Spider Robinson reads Varley's "The Persistence of Vision"


Spider Robinson's latest podcast installment is a reading of John Varley's towering and brilliant 1979 novella, "The Persistence of Vision," winner of both the Hugo and Nebula Awards. I'm a gigantic John Varley fan (especially of his short fiction) and this story may be the best of the lot.

"The Persistence of Vision," is the story of a drifter crossing America during a terrible depression who happens upon a Taos commune run by and for a community of blind-deaf people, the adult cohort of a decades-gone German measles epidemic. In the commune ("Keller"), the narrator discovers important, unsuspected truths about independence and interdependence, communication and community, and the power of hope and perseverance.

This story pulls off one of science fiction's best tricks: exploring the fundamental question of whether disasters demand that you bug out, heading for the hills to wait out the disaster, or bug in, grabbing your go-bag and heading for your neighbors' to see how you can help.

This is a timely reading -- and not just because the economy is in free-fall. Technology is rupture -- each new wave of technological change displaces and remakes us. Today's technocratic winners are tomorrow's superannuated losers. The future of human history will be about how we answer the bug in/bug out question.

Every time I read this story, it fills me with sorrow and hope and makes me mist over, and Robinson's reading is no exception. If you only listen to one piece of audio this week, make it Spider's reading of "The Persistence of Vision."

MP3 link to "Persistence of Vision,

Spider on the Web podcast feed,

Spider on the Web homepage

The John Varley Reader: 30 Years of Short Fiction