a country bumpkin, a stumbling peasant, poking seeds into the ground and hoping a miracle will make them grow.
    • Chapter 20, “Home” (pp. 218-219)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Signet (#W7339)
  • There is one thing no head of a country can know, and that is: how good is his intelligence system? He finds out only by having it fail him.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 7)
  • The Old Man’s unique gift was the ability to reason logically with unfamiliar, hard-to-believe facts as easily with the commonplace. Not much, eh? Most minds stall dead when faced with facts which conflict with basic beliefs; “I-just-can’t-believe-it” is all one word to highbrows and dimwits alike.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 20)
  • There was nothing under her clothes but girl and assorted items of lethal hardware.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 28)
  • “Let me get this,” the Old Man said. “You are promising the human race that, if we will just surrender, you will take care of us and make us happy. Right?”
    The Old Man studied this while looking past my shoulders. He spat on the floor. “You know,” he said slowly, “me and my kind, we have often been offered that bargain. It never worked out worth a damn.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 58)
  • Mary? After all, what was she? Just another babe. True, I was disgusted with her for letting herself be used as bait. It was all right for her to use her femaleness as an agent; the Section had to have female operatives. There have always been female spies, and the young and pretty ones have always used the same tools.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 61)
  • Listen, son—most women are damn fools and children. But they’ve got more range than we’ve got. The brave ones are braver, the good ones are better—and the vile ones are viler.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 65)
  • McIlvaine continued, “Take the amoeba—a more basic, and much more successful life form than ours. The motivational psychology of the amoeba—”
    I switched off my ears; free speech gives a man the right to talk about the “psychology” of an amoeba, but I don’t have to listen.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 104)
  • Marriage is not ownership and wives are not property.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 116)
  • The matter was still "Top Secret" and the subject of cabinet debates at the time of the Scranton Riot. Don't ask me why it was top secret, or even restricted; our government has gotten the habit of classifying anything as secret which the all-wise statesmen and bureaucrats decide we are not big enough boys and girls to know, a Mother-Knows-Best-Dear policy. I've read that there used to be a time when a taxpayer could demand the facts on anything and get them. I don't know; it sounds Utopian.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 127)
  • “What is a ‘hunch’?”
    “Eh? It’s a belief that something is so, or isn’t so, without evidence.”
    “I’d call a hunch the result of automatic reasoning below the conscious level on data you did not know you possessed.”
    • Chapter 28 (p. 149)
  • In the army it takes an eight-man working party to help a brass hat blow his nose.
    • Chapter 30 (p. 153)
  • I don’t believe in luck, Sam. Luck is a tag given by the mediocre to account for the accomplishments of genius.
    • Chapter 30 (p. 158)
  • Beat the plowshares back into swords; the other was a maiden aunt’s fancy.
    • Chapter 35 (p. 174)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Del Rey Books (#27796)
  • He was still having trouble readjusting. Wars were something you studied, not something that actually happened.
    • Chapter 1, “New Mexico” (p. 9)
  • Don, have you been dealing with a booklegger?
    • Chapter 1, “New Mexico” (p. 10) - Mr. Reeves, asking the main character why he was in possession of a forbidden book discussing interplanetary politics.
  • Everything is theoretically impossible, until it’s done. One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.
    • Chapter 2, “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin” (p. 23)
  • The point is, your request for a lawyer comes about two hundred years too late to be meaningful. The verbalisms lag behind the facts. Nevertheless, you shall have a lawyer—or a lollipop, whichever you prefer, after I am through questioning you. If I were you, I’d take the lollipop. More nourishing.
    • Chapter 3, “Hunted” (p. 38) - Secret Service officer to the main character during an interrogation.
  • He considered horoscopes as silly as spectacles on a cow.
    • Chapter 4, “The Glory Road” (p. 43)
  • He had let himself be bulldozed by the odds against him. He promised himself never again to pay any attention to the odds, but only to the issues.
    • Chapter 4, “The Glory Road” (p. 45)
  • Mercifully, we stay our hand. Earth’s cities will not be bombed. The free citizens of Venus Republic have no wish to slaughter their cousins still on Terra. Our only purpose is to establish our own independence, to manage our own affairs, to throw off the crushing yoke of absentee ownership and taxation without representation which has bleed us poor.
    In doing so, in so taking our stand as free men, we call on all oppressed and impoverished nations everywhere to follow our lead, accept our help. Look up into the sky! Swimming there above you is the very station from which I now address you. The fat and stupid rulers of the Federation have made of Circum-Terra an overseer’s whip. The threat of this military base in the sky has protected their empire from the just wrath of their victims for more then five score years.
    We now crush it.
    In a matter of minutes this scandal in the clean skies, this pistol pointed at the heads of men everywhere on your planet, will cease to exist. Step out of doors, watch the sky. Watch a new sun blaze briefly, and know that its light is the light of Liberty inviting all of Earth to free itself.
    Subject peoples of Earth, we free men of the free Republic of Venus salute you with that sign!
    • Chapter 6, “The Sign in the Sky” (p. 74) - Speech given before the destruction of the nuclear-armed satellite Circum-Terra.
  • A second sun blazed white and swelled visibly as he watched. What on Earth would have been—so many times had been—a climbing mushroom cloud was here in open space a perfect geometrical sphere, growing unbelievably. It swelled still larger, dropping from limelight white to to silvery violet, became blotched with purple, red and flame. And still it grew, until it blanked out the earth beyond it.
    At the time it had been transformed into a radioactive cosmic cloud Circum-Terra had been passing over, or opposite, the North Atlantic; the swollen incandescent cloud was visible to most of the habitable portions of the globe, a burning symbol in the sky.
    • Chapter 6, “The Sign in the Sky” (p. 75)
  • Man needs freedom, but few men are so strong as to be happy with complete freedom. A man needs to be part of a group, with accepted and respected relationships. Some men join foreign legions for adventure; still more swear on a bit of paper in order to acquire a framework of duties and obligations, customs and taboos, a time to work and a time to loaf, a comrade to dispute with and a sergeant to hate—in short, to belong.
    • Chapter 7, “The Detour” (p. 83)
  • Don took it and said, “Uh, thanks! That’s awfully kind of you. I’ll pay it back, first chance.”
    “Instead, pay it forward to some other brother who needs it.”
    • Chapter 8, “Foxes Have Holes, and Birds of the Air Have Nests—” (p. 91)
  • The attack should not have happened, of course. The rice farmer sergeant had been perfectly right; the Federation could not afford to risk its own great cites to punish the villagers of Venus. He was right—from his viewpoint.
    A rice farmer has one logic; the men who live by and for power have another and entirely different logic. Their lives are built on tenuous assumptions, fragile as reputation; they could not afford to ignore a challenge to their power—the Federation could not afford not to punish the insolent colonists.
    • Chapter 10, “While I Was Musing the Fire Burned” (p. 113)
  • He gave up and went back to loafing, found that he could sleep all right in the afternoons but that the practice kept him awake at night.
    • Chapter 17, “To Reset the Clock” (p. 173)
  • Chief, perhaps it would be clearest to say that the fasarta modulates the garbab in such a phase relationship that the thrimaleen is forced to bast—or, to put it another way, somebody loosed mice in the washroom. Seriously, there is no popular way to explain it. If you were willing to spend five hard years with me, working up through the math, I could probably bring you to the same level of ignorance and confusion that I enjoy.
    • Chapter 17, “To Reset the Clock” (p. 176)
  • She grabbed him by both ears and kissed him quickly, then ran away.
    Don stared after her, rubbing his mouth. Girls, he reflected, were much odder than dragons. Probably another race entirely.
    • Chapter 18, “Little David” (p. 182)
I believe in my neighbors.
I know their faults and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults.
I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth, that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth — but that we will always make it … survive … endure.
One could write a history of science in reverse by assembling the solemn pronouncements of highest authority about what could not be done and could never happen.
Written for the Edward R. Murrow radio show, This I Believe (1952) - full transcript and audio online
  • I am not going to talk about religious beliefs, but about matters so obvious that it has gone out of style to mention them.
    I believe in my neighbors.
    I know their faults and I know that their virtues far outweigh their faults.
    Take Father Michael down our road a piece — I'm not of his creed, but I know the goodness and charity and lovingkindness that shine in his daily actions. I believe in Father Mike; if I'm in trouble, I'll go to him. My next-door neighbor is a veterinary doctor. Doc will get out of bed after a hard day to help a stray cat. No fee —  no prospect of a fee. I believe in Doc.
  • Decency is not news; it is buried in the obituaries — but it is a force stronger than crime.
    I believe in the patient gallantry of the tedious sacrifices of teachers. I believe in the unseen and unending fight against desperate odds that goes on quietly in almost every home in the land.
  • I believe in the honest craft of workmen. Take a look around you. There never were enough bosses to check up on all that work. From Independence Hall to the Grand Coulee Dam, these things were built level and square by craftsmen who were honest in their bones.
  • I believe that almost all politicians are honest. For every bribed alderman there are hundreds of politicians, low paid or not paid at all, doing their level best without thanks or glory to make our system work. If this were not true, we would never have gotten past the thirteen colonies.
  • I believe in —  I am proud to belong to —  the United States. Despite shortcomings, from lynchings to bad faith in high places, our nation has had the most decent and kindly internal practices and foreign policies to be found anywhere in history.
    And finally, I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown — in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability … and goodness … .of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth, that we always make it just by the skin of our teeth — but that we will always make it … survive … endure. I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching, oversize brain case and the opposable thumb, this animal barely up from the apes, will endure — will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets, to the stars, and beyond, carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage — and his noble essential decency.
    This I believe with all my heart.
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Del Rey Books (#27581) ISBN 0-87997-350-1
  • Every technology goes through three stages: first a crudely simple and quite unsatisfactory gadget; second, an enormously complicated group of gadgets designed to overcome the shortcomings of the original and achieving thereby somewhat satisfactory performance through extremely complex compromise; third, a final stage of smooth simplicity and efficient performance based on correct understanding of natural laws and proper design therefrom.
    • Chapter 4, “Aspects of Domestic Engineering” (pp. 52-53)
  • Mr. Stone was satisfied, being sure in his heart that any person skilled with mathematical tools could learn anything else he needed to know, with or without a master.
    • Chapter 4, “Aspects of Domestic Engineering” (p. 61)
  • If you’re going to be businessmen, don’t confuse the vocation with larceny.
    • Chapter 4, “Aspects of Domestic Engineering” (p. 61)
  • “You have us going faster than light.”
    “I thought the figures were a bit large.”
    • Chapter 8, “The Mighty Room” (p. 100)
  • The situation has multifarious ramifications not immediately apparent to the unassisted optic.
    • Chapter 13, “Caveat Vendor” (pp. 177-178)
  • “It didn’t happen that way,” Roger Stone cut in, “so there is no use talking about other possibilities. They probably aren’t really possibilities at all, if only we understood it.”
    Pollux: “Predestination.”
    Castor: “Very shaky theory.”
    Roger grinned. “I’m not a determinist and you can’t get my goat. I believe in free will.”
    Pollux: “Another very shaky theory.”
    “Make up your minds,” their father told them. “You can’t have it both ways.”
    “Why not?” asked Hazel. “Free will is a golden thread running through the frozen matrix of fixed events.”
    “Not mathematical,” objected Pollux.
    Castor nodded. “Just poetry.”
    “And not very good poetry.”
    • Chapter 14, “Flat Cats Factorial” (p. 182)
  • Go ahead. Go right ahead. Don’t let me discourage you. Any objections from me would simply confirm your preconceptions.
    • Chapter 14, “Flat Cats Factorial” (p. 187)
  • Wherever there is power and mass to manipulate, Man can live.
    • Chapter 16, “Rock City” (p. 208)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ballantine Books (#24354) 1st printing (February 1975)
  • But as grandpop always said, there are just three ways to get ahead; sweat and genius, getting born into the right family, or marrying into it.
    • Chapter 8, “Three Ways to Get Ahead” (p. 82)
  • Max opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again. “No.”
    “Speak louder. You used a word I don’t understand.”
