Tue
Apr 7 2009 5:08pm

One birth, one death, and all the acts of pain and will between: Lois Mcmaster Bujold’s Barrayar

Barrayar is where the Vorkosigan books stopped being really good and lots of fun and became brilliant.

I started this thinking about series that improved. What has improved by this point is everything: the writing, the plotting, the depth of background, the significance of the issues, the characterisation—and remember that Shards of Honor was already well ahead of expectations on most of these things.

Barrayar is a direct sequel to Shards of Honor. It should be a story with no tension, because we already know what happens, if we have read anything about Miles at all. “I was a casualty in Vordarian’s Pretendership before I was born!” he thinks in The Vor Game. This is that story. But despite knowing what’s going to happen—Vordarian will start a civil war, Cordelia’s unborn baby will be harmed by a gas attack, the baby will survive with teratogenic damage—it’s an incredibly tense book, especially near the end.

It’s very interesting to read a fast-paced science fiction novel about motherhood. There are fewer of them than you might think. Indeed, considering how much death there is in SF, there’s not as much birth as you might expect. When there is birth it’s usually high-tech and detached, and even then it’s usually written by women. Here we have pregnancy and birth up close and surprisingly exciting. It is important—giving birth, giving life, does matter. If Ethan of Athos is making the point that reproduction isn’t just for girls, Barrayar is really making future birth central and significant.

Someone mentioned that Bujold overshot the end of Shards, and that makes sense. It would be interesting to know how far that went. However it was, she must have rewritten that overshot. Shards has a lot of unexpected political and emotional honesty, but it’s a first novel and it’s written relatively clunkily. Delany talks in The Motion of Light in Water about the expected rhythm of prose and how you can go with that and use cliches and go along with the expected flow of language, or how you can push back and vary it and do things against the expected beat to make it syncopate or harmonize. On a prose level, Shards slides along with the expected thing every time. The language is in charge. By Barrayar, Bujold was entirely on top of language and pushing it for all it would do stylistically. There’s a scene early on where Cordelia’s at a party and she thinks that on Beta there would have been cameras and everything would have been done for the camera angles, but on Barrayar

The only recordings were made by ImpSec, for their own purposes, which did not include choreography. The people in this room danced only for each other, all their glittering show tossed blithely away in time, which carried it off forever; the event would exist tomorrow only in their memories.

The insight’s the important thing and she could have had the insight in Shards, but here the mature Bujold is dancing with the language as well as the ideas.

From a series point of view, she was going back and filling in some more. She wrote Brothers in Arms and left the Mark plot dangling there for years while she did the necessary set up for Mirror Dance. This is the opposite of the standard series thing where the first book has all the ideas and the other books try to repeat or extend them. Far from writing something just like the last thing, or something more about mercenary adventures, she went right back to the beginning and wrote this slow-starting firecracker book about motherhood. And it won a very well-deserved Hugo. Oh, and it contains the awesome “Shopping” scene, which isn’t in context funny at all, to me, because Cordelia is right on the edge there, she isn’t putting up with any more from Barrayar at that point, she’s almost as mad as Bothari. It’s a great scene though.

This is the book where Piotr gets the character development he deserves. Miles and Ivan are both born. (Ivan’s birth is one of the most nail-biting moments in the book.) We see Gregor as a small child. Alys Vorpatril, who has been mentioned but barely developed, gets a lot of development, setting her up for the position she holds in the rest of the series. One of the very clever things Bujold manages is making people seem as if they’ve been there all along. Alys has been mentioned briefly as Ivan’s mother, when we find out about the rest of her job it just seems as if it wasn’t mentioned because it wasn’t important, never as if it’s being shoehorned in. The same goes for the Koudelka daughters, who drift in to the series in Mirror Dance, as a direct consequence, I’m sure, of Drou and Kou’s romance here which probably had no existence before Barrayar. But they don’t feel tacked on. Bujold has a genius for making things flow, for expanding her sketches into bas-relief and then three dimensionality without any visible jerks. (I have to go back and change things to get this to work. I could never make it work over multiple volumes in cold print.)

