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Old 07-08-2019, 06:27 PM
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Most Memorable Last Lines in Science Fiction Literature?


My apologies if this has been discussed before.

The "Science Fiction Short Story ID Help" thread
https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb...d.php?t=878191
reminded me of some favorite S-F stories where the very last line of the story or novel had a strong emotional impact and gave you serious chills or knocked you flat on your arse.

My three favorites are from what for me is the classic era, 1950s-1970s, and all from one of the very best writers ever, Arthur C. Clarke. The post that brought the memories back includes one of them,

The Nine Billion Names Of God


My second shiver-inducer by ACC -
A Walk In The Dark


And at the very top of my list and probably my absolute favorite S-F short story - The Star


Without quoting the last line and spoiling the surprise for anyone who hasn't read them yet, what S-F stories do you think have the most unforgettable last lines in S-F literature? Please share your favorites and their authors!
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Old 07-08-2019, 06:33 PM
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Isaac Asimov - The Last Question (short story)
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Old 07-08-2019, 06:45 PM
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James Tiptree, Jr.: "The Screwfly Solution."



https://www.theverge.com/2012/9/29/3...ewfly-solution
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Old 07-08-2019, 06:47 PM
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"The Sound of Thunder"
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It may be because I'm a drooling simpleton with the attention span of a demented gnat, but would you mind explaining everything in words of one syllable. 140 chars max.
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Old 07-08-2019, 06:48 PM
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The only one that is coming to mind for me is from The Gentle Seduction by Marc Stiegler.
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Old 07-08-2019, 06:49 PM
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I don't remember if it was precisely the last line, but the ending of Clarke's "Hatred" had an even stronger impact than "The Nine Billion Names of God".
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Old 07-08-2019, 06:51 PM
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Isaac Asimov - Nightfall
Daniel Keyes - Flowers for Algernon
Mack Reynolds - Compounded Interest
Robert Heinlein - All You Zombies
William Tenn - Unto the Fourth Generation
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Old 07-08-2019, 06:52 PM
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Fred Pohl - Day Million
Arthur C. Clarke - Love That Universe
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Old 07-08-2019, 07:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yllaria View Post
Isaac Asimov - The Last Question (short story)
To me, this is perhaps the most memorable final line in any story or book I've read.

Along with Nineteen-Eighty-Four.
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Old 07-08-2019, 07:41 PM
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"I have no mouth. And I must scream."
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Old 07-08-2019, 07:46 PM
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I have no idea if the famous last lines in these were actually the last ones, but they were near the end, and when you read the titles, I think you'll know what Iines i meant.

To Serve Man
It's A Good Life.
All The Time in The World

(The Twilight Zone was great for this sort of thing, wasn't it?)

For Larry Niven stories, the endings of Protector and The Subject Is Closed, were really moving for me.
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Old 07-08-2019, 07:55 PM
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The ending of Watts's The Things, is certainty jarring. http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/watts_01_10/

Not unexpected given the viewpoint, but still.
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Old 07-08-2019, 07:59 PM
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Harlan Ellison - "Croatoan"
Richard Matheson - "I Am Legend"
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Old 07-08-2019, 08:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yllaria View Post
Isaac Asimov - The Last Question (short story)
Damn, the second post... ninja'ed before I even knew of this thread.

So I'll go with Asimov's "Nightfall"... the original 1941 "novelette", NOT the later novel (with Robert Silverberg, 1990).

And Bradbury's "All Summer in a Day".

I look back on my Junior High years (none of that pansyass "middle school" for us), and I was so enraptured with SF short stories. I devoured every anthology and collection of them.

I still have so much respect for the ability to tell a tale succinctly, and moreso when it packs an emotional punch.

The punchiest was "Light of Other Days" by Bob Shaw.

Thirty years later, a friend gave a Short Story Party, where everyone read their favorite. This was still mine. Imagine this tale read around a fireplace during a blizzard. And after the last line, silence.


