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I always loved the quotes and bits of wisdom from Robert A. Heinlein's books. His quotes are stay-behinds that you can remember later and many of them have become part of our culture.


Included here are some of the quotes from my books that I felt were notable. I hope you enjoy them.

Downloadable version (PDF)


"Human perception cannot distinguish acceleration from gravity, or optimism from cluelessness." (November 11, 2020)

"It is the smallest of touches that establish greatness, not the greatest." (October 15, 2020)



"For the end of the world, it was better than he'd have expected."


"People don't realize how thoroughly we teach children to read deception. As soon as they get the basics of communication, adults and older kids start telling them unbelievable things, trying to make them seem believable. As if we know how important the ability to see through other people's lies is critically important. I guess, it is."


"Kids are expert negotiators. When you've never had a job and have no income, you'd better be a good negotiator."


"Memory is the great torturer."


"It's a frustration to get old, giving back hard-won ground."


"Save everyone but show them that you're different and you're an outcast, not a hero."


"You don't know when the last time you'll ever see someone will be, best to really open your eyes to them."


"He was like a farmer's hammer, beaten and bent, and broken more than once, but welded back, bent by force of will back into place, still useful because it still could be made useful."


"We will be here when bad is gone."


"We are all God's mosquitos."


"Her heart raced her mind's fears."


"There was always only the one path you actually chose, and all the other ones that never were."


"Jon prepared himself for the end of his life, in fourteen more rounds."


"He saw himself in her lifeflash. It was like the switch of a train junction, with one path taken and the other drawing away moment by moment."


"Jon knew kids as well as anyone; they were all smart enough to know that 'no' multiplied by x usually equaled 'yes'."


"The terrorist's trade was other people's lives for their own demanded entitlement and Hack loved springing up from within them to throw off the scales."


"The stars seemed to whisper a word into his mind. A word with alchemic power that would surely transmute the spirit of every living human and those to follow. Exploration and discovery, the reaching grasp that had driven humans through time, would become, instantly, something else—fear. The stars whispered 'invasion'."


"The creek was South Indian Creek. When the settlers moved in, they liked the Indian's names better than they liked the Indians."


"They don’t last long. It's horrible and filled with more pain and misery than a full life can hold, but it's rarely a long time. The treatment is too rough and too careless, and they are so fragile."


"It was hot here and felt like they ought to measure the percentage of actual air in the air rather than the humidity."


"Her voice was soft and layered, like a wind chime in the breeze before it rains."


"Then the flying monkeys, or whatever they were, seemed to drop out of the sky as if someone had shaken them from some awful, poisoned tree."


"Governments covered things up. They pretended to be doing all sorts of good things, but what governments were really up to, all the time, was mischief and money-grubbing."


"He could filter the dangerous ones from the talkers in a few minutes of conversation, like a terrorist Turing test."



"All the normal ways that you might know someone, what they liked for lunch, their hobbies, their interests, the people they couldn't stand—all the normal data points people constantly, unconsciously collect, none of those data points can predict how someone might react to 'I've decided to try saving the world by stabbing the President with my magic spear'. That's pretty much going to be a gamble every time."


"The spear's purpose is clear. Mine is clear. And yours is. You're the reason it makes sense, because I'm only interested in saving the world because you're in it. Of course, He knows that."


"Don't waste time waiting for apologies."


"The two most cherished experiences are the first and the last, he decided."


"Prove your belief or shut up about it."


" He didn't come here to figure out his problems, but to escape them. Trying to understand the motivations of all those people was like tracking a single bird in a murmuration and it exhausted him."


"Everything that is good is fragile."


"There has to be a comparison, that's what I've always believed. Before you can say something is good, you must set something beside it and declare it them to be different, and that the other is bad."


"Hogan didn't want to give Dick enough runway that he could get his paranoia airborne."


"Best pals all right, you and Jake. Just remember, sometimes it's your buddy that turns on you. Remember Caesar and Brutus, Jesus and Judas? You trust him if you want, not me."


"Hogan thought the guy could probably read IRS returns to the crowd and make people want to be accountants."


"If Steve Jobs reincarnated into a pit bull and was staked with a logging chain and baked in the summer heat, he'd have Dick's attitude about right."


"Everything in her life had come undone as quickly as rope slipping over a cliff's edge."


"They all seemed either to be effortlessly in tune or able to easily disregard the discrepancies, or maybe they were just blithely oblivious to each other. Whatever it was they had, Hogan knew he didn't and there was barely any hope left in him that he could fit in. If he ever managed it, he'd still be different just from the continuous effort it would surely extract from him."


"'It's not a stair step, Hogan,' he'd said. 'It's a step from a cliff. You can't take a small step over the edge of a cliff, all there is – is the one big one.'"


"There was nothing, a world filled with everything and no answers to explain any of it."


"The spear has stopped us and singled us out while the rest of the world goes on unaware there is anything else but the ordinary and not realizing how special ordinary is."


