Sheri S. Tepper
Sheri Stewart Tepper (16 July 1929 - 22 October 2016) was a prolific author of science fiction, horror and mystery novels, frequently with a feminist slant. She wrote under several pseudonyms, including A. J. Orde, E. E. Horlak, and B. J. Oliphant. Her early work was published under the name Sheri S. Eberhart.
- To my mind, the expression of divinity is in variety, and the more variable the creation, the more variable the creatures that surround us, botanical and zoological, the more chance we have to learn and to see into life itself, nature itself. If we were just human beings, living in a spaceship, with an algae farm to give us food, we would not be moved to learn nearly as many things as we are moved by living on a world, surrounded by all kinds of variety. And when I see that variety being first decimated, and then halved — and I imagine in another hundred years it may be down by 90% and there'll be only 10% of what we had when I was a child — that makes me very sad, and very despairing, because we need variety. We came from that, we were born from that, it's our world, the world in which we became what we have become.
- The only people who have the long view are some scientists and some science fiction writers. I have always lived in a world in which I'm just a spot in history. My life is not the important point. I'm just part of the continuum, and that continuum, to me, is a marvelous thing. The history of life, and the history of the planet, should go on and on and on and on. I cannot conceive of anything in the universe that has more meaning than that.
- "Sheri S. Tepper: Speaking to the Universe" in Locus magazine (September 1998)
King's Blood Four (1983)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 0-441-44524-1
- All ellipses as in the book
- So I learned that people may be kind enough while not caring a rather.
- Chapter 2, “Journeying” (p. 33)
- This led me to the thought that it might be easy to pretend to be a Seer. After all, if one pretended to have visions of the far distant future, how would anyone know if they came true or not?
- Chapter 5, “Windlow” (p. 83)
- “I tell you, lad, that men will believe if one says, ‘The Gods say…’ They will believe if one says, ‘I had a Vision…’ They will believe if one says, ‘It was told me on a tablet of hidden gold…’ But, if one says, ‘History teaches,’ then they will not believe.”
- Chapter 5, “Windlow” (p. 84)
- “My son, be schooled by me. If your people taught you when you were a child that there are monsters in the wood, you would have believed them. Then, later, if a woodsman had come and said to you, leading you among the trees, ‘See, there is nothing here but shadow and light, leaf and trunk, bird and beast. See, I show you. Look with your own eyes.’ Though you would look and see nothing, still you would believe there were monsters there. You would believe them invisible, or behind you, or hiding beneath the stones, or within the trees somehow. No matter what the woodsman said, you would believe your fear. Men always believe their fear. Only the strong, the brave, the curious—only they can overcome their fear to peer and poke and pry at life to find what is truly there…”
- Chapter 5, “Windlow” (p. 89)
- You’ve been too long in the nursery, boy. Too long with lads and dreamers and cooks. Come out, come out wherever you are! The cock crows morning, and the Great Game is toward! Play it or be swept from the board.
- Chapter 12, “Mavin” (p. 175)
- “You would advise us not to worry?”
“Oh, worry by all means,” said Windlow. “By all means. Yes. It sharpens the wits. A good worry does wonders for the defensive capabilities of the brain. However, I should not advise you to do without sleep.”
- Chapter 13, “The Great Game” (p. 184)
- Perhaps, Someday…well. All time is full of somedays.
- Chapter 14, “Challenge and Game” (p. 201)
Necromancer Nine (1983)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 0-441-56853-X
- Every time I began to take myself seriously, he let me know how small a vegetable I was in his particular stew.
- Chapter 1, “Necromancer Nine” (p. 5)
- We of Betand do not change our laws readily, so says my father, but we interpret them to our needs.
- Chapter 3, “Periplus” (p. 39)
- I trusted him as far as I could kick him up a chimney.
- Chapter 3, “Periplus” (p. 42)
- “We have simply been too fearful to go into that place.”
“You? Fearful?” I doubted this.
“Do not mistake my arrogance for courage, my son. It is true that I am renowned for what I can do. But I am afraid of the unknown, as are most men, Gamesmen or pawns alike.”
- Chapter 8, “The Magicians” (p. 106)
Wizard's Eleven (1984)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 0-441-90209-X (3rd printing)
- They considered me a treasure beyond price until it came time to listen to me, and then I might as well have been a froglet going oh-ab, oh-ab, oh-ab in the ditches. I would like to have been involved at the center of things, but—well. It would have done no good to talk to Mavin about it. She was a tricksy one, my mother, and though I would have trusted her implicitly with my life, I would not trust her at all with my sanity.
- Chapter 1, “Wizard’s Eleven” (p. 3)
- The knife of conscience twisted, and the serpent of guilt writhed under the knife.
- Chapter 4, “The Great North Road” (p. 51)
- I reflected that a little taste of power could take a reasonably sensible person and make some kind of groveling, cringing thing of him.
- Chapter 4, “The Great North Road” (p. 65)
- “I can’t believe he’s an evil man.”
“Well, if you won’t believe him evil, then think of a reason why he’s not.”
- Chapter 7, “Reavebridge” (p. 99)
- I often have these good ideas which are as often ignored.
- Chapter 9, “Nuts, Groles, and Mirrormen” (p. 116)
- He told us that nations of men fell into disorder, so nations of law were set up instead. He told us that nations of law then forgot justice and let the law become a Game, a Game in which the moves and the winning were more important than truth. He told us to seek justice rather than the Game. It was the laws, the rules which made Gaming. It was Gaming made injustice. We can only try something new and hope that it is better.
- Chapter 13 “Talent Thirteen” (p. 183)
The Song of Mavin Manyshaped (1985)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 0-441-77523-3 (first printing)
- There are those who must find fault somewhere, among the dead if they cannot find enough among the living.
- Chapter 2 (p. 31)
- “Forgive my mentioning it. If you are like most young men, you hate having it mentioned.”
Mavin could not help laughing. “I hate having it mentioned. Yes. Perhaps…” She paused a moment before going on, “it is because young people are not that sure they are competent.”
“There is always that,” agreed the Seer. “But that feeling does not necessarily diminish with age. It is merely challenged less frequently. When one has over sixty years, as I do, then the world assumes we would not have survived without competence. With someone your age, it could always be sheer luck.”
- Chapter 4 (p. 71)
- You have not reared him to care what others do, or think, or say. How then should he care for education, for is that not the study of what others care about?
- Chapter 6 (p. 109)
- “Wisdom,” growled the Agirul. “Painful, isn’t it? We assume so much and resist learning to the contrary.”
- Chapter 8 (p. 150)
- If one may not sleep and one may not act, then what use is there sitting about?
- Chapter 8 (pp. 150-151)
- “It is hard to do good,” the voice whispered.
“Nonsense,” she muttered. “You only have to do it.”
- Chapter 8 (p. 159)
The Flight of Mavin Manyshaped (1985)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 0-441-24092-5 (first printing)
- “Parasites,” hissed Aunt Six, just loud enough that he could not fail to hear. “No skills of their own, so they must live by preventing others from using common sense.”
- Chapter 1 (p. 19)
- There is a kind of animal frenzy can be whipped up sometimes among fools and children, often using religion as an excuse for it. When it happens, it is wise to be elsewhere.
- Chapter 3 (p. 45)
- I’ll tell you, nothing is so dangerous as ambition in a man who cares not who stands in his way.
- Chapter 3 (p. 48)
- Mavin shook her head, but withheld any judgment. If there was anything she had learned in long travels here and there, it was that to most people in the world, every unfamiliar thing was considered unacceptably strange.
- Chapter 3 (pp. 55-56)
- “Oh, but I am soiled beyond all cleansing.…”
“Nonsense,” said Mavin impatiently. “You are silly beyond all belief, but that is your sole sin I am aware of, young man.”
- Chapter 3 (p. 63)
- Merced flushed. “You mock me, Messenger.”
“I instruct you, Priest. Pay heed. When you believe that messengers arrive from God, it is wise to listen to everything they say, not merely when they recite accepted doctrine.” She was ashamed of herself almost immediately. He turned so pale, so wan. Well. It was only as she had suspected from the beginning. Many men had a strong tendency to tell God how to behave, and religious men were more addicted to this habit than most.
- Chapter 8 (p. 152)
The Search of Mavin Manyshaped (1985)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 0-441-75712-X (first printing)
- “He is a Seer,” Mavin said sullenly, aware of her lack of logic.
“Poof. Seers. Sometimes they know everything about something no one cares about. Often they know nothing about something important.”
- Chapter 1 (p. 13)
- “How is that possible?”
“To a Wizard, anything is possible,” the Dervish said with more than a hint of scorn. “Or so they lead themselves to believe.”