Googling it brings up some free pdfs, a .doc file, and an audio version on YouTube.

Last edited by digs; 07-08-2019 at 08:01 PM.
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Old 07-08-2019, 08:12 PM
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Isaac Asimov - All the troubles of the World.
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Old 07-08-2019, 08:20 PM
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Stephen King- The Jaunt (short story).
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Old 07-08-2019, 08:56 PM
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Most of the ones I thought of have been posted already.

I've always remembered the last line of Fritz Leiber's "Gonna Roll the Bones," even though I don't remember much else about the story.
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Old 07-08-2019, 09:33 PM
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Nightfall, maybe.
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Old 07-08-2019, 09:51 PM
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Technically two lines, but....

Quote:
And the silence was deeper that night across the face of the world, from pole to pole, deeper than it had ever been before in the life of the creatures that called themselves humans.

But not as deep as it would soon become.
Harlan Ellison, On the Slab
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Old 07-09-2019, 06:45 AM
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Fredric Brown's Answer definitely belongs in this thread.

After the multiplanetary alien race finishes hooking up all their computers into a single supercomputer in order to ask it the Ultimate Question, the final lines go something like this:


"Is there a God?"

"Yes, now there is."

A bolt of lightning fused the switch shut.
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thudlow Boink View Post
Most of the ones I thought of have been posted already.

I've always remembered the last line of Fritz Leiber's "Gonna Roll the Bones," even though I don't remember much else about the story.
Then he turned and headed straight for home, but he took the long way, around the world.

Great story, even though I've never completely understood it. You can find a copy here.

Last edited by Alessan; 07-09-2019 at 07:07 AM.
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:21 AM
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From Ursula K. Le Guin:

But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:48 AM
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Alfred Bester's "Adam and No Eve." It even impressed John Updike, who hated science fiction.
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:52 AM
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Wow, the bolded part of the OP lasted a whole 18 posts. That must be a record for the SDMB.
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:58 AM
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Wow, the bolded part of the OP lasted a whole 18 posts. That must be a record for the SDMB.
Shit.

Mods, please edit - or delete - my posts.
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Old 07-09-2019, 08:33 AM
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I forget the name of the story and the author's name... A space mission is exploring Mars, mostly from orbit, and they discover a third moon quite close to the surface of the planet. Unfortunately, all three members of the expedition have a fondness for horrible puns and the final line--the final word of the story, in fact--is the name one of them gives the third moon.
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Old 07-09-2019, 08:40 AM
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I forget the name of the story and the author's name... A space mission is exploring Mars, mostly from orbit, and they discover a third moon quite close to the surface of the planet. Unfortunately, all three members of the expedition have a fondness for horrible puns and the final line--the final word of the story, in fact--is the name one of them gives the third moon.
The Holes Around Mars by Jerome Bixby
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Old 07-09-2019, 08:55 AM
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Quote:
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The Holes Around Mars by Jerome Bixby
That's the one!
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Old 07-09-2019, 09:09 AM
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The OP's directive was not to spoil the stories by giving the last lines. While some last lines have been given, they mostly haven't been spoilers.
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Old 07-09-2019, 09:37 AM
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I see Harlan Ellison's stories have been mentioned, but...

No mention of A Boy and His Dog?
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Old 07-09-2019, 09:41 AM
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The complete works of Grendel Briarton and his adventures of Ferdinand Feghoot. Indeed, the stories are usually identified by their last lines.
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Old 07-09-2019, 09:54 AM
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Definitely Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.
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Old 07-09-2019, 10:55 AM
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Is Theodore Sturgeon’s “It” SF, or just straight-out horror? (“Babe” is a young farm girl)

“....And Babe screams at night, and has grown very thin.”
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Old 07-09-2019, 10:56 AM
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Same question: Ronald Dahl’s “Royal Jelly.”

“Come and cover up our little Queen.”
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Old 07-09-2019, 02:44 PM
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The Giver, by Lois Lowry.

