Robert Sheckley

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Robert Sheckley in the mid-1990s.jpeg

Robert Sheckley (July 16, 1928December 9, 2005) was a Hugo- and Nebula-nominated American author.

Sourced[edit]

Immortality, Inc. (1959)[edit]

All page numbers from the paperback first edition published by Bantam Books
  • Still, no matter how commonplace, one’s death is the most interesting event of one’s life.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 1)
  • Corpses shouldn’t be forced to answer questions. Death was man’s ancient privilege, his immemorial pact with life, granted to the slave as well as the noble. Death was man’s solace, and his right. But perhaps they had revoked that right; and now you couldn’t evade your responsibilities simply by being dead.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 7)
  • And yet, Blaine thought, mankind showed an historic ability to avoid the extremes of doom as well as the extremes of bliss. Chaos was forever prophesized and utopia was continually predicted, and neither came to pass.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 9)
  • The deed of dying transcends class and breeding. It is every man’s patent of nobility, his summons from the king, his knightly adventure, the greatest deed of his life. And how he acquits himself in that lonely and perilous enterprise is his true measure as a man.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 71)
  • Reilly was fairly sure he’d survive after death; but he saw no reason to take chances. Also, Mr. Kean says that the very rich, like the very religious, wouldn’t enjoy a hereafter filled with just anybody. They think that, by suitable rites and symbols, they can get into a more exclusive part of the hereafter.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 91)
  • Blaine remembered how strange, dark, atavistic and noble Hull’s lordly selection of death has seemed. Pretentious, of course; but then, life itself was a pretension in the vast universe of unliving matter.
    • Chapter 35 (p. 148)

The Status Civilization (1960)[edit]

All page numbers from the paperback first edition published by Signet Books
  • “I’m afraid not. According to the law, you must leave here at once.”
    “But they’ll kill me!”
    “That’s very true,” Frendlyer said. “Unfortunately, it can’t be helped. A victim, by definition, is one who is to be killed.”
    “I thought this was a protective organization.”
    “It is. But we protect rights, not victims. Your rights are not being violated.“
    • Chapter 3 (p. 19)
  • On Omega, the law was kept secret. Older residents used their knowledge of the law to enforce their rule over the newcomers. This system was condoned and reinforced by the doctrine of the inequality of all men, which lay at the heart of the Omegan legal system. Through planned inequality and enforced ignorance, power and status remained in the hands of the older residents.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 26)
  • “Evil,” the priest said, after he had settled comfortably into Barrent’s best chair, “is that force within us which inspires men to acts of strength and endurance. The worship of Evil is essentially the worship of oneself, and therefore the only true worship. The self which one worships is the ideal social being; the man content in his niche in society, yet ready to grasp any opportunity for advancement; the man who meets death with dignity, who kills without the demeaning vice of pity. Evil is cruel, since it is a true reflection of the uncaring and insensate universe. Evil is eternal and unchanging, although it comes to us in the many forms of protean life.”
    • Chapter 6 (pp. 28-29)
  • All his studies had been for extraterrestrial exploration. There was no place for him on Earth; and now he was barred from space.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 41)
  • On Omega, the law is supreme. Hidden and revealed, sacred and profane, the law governs the actions of all citizens, from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high. Without the law, there could be no privileges for those who made the law; therefore the law was absolutely necessary. Without the law and its stern enforcement, Omega would be an unthinkable chaos in which a man’s rights could extend only as far and as long as he personally could enforce them. This anarchy would mean the end of Omegan society; and particularly, it would mean the end of those senior citizens of the ruling class who had grown high in status, but whose skill with a gun had long passed its peak.
    Therefore the law was necessary.
    But Omega was also a criminal society, composed entirely of individuals who had broken the laws of Earth. It was a society which, in the final analysis, stressed individual endeavor. It was a society in which the lawbreaker was king; a society in which crimes were not only condoned but were admired and even rewarded; a society in which deviation from the rules was judged solely on its degree of success.
    And this resulted in the paradox of a criminal society with absolute laws which were meant to be broken.
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 50-51)
  • His friends, who had been waiting for the death announcement, came to congratulate him. They were eager to hear the complete details of the Trial by Ordeal; but Barrent had learned now that secret knowledge was the road to power. He gave them only the sketchiest outline.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 52)
  • They were shunned, and they had reacted to exclusion by exclusiveness.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 56)
  • “The law,” he said, “is above the criminal and the judge, and rules them both. The law is inescapable, for an action is either lawful or unlawful. The law, indeed, may be said to have a life of its own, an existence quite apart from the finite lives of the beings who administer it. The law governs every aspect of human behavior; therefore, to the same extent that humans are lawful beings, the law is human. And being human, the law has its idiosyncrasies, just as a man has his. For a citizen who abides by the law, the law is distant and difficult to find. For those who reject and violate it, the law emerges from its musty sepulchers and goes in search of the transgressor.”
    • Chapter 15 (p. 65)
  • “Do you have any papers for Will Barrent?”
    “None,” the lawyer said. “His case is in different hands. I’m afraid it might not be completely processed until after the Games are over.”
    “But I’ll probably be dead then,” Barrent said.
    “That, I can assure you, won’t stop the papers from being properly served,” the fat lawyer said proudly. “Dead or alive, you will retain all your rights.”
    • Chapter 18 (p. 77)
  • Remember, the inevitable inefficiency of a huge bureaucracy will be working for you.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 84)
  • “Would you define Good for me, Citizen Abbot?”
    “Certainly. Good is that force within us which inspires men to acts of conformity and subservience. The worship of Good is essentially the worship of oneself, and therefore the only true worship. The self which one worships is the ideal social being: the man content in his niche in society, yet ready to creatively advance his status. Good is gentle, since it is a true reflection of the loving and pitying universe. Good is continually changing in its aspects, although it comes to us in the... You have a strange look on your face, young man.”
    “I’m sorry, Citizen Abbot. I believe I heard that sermon, or one very much like it.”
    • Chapter 27 (p. 115)
  • What had he been taught? For the social good, you must be your own policeman and witness. You must assume responsibility for any crime which might conceivably be yours.
    The face of the informer stared impassively at him. It was Barrent’s own face, reflected back from a mirror on the wall.
    • Chapter 29 (p. 123)

