Questions for Lois McMaster Bujold

Multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winning author Lois McMaster Bujold is creator of the Miles Vorkosigan universe and the world of Chalion.

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Questions for Lois McMaster Bujold

Postby clong » Sat Dec 17, 2005 4:09 pm

This is the thread for posting questions for author Lois McMaster Bujold.
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Postby clong » Tue Jan 03, 2006 3:04 pm

I guess I will start things off. I have spent a bit of time looking around at http://www.dendarii.com looking for discussion about these issues, but haven't found anything. My apologies if I've overlooked it!

1. Can you tell us a bit about The Sharing Knife beyond that it is "a romance-fantasy-adventure that [keeps] the relationship stuff central"?

2. In the past several years you seem to be focusing more and more on fantasy rather than science fiction/the Vorkosigan saga. Is this a temporary trend or a long term change of focus or just something that I am imagining?
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Postby LMB » Tue Jan 03, 2006 9:21 pm

clong wrote:I guess I will start things off. I have spent a bit of time looking around at http://www.dendarii.com looking for discussion about these issues, but haven't found anything. My apologies if I've overlooked it!

1. Can you tell us a bit about The Sharing Knife beyond that it is "a romance-fantasy-adventure that [keeps] the relationship stuff central"?


(Lois): Well, for one thing, it’s my first duology. It topped out at 217,000 words, which will fall into approximate halves of 105,000 and 111,000 words respectively. The duology was written and is meant to be read as a single story, but the break point falls at a nice natural place.

As the story opens, Fawn is a young farmer girl running away from home for some very traditional reasons, and Dag is a rather weary Lakewalker patroller, engaged in a generations-long war and hunt against a peculiar and recurring supernatural menace called by the farmers, "blight bogles", and by the Lakewalkers, "malices". The history and mystery of the Lakewalkers' magical "technology" for dealing with this threat drives much of their culture and hence this tale.

Because Lakewalkers’ magical abilities are inherited, their culture is set up to preserve pure bloodlines, and actively discourages liaisons between Lakewalkers-born and “farmersâ€
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Postby Ghost » Fri Jan 13, 2006 8:46 am

Ms. Bujold is there any recommended order for reading the books in the Vorkosigan saga?

So far I've read The Warrior's Apprentice and Borders of Infinity .
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Postby LMB » Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:12 am

Ghost wrote:Ms. Bujold is there any recommended order for reading the books in the Vorkosigan saga?

So far I've read The Warrior's Apprentice and Borders of Infinity .


The author's answer is, "however you can get them." They are all stand-alones, in a sense. There are other opinions:

http://www.dendarii.com/bujold_faq.html#readingorder

It depends on how spoiler-sensitive you are. If you dislike spoilers, reading in either publication or series-internal chronology both work fine. In most of my Baen titles, there is a series chronology in the back. But don't let yourself get hung up just because you can't get the "next" book; it's OK to skip and circle back later.

It's a perpetual argument; I can recognize the Bujold-reading-order argument in languages I do not speak or even recognize, in Usenet posts, just from the pattern the titles fall.


Both the books you read, by the way, are good jumping-in points.

Ta, L.
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Postby clong » Fri Jan 20, 2006 7:56 pm

Hello again, Lois. The Curse of Chalion is one of my favorite fantasy novels of the past few years. I am curious, when you started writing CoC, did you start with the character Cazaril, or did you start with a world-building concept (political, social, gods, magic, etc.), or did you start with the idea of the 3 deaths prophecy?

Like Miles, Cazaril seems to be a far cry from the stereotypical hero. Do you set out to create protagonists who depart from the norm, or do they just end up that way?
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Postby LMB » Sat Jan 21, 2006 5:33 pm

clong wrote:Hello again, Lois. The Curse of Chalion is one of my favorite fantasy novels of the past few years. I am curious, when you started writing CoC, did you start with the character Cazaril, or did you start with a world-building concept (political, social, gods, magic, etc.), or did you start with the idea of the 3 deaths prophecy?


LMB: Ah, this one I've answered before...

The Curse of Chalion has two particular springs of inspiration. First, a few years ago, just for fun (and because it was a subject about which I then knew little) I took a course at the University of Minnesota on Spanish medieval history. From a writer’s point of view, it was a joy -- the 15th Century in Spain was every bit as lurid and wild as the Wars of the Roses in England. The parade of princes, prelates, madmen, madwomen, tragedies, romances, mischances, plots, betrayals, beheadings and all around mayhem can scarcely be equaled even in Shakespeare. From the moment I discovered this corner of history, I knew I wanted to steal it someday.

Meanwhile, my friend Patricia Wrede and I had started a letter game. This is a literary amusement where each person takes a persona, and writes back and forth to each other in character. The character I had begun to evolve -- a duchess’s somewhat fussy middle-aged secretary -- suddenly didn’t want to be in that light-fantasy world, Pat and I both had other pressing projects, and the game died away after only a few rounds. But the core of that character stuck in my head.

