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Help John Varley survive his Quadruple Bypass

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In March 2021, John (Herb) Varley (author of the Gaia Trilogy: Titan, Wizard and Demon) was rushed into the ER for an emergency quadruple bypass.

John and his long time partner Lee are facing major financial issues due to this unprecedented calamity.  Herb won’t be able to get back to writing for at least six months. I’ve been asked to co-ordinate this fundraising effort to help.

The funds from this campaign will help cover costs of rehab, rent and bills which were barely being covered by social security and a trickle of royalties.

If you would like to contribute in other ways, please reach out to us through this campaign and we can work out what and how you can help.

Right now we just want to make sure John and Lee have what they need to survive for the next six months of recuperation. 

Besides, it’s the only way you may get more John Varley stories, so it’s a win-win.

You don’t have to take my word for it…..

Addictive Herb
by Spider Robinson

The only downside of book reviewing is that there is no upside.

This came as a rude surprise to me almost fifty years ago, but it was nearly always true.  If I gave writer A a good review, usually that just meant I could read; if I found anything at all to criticize in writer B's newest, obviously I wanted B and his family to starve.  I made few friends and a lot of enemies.  Some of whom became editors.  Oops.

But once—once—I got a letter from one of my victims, let's call him Writer C as if you don't know where I'm going, that read (paraphrasing from half-century-old memory), "Your review of my debut novel said kind things.  But you also made a few critical observations."  Here we go, I thought, and braced myself.  "When I handed that sucker in," C went on, "I had the feeling something wasn't quite right, but I couldn't figure out what.  I just wanted you to know you put your finger right on it, and from now on I'll be writing better books."

The signature underneath read Herb Varley.

I went and found my partner, waved the letter at her, and said, "I think I just met my new best friend."  Jeanne, an ordained Zen monk with people-radar much better than mine, took it from my hand, read it through, finished with a big smile, and said, "Ask him if he'll be at Worldcon too this year."

That's why I'm here.  Over the course of seventy-mumble years, there have been, oh, about a dozen or so people I thought of as best friends, roughly half male and half female.  But these days I'm down to a couple of each.  The rest died on me, one by one, and I'm still a little cheesed about it.  My father made it to his mid-90s, so there seems a fair chance I've got as much as another quarter-century to get through, maybe even more, and with every passing year people my age or close to it get thinner on the ground.  So do writers I find as unfailingly mind-expanding, as endlessly surprising, as deep-down hopelessly in love with their infuriating species, as relentlessly honest as infantile editors will let them be, as John Herbert Varley.

I may as well face it: he's the only Herb I've ever become addicted to.  There may be other writers working who can consistently make me believe in characters for whom their gender is only a fashion choice of no particular interest to anyone else; who can help me plausibly imagine what it would be like to be close to immortal; who is absolutely certain that even if unstoppable forces ever kicked humanity entirely off its home planet it would still flourish, prosper, and even flower.  But if there are others, there damn sure aren't enough.  

How do Herb's characters succeed in the face of maximum trauma—as many of us are trying to do right now?  By using their brains.  They persisted because the ones too despairing to try to survive or too dumb to learn how mostly died.  So being smart became a lot more rewarding, and rewarded.  That's my idea of escape fiction.  A universe in which intelligence is universally valued, rather than feared so much it must be mocked.  A humanity with very little left to be constantly afraid of, a society the majority of which finds the onrushing future more thrilling than threatening, a culture that gets to the rings of Saturn and thinks, this is a stupendous work of art just waiting to be completed, for the nearest stars to see and wonder at.

That's the imaginary future I want to spend the next quarter century or so hoping for, visualizing, dreaming of, voting for.  Who knows?  Maybe, if enough voters can be led to believe in it, we could get there one day without having it necessarily cost us this whole lovely planet on the way.  

I need Herb Varley around to keep up my morale.  We all do.  Without hope, even intelligence is helpless. Please help me help him help us.  Thank you.

—Spider Robinson ( , @robinson_spider)

Here’s also what’s going on in Herb’s own words:

“Things started going downhill when Random House merged with Penguin Putnam and my long-time editor was replaced by an intern with an agenda. I had until April 30, 2017 to finish /Irontown Blues/. One month! If I didn’t, Penguin Random House would not publish the book and I’d have to pay back the advance. This was an advance HALF of what I got for the previous book, and cut up into three installments, one of which was still pending.

After busting my butt to meet that deadline, literally working eight hours a day during all of April and coming damn close to collapse from exhaustion and/or a nervous breakdown … Surprise! Instead of publishing it September 2017, which was the reason I was given for the ironclad deadline, they were putting it off until September 2018! We had to survive for 16 months on the rather small second installment of the advance. We made it thanks to a generous gift from Spider, and credit cards.

After all that, very few copies were printed. There were /no/ hardcover or mass market editions. They basically abandoned it. PRH clearly had no interest in publishing it.

Now this heart attack and surgery came out of nowhere and blindsided us. I’m hoping that I get my writing mojo back once I have recuperated, but that will take a while. So there’s our sad story.

Herb and Lee ( )”

Please help any way you can

Spider, John and Lee
(And Stephan)

(l. to r. John, Spider, Lee)


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Steph Herman

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