Barrayar is about Betan Cordelia being swallowed by Barrayar. It’s also about Barrayar adapting to her, by giving her spaces it doesn’t believe are important, like the education of the emperor up to the age of twelve, like the marriage of a grocer’s son and a corporal’s son in the Imperial Residence, like the importation of uterine replicators and technology to choose the gender of your children.

My son has a joke about the three standard plots being “Man versus Man,” “Man versus Plan,” and “Man versus Canal.” Most of the Miles books could perfectly sensibly be categorised as Man versus Plan. Barrayar has a certain amount of that, but it’s also Man versus Canal—the way technology changes things. There’s more technological change and sociological change and the effect technology has on society, and economics, and the effect economics has over time, in these books than in anything else I can think of—and it passes almost invisibly, perhaps because so much of it is classifiable as “girl stuff.”

I gave Barrayar to a friend who had read The Handmaid’s Tale and wanted to know more about this SF stuff, and she loved it, after initially having terrible problems with the cover. This isn’t a “guilty pleasure” type read, this is as good as it gets, speculation and consequences and action and significant human issues. However it looks like it, we can put this with Le Guin and Delany and Vinge, this is a book that should make us proud of our genre.

46 comments
Ursula L
1. Ursula
You're forgetting the third pregnancy in the book - Drou's feared pregnancy after her unplanned evening with Kou. That's as important as the other two, I think, because it helps develop the theme of the power that pregnancy has in human life. Without this pregnancy, the message would only be about the power of wanting a child, as both Cordelia and Alys do. But an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy is also a powerful thing, and not something powerfully good or powerfully wanted.

Drou faces the potential for something powerfully destructive in her life, an unplanned pregnancy in a patriarchal society that fetishizes virginity, uncertain of the commitment of the father.

This pregnancy is what lifts the exploration of parenthood above the level found in Ethan of Athos, to being an exploration of the effects of reproduction and reproductive technology on women, rather than the effects of technology, or the lack of technology, on reproduction.

It isn't about how technology changes how you get a baby, it's about how techology changes your life. Cordilia's "little blue dots" are as transformative as the replicator, as they allowed Drou to be sure of the pregnancy much earlier than she could have otherwise, and imply the possiblity of ending the unwanted pregnacy very early, before anyone could know of it, and without the danger of the men around her knowing what had happened.

(Oh, and in the 3d paragraph from the end, the essay should read "grocer’s son and a corporal’s daughter.")
Literatewench
2. Literatewench
As much as I love these books, I've never managed to read them in publication order. The entire story is too compelling as a whole, and every time I get caught up by the beginning.
Chris Meadows
3. Robotech_Master
A couple of months have been claimed. Here are the ones that are left.

Baen has a deal where when you buy a Webscription month, you can send a duplicate of that month to someone who is not yet a Webscriptions purchaser (or past free-gift receiver). So I figure if anyone reading these reviews is interested and eligible, I'll offer them the chance.

Email me which one you want, at the userid robotech and the domain eyrie dot org. Let me know if you'd be OK with some other one if your first choice is already spoken for.

Leaving aside the various other books in them, these are the Miles books in those Webscription months. First come, first serve.

Update: All the months have been claimed now. Thanks!
Literatewench
4. Brad J.
The author's afterword in Cordelia's Honor tells how far she'd gotten in writing Barrayar before she decided she was well into the second book and cut back:

"The last scene I wrote back in '83 before making the decision to go back and cut it short was Cordelia's conversation with Dr. Vaagen; the introduction of Droushnakovi, Koudelka's swordstick and depression, Cordelia's first encounters with Barrayaran culture, with Padma and Alys, with the Vorhalas clan, and the soltoxin attack were already written then. I did not yet have the ideas for the war of Vordarian's Pretendership; the action-plot upon which all this good stuff then hung was much weaker, making the decision to stop easier, if still a little heartbreaking."
Literatewench
5. Tony Zbaraschuk
And let's not forget Bothari, who lays bare his soul to Cordelia and receives in return grace beyond imagination. "You look at him and see a hero, and so he makes himself one for you."
Literatewench
6. Electric Landlady
This is the first of Bujold's books that I ever read, and I loved it immediately and went back and read all the others that existed at the time (not many).