- Chapter 4 (p. 75)
- “Every promise is like that,” she whispered to herself as she stopped counting strides for a moment. “Every promise has arms and legs and tentacles reaching off into other things and other places, strange bumps and protrusions you don’t see when you make the promise. Then you find you’ve take up some great, lumpy thing you never knew existed until you see it for the first time in the light of morning.”
- Chapter 6 (pp. 97-98)
- His understanding is not great, but his sense of power and treachery is unfailing.
- Chapter 7 (p. 122)
- I have discovered something else, Throsset of Dowes. And that is that men give women jewels when they have absolutely no idea what might please them and are not willing to take time to think about it.
- Chapter 9 (p. 165)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 0-441-51944-X
- “We are kinsmen, therefore allies. You will forgive me if I do not say ‘kinspersons.’ I learned my English in a more elegant setting, in a more elegant time.”
- Chapter 1 (p. 17)
- I have often wondered why anger is considered by some Western religions to be a sin. It is such a marvelous protection against evil.
- Chapter 2 (p. 45)
- “To us it does not seem that long ago, possibly because our children hear stories told around the fire of things which happened fifteen centuries back. Such stories carry an immediacy one does not get from books.…”
“Which is why some countries carry such old grudges,” offered Marianne. “What children learn at their grandmas’ knees they act upon as though it happened yesterday.”
He nodded gravely, even sadly. “Perhaps that is true. Those who have an oral tradition full of old wrongs and old revenge do seem to fight the same battles forever. If the Irish were not forever singing of their ancient wrongs—or writing poetry about it…well, we see the result in every morning’s newspapers.”
- Chapter 3 (p. 67)
- The difference between a true religion—and there are many which share aspects of truth—and a dangerous cult is only this: In the one the individual is freed to grow and live and learn; in the other the individual is subordinated to the will of a hierarchy, enslaved to the purposes of that hierarchy, forbidden to learn except what the cult would teach. You have only to look at the rules which govern the servants of a religion to know whether its god is God indeed, or devil!
- Chapter 3 (p. 69)
- “The answers to everything are in the books,” he said to her. “It is in knowing which books, of course, and where to look.”
- Chapter 7 (p. 116)
- Lion had few doubts about his actions. As he had said on more than one occasion, “I may be wrong, but I am never in doubt.”
- Chapter 10 (p. 162)
- “I was always willing to help you,” she replied, “as you would have known if you had stopped accusing me and listened.”
- Chapter 10 (p. 171)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 0-441-51962-8
- “How did this happen?” she demanded from the world at large.
“Software,” the hardware consultant opined.
“Hardware,” the software support person snarled.
- Chapter 5 (p. 51)
- What was scheduled had no connection with what actually happened.
- Chapter 6 (p. 67)
- “Each day we investigate all premises within three blocks of the palace. Lookin’ for anarchists and revolutionaries, so they tell us, not that we’ve ever found any. Found a nest of revisionists once, but nobody cared.”
“What were they revising?” she asked, truly curious.
“Don’t know. Didn’t ask ’em.”
- Chapter 8 (p. 87)
- What kind of a universe would it be if we could not do small kindnesses for one another?
- Chapter 17 (p. 123)
- “Sometimes I despair, Ellat. Will I ever be able to surprise you?”
“Yes. If you’d listen to me, ever, it would surprise me enormously.”
- Chapter 18 (p. 137)
- Page number from the mass market paperback first edition published by Ace Books ISBN 0-441-51964-4
- “Of course, the governor says the man is mistaken.”
“Governor says he's a stupid ass,” muttered Haurvatat. “I think the man has a glitch in his software somewhere.”
- Chapter 2 (p. 13)
The Gate to Women's Country (1988)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Spectra ISBN 0-553-28064-3
- Morgot and Myra would tell her there wasn’t any reason to make promises or seek changes because the Great Mother didn’t bargain. The deity didn’t change her mind for women’s convenience. Her way was immutable. As the temple servers said, “No sentimentality, no romance, no false hopes, no self-petting lies, merely that which is!” Which left very little room, Stavia thought, for womanly initiative.
- Chapter 2, p. 9
- There is no fucking in Hades.
- Chapter 7, p. 57; catch phrase often repeated in the rest of the book.
- We obey orders, and we don’t ask if the officer is crazy or not!
- Chapter 8, p. 75
- Myra subsided into outraged and sulky silence. Her romantic dream of motherhood had been riven into sharp-edged fragments by late-night feedings, constant diaper washing, and a baby who persisted in looking and acting like a baby, not like a young hero.
- Chapter 10, p. 88
- Honor is only a label they use for what they want you to do, Chernon. They want you to stay, so they call staying honorable.
- Chapter 14, p. 149
- The one sure part of every plan is that it will be set awry.
- Chapter 15, p. 165
- The extent of my ignorance oppresses me.
- Chapter 16, p. 171
- “We have a saying, we travelers: ‘For a man’s business, go to your troupe leader; for a woman’s business, go to Women’s Country. For a fool’s business, go to the warriors.’”
- Chapter 16, p. 173
- “Show yourselves,” cried Stephon. “Only cowards hide in the dark.”
“Cowards do many things,” said the voice. “Cowards kill their Commanders and make it look like a bandit attack. Cowards plot in secret. Cowards breed insurrection. Cowards plan the abuse of women.”
- Chapter 34, p. 302
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Spectra ISBN 0-553-28565-3
- To Sylvan truth was truth and all else was black heresy, though on occasion he had the very human difficulty of deciding which was which.
- Chapter 2, p. 7
- Rich people didn’t get in that kind of mess. They never had. Only the poor got trapped: by ignorance, by religion, by self-righteous laws passed by people who broke them with impunity.
- Chapter 3, p. 32
- All kids think some other family is perfect.
- Chapter 6, p. 103
- They see things; they overhear things; they tell us. We put two and two together to make forty-four, when we must.
- Chapter 7, p. 115
- Eugenie thought of this often. Men had told her many sweet things about herself, but never before that she was important. It was the nicest compliment she had ever received.
- Chapter 7, p. 120
- All men believed they had their own magics in bed.
- Chapter 7, p. 120
- The first thing you’ve got to do is tell yourself that the shitheads are wrong...Not just a little bit wrong, but irremediably, absolutely, and endemically wrong. Nothing you can say or do will stop their being wrong. They’re damned to eternal wrongness, and that’s God’s will.
- Chapter 7, pp. 140-141
- “They’ve got a kind of committee there,” he had said, “an office. Acceptable Doctrine, it’s called. Everyone on the committee is mostly concerned about what people believe. They’re running things, too; don’t let them tell you they aren’t. Truth doesn’t enter in. If they’ve decided something is doctrine, they’ll ignore all evidence to the contrary and lie to your face. You don’t want to run afoul of those types, do you? Not if you have questions to ask. No.”
- Chapter 10, p. 191
- If God is truly powerful, He would not let this plague go on.
- Chapter 11, p. 208
- “Not hunting today, sir?” asked Tony in his most innocent voice, busy putting two and two together but not sure how he felt about the resultant sum.
- Chapter 11, p. 235
- History upon Terra tells us what horrors follow upon religious mandates of unlimited reproduction.
- Chapter 12, p. 250
- Don’t waste your time on penitence or guilt. Solving the problem is better!
- Chapter 15, p. 338
- Useless as a third leg on a goose.
- Chapter 16, p. 345
- “I don’t have much confidence,” she said. “A lot of what I’ve been taught isn’t making sense.”
“That’s the nature of teaching. Something happens, and intelligence first apprehends it, then makes up a rule about it, then tries to pass the rule along. Very small beings invariably operate in that way. However, by the time the information is passed on, new things are happening that the old rule doesn’t fit. Eventually intelligence learns to stop making rules and understand the flow.”
- Chapter 16, p. 354
- Too good is good for nothing.
- Chapter 16, p. 355
- I’m trying to decide whether we can afford to be merciful. The Arbai were merciful, but when confronted with evil, mercy becomes an evil.
- Chapter 16, p. 358
- They haven’t learned that being penitent sometimes does no good at all.
- Chapter 16, p. 374
- Marjorie thought: It always comes down to something like this, doesn’t it. No matter what our consciences say, no matter how much doctrine we’ve been taught, no matter how many ethical considerations we’ve chewed and swallowed and tried to digest, it always comes down to us arming ourselves with weapons as deadly as we can manage and going out into combat...
- Chapter 17, p. 377
- Time past was nothing, no matter how long. Time ahead was everything, no matter how brief.
- Chapter 17, p. 385
- She was trying to feel philosophical about dying, not managing it, trying not to be frightened, and not managing that, either.
- Chapter 17, p. 388
- Duty was simply not enough. There had to be more than that!
- Chapter 20, p. 446
- He did a lot of disputation and he always raised his voice when his logic was weak.
- Chapter 20, p. 447
Gibbon's Decline & Fall (1996)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Spectra ISBN 0-553-57398-5
- On that far horizon the Sandia Mountains stand behind their outliers in receding gradations of gray or blue or violet, paper cutouts against the lighter sky, vanishing into night when the lights of the city come on. Then the stars look down and the air is sweet with piñon smoke as centuries-old nut-bearing trees are burned for the momentary pleasure of those who, unlike the native peoples, never think of the food the trees produce.
- Chapter 2, p. 41
- Another window to the outside opened on the first day of school, when an eager young teacher told the class they could find out anything in the world if they paid attention and learned to read. To Jake it came as a revelation, the missing piece of the puzzle of his life! Here was the secret of existence he had known must be somewhere! All the mysteries of his existence would come clear, all the things he wondered about, if he would only learn to read. He did learn, quickly, passionately, with the ardor many boys reserve for sports.
- Chapter 2, pp. 44-45
- Keepe pursed his lips, nodded. “We’re already in a very strong position in this country, of course. We’ve taken over all of the antigovernment militias, most of the religious groups who think of themselves as conservative, plus what’s left of the KKK and the American Nazi party, but they’re only pocket change. We now own the Republican party. Any moderates still hiding in there have been flushed out. We’ve been managing the press for over twenty years now, and the public is accustomed to our view of the world.”
Jagger paid attention. “I didn’t realize...”
“Oh, yes. People don’t want to absorb new information. They like predictability. So as long as we don’t surprise the public with the truth, we’re free to move as we like. Very shortly we won’t even have to be covert about it. And then, of course, people are sick of issues. Civil rights, human rights, women’s rights—people are tired of all that. You understand?”
- Chapter 2, p. 52; spoken by one of the leaders of a secretive neo-fascist organization
- One of the difficulties of being the good guys is that even open societies have to have secret police, and secret police turn toward repression as a compass points north.
- Chapter 5, p. 96
- She needed more sleep and less aggravation.
- Chapter 6, p. 114
- Fear needn’t be grounded in fact to cause problems.
- Chapter 9, p. 153
- “Words? Not really. Mankind is a good word.” She set down her glass with a thump. “Or humankind. I’m afraid we’ve spent a lot of feminist energy on meaningless symbols rather than essential functions.”
- Chapter 10, p. 170
- Infanticide and infant neglect exist in inverse ratio to the accessibility of abortion services.
- Chapter 10, p. 173
- Here we are after a couple million years of natural selection has produced a race that overpopulates and makes war and dominates and rapes, and you want to know about wisdom! Natural selection doesn’t select for wisdom!
- Chapter 11, p. 194
- “When your people began to press upon us, long, long ago, we moved into remote enclaves. To us, numbers are not strength; wisdom is strength. What profiteth a race to be numerous and stupid, la? Behold how great we are, saith the lemming!” She laughed.
- Chapter 18, p. 392
- The boys attend the Institute. I saw where they keep the girls. They are not taught anything. They are merely fed, bathed, given exercise, raised so until puberty, at which time they are culled. The enemy does not want either rebellion or thought bred into his followers, so any who show signs of independence or unusual intelligence are culled.
- Chapter 19, p. 421
- They looked like men. That was the trouble with devils, Carolyn thought. Too often they looked like men.
- Chapter 20, p. 449
Singer from the Sea (1999)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Eos ISBN 0-380-79199-4
- Italics and ellipses as in the book
- The poor are like foxes: they need intelligence in order to survive. The rich, however, have power; they don’t need good sense.
- Chapter 2, “The Library” (p. 48)
- “You don’t like him?” asked Aufors, wondering whether the man had gone mad on the job or been hired because he was mad enough for the job. There were jobs where madness was an asset. The military was full of them.
- Chapter 7, “Aufors Leys” (p. 105)
- It’s hard to talk like a human being when one hasn’t been treated like one for years!
- Chapter 7, “Aufors Leys” (p. 106)
- “Thirst makes any wine drinkable…”
“…And greed makes any crime thinkable.”
- Chapter 7, “Aufors Leys” (p. 109)
- Despite his concern, he was not so out of control as to forget that a frantic man is a careless man, a lesson every soldier learns soon or dies wishing he had learned sooner.
- Chapter 7, “Aufors Leys” (p. 112)
- Perhaps my cynicism comes in good time. Better I have it early than too late.
- Chapter 8, “A Proposal and What Followed” (p. 139)
- An intelligent woman herself, the Duchess had overestimated the Marshal’s intelligence. Not an ambitious woman, she had underestimated his ambition. So are many misread by other’s lights.
- Chapter 11, “Various Visitations” (p. 174)
- He blunders about like an ape in an apiary, infuriating the inhabitants and missing all the sweetness!
- Chapter 11, “Various Visitations” (p. 176)
- “So the Glass Master story is real?”
“Oh, yes, my dear. The story is real. When you must lie, my dear, lie as little as possible. That way you’ll have the least to remember.”
- Chapter 12, “A Short Trip to an Unexpected Destination” (p. 181)
- “I’ve met people like him.” Garth nodded sagely. “Men of customary inaction who can be spurred to sporadic excess. Such men often start ill-planned projects that they lack either energy to complete or the wit to abandon.”
- Chapter 17, “Merdune Lagoon” (p. 257)
- “But how is it you know all this about how large the ocean is? I thought you girls were limited to pretty chatter and the economics of housekeeping. I didn’t know you learned geography.”
“We don’t,” she said, somewhat shamefaced. “But we learned to read, and once one can read, one can learn anything.”
- Chapter 17, “Merdune Lagoon” (p. 272)
- “By now, the Mahahmbi think we’ve always been around. They already believed they were God’s favorites when they came here, so it wasn’t hard to persuade them God created slaves for them.”
Melanie snarled, “And if you believe you’re God’s favorite, killing a few women and children doesn’t bother you…”
- Chapter 23, “The Marae Morehu” (p. 366)
- “And all this time that I’ve worried over the state of my soul, I shouldn’t have bothered,” Genevieve said angrily.
- Chapter 23, “The Marae Morehu” (p. 369)
- I know you want me to believe all this, but it seems little different from the religious stories we learned in school, esoteric and relatively pointless.
- Chapter 23, “The Marae Morehu” (p. 370)
- You felt something huge and marvelous of which you are part, and in the moments you described, you forgot yourself for you were one with your world and with the sky above it, and even the stars looking down. There is nothing larger or more wonderful than that. Still, there are those who would prefer self. They will accept any belief, no matter how foolish, if it guarantees them personal immortality. I know people like that. But there are others who know themselves well enough to realize how limiting that is.
- Chapter 24, “People from the Sea” (p. 382)
- No one ever has to believe! The universe is, it does not require belief. Do you think it will stop existing if you do not believe? Do you think far galaxies will harbor resentment against you if you do not believe? Do you resent the ant who does not look up and admire you? Never!
- Chapter 24, “People from the Sea” (p. 382)
- You reacted to stop the Mahahmbi killing your women, but you did nothing about their killing other women. It’s clear you could have done something. You are numerous enough that you could have killed the Mahahmbi who came out into the desert to perform those rituals!
- Chapter 24, “People from the Sea” (p. 391)
The Fresco (2000)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Eos ISBN 0-380-81658-X
- All italics and ellipses as in the book
- Thinking it over later, she blamed TV and the movies for her immediate reaction. The media gobbled everything that happened or could happen, then spit it out, over and over, every idea regurgitated, every concept so mushed up that when anything remarkable actually occurred it was already a cliché. Like cloning or surrogate mothers or extraterrestrials and UFOs. The whole world had heard about it and seen movies about it, and had become bored with the subject before it even happened!
- Chapter 2, p. 8
- One of the strangest things I have encountered on your world, dear Benita, is that many of your people have no idea who they really are but many ridiculous ideas about what they are expected to be, plus many religious convictions about what they should be, although nobody is! One should not want to be anything but what one is because it creates unhappiness.
- Chapter 5, p. 57
- Whatever he thinks, it’s time you stopped enabling other people so you can enable yourself.
- Chapter 6, p. 72
- People don’t seem to rob bookstores much, more’s the pity for them.
- Chapter 8, p. 88
- If a person torturing and killing people is evil, why are gods who torture and kill people called good?
- Chapter 9, p. 102
- Some professor of history wrote that cultures define their gods when they’re young and primitive, when their main concern is survival. They endow their gods with survival characteristics like omnipotence and authoritarianism, belligerence and suspicion, and that’s what goes into all their myths or scriptures. Then, if they survive long enough, they begin to develop morality. They examine their own history, and they learn that authoritarianism doesn’t accord with free will, that belligerence and suspicion are unhealthful, but this newly moral culture is stuck with its bigoted, interfering gods, plus it’s stuck with people who prefer the old bloody gods and use them as their justification for doing all kinds of awful things.
- Chapter 9, pp. 102-103
- She concluded: “Legalization would drive prices down, crime would stop, then we could take care of the addicts...”
