There Are Three Main Plots for the Human Interest Story: Boy-Meets-Girl, The Little Tailor, and The Man-Who-Learned-Better

Robert Heinlein? L. Ron Hubbard? Catherine Crook de Camp? L. Sprague de Camp? Brian W. Aldiss? John Brunner? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: The famous science fiction author Robert Heinlein apparently contended that there were only three basic templates for stories. One template was “The Brave Little Tailor”, a German fairy tale about a clever individual who combined luck and intelligence to perform a series of difficult feats, thereby obtaining success and happiness.

Would you please help me to determine the other two types of stories together with a precise citation for Heinlein’s commentary?

Quote Investigator: In 1947 Lloyd Arthur Eshbach published a variegated collection of essays about writing science fiction called “Of Worlds Beyond”. Robert Heinlein contributed a piece titled “On the Writing of Speculative Fiction” in which he initially splits speculative tales into two large groups: gadget stories and human interest stories. Next, he splits the latter group into three categories. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

There are three main plots for the human interest story: boy-meets girl, The Little Tailor, and the man-who-learned-better. Credit the last category to L. Ron Hubbard; I had thought for years that there were but two plots—he pointed out to me the third type.

The 1947 essay was reprinted several times, and the text above was taken from the 1977 collection “Turning Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction” edited by Damon Knight. Below are additional details and selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading There Are Three Main Plots for the Human Interest Story: Boy-Meets-Girl, The Little Tailor, and The Man-Who-Learned-Better

Notes:

  1. 1977, Turning Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction, Edited by Damon Knight, On the Writing of Speculative Fiction by Robert A. Heinlein (This article was reprinted from the 1964 Advent edition of the book “Of Worlds Beyond” compiled by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach; this book was first published by Fantasy Press in 1947), Start Page 199, Quote Page 200 and 201, Harper & Row, New York. (Verified with scans)

Two Kinds of Fools: This Is Old, Therefore It Is Good. This Is New, Therefore It Is Better

William Ralph Inge? John Brunner? Bishop of Ripon? Anonymous?

Quote Investigator: There are two different types of fools. One naively embraces and extolls everything that is old; the other credulously praises everything that is new. This insight has been ascribed to William Ralph Inge who was a professor at Cambridge and Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It has also been attributed to the influential British science fiction author John Brunner. Would you please tell me the precise phrasing of this thought and who should receive credit?

Dear Quote Investigator: William Ralph Inge who was widely known as Dean Inge wrote a long-lived column for the “Evening Standard” in London. Many pieces were collected in “Lay Thoughts of a Dean” and “More Lay Thoughts of a Dean”. The second volume contained articles published between 1928 and 1930 including an essay “Some Wise Saws” featuring the following adage: 1

There are two kinds of fools. One says, “This is old, therefore it is good”; the other says, “This is new, therefore it is better.”

John Brunner included a version of this saying in his 1975 novel “The Shockwave Rider”, but he credited Dean Inge. Below are additional selected citations in chronological order. Continue reading Two Kinds of Fools: This Is Old, Therefore It Is Good. This Is New, Therefore It Is Better

Notes:

  1. 1931, More Lay Thoughts of a Dean by William Ralph Inge, Section: Here, There, and Everywhere, Chapter 9: Some Wise Saws, Quote Page 201, Putnam, London and New York. (Verified with hardcopy)

Youth Is Wasted on the Young

George Bernard Shaw? Oscar Wilde? Irvin Cobb? Michel de Montaigne? John Brunner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: A very popular acerbic adage combines wisdom and wistfulness together with a modicum of jealousy:

Youth is wasted on the young.

These words have been attributed to two famous Irish wits: George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde. Oddly, I have not seen any precise citations. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in a syndicated newspaper column called “Cook-Coos” by Ted Cook in February 1931. 1 The expression was ascribed to George Bernard Shaw, and the central meaning was congruent to modern instances; however, the phrasing was quite different Boldface has been added to excerpts: 2

Someone asked Bernard Shaw what, in his opinion, is the most beautiful thing in this world.

“Youth,” he replied, “is the most beautiful thing in this world—and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!”

QI has not yet identified an interview with Shaw containing the above remark; hence, the attribution was indirect. In the following months and years there was an efflorescence of similar statements linked to Shaw employing highly-variable phrasing. No closely matching written remark has been found in the corpus of Shaw; thus, residual uncertainty remains.

Attributions to Oscar Wilde were in circulation by 1963, but QI has found no substantive support for the linkage.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Youth Is Wasted on the Young

Notes:

  1. 1931 February 14, Rockford Register-Republic, Cook-Coos by Ted Cook (King Features Syndicate), Quote Page 8, Column 1, Rockford, Illinois. (GenealogyBank)
  2. 1931 February 14, Nevada State Journal, Cook-Coos by Ted Cook (King Features Syndicate), Quote Page 5, Column 2, Reno, Nevada. (Newspapers_com)

You Don’t Have to Know Everything. You Just Have to Know Where to Find It

Albert Einstein? Samuel Johnson? Sophonisba Breckinridge? John Brunner? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: The depth and breadth of information available on the internet is wondrous. Here are three examples from a family of pertinent sayings I came across recently:

1) I don’t need to know everything; I just need to know where to find it, when I need it.
2) Never keep anything in your mind that you can look up.
3) Never memorize what you can look up in books.

These sayings express a fundamental insight into this age of vast knowledge bases and high-speed networks. The words were credited to Albert Einstein, but I cannot find any precise reference. There so much junk and misinformation about quotations. The prevalence of inaccurate data makes it harder to find correct information. Can you trace this general saying?

Quote Investigator: These quotations were not listed in the key reference work “The Ultimate Quotable Einstein” from Princeton University Press. 1 Also, QI has not located any evidence of an exact match in the words written by the illustrious scientist.

Einstein did make a remark in 1921 that was conceptually related to the quotation. While visiting Boston he was asked whether he knew the value of the speed of sound, and he demurred. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI: 2

He was asked through his secretary, “What is the speed of sound?” He could not say off-hand, he replied. He did not carry such information in his mind but it was readily available in text books.

Einstein’s remark was about a single fact; hence, it differed from the statement under investigation. Nevertheless, it was possible to generalize and reformulate his comment to apply to the wider set of knowledge available in books. Indeed, another version of Einstein’s response that was published in 1947 was closer to the sayings being examined. (Details are given further below.) Hence, the modern expressions may have evolved from Einstein’s comment in 1921.

The idea presented in the quotation does have a long history before the computer age. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Don’t Have to Know Everything. You Just Have to Know Where to Find It

Notes:

  1. 2010, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein, Edited by Alice Calaprice, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey. (Verified on paper)
  2. 1921 May 18, New York Times, Einstein Sees Boston; Fails on Edison Test: Asked to Tell Speed of Sound He Refers Questioner to Text Books (Special to The New York Times), Quote Page 15, New York. (ProQuest)