I'm not sure I completely appreciated it to its fullest until I reread it while recovering from abdominal surgery. Especially the horseback scenes. Ow.
Ursula L
7. Ursula
Another point - when it comes to reproductive technology, this is the first book where there is a serious discussion of the contraceptive implant, first introduced to shock Elena in TWA. The implant goes on to have as profound an effect on Barrayan culture as the uterine replicator. The replicator would be meaningless without it, as without the ability to prevent natural conception, the need for an alternative becomes moot.

Which is really a key point about reproductive technology in the Vorkosigan series. It's not all about the babies. It's all about adult women, and taking control over having the baby they want, when they want it, without the biological burden, through the doubled tools of the contraceptive implant and uterine replicator.

This strikes me as something of an anomaly in literature, SF or otherwise. Mostly, the needs and wants of women seem to be invisible in discussions of reproduction and reproductive technology, expect as mothers and people who want babies. In Ethan of Athos, women become visible by their absence, as the things that women do become valued and accounted for, because women can't do them. By introducing the contraceptive implant and replicator, Cordelia brings some, but not all, of the social accounting of Athos to Barrayar. Yet I'm curious to see if the latter half of Athos's social accounting could happen without the physical removal of women from the world. Cordelia's vision doesn't go that far, yet I'm left wondering if Elli, with her exposure to Athos's culture, might have wanted to instigate such a change, had she settled on Barrayar?
Literatewench
8. Lois Bujold
Ursula at 1 --

And the other pregnancy in the array, of course, is Bothari and Elena's uterine replicator, although that extends back into _Shards_. (I have trouble remembering which book is which, at the splice.) And we can't forget Piotr in his role as father, nor Princess Kareen in her role as mother, either.

bluejo at the essay --

Um, if it's anywhere in the first 8 chapters, it was written back in 1983. (Although it was all re-typed and edited in the new go.) Except for Chapter One, which I wrote new to re-start the thing. When I was finishing up _Shards_, iirc, and flailing around for an end point, one of the things I did was drop Drou, who'd actually been introduced a bit earlier in that draft. She survived the shift pretty well, after all.

For some years, those few chapters existed only as a single carbon copy, booted up to my attic. One misplaced burst of housecleaning frenzy, and they might have been gone...

Though I felt, then and now, that _Barrayar_ was the first really *thematically* coherent novel I'd done. Except I'm not sure even now if I could state the theme in a suitable topic sentence. "The cost of parenthood", perhaps. Which is the same as the cost of destiny, as summed by Miles somewhere, come to think.

I still remember the very nonplussed look on Jim Baen's face, over dinner at PhilCon in 1989 (?) when we were figuring out that 3-book contract, to be offered a direct sequel to my then-least-selling book...

Man, it's not only been a long time since I wrote these books, it's been a long time since I re-read them myself. They say that over 20 years, even your bones replace themselves. I believe it.

Ta, L. (The Anne and Paul to whom the book is dedicated are my kids, btw.)
Literatewench
9. C. C. Finlay
Jo, thanks for writing this essay. I was in graduate school in the early 90s, studying early American history, and I had gotten away from reading much fiction at all, and from reading any genre fiction.