“And you do not do this because of...politics?”
The Secretary of State said, “The war against drugs is big business. Thousands of people are on the payroll. The people on the payroll don’t want the problem solved, though they can’t say that out loud or, perhaps, even admit it to themselves. Instead, they continue to take a moral position that requires them to punish people. Punishing people is always considered moral.”
- Chapter 9, p. 103
- Military men! Damn it, they always thought in terms of hardware, black or white, our side or the other side. It was damned hard to get them to see gray at all, and getting them to tell dark gray from medium gray was impossible!
- Chapter 12, p. 125
- “Why do reporters have to dig into people’s privacy?” she fumed.
“Communication is much like sex.”
This set her back. “I don’t understand...”
A chuckle. “Being celibate is often wise and prudent. People know this, but the inborn drive to reproduce makes their organs wag. Keeping silent is often wise and prudent. People know this, also, but the drive to question and tell makes their tongues wag. Sex spreads genetic material, good and bad; prying spreads information, true and false; natural selection takes over and both ethical failings contribute to continuing evolution.”
- Chapter 17, p. 145
- When agony is not present, no matter how imminent it looms, painful change must come from outside. This is a truth.
- Chapter 20, p. 157
- We have a saying, “Where one lives, all live; where one suffers, all suffer.” One, in our language, includes all living things. In your language someone has said, “No man is an island,” which encompasses the concept but which, by mentioning only mankind, misses the point.
- Chapter 20, pp. 157-158
- Don’t you find that predators are those who most often assert absolute rights to personal freedoms?
- Chapter 23, p. 170
- If the children die, well, say they, it is the will of their gods. I do not like such ways; certainly I would not follow such gods.
- Chapter 25, p. 201
- We always assume that living, breathing, sensible creatures want peace.
- Chapter 29, p. 217
- “Thirty thousand some odd kids starve every day.”
”That’s not something we accept!”
“Oh, hell, Senator. Don’t feed me the party line. When was the last time any of your colleagues voted for overseas family planning programs? You guys claim it’s to prevent abortion, but you know it’s not. You know damn well cutting family planning causes more abortions than it prevents, but you still do it. Why? Because most of the pro-life people are anti-contraception, too. And anti-sex education. And anti-gay. And anti-women’s-rights. But they’re pro-gun, pro-hunting, pro-military. Killing’s part of their lives.
- Chapter 30, p. 226
- As previously announced, we are already studying how to remedy the problems with your schools. The causes of their failures are many, ramified, and deeply entrenched in local politics. The most amazing thing about the situation is that fifty years ago, a century ago, your schools were far better than they are now! They taught fewer subjects and taught the better, with far more success and far less jargon. Everyone agreed then that children were children, that is, impulsive, naive, and ignorant creatures in need of training. No one suggested then that schools or teachers had to put up with hostility or violence or that students had “rights” to such behavior or that freedom of speech included rudeness in the classroom. Persons could be expelled from school and sometimes were. Children were expected to be good citizens and mannerly, and the schools taught citizenship and manners. A necessary adjunct to the school was the truant officer, who sought out and detained any child under eighteen who was not in school, and children did not get out of school until they could read and write and do arithmetic. As is true on so many worlds, the theoreticians and politicians have ruined a good thing.
- Chapter 33, p. 236
- “I think I mentioned to you that there’ve been some rumors about where certain soft contributions to senatorial campaigns come from. Dink works for Morse. Morse gets lots of soft money. This has got to be where it’s coming from.”
“What does Morse do in return?”
“He votes for the war on drugs. Votes more money for the DEA. Makes sure there’s no drug policy reform. The War on Drugs keeps the market up, keeps the dealers working, keeps the money flowing. They don’t want drugs legalized. It’d be like what happened when we stopped Prohibition. The gangsters didn’t want it stopped. They made millions.”
- Chapter 39, p. 280
- He thinks he’s a liberal, he’s generally on our side, but he’s also ex-military, and he falls for the national security gambit every time someone plays it. Star Wars. Stealth anything. Talk about burning the flag and he gets all choked up. Funny, so many of these guys think the country stands for the flag instead of the other way around. So long as Old Glory’s whipping in the breeze, it’s okay to deal guns to kids and cheat on your taxes.
- Chapter 39, p. 283
- It is far more important to establish a civil and orderly society than it is to pander to abusive cultural and religious artifacts.
- Chapter 41, p. 293
- The world had been repeatedly swept by war and famine and plague when the population had been a quarter of what it was now! Less than a hundred years ago. Sparse population didn’t equal peace. It never had. All it meant were fewer casualties.
- Chapter 43, p. 322
- We would prefer to believe them, and we’ve gone along with them when they’ve told us the predators are a separate people, races that eat other intelligent life and who do not, therefore, eat Republicans. Or newsmen.
- Chapter 44, pp. 335-336
- That is a phrase I had never heard before, dear Benita. Playing politics. It is like playing war, a game for degenerates. Statesmen should not “play” politics.
- Chapter 46, p. 355
- As our sages have said, youth builds a universe with self at the center.
- Chapter 46, p. 358
- The practice of diplomacy, I have found, is sometimes like eating soup with a fork: much activity yielding little nourishment.
- Chapter 46, p. 358
- When I was a kid, Mami told me the Mexican gods weren’t the only bloody ones, and we should never serve gods that had been invented to take the blame for everything bloody, painful, primitive and unenlightened that people wanted to do. Why did we Israelites kill every man, woman, child and beast in that city? Why, the Lord Jehovah commanded it. Why do we Spaniards steal food from these Indian people, and mutilated them, and use them as slaves? Why, we do it so they will love Christ! Why do we Aztecs torture and sacrifice people? Huitzilopotchli demands it!
Whether it was the Israelites invading Canaan or the Spanish invading the Southwest, or one Mexican tribe warring against another, the answer was always the same. We enslave and torture and mutilate and kill in the name of our god.
- Chapter 49, pp. 390-391
- My grandfather said people who can learn, learn morality the way they learn everything else, by building on history. He also said that some people cannot learn from history, so they cannot change. For them, there’s only one book or tradition or whatever it’s called in their religion, and in that book God is eternal and whatever the book says God commanded two or three or four thousand years ago, God still commands today. That may be kill homosexuals or kill nonbelievers. It may say enslave your enemies. It may say mutilate or sequester women, or sell your ten-year-old daughter for somebody’s third wife.
- Chapter 49, p. 391
- “It does not seem impossible,” murmured Her Exactitude. “Moreover, it accords with our ethical imperative. Luckily, our imperative is based upon experience, rather than upon artifacts or scriptures, so we are not likely to be thrown into disorganization by judgments made centuries ago. We do not assert as true anything which we have not proven or seen proven by others. Thus, we never claimed that we were the center either of the universe or of a deity’s attention. While we do not deny deity, we do not presume to understand it, plea bargain with it, or tell others what shape it takes. It does make life easier.”
- Chapter 50, p. 408
- “You’re pro-life,” Dink commented.
Briess widened the slit of his mouth into an excruciating smile. “No, my friend, I’m merely anti-woman. I was born in the wrong system. Once female life expectancy exceeded that of men in the U.S., it was obvious we were doing something wrong.”
- Chapter 51, p. 414
- “It could be any way at all by the will of Aitun,” snapped Chiddy. Aitun lets everything happen that can happen! It is up to intelligence to select!”
- Chapter 53, p. 434
- “A lot of things they speak of doing are things many humans have wanted to do but have never been able to muster a mandate to get them done. Things like legalizing drugs to take out the profit motive. Or paying teachers the way we do athletes, depending on how effective they are. Or getting rid of weapons whose only purpose is to kill people.”
“Is a mandate necessary?”
“If you’re going to overcome an economic incentive, yes.”
“Logic has no part?”
“No part at all. People can see the problem, they’re not stupid, but they can’t influence the legislators the way money can. Even when bad situations go on and on until the people are desperate for a correction, even when they threaten legislators with voting them out, the money still prevails.”
“It is hard for me to see how this could happen.”
Chad said, “The legislators react to a problem by writing a law, let’s say to put repeat drunk drivers in jail. The liquor industry objects, because they don’t like a lot of discussion about drunkenness, it hurts their image. The legislators react by amending the law to create a commission to study how best to jail drunk drivers. Then, when the budget bills come along, they fund only the commission. The appointees to the commission include representatives of the liquor industry.
“This allows the legislators to claim success, because the law got voted in. The liquor industry also claims success, because they made sure the law won’t work.
“The next step is to hire a lot of people to work for the commission, many of whom are also liquor industry supporters, and the commission begins to issue long, complicated, vaguely pointless reports. Now, however, there are jobs involved, and legislators can’t get rid of jobs, even useless ones.