Journey Beyond Tomorrow (1962)[edit]

All page numbers from the 1969 paperback edition published by Dell Books (#4268)
  • But Joenes then made a speech which was a beauty, and I cannot recall it word for word, but the idea was that laws are made by man and thus must partake of the evil nature of man, and that true morality lies in following the true dictates of the illuminated soul.
    “A Commie, huh?” said the lead cop.
    • Chapter 2 “Lum’s Meeting With Joenes” (p. 18)
  • Nature also gives rain and drought, heat and cold; and thoughtfully ensures that the rain rots man’s food, the drought parches it, the heat scalds man’s body, and the cold freezes his limbs.
    These are only nature’s milder aspects, not to be compared to the wrathfulness of the sea, the frigid indifference of the mountains, the treachery of the swamp, the depravity of the desert, or the terror of the jungle. But I noticed that nature, in her hatred of mankind, provided that most of the earth’s surface be covered with sea, mountains, swamp, desert, and jungle.
    • Chapter 6 “Joenes and the Three Truck Drivers” (pp. 44-45)
  • We have propounded our beliefs in various ways, and according to various doctrines. Often we have aroused the passions of men to murder and war. This was perfectly proper, since it brought the problems of morality and religion to their highest and most exquisite pitch, and gave many complicated matters for us theologians to talk about.
    We argued always, and we published our various dissenting opinions. But we argued like lawyers in a court, and nobody in his right mind listens to a lawyer. Those were the days of our pride, and we never noticed that men had ceased to pay attention to us.
    • Chapter 6 “Joenes and the Three Truck Drivers” (p. 50)
  • Joenes’s students quickly absorbed the material given to them, passed their tests, and quickly forgot the material. Like many vital young organisms, they were able to eject anything harmful, disturbing, distressing, or merely boring. Of course they also ejected anything useful, stimulating, or thought provoking. This was perhaps regrettable, but it was part of the educative process to which every teacher had to accustom himself.
    • Chapter 8 “How Joenes Taught, and What He Learned” (p. 69)
  • It was the college conservatives who had almost succeeded in electing John Smith to the Presidency of the United States during the last election. The fact that Smith had been dead for twenty years had not dampened their ardor; quite the contrary, many considered this the candidate’s best quality.
    • Chapter 8 “How Joenes Taught, and What He Learned” (pp. 70-71)
  • “And do not think,” Manisfree said, “that we absolve ourselves from blame in this situation. Although we teachers purport to know more than other men, we have usually chosen to remain aloof from public life. Practical, hardheaded men of the world have always frightened us; and those men, in their hardheaded way, have brought us to this.”
    “Nor is aloofness our only failure,” said Hanley of Anthropology. “Let me point out that we have taught—badly! Our few promising students became teachers, thus insulating themselves as we had. The rest of our students sat through the sleep-provoking drone of our lectures, eager only to depart and take their places in a mad world. We did not touch them, Joenes, we did not move them, and we did not teach them to think.”
    “In fact,” said Blake of Physics, “we did quite the contrary. We managed to equip most of our students with a definite hatred of thinking. They learned to view culture with the greatest suspicion, to ignore ethics, and to consider the sciences solely as a means of making money. This was our responsibility and our failure. The outcome of that failure is the world.”
    • Chapter 9 “The Need for the Utopia” (p. 74)
  • He distrusted all laws, even the best, while at the same time recognizing the necessity for them. For Joenes, a law took its goodness from the nature of the men who administered it. When the nature of those men changed, as Joenes believed was inevitable, then the nature of the law changed, too. When this happened, new laws and new lawgivers had to be found.
    • Chapter 16 “The End of the Journey” (p. 152)