One of the undergraduate students working in the college office where I was an admin assistant gave me BARRAYAR and told me I had to read it. And that, as they say, changed everything. It blew my mind--an amazing adventure story, with great characters and great lines, hitting all the right beats, and at the same time, filled with interesting and thematically complex speculation. This was right around the time my first son was born, so the parenting issues hit home to me too. I think I read my way through all of Bujold's then-published books in about a week. (When I mentioned that to her at a signing some time later, she got the dejected look of the writer who can't keep up with her readers and said, "I hear that a lot.")

Over the next couple years, I dived back into reading genre books, dropped out of graduate school, and started writing fiction seriously. It's probably been five years since I last picked up BARRAYAR and reread it, but it's nice to be reminded that I'm not the only person it affected that way. One of the fun reads that is also an important book.
Literatewench
10. Serendipity
It's interesting seeing these reviews because I'd first read the books in chronological order, and after they had already come out. So I've never realized some of the things you're pointing out, like that this was written before Warrior's Apprentice or Brothers in Arms, and the implications.

Also, re: covers, I picked up Warrior's Apprentice and put it back down at least ten time at the high school library just because the title sounded interesting but the cover portrayed what looked to me like a short, evil overlord on his chair while a shirtless hero and scantily-clad heroine clasped each other dramatically in the distance. All this on a ship. It didn't look in the least bit appealing, and I wouldn't have read it at all if my friend hadn't recommended the author. Then I fell in love, of course.
- -
11. heresiarch
I've been startled by your comments about the improvement in Bujold's writing over time, and I think that must be one of the big differences between reading them in publication order and internal chronological order. Getting Barrayar so early on makes it hard to be surprised at the quality of the later books--but of course they're excellent.
Bruce Cohen
12. SpeakerToManagers
I'm not sure what it says about me, but my favorite books of the series are Barrayar (which I've now read 4 times) and Cetaganda (with maybe a tie in second place for A Civil Campaign, but that's just 'cause I'm a sucker for a good courtship story).

Lois Bujold said,
Except I'm not sure even now if I could state the theme in a suitable topic sentence. "The cost of parenthood", perhaps.

Barrayar seems to me to be an illustration of the adage that our children are hostages to fortune, and of the lengths that we are driven to go to ransom them.
Ursula L
13. Ursula
Lois Bujold said:

I have trouble remembering which book is which, at the splice.

Elana was born at the end of Shards. (Yes, I've read these enough to know that off the top of my head. This series is the books I grab when I'm not feeling well, and need something very good to disappear into until the world is a better place. I may actually have to replace my copies soon, due to wear...)

But that pregnancy does cast a long shadow into Barrayar, through Bothari's arc, and the fact that he's had a child dropped into his care when he's had his mind wiped of the memory of her conception.

I've always wondered about the reasoning behind the Escobarrans sending the replicators to Barrayar. When they're delivered, someone mentions that "some of the women were torn about abortions" - hence the replicators. But it also seems that a decision was made for the group, and they were all put in replicators. Yet saying some of the women were torn about abortion implies that some of the women weren't torn, but in fact were quite certain that they wanted either to have an abortion, give up the child, or keep the child themself.

I also expect that even the who women might want to give up the child to a replicator and adoption would not want to give the child to the man who just raped them, to be raised on the planet which just attacked their homeland.

The replicators get Elena to Bothari, but they seem wrong, emotionally, for women who were given a free choice. Right, perhaps, for an authoritarian government - I could see Ezra thinking this was a clever way to solve the problem.

Which leaves me wondering about the politics of Escobar. The mass export of the replicators suggests an authoritarian government, yet a generation later, Miles and the people around him see Escobar as an attractive, liberal place to live, where they could be citizen rather than subject. Which makes one wonder what happened in between.
Jo Walton
14. bluejo
Ursula: I assumed that "some" was the seventeen whose replicators were there, that those who'd wanted to abort or keep the babies had gone ahead and done that. There's nothing to say there were only seventeen pregnancies.

I wonder if we'll ever meet anyone from the other sixteen.

