Be Careful What You Preach For

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She doesn’t make speeches anymore. She has become speechless. She stays in her home, but it doesn’t seem to agree with her. How furious she must be, now that she’s been taken at her word.

She’s looking at the tulips. Her cane is beside her, on the grass. Her profile is towards me, I can see that in the quick sideways look I take at her as I go past. It wouldn’t do to stare. It’s no longer a flawless cut-paper profile, her face is sinking in upon itself, and I think of those towns built on underground rivers, where houses and whole streets disappear overnight, into sudden quagmires, or coal towns collapsing into the mines beneath them. Something like this must have happened to her, once she saw the true shape of things to come.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Surprised When War Comes Home

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They all cried. People can certainly carry on, he thought, holding her fat hand because she had asked him to, and feeling sure she was going to drop dead any minute. These were the people who let a war start, then they act surprised when their own son is killed. Mavole was a good enough kid. He certainly was a funny kid and with a sensational disposition but, what the hell, twenty thousand were dead out there so far on the American panel, plus the U.N. guys, and maybe sixty, eighty thousand more all shot up, and this fat broad seemed to think that Mavole was the only one who got it.

-The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Stories are Survival

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They showed me a picture of her, standing outside on a lawn, her face a closed oval. Her light hair was pulled back tight behind her head. Holding her hand was a woman I didn’t know. She was only as tall as the woman’s elbow.

You’ve killed her, I said. She looked like an angel, solemn, compact, made of air. She was wearing a dress I’d never seen, white and down to the ground.   I would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance. If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off. It isn’t a story I’m telling.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Girls Know

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They were not pre-chosen to be married to the very best men—to the Sons of Jacob and the other Commanders or their sons—not like us; although they might get to be chosen once they were older if they were pretty enough. Nobody said that. You were not supposed to preen yourself on your good looks, it was not modest, or take any notice of the good looks of other people. Though we girls knew the truth: that it was better to be pretty than ugly. Even the Aunts paid more attention to the pretty ones. But if you were already pre-chosen, pretty didn’t matter so much.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Forced Hypnosis

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“I am sure that all of you have heard that old wives’ tale,” Yen stated, “which is concerned with the belief that no hypnotized subject may be forced to do that which is repellent to his moral nature, whatever that is, or to his own best interests. That is nonsense, of course.

You note-takers might set down a reminder to consult Brenmen’s paper, ‘Experiments in the Hypnotic Production of Antisocial and Self-injurious injurious Behavior,’ or Wells’ 1941 paper which was titled, I believe, ‘Experiments in the Hypnotic Production of Crime,’ or Andrew Salter’s remarkable book, Conditioned Reflex Therapy, to name only three.

Or, if it offends you to think that only the West is studying how to manufacture more crime and better criminals against modern shortages, I suggest Krasnogorski’s Primary Violence Motivation or Serov’s The Unilateral Suggestion to Self-Destruction. For any of you who are interested in massive negative conditioning there is Frederic Wertham’s The Seduction of the Innocent, which demonstrates how thousands have been brought to antisocial actions through children’s cartoon books.

However, enough of that. You won’t read them anyway. The point I am making is that those who speak of the need for hypnotic suggestion to fit a subject’s moral code should revise their concepts. The conception of people acting against their own best interests should not startle us. We see it occasionally in sleepwalking and in politics, every day.”

-The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

Black Market Hope

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I stood in front of her, hands folded. So, she said. She had a cigarette, and she put it between her lips and gripped it there while she lit it. Her lips were thin, held that way, with the small vertical lines around them you used to see in advertisements for lip cosmetics. The lighter was ivory-colored. The cigarettes must have come from the black market, I thought, and this gave me hope. Even now that there is no real money anymore, there’s still a black market. There’s always a black market, there’s always something that can be exchanged.

She then was a woman who might bend the rules. But what did I have, to trade?

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

What’s wrong with the galaxy

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To Ulbreck’s mind, there was one thing wrong with the galaxy: people. People and droids. Well, those were two things – but then again, wasn’t it wrong to limit what was wrong with the galaxy to just one thing? How fair was that? That was how the old farmer’s thinking tended to go, even when sober. In sixty standard years of moisture farming, Ulbreck had formed one theory about life after another. But he’d spent enough of the early years working alone – odd, how not even his farmhands wanted to be around him – that all his notions had piled up, unspoken.

That was what visits to town were for: opportunities for Ulbreck to share the wisdom of a lifetime. When he wasn’t getting robbed by diabolical droids pretending to be green bartenders.

Kenobi, a Star Wars novel, by John Jackson Miller

Names into the Silence

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We learned to whisper almost without sound. In the semidarkness we could stretch out our arms, when the Aunts weren’t looking, and touch each other’s hands across space. We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths. In this way we exchanged names, from bed to bed: Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Vampires Don’t Eat

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Amazon.com

There’s an abiding myth that vampires are afraid of garlic. This, of course, is a lie. The garlic myth was triggered hundreds of years ago, when a nameless vampire joked about not attacking some woman because she smelled of garlic. I mean, how could anyone be terrified of a culinary herb? It’s true that garlic makes vampires sick. But in that respect it’s no different from bread or bacon or Brussels sprouts. A vampire’s stomach isn’t capable of digesting normal food; one slice of watermelon could put half a dozen vampires in bed for a week.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks