quotes of the letter B


Avoid A Void

Only the rational and useful is beautiful.
—Yevgeny Zamiatin, We (1924), translated by Mirra Ginsburg (1972)

[On King Kong’s death:] It wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.
—James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose, King Kong (film, 1933)

Beauty is a luster which love bestows to guile the eye. Therefore it may be
said that only when the brain is without love will the eye look and see no
—Jack Vance, The Dying Earth (1950)

The novels were all right for a while until she found out that most of them
were like the movies—all about the pretty ones who really own the world.
—Theodore Sturgeon, ‘‘Saucer of Loneliness’’ (1953)

When beauty is universal, it loses its power to move the heart, and only its
absence can produce any emotional effect.
—Arthur C. Clarke, The City and the Stars (1956)

The deer knew that the boy thought her beautiful. For it was the purpose
of the deer in this world on that morning to be beautiful for a young boy
to look at.
—Craig Strete, ‘‘Time Deer’’ (1974)

We know truth for the cruel instrument it is. Beauty is infinitely preferable to
—George R. R. Martin, ‘‘TheWay of Cross and Dragon’’ (1979)

We each have a moral obligation to conserve and preserve beauty in this
world; there is none to waste.
—Robert A. Heinlein, Friday (1982)

You are horror and beauty in rare combination.
—Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (1987)

They gave me eyes. All of you are beautiful; you shine like stars. But I must
go away with them.
—Joan Slonczewski, TheWall around Eden (1989)

Beauty was the promise of happiness, not happiness itself; and the anticipated
world was often more rich than anything real.
—Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars (1992)

How was it that destruction could be so beautiful? Was there something in
the scale of it? Was there some shadow in people, lusting for it? Or was it just
a coincidental combination of the elements, the final proof that beauty has no
moral dimension?
—Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars (1992)

People give up the earth for beauty.
—Esther M. Friesner, ‘‘Big Hair’’ (2000)

It was her scars that made her beautiful.
—Mary Gentle, Ash: A Secret History (2000)


There was the class of superstitious people; they are not content simply to
ignore what is true, they also believe what is not true.
—Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon (1865), translated by
Walter James Miller (1978)

Feeling is believing.
—Edwin A. Abbott, Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions (1884)

Of course she believed the blessed lie, for in times of extreme peril it is
human to be optimistic.
—R. F. Starzl, ‘‘The Planet of Despair’’ (1931)

People believe in God because they’ve been conditioned to believe in God.
—Aldous Huxley, Brave NewWorld (1932)

People make mistakes in life through believing too much, but they have a
damned dull time if they believe too little.
—James Hilton, Lost Horizon (1933)

The capacity of humans to believe in what seems to me highly improbable—
from table tapping to the superiority of their children—has never been
plumbed. Faith strikes me as intellectual laziness.
—Robert A. Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land (1961)

I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles
was not past.
—Stanislaw Lem, Solaris (1961), translated by Joanna Kilmartin and
Steve Cox (1970)

Disbelief is catching. It rubs off on people.
—Ray Bradbury, ‘‘A Miracle of Rare Device’’ (1962)

He hungered to believe in the marvelous. (Who doesn’t?)
—Edgar Pangborn, ‘‘The Children’s Crusade’’ (1974)

There must be few indeed who don’t cherish a faith in some things, because
all knowledge remains incomplete; even though faith is only the fantasy of
things hoped for, the invention of things not seen. I have faith in the good
will of myself and certain others, faith in the rightness of love and virtue and
mercy. That faith will sustain me as it has in the past, while I live.
—Edgar Pangborn, ‘‘The Children’s Crusade’’ (1974)

A personal god, a father-model, man needs that. Dave draws strength from it
and we lean on him. Maybe leaders have to believe.
—James Tiptree, Jr., ‘‘Houston, Houston, Do You Read?’’ (1976)

An exaggerated and solemn respect always indicates a loss of faith.
—GeneWolfe, ‘‘Seven American Nights’’ (1978)

