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Walter M. Miller (Jr.) (1923 – 1996)


American science fiction writer, most famous for his novel A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959), winner of the 1961 Hugo Award for best novel.
Walter M. Miller (Jr.)
It was said that God, in order to test mankind which had become swelled with pride as in the time of Noah, had commanded the wise men of that age, among them the Blessed Leibowitz, to devise great engines of war such as had never before been upon the Earth, weapons of such might that they contained the very fires of Hell, and that God had suffered these magi to place the weapons in the hands of princes, and to say to each prince: "Only because the enemies have such a thing have we devised this for thee, in order that they may know that thou hast it also, and fear to strike. See to it, m'Lord, that thou fearest them as much as they shall now fear thee, that none may unleash this dread thing which we have wrought." But the princes, putting the words of their wise men to naught, thought each to himself: If I but strike quickly enough, and in secret, I shall destroy these others in their sleep, and there will be none to fight back; the earth shall be mine.
Such was the folly of princes, and there followed the Flame Deluge. ~ Ch 6
Miller quotes
They sang as they lifted the children into the ship. They sang old space chanteys and helped the children up the ladder one at a time and into the hands of the sisters. They sang heartily to dispel the fright of the little ones. When the horizon erupted, the singing stopped. They passed the last child into the ship. The horizon came alive with flashes as the monks mounted the ladder. The horizons became a red glow. A distant cloudbank was born where no cloud had been. The monks on the ladder looked away from the flashes. When the flashes were gone, they looked back. The visage of Lucifer mushroomed into hideousness above the cloudbank, rising slowly like some titan climbing to its feet after ages of imprisonment in the Earth. ~ Ch 30
Miller
When Brother Francis had removed the last tray, he touched the papers reverently: only a handful of folded documents here, and yet a treasure; for they had escaped the angry flames of the Simplification, wherein even sacred writings had curled, blackened, and withered into smoke while ignorant mobs howled and hailed it a triumph. He handled the papers as one might handle holy things, shielding them from the wind with his habit, for all were brittle and cracked from age. There was a sheaf of rough sketches and diagrams. There were hand-scribbled notes, two large folded papers, and a small book entitled Memo. ~ Ch 2




Miller Walter M. (Jr.) quotes
"Ignorance has been our king. Since the death of empire, he sits unchallenged on the throne of Man. His dynasty is age-old. His right to rule is now considered legitimate. Past sages have affirmed it. They did nothing to unseat him.
"Tomorrow, a new prince shall rule. Men of understanding, men of science shall stand behind his throne, and the universe will come to know his might. His name is Truth. His empire shall encompass the Earth. And the mastery of Man ever the Earth shall be renewed. A century from now, men will fly through the air in mechanical birds. Metal carriages will race along roads of man-made stone. There will be buildings of thirty stories, ships that go under the sea, machines to perform all works.
"And how will this come to pass?" He paused and lowered his voice. "In the same way all change comes to pass, I fear. And I am sorry it is so. It will come to pass by violence and upheaval, by flame and by fury, for no change comes calmly over the world." ~ Ch 20
Miller Walter M. (Jr.)
"Ignorance is king. Many would not profit by his abdication. Many enrich themselves by means of his dark monarchy. They are his Court, and in his name they defraud and govern, enrich themselves and perpetuate their power. Even literacy they fear, for the written word is another channel of communication that might cause their enemies to become united. Their weapons are keen-honed, and they use them with skill. They will press the battle upon the world when their interests are threatened, and the violence which follows will last until the structure of society as it now exists is leveled to rubble, and a new society emerges. I am sorry: But that is how I see it." ~ Ch 20
Walter M. Miller (Jr.) quotes
When Holy Church occasionally hinted that she still considered her authority to be supreme over all nations and superior to the authority of states, men in these times tended to snicker. ~ Ch 28
Walter M. Miller (Jr.)
He was a very dispirited Poet. He had never expected the world to act in a courteous, seemly, or even sensible manner, and the world had seldom done so; often he had taken heart in the consistency of its rudeness and stupidity. But never before had the world shot the Poet in the abdomen with a musket. This he found not heartening at all. ~ Ch 23
Miller Walter M. (Jr.) quotes
Reasoning which touches experimental reality nowhere is the business of angelologists and theologians, not of physical scientists. And yet such papers as these describe systems which touch our experience nowhere. Were they within the experimental reach of the ancients? Certain references tend to indicate it. One paper refers to elemental transmutation — which we just recently established as theoretically impossible — and then it says — 'experiment proves.' But how?
It may take generations to evaluate and understand some of these things. It is unfortunate that they must remain here in this inaccessible place, for it will take a concentrated effort by numerous scholars to make meaning of them. ~ Ch 20
Miller
Objective evidence is the ultimate authority. Recorders may lie, but Nature is incapable of it. ~ Ch 19
Miller Walter M. (Jr.)
The abbot snapped off the set. "Where’s the truth”? he asked quietly. “What’s to be believed? Or does it matter at all? When mass murder’s been answered with mass murder, rape with rape, hate with hate, there’s no longer much meaning in asking whose ax is the bloodier. Evil, on evil, piled on evil. Was there any justification in our ‘police action’ in space? How can we know? Certainly there was no justification for what they did—or was there? We only know what that thing says, and that thing is a captive. The Asian radio has to say what will least displease its government; ours has to say what will least displease our fine patriotic opinionated rabble, which is what, coincidentally, the government wants it to say anyhow, so where’s the difference?" ~ Ch 26
Walter M. Miller (Jr.)
The monks of the earliest days had not counted on the human ability to generate a new cultural inheritance in a couple of generations if an old one is utterly destroyed, to generate it by virtue of lawgivers and prophets, geniuses or maniacs; through a Moses, or through a Hitler, or an ignorant but tyrannical grandfather, a cultural inheritance may be acquired between dusk and dawn, and many have been so acquired. But the new "culture" was an inheritance of darkness, wherein "simpleton" meant the same thing as "citizen" meant the same thing as "slave." The monks waited. It mattered not at all to them that the knowledge they saved was useless, that much of it was not really knowledge now, was as inscrutable to the monks in some instances as it would be to an illiterate wild-boy from the hills; this knowledge was empty of content, its subject matter long since gone. Still, such knowledge had a symbolic structure that was peculiar to itself, and at least the symbol-interplay could be observed. To observe the way a knowledge-system is knit together is to learn at least a minimum knowledge-of-knowledge, until someday — someday, or some century — an Integrator would come, and things would be fitted together again. So time mattered not at all. The Memorabilia was there, and it was given to them by duty to preserve, and preserve it they would if the darkness in the world lasted ten more centuries, or even ten thousand years... ~ Ch 6




