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Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy

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Lois McMaster Bujold has won a shelf full of awards--Hugos, Nebulas, and others--for both her science fiction and fantasy writing. She is one of the most respected names in the field, always delivering polished, thoughtful, and well-crafted writing. She consistently addresses great issues and problems on a human level, where they are faced by quirky, prickly, and very real Lois McMaster Bujold has won a shelf full of awards--Hugos, Nebulas, and others--for both her science fiction and fantasy writing. She is one of the most respected names in the field, always delivering polished, thoughtful, and well-crafted writing. She consistently addresses great issues and problems on a human level, where they are faced by quirky, prickly, and very real characters, and her exploration of the theory of reader-response is an important critical contribution. Yet there has been a surprising dearth of serious critical writing about her output--in part because she resists neat and easy classification by genre, politics, or subject matter. This collection of fresh essays aims to correct that situation by presenting a variety of critical perspectives addressing many aspects of her writing. Attention is given to both her Miles Vorkosigan science fiction series and her Chalion and Sharing Knife fantasy series, as well as the books that fall outside these series.


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Lois McMaster Bujold has won a shelf full of awards--Hugos, Nebulas, and others--for both her science fiction and fantasy writing. She is one of the most respected names in the field, always delivering polished, thoughtful, and well-crafted writing. She consistently addresses great issues and problems on a human level, where they are faced by quirky, prickly, and very real Lois McMaster Bujold has won a shelf full of awards--Hugos, Nebulas, and others--for both her science fiction and fantasy writing. She is one of the most respected names in the field, always delivering polished, thoughtful, and well-crafted writing. She consistently addresses great issues and problems on a human level, where they are faced by quirky, prickly, and very real characters, and her exploration of the theory of reader-response is an important critical contribution. Yet there has been a surprising dearth of serious critical writing about her output--in part because she resists neat and easy classification by genre, politics, or subject matter. This collection of fresh essays aims to correct that situation by presenting a variety of critical perspectives addressing many aspects of her writing. Attention is given to both her Miles Vorkosigan science fiction series and her Chalion and Sharing Knife fantasy series, as well as the books that fall outside these series.

57 review for Lois McMaster Bujold: Essays on a Modern Master of Science Fiction and Fantasy

  1. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    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/even 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    This proved to be a combination of the interesting and the overly-academic. Some of these essays were either specifically written for academic journals and published here later, or written by writers who liked big, topic-specific words and dense and convoluted text. Essentially, it was too much work to "translate" the text to everyday language my brain could digest. After struggling through the first, I skipped the latter ones like this. The rest were written in a much more "everyday" style and th This proved to be a combination of the interesting and the overly-academic. Some of these essays were either specifically written for academic journals and published here later, or written by writers who liked big, topic-specific words and dense and convoluted text. Essentially, it was too much work to "translate" the text to everyday language my brain could digest. After struggling through the first, I skipped the latter ones like this. The rest were written in a much more "everyday" style and those I thoroughly enjoyed. The Vorkosigan ones were good, but I had already considered or discussed on mailing lists a lot of what was covered. I found the essays covering the Chalion and Wide Green World books a lot more fascination as they introduced new ideas I hadn't necessarily thought about before or, especially in the case of the Chalion ones, introduced me to the real world parallels in more details than I had been before.

  3. 5 out of 5

    CatBookMom

    3/31/18 - DNF. The introductory bits were interesting. Then the analyses started to feel a bit too scholarly, and I have a good vocabulary. I'll borrow from the library again, when I have more patience. For those who also love LMB, but don't want too much scholarship, try Jo Walton's What Makes This Book So Great. This is a compilation of her short reviews for Tor Books, and there is a review of all of the Vorkosigan books, up through *Diplomatic Immunity.* 3/31/18 - DNF. The introductory bits were interesting. Then the analyses started to feel a bit too scholarly, and I have a good vocabulary. I'll borrow from the library again, when I have more patience. For those who also love LMB, but don't want too much scholarship, try Jo Walton's What Makes This Book So Great. This is a compilation of her short reviews for Tor Books, and there is a review of all of the Vorkosigan books, up through *Diplomatic Immunity.*

  4. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Sometimes I'm glad to be a dinosaur. I escaped the English Department without ever having to learn anything about Foucault, or how to write a queer critique, or when to use "legible" to describe somebody's mother. I can't imagine doing that stuff for a living, but it's fun to take a holiday and gape at the natives. And I did learn some things about the books that I didn't pick up before. I know to pay attention to names, but Bujold's can be pretty transparent once you think about it: Chalion = C Sometimes I'm glad to be a dinosaur. I escaped the English Department without ever having to learn anything about Foucault, or how to write a queer critique, or when to use "legible" to describe somebody's mother. I can't imagine doing that stuff for a living, but it's fun to take a holiday and gape at the natives. And I did learn some things about the books that I didn't pick up before. I know to pay attention to names, but Bujold's can be pretty transparent once you think about it: Chalion = Castile and Leon, Ogachi = Chicago, etc. And when she talks about influences, I have to first feel bad because she's so much smarter than I am, and then go out and read the stuff she reads. Next up: Daniel Boone's autobiography.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Holmesdoc

    Fun, quick read. Easy to cherry pick. AND Useful critical essay collection for Speculative Fiction canonical writer. Several schools of critical theory represented, many approaches to framing Bujold's work, in separate arcs and as a whole canon. Useful to demonstrate voice and field variations in professional theory. Addresses in choral counterpoint the indefensible ommission of Bujold from the Norton Readerverse.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Salimbol

    [3 and 1/2 stars]

  7. 5 out of 5

    Prokleta

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ginny Lim

  9. 4 out of 5

    Doc Johnny

  10. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Kline

  11. 5 out of 5

    Celestine Woo

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Blas

  13. 5 out of 5

    Miss

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Jordan

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Slater

  16. 5 out of 5

    Tom Percy

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carol Reich

  18. 4 out of 5

    Melvin

  19. 4 out of 5

    Corrina Lawson

  20. 5 out of 5

    John Nieman

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  22. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  23. 4 out of 5

    Meghan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dane

  25. 4 out of 5

    Laura

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  27. 5 out of 5

    Spring Harris

  28. 4 out of 5

    Cricketb

  29. 5 out of 5

    Paula Gillis

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lynn Nyer

  31. 5 out of 5

    Linda

  32. 4 out of 5

    Gretchen Ingram

  33. 5 out of 5

    Barry

  34. 4 out of 5

    Curtis

  35. 4 out of 5

    Kim Coomey

  36. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Gates

  37. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Case

  38. 4 out of 5

    Max

  39. 4 out of 5

    Eunice Adeniran

  40. 5 out of 5

    Violet

  41. 4 out of 5

    Sabrina

  42. 5 out of 5

    Alena

  43. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

  44. 4 out of 5

    Janelea

  45. 5 out of 5

    Pam

  46. 5 out of 5

    Calantirniel

  47. 5 out of 5

    Chris

  48. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Eckstein

  49. 4 out of 5

    Sierra

  50. 5 out of 5

    Text Addict

  51. 4 out of 5

    Grenewinae Acwudu

  52. 4 out of 5

    Amy Peavy

  53. 5 out of 5

    Darlene Howard

  54. 4 out of 5

    Amy

  55. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy Hibbs

  56. 4 out of 5

    Tasha Turner

  57. 5 out of 5

    Robert Parkes

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