“Then, repeatedly, the lawmakers amend the law further, tweaking this and changing that, but always adding more jobs—until we have a bureaucratic monstrosity that’s in the business of helping the liquor industry prevent legislation against drunk drivers. That’s the way our Forestry Service got to be owned by the lumbermen, and our DEA got to be owned by the drug cartels, welfare got to be owned by a social work hierarchy, and schools got to be owned by professional educationalists. None of them work, because that’s not what they’re designed to do.”
- Chapter 53, pp. 438-439
The Visitor (2002)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Eos ISBN 0-380-82100-1
- Picture this:
A mountain splintering the sky like a broken bone, its western precipice plummeting onto jumbled scree.
- Ch. 1 : caigo faience, first lines, p. 1
- Many men of importance were gathered there to be seen talking with other men of importance, resulting in an abundance of conspicuous but immaterial discourse.
- Ch. 4 : the cooper, p. 40
- Meanwhile they discussed What It All Meant, some considering the sign a threat and others a blessing, each according to his nature.
- Ch. 4 : the cooper, p. 40
- Long ago, the people of the world cried out for help. In the reaches of heaven their cry was heard, and a Visitor came in answer to it. The Visitor began helping immediately, but secretly. Now the visitor intends to be known to the people of the world and the people of the world must deal with that knowledge.
- Guardian Camwar in Ch. 4 : the cooper, p. 41
- We are to be needed, but I'm not sure for what.
- Guardian Camwar in Ch. 4 : the cooper, p. 42
- You asked for wisdom? Hear these words. Nothing limits intelligence more than ignorance; nothing fosters ignorance more than one's own opinions; nothing strengthens opinions more than refusing to look at reality.
- Guardian Camwar in Ch. 4 : the cooper, p. 42
- I am myself, though from moment to moment something else seems to be looking on. Whatever will be required of me, however, can best be done if I remember who I am.
- Guardian Camwar in Ch. 4 : the cooper, pp. 42-43
- Being an immortal doesn’t matter to me. If one looks out into the universe and perceives what true immortality would mean in terms of time and space, it takes monstrous hubris to even conceive of personal immortality, much less desire it.
- Nell Latimer in Ch. 6 : nell latimer’s book, p. 51
- Personal beliefs are unarguable, even if the other side has all the facts.
- Nell Latimer in Ch. 6 : nell latimer’s book, p. 51
- She had grown through loss and confusion into a girl who lived almost entirely inside her head, taking refuge in the places she created there, not so much repulsed by others’ reality as unable to perceive it.
- Ch. 7 : dismé the maiden, p. 57
- “They were always telling me their way is the only way to go!”
“Oh, no, my dear. No, not at all. So long as it harms no one else, one’s own way is always preferable.”
- Dismé and Arnole in Ch. 7 : dismé the maiden, p. 59
- Sacrifice for sacrifice’s sake does no one any good!
- Arnole in Ch. 8 : a disappearance, p. 65
- “No matter who I ask, they answer out of the Dicta! Even when it doesn’t fit.”
“Doing such is not a new thing. In the former world, there were people who said all truth was contained in this or that holy book, this or that holy image, these or those holy beliefs. No matter how complicated their world became, no matter how much it changed, the only answers permitted were those that grew ever more tortuous and convoluted.”
“Until, some say, God turned his back on them for their failure to use the minds they had been given.”
- Dismé and Arnole in Ch. 10 : at faience, pp. 75-76
- Since they were not in the Dicta, knowledge of them would be considered evidence of heresy, or of imagination, which was almost as bad.
- Ch. 10 : at faience, p. 84
- For the last several years, Jerry has been much moved by “spiritual” things. Though it’s a word Jerry and his friends use quite comfortably, I’ve never been able to define it. It means non-material things, certainly, but also, non-intellectual, non-measurable, non-factual things. For his friend Marie, it’s a belief in angels, but her husband thinks it’s the feeling he gets when he sits naked in a hot spring, watching the stars.
- Nell Latimer in Ch. 14 : nell latimer’s book, pp. 113-114
- “What you’ve just said is totally unorthodox, Colonel Doctor. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you’d been touched by Scientism!”
“Ah. Scientism. One of the heresies. How would you define Scientism, Captain?”
“A heretical belief that men once did the things you’ve mentioned through their own efforts, without angelic assistance. The Dicta teaches us that our ancestors depended upon angels for their power, just as we will when we rediscover The Art.”
- Colonel Doctor Jens Ladislav and Captain Trublood in Ch. 22 : officers and gentlemen, p. 170
- Janet snarled, “Nell, who made you the arbiter of what’s Right and wrong or wrong?”
Nell thumped the table. “I’m not making a moral judgment, I’m making a pragmatic one! Before the Happening, the world was full of people, and we were using up the Earth’s resources at a fantastic rate. Somehow we felt we’d find some other world before we used up this one, and going to space was a spectator sport. That game’s over. We’re not going anywhere! Therefore, all the attitudes that led to use-up-the-world-and-leave-it-behind are wrong for us, and whatever attitudes keep the Earth fit for what people and animals are left is right for us, and I defy you to come up with any better definition.”
- Ch. 28 : the seeress, pp. 226-227
- The Regime says a lot of things, nine-tenths of it lies and the other tenth wishful thinking.
- One of the demons in Ch. 29 : the spelunker, p. 237
- Call me either Colonel or Doctor. Hearing both titles gives me a split personality, the two philosophies differing so widely. It is medicine’s philosophy that lives should be saved, of all sorts. It is our military’s philosophy that as long as a few cells are kept alive, actual lives may be dispensed with. A few inches of gut in a bottle is not, to my mind, a life, no matter what theological contortions one puts oneself through.
- Colonel Doctor Jens Ladislav in Ch. 30 : dismé and the doctor, p. 256
- “I know so little,” she murmured.
“Better admit you are up to your neck in ignorance than stand upon a pinnacle of misinformation,” he said firmly.
- Dismé and Colonel Doctor Jens Ladislav in Ch. 30 : dismé and the doctor, p. 258
- If a society thinks it needs weapons, it must accept killing. If it thinks it needs violent men, it must accept rapine and assault.
- Colonel Doctor Jens Ladislav in Ch. 32 : dismé in hold, p. 283
- I’ve come to believe, from experience and reading and what I’ve learned on the outside, that the Regime—I suppose really, one might say any regime—is rather like a pot of porridge. If vigorously stirred every now and then, it can be a nourishing if not always tasty staple, but if left on the heat unstirred for some time it becomes increasing stodgy. If left untended, it can char into an immovable solid, like coal.
Thereafter, it is incapable of being stirred, incapable of providing nourishment. When a regime is like that, citizens have to resort to bribery or lawbreaking to do quite necessary things like digging wells or fixing roads, thus joining corruption to congealment.
- Colonel Doctor Jens Ladislav in Ch. 33 : dezmai of the drums, pp. 293-294
- I suspect there’s little difference between whim and inspiration at the beginning of any chain of events. It’s what happens later that tells us which is which.
- Colonel Doctor Jens Ladislav in Ch. 33 : dezmai of the drums, p. 294
- The Regime has become so smug it can't tell the difference among the revolutionary, the innovative, or the merely various. The high command knows so little about the outside that if I came back with a fully equipped chemical laboratory and told them I'd found it in a cave, they'd probably believe that, so long as I brought it back piecemeal in my saddle bags, thus proving I hadn't known it was there beforehand.
- Colonel Doctor Jens Ladislav in Ch. 37 : leaving bastion, pp. 349-350
- Those of us from Chasm started calling it the Visitor because that's a relatively comfortable label. It implies the stay is temporary, that the thing will go away. We think the Visitor must be part of a race of beings who live in space, though we're guessing at that. We also postulate that they hitch rides on bits of space trash that are moving somewhere, like the huge one that came at us. Anyhow, the Visitor is getting closer by the day.
- Wolf in Ch. 37 : leaving bastion, p. 353
- Once the Regime said that one living cell is a life, real living became irrelevant.
- Flower in Ch. 37 : leaving bastion, p. 355
- The sergeant was braver than most, and stupider—the two qualities often going hand in hand.
- Ch. 38 : anglers and border guards, p. 364
- “Magic!” cried the demon. “Miracle! What difference between the two?”
“There is no difference at all,” said Galenor. “Except that people allow themselves to believe an event if it’s called a miracle while disdaining the same event if it’s called magic. Or vice versa.
- Ch. 43 : various pursuits, pp. 417-418
- Life arises naturally; where life is, death is, joy is, pain is. Where joy and pain are, ecstasy and horror are, all part of the pattern. They occur as night and day occur on a whirling planet. They are not individually willed into being and shot at persons like arrows. Mankind accepts good fortune as his due, but when bad occurs, he thinks it was aimed at him, done to him, a hex, a curse, a punishment by his deity for some transgression, as though his god were a petty storekeeper, counting up the day's receipts…
- Guardian Galenor in Ch. 43 : various pursuits, p. 418
- “Humans are unique in holding their gods so cheap they peck at them like pigeons, constantly intruding upon them with prayer! Prayer from all sides of every conflict, prayer before each contest, during every issue. Private prayer, public prayer, shepherded prayer baa-ed from congregation, sports prayer before games, prayer parroted and prayer spontaneous, endless instructions to god, endless...plockutta.