The truths, the great truths—and most of the lesser ones as well—they are
unbearable for most men.We find our shield in faith. Your faith, my faith,
any faith. It doesn’t matter, so long as we believe, really and truly believe, in
whatever lie we cling to. [. . .] They may believe in Christ or Buddha or Erika
Stormjones, in reincarnation or immortality or nature, in the power of love
or the platform of a political faction, but it all comes to the same thing. They
believe. They are happy. It is the ones who have seen truth who despair, and
kill themselves.
—George R. R. Martin, ‘‘TheWay of Cross and Dragon’’ (1979)

Some things were too hard to believe, however entertaining they might be to
hear or read.
—Hal Clement, The Nitrogen Fix (1980)

In reduced circumstances you have to believe all kinds of things. I believe in
thought transference now, vibrations in the ether, that sort of junk.
—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1986)

This is how humans are: We question all our beliefs, except for the ones we
really believe, and those we never think to question.
—Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead (1986)

The Electric Monk was a labor-saving device. [. . .] Electric Monks believed
things for you, thus saving you what was becoming an increasingly onerous
task, that of believing all the things the world expected you to believe.
—Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)

Belief is a force. It’s a weak force, by comparison with gravity; when it comes
to moving mountains, gravity wins every time. But it still exists.
—Terry Pratchett, Pyramids (1989)

It is always hard when reality intrudes on belief.
—Alan Dean Foster, CyberWay (1990)

Religious revivals have been endemic on the Number OneWorld ever since
the gods retired and went to live in the sun. Nobody is exactly sure why.
One view is that mankind has a desperate need to believe in something,
preferably something so blatantly absurd that only blind, unquestioning faithwill suffice—for example, the belief which sprang up in the late nineteenth
century and was still widely current in Jason Derry’s time and which held
that human beings were not in fact created at all but were somehow the
descendants of bald, mutant monkeys. The other view is that there is never
anything much on television during the summer.
—Tom Holt, Ye Gods! (1992)

To learn a belief without belief is to sing a song without the tune.
A yielding, an obedience, a willingness to accept these notes as the right
notes, this pattern as the true pattern, is the essential gesture of performance,
translation, and understanding. The gesture need not be permanent, a lasting
posture of the mind or heart; yet it is not false. It is more than the suspension
of disbelief needed to watch a play, yet less than a conversion. It is a position,
a posture in the dance.
—Ursula K. Le Guin, The Telling (2000)

Belief is the wound that knowledge heals, and death begins the Telling of our
—Ursula K. Le Guin, The Telling (2000)

Storm: Sometimes anger can help you survive.
Nightcrawler: So can faith.
—Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, and David Hayter, X2: X-Men United
(film, 2003)


The Martians may be descended from beings not unlike ourselves, by a
gradual development of brain and hands (the latter giving rise to the two
bunches of delicate tentacles at last) at the expense of the rest of the body.
Without the body the brain would of course become a more selfish intelligence,
without any of the emotional substratum of the human being.
—H. G.Wells, TheWar of theWorlds (1898)

There are so many disadvantages in human construction which do not occur
in us machines. [. . .] Some little thing here or there breaks—they stop work-ing and then, in a short time, they are decomposing. Had he been a machine,
like myself, I could have mended him, replaced the broken parts and made
him as good as new, but with these animal structures one is almost helpless.
—JohnWyndham, ‘‘The Lost Machine’’ (1932)

The human heart is more complex than any other part of the body.
—William Hurlbut, Bride of Frankenstein (film, 1935)

You must admit that it might be confusing to have one brain and two bodies.
—Edgar Rice Burroughs, Synthetic Men of Mars (1940)

I am still young and ill-formed, running to slenderness instead of to the
corpulence that is the universal mark of beauty.
—James V. McConnell, ‘‘All of You’’ (1953)