A couple of months after finishing my latest SF book -- in the shower, as it happened; there’s something about idling around in hot water that puts one in touch with the inner writer -- the two halves, a setting without a character and a character without a story, came together in my head and achieved some sort of creative critical mass, and Cazaril was suddenly there, ready to walk into my new world. To his subsequent dismay, I’m pretty sure…

I did not, however, care to do a straight historical fantasy -- too constraining, and besides, I’d already done one some years back, based on Renaissance Italy. I wanted my own new world. There were some philosophical notions and ideas about religion and what it would be like to live in a place with active and demonstrable gods that I particularly wanted to explore, which didn’t fit into either my SF milieu or any too closely shaped by European history. And so Chalion and its pantheon of five gods (or, arguably, four gods and a half-demon who’s just passing) began to take form in my mind. Characters and world grew together, shaping each other as my plot unwound.

clong wrote:Like Miles, Cazaril seems to be a far cry from the stereotypical hero. Do you set out to create protagonists who depart from the norm, or do they just end up that way?


LMB: I think they just end up that way. Although really, I think "the norm" is an illusion to start with -- *are* there any "normal" protagonists in most fiction? Can anyone name any -- or remember them? But certainly, in Caz I wanted to explore the idea of a truly humble man, not in the sense of self-effacing or servile, but in the sense of unmindful of self. The results were... interesting, saint-wise. Miles is nearly his polar opposite, really.

Ta, L.
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Postby Reede Kullervo » Thu Feb 02, 2006 2:11 pm

Hello Lois, will you continue writing about Chalion-Ibra, please :).
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Postby LMB » Thu Feb 02, 2006 10:09 pm

Reede Kullervo wrote:Hello Lois, will you continue writing about Chalion-Ibra, please :).


Hi Reede --

Well, not soon. I have other projects in the queue. I'd really like to do the Chalion books as a set of five, one for each of the gods and their themes, but I don't have compelling ideas for the last two yet. But those books would likely move off to other countries and characters, the way _The Hallowed Hunt_ did.

Ta, Lois.
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Countries to look at

Postby AlbuquerquePat » Fri Feb 03, 2006 9:41 am

LMB wrote:
Reede Kullervo wrote:Hello Lois, will you continue writing about Chalion-Ibra, please :).


Hi Reede --

Well, not soon. I have other projects in the queue. I'd really like to do the Chalion books as a set of five, one for each of the gods and their themes, but I don't have compelling ideas for the last two yet. But those books would likely move off to other countries and characters, the way _The Hallowed Hunt_ did.

Ta, Lois.


Darthaca would be worth a look. So would the equivalent of Britain/Ireland/Scotland.
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Postby Vesna » Wed Feb 15, 2006 1:19 pm

I have a question, LMB, if you don't mind: I've always been wandering whether the 'old' textual fragment that you used as a part of the plot in Borders of Infinity belongs to a book by another author. I've had the feeling that it does, but I've never seen it in any books I've read... and I'm curious.;)
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It's a classic

Postby AlbuquerquePat » Wed Feb 15, 2006 3:30 pm

It's from John Bunyan's PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, c. 16??
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Re: It's a classic

Postby LMB » Sat Feb 25, 2006 1:24 am

AlbuquerquePat wrote:It's from John Bunyan's PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, c. 16??



Correct.

I was writing the first draft in the Marion public library, got to that part, and decided I needed a quote that sounded Biblical but actually wasn't. Wandered over to the shelf, pulled a copy, thumbed through, that fell out pretty much immediately. Eerily apropos.

I had read the book once some years before, true.

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Postby Reede Kullervo » Wed May 03, 2006 5:37 pm

I'm confused about name of Mark Pierre Vorkosigan.
Miles' name should be Piotr Miles Vorkosigan, first from paternal grandfather, second from maternal grandfather.
So, Mark's name means that second name general Piotr Vorkosigan is Mark and second name Cordelia's father is Pierre.
In Brothers in Arms, Miles mentioned that name of second son is from second's names his maternal and fraternal grandfathers :?.
But, I had impression that name Pierre is related to Pierre le Sanguinaire :?:.

I apologise both for my English and my pedanterie :oops:.
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Postby LMB » Fri May 05, 2006 12:45 am

Reede Kullervo wrote:I'm confused about name of Mark Pierre Vorkosigan.
Miles' name should be Piotr Miles Vorkosigan, first from paternal grandfather, second from maternal grandfather.
So, Mark's name means that second name general Piotr Vorkosigan is Mark and second name Cordelia's father is Pierre.
In Brothers in Arms, Miles mentioned that name of second son is from second's names his maternal and fraternal grandfathers :?.
But, I had impression that name Pierre is related to Pierre le Sanguinaire :?:.

I apologise both for my English and my pedanterie :oops:.



Mark was one of Cordelia's father's names; Pierre was Piotr's middle name, if that helps.

Note that the naming convention is a mere common custom, not an invariable rule. Tho' one feels Piotr was the victim of someone being excessively rigid...

Ta, Lois
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Chicken/Egg question (SPOILERS for Ethan of Athos)

Postby bookwyrm » Sat May 06, 2006 7:46 pm

Ever since I read Ethan of Athos (which I re-read several
times a year), I've been curious about which came first:
the planet Athos, or Terrance's conspiracy/dilemma.

