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Discussion 1 to Meditation 601
Attribution of quotations from fiction.

by: Greg

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Not to be nitpicking...but I have a nit to pick!

From Quotations XLIII: "Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right. Isaac Asimov"--that's not technically correct.  It was the character Salvor Hardin, from Asimov's brilliant novel "Foundation", that said it.

Other Hardin quotes, from www.answers.com:

"An atom blaster is a good weapon, but it can point both ways."

"It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety".

His best-known maxim, "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent", became one of Asimov's favourite sayings.

JT replies:


A variation of this issue has come up before, but not specifically with a work of fiction. The previous response is still relevant though.

Part of the problem is to keep the attribution brief. That's largely a consistency issue as many of the quotations out there lack a specific detailed reference.

But what do we do with a quotation from fiction? In reality, the fictional character did not originate the words, the author did.

I think the real issue is whether the fictional character was expressing the author's true thoughts or not. If the quotation is consistent with the author's thinking, then it is fair to attribute it. I think, for example, that all of Lazurus Long's widely quoted statements on religion can be safely attributed to Heinlein.

On the other hand, if the character and author are clearly of different views, then I don't think it is a legitimate quotation at all. If I was ever to waste my time with the Left Behind series and found a character making a statement about agnosticism which I found quotable, it would be grossly inappropriate to credit it to Jenkins and LeHaye as a quotation.

So, in my view, if Asimov's personal views were congruent with the quotation, then it belongs to him. If not, then the quotation should be removed entirely from this series. If I liked it a lot, then it might make a good basis for an article instead.

My mind is not closed however. The issue remains open for further discussion and arguments.

(And yes, inconsistancies to this "policy" can be found in the quotation index.)