(Please note this review is for the novella Blue Champagne, not the 1986 collection.)
John Varley’s most endearing quality as a writer is perhaps his humanism. The author’s stories always keeping an eye to the manner in which various elements, most often technological or biological enhancements, affect people and society, his 1981 Blue Champagne is a great example. The novella examines disabilities, sexuality, celebrity- and voyeurism, and the manner in which technical advances could affect them all.
Blue Champagne is set in a giant swimming pool in space. A low-g aquapark for the rich, amongst its inhabitants are a Baywatch-esque crew of lifeguards preying on the famous and beautiful who vacation there. Drugs and tech galore in the playground of luxury, another favorite activity is the video taping of life—many of the pool’s visitor’s in fact reality tv stars. One of the main characters is QM. A golden boy in the pool, he is a lifeguard constantly on the lookout for fast love. And he finds it in Megan Galloway, a paraplegic with a sidekick. The sidekick one of the important parts of the story, it is essentially a torso wrap which stimulates the body electrically. Bach still lacking feeling below the waist, she is nevertheless perfectly mobile. Also caught up in video taping and analyzing life with a computer, she and QM traverse the paths of love—her computer perhaps capable of capturing that exact magical moment it first blossoms.
Varley writing counter-culture stories long after the 60s and 70s, Blue Champagne is hippie science fiction written in the 80s. Free love, the elimination of taboos surrounding sex, fun drugs (Wacky Dust!), and a variety of other liberal behavior permeate the book. Galloway in many ways educating QM to the ways of liberalism, whose character develops in turn, Varley wears his generation on his sleeve as he presents a possible future scenario with poignancy.