Happy birthday John Varley!

John Herbert Varley was born on August 9, 1947 in Austin, Texas, USA.

After graduating at high school, John Varley started studying physics at Michigan State University but after switching to English, he decided to leave the university. For some time he had a number of unskilled jobs and moved from one city to another until finally decided that being a writer was a better way to make a living.

In the mid-1970s, John Varley started publishing science fiction stories and among them there were the first of the Eight Worlds series, a future history of the solar system marked by the invasion of Earth by an alien species. These invaders intend to protect the Earth’s cetaceans from the effects of human activities and for this reason destroy the infrastructures built on Earth. Most humans flee to colonize the rest of the solar system and only a few tribes remain on Earth living as primitives.

The Eight Worlds series consists of short fiction and the novels “The Ophiuchi Hot Line” (1977), “Steel Beach” (1992) and “The Golden Globe” (1998), winner of the Prometheus Award. The stories are not always consistent with each other because John Varley admitted that the thought of going back to rereading all his old stories to make them consistem fills him with ennui.

In the late 1970s, John Varley also began the Gaea trilogy, composed of “Titan” (1979), “Wizard” (1980) and “Demon” (1984). The story is focused on a gigantic wheel-shaped artificial habitat populated by strange living species created by an alien intelligence. In this series, the author used various elements of the fantasy genre but all have a scientific explanation.

Most of John Varley’s works are part of some series but occasionally he writes an autonomous one such as the novel “Millennium” (1983), of which also wrote the screenplay for the movie adapted from the novel. Its production was complicated due to various director changes, each with different ideas. After that experience, the author gave up working for Hollywood.

John Varley has never been a prolific author although in the last decade he started a new series called Thunder and Lightning composed of the novels: “Red Thunder” (2003), winner of the Endeavor Award, “Red Lightning” (2006), “Rolling Thunder” (2008) and “Dark Lightning” (2014).

Often John Varley has been compared to Robert A. Heinlein for the themes of many of his stories such as personal freedom and sexuality. The resemblances are particularly visible in novels such as “The Steel Beach” and the Thunder and Lightning series, inspired by Heinlein’s juveniles. A new novel of the Eight Worlds series was announced even though there’s no release date. Varley’s works tend to be of high quality so surely his fans are waiting for this new novel.

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