Tor.com content by

Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer

The Horse-Lovers’ Guide to Star Trek

The Star Trek franchise is a little horse-lite. For those of you new to the series, it’s a bunch of shows (and movies) that take place in space, a place where horses mostly don’t live. I have not yet seen a precise analysis of the challenges inherent in transporting horses into space, but I am unwilling to believe that those challenges are trivial. This explains why the most common reason for the appearance of a horse in an episode of Star Trek is that someone is having some kind of telepathically-induced hallucination. Star Trek characters like horses just fine—Chris Pike rode a little; Jim Kirk rode a little; Picard was passionate enough about it to travel the galaxy with his own saddle, in case he got the chance to ride and found a horse whose back and withers fit his tack. (I know some of you are dying to know—I asked Melinda Snodgrass, and she said it was a dressage saddle. She does not know the maker.) There’s a longstanding historic relationship between military command and horsemanship, and it’s nice to see that Starfleet has officers who maintain the tradition.

It won’t matter much in the end. In the Star Trek universe, real horses are doomed.

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Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Ethan of Athos, Chapters 9-10

Last week on Kline Station, Elli Quinn, Terrence Cee, and Ethan sat down to talk about Terrence’s problems, which are many. Terrence is on the run from the Cetagandans, who want to exploit his psychic powers for their intelligence operations. I assume that these operations are nefarious in nature, because, well, that’s an assumption I feel pretty comfortable making about government and corporate intelligence operations. Terrence confirms. Score one for my assumptions, which are thick on the ground in this week’s blog post.

This reread has an index, which you can consult at will, should you feel the urge. We’re covering books in reading order, so Ethan is the seventh book, rather than the third. Spoilers are welcome in the comments if they are relevant to the discussion at hand. Comments that question the value and dignity of individuals, or that deny anyone’s right to exist, are emphatically NOT welcome. Please take note.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Ethan of Athos, Chapters 6-8

In any given moment, in any given story, what we’re reading is about the past, the time the story was written, or the present. And likewise, at any given moment, we’re learning about the setting, the characters, the plot, or ourselves. There are some interesting learning moments in store for the Vorkosigan reread this week. For example, everyone on Kline Station really does eat a lot of newt. Elli wasn’t making that up.

This reread has an index, which you can consult at will, should you feel the urge. We’re covering books in reading order, so Ethan is the seventh book, rather than the third. Spoilers are welcome in the comments if they are relevant to the discussion at hand. Comments that question the worth and dignity of individuals, or that deny anyone’s right to exist, are emphatically NOT welcome. Please take note.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Ethan of Athos, Chapters 3-5

This week in the Vorkosigan reread, Ethan faces the wider world for the first time in his life. Ethan is the kind of introvert who finds it easier to form a partnership with Janos than to meet new people in clubs on his home planet. Kline Station is going to be a challenge.

For new readers and anyone who needs reminding, previous posts in the reread can be found in the index. To find everything Tor.com has ever published about Bujold’s works, including Jo Walton’s thoughts on Ethan of Athos, check out the the Lois McMaster Bujold tag. Historically, the comments thread has not been terribly spoiler-y but the current policy is that spoilers for the entire series are welcome where they are relevant to the discussion.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Ethan of Athos, Chapters 1-2

To go on a journey, you have to leave home. And if “you” are a fictional character, your journey will only have meaning if “you” have given your readers at least a hint of what “home” is for you.

The home Cordelia left behind in Shards of Honor was an expeditionary force ship whose crew voted on important mission priorities. The Barrayar Miles left in The Warrior’s Apprentice was the kind of home that cordially invites a person to fling themselves off of walls to their certain doom. Ethan is leaving Athos, so the beginning of his story is about what Athos is and how he fits into it. This offers an exciting opportunity for amateur anthropology.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Ethan of Athos

Here’s the thing about Ethan of Athos; I LOVE IT. It had been a long time since I read it, and I didn’t really remember anything about it in any particular way, so I picked it up last week after I finished writing about Cetaganda, and not too long after that I put it down again because I was done. My only regret about the time in between was that there wasn’t more of it. I do not, at this moment, feel equipped to authoritatively state that this is the most lovable book in the Vorkosigan Saga, but it is definitely a very strong contender.

