The Ophiuchi Hotline Ideas for Group Discussions
by John Varley

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Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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The Ophiuchi Hotline is an exciting read, filled as it is with multiple adventures and imaginative depictions of people and places. Its social ideas are particularly inviting to discussion. Will physicians become merely lowly technicians when medicine becomes more advanced? Will genes be used to define who we are as human beings? Are there aspects of the universe that humanity will never be able to defy? Are there limits to what we as a group can achieve? A good novel of ideas should spark many interesting questions and inspire many imaginative answers. If you are part of a book club that discusses science fiction and you need a good novel for inspiring debate and imaginative ideas about the future. The Ophiuchi Hotline would fulfill your needs admirably.

1. Often in science fiction, human beings are confronted by hostile forces far greater than themselves. Their stories tend to focus on how they battle these hostile forces. Yet in The Ophiuchi Hotline, the hostile forces are beyond the ability of human beings to harm or even interfere with much. How does the inability of humanity to fight its enemy affect the narrative? How does affect your expectations for the novel? Does it make the novel too dark and unhappy? Is humanity's helplessness disturbing?

2. Is it credible that a culture that relies heavily on medical miracles would be hostile to genetic engineering?

3. Would the ability to change gender easily affect a culture the way it does in The Ophiuchi Hotline!

4. In the future depicted in The Ophiuchi Hotline, what of our present-day morals and mores would have to be discarded? What would take their place?

5. How do the multiple Lilos affect the flow of the novel's narrative? Is their interplay interesting? Which is the real Lilo?

6. Is the novel's plotting a throwback to the science fiction of the 1940s and 1950s? Would this be bad?

7. How complete is Varley's depiction of the imaginary future of The Ophiuchi Hotline? Is it complete enough that you could create your own characters and have them have adventures in The Ophiuchi Hotline's universe?

8. Will the humanity of The Ophiuchi Hotline genetically engineer itself so that it can survive and perhaps expand into the universe beyond the Solar System?

9. Why is sexual intercourse treated as emotionally unsatisfying or even a hindrance?

10. Why would those who seek to fight the Invaders be bad guys? Is fighting against oppression not good?