The Mars Trilogy

Kim Stanley Robinson

Red Mars

"Talk means nothing," Chalmers said harshly. "When it comes down to it, nothing matters but action."

Sometimes the beginning of a relationship determines how the rest of it will go.

People appeared stunned. When obsessives are given the object of their desire, what do they feel? It was hard to say, really. In a sense their lives were ending; yet something else, some other life, had finally, finally begun... Filled with so many emotions at once, it was impossible not to be confused; it was an interference pattern, some feelings cancelled, others reinforced.

Emergencies in space can be as obvious as an explosion or as intangible as an equation, but their obviousness has nothing to do with how dangerous they are.

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.

The only part of an argument that really matters is what we think of the people arguing. X claims a, y claims b. They make arguments to support their claims, with any number of points. But when their listeners remember the discussion, what matters is simply that X believes a and Y believes b. People then form their judgement on what they think of X and Y.

Beauty was the promise of happiness, not happiness itself; and the anticipated world was often more rich than anything real.

"You cannot just stick your head in the sand crying 'I am a scientist, I am a scientist!'" He put a hand to his forehead, in the universal gesture mocking the prima donna. "No. When you say that, you are only saying, 'I do not wish to think about complex systems!' Which is not really worthy of true scientists, is it?"

History is not evolution! It is a false analogy! Evolution is a matter of environment and chance, acting over millions of years. But history is a matter of environment and choice, acting within lifetimes, and sometimes within years, or months, or days! History is Lamarckian!

But change never stops.

"That's life on Mars." This was already a popular refrain, used whenever they encountered a problem, especially an intractable one.

It was Hiroko who cut Arkady off, with what she said was a Japanese commonplace: "Shikata ga nai," meaning there is no other choice... This too became one of their oft-repeated phrases.

[Robots] were great if everything went perfectly, but nothing ever went perfectly, and it was hard to program them with decision algorithms that didn't either make them so cautious that they froze every minute, or so uncontrolled that they could commit unbelievable acts of stupidity, repeating an error a thousand times and magnifying a small glitch into a giant blunder... You got what you put into robots, but even the best were mindless idiots.

Mutual professional respect, a great maker of friendships.

But things change as time passes; nothing lasts, not even stone, not even happiness.

Science was many things, Nadia thought, including a weapon with which to hit other scientists.

It isn't right! I look at this land and, and I love it. I want to be out on it traveling over it always, to study it and live on it and learn it. But when I do that, I change it—I destroy what it is, what I love in it.

Half a century in modern science is a long time.

Life adapts to conditions. And at the same time, conditions are changed by life. That is one of the definitions of life: organism and environment change together in a reciprocal arrangement, as they are two manifestations of an ecology, two parts of a whole.

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.

Certainly it had been a mistake to have only one psychiatrist along. Every therapist on Earth was also in therapy, it was part of the job, it came with the territory.

You can't make love to your fame. Even though some people try.

A compulsion, a life with a goal, how could you tell the difference?

Power wasn't a matter of job titles, after all. Power was a matter of vision, persuasiveness, freedom of movement, fame, influence. The figurehead stands at the front, after all, pointing the way.

Consciousness was just a thin lithosphere over a big hot core, after all.

It's inevitable that people are going to fight.

You only had to look at the first hundred to realize scientists could become as fanatical as anybody else, maybe more so; educations too narrowly focused, perhaps.

History was like some vast thing that was always over the tight horizon, invisible except in its effects. It was what happened when you weren't looking—an unknowable infinity of events, which although out of control, controlled everything.

When you expect to live another two hundred years, you behave differently from when you expect to live only twenty.

This seemed to be a result of the treatment, it made sense on the face of it. Longer experiments. Longer (John groaned) investigations. Longer thoughts.

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, 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.

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, 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.

"This is why tigers have ranges of hundreds of square kilometers," Vlad said. "Robber barons are not really very efficient."

"But it would be forbidden by UNOMA for sure."

"Since when has that mattered to Sax?"

John laughed. "Oh, it matters now. They've given him too much power for him to ignore them. They've tied him down with money and power."

If those aging treatments work, and we are living decades longer than previously, it will certainly cause a social revolution. Shortness of life was a primary force in the permanence of institutions, strange though it is to say it. But it is so much easier to hold onto whatever short-term survival scheme you have, rather than risking it all on a new plan that might not work—no matter how destructive your short-term plan might be for the following generations.

Gold rushes show who's powerful and who's not.

Most ignorance is by choice, you know, and so ignorance is very telling about what really matters to people.

The weakness of businessmen was their belief that money was the point of the game; they worked 14-hour days in order to earn enough of it to buy cars with leather interiors, they thought it was a sensible recreation to play around with it in casinos—idiots, in short. But useful idiots.

Money equals power; power makes the law; and law makes government.

There was no pleasure like double-crossing a crook.

That was the nature of power; when you had it no one was ever again simply a friend, simply a lover. Inevitably they all wanted things you could give them—if nothing else, the prestige of friendship with the powerful.

That was fame: you talked to groups.

He didn't like the aftermath of things. Everything seemed finished, done, revealed as pointless. It was always this way.

Yes, it was empire in its time; and like all empires, after death it had a long half-life.

Language is a powerful unifier of culture.

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

We choose the ways we enforce our religious beliefs in the behavior of daily life. This is true of all cultures. And we can choose new ways.

He withdrew and listened again, profoundly angry at himself. 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.

To have to be in Burroughs in person—as if one's physical presence made any difference these days! It was an absurd anachronism, but that's the way people were. Another vestige of the savannah. They lived like monkeys still, while their new god powers lay around them in the weeds.

The Four Horsemen were good at population control.

They played chess and Frank won. John laughed. How stupid, he said.

What do you mean?

Games don't mean anything.

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

John shook his head. 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 moving like a rook. And you're fucked.

Frank nodded. He had taught these things to John.

As with many religious fundamentalists, business for her was part of the religion; the two dogmas were mutually reinforcing, part of the same system. Reason had nothing to do with it.

They were so ignorant! Young men and women, educated very carefully to be apolitical, to be technicians who thought they disliked politics, making them putty in the hands of their rulers, just like always.

It was a world of acts, and words had no more influence on acts than the sound of a waterfall has on the flow of the stream.

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

But that was life in a revolution. No one was in control, no matter what people said. And for the most part it was better that way.

Horrible how the revolution was being portrayed on Earth: extremists, communists, vandals, saboteurs, reds, terrorists. Never the words rebel or revolutionary, words of which half the Earth (at least) might approver. No, it was isolated groups of insane, destructive terrorists.

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? She stared and stared at the image, focused with all her will on it; but she could not make it make sense.

I don't think it helps to make analogies between the physical and social worlds.

The pleasure and stability of dining rooms had always occurred against such a backdrop, against the catastrophic background of universal chaos; such moments of calm were things as fragile and temporary as soap bubbles, destined to burst almost as soon as they blew into existence. Groups of friends, rooms, streets, years, none of them would last. The illusion of stability was created by a concerted effort to ignore the chaos they were imbedded in. And so they ate, and talked, and enjoyed each other's company; this was the way it had been in the caves, on the savannah, in the tenements and the trenches and the cities huddling under bombardment.

Some mistakes you can never make good.

Green Mars

Blue Mars

The Martians