And I know what you’re thinking right now, blog readers—you’re thinking I like it because Elli Quinn shoots stuff. You’re not wrong. She does shoot stuff. She shoots stuff with stunners, and puts trackers on people, and gets people drunk and she’s fearless and I love her. But I do not love this book for her alone, because Ethan is no slouch either, in the fearlessness department. He’s not what I would call traditionally fearless—he has some fear. But he powers through in the service of things that are more important, even when it gets him smacked around. They’re a good pair. And Terrence doesn’t drag them down—he’s brave and self-sufficient despite being all alone in the universe. Plus also good-looking.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cetaganda, Chapters 13-16

This week in the Vorkosigan reread, we reach the dramatic climax of Cetaganda. Ivan gets kidnapped, Rian gets the key, Benin gets a promotion, Miles gets a medal, and then we all go home.

Surprising no one, the man behind the curtain of this entire plan was… Ilsum Kety. Just like Yenaro said. Bujold didn’t even try to distract us with a red herring. For his valuable contribution to smoking out the traitors (ie, for knowing a guy’s name) Yenaro gets a job as, like, fifth under-assistant to the 17th imperial perfumer. It’s a low-ranking job, but it’s a real one. My congratulations to Yenaro for turning a situation in which he was nearly killed by an exploding carpet into an opportunity for meaningful and remunerative employment in the arts. As Miles will point out when he delivers his own account of himself to the Emperor Giaja, the best strategies achieve their goals regardless of your survival. Yenaro has suffered a great deal, but in the long game of his own life, this is a remarkable success. Miles owes that maxim about strategy to Captain Cavillo, late of Randall’s Rangers. I am glad to see that she is still in Miles’s thoughts, though grateful that her perfume is no longer afflicting his sinuses.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cetaganda, Chapters 11-12

When Miles and Ivan return from the science fair (sans unicorn), Vorreedi invites Miles for a friendly chat in his office. What do we learn about Vorreedi? He collects Cetagandan art. What do we learn about Miles? His chain of command is very short, and he can use it to argue BOTH that his post is a sinecure provided by his high-ranking connections, AND that he is the very most special of special agents. Miles is everything. He is Lord Peter Wimsey. He is Bertie Wooster. He is Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings. He is both Phineas and Ferb.

What is he going to do today?

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cetaganda, Chapter 10

In chapter 10 of Cetaganda, Miles and Ivan go to the Ghem ladies’ science fair. The Haut ladies have their own separate affair, privately in the Celestial Garden, and all of their projects are humans. Cetaganda is a really creepy place in this chapter. The plot details: Protocol Officer Voreedi accompanies Miles and Ivan; Yenaro tries to kill them with a carpet and an Orange Julius—he fails; Miles fails to meet up with Rian (almost being killed by Yenaro slowed him up). DOWN TO BUSINESS.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cetaganda, Chapters 4-9

As I leave behind chapters 2-3, it has become screamingly obvious that Cetaganda is all about invitations. Getting invitations, accepting invitations, sending invitations, being entertaining, being entertained. The Cetagandan social whirl is astounding.

I am not of the opinion that this novel benefits from further in-depth analysis. There are plenty of opportunities here to examine the broader significance of a variety of aspects of Cetagandan culture, society and politics but since the Cetagandans are mostly in the background of the rest of the series it is difficult to test any conclusions that one might draw in this way. I’m wanting to get back to the action. In my opinion, the action reappears in chapter ten. The easiest way to summarize the intervening section is through the invitations.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Klingons Drug Everyone: David Dvorkin’s Timetrap

I found David Dvorkin’s Timetrap, first published in 1988, in the bottom of a moving box last week. Its cover features a particularly young and dewy-looking Kirk standing next to a woman with an incredibly impressive eyebrow in front of a fleet of Klingon Birds of Prey. The story is a subtle blend of problems: it deals with what is true and what seems to be true, with how we see the dangers around us, with the relationship between the Klingons and the Federation, and with the way the world changes over time. And my sister describes the plot as “completely bananapants.”