    • Chapter 9, “Chartman Jones” (p. 95)
  • Everybody has a skeleton in the closet; the thing is to keep ’em there and not at the feast.
    • Chapter 10, “Garson’s Planet” (p. 109)
  • A distance “as the crow flies” is significant only to crows.
    • Chapter 11, “Through the Cargo Hatch” (p. 111)
  • Like searching at midnight in a dark cellar for a black cat that isn’t there.
    • Chapter 11, “Through the Cargo Hatch” (p. 115)
  • Sic transit gloria mundi—Tuesday is usually worse.
    • Chapter 12, “Halcyon” (p. 135)
  • Oh Max, you large lout, you arouse the eternal maternal in me.
    • Chapter 17, “Charity” (p. 185)
  • “You know, Ellie, you play this game awfully well—for a girl.”
    “Thank you too much.”
    “No, I mean it. I suppose girls are probably as intelligent as men, but most of them don’t act like it. I think it’s because they don’t have to. If a girl is pretty, she doesn’t have to think.”
    • Chapter 19, “A Friend in Need” (p. 210)
  • “Mr. Jones, has it ever occurred to you, the world being what it is, that women sometimes prefer not to appear too bright?”
    • Chapter 19, “A Friend in Need” (p. 211)
  • “I guess I don’t understand women.”
    “That’s an understatement.”
    • Chapter 19, “A Friend in Need” (p. 211)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books (#78001)
  • The law is whatever you can convince a court it is.
    • Chapter 3, “—An Improper Question” (p. 41)
  • It seemed to John that most of the older people in the world spent much of their time not listening.
    • Chapter 3, “—An Improper Question” (p. 53)
  • Any organization calling itself “The Friends of This or That” always consisted of someone with an axe to grind, plus the usual assortment of prominent custard heads and professional stuffed shirts.
    • Chapter 5, “A Matter of Viewpoint” (p. 82)
  • “I talked with it, boss. It’s stupid.”
    “I can’t see that you have established that. Assuming that an e.-t. is stupid because he can’t speak our language well is like assuming that an Italian is illiterate because he speaks broken English. A non-sequitur.”
    • Chapter 5, “A Matter of Viewpoint” (p. 87)
  • If you can’t outargue the other fellow, sometimes you can outlive him.
    • Chapter 6, “Space is Deep, Excellency” (p. 110)
  • “May I say without offense that the reception given my sort on your great planet is sometimes something that one must be philosophical about?”
    “I know. I’m sorry. My own people, most of them, are honestly convinced that the prejudices of their native village were ordained by the Almighty. I wish it were different.”
    • Chapter 6, “Space is Deep, Excellency” (p. 113)
  • I do not like weapons, Doctor; they are the last resort of faulty diplomacy.
    • Chapter 9, “Customs and an Ugly Duckling” (p. 151)
  • “Heredity isn’t everything; I’m myself, an individual. You aren’t your parents. You’re not your father, you are not your mother. But you are a little late realizing it.” She sat up straight. “So be yourself, Knothead, and have the courage to make your own mess of your life. Don’t imitate somebody else’s mess.”
    • Chapter 11, “It’s Too Late, Johnnie” (p. 170)
  • Fact is, you work too hard...the universe won’t run down if you don’t wind it.
    • Chapter 12, “Concerning Pidgie-Widgie” (p. 185)
  • “You mean that, Henry?”
    “I always mean what I say, sir. It saves time.”
    • Chapter 13, “No, Mr. Secretary” (p. 201)
  • Madam, the commonest weakness of our race is our ability to rationalize our most selfish purposes.
    • Chapter 14, “Destiny? Fiddlesticks!” (p. 219)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books (#82660)
  • Remember, though, your best weapon is between your ears and under your scalp—provided it’s loaded.
    • Chapter 1, “The Marching Hordes” (p. 14)
  • Cut it out. If there is anything stupider that flogging yourself over something you can’t help, I’ve yet to meet it.
    • Chapter 2, “The Fifth Way” (p. 40)
  • When a cat greets you, he makes a big operation of it, bumping, stropping your legs, buzzing like mischief. But when he leaves, he just walks off and never looks back. Cats are smart.
    • Chapter 2, “The Fifth Way” (p. 42)
  • Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal.
    • Chapter 2, “The Fifth Way” (p. 42)
  • One time in a hundred a gun might save your life; the other ninety-nine it will just tempt you into folly.
    • Chapter 2, “The Fifth Way” (p. 43)
  • “From the ignoramuses we get for recruits I’ve reached the conclusion that this new-fangled ‘functional education’ has abolished studying in favor of developing their cute little personalities.”
    • Chapter 2, “The Fifth Way” (pp. 43-44)
  • ""Good stories are rarely true."
    • Chapter 3, "Through the Tunnel"
  • Shaving, the common cold, and old man says those are the three eternal problems the race is never going to lick.
    • Chapter 6, “I Think He Is Dead” (p. 93)
  • When you haven’t data, guessing is illogical.
    • Chapter 6, “I Think He Is Dead” (p. 98)
  • Rod...were you born that stupid? Or did you have to study?
    • Chapter 6, “I Think He Is Dead” (p. 104)
  • But don’t say you don’t need money; that’s immoral.
    • Chapter 15, “In Achilles’ Tent” (p. 234)
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books (#81125)
  • I was confused. I didn’t feel telepathic; I merely felt hungry.
    • Chapter 2, “The Natural Logarithm of Two” (p. 24)
  • “Pat, can’t you get it through your thick head to leave well enough alone?”
    “I don’t see what’s wrong with my logic.”
    “Since when was an emotional argument won by logic?”
    • Chapter 4, “Half a Loaf” (p. 44)
  • When it comes down to it, the root cause of war is always population pressure no matter what other factors enter in.
    • Chapter 4, “Half a Loaf” (p. 44)
  • I don’t know; maybe Frank had good intentions, but I sometimes think “good intentions” should be declared a capital crime.
    • Chapter 5, “The Party of the Second Part” (p. 52)
  • Parents probably don’t know that they are playing favorites even when they are doing it.
    • Chapter 5, “The Party of the Second Part” (p. 54)
  • I decided not to cross any bridges I had burned behind me.
    • Chapter 7, “19,900 Ways” (p. 69)
  • Learning isn’t a means to an end; it is an end in itself.
    • Chapter 7, “19,900 Ways” (p. 70)
  • Attend me. How do you prove that there are eggs in a bird’s nest? Don’t strain your gray matter: go climb the tree and find out. There is no other way.
    • Chapter 8, “Relativity” (p. 82)
  • You have to believe evidence when you have it in front of you, or else the universe is just too fantastic.
    • Chapter 12, “Tau Ceti” (p. 122)
  • “Harry, I need advice.”
    “You do? Well, I’ve got it in all sizes. All of it free and all of it worth what it costs, I’m afraid.”
    • Chapter 15, “Carry Out Her Mission!” (p. 162)
  • Aside from a cold appreciation of my own genius I felt that I was a modest man.
  • I have never been impressed by the formal schools of ethics. I had sampled them — public libraries are a ready source of recreation for an actor short of cash — but I had found them as poor in vitamins as a mother-in-law’s kiss. Given time and plenty of paper, a philosopher can prove anything. I had the same contempt for the moral instruction handed to most children. Much of it is prattle and the parts they really seem to mean are dedicated to the sacred proposition that a “good” child is one who does not disturb mother’s nap and a “good” man is one who achieves a muscular bank account without getting caught. No, thanks!
  • Take sides! Always take sides! You will sometimes be wrong — but the man who refuses to take sides must always be wrong.
  • His bow to me must have been calculated on a slide rule; it suggested that I was about to be Supreme Minister but was not quite there yet, that I was his senior but nevertheless a civilian — then subtract five degrees for the fact that he wore the Emperor’s aiguillette on his right shoulder.
  • Son, suppose you tend to your knitting and I tend to mine.
  • People don’t really want change, any change at all — and xenophobia is very deep-rooted. But we progress, as we must — if we are to go out to the stars.
  • There is solemn satisfaction in doing the best you can for eight billion people. Perhaps their lives have no cosmic significance, but they have feelings. They can hurt.
  • Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay - and claims a halo for his dishonesty
If you would know a man, observe how he treats a cat.
  • If you would know a man, observe how he treats a cat.
    • Chapter 1
  • Cats have no sense of humor, they have terribly inflated egos, and they are very touchy.
    • Chapter 2
  • My old man claimed that the more complicated the law the more opportunity for scoundrels.
    • Chapter 5
  • Paymasters come in only two sizes: one sort shows you where the book says that you can’t have what you've got coming to you; the second sort digs through the book until he finds a paragraph that lets you have what you need even if you don’t rate it.
    • Chapter 5
  • An invention is something that was “impossible” up to then—that’s why governments grant patents.
    • Chapter 6
  • I counted to ten slowly, using binary notation.
    • Chapter 8
  • By the laws of statistics we could probably approximate just how unlikely it is that it would happen. But people forget—especially those who ought to know better, such as yourself—that while the laws of statistics tell you how unlikely a particular coincidence is, they state just as firmly that coincidences do happen.
    • Chapter 8
  • I had taken a partner once before—but, damnation, no matter how many times you get your fingers burned, you have to trust people. Otherwise you are a hermit in a cave, sleeping with one eye open.
    • Chapter 10
  • “Er, will your grandmother tell that fib for you?”
    “I guess so. Yes, I'm sure she will. She says people have to tell little white fibs or else people couldn’t stand each other. But she says fibs were meant to be used, not abused.”
    “She sounds like a sensible person.”
    • Chapter 11
  • They made the predictable fuss about taking a cat into a room and an autobellhop is not responsive to bribes—hardly an improvement. But the assistant manager had more flexibility in his synapses; He listened to reason as long as it was crisp and rustled.
    • Chapter 12
  • The future is better than the past. Despite the crepehangers, romanticists, and anti-intellectuals, the world steadily grows better because the human mind, applying itself to environment, makes it better. With hands...with tools...with horse sense and science and engineering.
    • Chapter 12
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books (#10601)
  • If you lie to me, I’ll catch you…eventually. Lying to other people is your business, but I can tell you this: once a man gets a reputation as a liar, he might as well be struck dumb, for people do not listen to the wind.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 24)
  • As Thorby learned to use his mind, he found that he liked to; he developed an insatiable appetite for the printed page.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 30)
  • But mathematics Thorby saw no use in, other than the barbaric skill of counting money. But presently he learned that mathematics need not have use; it was a game, like chess but more fun.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 30)
  • “Do you know what an anthropologist is?”
    “Uh, I am sorry, ma’am—Margaret.”
    “It’s simpler than it sounds. An anthropologist is a scientist who studies how people live together.”
    Thorby looked doubtful. “This is a science?”
    “Sometimes I wonder. Actually, Thorby, it is a complicated study, because the patterns that men work out to live together seem unlimited.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 77)
  • With rank goeth privileges—so it ever shall be. But also with it go responsibility and obligation, always more onerous than the privileges are pleasant.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 89)
  • “Customs tell a man who he is, where he belongs, what he must do. Better illogical customs than none; men cannot live together without them. From an anthropologist’s view, ’justice’ is a search for workable customs.”
    • Chapter 8 (pp. 93-94)
  • Pop, who maintained that a wise man could not be insulted, since truth could not insult and untruth was not worthy of notice.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 108)
  • Most things are right or wrong only in their backgrounds; few things are good or evil in themselves. But things that are right or wrong according to their culture, really are so.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 124)
  • He was caught in the old dilemma of the man with unintegrated values, who eats meat but would rather somebody else did the butchering.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 134)
  • Since Thorby had no talent he became an actor.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 135)
  • I’m not lazy, I’m efficient.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 164)
  • “Pay, are all paymasters dishonest?”
    “Only the good ones.”
    • Chapter 15 (p. 168)
  • But I warn you, it won’t be fun. Nobody owns a business; the business owns him. You’re a slave to it.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 206)
  • I used to wonder what it was like to be rich. Now I am and it turns out to be mostly headaches.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 224)
  • “What can I do for you?”
    “Uh, is this confidential?”
    “Privileged, son. The word is ‘privileged.’ You don’t ask a lawyer that; he’s either honest or he ain’t. Me, I’m middlin’ honest. You take your chances.”
    • Chapter 20 (p. 229)
  • Son, people do odd things for money, but they’ll do still more drastic things for power over money. Anybody sittin’ close to a billion credits is in danger; it’s like keeping a pet rattlesnake.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 230)
  • He was finding it ruinously expensive to be rich.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 242)
  • Age is not an accomplishment, and youth is not a sin.
  • No philosophy that he had ever heard or read gave any reasonable purpose for man's existence, nor any rational clue to his proper conduct. Basking in the sunshine might be as good a thing to do with one's life as any other — but it was not for him and he knew it, even if he could not define how he knew it.
  • A committee is the only known form of life with a hundred bellies and no brain.
  • Life is short, but the years are long.
    • Part of the secret "call and response" codewords by which members of the long-lived Howard Families can identify others:
Life is short.
But the years are long.
Not while the evil days come not.