Madge borrows a body once a month and dusts the place, though the only
thing a house is good for now is keeping termites and mice from getting
—Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., ‘‘Unready toWear’’ (1953)

The body, he reflected, possesses ways of its own, sometimes in contradistinction
to the purposes of the mind.
—Philip K. Dick, Clans of the Alphane Moon (1964)

Within his body there throbbed the contributions of many a young Vorster
volunteer: a film of lung tissue from one, a retina from another, kidneys
from a pair of twins. He was a patchwork man, and he carried the flesh of his
movement about with him.
—Robert Silverberg, ‘‘Open the Sky’’ (1966)

HarrisonWintergreen was inside his own body.
It was a world of wonder and loathsomeness, of the majestic and the
ludicrous.Wintergreen’s point of view, which his mind analogized as a
body within his true body, was inside a vast network of pulsing arteries,
like some monstrous freeway system. The analogy crystallized. It was a
freeway, and Wintergreen was driving down it. Bloated sacs dumped things
into the teeming traffic: hormones, wastes, nutrients.White blood cells
careened by him like mad taxicabs. Red corpuscles drove steadily along like
stolid burghers. The traffic ebbed and congested like a crosstown rush hour.
Wintergreen drove on, searching, searching.
—Norman Spinrad, ‘‘Carcinoma Angels’’ (1967)

Seagrave’s slim and exhausted face was covered with shattered safety glass, as
if his body were already crystallizing, at last escaping out of this uneasy set of
dimensions into a more beautiful universe.
—J. G. Ballard, Crash (1973)

You’re gaining weight finally. Thinness is dangerous.
—Octavia E. Butler, ‘‘Bloodchild’’ (1984)

The body was meat. Case fell into the prison of his own flesh.
—William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

Almost everything which corrupts the soul, must also decay the body.
—William Gibson and Bruce Sterling, The Difference Engine (1991)

The molecules of your body are the same molecules that make up this station
and the nebula outside, that burn inside the stars themselves.We are starstuff,
we are the universe made manifest, trying to figure itself out.
—D. C. Fontana, ‘‘A Distant Star,’’ episode of Babylon 5 (1994)

I was nodding off on the streetcar home from work when I saw the woman
getting on. She was wearing the body I used to have!
—Nalo Hopkinson, ‘‘A Habit of Waste’’ (1996)


‘‘What is the use of a book,’’ thought Alice, ‘‘without pictures or conversations?’’
—Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures inWonderland (1865)

Squatting upon his haunches on the table top in the cabin his father had
built—his smooth, brown, naked little body bent over the book which rested
in his strong slender hands, and his great shock of long, black hair fallingabout his well shaped head and bright, intelligent eyes—Tarzan of the apes,
little primitive man, presented a picture filled, at once, with pathos and with
promise—an allegorical figure of the primordial groping through the black
night of ignorance toward the light of learning.
—Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tarzan of the Apes (1914)

Books are opium.
—Aldous Huxley, Eyeless in Gaza (1936)

The best books, he perceived, are those that tell you what you know already.
—George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

The opinions expressed in this book are not those of the author.
—Arthur C. Clarke, Childhood’s End (1953)

A book is a loaded gun in the house next door.
—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1954)

The books say nothing! Nothing you can teach or believe. They’re about nonexistent
people, figments of imagination, if they’re fiction. And if they’re
nonfiction, it’s worse, one professor calling another an idiot, one philosopher
screaming down another’s gullet.
—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1954)

Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we
were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The
magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe
together into one garment for us.
—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1954)

What traitors book can be! you think they’re backing you up, and they turn
on you.
—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (1954)

She came over and sniffed at one of the books, baring her teeth as though it
were a dangerous adversary.
—Pierre Boulle, Planet of the Apes (1963), translated by Xan Fielding (1963)

Somehow, the burning of millions of books felt more brutally obscene than
the killing of people. All men must die, it was their single common heritage.
But a book need never die and should not be killed; books were the immortal
part of man.
—Robert A. Heinlein, Farnham’s Freehold (1964)

