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Science Fiction Quotations: From the Inner Mind to the Outer Limits. Edited by Gary Westfahl. Foreword by Arthur C. Clarke. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2005. 461 pp.
Science Fiction Quotations

For more information about this book, you can visit the Yale University Press website which includes its Table of Contents, my introduction, and the author and title indexes.

The Future

Whether we expect another invasion or not, our views of the human future must be greatly modified by these events. We have learned now that we cannot regard this planet as being fenced in and a secure abiding place for Man; we can never anticipate the unseen good or evil that may come upon us suddenly out of space. It may be that in the larger design of the universe this invasion from Mars is not without its ultimate benefit for men; it has robbed us of that serene confidence in the future which is the most fruitful source of decadence, the gifts to human science it has brought are enormous, and it has done much to promote the conception of the commonweal of mankind.
—H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (1898)

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. And one of the games to which it is most attached is called "Keep to-morrow dark," and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) "Cheat the Prophet." The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. They players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. Then they go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.
—G. K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

The younger lamas are naturally preoccupied with the past; it is a necessary step to envisaging the future.
—James Hilton, Lost Horizon (1933)

For if a man could look ahead and see some of the things that no doubt were going to happen, how could he be happy?
—Clifford D. Simak, "Sunspot Purge" (1940)

Is there anything to add to that preface now? Nothing except my epitaph. That, when the time comes, will manifestly have to be: "I told you so. You damned fools." (The italics are mine.)
—H. G. Wells, "Preface," The War in the Air, and Particularly How Mr. Bert Smallways Fared While It Lasted (1941)

We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain—not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.
—C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (1942)

Is it credible that our world should have two futures? I have seen them. Two entirely distinct futures lie before mankind, one dark, one bright; one the defeat of all man's hopes, the betrayal of all his ideals, the other their hard-won triumph.
—Olaf Stapledon, Darkness and the Light (1942)

We live in reference to past experience and not to future events, however inevitable.
—H. G. Wells, Mind at the End of Its Tether (1946)

How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible. Either the future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him: or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless.
—George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

"Who controls the past," ran the Party slogan, "controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."
—George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.
—George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949)

In her ruddy face, surprised pleasure fought with a worry that saw the future as a suddenly treacherous thing, full of trials.
—Raymond Z. Gallun, "Prodigal's Aura" (1951)

This was a Golden Age, a time of high adventure, rich living, and hard dying . . . but nobody thought so. This was a future of fortune and theft, pillage and rapine, culture and vice . . . but nobody admitted it.
—Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination (1956)

The less you know about the future the better off you are.
—Philip K. Dick, The World Jones Made (1956)

Suddenly the future was not the simple blueprint it had been until now, but seemed like some frenzied living thing that possessed a will independent of the present.
—Kobo Abe, Inter Ice Age 4 (1959), translated by E. Dale Saunders (1970)

The greatest problem of the future is civilizing the human race.
—Arthur C. Clarke, "Aladdin's Lamp" (1962)

Do you see, then, that the important prediction is not the automobile, but the parking problem; not radio, but the soap-opera; not the income tax but the expense account; not the Bomb but the nuclear stalemate? Not the action, in short, but the reaction?
—Isaac Asimov, "Future? Tense!" (1965)

You cannot back into the future.
—Frank Herbert, Dune (1965)

If Jules Verne could really have looked into the future, say 1966 A.D., he would have crapped in his pants. And 2166, oh, my!
—Philip Jose Farmer, "Riders of the Purple Wage" (1967)

Without your existential super-self you will certainly perish in wars of the future out among the satellites, overcome by cosmic thought patterns too convoluted for the human brain to contemplate, or, if not that, torn apart by humanoids in the death throes of their own identity crises, or exploded by technological advances available not only to the future but known already to the present and, if not one or more of the above, inevitably coarsened by Earthlings of your own kind.
—Carol Emshwiller, "The Childhood of the Human Hero" (1973)

H. G. Wells [. . . .] saw the obvious and foresaw the inevitable. What is really amazing and frustrating is mankind's habit of refusing to see the obvious and inevitable, until it is there, and then muttering about unforeseen catastrophes.
—Isaac Asimov, "How Easy to See the Future!" (1975)

Men have an extraordinary, and perhaps fortunate, ability to tune out of their consciousness the most awesome future possibilities.
—Arthur C. Clarke, The Fountains of Paradise (1979)

Part of human life is the need to reassure ourselves about the future that we may never live to see, rather than fool ourselves, as many did in the last century, that there won't be any future and they might as well lie down and die.
—George Zebrowski, Macrolife (1979)

The term "Future Perfect" has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be.
—Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980)

The designers were populists, you see; they were trying to give the public what it wanted. What the public wanted was the future.
—William Gibson, "The Gernsback Continuum" (1981)

So together they left the office and walked into the uncertainty of the rest of their lives. That, in the final analysis, is the great adventure in which each of us takes part; what more courageous thing is there, after all, than facing the unknown we all share, the danger and joy that awaits us in the unread pages of the Book of the Future . . . .
—George Alec Effinger, "The World of Pez Pavilion: Preliminary to the Groundbreaking Ceremony" (1983)

I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that's my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again . . . the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.
—J. G. Ballard, Interview with Andrea Juno and V. Vale, Re/Search, No. 8/9 (1984)

The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope. The death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always paved in pain.
—J. Michael Straczynski, "Z'ha'dum," episode of Babylon 5 (1996)

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