The 10th Victim (1965)[edit]

All page numbers from the 1965 first edition published by Ballantine Books (#U5050)
  • Rome has an ambiance, puerile yet unmatchable. Rome hints at the possibility of becoming the main actor in the drama of one’s own life. (The hint is false, of course; but the stolid northern cities do not even possess the hint.)
    • Chapter 2 (pp. 19-20)
  • For the question inevitably remains, is Polletti’s admission of fear a magnificent conquest of the unconquerable, or a mere admission of the inadmissable?
    • Chapter 2 (p. 26)
  • It was as easy as falling off a precipice.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 28)
  • Even rulers, notoriously the slowest of men to change, realized that something had to be done.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 30)
  • She was an extremely attractive woman if you like the type, which could best be described as homicidal schizophrenic paranoiac with kittenish overtones.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 45)
  • He shook his head violently, pulled himself together and swallowed a stiff dose of Infradex, a drug designed to alleviate drug reactions. Within seconds he was his old, normally depressed self. This cheered him considerably, and he left the hut in a mood teetering on the edge of equanimity.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 125)
  • One moment’s inattention, and the long expected death came at last—unexpectedly! In that agonized moment, sprawled helpless upon the uncaring ground, Polletti realized that no preparation for one’s own death is possible. Death has had too much experience in catching men off guard, in piercing their attitudes and reducing their poses.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 126)
  • For Polletti, experience had brought only the bitter residue of pleasure which is the true essence of disenchantment. Certain delights which in his youth had seemed unique and unobtainable had turned out, upon acquisition, to be infinitely and drearily repeatable.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 130)
  • Love is a wonderful game which begins in fun and ends in marriage.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 131)
  • For love, as he knew it, was an aberration, a form of temporary insanity, a short-lived state of autosuggestion.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 132)
  • “Hey, what is this,” he asked.
    “I guess maybe you could call it like love,” Caroline said.
    “Whaddaya mean, love?” Chet asked. “Your contract expressly forbids you to fall in love during the duration of your tenth kill, and it furthermore explicitly forbids you to fall in love with your Victim.”
    “Love,” Caroline said coolly, “existed a long time before contracts.”
    “Contracts,” Martin said viciously, “are a lot more enforceable than love.”
    • Chapter 16 (pp. 136-137)

Mindswap (1966)[edit]