A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.
—Italo Calvino, ‘‘Why Read the Classics?’’ (1981), translated by
Patrick Creagh (1987)

They had a sad smell, old books.
—William Gibson, Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)

Grandad was superstitious about books. He thought that if you had enough
of them around, education leaked out, like radioactivity.
—Terry Pratchett, Johnny and the Dead (1993)


Oh, great, divinely bounding wisdom of walls and barriers! They are, perhaps,
the greatest of man’s inventions. Man ceased to be a wild animal only
when he built the first wall.
—Yevgeny Zamiatin, We (1924), translated by Mirra Ginsburg (1972)

A dweller in a house may impress his personality upon the walls, but subtly
the walls too, may impress their own shape upon the ego of the man.
—C. L. Moore, ‘‘NoWoman Born’’ (1944)

He looked down into a night that was alive with radiance. The streets and
walls glowed, strings of colored lamps flashed and flashed against a velvet
dark, fountains leaped white and gold and scarlet, a flame display danced
like molten rainbows at the feet of a triumphal statue. Star architecture was a
thing of frozen motion, soaring columns and tiers and pinnacles to challenge
the burning sky.
—Poul Anderson, ‘‘Ghetto’’ (1954)

Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within;
it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more.Within,
walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were
sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House,
and whatever walked there, walked alone.
—Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House (1959)

He had moved up a floor, and the sequence of identical rooms he had occupied
were like displaced images of himself seen through a prism. Their common
focus, that elusive final definition of himself which he had sought for so
long, still remained to be found.
—J. G. Ballard, ‘‘The Cage of Sand’’ (1962)

Cheops’ Law: Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.
—Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (1973)

‘‘Think of it [1930s architecture],’’ Dialta Downes had said, ‘‘as a kind of
alternate America: a 1980 that never happened. An architecture of broken
—William Gibson, ‘‘The Gernsback Continuum’’ (1981)

Buildings were just the world’s furniture, and he didn’t care how it was
—John Varley, ‘‘The Pusher’’ (1981)

Case watched the sun rise on the landscape of childhood, on broken slag and
the rusting shells of refineries.
—William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

The sitting room is subdued, symmetrical; it’s one of the shapes money takes
when it freezes. Money has trickled through this room for years and years,
as if through an underground cavern, crusting and hardening like stalactites
into these forms.
—Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (1986)

Do not look for revelations in the ancient ruins. You will find here only what
you bring: bits of memory, wisps of the past as thin as clouds in the summer,fragments of stone that are carved with symbols that sometimes almost make
—Pat Murphy, The FallingWoman (1986)

The walls and floor of the great room were hers to reshape as she pleased.
They would do anything she was able to ask of them except let her out.
—Octavia E. Butler, Dawn (1987)

A ruin is a ruin, a toppled remnant, and its final statement is failure.
—George Turner, Drowning Towers (1987)

There was something vampiric about the room, she decided, something
it would have in common with millions of similar rooms, as though its
bewilderingly seamless anonymity were sucking away her personality.
—William Gibson, Mona Lisa Overdrive (1988)

Lammiela’s house was the abode of infinity. The endless rooms were packed
with the junk of a hundred worlds.
—Alexander Jablokov, ‘‘The Death Artist’’ (1990)

Buildings express values, they have a sort of grammar, and rooms are the
—Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars (1992)


Strangely late in the world’s history, the obvious fact was perceived
that no business is so essentially the public business as the industry and
commerce on which the people’s livelihood depends, and that to entrust it
to private persons to be managed for private profit is a folly similar in kind,
though vastly greater in magnitude, to that of surrendering the functions
of political government to kings and nobles to be conducted for their
personal glorification.
—Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, 2000–1887 (1888)

Buying and selling is essentially anti-social in all its tendencies. It is an education
in self-seeking at the expense of others, and no society whose citizensare trained in such a school can possibly rise above a very low grade of
—Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, 2000–1887 (1888)

