April 13, 2017


Filed under: Bits of books — Jared @ 10:14 am

The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed, But swoln with wind, and the rank mist they draw, Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread.

John Milton, Lycidas

October 14, 2016

Julian Comstock

Filed under: Bits of books — Jared @ 4:41 pm

“In the beginning God created the world,” Julian said, “and set it turning; and let events transpire without much in the way of personal intervention. He stage-managed a few tribal disputes, and arranged a misguided Flood that cost many lives and solved very few problems; but in the end He decided the human race was too corrupt to be salvaged, and too pathetic to destroy, and so He stopped tinkering with it, and left it alone.

“But humanity, on the whole, was conscious of its fallen condition, and went on petitioning God for unearned gifts or the redress of grievances. All this badgering, in God’s eyes, amounted to a lament for lost innocence—a nostalgia for the abandoned paradise that was Eden. ‘Make us innocent again,’ humanity cried out, ‘or at least send innocence among us, to serve as an example.’

“God was skeptical. ‘You wouldn’t recognize Innocence if it handed you a calling card,’ He said to humanity, ‘and Goodness exceeds your grasp with the regularity of clockwork. Look for these things where you find them, and leave Me alone.’

“But the prayers never ceased, and God couldn’t indefinitely ignore all that grief and lamentation, which lapped at the walls of Heaven like a noxious tide. ‘All right,’ He said at last, ‘I’ve heard your noise, and I’ll give you what you want.’ So He fathered a child by a virgin—in fact a married virgin, for God was fond of miracles, and for a woman to be simultaneously a wife, a virgin, and a mother seemed like a miracle with compound interest accrued. And so in the fullness of time a child was born—innocent, bereft of sin, invulnerable to temptation, and good-hearted down to the very marrow of him. ‘Make of him what you will,’ God said grimly, and stood back with His arms folded.”

(I tried to evaluate Calyxa’s reaction to these blasphemies. She kept her face motionless, but her eyes were attentive and unblinking. The rain came down stiffly, and the wheels of passing carts made a muted sound in the dusk.)

“A quarter-century or so went by,” Julian continued. “And eventually that child of God was returned to his Creator—scorned, insulted, beaten, humiliated, and finally nailed to a splintery cross and suspended in the Galilean sunshine until he died of his wounds both physical and spiritual.

“God received this much-abused gift by return mail, as it were, and He was ferociously scornful, and said to humanity, ‘See what you do with Innocence? See what you make of Love and Goodwill when it looks you in the eye?’ And so saying He turned His back on Mankind, and determined never to speak to the human race again, or have any other dealings with it.

“And even this,” Julian said, “might have been a useful lesson, taken as such; but Man misunderstood his own chastening, and imagined that his sins had been forgiven, and put up effigies of the tortured demigod and the instrument on which he had been broken, and marked the event every Easter with a church service and a colorful hat. And as God made Himself deaf to Man, so Man became deaf to God; and our prayers languished in the dead air of our cavernous churches, and do so to this day.”

Robert Charles Wilson, Julian Comstock

August 11, 2016

Araminta Station

Filed under: Bits of books — Jared @ 9:50 am

…In our journeys from one end of the Gaean Reach to the other and, on occasion, Beyond, we discover nothing to indicate that the human race is everywhere and inevitably becoming more generous, tolerant, kindly and enlightened. Nothing whatever.

On the other hand, and this is the good news, it doesn’t seem to be getting any worse.

Jack Vance, Araminta Station

August 8, 2016

Soon I Will Be Invincible

Filed under: Bits of books — Jared @ 2:06 pm

When you can’t bear something but it goes on anyway, the person who survives isn’t you anymore; you’ve changed and become someone else, a new person, the one who did bear it after all.

Austin Grossman, Soon I Will Be Invincible

August 3, 2016

Our Lady of Darkness

Filed under: Bits of books — Jared @ 8:08 am

He laughed, then went on. “Musical notes do have at least one supernatural power. They can levitate, fly up through the air. Of course words can do that, too, but not as well.”

“How do you figure that?” she asked over her shoulder.

“From cartoons and comic strips,” he told her. “Words need balloons to hold them up, but notes just come flying out of the piano or whatever.”

Fritz Leiber, Our Lady of Darkness

June 15, 2016

Bearing an Hourglass

Filed under: Bits of books — Jared @ 8:53 am

The Earth spins about her axis with a surface velocity of close to a thousand miles an hour at the equator, which translates to about sixteen miles per minute or a quarter mile per second. The Earth also revolves around the sun at a velocity of approximately eighteen and a half miles per second.

But our sun, too, is moving, for our Milky Way Galaxy is rotating, and so the sun is carried around that galactic axis at the rate of about a hundred and fifty miles per second. Just as Earth’s motion about the sun is about seventy-five times as rapid as the motion of a spot on Earth’s surface about Earth’s own axis, the velocity of galactic rotation is about eight times as great as that. Yet even this is relatively insignificant. The known universe is expanding, so all matter is in motion with respect to Galactic Rest. In that sense, we are traveling at approximately half the speed of light, or ninety thousand miles per second.

Piers Anthony, Bearing an Hourglass

May 18, 2016

Another from The Dark Forest

Filed under: Bits of books — Jared @ 9:14 am

You may need a bit of adjustment, but it’s nothing serious,” the doctor said, after listening to his lengthy narrative.
“Nothing serious?” Luo Ji opened his bloodshot eyes wide. “I’m madly in love with a fictional person from a novel of my own creation. I’ve been with her, I’ve traveled with her, and I’ve even broken up with my real-life girlfriend over her. Is that nothing serious to you?”
The doctor smiled tolerantly.
“Don’t you get it? I’ve given my most profound love to an illusion!”
“Are you under the impression that the object of everyone else’s love actually exists?”
“Is that even a question?”
“Sure. For the majority of people, what they love exists only in the imagination. The object of their love is not the man or woman of reality, but what he or she is like in their imagination. The person in reality is just a template used for the creation of this dream lover. Eventually, they find out the differences between their dream lover and the template. If they can get used to those differences, then they can be together. If not, they split up.

Cixin Liu, The Dark Forest

April 5, 2016

Witches Abroad

Filed under: Bits of books — Jared @ 5:20 pm

Most people, on waking up, accelerate through a quick panicky pre-consciousness check-up: who am I, where am I, who is he/she, good god, why am I cuddling a policeman’s helmet, what happened last night?

And this is because people are riddled by Doubt. It is the engine that drives them through their lives. It is the elastic band in the little model aeroplane of their soul, and they spend their time winding it up until it knots.

Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

January 2, 2016

The Waste Lands

Filed under: Bits of books — Jared @ 4:49 pm

Susannah found herself remembering the time she had asked her father, a quiet but deeply cynical man, if he believed there was a God in heaven who guided the course of human events. Well, he had said, I think it’s sort of half ‘n half, Odetta. I’m sure there’s a God, but I don’t think He has much if anything to do with us these days; I believe that after we killed His son, He finally got it through His head that there wasn’t nothing to be done with the sons of Adam or the daughters of Eve, and He washed His hands of us. Wise fella.

Stephen King, The Waste Lands

October 14, 2015

The Wind in the Willows

Filed under: Bits of books — Jared @ 11:13 am

By the side of the river he trotted as one trots, when very small, by the side of a man who holds one spellbound by exciting stories; and when tired at last, he sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth to be told at last to the insatiable sea.

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

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