I read this at least 20 years ago, maybe more. It may be a short novel, in a book by itself, or a rather long novella in a collection, I can't remember. It was a pretty intricate story, involving various themes that interacted with each other. But I can't put them in any chronological order in the story, so I'll just put them down as I remember them

  • travel to the Moon was commonplace
  • one character used a ship called Heinlein, or Robert Heinlein, or Robert A. Heinlein
  • there was still no air on the Moon, but pressure suits were getting extremely light and almost invisible
  • maybe as pressure suit, or maybe only when there is air, some people wore clothes that made them partly invisible. It sounded like "nullflesh" or "nullskin", or "null something"
  • sex change operations were commonplace, some people would change many times in their lifetime
  • even more common were body-modification operations without sex changes
  • I remember one line, about a character who was male at the beginning and always had only rather modest body-modifications, but had become female (or had decided to do so soon) and told some friend on the phone that the new body was (or will be) very different from the previous one because, once female, the phrase "whore of a different color" will apply ("whore" was not a misprint, but a deliberate pun on "horse").

2 Answers 2


Organic Marble has the right author and correct universe, but I don't think that's the right story. I think the story in question is Steel Beach (1992). I believe it is the first book of the 8 worlds series that introduces the (abandoned) starship Robert A. Heinlein, which is on the Moon:

It was also the best time of day to see it; the Lunar Day, I mean. The sun was very close to the horizon, the shadows were almost infinitely long. Which helped, because half our vista was of the biggest garbage dump on the planet. There's a funny thing about shadows like that. If you've never seen snow, go to Pennsylvania the next time they've scheduled it and watch how snow can transform the most mundane-even ugly-scene into a magical landscape. Sunlight on the surface is like that. It's hard and bright as diamond, it blasts everything it touches and yet it does no damage; nothing moves, the billion facets of dark and light make every ordinary object into a hard-edged jewel.

We didn't look west; the light was too dazzling. To the south we saw the rolling land falling away to our right, the endless heaps of garbage to the left. East was looking right out over Delambre, and north was the hulk of the Robert A. Heinlein, almost a mile of derelict might-have-been starship.

The protagonist, Hildy, tries out one of the new fieldsuits:

Feeling not unlike the hood ornament on a luxury rover-and showing a lot more chrome-plated belly than either Mr. Rolls or Mr. Royce would have approved of-I stepped boldly forth into the sunlight, almost as naked as the day I was born. Boldly, if you don't dwell on the thirty minutes I spent getting up my nerve to do it in the first place. Naked, if you don't count the mysterious force field that kept me wrapped in a warming blanket of air at least five millimeters thick.

The quote you recall comes up in a conversation between Hildy and Robbie (an old friend/drinking buddy who runs a body mod parlor):

"Why would you assume that? Would I come here if I wanted something I could get in any local barber shop? I want Body By Bobbie."

"But I thought . . ."

"That was female to male. The reverse is a whore of a different color."

Some of these elements crop up again in the sequel The Golden Globe but the story is much different and Luna and the Robert A. Heinlein only show up towards the end.

  • You're right! I forgot about those late additions. Great answer! Nov 11, 2019 at 1:36

Nullsuits and sex changes, along with your dates, mean John Varley's Eight Worlds books. The novel is The Ophiuchi Hotline. The classic collection is The Persistence of Vision.

Heinlein as a ship name sounds right - Varley reveres Heinlein - but I'm away from home and can't leaf through the books.

  • 1
    Clearly the correct series. But DavidW is right, the book is Steel Beach.
    – Alfred
    Nov 11, 2019 at 4:59
  • 1
    Is it Ophiuchi that has the line, “On Pluto, breasts were in: everyone seemed to have at least two”? Nov 11, 2019 at 17:06

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