Sure there are the staple quotes most fans of the genre can recognize. My family can recite so many lines from Star Wars that the list could significantly exceed the number of lines “not” quoted from the movie. And mimicking the “help me” scene from the movie The Fly when somebody needs assistance is a regular occurrence in our house. We all know where it’s from. But as soon as I drop a quote like, “A humanoid robot is like any other machine; it can fluctuate between being a benefit and a hazard very rapidly,” I get dead silence and looks of confusion. That’s okay, because getting the chance to discuss the quote is sometimes just as exciting as using it.
Quoting lines from science fiction can be expected amongst the members of fandom. But getting it right is vital to your nerd credibility. If you’re intent on defending your nerdom with accurate line recitals at the most opportune time, look no further than the Science Fiction Quotations edited by Gary Westfahl. This isn’t just one of those collections packed with overused, overvalued one liners everyone is familiar with from their favorite movies or books. After all, why do we need a reference book of quotes of the obvious?
Oh, some of the unavoidable classics are still in the book. The image on the cover practically guarantees that “ Klaatu Barada Nikto” from the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still is included. Now I’m not saying this line is abused by a lot of fans, but any card carrying member of fandom should already recognize it. What really makes us stand out amongst our nerd peers are the lesser known, unusual thought provoking references from a classic works of science fiction. For easy reference, the book’s index in the back is listed by both source author and the title of the work the quote is taken from.
This collection can also be useful to writers with the A through Z categorical listing by subject. Need a quote about death? “To die was merely to go on in another direction.” – Ursula K. Le Guin, The Day Before the Revolution (1974)
How about a quote about Life? “Nothing gives life more zest than running for your life.” – Robert A. Heinlein, The Cat Who Walks through Walls (1985)
How about something between life and death…like Monsters? “With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet.” – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus (1818)
Suppose you are looking for definitive laws outlined in works of science fiction. Asimov’s “Three Laws of Robotics” from I, Robot are listed as well as Star Trek’s “Prime Directive” (credited to Gene L. Coon and Gene Roddenberry in the 1968 episode Bread and Circuses).
Drawn from various forms of media including short stories, novels, film and television, this compilation of over 2,900 quotes introduces readers to some of the most influential passages in science fiction.
Edited by Gary Westfahl, Science Fiction Quotations is a unique resource for writers and researchers of the genre. But most of all, this book gives street-cred to novice nerds wanting to prove themselves.
As for the quote, “A humanoid robot is like any other machine,” it is from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (1968) by Philip K. Dick. I found the statement very intriguing. Making robots human-like has always stimulated entertaining discussions, but I often wonder if Dick is insinuation here that humans are metaphoric robots. Go ahead and discuss if you want. After all, THAT is what makes quoting science fiction so much fun.