All page numbers from the 1966 first paperback edition published by Dell Books (#5643)
  • You have been bitten by the travel bug, which is very suitable for your time of life, and is a passion akin to falling in love, or fighting an idealistic war, or becoming disillusioned with the world, and other postures of the young.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 16)
  • Marvin did not give way to despair. He gave way instead to anger, which was a much healthier emotion, though equally unproductive.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 28)
  • Quite in vain did several lawyers point out to him that, if justice really existed, there would be no need for law and lawmakers, and thus one of mankind’s noblest conceptions would be obliterated, and an entire occupational group would be thrown out of work. For it is the essence of the law, they told him, that abuses and outrages should exist, since these discrepancies served as proof and validation of the necessity of law, and of justice itself.
    • Chapter 6 (pp. 28-29)
  • “You might say that,” Flynn said, thus avoiding an outright lie, since anyone might say anything whether it was true or not.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 44)
  • All of us live by the employment of countless untested assumptions, the truth or falsehood of which we can determine only through the hazard of our lives. Since most of us value our lives more than the truth, we leave such drastic tests for the fanatics.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 70)
  • “The acceptance of indeterminacy is the beginning of wisdom,” the hermit quoted.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 70)
  • And a great longing overcame him, a desire to be finished with desire, to forego pleasure and pain, to quit the petty modes of achievement and failure, to have done with distractions, and get on with the business of life, which was death.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 83)
  • “Time devours our feeble mortality, leaving us with but the sour residue of memory.”
    Marvin nodded. “Yet this ineffable and ungraspable quantity,” he replied, “this time which no man may possess, is in truth our only possession.”
    • Chapter 24 (p. 110)
  • Thus action serves as anodyne, whereas contemplation is revealed as the most direct form of involvement, and therefore much shunned by men.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 112)
  • Our roles are chose for us in this world by the stern dictates of an unrelenting Fate; and many a man who thought to play the emperor on Life’s stage found himself cast for a corpse instead.
    • Chapter 26 (p. 124)
  • “I feel no moral compunction in the slightest at my so-called crime. If a man cannot retain control of his own body, then he deserves to lose it. I have observed, during a long and varied lifetime, that men will give their bodies to any rogue who asks, and will enslave their minds to the first voice that commands them to obey. This is why the vast majority of men cannot keep even their natural birthright of a mind and body, but choose instead to rid themselves of those embarrassing emblems of freedom.”
    “That,” Detective Urdorf said, “is the classic apologia of the criminal.”
    “That which you call a crime when one man does it,” Kraggash said, “you call government when many men do it. Personally, I fail to see the distinction; and failing to see it, I refuse to live by it.”
    • Chapter 30 (pp. 141-142)
  • Nature abhors a vacuum, and I don’t like it much either.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 153)
  • All men are mortal, he tells us, but some are more mortal than others.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 153)
  • Last week we revoked his Godhead; we caught him operating a life without a license.
    • Chapter 32 (p. 153)
  • In a way it made no difference, since nothing is permanent except our illusions.
    • Chapter 33 (pp. 156-157)

Dimension of Miracles (1968)[edit]