Lois: I'm so glad you rescued those pages and wrote this book.
Literatewench
15. Shana R.
This was my first contact with Bujold, the Analog serialization. I read the first parts of the serial, then had to wait for the end of it.

Then I read the rest in the order I could find the books -- with Shards of Honor the last one I found.

Since then, she's been on my 'buy immediately in whatever format is first available' list.
Chris Meadows
16. Robotech_Master
My first contact with Bujold was The Warrior's Apprentice. It was recommended me by AlexLit along with a number of other really good books. Then I read the others when and as I could get ahold of them. I ended up not having read Shards of Honor, Barrayar, or Mirror Dance yet. (Or one of the stories from Borders of Infinity, having read the titular novella in Freelancers and "The Mountains of Mourning" on the Baen Free Library.)

I just splurged on all six Webscription months with Miles books in them, so I'll be fixing that. (In fact, just read the Cordelia books last night.) I'll probably just read them in chronological order, though—or at least anthological order.

I wasn't really paying much attention to the cover. What I was paying attention to was the recommendation from "Hypatia," the collaborative filtering digital recommender on Alexlit, who had by then well-proven she knew her stuff.
Literatewench
17. JoeNotCharles
Ursula @13: Beta Colony itself in Shards of Honour has a pretty oppressive government, what with "post-facto permission" to be drugged and interrogated, and no hint of doctor-patient privilege anywhere. I suspect this is an area where the story got away from the setting a little bit in the first novel.
Literatewench
18. WilliamB
"... the marriage of a grocer’s son and a corporal’s son."

I know this is just a typo, nonetheless my first thought was "Wow, now *that* would be really important."

Ursula @ 13 talks about sending the replicators back to the rapists: what an interesting point, one I hadn't thought about before. What *would* make one send a child back to your rapist? Wouldn't one worry about what sort of upbringing it would have? Doesn't Escobar have orphanages?

With these thoughts in mind, I reach the conclusion that I give Bujold too much leeway, allowing her to get away with something illogical just because it makes an interesting situation or that it's funny.
Madeline Ferwerda
19. MadelineF
Re the other 16, I can see sending the replicators back to the Barrayarans. Escobar was settled by hispanic peoples and may still have some of the Catholicism that probably came with that... If you wanted an abortion but couldn't quite get your head around it, I can see sending the fetus off to a backwater hellhole with no medical tech as pretty much the same thing.

Re Beta Colony, let's not be cocky. Most of us would consider the USA a pretty nonoppressive place to live, but remember, any citizen can be snatched off the streets here, tortured, and held in isolation without charge for years. Beta, much like the midwest on which it's based, may well make some bad decisions in wartime.

Re the book in general... As I mentioned earlier, I feel that it doesn't really hang together, just being one thing, and then another thing, and then another thing. I forget if it's Barrayar or another of the Vorkosigan books that talks about the way the princess marries and then suddenly the story picks up with her orphaned daughter, but that's what I saw in this one... I guess I was looking at it as the further adventures of Cordelia, and the end result of those adventures is that she loses access to pretty much everything she was interested in before, and accomodates herself to the tiny coffin-like box that Barrayar sets up around her.

So maybe I'm just in denial about the theme holding the book together. Seems to me a pity if the point is, the cost of parenthood is that the mother vanishes. Bless Enrique's heart, one of my favorite bits of A Civil Campaign is his rant about the Betan Survey Captain thing. "She's wasted on Barrayar--all women are." Aral gets to be a dad and also do exciting things like crush revolts. People fangirl about him. Cordelia gets to be a guru who helps everyone else be more awesome while being forgotten and discounted. I really liked her, and reading Barrayar is like watching her die, with the hunt for Mile's replicator as her last hurrah. I wish someday we'd see her set plots in motion for herself again.

