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LIFE BY UNSPIEK, BARON BODISSEY

These are the segments, paragraphs and quotes from as well as references and allusions to Unspiek, Baron Bodisseys monumental work Life, taken from the various works of Jack Vance. All of these quotes are the intellectual property of Jack Vance and of his publishers. Each of them is accompanied by a reference to the work from which the quote was taken.

Life, Volume I
On religious wars [The face, chapter 3]

If religions are diseases of the human psyche, as the philosopher Grintholde reckons, the religious wars must be reckoned the resultant sores and cankers infecting the aggregate corpus of the human race. Of all wars, they are waged for no tangible gain, but only to impose a set of arbitrary credos upon anothers mind. Few such conflicts can match the First Vegan Wars for grotesque excess. The issue concerns, in its proximate phase, a block of sacred white alabaster the Aloysians intended for Temple St. Revelras, while the Ambrosians claimed the same block for their Temple St. Bellaw. The culminating battle on Rudyer Moor is an episode to tax the imagination. The locale: a misty upland of the Mournan Mountains; the time: late afternoon, with Vega darting shafts of pallid light here and there, as roiling clouds allow. On the upper slopes stand a band of haggard Ambrosians in flapping brown robes, carrying crooked staves carved from Corrib yew. Below is gathered a more numerous group of the Aloysian Brotherhood; small shortlegged men, plump and portly, each with ritual goatee and scalp-tuft, carrying kitchen cutlery and garden tools. Brother Whinias utters a cry in an unknown language. Down the slope bound the Ambrosians, venting hysterical screams, to fall upon the Aloysians like wild men. The battle goes indecisively for an hour, neither side gaining advantage. At sundown the Ambrosian Cornuter, by the creeds rigorous rule, sounds the twelvetone call to vespers. The Ambrosians, in accordance with their invariable habit, place themselves in devotional attitudes. The Aloysians quickly set to work and destroy the entire Ambrosian band well before the hour of their own devotions, and so ends the Battle of Rudyer Moor. Back into Old Town creep the few remaining Ambrosians, in secular garments, where eventually they become a canny group of merchants, brewers, ale-house keepers, antiquarians, money-lenders and perhaps pursuivants of other more furtive trades. As for the Aloysians, the order disintegrates within the century; their fervor becomes no more than a quaint tradition. Temple St. Revelras becomes the Domus, grandest of all the Vegan hostelries. Temple St. Bellaw is only a sad tumble of mossy stone. On religious wars (snippet) [The face, chapter 3]

Of all wars, they are waged for no tangible gain, but only to impose a set of arbitrary credos upon anothers mind. On morality [The book of dreams, chapter 3]

...I often reflect upon the word morality, the most troublesome and confusing word of all. There is no single or supreme morality; there are many, each defining the mode by which a system of entities optimally interacts. The eminent entomologist Fabre, bereaving a mantis in the act of devouring its mate, exclaimed: What an abominable custom! The ordinary man, during a days time, may be obliged to act by the terms of a half dozen different moralities. Some of these acts, appropriate at the moment, may the next moment be considered obscene or opprobrious in terms of another morality. The person who, let us say, expects generosity form a bank, efficient flexibility from a government agency, open-mindedness from a religious institution will be disappointed. In each purview the notions represent immorality. The poor fool might as quickly discover love among the mantises. On morality (snippet) [The book of dreams, chapter 3]

Morality, the most troublesome and confusing word of all. There is no single or supreme morality; there are many, each defining the mode by which a system of entities optimally interacts.

On evil men [The face, chapter 6] The evil man is a source of fascination; ordinary persons wonder what impels such extremes of conduct. A lust for wealth? A common motive, undoubtedly. A craving for power? Revenge against society? Let us grant these as well. But when wealth has been gained, power achieved and society brought down to a state of groveling submission, what then? Why does he continue? The response must be: the love of evil for its own sake. The motivation, while incomprehensible to the ordinary man, is nonetheless urgent and real. The malefactor becomes the creature of his own deeds. Once the transition has been overpassed a new set of standards comes into force. The perceptive malefactor recognizes his evil and knows full well the meaning of his acts. In order to quiet his qualms he retreats into a state of solipsism, and commits flagrant evil from sheer hysteria, and for his victims it appears as if the world has gone mad. On evil men (snippet) The malefactor becomes the creature of his own deeds. [The face, chapter 6]

Life, Volume II
On diversity of human societies (from the the introduction) [The book of dreams, chapter 11]

As we traverse the river of human time in our wonder boats, we notice recurring patterns in the now of peoples and civilizations ... The disparate races coalesce only when territory is limited, cramped, and crowded, with compressive social pressures. Strong, exact governments are typical of these circumstances; they are both necessary and welcome. Conversely, when land is vast and easily available, as in the broaching of a new continent or a new world, nothing can keep different sorts of people in close contact. They migrate to new places and particularize, whereupon languages mutate, costumes and conventions elaborate, aesthetic symbols take on fresh meanings. Now the public mood turns inward; government imposed from another place cannot be tolerated. The processes, as the race wanders from its native star, are of infinite richness and a source of endless fascination ... From: Reflections upon the Morphology of Settled Places [Ecce and Old Earth, chapter 8:2]

Towns behave in many respects like living organisms, which across time evolve and adapt so exactly to the landscape, the weather, and the requirements of the inhabitants that there is very little thrust for change. Parallel to these considerations the forces of tradition exert a like effect upon the character of the town; and indeed, the older the town, the more rigid its tendencies towards immutability. On convergent evolution [The star king, chapter 2] I have examined the native life forms of over two thousand planets. I have noted many examples of convergent evolution, but many more of divergence. It is first of all essential that we understand exactly what we mean by the well-used term convergent evolution. Especially we must not confuse statistical probability with some transcendental and utterly compelling force. Consider the class of all possible objects, the number of which is naturally very large: infinite, indeed, unless we impose an upper and lower limit of mass and certain other physical qualifications. Thus imposing and so qualifying, we find that still only an infinitesimal fraction of this class of objects can be considered life forms .... Before we have even started the investigation we have exercised a very stringent selection of objects which by their very definition will show basic similarities. To particularize: There are a limited number of methods of locomotion. If we find a quadruped on Planet A, and a quadruped likewise on Planet B, does this imply convergent evolution? No. It merely implies evolution, or perhaps no more than the fact that a four-legged creature can effectively stand without toppling and walk without stumbling. In my opinion, therefore, the expression convergent evolution is tautological. On statistical probability (snippet) [The star king, chapter 2]

We must not confuse statistical probability with some transcendental and utterly compelling force. On intelligence [The book of dreams, chapter 18]

Intelligence demands the most strict of definitions, since the word is easily and often abused. Intelligence rates the quality of Gaean mans competence at altering environment to suit his convenience, or, more generally, the solution or problems. The corollaries to the idea are several. Among them: In the absence of problems, intelligence cannot be measured. A creature with a large, complicated brain is not necessarily intelligent. Raw abstract intelligence is a meaningless concept. Secondly, intelligence is a quality peculiar to Gaean man. Certain alien races use different mechanisms and processes optimally to rearrange their environment. These attributes occasionally resemble human intelligence, and, on the basis of results achieved, the effective organs seem to serve analogous purposes. These similitudes almost always are deceptive and of superficial application. For the lack of a more precise and universal term the temptation to use the word intelligence incorrectly is well-nigh irresistible, but can be countenanced only when the word is set off by

quotes, viz: my own monograph (which I include in the appendix to Volume Eight of this slight and by no means comprehensive series). Students seriously interested in these matters may well wish to consult the monograph: A Comparison of Mathematical Processes as Employed by Six Intelligent Alien Races.