"—All You Zombies—" (1958)

I glanced at the ring on my finger.
The Snake That Eats Its Own Tail, Forever and Ever … I know where I came from — but where did all you zombies come from?
Written in one day (11 July 1958) this was first published in Fantasy and Science Fiction (March 1959); the 2014 film Predestination is an adaptation of this story.
  • I was polishing a brandy snifter when the Unmarried Mother came in. I noted the time — 10: 17 P.M. zone five, or eastern time, November 7th, 1970. Temporal agents always notice time and date; we must.
    The Unmarried Mother was a man twenty-five years old, no taller than I am, childish features and a touchy temper. I didn't like his looks — I never had — but he was a lad I was here to recruit, he was my boy. I gave him my best barkeep's smile.
  • I dictated my report; forty recruitments all okayed by the Psych Bureau — counting my own, which I knew would be okayed. I was here, wasn't I? Then I taped a request for assignment to operations; I was sick of recruiting.
  • Never Do Yesterday What Should Be Done Tomorrow.
  • If at Last You Do Succeed, Never Try Again.
  • I glanced at the ring on my finger.
    The Snake That Eats Its Own Tail, Forever and Ever …  I know where I came from — but where did all you zombies come from?
  • You aren't really there at all. There isn't anybody but me — Jane — here alone in the dark.
    I miss you dreadfully!
  • “Dr. Russell, I concede that Washington has an atrocious climate. But you will have air-conditioned offices.”
    “With clocks, no doubt. And secretaries. And soundproofing.”
    “Anything you want, doctor.”
    “The point is, Mr. Secretary, I don’t want them. This household has no clocks. Nor calendars. Once I had a large income and a larger ulcer; I now have a small income and no ulcer. I stay here.”
    “But the job needs you.”
    “The need is not mutual.”
    • Chapter 1
  • There is no such thing as luck; there is only adequate or inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.
    • Chapter 2
  • Television leaves no external scars.
    • Chapter 3
  • Daddy says that, in a dilemma, it is helpful to change any variable, then reexamine the problem.
    • Chapter 5
  • We lived like that “Happy Family“ you sometimes see in traveling zoos: a lion caged with a lamb. It is a startling exhibit but the lamb has to be replaced frequently.
    • Chapter 7
  • When I don’t understand, I have an unbearable itch to know why.
    • Chapter 7
  • I missed my slipstick. Dad says that anyone who can't use a slide rule is a cultural illiterate and should not be allowed to vote. Mine is a beauty — a K&E 20-inch Log-log Duplex Decitrig. Dad surprised me with it after I mastered a ten-inch polyphase. We ate potato soup that week — but Dad says you should always budget luxuries first. I knew where it was. Home on my desk.
    • Chapter 7
  • You're in bad shape when your emotions force you into acts which you know are foolish.
    • Chapter 8
  • Some people insist that “mediocre” is better than “best.” They delight in clipping wings because they themselves can’t fly. They despise brains because they have none. Pfah!
    • Chapter 9
  • Being a mother is an attitude, not a biological relation.
    • Chapter 9
  • “Peewee!” I said sharply. “You're not listening.”
    “What were you doing talking,” she answered reasonably, “when I wasn’t listening?”
    • Chapter 10
  • The less respect an older person deserves the more certain he is to demand it from anyone younger.
    • Chapter 10
  • I've heard all the usual Sweetness and Light that kids get pushed at them—how they should always forgive, how there’s some good in the worst of us, etc. But when I see a black widow, I step on it; I don’t plead with it to be a good little spider and please stop poisoning people. A black widow spider can’t help it—but that’s the point.
    • Chapter 10
  • “Die trying” is the proudest human thing.
    • Chapter 11
  • When a fact came along, he junked theories that failed to match.
    • Chapter 12
  • The best things in history are accomplished by people who get “tired of being shoved around.”
    • Chapter 12
Main article: Starship Troopers
  • Morals — all correct moral laws — derive from the instinct to survive. Moral behavior is survival behavior above the individual level.
  • Correct morality can only be derived from what man is — not from what do-gooders and well-meaning aunt Nellies would like him to be.
She's more than good art denouncing some very bad art; she's a symbol for every woman who has ever tried to shoulder a load that was too heavy for her — over half the female population of this planet, living and dead, I would guess. But not alone women — this symbol is sexless. It means every man and every woman who ever lived who sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude, whose courage wasn't even noticed until they crumpled under their loads.
  • Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.
    • "Jubal Harshaw" in the first edition (1961); the later 1991 "Uncut" edition didn't have this line, because it was one Heinlein had added when he went through and trimmed the originally submitted manuscript on which the "Uncut" edition is based. Heinlein also later used a variant of this in The Cat Who Walks Through Walls where he has Xia quote Harshaw: "Dr. Harshaw says that 'the word "love" designates a subjective condition in which the welfare and happiness of another person are essential to one's own happiness.'"
  • Jealousy is a disease; love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often confuses one for the other, or assumes the greater the love, the greater the jealousy. In fact they are almost incompatible; both at once produce unbearable turmoil.
    • "Jubal Harshaw" in the first edition (1961); this is another line not in the "Uncut" edition of 1991 based on his original manuscripts, because this was one of the lines that Heinlein added, rather than trimmed down, during the editing process of the first edition.
  • Ben, the ethics of sex is a thorny problem. Each of us is forced to grope for a solution he can live with — in the face of a preposterous, unworkable, and evil code of so-called "morals." Most of us know the code is wrong; almost everybody breaks it. But we pay Danegeld by feeling guilty and giving lip service. Willy-nilly, the code rides us, dead and stinking, an albatross around the neck.
    You, too, Ben. You fancy yourself a free soul — and break that evil code. But faced with a problem in sexual ethics new to you, you tested it against that same Judeo-Christian code ... so automatically your stomach did flip-flops ... and you think that proves you're right and they're wrong. Faugh! I'd as lief use trial by ordeal.
    • "Jubal Harshaw"
  • There comes a time in the life of every human when he or she must decide to risk "his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor" on an outcome dubious. Those who fail the challenge are merely overgrown children, can never be anything else.
  • Here is this poor little caryatid who has tried — and failed, fallen under the load. She's a good girl — look at her face. Serious, unhappy at her failure, but not blaming anyone else, not even the gods… and still trying to shoulder her load, after she's crumpled under it.
    But she's more than good art denouncing some very bad art; she's a symbol for every woman who has ever tried to shoulder a load that was too heavy for her — over half the female population of this planet, living and dead, I would guess. But not alone women — this symbol is sexless. It means every man and every woman who ever lived who sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude, whose courage wasn't even noticed until they crumpled under their loads.
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Berkley Medallion Books, ISBN 0-425-03434-8, January 1970, 12th printing
  • “So you say ‘Politics!’ as if it were a nasty word—and you think that settles it.”
    He sighed. “But you don’t understand. Politics is not evil; politics is the human race’s most magnificent achievement. When politics is good, it’s wonderful…and when politics is bad—well, it’s still pretty good.”
    “I guess I don’t understand,” I said slowly.
    “Think about it. Politics is just a name for the way we get things done...without fighting. We dicker and compromise and everybody thinks he has received a raw deal, but somehow after a tedious amount of talk we come up with some jury-rigged way to do it without getting anybody’s head bashed in. That’s politics. The only other way to settle a dispute is by bashing a few heads in...and that is what happens when one or both sides is no longer willing to dicker. That’s why I say politics is good even when it is bad…because the only alternative is force—and somebody gets hurt.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 33)
  • Old age is not an accomplishment; it is just something that happens to you despite yourself, like falling downstairs.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 50)
  • I called after him but he just kept going. Clark is not hard of hearing but he can be very hard of listening.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 58)
  • Clark just looked bored and contemptuous and said nothing, because Clark would not bother to interfere with Armageddon unless there was ten percent in it for him.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 60)
  • I really am a good listener because you never can tell when you will pick up something useful—and all in the world any woman has to do to be considered “charming” by men is to listen while they talk.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 60)
  • It’s lots better to be miserable than to be bored.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 94)
  • Oh, sure, I learned about other systems in school—but it didn’t soak in. Now I am beginning to grasp emotionally that There Are Other Ways Than Ours…and that people can be happy under them.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 118)
  • The tragedy about Romeo and Juliet is not that they died so young but that the boy-meets-girl reflex should be so overpowering as to defeat all common sense.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 125)
  • A baby is lots more fun than differential equations.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 127)
  • In sober truth no person can ever be truly responsible for another human being. Each one of us faces up to the universe alone, and the universe is what it is and it doesn’t soften the rules for any of us—and eventually, in the long run, the universe always wins and takes all. But that doesn’t make it any easier when we try to be responsible for one another—as you have, as I have—and then look back and see how we could have done it better.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 133)
  • I told him it was wrong, I said that he mustn’t take the law in his own hands. “What law?” he said. “There isn’t any law here. And you aren’t being logical, Pod. Anything that is right for a group to do is right for one person to do.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 168)
  • “Anything that is moral for a group to do is moral for one person to do.” There must be a flaw in that, since I’ve always been taught that it is wrong to take the law in your own hands. But I can’t find the flaw and it sounds axiomatic, self-evident. Switch it around. If something is wrong for one person to do, can it possibly be made right by having a lot of people (a government) agree to do it together? Even unanimously?
    If anything is wrong, it is wrong—and vox populi can’t change it.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 169)
  • Poddy’s greatest weakness—the really soft place in her head, she’s not too stupid otherwise—is her almost total inability to grasp that some people are as bad as they are. Evil. Poddy never has understood evil. Naughtiness is about as far as her imagination reaches.
    • Postlude (p. 170)
Main article: Glory Road
  • Logic is a feeble reed, friend. "Logic" proved that airplanes can't fly and that H-bombs won't work and that stones don't fall out of the sky. Logic is a way of saying that anything which didn't happen yesterday won't happen tomorrow.
  • Democracy can't work. Mathematicians, peasants, and animals, that's all there is — so democracy, a theory based on the assumption that mathematicians and peasants are equal, can never work. Wisdom is not additive; its maximum is that of the wisest man in a given group.
All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 0-441-22834-8, February 1987, 5th printing
All italics as in the book
  • “Mr. Farnham!” You think they are going to attack?”
    Her host shrugged. “The Kremlin doesn’t let me in on its secrets.”
    • Chapter 1 (p. 5)
  • No government has yet been able to repeal natural laws, though they keep trying.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 35)
  • “We’re going to die. Aren’t we?”
    “I thought so. Before morning?”
    “Oh, no! I feel sure we can live till noon.”
    • Chapter 2 (p. 39)
  • “It is impossible for anyone to be responsible for another person’s behavior. I spoke of myself as ‘responsible’ for this group, that was verbal shorthand. The most I can do—or you, or any leader—is to encourage each one to be responsible for himself.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 75)
  • You know that color does not matter to me. I want to know other things about a man. Is his word good? Does he meet his obligations? Does he do honest work? Is he brave? Will he stand up and be counted?
    • Chapter 7 (p. 115)
  • We have everything for a still; I stocked the items to build one if a war came along—not just for us but because liquor is money in any primitive society.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 145)
  • The concept of change baffled them.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 196)
  • We are all free—to walk our appointed paths. Just as a stone is free to fall when you toss it into the air. No one is free in the abstract meaning you give the word.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 221)
  • Hugh shut up. He was thinking glumly that Ponse was not a villain. He was exactly like the members of every ruling class in history: honestly convinced of his benevolence and hurt if it was challenged.
    • Chapter 15 (pp. 224-225)
  • “Why do you think this gossip is true?”
    “Uh…I heard it and checked around. Everybody knows it.”
    “So? Everybody knew the Earth was flat, at one time.”
    • Chapter 16 (p. 233)
  • If a grasshopper tries to fight a lawnmower, one may admire his courage but not his judgment.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 235)
  • He did not want Barbara ever to feel the deadening load of hopelessness that could—and had, all through history—turned chaste women into willing concubines. Much as he loved her, he had no illusions that Barbara was either angel or saint; the Sabine women had stood no chance and neither would she. “Death before dishonor!” was a slogan that did not wear well. In time, it changed to happy cooperation.
    • Chapter 16 (pp. 236-237)
  • He tried to tell himself that no one is ever responsible for another person’s actions. He believed it, he tried to live by it. But he found that cold wisdom no comfort.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 244)
  • This matter of racial differences—or the nonsense notion of “racial equality”—had never been examined scientifically; there was too much emotion on both sides. No one wanted honest data….
    Nevertheless, this confused matter of races would never be straightened out—because almost nobody wanted the truth.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 285; ellipsis represents elision of examples for the sake of continuity)
  • A rational anarchist believes that concepts, such as "state" and "society" and "government" have no existence save as physically exemplified in the acts of self-responsible individuals. He believes that it is impossible to shift blame, share blame, distribute blame ... as blame, guilt, responsibility are matters taking place inside human beings singly and nowhere else. But being rational, he knows that not all individuals hold his evaluations, so he tries to live perfectly in an imperfect world ... aware that his efforts will be less than perfect yet undismayed by self-knowledge of self-failure.
  • I will accept the rules that you feel necessary to your freedom. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.
  • Must be a yearning deep in human heart to stop other people from doing as they please. Rules, laws — always for other fellow. A murky part of us, something we had before we came down out of trees, and failed to shuck when we stood up. Because not one of those people said: Please pass this so that I won't be able to do something I know I should stop. Nyet, tovarishchee, was always something they hated to see neighbors doing. Stop them for their own good.
    • Acronym for "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch." The origin of this phrase is often misattributed to Heinlein or Milton Friedman, but it actually dates back to at least the 1930s. Heinlein's contribution was to make the acronym for it.
  • There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him.
All page numbers from the 1987 mass market edition published by Ace Books, ISBN 0-441-35917-5
  • “Going to dance at my wake?”
    “I don’t dance,” the lawyer answered, “but you tempt me to learn.”
    • Chapter 1, p. 13
  • From my point of view it is better to be alive and young again, and broke, than it is to be the richest corpse in Forest Lawn.
    • Chapter 1, p. 24
  • What we think of as ‘Physical beauty’ is almost certainly a tag for a complex of useful survival characteristics. Smartness—intelligence—among them.
    • Chapter 2, p. 35
  • Fighting continued on a token basis, and the dead did not complain.
    • Chapter 12, p. 171
  • I’m not trying to frighten you, but only a fool makes predictions based on ignorance; I am not that sort of fool.
    • Chapter 12, p. 177
  • A man who marries at my age isn’t taking a wife, he’s indenturing a nurse.
    • Chapter 14, p. 224
  • Between being ‘right’ and being kind, I know which way I vote.
    • Chapter 24, p. 400
  • We may eliminate death someday but I doubt if we’ll ever eliminate taxes.
    • Chapter 24, p. 406
  • When you’re rich, you don’t have friends; you just have endless acquaintances.
    • Chapter 24, p. 408
  • It’s impossible for a woman to lay it on too thick with a man. If you tell a man he’s eight feet tall and say it often enough, with your eyes wide and a throb in your voice, he’ll start stooping to go through seven-foot doors.
    • Chapter 25, p. 427
  • I have never been able to see life as anything but a vast complicated practical joke, and it’s better to laugh than cry.
    • Chapter 25, p. 442
  • Boats and ships are female because they are beautiful, lovable, expensive—and unpredictable.
    • Chapter 26, p. 452
  • I don’t think Father Hugo is any more mistaken than the most learned theologian and he might be closer to the truth. Jacob, I don’t think anyone knows Who’s in charge.
    • Chapter 26, p. 459
  • I think the major problem in growing up is to become sophisticated without becoming cynical.
    • Chapter 27, p. 473
  • Death is an old friend; I know him well. I lived with him, ate with him, slept with him; to meet him again does not frighten me—death is as necessary as birth, as happy in its own way.
    • Chapter 27, p. 488
It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier.
There is no conclusive evidence of life after death. But there is no evidence of any sort against it. Soon enough you will know. So why fret about it?
You live and learn. Or you don't live long.
Main article: Time Enough for Love
  • Progress doesn't come from early risers — progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things.
  • A brute kills for pleasure. A fool kills from hate.
  • A generation which ignores history has no past —and no future.
  • All men are created unequal.
  • Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.
  • If you happen to be one of the fretful minority who can do creative work, never force an idea; you'll abort it if you do. Be patient and you'll give birth to it when the time is ripe. Learn to wait.
  • It may be better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but it is better still to be a live lion. And usually easier.
  • Masturbation is cheap, clean, convenient, and free of any possibility of wrongdoing —and you don't have to go home in the cold. But it's lonely.
  • Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.
  • "No man is an island — " Much as we may feel and act as Individuals, our race is —a single organism, always growing and branching —which must be pruned regularly to be healthy.
    This necessity need not be argued; anyone with eyes can see that any organism which grows without limit always dies in its own poisons. The only rational question is whether pruning is best done before or after birth.
    Being an incurable sentimentalist I favor the former of these methods —killing makes me queasy, even when it's a case of "He's dead and I'm alive and that's the way I wanted it to be."
    But this may be a matter of taste. Some shamans think that it is better to be killed in a war, or to die in childbirth, or to starve in misery, than never to have lived at all. They may be right.
    But I don't have to like it —and I don't.
  • There is no conclusive evidence of life after death. But there is no evidence of any sort against it. Soon enough you will know. So why fret about it?
  • You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.
  • You live and learn. Or you don't live long.
  • Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors — and miss.
  • A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