Eh, not to say it isn't a good book. It's just, I don't see how what Cordelia's got now is really to be celebrated.
Sherwood Smith
20. Sherwood
Yes, yes! I thought too when I read this book that they'd made the hyperspace, breath-catching leap from good to brilliant.
CD Covington
21. ccovington
@19: I understand completely what you mean, and I agree, being a woman on Barrayar is like being served a nice shit sandwich. But: if Cordelia isn't there, moving things behind the scenes with Alys, life will never get better for Barrayaran women. Cordelia had a major role in raising the Emperor, and I have little doubt that she gave him a lot of Betan ideas about sexuality and equal rights. And Miles - who spent a lot of time on Beta and is going to be highly placed in Gregor's government.

Yes, I agree, going from relatively egalitarian Beta to bizarro feudal, patriarchal Barrayar is a definite downgrade. I doubt I'd personally make that choice, but Cordelia did, for whatever reason. And Barrayar is feeling the waves of her decision, will be feeling them for generations to come.

Re the replicators: it's been a while since I read it, but I seem to recall the reasoning being that the Escobaran women didn't want them, so someone had to take care of them. And since it was the fault of Barrayarans, they got to deal with it. A bit of reparations.
Literatewench
22. OtterB
Serendipity @10 I believe that original awful Warrior's Apprentice cover was referred to on the Bujold list as the one with the "battle nightie"

I also saw this book as the one where the series shifted from good to great.
Literatewench
23. Elizabeth McCoy
Well, Cordelia was Betan-trained as a captain, responsible for herding a bunch of cats, er, Betan crew and scientists... What's herding a planet except much of the same, on a larger scale and requiring more Irrelevant Appeals to Authority?

And while we don't have a first-person-viewpoint of her cheerfully running Sergyar, there are some hints that she finds it at least somewhat fulfilling to be over there.
Ursula L
24. Ursula
In one of the books (I can't remember which) Cordelia comments that egalitarians can get along well in an aristocracy, provided they get to be the aristocrats. (Or perhaps Miles comments that this is a saying of his mother's - I remember the saying and the source, not the context.)

It's an observation that tells you a lot. It tells you how she manages as well as she does on Barrayar. She found herself a place at the top of the aristocracy. She gets all the advantages of an aristocracy, and none of the disadvantages that inspire people to hate aristocracy and strive for eglitarianism.

It also tells you quite a bit about privilege, and how people who are, in fact, on the top of the social heap and benefiting from societal prejudice against others can wind up thinking themselves egalitarian, and accepting their privilege as a natural right.
Literatewench
25. Rivka5
Your second-to-last paragraph reminds me of the guy on rassf who insisted that there wasn't any science in the Vorkosigan books. All the reproductive tech and the worldchanging repercussions thereof was invisible to him, because it was just so much trivial girly stuff.
Jo Walton
26. bluejo
Ursula: It's in Cetaganda. Miles, quoting Cordelia, to Mia Maz, the Vervain protocol officer who marries the Barrayaran ambassador.
Literatewench
27. BobApril
@MadelineF, #19 - "I wish someday we'd see her set plots in motion for herself again."

I still have that hope. Clearly, there needs to be one more companion volume to Barrayar, Cetaganda, and Komarr...to be titled Sergyar. It could well be an opportunity for Cordelia and Aral to shine once again - perhaps even beyond their precocious sons. Sadly, though, I also think it would be the likely time for Aral's heart to give out once and for all, most likely during or just after a particularly daring and important action sequence.

Though guessing what Lois would do has burned me before - who'da thunk she would not only turn back to fantasy, but invent two mind-bending new forms of magic in the space of two new series?
Literatewench
28. Carl N.
A lamentation, if you will. I was introduced to Bujold's works by Analog SF magazine. Three of Bujold's five Hugo-winning works first appeared, at least in part, in the pages of that periodical. My only copies of two of her novels are their rubber-banded Analog serializations. I have a deep affection for Analog as edited by John Campbell, Ben Bova and, currently, Stanley Schmidt. So it was with some sadness that I noted that Analog (and its sister publication, Asimov's), failed to receive even a single nomination in the recently announced Hugo ballot for works appearing in 2008. As the market for SF continues to change, it seems to draw work of the highest quality away from these publications. Perhaps inevitable, but sad, nevertheless. If those of you who are writing for income have a choice going forward, could I ask that you consider these markets for some of your better stuff? It would warm my soul to see Analog get an author one more Hugo before the printing presses stop for good.
Literatewench
29. Anne Zanoni
@28 Carl N.: Uh... several 2008 stories from Asimov's were nominated for Hugos. Two novellas, three novelettes, two short stories.