“‘Intercede for me and solve my problems; give me, grant us; hear the words I’m saying; suspend the laws of nature in this instance; cure her; save him; don’t let them; listen to me; do this!’” The Visitor sighed. “Beneath it, one hears devils’ laughter.”
- The Visitor in Ch. 44 : the visitor, p. 458
- Each race creates its own devils. You had so many that they specialized. Devils of racial hatred, devils of greed and violence. Devils who killed their own people in orgies of blood. Devils who bombed clinics, devils who bombed school buses, devils who bombed other devils. I got to know every one of them by name. As soon as I arrived, I sent my monsters out to kill them all. They had tarnished my reputation, and though I have lavished much care on mankind, vengeance is mine.
- The small god in Ch. 44 : the visitor, p. 458
- “This place is a godland, you may call me god. Small g, for I am not proud. We are a race evolving in this Creation to serve the Maker of it. We act as temporary deities during the childhood of individual peoples and planets. I was the midwife who brought forth this world, who stirred the primordial ooze, and noted the life that crawled up from the sea. Our race is not unlike yours, but I am very old, and you are still very young.
”We come and go. I came to teach your people language. I raised up oracles, whispered to soothsayers, wove bright visions for sorcerers, and spoke marvels to your alchemists. I came again to raise up prophets in the the Real One’s name: Bruno, Galileo, Newton, Fermi...”
The doctor interrupted, “The Real One? Who?”
”The Being whom I worship. The Ultimate who stands apart from time. The Deity some men think they are addressing when they pray with words. The Real One doesn’t even perceive words. If IT did, imagine what IT would have to listen to! The Real One sees only the pattern of what is, where it begins and where it comes to rest. The only prayer IT perceives is action.
“I don’t understand that,” said Nell, stubbornly.
“An example from your old world, Nell. A child being shot and everyone weeping. What does the Real One see? IT sees the maker and making of a device that kills, the device itself, the selling of the device that kills, the buying of the device that kills, the placement of it near the child, the occurrence, the death. Only actions enter the pattern the Real One sees. What is. What was done. IT perceives neither intentions nor remorse.”
Nell said angrily, “What do you mean, what is?”
The small god seemed to shift uneasily on its pedestal. “What is, is! Reality. Nature. The laws of a Universe that contains all things. Expansion and contraction, matter and anti-matter, light and dark, joy and sorrow, ecstacy and horror, supernovas and black holes, euphoria and pain, governing and politics, life and death. All the goads and all the stumbling blocks that force intelligence to grow by conquering.”
“Conquering what?” asked Arnole, his hand on Nell’s arm.
“Anything. Stink, or disease, or hatred. Pain, bugs, or brambles. The shortness of life or the frailty of age.”
“Why not just leave those things out?” Dismé protested.
“It’s been tried. If you give a being only feelgood-joy-life, nothing happens. Dinosaurs lived here for hundreds of millions of years in feelgood-joy-life, and at the end of it they had conquered nothing.
- The Visitor in Ch. 44 : the visitor, pp. 459-460
- “Even when you went to the moon, you didn’t go in search of truth. Oh, you said it was to learn about the universe, but you really went because you were playing a dominance game with another country. Once the other side no longer played the game, you only pretended to go on while actually you started the long slide back into magic and miracles.”
Nell said angrily, “Miracles are religion!”
”It doesn’t matter what name you call it,” said the small god. “Magic or miracle, sorcery or religion, it’s all the same.”
- The Visitor in Ch. 44 : the visitor, p. 460
- Aside from earning their livings, what did your people do, mostly? Games. Sports. Casinos. Loud machines that went fast. Shopping. Lawsuits blaming other for whatever went wrong. What did they believe in? Conspiracy theories. Racial superiority. Heroes with superpowers. Faith healers. God-loves-you religions. State-supported lotteries. All that enormous energy expended to conquer nothing at all, stadia full of people watching no conquering going on. For every scientist or person in government who really tried to conquer, there were a thousand people buying lottery tickets, drinking beer, watching football, and growing old.
- The Visitor in Ch. 44 : the visitor, pp. 460-461
- Your leaders worshipped the greed devil when they sold their votes and influence to spread bad stuff; they worshipped the power devil when they valued votes over the health of the planet; they made a pretence of mercy and justice by advocating human rights while they sucked up to dominance devils whose law was torture and whose rule was the enslavement of women.
- The Visitor in Ch. 44 : the visitor, pp. 461-462
- “As everybody’s god, what will you do?” The doctor demanded.
“You mean immediately?” asked the small god. “I will raise up prophets to make conflicting pronouncements that will inevitably be garbled in transcription, resulting in mutually exclusive definitions of orthodoxy from which the open-minded will flee in dismay...Also, I will be capricious. I’ll reward and punish arbitrarily. I’ll peek through bedroom windows and admonish what I see there, sometimes one thing, sometimes the opposite. I will have purposes men know nothing of, and when men begin to catch on to them, I will change them. This will convince some of your people that I am unreliable...Occasionally, I will do a conspicuous miracle to save one dying child while a thousand children starve elsewhere. This will convince sensible people I am perverse, and they will curse my name. Be sure to recruit those who do, they’ll be invaluable. Only by repudiating both devils and small gods will they ever know the Real One.
I will be a sham, but not a snob. I will let every man, woman, or child, no matter how greedy or wicked, claim to have a personal relationship with me. In other words, I will be as arbitrary, inconsistent, ignorant, pushy, and common as humans are, and what more have they ever wanted in a god?”
“The truth!” cried the doctor and Arnole, simultaneously...
“Oh, tush, they never wanted anything of the kind. Creation has the truth written all over it—the age of the universe, the history of the world—but nine-tenths of mankind either don’t know it or think it’s a sham, because it isn’t what their book or their prophet says, and it isn’t cozy or manipulable enough.”
”My people wanted truth,” said Nell, stiffly. “My friends.”
“They were a minority. Not many years before the Happening, one of your country’s largest religious bodies officially declared that their book was holier than their God, thus simultaneously and corporately breaking several commandments of their own religion, particularly the first one. Of course they liked the book better! It was full of magic and contradictions that they could quote to reinforce their bigoted and hateful opinions, as I well know, for I chose many parts of it from among the scrolls and epistles that were lying around in caves here and there. They’re correct that a god picked out the material; they just have the wrong god doing it.”
- The Visitor in Ch. 44 : the visitor, pp. 463-464; ellipses represent minor elisions of description.
- The sooner we can separate salvageable skeptics from self-righteous absolutists, the sooner we can move along.
- The Visitor in Ch. 44 : the visitor, p. 464
- The space began to move around them as the being on her plinth receded. The splintered world hurtled toward them as though they were in a kaleidoscope, images whirling to join, spinning outward to disintegrate, vortices of jagged light, horizons of endless time, pinwheels of splendor that rushed at them and receded through which they heard the small god cry, "You will not see me soon again. It is not fitting that gods, however small, consort casually with their servants. I leave you as Guardians for all that live on this world."
- The small god in Ch. 44 : the visitor, p. 465
- Arnole had time for analysis.
“It is interesting,” he said to himself, “that this small god implied devils were made of ignorance, for I have always believed this to be true. Ignorance perpetuates itself just as knowledge does. Men write false documents, they preach false doctrine, and those beliefs survive to inspire wickedness in later generations. They are like the spells woven by wizards, lying in wait for the credulous to find them and uses them. Conversely, some men write and teach the truth, only to be declared heretic by the wicked. In such cases, evil has the advantage, for it will do anything to suppress truth, but the good man limits what he will do to suppress falsehood.
“One might almost make a rule of it: “Whoever declares another heretic is himself a devil. Whoever places a relic or artifact above justice, kindness, mercy, or truth is himself a devil and the thing elevated is a work of evil magic.”
- Arnole in Ch. 45 : not in conclusion, p. 467
- To the Chasmites, truth is determined by how well it fits their expectations, and doesn't that sound familiar?
- Guardian Elnith in Ch. 46 : nell latimer's journal, p. 498
- I mentioned that the small god said she brought the asteroid because of what man had become, and they retorted that man might not have become that if we had been relentless in our education of our young people and had not perpetuated ignorance under the guise of cultural sensitivity and the politically correct.
- Elnith in Ch. 46 : nell latimer’s journal, p. 498
- He calls it the university of the Real One, and it teaches only things that are known to be true, which means it is largely devoted to mathematics and sciences.