All page numbers from the paperback first edition published by Dell Books (#1940)
  • He shared the common human hallmark: he was simultaneously predictable and unfathomable—a routine miracle.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 14)
  • “Well, no sense crying over unspilt blood,” the Prize Clerk said. “If we took full account of our eventualities, we’d soon run out of eventualities for us to take full account of.”
    • Chapter 3 (p. 23)
  • “Machines!” the Clerk said scornfully. “We have many of them, some exquisitely complex. But event the best of them are much like idiot savants. They do adequately on tedious straightforward tasks like building stars or destroying planets. But give them something tough, like solacing a widow, and they simply go to pieces. Would you believe it, the largest computer in our section can landscape an entire planet; but it cannot fry an egg or carry a tune, and it knows less about ethics than a newborn wolf cub. Would you want something like that to run your life?”
    “Of course not,” Carmody said. “But couldn’t someone build a machine with creativity and judgment?”
    “Someone has,” the Clerk said. “It has been designed to learn from experience, which means that it must make errors in order to arrive at truths. It comes in many shapes and sizes, most of them quite portable. Its flaws are readily apparent, but seem to exist as necessary counterweights to it virtues. No one has yet improved on the basic design, though many have tried. This ingenious device is called ‘intelligent life.’”
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 25-26)
  • “Earth, Earth,” the short, alien Carmody mused. “I think I remember the name now. There was a recent study of isolated worlds and the peculiarities of their development. Earth was mentioned as a planet covered with an obsessively overproductive species. Object manipulation is their outstanding modality. Their project is an attempt to live in their own, ever-accumulating waste products. In short, Earth is diseased place. I believe it is being phased out of the Galactic Master Plan on the basis of chronic cosmic incompatibility. The place will then be rehabilitated and turned into a refuge for daffodils.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 29)
  • Carmody’s jaw stiffened and he withdrew his hand. He had been pushed around long enough. Now, for the sake of his own self-esteem, he would not yield any more.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 31)
  • I’ll follow the reedy tenor of his excuses and blast them with the bellowy bass of irrefutable logic!
    • Chapter 4 (p. 33)
  • A malfunction of this type can be cured only by changing the nature of the universe, which is, of course, impractical.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 34)
  • A little prescience goes a long way, especially in a galaxy as disorganized as this one.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 34)
  • The only thing to think over was Me, of course. And the real problem about Me was, What was I supposed to do? Was I meant to be nothing but God? I had tried the God business and found it too limited. It was a job for a simple-minded egomaniac. There had to be something else for me to do—something more meaningful, more expressive of my true self. I’m convinced of it! That is my problem, and that is the question I ask of you: What am I to do with myself?
    • Chapter 7 (p. 53)
  • “It is the principle of Business, which is more fundamental than the law of gravity. Wherever you go in the galaxy, you can find a food business, a housebuilding business, a war business, a peace business, a governing business, and so forth. And, of course, a God business, which is called ‘religion,’ and which is a particularly reprehensible line of endeavor. I could talk for a year on the perverse and nasty notions that the religions sell, but I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. But I’ll just mention one matter, which seems to underlie everything the religions preach, and which seems to me almost exquisitely perverse.”
    “What’s that?” Carmody asked.
    “It’s the deep, fundamental bedrock of hypocrisy upon which religion is founded. Consider: no creature can be said to worship if it does not possess free will. Free will, however, is free. And just by virtue of being free, is intractable and incalculable, a truly Godlike gift, the faculty that makes a state of freedom possible. To exist in a state of freedom is a wild, strange thing, and was clearly intended as such. But what do the religions do with this? They say, ‘Very well, you possess free will; but now you must use your free will to enslave yourself to God and to us.’ The effrontery of it! God, who would not coerce a fly, is painted as a supreme slavemaster! In the face of this, any creature with spirit must rebel, must serve God entirely of his own will and volition, or must not serve him at all, thus remaining true to himself and to the faculties God has given him.”
    “I think I see what you mean,” Carmody said.
    “I’ve made it too complicated,” Maudsley said. “There’s a much simpler reason for avoiding religion.”
    “What’s that?”
    “Just consider its style—bombastic, hortatory, sickly-sweet, patronizing, artificial, inapropos, boring, filled with dreary images or peppy slogans—fit subject matter for senile old women and unweaned babies, but for no one else. I cannot believe that the God I met here would ever enter a church; he had too much taste and ferocity, too much anger and pride. I can’t believe it, and for me that ends the matter. Why should I go to a place that a God would not enter?”
    • Chapter 13 (pp. 88-89)
  • How nicely you put it! We may rant against fortune and the world, but we are left at the end with the stark proposition: “These are the things which are.”
    • Chapter 17 (p. 108)
  • “You want me to tell you why reality is the way it is,” Seethwright said. “But there is no explanation for that. You must simply learn to fit your preconceptions to what you find. You must not expect reality to adapt itself to you, except very infrequently.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 133)
  • “Isn’t there anything you can do about the predator?” Carmody asked.
    “Nothing. Nor would I if I could. Predation is a necessary circumstance. Even the Gods are eventually eaten by Fate. You will not be an exception to the universal rule.”
    • Chapter 21 (p. 136)
  • Remember, similitude need not imply exactitude.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 159)
  • Once upon a time men resisted the implications of actuality. That day is gone. We know now that art is the thing itself together with its extensions into superfluity. Not pop art, I hasten to say, which sneers and exaggerates. This is popular art, which simply exists. This is the age in which we unconditionally accept the unacceptable, and thus proclaim the naturalness of our artificiality.”
    • Chapter 28 (p. 187)
  • “Your predator is close behind you and will infallibly be your death.”
    “I don’t doubt it,” Carmody said, in a moment of strange calm.” But in terms of long-range planning, I never did expect to get out of this Universe alive.”
    “That is meaningless,” the Prize said. “The fact is, you have lost everything.”
    “I don’t agree,” Carmody said. “Permit me to point out that I am presently still alive.”
    “Agreed. But only for the moment.”
    “I have always been alive only for the moment,” Carmody said. “I could never count on more. It was my error to expect more. That holds true, I believe, for all of my possible and potential circumstances.”
    “Then what do you hope to achieve with your moment?”
    “Nothing,” Carmody said. “Everything.”
    “I don’t understand you any longer,” the Prize said. “Something about you has changed, Carmody. What is it?”
    “A minor thing,” Carmody told him. “I have simply given up a longevity which I never possessed anyhow. I have turned away from the con game which the Gods run in their heavenly sideshow. I no longer care under which shell the pea of immortality might be found. I don’t need it. I have my moment, which is quite enough.”
    “Saint Carmody,” the Prize said, in tones of deepest sarcasm. “No more than a shadow’s breadth separates you and death! What will you do now with your pitiable moment?”
    “I shall continue to live it,” Carmody said. “That is what moments are for.”
    • Chapter 28 (pp. 189-190; closing words)

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