If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Category: Science Fiction

Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles (1950)

Life on Earth never settled down to doing anything very good. Science ran too far ahead of us too quickly, and the people got lost in a mechanical wilderness, like children making over pretty things, gadgets, helicopters, rockets; emphasizing the wrong items, emphasizing machines instead of how to run the machines.

Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles (1950)

Raw, gentle, and easy, it mizzled out of the high air, a special elixir, tasting of spells and stars and air, carrying a peppery dust in it, and moving like a rare light sherry on his tongue.


Ray Bradbury – The Martian Chronicles (1950)

“You sound as if you believe in spirits.”

“I believe in the things that were done, and there are evidences of many things done on Mars. … Everywhere I look I see things that were used. They were touched and handled for centuries.

“Ask me, then, if I believe in the spirit of the things as they were used, and I’ll say yes. They’re all here. All the things which had uses. All the mountains which had names. And we’ll never be able to use them without feeling uncomfortable. And somehow the mountains will never sound right to us; we’ll give them new names, but the old names are there, somewhere in time, and the mountains were shaped and seen under those names. The names we’ll give to the canals and mountains and cities will fall like so much water on the back of a mallard. No matter how we touch Mars, we’ll never touch it. And then we’ll get mad at it, and you know what we’ll do? We’ll rip it up, rip the skin off, and change it to fit ourselves.”

“We won’t ruin Mars,” said the captain. “It’s too big and too good.”

“You think not? We Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things.”

Captain Wilder & Spender

Isaac Asimov – Foundation (1951)

The appearance of strength is all about you. It would seem to last forever. However, Mr. Advocate, the rotten tree-trunk, until the very moment when the storm-blast breaks it in two, has all the appearance of might it ever had.

William Gibson & Bruce Sterling – The Difference Engine (1990)

His stay in Edo had nurtured in him a passionate regard for the muted tones and subtle textures of a world of ritual and shadow. He longed now for the rattle of rain against oiled paper, for flowering weeds a-nod down tiny alleys, the glow of rush-lamps, for scents and darknesses, the shadows of the Low City…

William Gibson & Bruce Sterling – The Difference Engine (1990)

Such was the devilish mockery of these fraudulent bills that even quite normal adverts began to seem queer. As he scanned the bills, searching for double-meanings, every posted word seemed to decay into threatening nonsense. Mallory had never before realized the ubiquity of London’s advertisements, the sullen omnipresence of insistent words and images.

William Gibson & Bruce Sterling – The Difference Engine (1990)

“You don’t presume that has anything to do with real matters here in London, do you?”

“Very interesting question!” Mallory nodded. “Deep metaphysical roots! If I model a phenomenon accurately, does that mean I understand it? Or might it be simple coincidence, or an artifact of the technique? Of course, as an ardent simulationist, I myself put much faith in Engine-modeling. But the doctrine can be questioned, no doubt of it. Deep waters, Fraser! The sort of thing that old Hume and Bishop Berkeley used to thrive on!”

“You’re not drunk, are you, sir?”

“Just a bit elevated,” Mallory said. “Squiffy, you might say.”

William Gibson & Bruce Sterling – The Difference Engine (1990)

“It gave me a turn to see that long panel back in Fleet Street, mounted in front of the Evening Telegraph, clacking away like sixty, over the heads of the crowd! ‘Trains Closed As Sand-Hogs Strike,’ the thing said. ‘Parliament Decries State of Thames.’”

“What’s wrong with that?” Fraser asked.

“It doesn’t say anything,” Mallory said. “Who in Parliament? What state of the Thames, specifically? What did Parliament say about it? Wise things or foolish things?”

Fraser grunted.

“There is a wicked pretense that one has been informed. But no such thing has truly occurred! A mere slogan, an empty litany. No arguments are heard, no evidence is weighed. It isn’t news at all, only a source of amusement for idlers.”

“Some might say it’s better for idlers to know a bit than nothing at all.”

“Some might be damned fools, then, Fraser.”

William Gibson & Bruce Sterling – The Difference Engine (1990)

There was not a ray of sun, but the air was mortally still and the high cloudy sky had a leaden, glowering look, as if it wanted to rain but had forgotten the trick of it.

William Gibson & Bruce Sterling – The Difference Engine (1990)

Tobias plucked up the cards, dropped them through a slot, and pulled a bell-rope. There was a sharp clanging. In a moment a clacker arrived for the cards.

“Now what” Mallory said.

“We wait for it to spin through,” the boy said.

“How long?”

“It always takes twice as long as you think,” the boy said, settling back in his chair. “Even if you double your estimate. Something of a natural law.”