- Elnith in Ch. 46 : nell latimer’s journal, p. 498
The Margarets (2007)
- All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Eos ISBN 978-0-06-117069-0, 1st printing, July 2008
- The chapters in the book are named, but not numbered; they are numbered here for ease of reference
- Ideas oozed out of books like magma out of volcanoes.
- Chapter 2, “I Am Margaret/On Phobos” (p. 15)
- “We have a membership provided the ISTO doesn’t declare all Earthians a barbarian people.”
“I don’t know what that means,” I persisted, even though this wasn’t strictly part of the subject.
Father gritted his teeth. “ISTO recognizes four types of creatures: civilized, semicivilized, barbarians, and animals. Civilized people know about, care about, and protect their environments. Semicivilized people know and care, but can’t do anything…”
Mother said, “Because something prevents their acting in their own self-interest. Public apathy. Commercial interference. Religious opposition. Governmental corruption. The Gentherans say the humans have a lot of that.”
Father frowned at her and went on. “Barbarians know but don’t care about their worlds, and animals don’t even know.”
- Chapter 4, “I Am Margaret/On Phobos” (pp. 29-30)
- “The Gentherans said too many Earthians were in fact barbarians who didn’t care what happened to Earth because they believed they’d be off in some lovely afterlife by that time.”
“Would they be?” I asked, wonderstruck this idea.
“I sincerely doubt it,” Mother snapped.
- Chapter 4, “I Am Margaret/On Phobos” (p. 30)
- “Though many mortals speak with authority concerning what their Members want—“Our Father wants us to sacrifice a bullock,” “Kali demands we garrote a passerby”—the desires and demands of the gods are always determined by the desires and demands of the people. Whatever the prophet or priesthood comes up with, the gods parrot.
- Chapter 7, “I Am Gretamara/On Chottem” (pp. 53-54)
- “That is the god of jihad,” she said. “That is the god of crusades. They are identical except for their names.”
- Chapter 7, “I Am Gretamara/On Chottem” (p. 55)
- By the time mortal races leave their home planets, many of their gods have already amalgamated with one another. Small tribal godlets are often thrust together through shared execrations. All Death-Honor-and-War gods, for example, are identical. The people may fly different flags, but their gods are happy to drink blood from both sides of the battle.
- Chapter 7, “I Am Gretamara/On Chottem” (p. 55)
- The Gardener says that mortals often pass laws they cannot enforce in order to be seen as “strong,” or “determined,” even though they know the laws will not solve the problem.
- Chapter 7, “I Am Gretamara/On Chottem” (p. 56)
- Think of that, Joziré! A court dedicated to pure justice, one that can overrule the law! They didn’t even have one of those back on old Earth!
- Chapter 10, “I Am Wilvia/On B’Yurngrad” (p. 69)
- It did not take long to find out that Earth was no different from Phobos. People on Earth engaged in ritual repetition; most of them thought as little as possible; most of them occupied themselves with things and events that were not very important. Amusement stage dramas were the same as the ones I had seen on Phobos. All music had been so extensively filtered, corrected, and augmented by technology that it all sounded alike. Singing voices were improved by electronic means, as were the faces, the bodies, and the dramatic ability of actors and actresses. No one was plain; no one was allowed to be ugly; no one was very different from anyone else. In school, the stupid students got the same grades as the smart ones except for the tiny secret marks the educational archivists made in their records – in case a VIP needed a truthful reference.
- Chapter 12, “I Am Margaret/On Earth” (p. 86)
- The only thing rarer than louts who think is louts who read.
- Chapter 13, “I Am Naumi/On Thairy” (p. 96)
- The use of destructive, noisy machinery for recreational purposes must become anathema to humans, as unthinkable as eating one’s young.
- Chapter 14, “I Am Margaret/On Earth” (p. 114)
- Mr. Weathereye had always said that civility could not possibly be resented by any civilized person; that if resentment were offered, it was a sure sign of loutdom.
- Chapter 17, “I Am Naumi/On Thairy” (p. 132)
- Along the way, all meaning was lost except for verbal signals, the kind of signals any animal species develops in order to stay in touch with its own kind, call others to a feeding spot, or alert others to danger. Every linguist should know that language must be used to be retained, and the compilers of this report have warned that human language on Earth is also being reduced. As humans become more crowded, they become less tolerant of variety. To fit into a crowd, people must be similar, and Earth’s population today is a vat of homogeneity with only a pretense of choice remaining. One may pick model x with one curlicue or model y with three, the tasteless brown cracker or the tasteless yellow cracker, the actual difference in either case being nil. Any real choice among things of unlike value might lead to disparity, which leads to conflict. Ideas also contribute to disparity, and therefore in crowded populations ideas must be restricted to the least controversial, the least interesting. Children all receive the same grades in school. Workers all receive the same pay. Clothing is similar; Foods are identical; and with the passage of all distinctions the words for them also pass.
- Chapter 18, “I Am Margaret/On Earth” (pp. 151-152)
- That symbol always reminded me of that historic educational effort called “No child left behind,” which actually meant “No child gets ahead,” for compliance meant dumbing everything down so no one would learn more than the least capable. “Enough for all” really meant “Too little for everybody.”
- Chapter 18, “I Am Margaret/On Earth” (p. 155)
- “That’s why we train women judges here at Temple. It is the nature of men to make rules for everything and to play complicated games with them. For them, the game is more important than justice.
“Ordinary people prefer justice. They prefer that things be taken case by case, they prefer an attempt at justice over the rules of law, for they know that pure law is often used by the clever to victimize the innocent.”
- Chapter 23, “I Am Wilvia/On B’Yurngrad” (p. 189)
- They learn nothing, for they’re convinced they know everything that matters.
- Chapter 24, “I Am M’urgi/On B’Yurngrad” (p. 196)
- “Anything interesting in the paper?”
“Some tragedy, some comedy, nothing that’ll matter in a hundred years,” I said.
- Chapter 28, “I Am Margaret/On Tercis” (p. 238)
- “We have replanted five percent of the Brazilian desert where at one time jungles grew in leaf mold containing thousands of microorganisms atop hard, in fertile soil. When the trees were burned, so was the leaf mold, along with the microorganisms. The stony, sterile ground was barren. On these barrens we have planted hearty ‘starvation’-type coverage: many thorns, a few leaves. When these have had a few decades to accumulate organic detritus, we will plant slightly less hearty things at their roots. After another few decades, we can plant the next generation, and so on. It will take over two hundred years for each acre to achieve fifteen percent of the organic mass it once held. It will take a millennium or more for each acre to achieve anything approaching the fertile growth that was its glory as one of Earth’s chief oxygenators.”
- Chapter 32, “I Am Gretamara/On Mars” (pp. 271-272)
- The people of Earth did not understand that humans were part of a worldwide organism, that something as tiny as a cluster of bacteria could mean the difference between life and death for every living thing, the difference between a functioning, flourishing planet and a desolation.
- Chapter 32, “I Am Gretamara/On Mars” (p. 272)
- Earth had always operated on a continuous-growth model that requires a poverty class. Sustainable models require productive work by all members and are quite different.
- Chapter 32, “I Am Gretamara/On Mars” (p. 272)
- “The human problem?” I asked, somewhat offended.
She put her arm around me. “Forgive me, Gretamara, but your race as a whole has the unfailing habit of fouling its nest, killing its original planet, and doing its best to kill any others to which it is moved. Because we love and admire the human race for its many good qualities, we call this not ‘the human condition,’ meaning an irrevocable state, but ‘the human problem,’ one we wish to solve. The effort has gone on for some millennia, without result, and some of those involved in the effort are beginning to believe it is a waste of time and treasure.”
- Chapter 32, “I Am Gretamara/On Mars” (pp. 276-277)
- And that very strong one with the hammer. That might be Thor.
“Actually,” the Gardener murmured,” he is Thor, Hercules, Apollo, Gilgamesh, Adonis, Osiris, Krishna, virtually every young male deity known for strength, beauty, and intrepidity, just as my colleague, Mr. Weathereye, is Odin, Jupiter, Jove, Allah, Jehovah, or any other ancient male deity known for wisdom, power, and prescience. And the old woman there, Lady Badness, is Erda, Norn, Moira, Sophia, the wisewoman who can detect the pattern in the weavings of happenstance before mankind here’s the shuttle coming.”
“I’m named for her?” asked Sophia.
“For her, yes. And I, Gardener, am also Demeter, Cybele, Freya, Earth Mother, Corn Goddess, a thousand names of female deities wise in the ways of growing things, solicitous of women and children, caretakers of the beasts of the field and the woods. Some of us Members are sizable, for many mortals, including humans, believe in strength, and power, and nurture, and wisdom.”
“What are all those hunched-up things?” asked Sophia.
The Gardener shook her head.” Sophia, those are the gods many humans prefer. They are hunched from ages of sitting on peoples shoulders, whispering encouragement.”