Analog got one 2008 novella on the Nebula final ballot... while Stanley is up for the 2008 Hugo under best editor, short form.

I recommend you to
http://www.anticipationsf.ca/English/Hugos
-- although I'm looking at Locus for this info. April 2009 issue.

Anne*---
Literatewench
30. SF_Fangirl
Brilliant. I totally agree.

Like Shana R. I read this serialized in Analog. I have no idea if I would have ever read LMB if not for Analog introducing the Vorkosigans to me.

This is my favorite book, though, and Cordelia is my favorite character. In all honesty, I'd trade more of her and Aral for some of Miles Naismith's adventures.

ccovington - The reason Cordelia goes to Barrayar is that Beta was planning to essentially kill her. She was about to be interrigated for info she didn't have and would be destroyed by the interiggation as they kept searching deeper and deeper. She did not choice Barrayar or Aral until essentially her life was at stake.
CD Covington
31. ccovington
Fangirl, you're right. (It's been too long since I read Barrayar!) I'd probably been distracted by someone else's line of reasoning and forgot that major part of the plot.

(Really; my brain works in funny ways.)
Ursula L
32. Ursula
Ccovington wrote: Re the replicators: it's been a while since I read it, but I seem to recall the reasoning being that the Escobaran women didn't want them, so someone had to take care of them. And since it was the fault of Barrayarans, they got to deal with it. A bit of reparations.

That's the reasoning given. But it doesn't really make sense. I've said why it doesn't seem like the reasoning of the raped mothers.

It might be the government's reasoning - let's get rid of the problem. But it doesn't seem right for that, either. Getting a dozen or so kids adopted, within your planet, shouldn't be a big deal. Every culture will have children who can not be raised by their parents - children where the parents are unsuitable, or die young, or whatever. A planet-scale culture will have an internal way of dealing with the problem, and one with enough slack that it can manage with an extra 17 children to place. This isn't an insurmountable problem for the Escobarans to deal with on their own.

Having the public know that you gave children into the care of the people who just invaded your planet strikes me as politically stupid. The Escobarans, as a whole, aren't happy about the idea of being under Barrayan control. (It's a general rule that people don't like to have their homeland invaded - that's why invaders get met with resistance, rather than flowers.) Giving little Escobaran, or half-Escobaran, babies into Barrayan control would probably trigger outrage, should the act become publicly known. "Our heroes fought and died so our children could be free, not so we could turn our children over to the people who would steal our freedom."

Plus Barrayar has the ultra-militaristic reputation from the outside, so there would be an impression that "we gave our children over to our enemies, to grow up into the soldiers who may attack us, and the mothers of future soldiers who may attack us."

It would make more sense to demand cash reparations - the Barrayan government, as part of the peace deal, must set up trust funds to raise the children to adulthood, while they remain in the physical custody of the Escobarans, as well as giving cash reparations to the raped women.
CD Covington
33. ccovington
That would make more sense, Ursula. But then Barrayar wouldn't have 17 little uterine replicators floating around. So it's a plot hole for convenience's sake?
Literatewench
34. mgan
To quote an author friend "there are no coincidences in fiction". We need a replicator for baby Miles to be put into.

But it also makes sense in the development of the relationship beween Cordelia and Aral he looks to her for moral guidance outside of the cultural norms of Barrayar. Can't get too much more outside of Barrayian cultural norms than preserving the lives of this "throughly rejected little group of humanity". This is at the end of Shards of Honor not in Barrayar, Aral is aware that his own honor has been crushed beyond redemption by the Emperor he is in new territory he asks her "what would you have me do with them?"
Literatewench
35. mandalei
In a society that has overcome reproductive shortcomings by the use of a replicator, would adoption as we know it even be a possibility in these worlds, where unwanted pregnancies appear not to exist? On Beta, as Cordelia describes it to Mark, unlicensed children are so rare that they are treated on a case by case basis as they occur. I have to assume that something similar is also the case on similar worlds such Escobar. Perhaps they deal with the uterine replicators poorly precisely because this is new territory for them, too.
Jo Walton
36. bluejo
Mandalei: I think there would still be orphans and adoption necessary in the case of older children whose parents die, or become unsuitable guardians.
Literatewench
37. Carl N.
@29 - Yep, I goofed. I do not know why I remembered the Asimov's works as being missing. Still, no authors for Analog on the Hugo ballot for 2008 works.
Literatewench
38. bethmitcham
I took it as the kind of a complete blindness that Barrayan society was different in kind than their own. On Beta, and maybe on Escobar, the rapist would be socially engineered back to productive status, and then would presumably raise the child in a dedicated and appropriate way. The idea of war orphanages, bastards, etc. was just alien. The attitudes of the prison camp seemed to alternate between blind hostility and complete incomprehension.

This and some of the scenes on Beta are a kind of farce that doesn't hold up as well as the more nuanced societies of later books.
Liza .
39. aedifica
I'm re-reading these now in series order, and it just struck me that the pilot who unwittingly smuggles Cordelia away from Beta is the same Arde Mayhew who becomes Miles' liege man in The Warrior's Apprentice. I wonder which direction that was planned! Either way, it's a neat touch.
Literatewench
40. Yrf
Escobar is apparently semi-Catholic (or at least Spanish-speaking and saint-believing). The fact that so many POWs got pregnant may be due to cultural aversion to birth control? - I can't imagine a non-Vorrutyer-class rapist bothering to have a contraceptive implant removed. That would also influence attitudes towards abortion... Since the Betans didn't come in until Cordelia's smuggling mission, I'd think most all of the other women would be Escobaran.

In general, I think successful planet-colonizing cultures have to be far far more pro-natal than modern Western culture...and as such may be incomprehensible to people coming from that background.
Literatewench
41. mgan
The Arde Mayhew connection is a neat touch. When Cordellia and Arde finally meet each other again in Winterfair Gifts I was hoping for some small acknowledgment of that... alas not.
Literatewench
42. mandalei
yrf @ 40: I seem to recall that the Barrayarans had removed the implants of the Escobaran women deliberately.
Jo Walton
43. bluejo
Yrf. Mandalei: They removed them deliberately because Setg had a thing about pregnant women. The more I think about this the less I want to.

Aedifica: Yes, when Miles says that he owes Arde a debt of honour, he only thinks he's bluffing.
Joseph Blaidd
44. SteelBlaidd
Count Me and mine among those who were looking forward to some in story acknowledgment of Arde and Cordelia's shared history. If only to blow Miles mind when his Mom already knows one of the guests :D
Literatewench
45. Yrf
I'm saying there doesn't seem to be any text-ev the Escobaran women had any implants to begin with. Elena doesn't mention it in The Warrior's Apprentice. Cordelia's isn't touched in Shards (or, I think, mentioned at all until Barrayar).
Literatewench
46. Margaret Organ-Kean
My guess on the reason for handing the replicators over to the Barrayarans is that the Escobarans weren't viewing them as babies or Escobarans, but rather as unwanted Barrayarans.

The mothers may not have known what was going to happen to the the replicators. All they may have known was that the thoroughly unwanted child was out of their life. Someone said, "Don't worry; we'll take care of it" and at that point that's all they wanted to hear.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment