I agree that there’s a rush that comes reading from a novel hot off the press, but I personally love reading and rereading the old stuff—bestselling novels that may have been significant when they were originally released but now have faded into obscurity.
And although many of these dusty old gems feature sadly outdated elements (like sexism and racism), some of them are still amazingly timely, and just as profoundly powerful as they were when they were first published decades earlier.
Take the last new genre release you read, and imagine people reading it 50 years from now. How will future readers perceive science fiction, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance from 2013? Sadly, I’m guessing most of it will be considered outmoded.
But the good stuff, the crème de la crème, is timeless. And to prove it, here are ten quotes from science fiction novels published in the 1950s that have withstood the test of time.
- “There never can be a man so lost as one who is lost in the vast and intricate corridors of his own lonely mind, where none may reach and none may save.” – Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov (1950)
- “Take sides! Always take sides! You will sometimes be wrong—but the man who refuses to take sides must always be wrong.” – Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein (1956)
- “Listen, are we helpless? Are we doomed to do it again and again and again? Have we no choice but to play the Phoenix in an unending sequence of rise and fall? Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Carthage, Rome, the Empires of Charlemagne and the Turk: Ground to dust and plowed with salt. Spain, France, Britain, America—burned into the oblivion of the centuries. And again and again and again. Are we doomed to it, Lord, chained to the pendulum of our own mad clockwork, helpless to halt its swing? This time, it will swing us clean to oblivion.” – A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1959)
- “Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
- “It’s not the end of the world at all,” he said. “It’s only the end for us. The world will go on just the same, only we shan’t be in it. I dare say it will get along all right without us.” – On the Beach by Nevil Shute (1957)
- “Anybody who has had a great treasure has always led a precarious existence.” –The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham (1951)
- “No utopia can ever give satisfaction to everyone, all the time. As their material conditions improve, men raise their sights and become discontented with power and possessions that once would have seemed beyond their wildest dreams. And even when the external world has granted all it can, there still remain the searchings of the mind and the longings of the heart.” – Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke (1953)
- “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” – Foundation by Isaac Asimov (1951)
- “The most hopelessly stupid man is he who is not aware he is wise.” – Second Foundation by Isaac Asimov (1953)
- “We earth men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things.” – The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (1950)