Lois McMaster Bujold
Lois McMaster Bujold

When I first started blogging about the numberous books I was reading, fans were quick to offer suggestions for additions to my massive reading pile.  A varied list of names were thrown my way, but three in particular came up time and again:  Lois, McMaster, and Bujold.  Well, finally, I know what all of the hype is about.  It was a pleasure to read Coredlia’s Honor, and an even greater pleasure to welcome the four-time winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel to this blog.  Thanks to Lois for taking the time to answer the many questions thrown her way – and doing so in record time without so much as a breather from her stint as Guest of Honor at last weekend’s Devention 3.  Rather than break her Q&A up, I’ve elected to skip today’s mailbag and make this an all-Bujold entry.  So thanks to Lois for taking the time and thanks to all who particpated… 

LibKat writes: “1. Will there be any more Vorkosigan novels? I would love to see a book about Ivan finally growing up, one resolving Mark’s relationship with Kareen and just a couple plain old adventures for Aral and Cordelia on Sergyar.

LMB: Yes, there is a new Miles book under contract with Baen, in progress. It doesn’t have a title yet, but it’s up to Chapter 4. Still a long way to go! I expect to have it finished by mid-2009 for publication, probably, early 2010.

It will be a Lord Auditor Vorkosigan mystery-adventure, in a fresh setting with a lot of new characters, and a few old favorites. Since I read the first two chapters at WorldCon last week, it’s public knowledge that Miles will be 39 in this book. It doesn’t have a title yet. Nor a 5th chapter, but that will come.

2. When you created the Chalion universe, was it always your intention to move to a different time period for the Autumn book?”

LMB: When I started the series, all I had in mind was writing the one novel, The Curse of Chalion, on-spec. By the time I reached its end, Ista was already demanding her own book, which became Paladin of Souls. I figured by then that if this was going to be a series, I wanted a different structure than the Vorkosigan books, for a change of pace — so a thematic series with one book for each of the five gods suggested itself naturally. So, since I make up these books one at a time, I had no particular plan for the next except that it should center on the concerns of a different god than either of the two I’d already done (although it turns out the god called the Bastard tends to have His thumb in every pie.) The notion of Ingrey, Ijada, and their dire situation at the start of The Hallowed Hunt came first; I then fit it into a fresh setting loosely based on medieval Germany, decided the themes of this book belonged to the god called the Son of Autumn, and we were off and running.

I have seed-notions for the next two books to complete the five-fold pattern, a book for the Father, the god of justice, and the Mother, goddess of, among other things, medicine, but I’m not going to have time to work on them for a while.

Susan writes: “This isn’t so much a question for Lois McMaster Bujold as a comment. I just wanted to express my appreciation for the wonderful character of Miles Vorkosigan in fiction and for your kindness in reality. My niece has CP (cerebral palsy) and during her teen years she had the difficulty of coping with her CP in addition to the usual teen angst. I introduced her to the Vorkosigan books at a critical time in her life and Miles made an impression on her to such an extent that we took her to, I think, it was Baltimore to a convention so she could see you speak. You ended up sitting behind us at a presentation and were very kind to one of your biggest fans. She is now a speech pathologist, married with three children, and still one of your biggest fans.

LMB: That is deeply cool. Give her my best regards.

(Susan): As far as a question, did your characters come before your world building?

LMB: Yes, usually. The whole series started with Aral and Cordelia; I built their world outward from them. After that it became rather a feedback loop, with characters, settings, and situations building on each other.

(Susan adds): Thank you for many years of reading pleasure. As a family we buy multiple copies of your books as not one of us is willing to be the second to read your stories.”

LMB: Thank you!

LibKat writes: “What is your relationship currently with Baen Books? If you do another Vorkosigan book will it be with them, even though Jim has passed away?”

LMB: See answer above: yes. I have been working with (now) Baen Publisher Toni Weisskopf for almost as long as I worked with Jim, so my relationship with the house remains much the same. Except that since the Chalion series with Eos I now have two good publishers, which is something like supporting two spouses, and I don’t write fast enough to give each one new books as often as they would like.

