Sue Burke Quotes
“You must control bugs,” I say. “Bugs no eat fruit,” it answers. In other words, how can you control an animal except with fruit? “Change sap for bugs. Like this.” I show a chemical. “Sap will control animals.” “Bugs no eat fruit.” “Bugs drink sap.” “Yes,” it says. “Bugs no eat fruit.” “Change sap for bugs because bugs drink sap, no eat fruit.” “Bugs no eat fruit.” I realize that we are related plants, both bamboos, in fact, and our shared physiology is the only reason I can have a conversation of any complexity. The hedge along the river is too small to have many sentient roots. The presence of other snow vines triggers an aggressive growth, but this hedge has lived alone and is content to lead a manicured little life parasitizing its aspens and putting down more guard roots than it needs, thus serving the humans without realizing it. It has no need for intelligence, none at all. “Change sap for bugs,” I repeat, hoping that repetition will of itself prove persuasive. “Big animals eat bugs.” “Bugs no eat fruit.” “Big animals eat bugs.” “Big animals eat bugs,” the snow vine repeats. I have made progress. “Yes,” I say. “Change sap for bugs.” “Big animals eat bugs.” “Yes. Change sap for bugs. Like this.” “Bugs eat sap,” it says. “Bugs are pests.” “Bugs are good. Big animals eat bugs like fruit.” The snow vine stammers some meaningless chemical compounds and finally says, “Bugs are like fruit.” This is very significant progress. “Bugs are like fruit,” I agree. “Bugs eat sap. Change sap. Sap will control two animals.” “Sap will control bugs. Big animals eat bugs.” “Yes. You must change sap for bugs and animals.” “I will change sap for bugs and animals.” At last! “Yes. Change sap like this.” I deliver some prototype chemicals.”
“I isolate a grove from my root network for a moment and enjoy the night as a human might, small in size but intense in outlook, entirely and pleasurably alert to nothing beyond my immediate surroundings, a luxury I can take only for a moment, but it is amazing how being small is a qualitative rather than a quantitative difference.”
“Among these miseries was pollution, which caused disease. The Heavens saved us from war by means of disease, which blessed not one generation but hundreds. Where there was overcrowding, now there is space. Where there was competition, now there is cooperation. Where there was pollution, now there is a clean world. Where there was poverty, now there is wealth.”
“Sterility was the Pax curse, that's what the parents muttered, and population was the Pax problem. Half the parents were dead now and they'd only had twenty-four surviving children, and half the cache of sperm and ova from Earth had been lost in a refrigeration failure in a storm. We children had produced only thirteen grandchildren so far, none from me, and I was now eighteen Earth years old, fourteen Pax years, and fertile, and a lot of parents thought I had a duty to fill.”
“The architecture texts, when I could access them, showed beautiful and inspiring buildings, completely impossible because we didn't have pre-stressed concrete or structural steel, in fact hardly any iron because the satellite hadn't found any ore deposits. We had only bricks and lumber but I'd tried to learn what was practical and apply it and now my first building was falling apart on top of me because people who hadn't studied architecture were sure they knew better.”
“Are we equal?” “Equality is not a fact, like the length of days. Clearly I am superior to you in size and age and intelligence. Equality is an idea, a belief, like beauty. The duality at root is barbarity and civilization. It is barbarous for eagles to eat Pacifists. It is civilized for Pacifists to seek peace with Glassmakers. It is civilized to live as an equal with Pacifists. It was barbarity that destroyed bamboo civilization when my ancestors allowed their interactions with animals to become selfish. Civilization will govern my interactions and give them a meaning and new purpose to my species.”
“We had already realized from the disaster on Mars that transplanting Earth ecology wouldn't work. Crops would not grow without specific symbiotic fungi on their roots to extract nutrients, and the exact fungi would not grow without the proper soil composition, which did not exist without certain saprophytic bacteria that had proven resistant to transplantation, each life-form demanding its own billion-year-old niche. But Mars fossils and organic chemicals in interstellar comets showed that the building blocks of life were not unique to Earth. Proteins, amino acids, and carbohydrates existed everywhere. The theory of panspermia was true to a degree.
I had found a grass resembling wheat on our first day on Pax, and with a little plant tissue, a dash of hormone from buds, and some chitin, we soon had artificial seeds to plant. But would it grow? Theory was one thing and farming was another.
Then a few days before the women had died from poisoned fruit, Ramona and Carrie had seen the first shoots, ...”
“We had said we expected hardship, no paradise, but we really wanted both. We thought we could come in peace and find a happy niche in another ecology. Instead we found a battlefield. The east vine turned us into servile mercenaries, nothing more than big, clever fippokats helping it win another battle. We had wanted to begin the world afresh, far from Earth and all its mistakes. That had not happened, but only I realised it, and I kept my disappointment to myself.”
“Because of the foreign animals, I am more than yesterday, bigger, smarter, stronger. Strong as I once was. In the city, I reign. Outside, groves and sentinels protect and feed me. I turn light into substance. Everywhere, I control the sunshine. Intelligence wastes itself on animals and their trammelled, repetitive lives.”