Wednesday, November 17, 2010

John Varley's "The Persistence of Vision" (novella, utopia, free): Physical misfits create a society where they're the norm

Quote from short story The Persistence of Vision by John Varley
While there are multiple themes here, a substantial part of the story is devoted to language & communications. Say no one had eyes & ears. How would you communicate?

Ending is very abrupt & arbitrary.

Caution: Story includes some sexually explicit scenes.

Story summary.

An epidemic ("German measles, or rubella") left some 5000 children born blind & deaf in its wake. Society is generally caring - in its own way, but they'll always be misfits, & objects of pity. On reaching adulthood, a few dozen of them set out to build a community custom-built for them; one where being deaf & blind is the natural state of being.

Story is the description of their commune, seen from the eyes of a drifter who'll be a drifter no more.


  1. "To protest, one must be aware of the possibility of something better. It helps to have a language, too."
  2. "nothing is moral always, & anything is moral under the right circumstances."
  3. "Why is it that once having decided what I must do, I'm afraid to reexamine my decision? Maybe because the original decision cost me so much that I didn't want to go through it again."

Fact sheet.

First published: F&SF, March 1978.
Download MP3 podcast of the story, read by Spider Robinson. [via Boing Boing]
Note: I've'nt personally heard this MP3; I've only read the original text version.
Rating: A.
Winner of Hugo Award 1979 in novella category.
Winner of Nebula Award 1978 in novella category.
Related: Stories of John Varley.


Larry said...

hmm, I've yet to read any Varley-shame teres no text version-I cant read audiobooks.

Tinkoo said...

You cannot play MP3? Or don't like them?

Varley is generally good, though not superlative. Only online text of his that I'm aware of is "Bagatelle" (I've linked it in the past).

Larry said...

Oh I can play them, but I don't like audio books-they don't 'sink in' the way a book does. I once had a set Asimov audio books on cassette but they just didn't work for me.