“Red Mars” by Kim Stanley Robinson

The urge to excel and the urge to lead aren’t the same. Sometimes I think they may be opposites.

You could tell a lot about a society by what topics of conversation came up.

Beauty was the promise of happiness, not happiness itself; and the anticipated world was often more rich than anything real. but this time who could say? This time might be the golden one at last.

Mutual professional respect, a great maker of friendships.

People didn’t understand that true intimacy did not consist of sexual intercourse, which could be done with strangers and in a state of total alienation; intimacy consisted of talking for hours about what was most important in one’s life.

So probably she would not want to find any such evidence. Would that disinclination bias her work? Well, sure. If not consciously, then deeper. Consciousness was just a thin lithosphere over a big hot core, after all. Detectives had to remember that.

But his own rushing about was probably wrong, too. He had been operating on the unarticulated theory that if he only saw more of the planet, visited one more settlement, talked to one more person, that he would somehow (without really thinking too hard) get it – and that his holistic understanding would then flow back from him to everybody else, spreading out through all the new settlers and changing things.

But they had always started again when the opportunities came, and the upshot was that now they knew each other just about as well as any old married couple with a less interrupted history; perhaps even better, because any completely constant couple was likely to have stopped paying attention to each other at some point, while the two of them, with all their separations and reunions, fights and rapprochements had had to relearn each other countless times.

“We have had to keep paying attention.”

The intense thereness of it – “haecceity,” Sax had called it once, when John had asked him something about his religious beliefs – I believe in haecceity, Sax had sid, in thisness, in here-and-nowness, in the particular individuality of every moment. That’s why I want to know what this is? what is this? what is this? Now, remembering Sax’s odd word and his odd religion, John finally understood him; because he was feeling the thisness of the moment like a rock in his hand, and it felt as if his entire life had been lived only to get to this moment.

The King asked his wise men for some single thing that would make him happy when he was sad, but sad when he was happy. They consulted and came back with a ring engraved with the message This Too Will Pass.

Yes, and they might, but it isn’t being offered to them. And that means it wasn’t a true utopia. We clever primate scientists were willing to carve out islands for ourselves, rather than work to create such conditions for everyone. And so in reality, the islands are part of the transnational order. They are paid for, they are never truly free, there is never a case of truly pure research. Because the people who pay for the scientist island want a return on their investment. And now we are entering that time. A return is being demanded for our island. We were not doing pure research, you see, but applied research.

When they’ve never existed it’s hard to talk about them, hard to imagine them, because we don’t have the images. That’s always the problem when you try to make something new, and believe me I know, because I’ve been trying. But I think I can tell you what it will feel like – it will feel like the first years here, when we were a group and we all worked together. When there was no purpose in life except to settle and discover this place, and we all decided together what we should do. That’s how it should feel. 

That was fame: you talked to groups.

Live as if you are already dead.

Very few people ever bother to find out what other people really think. They are willing to accept whatever they are told by anyone sufficiently distant.

It was a mistake to speak one’s mind at any time, unless it perfectly matched your political purpose; and it never did. Best to strip all statements of real content, this was a basic law of diplomacy.

Games don’t mean anything.

Are you sure? Sometimes life seems like a kind of game to me.

In games there are rules, but in life the rules keep changing. You could put your bishop out there to mate the other guy’s king, and he could lean down and whisper in your bishop’s ear, and suddenly it’s playing for him, and it’s moving like a rook. And you’re fucked.

For a split second hadn’t she been pleased, and then wanted him angry at her? ANd wasn’t that a sign of hurt feelings, of a desire to hurt back, meaning a certain (incredibly childish) desire for him?

Historical analogy is the last refuge of people who can’t grasp the current situation.

Some mistakes you can never make good.

I suppose it’s this that makes me somehow happy. Have we ever been so free of choices? The past is wiped out, all that matters is now. The present and the future. And the future is this field of stones, and here we are. And, you know, you never really summon all of your strength until you know there’s no way back, no way to go but onward.

Suddenly he was afraid; they were their pasts, they had to be or they were nothing at all, and whatever they felt or thought or said in the present was nothing more than an echo of the past; and so when they said what they said, how could they know what their deeper minds were really feeling, thinking, saying? They didn’t know, not really. Relationships were for that reason utterly mysterious, they took place between two subconscious minds, and whatever the surface trickly thought was going on could not be trusted to be right. Did that Maya down at the deepest level know or not know, remember or forget, swear vengeance or forgive? There was no way of telling, he could never be sure. It was impossible.