Walter M. Miller (Jr.) quotes
One never knows whether the Poet is speaking fact, fancy, or allegory. If fancy is clever enough, I doubt that the Poet would admit a difference between fancy and fact. ~ Ch 21
Walter M. Miller (Jr.)
Brother Francis Gerard of Utah might never have discovered the blessed documents, had it not been for the pilgrim with girded loins who appeared during that young novice's Lenten fast in the desert.
Never before had Brother Francis actually seen a pilgrim with girded loins, but that this one was the bona fide article he was convinced as soon as he had recovered from the spine-chilling effect of the pilgrim's advent on the far horizon, as a wiggling iota of black caught in a shimmering haze of heat. ~ Ch 1 (First lines).
Miller quotes
We are being protected from hysteria. Isn't that what they call it? Maniacs! The world's been in a habitual state of crisis for fifty years. Fifty? What am I saying? It's been in a habitual state of crisis since the beginning — but for half a century now, almost unbearable. And why, for the love of God? What is the fundamental irritant, the essence of the tension? Political philosophies? Economics? Population pressure? Disparity of culture and creed? Ask a dozen experts, get a dozen answers. Now Lucifer again. Is the species congenitally insane, Brother? ~ Ch 24
Miller Walter M. (Jr.)
The last monk, upon entering, paused in the lock. He stood in the open hatchway and took off his sandals. "Sic transit mundus," he murmured, looking back at the glow. He slapped the soles of his sandals together, beating the dirt out of them. ~ Ch 30
Miller Walter M. (Jr.) quotes
The old man was sad as he sat on his porch. He knew so little of the Great Purpose. Why must his seed fling itself starward? He knew that it must — but he lacked a reason. His grandchildren played in the twilight, played space-games, although there was not yet a starship on the planet.
Walter M. Miller (Jr.)
The Simplification had ceased to have plan or purpose soon after it began, and became an insane frenzy of mass murder and destruction such as can occur only when the last traces of social order are gone. The madness was transmitted to the children, taught as they were — not merely to forget — but to hate, and surges of mob fury recurred sporadically even through the fourth generation after the Deluge. By then, the fury was directed not against the learned, for there were none, but against the merely literate. ~ Ch 6
Walter M. Miller (Jr.) quotes
Encounters between strangers in the desert, while rare, were occasions of mutual suspicion, and masked by initial preparations on both sides for an incident that might prove either cordial or warlike. ~ Ch 1
Walter M. Miller (Jr.)
There is a difference between tragedy and blind brutal calamity. Tragedy has meaning, and there is dignity in it. Tragedy stands with its shoulders stiff and proud. But there is no meaning, no dignity, no fulfillment, in the death of a child.
Miller Walter M. (Jr.)
If you try to save wisdom until the world is wise, Father, the world will never have it. ~ Ch 21


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