AnneTeldy writes: “Thank you for taking the time to field our questions. I had not had the pleasure of reading any of your books before – my “to be read” list has 1100+ titles on it and is still growing! – and am very glad Mr. M chose Cordelia’s Honor for this month’s discussion. I very much enjoyed it, especially Barrayar. You answered most of my questions in the Afterword but I still have a few.

1. We regulars here at Mr. M’s blog often complain about the network giving away surprises and twists in their previews for upcoming episodes. I’ve noticed the same sort of thing on book jackets and covers. Have you ever had a disagreement with your publishers about this? Do authors in general have any say about what’s written on the back covers and flyleaves of their books or is this something only “big name” writers can control?

LMB: I get to check the cover copy of all my (recent) books before they go out, and I usually tweak it a bit. I am not a copy writer; it’s a tricky balance. Not giving away spoilers may be important for the confirmed fan, but one really must give enough information for a new reader to make a successful buying or viewing decision.

2. As I understand it from the Afterword, you’ve been writing the Vorkosigan Saga out of storyline order. Was there a particular reason you chose to write out of timeline sequence? I would think writing the timeline randomly would make it harder on you because of the continuity issues. Did you start with a general timeline of events and randomly decide which part of Miles’s life to write about when or was there a method to your madness? Or did you maybe just fall in love with a hint of backstory you wrote into Book A and decided to elaborate it in Book B? Keeping straight all those little things fans would pounce on if you got them wrong – when ‘X’ died or when ‘Y’ got his scar – would drive me insane. Have you made those kinds of errors?

LMB: I have so far kept the continuity straight without undue effort. I’ve written only a few books out of order, each for different reasons. As a general rule, I find I don’t prefer prequels; the endings are too constrained, plus if an event is important enough to write a whole book about, it becomes hard to explain why the character in question never thinks about it in “later” (but written earlier) tales.

I do not have an overarching plan for the universe or the characters’ lives; each new book therefore contains the possibility of changing the world, which makes them more exciting, at least to me.

3. Why did you choose to make your protagonist physically handicapped? Was it simply the inherent story potential of Miles living in a militaristic society or was there some other deciding factor? Did you speak to people with similar disabilities to help you portray Miles’s personal struggles and private thoughts about them?

LMB: Miles came out of his parents’ situation; I knew from early on in Shards of Honor that they would have a physically handicapped son. I did not formally interview or study up on folks with disabilities, although I’d met some in real life by then, and have since listened to more. In other words, I did not start with an agenda, and then make up a character to carry its placard; I started with Miles, and made the agendas run to keep up, as neither he nor I had time to wait on them.

Most of my inspiration arrives in my head as pictures; they’re not chosen, or reasoned out; they just appear, and then I deal with connecting them up.

4. I’m way too OCD for the random reading of a series. If I decide to read one, I research it and create a reading list in storyline order so I don’t make a mistake. Do you really read a series out of order? Doesn’t it lessen your enjoyment by taking the suspense out when you know before you start reading Book #3 that ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ will live through Dangerous Situation Beta because they were in Book #4 which you’ve already read?

LMB: Well, that gets into different series structures, which is a study in its own right. But I promise you, there is no “wrong” way to read the Miles books, though there are arguments over optimum directions. Happily, Mr. Mallozzi has started you off right if you are rigid about reading order; Shards of Honor was both my first novel ever, and the first in the series chronologically. (Falling Free is an outlier, and may be picked up any time, though preferably before Diplomatic Immunity.)

If a writer is careful and clever, it’s possible to maintain quite a bit of suspense even when writing a prequel, so there are some surprises left no matter what direction one reads the series. I try not to overdo backfill, for one thing; I just put in what is directly pertinent to the tale at hand. As a reader, I too have been frustrated in bookstores and libraries by not being able to get the “next” book, so I tried to design my first series (once it became a series) to be robust in the face of such shuffling. The Vorkosigan series has a lot of good entry points.

And judging by the number of folks who re-read my books many times, it’s not the suspense that gives the most lasting enjoyment; there is more to these books than their plots. That said, there can only ever be one “first read”. So read Cordelia’s Honor first, and Young Miles second, and after that I suspect you’ll be able to figure it out on your own. (Plus Baen includes a handy internal chronology at the back.)

Ytimyona writes: “How much planning do you do before you begin writing your novels? Do you know how it’s going to end before you begin writing, or does the story kind of take off on its own?”

LMB: It’s a sort of continuous flow process. I have answered this question in detail in several interviews up on my website: http://www.dendarii.com/interviews.html

I’ll copy the long answer here:

I use a sort of rolling-outline technique, largely as a memory aid, and work forward a small section at a time, because that’s all my brain will hold. I will start to work up ideas for a story from all sorts of sources — other reading, history, film, television, my own life experiences, debates with friends about ideas or other books. When my eyes or brain burn out on reading, I’m quite fond of all the non-fiction DVDs I can get from the local library, science and travel and history. At some point, all this will spark or clot into notions for a character or characters, their world, and the opening situation, and sometimes but not always a dim idea of the ending. I will start jotting notes in pencil in a loose-leaf binder.

By the time I have about 40 or 50 pages of these, I will start to see how the story should begin. I then make a broad section outline, up to what I call “the event horizon”, which is how far I can see to write till I have to stop and make up some more. This is usually a chapter or three. I’ll get a mental picture of what scenes should go in the next chapter, and push them around till they slot into sequence. I then pull out the next scene and outline it closely, almost a messy sort of first draft. I choreograph dialogue especially carefully. Then I take these notes to my computer and type up the actual scene. Lather, rinse, repeat till I get to the end of the chapter and, my brain now purged and with room to hold more, I pop back up to the next level to outline again

Every scene I write has the potential of changing what comes next, either by a character doing something unexpected or by my clearer look at the material as it’s finally pinned to the page, so I re-outline constantly. Making up the story and writing down the story are, for me, two separate activities calling for two different states of mind. Creation needs relaxation; composition is intensely focused. I do the making up part away from the computer, either while taking my walks or otherwise busying myself, or, when I get to the note-making or outlining stage, in another room. I do not compose at the computer, although I do edit on the fly, and the odd better ideas for a bit of dialogue or description do often pop out while I’m typing. Sometimes, they’re sufficiently strong that they derail what I’d planned and I have to stop typing and go away and re-outline; sometimes they’re just a bonus, an unexpected Good Bit, and slot right in

I don’t write a certain set number of pages or words a day. Either I’ll have nothing outlined, or what I have outlined will be unsatisfactory and I’ll be stalled — or doing invisible work, sometimes even invisible to me — or I’ll have a fresh outline and be racing ahead to get it onto the page. I generally write a chapter in a few days, then go fallow for several days — or, in a sticky bit or when interrupted by travel, several weeks — then have another burst. I figure an average of two chapters a month for minimum professional production, more if I can get them, but even that is irregular. I do most of my writing either in the late morning, or the late evening. Late afternoon tends to be a physiological down-time for me.

Laryn writes: “I read somewhere that you enjoyed writing the Vorkosigan novels almost as much as I enjoyed reading them, because you didn’t know what the characters were going to do next even while writing the stories. Having read all of the Vorkosigan novels, I have to applaud the creativity they show especially, as Mr. Malozzi states, they focus more on the characters and less on the technical details.

My question, as an very-amateur writer and editor, is to ask how much of your rough drafts make it into the final storylines? And since I’m sure that not everything makes it to the final story, which aspects of the story or character do you review (primarily) in the editing stages?

LMB: Partly answered above; by the time I get to the final edit, all the structural revisions have been done, except for minor clean-ups and tweaks.

Also, out of curiousity and without any pressure (I tried not to ask but my willpower failed me), can we expect to see additional novels in the Vorkosigan universe someday?”

LMB: Answered above.

Cat4444 writes: “Comment for Ms. Bujold: I just want to say that I read the two books that make up Cordelia’s Honor separately waaaaayy back when (we won’t go into just how far back when) and thoroughly enjoyed them.

I do wonder, though, why the focus was shifted from Aral and Cordelia to Miles in subsequent books, with them on the periphery if they were there at all. Did you feel that their story had been told with these two books and it was time to move on to another protagonist or did you just run out of ideas for them after they began to “live happily ever after” or as much as they could, anyway, in a militaristic society?”

LMB: The Warrior’s Apprentice was actually my second novel — Barrayar was written years later, starting with about 8 chapters cut from the end of Shards’ initial draft. I explain this in the Afterword to the Cordelia’s Honor omnibus edition, but if you read the books separately, you naturally haven’t seen this. The seed crystal for WA was actually a vision of the death of Bothari; the whole second book grew up around that.

Basically, after the detour for Falling Free, from Brothers in Arms onward Miles took over. Do note, WA was the book that sold the series to Baen; at the time, I suspect Jim was hoping I would turn into a sort of female Tom Clancy, or David Drake, or Gordy Dickson, with a lot of military adventures centered around the mercs. Instead he got, well, me.

He did not seem disappointed, in the long run.

AlaskaMom writes: “Ms. Bujold – Thank you for taking our questions! I was surprised to find out that you have a Midwest background, considering the choice of names in CH. The names (Piotr, Aral, Kareen, Gregor. have an Eastern European or Russian feel to them. Was this intentional? From where do you get your people and place names?”

LMB: Founder effect; Barrayar was supposed to have been settled by colonists from, largely, Russia, France, Britain and Greece, so the names should reflect this.

Early on, I made up a few names that “sounded” foreign; I never envisioned by books translated and read by native speakers in those countries, who would then e-mail me to ask where this name they’d never heard of came from. I learned to be more careful about that.

”I also wanted to comment on how realistic Alys’ birth scene was. I appreciated the little details. Much better than the over-dramatic, exaggerated births with crazy, hysterical, out of control women that are too often found in books or on TV.”

LMB: Lamaze here, twice. It’s All Research.

Thornyrose writes: “I see a couple of my questions have already been asked by others. So my own list will be unusually short. First, does any of the cover art to your Vorkosigan books capture what you picture the characters to be, in your mind’s eye? I noticed Mr. M. says Aral reminds him of a young Robert Davi. Myself, I picture more of a Gregory Peck. And somehow I’ve never been able to match my own mental picture of Miles to any of the cover art I’ve seen. As the creator of the characters, I wonder how you view it?”

LMB: I’ve seldom had covers that convey my own mental image of the characters; the shining exception is The Sharing Knife series, in which I worked closely with artist Julie Bell. My favorite Baen cover is the one for Memory, which is really thematic, and does not show the character’s face at all. And yet it’s perfect.

If you want to really sear your eyeballs, not to mention your brain, with my covers, check out the collection of foreign cover scans on http://www.dendarii.com

“You have produced a number of fantasy works, including the excellent Curse of Chalion. Do you have a preference of genres, and is there a genre you have wanted try that you have not yet written for? Thank you very much for your time and participation here, Ms. Bujold, and thanks to Mr. Mallozzi for hosting your visit.”


LMB: The thing about fantasy and science fiction (which I like equally) is that you can do almost any story type without leaving genre bounds. And I have. So I’ll probably stay “in-genre”, for a very broad value of genre. Unless I suddenly want to do something else, that is.

Dan writes: “Your presence on Joe’s blog has encouraged me to stop lurking and post a comment. Thank you for coming!

1) I really enjoy your Vorkosigan books and was wondering, since that storyline has slowed down, whether you would consider starting a more action-oriented space opera/sci-fi series?”

LMB: We’ll see if that storyline has slowed down as much as you think. That said, I am pretty bored with military tales, and am unlikely to revisit those tropes soon. I do find myself hankering for some actual science in my science fiction; that seems thin on the ground these days.

2) Is there a novel/short story you have written that you are particularly happy with in terms of narrative and execution?”

LMB: Oh, gosh. That sounds very like the old “Which is your favorite?” question. The novella “The Mountains of Mourning” still works for me. The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls wear well, too. And A Civil Campaign still makes me smile, quite slyly. Mirror Dance, Memory… I could well end up just listing them all, I fear.

3) And the reverse of that. Do you have a published novel/short story that you kept fiddling with and then submitted without feeling satisfied with the structure?”

LMB: The Vor Game is rather broken-backed. There was no time to fiddle. There seldom is. Diplomatic Immunity was the right book at the wrong time; it should probably have included Ekaterin’s viewpoint, but in the beginning it didn’t look as if the two viewpoints would balance. By the time I realized they could, but end-to-end rather than step-by-step, I was already over deadline and besides, I was saving those thematic elements for Ista, to whom I was desperate to get back.

Iamza writes: “Questions for LMB:
(1) Will there be more Vorkosigan books in the future (maybe looking at Ivan, or one of the younger Vorkosigans)?”

LMB: Answered above.

(2) Did you have a specific country in mind when writing about Barrayar? I mean, mention is made that Barrayar has been isolated from the rest of the galaxy, left to fend for itself for a long time. Was that idea of galactic isolation based on, for example, the global shunning of South Africa or fear of the USSR at the height of its powers?”

LMB: No, it was based on feudal and Meiji Japan. With Russian and Prussian elements thrown in — some 20th Century but mostly 19th C.

Note that Barrayar’s initial isolation was from purely physical causes, the closing of their original wormhole. Their political obnoxiousness came mostly after the trauma of the Cetagandan occupation, following the discovery of the new wormhole and the end of the Time of Isolation.

”Also, Barrayar is both very militaristic and, at the same time, almost fuedal. They’re very odd political structures to mix together (‘might is right’ versus birth determining one’s station in life). Why this particular political structure for Barrayar?”

LMB: Straight out of Japanese history, that.

(3) Not on Cordelia’s Honour, but have you ever found yourself written into a corner by Miles’ genius? Where Miles has to accomplish the impossible, and you just have no idea how he’s going to do it?”

LMB: Every book, pretty much. We both get through somehow. The current project looks to be another.

”Thanks for your time, and for writing such amazingly awesome books! And for the butterbugs, because life just wouldn’t be life without a hefty helping of butterbugs.”

LMB: Indeed! (They are a fertility symbol, you know.)

AntiSocialButterflie writes: “I noticed as I read this book that while Cordelia changed dramatically in her attitude and behavior, Aral remained essentially and constantly Aral. Had the Cordelia at the beginning of the book seen the Cordelia at the end she would have been horrified, whereas Aral had to deviate within the bounds of what he considered right, but it seems as though he would have made the same decisions at the beginning as he did at the end. While you may say “well duh, that’s why the book is called CORDELIA’S honor,” I still have to ask was this conscious decision or did it just sort of happened as you were writing?

LMB: It all happened as I was writing. Though if Aral had immigrated to Beta Colony instead, as he one time considered, the adaptation-load could well have been reversed. It would have been a very different story, that.

It is well, also, to remember that Cordelia was a ship captain in her own right. They don’t give that sort of responsibility to people who can’t exert their wills upon others, or operate independently. Even if Cordelia’s command style was fluid and Betan and hard for Aral to grasp.

”Also, in your end comments you mention that you did not write this series in chronological order. Did you always know the whole back story or did it develop in pieces as you were writing them?”LMB: It developed in pieces.

Paula writes: “But I think what most intrigued me in these books was the reproductive storyline. I guess that’s my question for LMB:

Was it your intent to make any sort of statement about women with looking at this particular technology? I alternate between seeing this plotline as an indictment of reproductive assistance and a celebration of a woman’s control over her own body.”

LMB: I love technology. Reproductive assistance is a miracle and a wonder. I think the whole root of women’s liberation in the modern sense flows from and is directly dependent upon modern tech. Of all sorts, not just birth control.

That said, I used to work in patient care in a major university hospital; no technology works perfectly, all the time. And the interface problem is always a bitch.

The one point, if any, I would make about technology is that *results vary*. Over the whole series, and indeed within the novel Barrayar, it was my aim to look at as many variations as possible. This is not a one-size-fits-all future, here.

Speaking as someone who grew up short one grandmother because she died in childbirth in 1916 of causes that would be handled with trivial ease today. There is nothing so un-liberating as dying.

Nicole Gosthas writes: “My question to Ms. Bujold: if YOU were to cast these books, who would you like to see in the roles? (Way back when I first read them, I saw Glenn Close as Cordelia. Robert Davi is not who I saw as Aral, but I think he’s a good choice.)”

LMB: I always saw the late Oliver Reed (in his younger days, before the dipsomania got him) as the actor for Aral. A younger Vanessa Redgrave for Cordelia, maybe. I’m not up to speed on the current actors.

Fsmn36 writes: “Questions for Lois:

1). What is your favorite part of writing? Is it the characters? Planning the plot? Or something different? The fans, accolades…

LMB: Making it up, writing it down. The beginning, where it’s all fresh, and the ending, where it all comes together (if it does.) I am not so fond these days of all the PR chores, which seem to have multiplied — I’m partly a victim of my own success, I suspect.

2). What started you writing? A teacher in high school, the need to tell stories you imagined, etc. Was it always a career you had in mind?

Oh, my. Let’s do this link: http://www.dendarii.com/biolog.html

Short answer: started in 8th grade, I needed to tell stories, and I didn’t seriously tackle it as a career till my early 30’s, after a long hiatus in my 20’s when I’d more-or-less forgotten what I was about.

3). You write both fantasy and sci-fi. Which was your first? Do you have a preference? Which is easier to write? How do you keep the two from blending together (or do you let them? I admit, I haven’t had a chance to read your fantasy novels.)?

LMB: I have no preference; I like both. I don’t have any trouble keeping them separate. The technical aspects of putting together a novel — characterization, plotting, pacing, worldbuilding, etc. — are largely the same across the related genres. Fantasy seems to have a higher bar for literary style.

I started in SF, adding fantasy with The Spirit Ring in 1992 but not getting back to it till the turn of the millennium brought the chance to do The Curse of Chalion.

4). What kind of advice would you give someone keen on writing/publishing fantasy and sci-fi works?

LMB: Breaking in today is too different from the mid-80’s for my advice to be current. But read a lot, watch a lot, do and listen and learn a lot; this will fill the well you must draw upon. Write it, finish it send it out; there is no secret handshake. Alas.

5). What drew you to the space opera genre? Is it your own personal reading preference, something you just had to tell, or something else?

LMB: Personal preference; it just seemed a fun sort of tale, and fell out naturally.

6). Who are some of your favorite fantasy/sci-fi authors and books? Any you’re meaning to read shortly, here?”

LMB: Lately Terry Pratchett tops my fantasy list. An older favorite is Cordwainer Smith, also James H. Schmitz. But I need to stop reading and get back to writing soon.

Except for that non-fiction book about Barcelona, as I’m going there to give a speech in November. Which I also must write sometime.

Terry writes: “Questions for Lois: Do you treat each sequel as distinct from the previous ones when you think about how to introduce characters in the plot? By that I mean, How do you balance between writing for long-standing readers and new readers when writing a sequel?


LMB: The trick seems to be to treat the backstory of the previous volumes just as you’d treat the backstory of your very first volume — in other words, only present what you have to for *this* tale. You can leave out way more than you might think.

This worked well for the Vorkosigan books, which were styled as a group of related stand-alone novels. The problem gave me fits in the last two volumes of The Sharing Knife tetralogy, however, since that really is one story cut into four pieces, and the actions and meaning of the later volumes flow directly and in detail from the earlier. I did a lot more backfill in Passage and Horizon than is my usual wont; but I used to advantage the fact that my characters were arriving in new places and had to bring new characters up to speed — and with them, the readers.

“Are you surprised by the popularity of some of your secondary characters like Simon and Ivan?”


LMB: Not really. I always liked the sidekicks best, myself.

“Did you ever consider writing more about Aral and Cordelia or do you think that once characters marry that the range of story you can tell is limited?”

LMB: I don’t rule out the possibility, but it’s not in my queue at present. The only kind of story that’s truly used up in one shot is the courtship story, after all, and even that can be revived under certain conditions.