The Pragmatics of Patriotism (1973)

Selfishness is the bedrock on which all moral behavior starts and it can be immoral only when it conflicts with a higher moral imperative. ... The next higher level is to work, fight, and sometimes die for your own immediate family.
Evolution is a process that never stops. Baboons who fail to exhibit moral behavior do not survive; they wind up as meat for leopards.
Behaving on a still higher moral level were the astronauts who went to the Moon, for their actions tend toward the survival of the entire race of mankind.
But what of this nameless stranger? … He was still trying to save this woman he had never seen before in his life, right up to the very instant the train killed him. And that's all we'll ever know about him.
This is how a man dies. This is how a man ... lives!
Quotations from Heinlein's address at the U.S. Naval Academy (5 April 1973), published in Analog : Science Fiction/Science Fact, Vol. 94, Issue 6 (1974), and in Expanded Universe (1980)
  • In this complex world, science, the scientific method, and the consequences of the scientific method are central to everything the human race is doing and to wherever we are going. If we blow ourselves up we will do it by misapplication of science; if we manage to keep from blowing ourselves up, it will be through intelligent application of science.
  • Patriotism is not sentimental nonsense. Nor something dreamed up by demagogues. Patriotism is as necessary a part of man's evolutionary equipment as are his eyes, as useful to the race as eyes are to the individual.
  • I now define "moral behavior" as "behavior that tends toward survival." I won't argue with philosophers or theologians who choose to use the word "moral" to mean something else, but I do not think anyone can define "behavior that tends toward extinction" as being "moral" without stretching the word "moral" all out of shape.
  • Selfishness is the bedrock on which all moral behavior starts and it can be immoral only when it conflicts with a higher moral imperative. An animal so poor in spirit that he won't even fight on his own behalf is already an evolutionary dead end; the best he can do for his breed is to crawl off and die, and not pass on his defective genes.
  • The next higher level is to work, fight, and sometimes die for your own immediate family. This is the level at which six pounds of mother cat can be so fierce that she'll drive off a police dog. It is the level at which a father takes a moonlighting job to keep his kids in college — and the level at which a mother or father dives into a flood to save a drowning child ... and it is still moral behavior even when it fails.
  • Evolution is a process that never stops. Baboons who fail to exhibit moral behavior do not survive; they wind up as meat for leopards.
  • The next level in moral behavior higher than that exhibited by the baboon is that in which duty and loyalty are shown toward a group of your own kind too large for an individual to know all of them. We have a name for that. It is called "patriotism."
    Behaving on a still higher moral level were the astronauts who went to the Moon, for their actions tend toward the survival of the entire race of mankind. The door they opened leads to the hope that H. sapiens will survive indefinitely long, even longer than this solid planet on which we stand tonight. As a direct result of what they did, it is now possible that the human race will never die.
    Many short-sighted fools think that going to the Moon was just a stunt. But the astronauts knew the meaning of what they were doing, as is shown by Neil Armstrong's first words in stepping down onto the soil of Luna: "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."
  • Men are expendable; women and children are not. A tribe or a nation can lose a high percentage of its men and still pick up the pieces and go on ... as long as the women and children are saved. But if you fail to save the women and children, you've had it, you're done, you're through! You join Tyrannosaurus Rex, one more breed that bilged its final test.
  • I said that "Patriotism" is a way of saying "Women and children first." And that no one can force a man to feel this way. Instead he must embrace it freely. I want to tell about one such man. He wore no uniform and no one knows his name, or where he came from; all we know is what he did.
    In my home town sixty years ago when I was a child, my mother and father used to take me and my brothers and sisters out to Swope Park on Sunday afternoons. It was a wonderful place for kids, with picnic grounds and lakes and a zoo. But a railroad line cut straight through it.
    One Sunday afternoon a young married couple were crossing these tracks. She apparently did not watch her step, for she managed to catch her foot in the frog of a switch to a siding and could not pull it free. Her husband stopped to help her.
    But try as they might they could not get her foot loose. While they were working at it, a tramp showed up, walking the ties. He joined the husband in trying to pull the young woman's foot loose. No luck —
    Out of sight around the curve a train whistled. Perhaps there would have been time to run and flag it down, perhaps not. In any case both men went right ahead trying to pull her free ... and the train hit them.
    The wife was killed, the husband was mortally injured and died later, the tramp was killed — and testimony showed that neither man made the slightest effort to save himself.
    The husband's behavior was heroic ... but what we expect of a husband toward his wife: his right, and his proud privilege, to die for his woman. But what of this nameless stranger? Up to the very last second he could have jumped clear. He did not. He was still trying to save this woman he had never seen before in his life, right up to the very instant the train killed him. And that's all we'll ever know about him.
    This is how a man dies.
    This is how a man ... lives!
  • This Universe never did make sense; I suspect that it was built on government contract.
    • Chapter II : “This Universe never did make sense—”, p. 16
  • Never encourage a man to cook breakfast; it causes him to wonder if women are necessary. If you always get his breakfast and don’t raise controversial issues until after his second cup of coffee, you can get away with murder the rest of the time. They don’t notice other odors when they smell bacon.
    • Chapter V : “—a wedding ring is not a ring in my nose—”, p. 41
  • No philosopher allows his opinions to be swayed by facts—he would be kicked out of his guild. Theologians, the lot of them.
    • Chapter VI : Are men and women one race?, p. 54
  • I hadn’t learned much in high school; I had majored in girls.
    • Chapter IX : Most males have an unhealthy tendency to obey laws., p. 81
  • A man who bets on greed and dishonesty won’t be wrong too often.
    • Chapter IX : Most males have an unhealthy tendency to obey laws., p. 82
  • I knew that the stupidest students, the silliest professors, and the worst bull courses are concentrated in schools of education.
    • Chapter IX : Most males have an unhealthy tendency to obey laws., p. 82
  • I can’t evaluate my opinions of right and wrong because I learned them from my parents and haven’t lived long enough to have formed opinions in disagreement with theirs.
    • Chapter XI : “—citizens must protect themselves.”, p. 98
  • “Sharpie, you’ve got a one-track mind.”
    “It’s the main track. Reproduction is the main track; the methods and mores of sexual copulation are the central feature of all higher developments of life.”
    “You’re ignoring money and television.”
    “Piffle! All human activities including scientific research are either mating dances and care of the young, or the dismal sublimations of born losers in the only game in town.”
    • Chapter XI : “—citizens must protect themselves.”, p. 100
  • I am learning that we still have things to learn.
    • Chapter XIV : “Quit worrying and enjoy the ride.”, p. 128
  • At least once every human should have to run for his life, to teach him that milk does not come from supermarkets, that safety does not come from policemen, that “news” is not something that happens to other people. He might learn how his ancestors lived and that he himself is no different—in the crunch his life depends on his agility, alertness, and personal resourcefulness.
    • Chapter XVI : “—a maiden knight, eager to break a lance—”, p. 134
  • I wish they wouldn’t hold mornings so early.
    • Chapter XVI : “—a maiden knight, eager to break a lance—”, p. 138
  • “‘Magic,’” I stated, “is a symbol for any process not understood.”
    • Chapter XVII : The world wobbled—, p. 151
  • I carried out my purpose: War and Peace, The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov, Anna Karenina, and so forth. Would you believe it? Something is gained in translation; the originals are even more depressing and soporific than translations. I’m not sure what purpose Russian fiction has, but it can’t be entertainment.
    • Chapter XIX : Something is gained in translation—, p. 166
  • At that point I realized that I had been thinking in Russian. It’s a wonderful language for paranoid thoughts.
    • Chapter XIX : Something is gained in translation—, p. 166
  • Random numbers are to a computer what free will is to a human being.
    • Chapter XXI : —three seconds is a long time—, p. 180
  • It is better to be a lively frump than a stylish corpse.
    • Chapter XXIII : “The farce is over.”, p. 212
  • I am forced to conclude that being right has little to do with holding a woman’s affections.
    • Chapter XXVI : The Keys to the City, p. 243
  • I trust that I am honest with myself. I know that I am not very sociable and I expect to go on being so; a man capable of creative work has no time to spare for fools who would like to visit.
    • Chapter XXVI : The Keys to the City, p. 249
  • “Let me add,” he went on, “that since I handle secret and most-secret despatches, I know things that I don’t know, if I make my meaning clear.”
    • Chapter XXIX : “—we place no faith in princes.”, p. 286
  • I learned before you were born that when someone wants to see me in a hurry, the urgency is almost never mutual.
    • Chapter XXIX : “—we place no faith in princes.”, p. 290
  • All humans are created unequal. You are bigger and stronger than Pop; I am bigger and stronger than Hilda. I have the least years of experience; Pop has the most. Pop is a super-genius...but he concentrates so hard that he forgets to eat...unless he has a nursemaid to watch him—as Mama did, as I did, as Hilda now does. You, sir, are the all-around most competent man I’ve ever met, whether driving a duo, or dancing, or telling outrageous tales. Three of us have eight or nine earned degrees...but Aunt Hilda with none is a walking encyclopedia from insatiable curiosity and extraordinary memory. We two are baby factories and you two are not—but two men can impregnate fifty women—or five hundred. There is no end to the ways that we four are unequal.
    • Chapter XXXI : “—the first ghosts ever to search for an obstetrician.”, p. 321
  • As for population, every major shortcoming of our native planet could be traced to one cause: too many people, not enough planet.
    • Chapter XXXVIII : “—under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid—”, p. 371
  • The Bible is such a gargantuan collection of conflicting values that anyone can prove anything from it.
    • Chapter XXXVIII : “—under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid—”, p. 377
  • One can’t expect logic from males; they think with their testicles and act from their emotions.
    • Chapter XXXIX : Random Numbers, p. 385
  • “It is the most indecent outfit I’ve ever seen, with no other purpose than to excite lewd, libidinous, lascivious, licentious, lecherous, lustful longings in the loins of Lotharios.”
    “Isn’t that the purpose of clothing?”
    “Well...aside from protection—yes.”
    • Chapter XLVI : “I’m gifted with second sight.”, p. 456
  • Here is the wisdom of the ages: Men rule but women decide.
    • Chapter XLVII : “There are no tomorrows.”, p. 464
  • As I once heard Andrew—that’s my disappearing brother—say: ‘Life consist in accommodating oneself to the Universe.’ Although the rest of our family has never taken that view. We believe if forcing the Universe to accommodate itself to us. It’s all a question of which one is to be master.
    • Chapter XLVIII : L’Envoi or Rev. XXII: 13, p. 486
  • Don’t worry about it. There is less here than meets the eye.
    • Chapter XLVIII : L’Envoi or Rev. XXII: 13, p. 497
  • The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth, One Meter Wide and Two Meters Long.
    • Chapter XLVIII : L’Envoi or Rev. XXII: 13, p. 508

