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Andrea K Höst

Australian writer of science fiction and fantasy.
Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy - Janet Brennan Croft, Donald E. Palumbo, C.W. Sullivan III, Sandra J. Lindow, David D. Oberhelman, Shannan Palma, Amy H. Sturgis, Linda Wight, Virginia Bemis, Lois McMaster Bujold, Andrew Hallam, Sylvia Kelso, Regina Yung Lee, John Lennard This collection is about 80% Vorkosigan-verse and 20% Bujold's fantasy work. It's primarily what I think of as analytical essays, rather than critical work (by that I mean it looks at what Bujold's work seems to be trying to say, but doesn't try to examine holes, weaknesses, contradictions, etc).While interesting to a reader of Bujold, fair warning that (especially in the Vorkosigan-verse section) it reads _extremely_ repetitive, especially when each piece feels it necessary to tell us plot/event summaries of the books. There's also an essay which uses the previous two essays as a jumping-off point.The introduction seems rather oddly concerned that we don't think of Bujold as a feminist writer, but rather a humanist writer. I kept wondering why she couldn't be both, until a minor quote late in the volume showed me that Bujold seems to specifically not consider herself a feminist - and also that she seems to equate feminism with matriarchies (which I find odd, because would not feminism result in egalitarian worlds?). She also appears to consider that a matriarchy would involve a permanent infantalisism, a return to childhood - again a stance which confuses me. I would love to have seen this analysed/Bujold interviewed on this point in depth. Is she working on some specific definition of feminism? Does she consider women inherently inferior to men? If not, why the stance against feminism? Is she a gender essentialist? Did the quote just not explain her stance well?The paper "Legitimacy and Legibility: Rereading Civil Discourse Through Feminist Figurations in Cordelia's Honor" opens with a quote from Cordelia from Barrayar:I was an astrocartographer. Then a Survey captain. Then a soldier, then a POW, then a refugee. And then I was a wife, and then I was a mother. I don't know what I'm going to be next.[Note: a later book redefines this quote to add 'politician' after mother. _Is_ Cordelia a politician? Do we truly regard "wives of politicians" as politicians?]The article (obscured somewhat by litspeak jargon) goes on to look at the impact of Cordelia on the society of Barrayar (stating among other things that "on Barrayar, woman and mutant and disabled are near-interchangeable terms" which I thoroughly disagree with since on Barrayar women are considered lesser, while mutants are considered a wrongness to be destroyed). I kept hoping the piece would compare and contrast a possible similar statement from Aral:I was a wild young lordling. Then a soldier. Then a general. Then a Regent. Then a Viceroy. And in the middle of that I also became a husband, and a father.The contrast of those two 'quotes' is one of the things which bugs me endlessly about Cordelia's impact on Barrayar. Her role as 'wife and mother' is a career in itself, while 'husband and father' for Aral is a core of his life _while he has a career_. Because for all the change that Cordelia brings to Barrayar, she does not change her own role of 'wife' from being "support to husband's career". Even after forty years, her life is a 'pillar of support with transformative sensibilities' to her husband. By the time we reach Aral's death in Cryoburn, we have a great deal of social change but no women (in Barrayaran culture) "at the head of things". I wouldn't expect there to be, at this stage, a female head of ImpSec, but there doesn't seem to be any potential female heads rising through the ranks or anything. Nor any females trying to become heads of a Vor family. We neatly sidestep the major issue of heritage by both the Vorkosigans and the Vorbarras producing male children before any females.This is a culture which periodically seems to kill off vast swathes of its male population, but (unlike as seen in WWI and WWII) we don't see women stepping into all those "male roles" during the periods of male sparsity. Neither the exposure to the intergalactic culture which came after the time of isolation, nor the influence of Cordelia, seems to have created a tangible "women's movement" (that's ever mentioned anyway). Instead women all do this power behind the throne/power of social niceties thing. Why did the Barrayaran culture need the external force of Cordelia to kick off the changes which Cordelia has managed so far? Why have those changes not moved to the forefront of society? What is it about Barrayar which apparently stifles any naturally-rising feminist movement?I would be GREATLY interested to know what the (much longer lived) Betan Cordelia does with her life after she no longer has the role of 'wife'. Does she simply move on to the role of widow and grandma? Will Gregor appoint her as Viceroy? Bujold talks in one article in this volume about the thematic end of the Vorkosigan-verse and I had to wonder how themetically 'closed' the Vorkosigan-verse would be if Miles' firstborn had been a daughter. I think we'd find that Barrayar has a long long way to go.Anyway - as a collection of essays, I found myself wishing for less repetition and more dissection.