On the one hand, Terrance's solution only works on
Athos, so how could you have thought of it without
Athos already existing in your mind... On the other
hand, maybe you thought of Terrance's situation
first, and then came up with a planet that would suit
his purposes.

I'm trying not to give anything away here for those
who haven't read the book yet...
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Re: Chicken/Egg question (SPOILERS for Ethan of Athos)

Postby LMB » Sun May 07, 2006 5:15 pm

bookwyrm wrote:Ever since I read Ethan of Athos (which I re-read several
times a year), I've been curious about which came first:
the planet Athos, or Terrance's conspiracy/dilemma.

On the one hand, Terrance's solution only works on
Athos, so how could you have thought of it without
Athos already existing in your mind... On the other
hand, maybe you thought of Terrance's situation
first, and then came up with a planet that would suit
his purposes.

I'm trying not to give anything away here for those
who haven't read the book yet...



Athos came first, iirc.

I wrote the book in 1985, so my memory of how I composed it, and in what order the various elements slotted into place, is very sketchy by now. But at the time I wrote Ch. 1, I didn't know much about the plot yet.

Ta, L.
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Postby clong » Sat Aug 05, 2006 8:47 am

I just read Ethan of Athos for the first time and enjoyed it very much (here's my brief review if anyone's interested).

I'm very curious as to how things might look on Athos several generations after the time of Ethan. Have you ever thought about revisiting the subject?
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Postby Ghost » Mon Aug 07, 2006 9:11 am

I just read Ethan of Athos and Cetaganda for the first time this weekend, both were very good - I was a little disappointed waiting for Miles to pop in the Ethan of Athos novel when he never did.
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Postby LMB » Thu Aug 10, 2006 9:42 am

clong wrote:I just read Ethan of Athos for the first time and enjoyed it very much (here's my brief review if anyone's interested).

I'm very curious as to how things might look on Athos several generations after the time of Ethan. Have you ever thought about revisiting the subject?



I don't think I'll be getting back to the subject, not for lack of interest, but just because it's so far down in the queue of possible projects -- I'm committed to three books right now (_The Wide Green World_ duology and a new Miles book), with two more hovering in the wings (two more for Chalion, maybe), and by the time I get through just them I'll be sixty-something!

Ta, L.
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Postby Reede Kullervo » Sun Aug 13, 2006 6:46 pm

LMB wrote:... I'm committed to three books right now (_The Wide Green World_ duology and a new Miles book), with two more hovering in the wings (two more for Chalion, maybe), and by the time I get through just them I'll be sixty-something!

Ta, L.

This is splendid news :clap: :worship: :clap:
More Miles and Chalion :clap:.
I can't wait :clap:.
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Postby LMB » Sun Aug 13, 2006 10:04 pm

Reede Kullervo wrote:
LMB wrote:... I'm committed to three books right now (_The Wide Green World_ duology and a new Miles book), with two more hovering in the wings (two more for Chalion, maybe), and by the time I get through just them I'll be sixty-something!

Ta, L.

This is splendid news :clap: :worship: :clap:
More Miles and Chalion :clap:.
I can't wait :clap:.



I'm only contractually committed to the Miles book; the two Chalion books are mere gleams in my eye at this point.

_The Sharing Knife_ is the real deal, though; but of course, since you haven't yet read it, you have no idea what you're missing. Well, with luck that will change come October.

Ta, L.
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Postby Reede Kullervo » Sun Aug 20, 2006 9:11 am

I'm looking forward about The Sharing Knife :clap:.
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Postby clong » Sun Oct 29, 2006 6:17 pm

I'm curious about your use of the term "Beguilement," which has a negative connotation to me.

According to Merriam-Webster online

Main Entry: be·guile
Pronunciation: bi-'gI(-&)l, bE-
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): be·guiled; be·guil·ing
transitive verb
1 : to lead by deception
2 : HOODWINK
3 : to while away especially by some agreeable occupation; also : DIVERT 2
4 : to engage the interest of by or as if by guile
intransitive verb : to deceive by wiles
synonym see DECEIVE


Is one of these your definition?
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Postby LMB » Mon Oct 30, 2006 1:13 am

clong wrote:I'm curious about your use of the term "Beguilement," which has a negative connotation to me.

According to Merriam-Webster online

Main Entry: be·guile
Pronunciation: bi-'gI(-&)l, bE-
Function: verb
Inflected Form(s): be·guiled; be·guil·ing
transitive verb
1 : to lead by deception
2 : HOODWINK
3 : to while away especially by some agreeable occupation; also : DIVERT 2
4 : to engage the interest of by or as if by guile
intransitive verb : to deceive by wiles
synonym see DECEIVE


Is one of these your definition?



The word is used quite variously through the book, including, in the eventual sequel (i.e., book #3), in a quite technical sense as a special, ah, "term of art" for a magical event, examined and described in detail then. The combination of charm and vague threat or unease is intended in most of my uses in the first volume; a charm that is not to be wholly trusted.

Ta, L.
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