Life, Volume III


On survival and pleasure [The star king, chapter 6] As a society matures, the struggle for survival imperceptibly graduates and changes emphasis, and becomes what can only be termed the quest for pleasure. This is a large statement, possibly of no startling novelty. Nevertheless, as a generality, it affords a rich resonance of implications. The author suggests as a lively topic for a dissertation a survey of various environment-survival situations and the special types of pleasure goals deriving therefrom. It seems probable, from a moments reflection, that every particular scarcity or compulsion or danger generates a corresponding psychic tension demanding a particular gratification. On attitudes towards wealth [The Face, chapter 14]

I am constantly startled and often amused by the diverse attitudes toward wealth to be found among the peoples of the Oikumene. Some societies equate affluence with criminal skill; for others wealth represents the gratitude of society for the performance of valuable services. My own concepts in this regard are easy and clear, and I am sure that the word simplistic will be used by my critics. These folk are callow and turgid of intellect; I am reassured by their howls and yelps. For present purpose I exclude criminal wealth, the garnering of which needs no elaboration, and a gamblers wealth, which is tinsel. In regard, then, to wealth: 1. Luxury and privilege are the perquisites of wealth. This would appear a notably bland remark, but is much larger than it seems. If one listens closely, he hears deep and far below the mournful chime of inevitability. 2. To achieve wealth, one generally must thoroughly exploit at least three of the following five attributes: a. Luck. b. Toil, persistence, courage. c. Self-denial. d. Short-range intelligence: cunning, improvisational ability. e. Long-range intelligence: planning, the perception of trends. These attributes are common; anyone desiring privilege and luxury can gain the precursory wealth by making proper use of his native competence. In some societies poverty is considered a pathetic misfortune, or noble abnegation, hurriedly to be remedied by use of public funds. Other more stalwart societies think of poverty as a measure of the man himself. The critics respond: What an unutterable ass is this fellow Unspiek! I am reduced to making furious scratches and crotchets with my pen! Lionel Wistofer, in The Monstrator I am poor; I admit it! Am I then a churl or a noddy? I deny it with all the vehemence of my soul! I take my bite of seed-cake and my sip of tea with the same relish as any paunchy plutocrat with bulging eyes and grease running from his mouth as he engulfs ortolans in brandy, Krokinole oysters, filet of Darango Five-Horn! My wealth is my shelf of books! My privileges are my dreams! Sistie Fael, in The Outlook. ... He moves me to tooth-chattering wrath; he has inflicted upon me, personally, a barrage of sheer piffle, and maundering insult which cries out to the Heavens for atonement. I will thrust my fist down his loquacious maw; better, I will horsewhip him on the steps of his club. If he has no club, I hereby invite him to the broad

and convenient steps of the Senior Quill-drivers, although I must say that the Inksters maintain a superior bar, and this shall be my choice since, after trouncing the old fool, I will undoubtedly ask him in for a drink. McFarquhar Kenshaw, in The Gaean. On luxury (snippet) [The Face, chapter 14] Luxury and privilege are the perquisites of wealth. This would appear a notably bland remark, but it is much larger than it seems. If one listens closely, he hears deep and far below the mournful chime of inevitability.

Life, Volume IV
On learning [The killing machine, chapter 10]

There is a human quality that cannot be precisely named: possibly the most noble of all human qualities. It includes but is larger than candor, generosity, comprehension, niceness of distinction, intensity, steadiness of purpose, total commitment. It is participation in all human perceptions, recollection of all human history. It is characteristic of every great creative genius and can never be learned: learning in this regard is bathosthe dissection of a butterfly, a spectroscope turned to the sunset, the psychoanalysis of a laughing girl. The attempt to learn is self-destructive; when erudition comes in, poetry departs. How common the man of intellect who cannot feel! How trifling are his judgments against those of the peasant who derives his strength, like Antaeus, from the emotional sediment of the race! Essentially the tastes and preferences of the intellectual elite, derived from learning, are false, doctrinaire, artificial, shrill, shallow, uncertain, eclectic, jejune, and insincere. On erudition (snippet) When erudition comes in, poetry departs. [The killing machine, chapter 10]

Volume unknown
On caste distinction [Throy, chapter 1:4]

