Authors: Lois McMaster Bujold

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

American novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Shards of Honor, 1986

The Warrior’s Apprentice, 1986

Ethan of Athos, 1986

Falling Free, 1988

Brothers in Arms, 1989

The Mountains of Mourning, 1989

Weatherman, 1989

Borders of Infinity, 1989 (collection of 3 novellas; Borders of Infinity, Labyrinth, and The Mountains of Mourning)

The Vor Game, 1990

Barrayar, 1991

The Spirit Ring, 1992

Mirror Dance, 1994

Cetaganda, 1996

Cordelia’s Honor, 1996 (includes Shards of Honor and Barrayar)

Memory, 1996

Young Miles, 1997

Komarr: A Miles Vorkosigan Adventure, 1998

A Civil Campaign: A Comedy of Biology and Manners, 1999

The Curse of Chalion, 2001

Diplomatic Immunity, 2002

Short Fiction:

“Barter,” 1985

“The Hole Truth,” 1986

“Garage Sale,” 1987

Edited Text:

Women at War, 1995 (with Roland J. Green)

Miscellaneous:

Dreamweaver’s Dilemma, 1995 (short fiction, essays, and interviews)

Biography

The distinguishing feature in the science fiction of Lois McMaster Bujold (BEW-zhoh) is its character-driven stories. By her own admission, however, there is a great deal of “space opera” in her writing. There is also hard science in her work, though more of the science involves medical and biological topics than the physics of space travel or alien worlds. Bujold credits her father as the source of her love for science fiction. A professor of engineering, he read science fiction, and by age nine Lois began to pick up his magazines and paperbacks.{$I[AN]9810002000}{$I[A]Bujold, Lois McMaster}{$I[geo]WOMEN;Bujold, Lois McMaster}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Bujold, Lois McMaster}{$I[tim]1949;Bujold, Lois McMaster}

Though she continued her association with science fiction through her high school years (she and Lillian Stewart, also subsequently a published author, cowrote one issue of a media-related fanzine), she put aside writing during college. Two events of her adolescence and college years, however, provided source material for settings in her writing. At age fifteen she visited Italy with her family, absorbing its history, something that would later help form the setting for her fantasy novel The Spirit Ring. A six-week trip to East Africa as a college biology major provided the landscape she worked into Shards of Honor, her first novel.

Active in central Ohio science-fiction fandom while in college, Bujold attended several conventions in Ohio and neighboring states. During the 1970’s and early 1980’s, though, her reading was mostly outside the genre, including a favorite author, Georgette Heyer, whose influence can be seen in some of the romance aspects of her work. During this time, the job she held the longest was that of pharmacy technician, a vocation providing background for the medical science that appears in her fiction.

She married in 1971, moving in 1980 to Marion, Ohio, a small, aging Rust Belt city where her husband had a job. While there, her writing began out of desperation, she says. With two small children and a meager family income, paying for child care was out of the question. Bujold stayed home to rear her children. Though writing was difficult under those circumstances, she believed that it offered the opportunity to “make something” of herself. Spurred by the authorial success of high school friend Stewart, she began to write.

“I had no better idea about how to write a novel except to write as an observer behind the main character’s eyes and turn her loose,” Bujold says about her early writing. What she lacked in experience she made up for in determination, finishing her first three novels between 1982 and the fall of 1985 without selling any work, save one short story in early 1985. Her second sale, however, was all three completed novels; her publisher released Shards of Honor, The Warrior’s Apprentice, and Ethan of Athos as original paperbacks, all in 1986. Those three novels and most of her work since have been set in the same universe, one peopled by humans utilizing “wormhole jumps” to traverse intergalactic distances. The jump points form a nexus allowing interplay among characters and settings throughout this universe.

Though her writing has focused on several different characters, the most memorable is Miles Vorkosigan, a mutant member of a royal family. Miles struggles with his brilliance and his insubordination, traits constantly putting him in jeopardy within the semifeudal, militaristic Barrayaran milieu. A complicating aspect to Miles is his recurring alter ego, the mercenary Admiral Naismith.

Bujold has tackled a variety of themes in her writing. Miles Vorkosigan has physical handicaps, the protagonist in Ethan of Athos is homosexual (that being necessary on a world with no women), and Cordelia Naismith in Shards of Honor is the prototypical strong female lead. An overarching concern in her work, however, is honor, and her characters frequently must ponder the right thing to do and consider the costs and consequences of their actions.

Some critics have dubbed her stories “Hornblower in space” tales, but Bujold’s thematic explorations transcend that characterization. Her books are humane renderings of interactions among characters meant to evoke a connection to, and caring for, humanity and its struggles and triumphs. In that respect, there is similarity to Ursula K. Le Guin’s work, while her deftness with the adventure tale places her in company with Jerry Pournelle. The character-driven aspect of her novels, particularly the development of Miles Vorkosigan, is akin to what Frederik Pohl accomplished with Robinette Broadhead in his Gateway series, though Pohl’s work pits his protagonist more against himself than against outside forces. Bujold has won and been nominated for multiple Hugo Awards (voted by science-fiction readers), several Nebula Awards (voted by professional science-fiction writers), and numerous readers’ polls.

BibliographyBujold, Lois McMaster. “A Certain Inherent Kindness: An Interview with Lois McMaster Bujold.” Interview by Michael Levy. SFRA Review 220 (1995). Scholarly examination of Bujold and her work. The preface to this interview is very good.Bujold, Lois McMaster. “The Worst Possible Thing.” Interview by Elizabeth Counihan. Interzone 101 (November, 1995). Another helpful interview.Chelton, Mary K. “A Debt of Honor Repaid: The Science Fiction Novels of Lois McMaster Bujold–‘My Word on It.’” Voice of Youth Advocates 14 (December, 1991). Examines themes in Bujold’s work and includes brief discussions of individual novels, though the focus is on why Bujold’s novels are popular with young adult readers.Gibson, Bob D. “Homemaker of Universes.” Starlog, May, 1990. Examines Bujold and the impetus behind her writing.Watson, Noelle, and Paul E. Schellinger, eds. Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers. 3d ed. Chicago: St. James Press, 1991. Contains a profile of Bujold.
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