Quotations

Tagged: Theme

Sf has long suffered from the perception that its authors are characteristically excellent creators of ideas but clunky prose stylists, suggesting that the genre may not be distinguished by an abundance of well-turned phrases. Still, there are any number of statements by sf writers, in stories and articles, that are regularly referenced and repeated, so much so that they might be deemed an integral aspect of the genre. A short list of memorable sf quotations might begin with the genre's various Laws, such as Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics; Arthur C Clarke's Laws, particularly the Third ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"); Robert A Heinlein's five rules for writers; and Theodore Sturgeon's Sturgeon's Law ("Ninety percent of everything is crud"). There are oft-cited proclamations from classic authors like Asimov's "Violence ... is the last refuge of the incompetent" from "Foundation" (May 1942 Astounding); A E van Vogt's enigmatic "Here is the race that shall rule the sevagram" from The Weapon Makers (February-April 1943 Astounding; 1946); and J G Ballard's "The only truly alien planet is Earth" from "Which Way to Inner Space?" (May 1962 New Worlds #118). Sf film and television have contributed familiar phrases like "Klaatu barada nikto" from the original The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951); the introductory narrations of the first Star Trek series ("Space ... the final frontier ... to boldly go where no man has gone before") and of The Prisoner ("I am not a number. I am a free man!"); and Star Wars's "May the Force be with you."

To locate compilations of sf quotations, one can readily consult numerous online resources, though these are not always accurate and regularly attribute quotations solely to their authors, failing to provide dates and original sources. In print, there are books of quotations with special focuses, such as Heinlein's The Notebooks of Lazarus Long (coll 1978), which provides all the cranky aphorisms scattered throughout Time Enough for Love (1973); Neil Gaiman's and Kim Newman's Ghastly Beyond Belief (anth 1985), devoted solely to avowedly wretched quotations from sf books and Cinema (the "Thog's Masterclass" department of the newsletter Ansible has continued this tradition since 1994); Stephen J Sansweet's I'd Just as Soon Kiss a Wookie: The Quotable Star Wars (anth 1996), a book of quotations from the first three Star Wars films; Jill Sherwin's Quotable Star Trek (anth 1999), offering numerous quotations from the first four Star Trek series and first eight films; and Cavan Scott's and Mark Wright's Wit, Wisdom and Timey-Wimey Stuff: The Quotable BBC Doctor Who (anth 2014), with quotations from various incarnations of the Doctor Who series. Two volumes have endeavoured to cover the entire genre: William Rotsler's brief and eclectic Science Fictionisms (anth 1995) and Gary Westfahl's Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits (anth 2005), which endeavoured to provide a comprehensive collection of accurately transcribed quotations, organized according to topics. One feature of the later work is a section entitled "Surrealism", devoted to examples of sf's unique ability to generate striking statements that would be absurd outside of their sf context, such as Henry Kuttner's and C L Moore's "The doorknob opened a blue eye and looked at him" from "The Fairy Chessmen" (January 1946 Astounding); Philip K Dick's "He could not argue with an angry bed" from Galactic Pot-Healer (1969); and Ursula K Le Guin's "The King was pregnant" from The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). [GW]

Previous versions of this entry

Website design and build: STEEL

Site ©2011 Gollancz, SFE content ©2011 SFE Ltd.