Friday (1982)

All page numbers from the 1983 mass market paperback edition published by Del Rey, ISBN 0-345-30988-X, 28th printing
Italics and ellipses as in the book
A skillful Artist in shapes and appearances does no more than necessary to create His effect.
  • My mistake. My inexcusable mistake, as a con man never stops being a con man; he can’t. But I suffered from a will to believe, a defect of character that I thought I had rooted out. I was mistaken.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 22)
  • Friday, don’t despise assassins indiscriminately. As with any tool, merit or demerit lies in how it is used.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 37)
  • Friday, brainpower is the scarcest commodity and the only one of real value. Any human organization can be rendered useless, impotent, a danger to itself, by selectively removing its best minds while carefully leaving the stupid ones in place.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 37)
  • Stupid fools look just as good as military geniuses until the fighting starts.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 37)
  • But I do not willingly involve us in nationalistic wars; the side of the angels is seldom self-evident.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 37)
  • Marriages are arranged in heaven but the bills must be paid here on earth.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 49)
  • I had hit him in his male pride.
    Unless you intend to kill him immediately thereafter, never kick a man in the balls. Not even symbolically. Or perhaps especially not symbolically.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 77)
  • You’re not a stranger; you’re an old friend we haven’t known very long.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 110)
  • “Georges, I don’t know much about California politics—”
    “My dear, no one knows much about California politics, including California politicians.”
    • Chapter 15 (p. 137)
  • “Religious” = “absolute belief without proof.”
    • Chapter 18 (p. 181)
  • All normal human beings have soi-disant mixed-up glands. The race is divided into two parts; those who know this and those who do not.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 214)
  • Geniuses and supergeniuses always make their own rules on sex as on everything else; they do not accept the monkey customs of their lessers.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 214)
  • Young Daniel Shipstone saw at once that the problem was not a shortage of energy but lay in the transporting of energy. Energy is everywhere—in sunlight, in wind, in mountain streams, in temperature gradients of all sorts wherever found, in coal, in fossil oil, in radioactive ores, in green growing things. Especially in ocean depths and in outer space energy is free for the taking in amounts lavish beyond all human comprehension.
    Those who spoke of “energy scarcity” and of “conserving energy” simply did not understand the situation. The sky was “raining soup”; what was needed was a bucket in which to carry it.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 234)
  • It is a bad sign when the people of a country stop identifying themselves with the country and start identifying with a group. A racial group. Or a religion. Or a language. Anything, as long as it isn’t the whole population.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 240)
  • “So far as I have listened, before a revolution can take place, the population must lose faith in both the police and the courts.”
    “Elementary. Go on.”
    “Well…high taxation is important and so is inflation of the currency and the ratio of the productive to those on the public payroll. But that’s old hat; everybody knows that a country is on the skids when its income and outgo get out of balance and stay that way—even though there are always endless attempts to wish it away by legislation.”
    • Chapter 23 (pp. 240-241)
  • It seems to me that any law that is not enforced and can’t be enforced weakens all other laws.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 241)
  • Sick cultures show a complex of symptoms such as you have named...but a dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.
    • Chapter 23 (p. 242)
  • Self-pity, he said, is the most demoralizing of all vices.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 244)
  • I think that you are immune to the temptations of religion. If you are not, I cannot help you, any more than I could keep you from acquiring a drug habit. A religion is sometimes a source of happiness and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong—and you are strong. The great trouble with religion—any religion—is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask in at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak uncertainty of reason—but one cannot have both.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 253)
  • I suspect that there are just two sorts of lawyers: those who spend their efforts making life easy for other people—and parasites.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 257)
  • Las Vegas is a three-ring circus with a hangover.
    • Chapter 25 (p. 260)
  • I had learned lately that wanting something and being able to pay for it were not the same.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 286)
  • Don’t kid yourself, Friday; knowing too much is a capital offense. In politics it always has been.
    • Chapter 31 (p. 327)
  • People who are busy and happy don’t write diaries; they are too busy living.
    • Chapter 33 (p. 353)
  • Wisdom includes not getting angry unnecessarily. The Law ignores trifles and the wise man does, too.
  • Time is never a problem on the God level. Or space. Whatever needed to deceive you was provided. But no more than that. That is the conservative principle in art at the God level. While I can't do it, not being at that level, I have seen a lot of it done. A skillful Artist in shapes and appearances does no more than necessary to create His effect.

All page numbers from the 1986 mass market paperback edition published by Berkley, ISBN 0-425-09332-8
Italics and ellipses as in the book

Once you can honestly say, "I don't know", then it becomes possible to get at the truth.
  • Life is filled with tragedy; if you let it overwhelm you, you cannot enjoy life’s innocent pleasures.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 6)
  • A friend who offers help without asking for explanations is a treasure beyond price.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 7)
  • This is why criminologists place more faith in circumstantial evidence than they do in the testimony of eyewitnesses. You are the ideal eyewitness, intelligent, sincere, cooperative, and honest. You have reported a mixture of what you did see, what you thought you saw, what you failed to notice although it was in front of you, and what your logical mind fills in as necessities linking what you saw and what you thought you saw. This mixture is now all solidly in your mind as a true memory, a firsthand, eyewitness memory. But it didn’t happen.
    • Chapter 2 (pp. 19-20)
  • Every closet has a skeleton. This is a natural law.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 24)
  • I scrolled on down to the obituaries. I usually read the obituaries first as there is always the happy chance that one of them will make my day.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 27)
  • There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized. Or even cured.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 33)
  • But I did not explain to you the other insidious aspect of writing. There is no way to stop. Writers go on writing long after it becomes financially unnecessary...because it hurts less to write than it does not to write.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 34)
  • I didn’t want him dead. Unless you are on a battlefield or in a hospital, a corpse is an embarrassment, hard to explain. The management was bound to be stuffy about it.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 52)
  • Almost all crime depends on the acquiescence of the victim. If the victim refuses his assigned role, the criminal is placed at a disadvantage, one so severe that it usually takes an understanding and compassionate judge to set things right. I had broken the rules; I had fought back.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 55)
  • “My uncle used to say, ‘Never pick up a stray kitten…unless you’ve already made up your mind to be owned by it.’”
    • Chapter 5 (p. 58)
  • Beloved, you startled me with the notion that bad manners could be judged a hanging offense. My only concern is for evil, rather than for bad manners. I think evil deeds should never go unpunished. God’s arrangements for punishing evil are too slow to suit me; I want it done now.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 62)
  • For dying is not to be feared—it is the final comfort. As we all learn, eventually.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 79)
  • A monarch’s neck should always have a noose around it—it keeps him upright.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 99)
  • They were both of the extremely opposite sex and just being around them was fun.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 140)
  • You’re not stupid, Richard, just spiritual.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 158)
  • Shrinks are the blind leading the blind; even the best of them are dealing from a short deck. Anyone who consults a shrink should have his head examined.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 205)
  • “Buster always was the pragmatist. His solution to almost any problem was to cut somebody’s throat.”
    “Well, it’s a convincing argument,” I admitted.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 218)
  • “I’m a hard case. I don’t believe in table-tapping, astrology, virgin birth—”
    “Virgin birth isn’t difficult.”
    “I mean, in the theological sense; I’m not talking about genetics laboratories. —virgin birth, numerology, a literal hell, magic, witchcraft, campaign promises. You tell me something that runs contrary to horse sense; I’ll be at least as hard to sell as I was about your ancient years.”
    • Chapter 18 (p. 221)
  • “This computer became self-aware and acquired free will.”
    “Interesting. If true. I don’t have to believe it. I don’t.”
    • Chapter 18 (p. 225)
  • This sort of nonsense should be lumped with transubstantiation. If true, it can’t be proved.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 228)
  • “The hardest part about gaining any new idea is sweeping out the false idea occupying that niche. As long as that niche is occupied, evidence and proof and logical demonstration get nowhere. But once the niche is emptied of the wrong idea that has been filling it—once you can honestly say, ‘I don’t know,’ hen it becomes possible to get at the truth.”
    • Chapter 18 (p. 228)
Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat.
  • How can you argue with a woman who won’t?
    • Chapter 19 (p. 232)
  • It would be silly of me to argue with something I don’t understand.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 269)
  • There ought to be some rule limiting the number of emotional shocks a person can legally be subjected to in one day.
    • Chapter 22 (p. 272)
  • “Dr. Harshaw says that ’the word “love” designates a subjective condition in which the welfare and happiness of another person are essential to one’s own happiness.’”
    • Chapter 23 (p. 286)
  • A wife’s unique right, fixed by tradition, to manipulate her own husband runs unbroken and invariant at least back to Eve and the Apple. I will not criticize a sacred tradition.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 300)
  • “Would you find that convincing?”
    “No.” Justin Foote nodded. “Reasonable. When a rational man hears something asserted that conflicts with all common sense he will not—and should not—believe it without compelling evidence.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 303)
  • “Uh, I find I’m astonished again. How is this place run? Is it an anarchy?”
    Hazel shrugged. Justin Foote looked thoughtful. “No, I wouldn’t say so. It is not that well organized.”
    • Chapter 24 (p. 306)
  • A beautiful summer day in Iowa leaves no room for worry.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 345)
  • File off the serial numbers, change the body lines a bit, give it a new paint job, switch it over the state line, and it’s yours!—that’s the secret of literary success. Editors always claim to be looking for new stories but they don’t buy them; they buy “mixture as before.” Because the cash customers want to be entertained, not amazed, not instructed, not frightened.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 345)
  • “The answer to ‘Why’ is always ‘Money.’”
    • Chapter 27 (p. 346)
  • Billiards will never replace sex, or even tomatoes.
    • Chapter 27 (p. 347)
  • Protocol is either useful or it should be abolished.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 358)
  • Quantum mechanics and Schrödinger’s cat tossed out the clockwork world of 1890 and replaced it with a fog of probability in which anything could happen. Of course the intellectual class did not notice this for many decades, as an intellectual is a highly educated man who can’t do arithmetic with his shoes on, and is proud of the lack.
    • Chapter 28 (p. 364)
  • Women and cats do what they do; there is nothing a man can do about it.
    • Chapter 29 (p. 368)
  • Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat. (needs chapter and page reference, please)
All page numbers from the 1988 mass market paperback edition published by Ace, ISBN 0-441-74860-0, first printing
Italics and ellipses (except as noted) as in the book
  • Remember that ancient Persian parable about doubling grains of rice on a chessboard? Four billion people are a smidgen larger than a grain of rice; you quickly run out of chessboard.
    • Chapter 2, “The Garden of Eden” (p. 16)
  • “What code should I follow, father?”
    “You have to pick your own.”
    “The Ten Commandments?”
    “You know better than that. The Ten Commandments are for lame brains. The first five are solely for the benefit of the priests and the powers that be; the second five are half truths, neither complete nor adequate.”
    • Chapter 2, “The Garden of Eden” (p. 17)
  • Censorship is never logical but, like cancer, it is dangerous to ignore it when it shows up.
    • Chapter 2, “The Garden of Eden” (p. 25)
  • “I said God but you know what I mean!”
    “I do indeed. You are indulging in theology; I would rather see you take laudanum. Maureen, when anyone talks about ‘God’s will’ or ‘God’s intentions’ or Nature’s intentions if he is afraid to say ‘God,’ I know at once that he is selling a gold brick. To himself, in some cases, as you were just doing.”
    • Chapter 2, “The Garden of Eden” (p. 27)
  • A proud self image is the strongest incentive you can have toward correct behavior.
    • Chapter 2, “The Garden of Eden” (pp. 28-29)
  • We are strangers, all of us, family most of all.
    • Chapter 4, “The Worm in the Apple” (p. 49)
  • Father had long since cured me of any belief in the Apostles’ Creed. In its place I held a deep suspicion, planted by Professor Huxley and nurtured by father, that no such person as Jesus of Nazareth had ever lived.
    As for Brother Timberly, I regarded him as two yards of noise, with his cracks filled with unction. Like many preachers in the Bible Belt, he was a farm boy with (I strongly suspected) a distaste for real work.
    I did not and do not believe in a god up there in the sky listening to Brother Timberly’s words.
    • Chapter 5, “Exit from Eden” (p. 66)
  • Now look carefully at what I said. I said that I know that these things are asserted. I did not say that they are true.
    • Chapter 5, “Exit from Eden” (p. 67)
  • What he did have was a loud voice and no respect for tyrants. Tyrants hate people like that.
    • Chapter 5, “Exit from Eden” (p. 67)
  • No, I did not decide I was in love with him, after all. Enough men had had me by then that I was not inclined to mistake a hearty orgasm for eternal love.
    • Chapter 5, “Exit from Eden” (p. 75)
  • And for the first time both of us were bare all over and it was wonderful and I knew that all my life had just been preparation for this moment.
    • Chapter 6, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home—” (p. 92)
  • But it is no joke to attend the funeral of a dear friend, dead in her golden youth because her baby killed her.
    I was at such a funeral in the twenties and heard a sleek old priest talk about “God’s will.” At the graveside I managed to back away from the coffin such that I got him proper in his instep with a sharp heel. When he yelped, I told him it was God’s will.
    • Chapter 7, “Ringing the Cash Register” (p. 95)
  • I am not running down contraception; it’s the greatest boon to women in all history, as efficient contraception frees women from that automatic enslavement to men that has been the norm through all histories. But the ancient structure of our female nervous systems is not tuned to contraception; it is tuned to getting pregnant.
    • Chapter 7, “Ringing the Cash Register” (p. 100)
  • Father always required me to think for myself, and Mr. Clemens urged me to, also. I was taught that the one Unforgivable Sin, the offense against one’s own integrity, was to accept anything at all simply on authority.
    • Chapter 7, “Ringing the Cash Register” (p. 100)
  • In a society in which it is a mortal offense to be different from your neighbors your only escape is never to let them find out.
    • Chapter 8, “Seacoast Bohemia” (pp. 118-119)
  • There is something about gold that has an effect on human judgment similar to that of heroin or cocaine.
    • Chapter 9, “Dollars and Sense” (p. 137)
  • Happiness,” Jubal stated, “lies in being privileged to work hard for long hours in doing whatever you think is worth doing.”
    • Chapter 10, “Random Numbers” (p. 142)
  • “How you behave toward cats here below determines your status in Heaven.”
    “That’s straight out of the Bible; you can look it up.”
    • Chapter 11, “A Dude in a Derby” (p. 163)
  • Be a pessimist and you will hardly ever be wrong.
    • Chapter 11, “A Dude in a Derby” (p. 166)
  • You can’t do it all the time, but there is no limit to how much you can talk about it.