Drledebeor writes: “Question for Ms. Bujold: how did you come up with the idea of Miles’ physical deficiency? The fact that he wasn’t a “perfect space hero” made him one of my fave sci-fi characters.”

LMB: See above; he came out of his parents’ situation. He really is, not an anti-hero, but a counter-hero; short instead of tall, fragile instead of strong, intensely and painfully conscious of himself and his own drive for recognition; saddled with a family instead of being an orphan, and on and on.

Sparrow_hawk writes: “1. Each time I have read “Shards of Honor”, I am surprised by the final scene where you show us the aftermath of the war including recovering the bodies of those who died in space. I’m always lulled into thinking that the book is over, and have a warm fuzzy feeling, and then am suddenly stunned and sobered by those last few pages. It seems right that you show us that war in space is no less brutal and devastating than it is on a planet’s surface, but why did you write it?

LMB: It was actually written as a separate short story, which I shopped around but failed to sell before the book sold; it was Jim Baen’s idea to append it as an afterword, and a very good one, I think.

2. Why did you switch from science fiction to fantasy? I’m glad you did, but I was surprised when it happened.

LMB: I like both; it was not so much switching as adding, finally having an opportunity to expand.

3. Are there going to be any more books about Cazaril or Ista?

LMB: Not likely. At least not soon. My current ideas for the last, or at least next, two Chalion books involve new characters in new settings.

4. Do you think you will ever go back to writing science fiction?

LMB: Doing so now; see above.

SueS writes: “1) In Joe’s critique he said he pictured a young Robert Davi as Captain Aral Vorkosigan. First, what do you think of his casting and second, when you are writing do you ever imagine any particular actor in a role if any of your books were ever to become a major motion picture?

LMB: Answered above.

2) I like what you said in your Afterword that “A proper series is neither an extension of the novel (as in the multi-volume single story) nor a replication (as when essentially the same story is told over and over, cookie-cutter fashion), but another animal altogether with its own internal demands.” And that “one must assume that readers . will encounter the books in utterly random order. . each series novel must be simultaenously a complete tale in itself, and uphold its unique place in the growing structure; it must be two books at once.” With this in mind, if someone could only read one story in your series, what story would you recommend?

LMB: I usually try to determine the tastes of the particular reader, and steer them toward a tale that would seem to match, reasoning that if they like it, they’ll come back for the rest. Seems to work; folks have started the series all over the map. In the absence of guiding information, I would pick Young Miles for guys and Cordelia’s Honor for women.

3) Was there any story that you found difficult to write – what was the difficulty and how did you overcome it?

LMB: All of them. And, one chapter at a time.

4) Finally, who are your favorite authors?

LMB: Pass, answered above and elsewhere.

Amy Lynn writes: “How does it feel to be compared to other authors?”

LMB: Weird, but not as weird as now having other authors compared to me.

Traveler64 writes: “The Betan and Barrayan societies and worlds are diametrically opposite in many, if not all, ways. And that difference, to the extreme, both taken to levels that seem at some point far from ‘nice’, makes me wonder if, as you wrote them, you had a preference for one over the other. The Betan or the Barrayan? I found interesting that Cordelia, although shocked by and determined to changed many of the Barrayan ways, she never expressed real desire-aside from the fact that she would’ve been locked up for sure-to return to her Betan world, and seemed not particularly attached to her mother or family in general; which contrasts with the strong family ties of the Barrayan. I would be quite curious to hear your opinion of the two societies. I have to admit, may because it was more familiar and less sterile, I rather rooted for the Barrayan.

LMB: My point is that every place is a collection of trade-offs. I would desperately miss the out-of-doors, but for myself I’d choose Beta. I’d live longer. Cordelia, one must note, was already a bit of a misfit, or she wouldn’t have joined the Survey.

And later, she’d taken a solemn oath to Gregor.

“My second question is about the closing chapter of Shards of Honor-where Boni finds the body of her own daughter. This chapter was separate in many ways from the others. I found it very poignant and quite affecting. It made me pause. But, I would love to have your thoughts on why you put it there and what were your feelings when you wrote it.


