The Ophiuchi Hotline Characters
by John Varley

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The Ophiuchi Hotline Characters

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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The search for self is an important task for the characters of The Ophiuchi Hotline. Some define themselves by their goals. For instance. Boss Tweed has made himself sexually neuter so that he may pursue his goal of liberating Earth without the distractions of sexual desire and romantic love. Others, such as Lilo, seem destined to search endlessly for a sense of identity. Lilo has chosen to be physically a woman because she feels more comfortable as a female than as a male. However, her relationships with other characters are unsatisfying; heterosexual and lesbian sex are momentary pleasures at best, with no lasting emotional satisfaction.

Lilo's search for her own identity is further complicated by Tweed's frequent cloning of her. The original Lilo, as well as Lilo 1 and Lilo 2, dies early in the novel. Eventually Lilo's clones go on different adventures, each sharing a degree of consciousness with the others. The goal of creating humanity's future gives her a sense of direction, but for readers her role as an allegorical figure gives her character the most substance. One Lilo literally lives for ten years in the far future, while another discovers the means for humanity to escape annihilation, and another delays the attack of the Free Earthers on the Invaders that would trigger remorseless retribution. In her many forms, Lilo represents the future. Her open-mindedness, her flexibility, and her curiosity — an intense desire to know the mysteries of The Ophiuchi Hotline — are the traits humanity will need in order to survive.