Vancian Quotations

Vancian Quotations

by Bill Ward

“When you want to describe something that’s flamboyant, weird and strange, anything a little bit outrageous, wicked or nasty, you don’t do it by exposition, which can become long-winded and tiresome. You have one of your characters describe it to somebody else . . . this is almost a trade secret: not having the exposition come from the writer, but rather from the mouths of the characters themselves.” 

―Jack Vance in an afterword to “Where Hesperus Falls,” Hard Luck Diggings

Offered here without emendation or dilution are the stylistic ponderances, formulations, and well-reasoned philosophies present in the works of Jack Vance. Most of what is quoted here is that which imbues Vance’s work with an inimitable style, his distinctive dialog.

Aphoristic Expostulations

“Procrastination is the thief of life!”

Ports of Call

“One must use his wits in dealing with maledictions.”

The Eyes of the Overworld/ Cugel the Clever

“An inch of foreknowledge is worth ten miles of afterthought.”

Cugel’s Saga/ Cugel: The Skybreak Spatterlight

“The Vine of Life grows a single melon. The color of the heart is unknown until the rind is split.”

The Palace of Love

“Everyone is the same,” he told himself. “Anxious to arrive and, when they leave, wondering why they came.”

The Star King

“Folk who turn their backs on trouble only get their arses kicked.”

Araminta Station

“Candor is never indiscreet. Truth, which is to say, the reflection of life, is beautiful.”

The Palace of Love

“Death is the heritage of life; a man’s vitality is like air in a bladder. Poinct this bubble and away, away, away, flees life, like the color of fading dream.”

The Dying Earth/ Mazirian the Magician

“Every instant a million events occur one iota past the edge of your awareness.”

Maske: Thaery

“It is thus because it has always been thus. Is not this reason enough?”

The Dying Earth/ Mazirian the Magician

“Uncertainty hurts more than ignorance.”

The Star King

“I give dignity second place to expedience.”

The Eyes of the Overworld/ Cugel the Clever

Observations of the Real

“I am a legalist and a financial expert, I admit as much; but my disregard for the law goes no farther.”

The Face

“Freedom, privileges, options, must constantly be exercised, even at the risk of inconvenience. Otherwise they fall into desuetude and become unfashionable, unorthodox—finally irregulationary.”

Emphyrio

“Except for a few special cases, title to every parcel of real property derives from an act of violence, more or less remote, and ownership is only as valid as the strength and will required to maintain it. This is the lesson of history, whether you like it or not.”

The Gray Prince

“Notice this rent in my garment; I am at a loss to explain its presence! I am even more puzzled by the existence of the universe.”

The Eyes of the Overworld/ Cugel the Clever

“What is an evil man? The man is evil who coerces obedience to his private ends, destroys beauty, produces pain, extinguishes life.”

The Star King

“Living creatures, if nothing else, have the right to life. It is their only truly precious possession, and the stealing of life is a wicked theft”

The Dying Earth/ Mazirian the Magician

“You espouse a very popular doctrine, ethical pragmatism, which always turns out to be the doctrine of self-interest.”

The Star King

“I have transcended that phase in my intellectual growth where I discover humor in simple freakishness. What exists is real; therefore it is tragic, since wherever lives must die. Only fantasy, the vapors rising from sheer nonsense, can now excite my laughter.”

The Green Pearl

“While we are alive we should sit among colored lights and taste good wines, and discuss our adventures in far places; when we are dead, the opportunity is past.”

Maske: Thaery

Drolleries, Comic Asides, Absurd Ejaculations

“I categorically declare first my absolute innocence, second my lack of criminal intent, and third my effusive apologies.”

The Eyes of the Overworld/ Cugel the Clever

“It is an unthinkable discrepancy that fifty-four men should consume the food intended for fifty-three.”

The Eyes of the Overworld/ Cugel the Clever

“What of the effects of digestion?” inquired Cugel delicately. “Will the various components of space, time, and existence retain their identity after passing the length of my inner tract?” 

The Eyes of the Overworld/ Cugel the Clever

“The symbologist made a cryptic sign. “That remains to be seen, as the cat said who voided into the sugar bowl.”

The Palace of Love

“I would offer congratulations were it not for this tentacle gripping my leg.”

Cugel’s Saga/ Cugel: The Skybreak Spatterlight

“What are your fees?” inquired Guyal cautiously. “I respond to three questions,” stated the augur. “For twenty terces I phrase the answer in clear and actionable language; for ten I use the language of cant, which occasionally admits of ambiguity; for five, I speak a parable which you must interpret as you will; and for one terce, I babble in an unknown tongue.”

The Dying Earth/ Mazirian the Magician

“There are also those who, like the author, ensconce themselves on a thunderous crag of omniscience and, with protestations of humility which are either unconvincing or totally absent, assume the obligation of appraisal, commendation, derogation or denunciation of their contemporaries. Still, by and large it is an easier job than digging a ditch.”

The Star King

“At the last moments of the universe, with eternal darkness converging from all sides, surely someone will arise and cry out: ‘Hold back the end for a final moment, while I pay tribute to the gallant brewmasters who have provided us a pathway of golden glory down the fading corridors of time!’ And then, is it not possible that a bright gap will appear in the dark, through which the brewmasters are allowed to proceed, to build a finer universe?”

Lurulu

“Two hours of loose philosophizing will never tilt the scale against the worth of one sound belch.”

Cugel’s Saga/ Cugel: The Skybreak Spatterlight

Author: pandabrett

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