The basic premise of Timetrap is that Kirk is kidnapped by Klingons who try to convince him that he has travelled in time to 100 years in the future, and must return to his present with them to play a crucial role in brokering the Great Peace which will bring the Klingons and the Federation together. This, they helpfully remind him, will be the beginning of the alliance the Organians predicted back in “Errand of Mercy.” Kirk and Kor were both skeptical about it then, because they hated each other’s guts and were dedicated to depriving each other of control of Organia. As that episode reminds us, things are not always as they seem. The Klingons would like to remind Kirk of this, because their master plan—which is world-spanningly epic—is contingent upon things seeming to be other than they are. The Empire has invested a great deal of time in cultivating illusions—for example, the illusion of time travel. They didn’t go anywhen. How did they convince Kirk they did? Drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.

[Kai the Klingon Pharmaceutical Industry!]

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cetaganda, Chapters 2-3 (Redux)

Chapters 2 and 3 of Cetaganda posed a reading dilemma—are they best read as intergalactic space opera mystery adventure, or is it fair to scrutinize them as though they were the reading material for an advanced seminar in intergalactic race, class, and gender issues? I don’t think these readings are mutually exclusive, but on this occasion, they didn’t fit into a single blog post either. So here we are at Cetaganda, chapters 2-3, the encore presentation!

Later in his life, Miles Vorkosigan will periodically point out that fish don’t notice the water. His comments on this aquatic situation are usually intended to point out something about heightened levels of security and/or political power, but they are equally true of race, class, and gender issues, which are often invisible to those whose position in these hierarchies is relatively privileged. Miles, for example, is a Vor male. While his fragile bones deprive him of some of the status associated with his class and gender, Miles is unquestionably a member of the Barrayaran elite, and consequently has access to economic resources, medical care, political advocacy, and opportunities for meaningful work that are not widely available to most of the Barrayaran population.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cetaganda, Chapters 2-3

Last week, Ivan got in a fight, and Miles picked up some dropped artifacts. This was all very exciting, and very foreign to my personal experience as a person who has never been in either space or a fight. This week, Miles is going to engage in an activity with which I am much more familiar—he’s going to a party and looking at art. There will also be an elaborate funereal ceremony for the Cetagandan Dowager Empress, which I suppose might not be considered a party in the traditional sense. I am counting it as one because it involves both a large group of people and lunch.

The Vorkosigan series has more parties than it does space battles, and Bujold uses them really well. Miles exposes a lot of his personal insecurities about his life, his future, and comparisons between himself and his cousin at the first one. He starts unpacking Cetagandan politics and culture at the second.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cetaganda, Chapter 1

Last week, I made the briefest and most casual possible passing mention of the plot of Cetaganda, which involves Miles and Ivan attending a state funeral on Cetaganda. Like tiny little Barrayaran Vice Presidents. (In space!)

This week, I’m actually getting into the plot of the book, which is part mystery, part extended encounter between Miles and that portion of his brain that functions like the protagonist in Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

The Pigeon wants his captain’s tabs really, really badly.

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga

Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga: Cetaganda

This week, the re-read heads to Cetaganda, in Cetaganda! The exclamation point in this case is my addition, and not part of the title like in Oklahoma! This book was first published in 1996, appearing on the shelves between Mirror Dance and Memory, but it’s the sixth book in current reading order. At the beginning of the story, Miles and his cousin Ivan are dispatched to represent the Barrayaran Empire at the funeral of the Cetagandan Emperor’s mother. In some senses, the boys are on their Grand Tour, putting the final touches on a galactic education and getting some practice in doing the things the High Vor do. It’s also a neat little mystery—sort of “Sherlock Vorkosigan.”

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Series: Rereading the Vorkosigan Saga