To create a society based on caste distinction, a minimum of two individuals is both necessary and sufficient. On democracy [Araminta station, chapter 5:3]

Is democracy impractical? Is this what you are saying? Glawen said: As I recall, Baron Bodissey had something to say on the subject. Oh? Was he pro or con? Neither. He pointed out that democracy could function only in a relatively homogeneous society of equivalent individuals. He described a district dedicated to democracy where the citizenry consisted of two hundred wolves and nine hundred squirrels. When zoning ordinances and public health laws were put into effect, the wolves were obliged to live in trees and eat nuts. On art [Araminta station, chapter 7:3]

Baron Bodissy uses art as a synonym for claptrap but I may be quoting him out of context. On boasting and sunrises [Night Lamp]

Dr Gissing wagged his finger at Dr. Windle in mock reproach. That is like saying we must, willy-nilly, invoke the presence of sedereal equations to explain the morning sunrise.* * Those familiar with the works of Baron Bodissey may remember his tale of the guest at a dinner party who, anxious to impress the company, asserted that he had only just arrived from an extraordinary world where the sun rose in the west and set in the east On Truth [Ports of Call, chapter 10:2]

It is an uncomfortable condition, said Kershaw. A serene philosophy rests upon a foundation of indisputable truth. Myron, who had been following the conversation, ventured a comment. I am told that Unspiek Baron Bodissey was once called upon to define Truth. His views are not exactly relevant, but, as always, they are illuminating. Dont stop now, said Schwatzendale, who also had been listening. On with the anecdote! It goes like this. One dark midnight a student entered the Barons chamber and awoke the Baron from his sleep. The student cried out, Sir, I am distraught with anxiety! Tell me once and for all: what is Truth? The Baron groaned and cursed and finally raised his head. He roared, Why do you bother me with such trivia? The student gave a faltering response. Because I am ignorant and you are wise. Very well, then! I can reveal to you that Truth is a rope with one end! The student persisted. All very well, sir! But what of the far end which is never found? Idiot! stormed the Baron. That is the end to which I refer! And the Baron once more composed himself to sleep. Loose quotes Society without ritual is like music played on a single string with one finger. (Night Lamp, chapter 2:1)

Whenever human beings join to pursue a common objective that is, to form a society each member of the group will ultimately command a certain status. As all of us now, these status levels are never totally rigid. [Night Lamp, chapter 2:1] Only losers cry out for fair play [Night Lamp, chapter 2:2] Honest folk do not wear masks when they enter a bank. (Night Lamp, chapter 3:2) Sleep when you are dead. [Ecce and Old Earth, chapter 3] Hmm, said Socroy. The third of Baron Bodisseys Ten Succinct Apothegms is Sooner is better than later. My own favorite dictum is: Do it now! [Ports of Call] Sleep when you are dead. [Ecce and Old Earth, Chapter 3] Hmmm, said Socroy. The third of Baron Bodisseys Ten Succinct Apothegms is Sooner is better than later. My own favorite dictum is: Do it now! [Ports of Call] Truth is a barnacle on the arse of progress [Lurulu]

The critics discuss Baron Bodisseys Life

[The face, chapter 10]

A monumental work if you like monuments .... One is irresistibly put in mind of the Laocoon group, with the good baron contorted against the coils of common sense, and the more earnest of his readers likewise endeavoring to disengage themselves. ... Pancthetic Review, St. Stephen, Boniface. Ponderously the great machine ingests its bales of lore; grinding, groaning, shuddering, it brings forth its product: small puffs of acrid vari-colored vapor. ... Excalibur, Patris, Krokinole. Six volumes of rhodomontade and piffle. ... Academia, London, Earth. Egregious, ranting, boorish, unacceptable ... The Rigellian, Avente, Alphanor. Sneers jealously at the careers of better men .... Impossible not to feel honest anger. ... Galactic Quarterly, Baltimore, Earth. Tempting to picture Baron Bodissey at work in the Arcadian habitat he promulgates, surrounded by admiring goatherds. ... El Orchide, Serle, Quantique.