“But they’re tiny!” she said, in disbelief.
“Many humans prefer tiny gods,” said the Gardener. “Tiny gods of limited preoccupations…”
“Limited to what?” I demanded.
“To mankind, of course. And to each believer, particularly. Each human wants god to be his or her best friend, and it’s easier to imagine god being your best friend if he is a tiny little god interested only in a tiny world that’s only a kind of vestibule to an exclusive little heaven.”
“Some of them are yelling,” said Sophia.
“Oh, yes. Those are hellfire gods. Since there is no supernatural hell, they never really send anyone there, but their sources get enormous pleasure, thinking about it.”
- Chapter 32, “I Am Gretamara/On Mars” (p. 280)
- “There,” Gardener said, pointing. “That little female one. Its name is Oh-pity-me. It cannot see the sun for the daylight nor the stars for the darkness, and it is worshipped by a surprising number of people.
- Chapter 32, “I Am Gretamara/On Mars” (p. 281)
- “Are those gods real?” I demanded.
“I am one of them, Gretamara. We exist, but we are not real in the sense that a tree is real or a rock is real. If all the people in the universe were gone, the rock or tree would still be there, but we deities exist only while our people do.”
- Chapter 32, “I Am Gretamara/On Mars” (p. 283)
- You don’t remember your first ancestors. You have no memory of ninety-nine percent of what makes you what you are! Instead you have comfy baby-stories you tell yourselves to explain why you’re not good people. What sin you committed or how you didn’t do with this god or that god told you. Instead of learning how not to be bad, you learn how to be forgiven and carried off to heaven. Most of you find it easier to believe the baby-stories than to learn from history and science, because it takes brains and hard study to understand history and science, but the stories are simple and comfy. People who want things easy and comfy resent people who study things. They teach their children the comfy stories and tell them not to worry about studying, just buy a ticket to go to heaven, and gradually, everyone becomes as ignorant as everyone else. It’s happened time after time on Earth.
- Chapter 33, “I Am Margaret, at a Birthday Party on Tercis” (p. 302)
- Human worlds are always awash in superstition, only a stubborn elite proof against it.
- Chapter 34, “I Am M’urgi/On B’Yurngrad” (p. 306)
- Fear and superstition always follow the unseen, the unknown, the whispered of.
- Chapter 34, “I Am M’urgi/On B’Yurngrad” (p. 312)
- “So that’s a magical world down there?” asked Bamber.
Falija replied in an astonished voice, “No, of course it’s not magical. It’s completely real. It simply has a lot of lifeforms that you’re unfamiliar with.”
Glory asked, “What do you mean, it’s not magical, it’s real?”
“It’s a real world. It has real qualities. Up is always up and down is always down. Fruit falls from a tree, it doesn’t float to the sky. Creatures are born in this world, and grow up and eventually die. What’s true today is also true tomorrow.
“If this were a magical world, all those things would be subject to could have by anyone who had power or could command it by spell or enchantment. Magical worlds can’t exist in our universe because their rules change constantly, and there’s no difference between evil and good. Power is power, and everyone does what they can get away with.”
“I always thought magic was sort of nice,” said Glory.
Falija’s ears drooped. “Humans are fascinated with magic. Your people like to believe in powers that will break all the laws of the universe, just for you.” Falija shivered.
- Chapter 37, “I Am Margaret/On Tercis” (p. 351)
- “Sit down, Grandma,” Glory urged. “You’re very pale. This is all very weird and strange, and you’re allergic to strange.”
- Chapter 42, “I Am Margaret/On Fajnard” (p. 389)
- The place displayed luxury without comfort, ostentation without art. I hated it.
- Chapter 44, “I Am Gretamara/On Chottem” (p. 398)
- We had both learned from the Gardener that old vengeance is like old cake: still seeming sweet, but so dry that one invariably chokes on it.
- Chapter 44, “I Am Gretamara/On Chottem” (p. 398)
- Old gods sometimes do that in their retirement. They become galactic social workers, self-appointed do-gooders.
- Chapter 53, “We Margarets Walk” (p. 502)
- Something in their history has moved them to patience. Wise leaders do not go to war with enemies, not even evil enemies, unless they have thought it through to the end.
- Chapter 53, “We Margarets Walk” (p. 504)
- For those impervious to history, only sterilization and quarantine are efficacious.
- Chapter 53, “We Margarets Walk” (p. 507)
Strange Horizons interview (2008)
- "Of Preachers and Storytellers : An Interview with Sheri S. Tepper" by Neal Szpatura, Strange Horizons (21 July 2008)
- If creation is important to something or someone or is going to become important, then all subcreations of it are also important. Everything is important. There is nothing so unimportant you can ignore it or destroy it with complete impunity. Your senses are part of the "everything." Seeing is important. Smelling is important. Hearing is important. Everything is important and you have to look at, study, get involved with everything, and you have to believe what you find out, and test, and finally prove! None of this nonsense about not believing in fossils because God was just playing around in order to confuse us. If you ignore the evidence of your (dare one say God-given) senses, if you define myth as reality, and if you claim divine revelation allows you to destroy any part of creation, you have committed absolute evil.
Do we have any way of knowing exactly what is intended for the universe to be or become? No, but given the age and complexity of the whole shebang, we can be fairly sure creation is important.
- We have several races of beings that speak on this one planet. We have many and varying types of intelligence on this one planet. Therefore, tendencies that encourage intelligence, language, and a continuing search for information may very well be in accordance with the purpose of the universe.
And contrariwise, all systems that discourage intelligence, language, and a continuing search for information are anti-existence, death-dealing, and evil.
- The Inquisition, by defining and limiting knowledge, was evil. The Taliban, by defining truth and refusing girls an education, is evil. Any religion that says it knows the one and only truth is evil, because it limits knowledge. Any political body that says it owns the truth is evil. Same reason.
Any repressive regime that seeks to control exploration and experimentation is evil. Same reason. Any regime that defines truth as a set of beliefs and occurrences that cannot be questioned, that can neither be demonstrated nor proven is not only evil but ridiculous. This includes all mythologies, miracles, etc. because, if creation happened for a reason, if it was done by God, you'd better believe every part of it, including intelligence, was done for a reason ascertainable, eventually, by intelligence. We would not follow and adore a ruler who lied and tortured. Why would we worship a God who did either? God doesn't lie and he/she/it doesn't fool around!
Shutting down inquiry is evil. Causing pain purposefully for no reason is evil. Enjoying causing pain by shutting down inquiry is an absolute evil.
- I never read an author twice if I can't trust him or her to make it come out right. I never read an author twice if he writes the kind of books where everyone and everything is in tension from page one to the last paragraph of the last page, like that dreadful TV show, 24. Tension is something I have plenty of in life. I don't need it elsewhere.
- Every villain or villainous activity I have ever written about is a person or an activity that has actually lived or taken place. I invent nothing. When I wrote in Raising the Stones about the slavery practiced by one race and their reasons for it, those reasons were taken verbatim from arguments written in defense of Negro slavery by southern slave owners. Watch bullies at school. See how they delight in causing pain. See how little is done to change them. Imagine them grown, elected, put into power. They do grow, they are elected, they are put into power.
- I say the entities that are named as gods by Earthians are imagined into being by Earthians as personal helper-buddies, justifiers, threateners (my god can beat up your god). They don't "run on" anything any more than a mirror image "runs on" anything. They merely reflect what people want them to be. "I want to have more children than my brother does, thus proving I'm a better man than he is, so my god tells me I should have a big family." "I want to screw women, so my god is going to give me seventy virgins I can screw for all eternity." The "gods" in The Margarets who could really do anything were actually an old, highly evolved race of real people. The others were only reflections. The real God, who may really exist, is outside all that, perhaps watching closely, perhaps merely asleep for a few trillion years while the experiment runs out.
We — thee and me as individuals — will never know that God, though after a few trillion years, the universe as a whole may come to understand that God.
- Look at Mother Teresa. She spent her whole life being holy. She didn't benefit anyone in any real sense. She didn't work on stopping disease, helping poverty, doing anything that would relieve the condition of her countrymen. She just went around the city, picked up dying people, and took care of them while they died. It was a good thing, no doubt, but it meant no betterment, no progress, no help, no relief from pain. She longed to be holy. She wanted to be a saint. Now she's a saint.
Salk isn't a saint. But he did more for the human race than Mother Teresa did. He didn't long to be holy, which meant having faith, not asking questions, doing something unpleasant without thought or complaint. He longed to do good, which meant finding things out, asking hard questions, and thinking hard, deep thoughts. Goodness and holiness are two different things, unfortunately.
- Encyclopedic article on Sheri S. Tepper on Wikipedia
- Sheri S. Tepper at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- "Of Preachers and Storytellers : An Interview with Sheri S. Tepper" by Neal Szpatura, Strange Horizons (21 July 2008)