"He'd been careful all his life. You could do things that no one else could, if you could keep them secret."


"Dick kept his eyes on people like a gunfighter stepping up from a poker table to scrape winnings into his hat."


"She reads me at a college level and I'm on Dr. Seuss."


"She was a bubbling effervescent half-full glass in a world of cold black coffee in stained cups."


"I think those idiots have stepped into a sack of dog crap on the porch with a 50-megaton firecracker underneath. I think we're about to lose the porch, best case."



"It wasn't too far, unless there was someone shooting at you, then it was."


"The television screen brightened with a commercial. Sarah saw without turning her head that Mason was asleep and then watched the young girls spinning in blue, yellow and red sundresses. They stood in front of wheeled metal racks of dresses in a rainbow of other colors. The camera drew in close to a young girl’s smiling face, the all-white background strobing Sarah sitting in darkness on the edge of the tattered chair. When the girl smiled, Sarah’s tight lips twitched, almost smiling back. That was when she heard the knock."


"There are dangerous people ready to pull the seams out of everything you've stitched together, and they can pull apart faster than you can hold."


"Technology has uncovered our world. Hardly a moment goes unrecorded, analytics engines trail our every move, giving us a confidence in the world around us beyond the ken of anyone who lived before us. Everything they knew, we know, the moment we might need to know it."


"So we members, look to the past. Other Retro Reality clubs experience past cultures and places, the excitement of man's wars, the unrestrained eras and those are fine and good for different reasons, but we still have a mission to complete in the past. For us, the past is not dead, in many ways, it's not truly ended, because there are people whose lives ended without justice, those who were robbed of life as their killers went on. Maybe some even live on today, enjoying this protected and guarded world we've built, feeling as though they'd escaped judgement."


"Normal society flowed. People went to work, went to school programs, raised families, but over here where no one was looking, there was awfulness with children trapped in it, slowly sinking."


"She felt disconnected, but in a way she liked. There was news everywhere, you couldn't escape it, something new was always happening and even though it was all tailored and filtered, there was still enough that if she wanted to, she could just sit and watch all day as the parade of mildly interesting things scrolled in front of her life."


"Cindy Garcia, previously Cindy Stamford, was, Marty decided, a beautiful woman. She had high cheekbones that sloped smoothly into a soft-squared chin. Her hair was long, pulled back from her face and clasped in back. She was the kind of woman that would have been a cheerleader or possibly the homecoming queen in school, if she'd been born into another family."


"Ranger was Daddy's dog. Daddy kept him in a cage, the size of the room he kept us in. If anyone walked up to the cage, Ranger would stop pacing and wait. His tail would be down, not wagging, and he was tight as a spring. He was tall enough to almost stare eye to eye with us then. He'd wait as you came near the cage, watching you try to pour the food in without getting bit. He held still as if he was waiting for any opportunity, any slip. After he decided you weren't going to open the cage, he'd bark, and you'd feel like your skin ran off behind you and left you standing. One bark to freeze you in place while he threw himself against the cage. It always bowed with his weight; he was a massive dog. I always ran and then he barked like mad like he was ordering me back."


"It's the parts that reflect back at us that we most dislike in other people."


"I know it was him," she said, "because he said he was coming for me. He stared down the terrible man that Daddy had become, and he claimed my life back for me, right there. He was coming, to do all the things he did that morning, for me."


"This is the rare thing, Jon thought, one of the moments when you feel life snapping into place."


"People looked at a knife a lot differently than they'd look at stunners. A knife can get someone's attention when you want it."


"Just driving around looking for him is not going to help. We might as well go back and wait on the porch for news as drive around. You're only going to see yards that're neglected and filled with old cars out there. They could kidnap an elephant from the zoo and be dressed like circus clowns with it in the basement and you'd drive past without noticing anything unusual."


"First thing Falvo said after he slapped my arm was, 'What time is it?' I've been with a few other people who wake up after getting shot and being dug around in for a slug. That's the first time anyone ever asked that particular question, like they had something important to attend to and happened to get shot on the way."



"Distance incubates intelligence."


"The strangest thing about being invisible was that you always forget you are."


"Wearing an alien form inside the alien flightsuit, Leo stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon and marveled, slowly shaking his head in disbelief and wonder. He stared into the impossible without considering the miracle of his own existence, like everyone else."


"No living creature lives without mistakes."


"Every device is the product of mistakes, hundreds or thousands of previous mistakes. You see the results, but you do not see the mistakes."


"If all you know in life is that you are loved, you can press through anything."


"Isolation's not so bad, he thought, depending on the company."



"It was a desperate feeling to watch everyone else move forward."


"It's pretty easy to be tricked when someone has access to your mind, and you have no idea they're in there."


"You'll be the first human to see an entire alien civilization. The bad news being that you won't be able to actually do anything or speak with anyone. You'll just be ignored and alone, like a headache—something to be pushed aside and forgotten."

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