Frequently Asked Questions

© 1999-2005 by John Varley; all rights reserved


A website should have a Frequently Asked Questions button. Since we’re a relatively new site, with only 3633 hits as of today (and remember, about 1000 of those are me and Lee checking to see how many hits we have), I decided to post some of my favorite and least-favorite questions over the years. If you have any good questions, or if I have any good answers, maybe I’ll post them here.


From: Brett

To: John

I’ve read your Gaean Trilogy probably 6 or 7 times over the years. What fantastic books those are. I just happened to have studied music composition and Greek mythology in college, so that might be a small part of why I love those novels so intensely! Thanks for writing them.

Would you ever allow a movie to be made of those books, or better question, is there a movie in the works or will you ever write more about Gaea? I guess that’s kind of 3 questions in one. I was surprised not to see any of them on your FAQ’s.

Titan, Demon and Wizard would make great CGI films!

Have a good night,

Brett W. Bertram

Dear Brett,

It's not a question of allowing. All somebody has to do is pay me for the rights and get to work. You're right, CGI has progressed to the point where it would be possible. Years ago a Canadian animation company expressed an interested but nothing ever came of it. Nobody is offering at the moment, but I can hope.



Big fan (as are all who write you I assume).  I see on someone else's website about you, that they think you are going to write another book in the sort of series of Steel Beach and Globe, called Iron town blues.  Is that So? and when might that be.

Also wanted to thank you for turning me onto Spider Robinson.  I don't remember where it was now, but I saw a blurb that said John Varley recommends a book by Spider, and since I liked your work I read his and liked it also.

Be well,



Dear  David,

I have indeed planned to write a third novel to follow Steel Beach and Golden Globe, to be called Irontown Blues. But I haven't worked it all out yet, and am currently at work on a sequel to Red Thunder. When I have the time, I'll get to work on the other one.

Spider is a dear friend, and while we don't agree on everything, we enjoy the hell out of arguing about it. Right now he's trying to convince me that Osama bin Laden is dead, dead, dead, as we all naturally hope he is ... but I can't follow reasoning as to why he's so sure. We'll have fun for weeks about that one.

Thanks for writing.



Q. Where do you get your ideas?

R. Heinlein, Santa Cruz, California

A. I used to get them from Montgomery Wards or, as we called it in Texas, "Monkey Wards." My dad worked for Mobil, which owned MW, so we had a card that would get us a 10% discount. Then Mobil drove MW into bankruptcy. These days I get them at Target or K-Mart. I try to avoid Wal-Mart because of their abhorrent labor practices, but if they’re running a sale I shop there anyway, just like you do.


Q. What’s the best way to get your work published?

W. Faulkner, Yawknapatawpha, Mississippi

A. I recommend getting a good agent. It’s absolutely impossible to get in print unless you have a good agent out there hustling your work.


Q. How do I go about getting an agent?

E. Hemingway, Shotgun, Montana

A. Get something published first. It’s absolutely impossible to get a good agent to represent you unless you have a record of sales.


Q. How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

V. Cliburn, Dallas, Texas

A. From JFK, take the Van Wyck Expressway to Queens. Go east on the Long Island Expressway (I-495). The Queens-Midtown Tunnel will put you on East 37th. Go a few blocks and turn right on Park. Turn left on 57th street and go 4 blocks. You’ll see the sign. Oh, yeah, and practice, practice, practice.


Q. Who put the bomp in the bomp-she-bomp-she-bomp?

Shah Nahnah, Tehran, Persia

A. The Big Bomper.


Q. What makes the elephant charge his tusk, in the misty mist or the dusky dusk? What makes the muskrat guard his musk? What makes the Hottentot so hot? What puts the "ape" in apricot? What have they got that I ain't got?

C. Lion, Emerald City, Oz

A. Courage.


Q. What’s the deal with this Adam Sandler asshole, anyway?

J. Carrey, Hollywood, California

A. He’s an asshole.


Q. What is your name?

A. Troll, Under-the-bridge, Blackbourne, Lancashire, Camelot

A. What, are you kidding? Okay, it’s John Varley, but some people call me Herb, because Herbert is my middle name.

Q. What is your quest?

A. Troll, Under-the-bridge, Blackbourne, Lancashire, Camelot

A. You again? Uh ... to provide the science fiction reading public with the best, top-quality stories I can come up with.

