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Falling in Love Again…

I mentioned in my last blog post that I was hitting up my keeper shelf in an effort to break out of a writing slump. The writing slump is slowly easing, but reading-wise? I’m IN THE ZONE.

I’m re-reading one of my favorite series for the upteenth time, and falling in love again. The objects of my affection? Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, and his creator, Lois McMaster Bujold.

Where do I start?

The Vorkosigan Saga, currently up to 30 books, is a genre mash-up – though having won multiple Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards (including a 2017 Hugo for Best Series), I consider science fiction to be home base. The characters are amazing – more on that in a moment – but let’s start with the world. Bujold hasn’t so much built a world as she has a freaking galaxy, comprised of numerous planets as well as the ability to travel and communicate between them. Staid, aristocratic Barrayar, free-wheeling Beta Colony, dome-enclosed Komarr with its poisonous outer atmosphere, lawless Jackson’s Whole, ancient and sturdy Old Earth, and so many more… Over the series, we meet each planet’s citizens, immersing ourselves in various government and political systems, religions, histories, geologies, military battles, galactic manufacturing and trade arrangements, reproductive and sexual ethics systems, genetic manipulations, and advanced technologies (or lack thereof). It all gets a place on the page, beautifully rendered and exquisitely textured. The conflicts which inevitably arise as people from different cultures meet provide a fine opportunity for today’s reader to explore issues we face in our here and now—which I think the best science fiction does.

Bill Gates (1985-ish)

As a (former) technologist, I’m astounded by Bujold’s powers of extrapolation. Consider the state of digital technology in 1986, when Bujold’s first Vorkosiverse book, Shards of Honor, was published. Mainframes ruled; THE computer at my university took up an entire room in the Science Building. Personal computers were just entering corporate America, and network connectivity was in its infancy. (Modems, baby!) Yet Bujold, child of an engineer, imagined where these technologies could go. Many of the devices and technologies she references in her world – secured com-consoles, hand readers, miniature digital trackers—didn’t exist at the time she wrote Shards, yet they’re ubiquitous today. I hope Bujold’s prescience extends to synthetic bones, uterine replicators, sleeptimers, and wormhole jumps, too. 🙂   

To the characters…  The Vorkosigan Saga is multi-generational; Miles’s parents, Aral and Cordelia, are the main characters in the first few books, and they kick ass in their own right. Two people from very different worlds, they meet in wartime, fall in love, and start a life together. As the series goes on, we see the horrific, politically-motivated chemical attack that damages their fetus’s bones in utero. We’re there the day Miles is born, adored by his parents, but whose grandfather would rather see die than survive and pollute the family’s aristocratic bloodlines. Over several books and a number of years, we cheer for this hyperactive, hyper-intelligent little boy as he strains to overcome his body’s limitations. 

Not QUITE the Miles of my imagination…

In later books, we see Miles grow to adulthood. “Grow” is a relative term; due to the soltoxin attack, adult Miles tops out at 4’9” tall, his entire body scarred by injuries and surgical procedures, with an “oversized head exaggerated by a short neck set on a twisted spine” (Brothers In Arms, p.77). (As you might imagine, it’s impossible to capture Miles’s essence via cover art. No model or illustration quite does him justice.) Despite his physical limitations and distinctive frame, he crafts a career as the most successful undercover operative in Barrayar Imperial Security’s Covert Ops division, solving crimes and enjoying exotic lovers from across the galaxy, until a tragic mistake changes his life forever. However, he finds the resilience to start anew, meeting Barrayaran-born widow Ekaterin Nile Vorsoisson and her son Nikki, who completely capture his heart.

With a deft display of craft, Bujold conveys Ekaterin’s sensual curiosity about Miles’s physiology without fetishizing him, and vice-versa – which is some feat, being Miles’s eyes are level with her cleavage. 🙂  Their HEA does not come easily, but these two make my heart go pitty-pat. The proposal scene from A Civil Campaign is one for the ages. 

For me, brains, humor and kindness outweigh brawn any day of the week – and if pressed, I would select Miles Vorkosigan as #1 on my “Top Ten To Do” list – yes, edging out J.D. Robb’s Roarke for the top spot. Series-wise, I think The Vorkosigan Saga stands among the greats. Such is Bujold’s gift.

So, thank you, Lois McMaster Bujold, for creating a world, and characters, I can fall in love with over and over again. I’m not quite out of my writing slump yet, but reading your work helps me think it might be possible sooner rather than later – a gift beyond price.

Ah, the keeper shelf – where you can fall in love over and over again, with no guilt whatsoever! Which series do you compulsively re-read, and why? Which heroes and heroines appear at the top of your personal “Top Ten To Do” list? 🙂 

-tammy

They say that opposites attract, but this is ridiculous!

Tamara Hogan’s latest book, ENTHRALL ME (Underbelly Chronicles Book Four), is available for Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and in paperback.

Visit her on the web at www.tamarahogan.com!

 

 

 

14 responses to “Falling in Love Again…”

  1. Is it wrong that you’d want your favorite books buried with you? I have a shelf of books that are my all time favorites, ones that have inspired me to write-like Mary Higgins Clark, Lavyrle Spenser, Kasey Micheals and Sandra Brown. Even Zane Gray is there too, amongst other classics. Mt children know the shelf. They don’t understand but… Maybe they’ll let me take one or two.

    Every now and then I’ll open one of these great books and read it again, and fall in love again. So I understand you totally. And agree reading keepers is a great way to inspire you.

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  2. Jennifer Bray-Weber says:

    Wow! Thank you for introducing a whole new series. Though I don’t usually read sci-fi (but I love sci-fi movies!) this saga sounds awesome.
    Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles is on my keeper list. 🙂
    Great post, Tammy!

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    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Jenn, I think The Vampire Chronicles is the reason I write paranormal romance. I read “Interview with the Vampire” when it was first released in 1976 – I was in junior high school – and I’ve literally read three copies ragged.

      Awesomesauce.

      1+

  3. Oh, Tammy, don’t you just love those keepers that light up your soul? I seriously need to read this series. Maybe next time I visit my mom I’ll raid her stash, since she has all of them. (I think I’ve told you this before, but my mom went to high school with Lois.) I am definitely going to be focusing on doing some reading in the next couple months. Need to light up my own writing soul! 🙂

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    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Vivi, I think Lois still lives in the Twin Cities metro area. She gave a talk at my RWA land chapter’s monthly meeting some years back, and I MISSED IT.

      I’m still bummed about it to this day. *pouts*

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  4. Addison Fox says:

    I love EVERYTHING about this post!! (And am now realizing we have a Miles vs. Roarke battle potentially unfolding!!) 🙂

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  5. Anything by LaVyrle Spencer or Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

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    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Ooh, two of my favorites! Both are well-represented on my keeper shelf, and LaVyrle, last I heard, is still living in the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul. 🙂

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  6. Kay Hudson says:

    I too adore the Vorkosigan series. It’s the first SF universe I would recommend to people who don’t read SF. The second might be Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series (the Napoleonic Wars with dragons). Both will remain on my keeper shelf.

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  7. Darynda Jones says:

    I have heard such wonderful things about LMB! I can’t believe I’ve never read her, but I just bought the first in this series. I will right this, asap. Thanks for this awesome post, Tammy!

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