    • Chapter 13, “Over There!” (p. 203)
  • Professor Huxley introduced me to the fact that [[theology] is a study with no answers because it has no subject matter.
    No subject matter? That’s right, no subject matter whatever—just colored water with artificial sweetening.
    • Chapter 14, “Black Tuesday” (p. 206)
  • What is a “concrete” word? It is a spell-symbol used to tag something you can point to and thereby agree on, e. g., “cat,” “sailboat,” “ice-skating”—agree with such certainty that when you say “sailboat’’ there is no chance whatever that I will think you mean a furry quadruped with retractile claws.
    With the spell symbol “God” there is no way to achieve such agreement because there is nothing to point to.
    • Chapter 14, “Black Tuesday” (p. 207)
  • Circular reasoning can’t get you out of this dilemma. Pointing to something (the physical world) and asserting that it has to have a Creator and this Creator necessarily has such-and-such attributes proves nothing save that you have made certain assertions without proof. You have pointed at a physical thing, the physical world; you have asserted that this thing has to have a “Creator” (Who told you that? What’s his mailing address? Who told him?). But to assert that something physical was created out of nothing—not even empty space—by a thingamajig you can’t point to is not to make a philosophical statement or any sort of statement, it is mere noise, amphigory, sound and fury signifying nothing.
    Jesuits take fourteen years to learn to talk that sort of nonsense. Southern fundamentalist preachers learn to talk it in a much shorter time. Either way, it’s nonsense.
    • Chapter 14, “Black Tuesday” (p. 207)
  • But, like theology, metaphysics has no answers. Just questions.
    But what lovely questions!…
    Metaphysics has polysyllabic words for all of these ideas but you don’t have to use them; Anglo-Saxon monosyllables do just as well for questions that have no answers.
    Persons who claim to have answers to these questions invariably are fakers after your money. No exceptions. If you point out their fakery, if you dare to say aloud that the emperor has no clothes, they will lynch you if possible, always from the highest of motives.
    • Chapter 14, “Black Tuesday” (pp. 207-208; ellipsis represents the elision of some examples)
  • I don’t understand time line three (code Neil Armstrong) so I had better quote Jubal Harshaw. who lived through it. “Mama Maureen,” he said to me, “the America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories. Perfect democracy, a ‘warm body’ democracy in which every adult may vote and all votes count equally, has no internal feedback for self-correction. It depends solely on the wisdom and self-restraint of other citizens…which is opposed by the folly and lack of self-restraint of other citizens. What is supposed to happen in a democracy is that each sovereign citizen will always vote in the public interest for the safety and welfare of all. But what does happen is that he votes his own self-interest as he sees it…which for the majority translates as ‘Bread and Circuses.’
    “‘Bread and Circuses’ is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. Democracy often works beautifully at first. But once a state extends the franchise to every warm body, be he producer or parasite, that day marks the beginning of the end of the state. For when the plebs discover that they can vote themselves bread and circuses without limit and that the productive members of the body politic cannot stop them, they will do so, until the state bleeds to death, or in its weakened condition the state succumbs to an invader—the barbarians enter Rome.
    Jubal shrugged and looked sad. “Mine was a lovely world—until the parasites took over.”
    • Chapter 15, “Torrid Twenties, Threadbare Thirties” (pp. 226-227)
  • America in my own time line suffered the cancer of “Bread and Circuses” but found a swifter way to commit suicide. I don’t boast about the difference, as in time line two the people of the United States succumbed to something even sillier than Bread and Circuses: the people voted themselves a religious dictatorship.
    • Chapter 15, “Torrid Twenties, Threadbare Thirties” (p. 228)
  • The potential for religious hysteria has always been present in the American culture, and this I knew, as my father had rubbed my nose in it from an early age. Father had pointed out to me that the only thing that preserved religious freedom in the United States was not the First Amendment and was not tolerance…but was solely a Mexican standoff between rival religious sects, each sect intolerant, each sect the sole custodian of the “One True Faith”—but each sect a minority that gave lip service to freedom of religion to keep its own “One True Faith” from being persecuted by all the other “True Faiths.”
    • Chapter 15, “Torrid Twenties, Threadbare Thirties” (p. 228)
  • Marriage is not a sometime thing; it’s whole hawg or you’re not married.
    • Chapter 15, “Torrid Twenties, Threadbare Thirties” (p. 232)
  • Population pressure works much like a rising river. You can put up dikes or levees, but the day comes when the river has to go somewhere.
    • Chapter 15, “Torrid Twenties, Threadbare Thirties” (p. 233)
  • No intelligent man has any respect for an unjust law. Nor does he feel guilt over breaking it. He simply follows the Eleventh Commandment.
    • Chapter 16, “The Frntic Forties” (p. 241)
  • But how many men are truly wise in their handling of women? In all history you can count them on the fingers of one thumb.
    • Chapter 17, “Starting Over” (p. 260)
  • “Gratitude”: An imaginary emotion that rewards an imaginary behavior, “altruism.” Both imaginaries are false faces for selfishness, which is a real and honest emotion.
    • Chapter 17, “Starting Over” (p. 260)
  • Long ago Mr. Clemens demonstrated in his essay “What is man?” that every one of us acts at all times in his own interest. Once you understand this, it offers a way to negotiate with an antagonist in order to find means to cooperate with him for mutual benefit. But if you are convinced of your own “altruism” and you try to shame him out of his horrid selfishness, you will get nowhere.
    • Chapter 17, “Starting Over” (p. 260)
  • “Why don’t they modernize?”
    I answered, “Money. Donald, any question that starts out ‘Why don’t they—’ the answer is always ‘Money.’”
    • Chapter 18, “Bachelorhood” (p. 282)
  • A feature that struck my eye was an abundance of built-in bookcases…added later, it seemed to me, except a pair of small ones flanking the fireplace in the family room. Most houses didn’t even have that much, as most people don’t read.
    (Before the twentieth century was out that could be worded, “—most people can’t read.” One of the things I learned in studying the histories of my home planet and century on various time lines was that in the decline and fall that took place on every one of them there was one invariant: illiteracy.
    In addition to that scandalous flaw, on three time lines were both drug abuse and concurrent crime in the streets, plus a corrupt and spendthrift government. My own time line had endless psychotic fads followed by religious frenzy; time line seven had continuous wars; three time lines had collapse of family life and marriage—but every time line had loss of literacy…combined with—riddle me this—more money per student spent on education than ever before in each history. Never were so many paid so much for accomplishing so little. By 1980 the teachers themselves were only semiliterate.)
    • Chapter 20, “Soothsayer” (p. 303)
  • Father had told me, “Widows are far better than brides. They don’t tell, they won’t yell, they don’t swell, they rarely smell, and they’re grateful as hell.
    • Chapter 20, “Soothsayer” (p. 305)
  • “I don’t recommend disturbing either corpses or golfers.”
    “There’s a difference?”
    • Chapter 21, “Serpent’s Tooth” (p. 319)
  • Eventually I learned that the Church is run solely for the benefit of the priesthood, not for the good of our people. But I learned it too late.
    • Chapter 22, “The Better-Dead List” (p. 334)
  • The few VIPs I’ve met struck me as hollow shells, animated by PR men.
    • Chapter 23, “The Adventures of Prudence Penny” (p. 360)
  • I am not much interested in killing strangers. I am not opposed to the death penalty—I voted for it every time the matter came to a vote, which was frequently during the decline and fall of the United States—but in killing pour le sport I need to be emotionally involved. Oh, forced to a choice I would rather shoot a man than a deer; I can’t see the “sport” and shooting a gentle vegetarian that can’t shoot back.
    But, given full choice, I would rather watch television than kill a stranger. Some, at least.
    • Chapter 24, “Decline and Fall” (pp. 365-366)
  • But there seems to have been an actual decline in rational thinking. The United States had become a place where entertainers and professional athletes were mistaken for people of importance. They were idolized and treated as leaders; their opinions were sought on everything and they took themselves just as seriously—after all, if an athlete is paid a million or more a year, he knows he is important…so his opinions of foreign affairs and domestic policies must be important, too, even though he proves himself to be both ignorant and subliterate every time he opens his mouth.
    • Chapter 24, “Decline and Fall” (pp. 370-371)
  • “But every man is entitled to his own opinion!”
    Perhaps. Certainly every man had his own opinion on everything, no matter how silly.
    On two subjects the overwhelming majority of people regarded their own opinions as Absolute Truth, and sincerely believed that anyone who disagreed with them was immoral, outrageous, sinful, sacrilegious, offensive, intolerable, stupid, illogical, treasonable, actionable, against the public interest, ridiculous, and obscene.
    The two subjects were (of course) sex and religion.
    On sex and religion each American citizen knew the One Right Answer, by direct Revelation from God.
    In view of the wide diversity of opinion, most of them must necessarily have been mistaken. But on these two subjects they were not accessible to reason.
    “But you must respect another man’s religious beliefs!” For Heaven’s sake, why? Stupid is stupid—faith doesn’t make it smart.
    I recall one candidate’s promise that I heard during the presidential campaign of 1976, a campaign promise that seems to me to illustrate how far American rationality head skidded.
    “We shall drive ever forward along this line until all our citizens have above-average incomes!”
    Nobody laughed.
    • Chapter 24, “Decline and Fall” (p. 372)
  • Leave it to “worthy causes”? That is thin gruel, my friend. Most of such money is sopped up by administration, i.e., eaten by parasites.
    • Chapter 24, “Decline and Fall” (p. 373)
  • Males are conservative about sex, especially those who think they are not.
    • Chapter 24, “Decline and Fall” (p. 373)
  • An erection is the most flattering compliment a man can pay to an older woman.
    • Chapter 24, “Decline and Fall” (p. 375)
  • One thing in those memoirs made me proud of my “naughty” son: He seems to have been always incapable of abandoning wife and child. Since (in my opinion) much of the decay that led to the decline and fall of the United States had to do with males who shrugged off their duty to pregnant women and young children, I found myself willing to forgive my “bad boy” for all his foibles since he never wavered in this prime virtue. A male must be willing to live and die for his female and their cubs…else he is nothing.
    • Chapter 25, “Rebirth in Boondock” (p. 386)
  • “Spare the rod and spoil the child” is not sadistic; it is hard common sense. You fail your children worst if you do not punish them when they need it. The lessons you fail to teach them will be taught later and much more harshly by a cruel world, the real world where no excuses are accepted.
    • Chapter 26, “Peel to the Rescue” (p. 394)
  • We take just one vow, to safeguard the welfare and happiness of all our children.
    That’s our total marriage contract. The rest is just poetic ritual.
    • Chapter 28, “Eternal Now” (p. 425)

Posthumous excerpts of letters and correspondence, edited by Virginia Heinlein, ISBN 0345369416

  • "How long has this racket been going on?"
    • Remark after receiving a $70 US check for his first published story.
  • I expect this to be my last venture in this field; 'tain't worth the grief
    • Response to efforts to censor his first novel, Red Planet
  • Criminals are never materially handicapped by such rules; the only effect is to disarm the peaceful citizen and put him fully at the mercy of the lawless. Such rules look very pretty on paper; in practice they are as foolish and footless as the attempt of the mice to bell the cat. Such is my thesis, that the licensing of weapons is subversive of liberty and self-defeating in its pious purpose.
    • Letter to Alice Dalgliesh, the editor who was censoring his manuscript for Red Planet, regarding gun control registration and control

Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue With His Century, Volume I (1907–1949): Learning Curve (2010)


Authorized biography by William H. Patterson, Jr., ISBN 0765319608

  • This is the great day. This is the greatest event in all the history of the human race, up to this time. That is — today is New Year's Day of the Year One. If we don't change the calendar, historians will do so. The human race — this is our change, our puberty rite, bar mitzvah, confirmation, from the change of our infancy into adulthood for the human race. And we're going to go on out, not only to the Moon, to the stars; we're going to spread. I don't know that the United States is going to do it; I hope so. I have — I'm an American myself; I want it to be done by us. But in any case, the human race is going to do it, it's utterly inevitable: we're going to spread through the entire universe.
    • In a live interview with Walter Cronkite of CBS News, on the day of the first moonwalk (20 July 1969)

Quotes about Heinlein

You don’t pay back, you pay forward.
Alphabetized by author
  • Several years ago, when I was ill, Heinlein offered his help, anything he could do, and we had never met; he would phone me to cheer me up and see how I was doing. He wanted to buy me an electric typewriter, God bless him — one of the few true gentlemen in this world. I don't agree with any ideas he puts forth in his writing, but that is neither here nor there. One time when I owed the IRS a lot of money and couldn't raise it, Heinlein loaned the money to me. I think a great deal of him and his wife; I dedicated a book to them in appreciation. Robert Heinlein is a fine-looking man, very impressive and very military in stance; you can tell he has a military background, even to the haircut. He knows I'm a flipped-out freak and still he helped me and my wife when we were in trouble. That is the best in humanity, there; that is who and what I love.
  • In terms of the future, my Anishinaabemowin language has a word, kobade—a very small word, but in reality an extremely sophisticated concept. The idea is that everything that’s in the past and the future is also in the now, but it’s not as simplistic as that. It’s more like there exists a spiral of intergenerational connections, so that even if you are in the present you have spirit persons at your side; they can be ancient spirits, considered to be from the past or from the future. Kobade is the recognition of all persons, not just human persons, and of all the intergenerational connections that we have, which are never linear, but spiral. In my language some people may describe it as a chain, wherein we’re connected to each other, so that the future is always containing the past and the present; I don’t use the word “chain” because I work in Black Studies and it just feels heavy and inappropriate. I use the image of a spiral. This is very different from the former science fiction model, what was called “extrapolative fiction.” This word came directly from Robert A. Heinlein, who took the idea from mathematical equations, where you pull something out of the past or the present and draw this imagined plausible future from one dot to another. That’s an extremely linear concept, too simplistic to allow other forms of thinking. For example, we just don’t arbitrarily choose a certain point in the past when writing and developing characters; there can be all kinds of remnants of pasts, presents, and futures.
  • Look at somebody like Heinlein: many of his late books are just tirades.
  • Heinlein presents us, in terms of his sources and influences with a rope of many strands and the strength of the whole is in the multiplicity of the strands. To lift one strand out and examine it has two immediate effects: it magnifies the relative importance out of proportion to its place in the whole; and it weakens the whole. For all the good and interesting use Heinlein made of his encounter with Cabell, he was not a disciple or even a "Cabell minor." Rather, he used Cabellian materials to make his own figure in the world, and in so doing he has given the Biography of the Life of Manuel a Life of its own, flowing into literary history.
    Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery — but in literature, transformation is the only form of progeny.
  • I found Robert A. Heinlein in back issues of Astounding, and also in The Saturday Evening Post, and I read everything of his I could find. I was completely hooked on his "juveniles": Space Cadet. Red Planet. Starman Jones. Between Planets. Farmer in the Sky. Wonderful stories, and the only thing "juvenile" about them was that he took the trouble to explain what was happening. Robert once told me that young people want to know how things work, and you can tell them more in a "juvenile" than you can in an adult novel. In any event I devoured everything of his I could find, through high school, the army, college, and I couldn’t have cared less that many were "juveniles". They were wonderful.
    I met Robert Heinlein years later, and through some kind of rare magic we became instant friends. We corresponded for a decade. In those days I was an engineering psychologist, operations research specialist, and systems engineer in aerospace. Most of my work was military aerospace, but I did get to work on Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. We were helping to make the dream come true!
    I went from there to a professorship, and then into political management and city government. Robert visited me when I was working for Mayor Sam Yorty. "You probably don’t know this," he said, "but my political career ended when Yorty beat me for the Democratic nomination to the State Assembly."
    When I finally decided to get out of politics, academia, and the aerospace industry and try my hand at writing, Mr. Heinlein was enormously helpful. Years later, when I was an established writer, I asked him how I could pay him back.
    "You can’t," he said. "You don’t pay back, you pay forward." I never forgot that, just as I never forgot the wonderful things his ‘juvenile’ stories did for me.
  • Above all, Heinlein taught us to accept his wisdom without becoming followers. He taught us to become, and to remain, individuals. … The Libertarian movement must go far to prove itself, but it may prove to be the one bright spot in an otherwise bleak era. The shadow of two powerful minds cast themselves over everything about that movement, whether we recognize it or not: the minds of Ayn Rand and Robert A. Heinlein. … What Heinlein gave it, no less vital if we’re to effect the changes we aspire to, was heart the guts.
    • L. Neil Smith, quoted in “A visionary of space and freedom,” John Seiler, Orange County Register (July 23, 2000)
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