Nothing about your age is, at first sight, more astounding to a man of
modern times than the fact that men engaged in the same industry, instead
of fraternizing as comrades and co-laborers to a common end, should have
regarded each other as rivals and enemies to be throttled and overthrown.
This certainly seems like sheer madness, a scene from bedlam.
—Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward, 2000–1887 (1888)

I explained that the laws of nature require a struggle for existence, and that in
the struggle the fittest survive, and the unfit perish. In our economic struggle,
I continued, there was always plenty of opportunity for the fittest to reach
the top, which they did, in great numbers, particularly in our country; that
where there was severe economic pressure the lowest classes of course felt it
the worst.
—Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Herland (1915)

We earth men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things. The only reason
we didn’t set up hot-dog stands in the midst of the temple of Karnak
on Egypt is because it was out of the way and served no large commercial
—Ray Bradbury, ‘‘And the Moon Be Still As Bright’’ (1948)

The hawkers were ignored by the hurrying throngs of people; anybody with a
genuine system of prediction would be using it, not selling it.
—Philip K. Dick, Solar Lottery (1955)

Junk is the ideal product . . . the ultimate merchandise. No sales talk necessary.
The client will crawl through a sewer and beg to buy . . .
—William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch (1959)

Politics is the enemy of a sound economic entity.
—Philip K. Dick, The Crack in Space (1965)

‘‘Tanstaafl.’’ Means ‘‘there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.’’
—Robert A. Heinlein, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966)

A profit is not without honor.
—Philip José Farmer, ‘‘Riders of the PurpleWage’’ (1967)

He tried to read an elementary economics text; it bored him past endurance,
it was like listening to somebody interminably recounting a long and stupid
—Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia (1974)

It’s a well-known economic phenomenon but tragic to see it in operation,
for the more shoe shops there were, the more shoes they had to make and
the worse and more unwearable they became. And the worse they were to
wear, the more people had to buy to keep themselves shod, and the more the
shops proliferated, until the whole economy of the place passed what I believe
is termed the Shoe Event Horizon, and it became no longer economically
possible to build anything other than shoe shops. Result—collapse, ruin and
—Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)
Power, in Case’s world, meant corporate power. The zaibatsus, the multinationals
that shaped the course of human history, had transcended old
barriers. Viewed as organisms, they had attained a kind of immortality. You
couldn’t kill a zaibatsu by assassinating a dozen key executives; there were
others waiting to step up the ladder, assume the vacated position, access the
vast banks of corporate memory.
—William Gibson, Neuromancer (1984)

Every transaction is for gain on one side or both, and the transaction that
pretends to fair play is corrupt by definition. Corruption is the normal state
of a society that restrains its excesses by law or morality.
—George Turner, Drowning Towers (1987)

Their society is based on ownership. Everything that you see and touch,
everything you come into contact with, will belong to somebody or to an
institution; it will be theirs, they will own it. [. . .] The ownership of humans
is possible too; not in terms of actual slavery, which they are proud to have
abolished, but in the sense that, according to which sex and class one belongs
to, one may be partially owned by another or others by having to sell one’s
labour or talents to somebody with the means to buy them.
—Iain M. Banks, The Player of Games (1988)

That’s a large part of what economics is—people arbitrarily, or as a matter
of taste, assigning numerical values to non-numerical things. And then
pretending that they haven’t just made the numbers up, which they have.
Economics is like astrology in that sense, except that economics serves to
justify the current power structure, and so it has a lot of fervent believers
among the powerful.
—Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars (1992)

The weakness of businessmen was their belief that money was the point of
the game.
—Kim Stanley Robinson, Red Mars (1992)

It’s often easiest for us to identify at the retail level, Laney.We’re a shopping
—William Gibson, Idoru (1996)

History, as every mature Aten knew, was simply the evolution of economics.
—Ralph A. Sperry, ‘‘On Vacation’’ (1998)