"The Mountains of Mourning", by Lois McMaster Bujold

"Founding Father" by Isaac Asimov
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Old 07-09-2019, 03:03 PM
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The last line of The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin is of a piece with the rest of the work, and therefore both haunting, and beautiful.

As I have mentioned before, I will be a better person the rest of my life because I read that book.

Regards,
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Old 07-09-2019, 03:10 PM
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Another Isaac Asimov short containing a last line with teeth: "The Ugly Little Boy"
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Old 07-09-2019, 03:22 PM
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The best last line in a science fiction story is in Duane Ackerson's "Sign At The End of The Universe".
It is also the best first line in a science fiction short story.
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Old 07-09-2019, 04:05 PM
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Came in here after a day's rumination to add The Ugly Little Boy (the short story, don't know about the later novel), but AHunter3 beat me to it.
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Old 07-09-2019, 05:05 PM
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Arthur C. Clarke in the book version of 2001: A Space Odyssey
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Old 07-09-2019, 07:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gray Ghost View Post
I
(The Twilight Zone was great for this sort of thing, wasn't it?)
To Serve Man. Short story by Damon Knight.
It's A Good Life. Short Story by Jerome Bixby
All The Time in The World. Arthur C. Clarke??

I wouldn't have put "All the Time in The World" in there. But "Time Enough at Last" doesn't actually have a memorable last line.
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Old 07-09-2019, 08:39 PM
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Quote:
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To Serve Man. Short story by Damon Knight.
It's A Good Life. Short Story by Jerome Bixby
All The Time in The World. Arthur C. Clarke??

I wouldn't have put "All the Time in The World" in there. But "Time Enough at Last" doesn't actually have a memorable last line.
You're right, it was Time Enough At Last. Thinking of the lines Meredith says before, 'it's not fair!' Nah, you're right, the story doesn't belong. Put that vote instead towards mbh's contribution of Clarke's novelization of 2001.

More sci-fi: the last line of Iain Banks's Surface Detail is amazing. Not for its literary quality, but for how it changes your view of several characters in the Culture series.
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Old 07-09-2019, 09:44 PM
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Clarke did have a knack for giving the reader a gut-punch at the end of a story. See also "The Star", though that one, one might at least have seen coming.
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Old 07-09-2019, 10:03 PM
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The two that come to mind for me are Asimov's Second Foundation and Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama.

Matheson's Born of Man and Woman has a good stinger too.

And With Folded Hands, the author of which escapes me.
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Old 07-09-2019, 10:15 PM
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Quote:
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Clarke did have a knack for giving the reader a gut-punch at the end of a story. See also "The Star", though that one, one might at least have seen coming.
Check out my original post. GMTA.

And no big thing if some posters are quoting the last lines, as long as the surprise endings aren't completely spoiled. I'm looking forward to reading all the suggested stories, my summer reading list just got a lot more interesting, and a lot longer!
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Old 07-10-2019, 05:36 AM
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The Weapon Shops of Isher by A.E. van Vogt.
"He Walked Around the Horses" by H. Beam Piper
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Old 07-10-2019, 08:43 AM
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I second (of fifth or whatever) The Last Question
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Old 07-10-2019, 11:45 AM
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And With Folded Hands, the author of which escapes me.
Jack Williamson. I read it in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol IIA, which also includes the classics "Who Goes There" and "The Marching Morons".
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Old 07-11-2019, 05:20 AM
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Jack Williamson. I read it in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Vol IIA, which also includes the classics "Who Goes There" and "The Marching Morons".
I had all three volumes when I was a teenager and I read them at least a couple times each. I can't recall whether The Cold Equations was in one of them, but that's got a hell of a final line as well.
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Old 07-11-2019, 07:21 AM
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Quote:
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I had all three volumes when I was a teenager and I read them at least a couple times each. I can't recall whether The Cold Equations was in one of them, but that's got a hell of a final line as well.
The Cold Equations is in Volume I. The Wikipedia entries I linked have a list of the contents.
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