Q. What’s your favorite colour?

A. Troll, Under’bridge, Blbrn, Lancs, Cam.

A. Blue. No, yel-- Auuuuuuuugh!

Q. What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

AT, Under etc.

A. (Note to Webmaster: No more questions from this jerk, okay?)


Q. Where the heck are those chemical, biological, and nucular weapons? I’ve been searching high and low for ‘em, and I gotta find ‘em before, say, late October. Where should I look next?

George W. B., Cowflop Ranch, Crawford, Texas

A. Try Los Alamos, New Mexico. For chemical weapons, Dugway, Utah, and Umatilla, Oregon. For biological, Fort Detrick, Maryland, is your best bet. There are also rumors that many are scattered through Montana, the Dakotas, and Nebraska, and on atomic submarines all over the world, but I can’t help you there.


Q. Dear Playboy Advisor, That last question got me worried. I understand that the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a large atomic bomb will demagnetize all my video and audio tapes. I have been working hard to duplicate everything onto CDs and DVDs, and I’ve lined the Bunny Bunker with lead, but is that really good enough?

Hugh H., Viagra City Retirement Home, Arizona

A. You’ve got the wrong website, but I’ll answer you anyway. The good news is you can rest easy about EMP. All laser-based storage media are perfectly safe against all the effects of a nuclear explosion: the blast, the heat, the radiation, and the EMP. They are impervious to everything except peanut butter, as any video rental store could tell you. You should consider shielding your speakers, though, as the blast wave can disintegrate the cones of your tweeters, woofers, and hooters. The bad news is, DVDs are highly vulnerable to the smallpox virus.


Q. Who's on second?

L. Costello, Brooklyn, NY

A. No, Who's on first.

Q. I dunno.

A. Third base.


Q. Why do my woman treat me so mean? I axed for a glass of water, and she gave me gasoline.

Muddy W., Sittin’-on-the-levee, Loosana

A. You better wake up and get out yo’ bed, fool! You been jumpin’ salty on yo’ woman, the whole town’s talking ‘bout it. So do right by her or put on yo’ walkin’ shoes. Word on the street, she say the day she see you, that’s the day you’ll die! Said she gonna get her a razor and a gun, cut you if you stand still, shoot you if you run. And she ain’t gonna miss you when you gone!


Q. O say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?

Roseanne B., Crotchgrab Stadium, San Diego, Cahleefornia

A. No. And please don’t sing the second verse.


Q. Looks like we’re surrounded. What should we do now, my faithful Indian scouts?

A. What do you mean we, paleface?


Q. Aw, isn’t that cute? I wonder where the mama bear is?

Ecotourist, Assend-of-nowhere, Alaska

A. RIGHT BEHIND .... oh, ugh! Never mind.


Q. Will you come back to Oregon to live eventually?

Eliot Knight

A. Yes, the next time I feel a longing for the sweet scent of mildew.


Q. What are you working on now?

Eliot Knight

A. I am working on a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion ze110 with a mobile Duron 1.00 GigaHertz processor, 240 Megabytes of RAM, and a 20 Gigabyte hard drive. ... Oh, you mean what am I writing now? I’m writing answers to FAQs. When I’m done I’ll get back to work on the new novel.


Q. Do you ever think about writing a mainstream novel?

Eliot Knight

A. Yes, frequently.


Q. When can I expect a response to my question of what causes deja vu?

Eliot Knight

A. I have a strange feeling that you’ve asked me this question before.


Q. When I first read Millennium years and years ago, I thought it ended with Sherman not sending the ship into the future, but waiting several million years and then bringing them from the past. Every other time I've read it, the ending has Sherman sending them into the future and destroying the gate with catastrophic results. Was there two different endings or did I dream the first one?

Confused in Canada

A. To tell you the truth, I don't know. I'd have to re-read it to refresh my memory, which I'm unlikely to do. For one thing I don't have a copy, and for another, I'd rather give myself an enema with a roto-rooter than read it again. I spent ten years working through that story in about 100 different ways, trying to satisfy 6 directors and 7 producers and 2 actors, and would just as soon forget the whole damn thing. In fact, what the hell are you talking about? Millennium? What's that? Don't answer.