Now that so many aspects of life are subject to nothing but choice, people’s brains are seizing up. Now that there’s so much to be had, literally merely by wanting it, people are building new layers into their thought processes, to protect them from all this power and freedom; near-endless regressions of wanting to decide to want to decide to want to decide what the fuck it is they really do want.
Greg Egan, Quarantine, London, 1992, p. 27
Immortality would have been meaningless, trapped in a ‘machine’ with a finite number of possible states; in a finite time he would have exhausted the list of every possible thing he could be. Only the promise of eternal growth made sense of eternal life.
Greg Egan, Permutation City, London, 1994, p. 286
Immediately before taking up woodwork, he’d passionately devoured all the higher mathematics texts in the central library, run all the tutorial software, and then personally contributed several important new results to group theory—untroubled by the fact that none of the Elsyan mathematicians would ever be aware of his work. Before that, he’d written over three hundred comic operas, with librettos in Italian, French and English—and staged most of them, with puppet performers and audience. Before that, he’d patiently studied the structure and biochemistry of the human brain for sixty-seven years; towards the end he had fully grasped, to his own satisfaction, the nature of the process of consciousness. Every one of these pursuits had been utterly engrossing, and satisfying, at the time.
Greg Egan, Permutation City, London, 1994, p. 277
Freud had saddled Western culture with the bizarre notion that the least considered utterances were always, magically, the truest—that reflection added nothing, and the ego merely censored or lied. It was an idea born more of convenience than anything else: he’d identified the part of the mind easiest to circumvent—with tricks like free association—and then declared the product of all that remained to be ‘honest’.
Greg Egan, Distress, London, 1995, pp. 82-83
[H]e knew he needed first hand experience to understand the mystery of pain.
Greg Egan, Permutation City, New York, 1994, p. 2
What evolution had done, design could do better. There would always be a chance to take what you needed, take what was good, then cut yourself free and move on.
Greg Egan, Teranesia, London, 1995, p. 179
Sex is like a diamond forged in a slaughterhouse. Three billion years of unconscious reproduction. Half a billion more stumbling towards animals that weren’t just compelled to mate, but were happy to do it–and finally knew that they were happy. Millions of years spent honing that feeling, making it the most perfect thing in the world. And all just because it worked. All just because it churned out more of the same. […] Anyone can take the diamond. It’s there for the asking. But it’s not a lure for us. It’s not a bribe. We’ve stolen the prize, we’ve torn it free. It’s ours to do what we like with.
Greg Egan, Teranesia, London, 1995, p. 95
If I am going to die, there’s no need to ‘make peace’ with myself, no reason to ‘compose myself’ for death. The way I face extinction is just as fleeting, just as irrelevant, as the way I faced every other moment of my life. The one and only thing that could make this time matter would be finding a way to survive.
Greg Egan, ‘The Walk’, in Axiomatic, London, 1995, p. 220
At some level, we still hadn’t swallowed the hardest-won truth of all: The universe is indifferent.
Greg Egan, ‘Silver Fire’, in Luminous, London, 1998, p. 171
Happiness always brought with it the belief that it would last[.]
Greg Egan, ‘Reasons to Be Cheerful’, in Luminous, London, 1998, p. 191