LMB: I wrote it in 1983 or so, so I don’t remember much; but I do recall I wanted to pay tribute to some of the more dedicated nurses I’d worked with back in my (then more recent) hospital days. And I wanted to de-glamorize war, just in case anyone had got carried away by the earlier excitement.

It was some years after that I went to listen to an army officer give some sort of rah-rah speech to the local boy scouts about Iraq v.1.1, and then, later out in the parking lot, tell a group of adults what the body-retrieval and ID work had *really* been like. I think she should have told the raw truth to scouts, myself.

“I would like to read more about Miles. Which would be the next book in these series I should read?”


LMB: Young Miles. This is a Baen omnibus volume containing The Warrior’s Apprentice, the novella “The Mountains of Mourning”, and The Vor Game. They’re also available as e-books from http://www.fictionwise.com and as audio books from Blackstone.

Montrealer writes: “If any of your novels gets greenlight for a movie. Would you preferred live action, CGI animation or motion capture animation for the movie? Especially for the Vor Game, since I consider it to have the most action sequences.”


LMB: I would love to see Falling Free done as anime or CGI. It’s practically pre-adapted, story-structure-wise, for feature film. I’m afraid the powers-that-be would choke on making the mutants the heroes, though. Most of my other books are too large and complex for feature films, and too much of what’s important is stuff happening inside people’s heads — playing to the strengths of the novel form, but hard to make visual. (Mini-series, maybe?) Characters are created by their actions; once scripters start mucking about changing actions, and everything else, the characters get ripped to shreds along-with. It can’t be helped.

Nic writes: “What is your ideal writing environment? Like, do you need to be in a certain room of the house, have a certain ambiance or background noises? Do you listen to music, or write in silence? Does a certain time of day work better for you, or does it matter? Do you have to pound away at a keyboard, or need the tactile sensations of a pen dancing over paper?”


LMB: Answered above, mostly. I walk to think it up, need silence to write it down, and am most functional mornings and late evenings.

I used to work under much less ideal conditions than I have now, I must say. But I was younger and more desperate.

Last note: I just put my Denvention 3 Guest of Honor speech up on my own blog. Lots of meditations upon genre and genres, mostly. It may be found here:


Also, for more than any sane person would want to know about me and my work, Baen is publishing The Vorkosigan Companion, a book about my books, in December. It will have essays, an interview, a concordance, and book summaries — very much a Vorkosiverse story-bible, in other words, all in one handy place.

And a big “You’re welcome!” to you all.

44 thoughts on “August 14, 2008: Author Lois McMaster Bujold Answers Your Questions

  1. Thank you very much, Ms. Bujold, for your time and participation here I really appreciate the “peek behind the scenes” into the creation of such vivid worlds. And I’m looking forward to checking out the cover art site!
    Mr. M. It’s been at least two days, and not even a whisper of how the corn soup was? I’m beginning to worry that Fuel has faltered, and disappointed you… at any rate, thank you for all your work in arranging all of the guest appearances here, especially that of Ms. Bujold.

  2. A big thank you to Ms Bujold for answering our questions.

    Mr. M:

    Is Major Anne Teldy a Marine? Air Force? Does she have the gene?

    Does Lorne naturally have the ATA gene or did he get the gene-therapy?

    Anne Teldy

  3. Hi, Joe.

    Thank you, and Ms. McMaster Bujold, for a delightful guest blog.

    Joe, writer Devon Ellington had some nice comments about Stargate Atlantis in a recent interview at he Creative Heartbeat Collective blog:


    …”I can’t imagine being a show runner for something like LOST or STARGATE ATLANTIS. I’d die. I’m very detail-oriented when it comes to consistency or continuity, but shows like that would kill me. Of course, as a writer, those shows are the ones that are fun, especially when they’re well-cast.”

  4. Just reading through all the Ronon quotes yesterday was really wonderful. Y’all thought of so many great ones that I didn’t! I love them ALL! LOL


  5. Joe,

    I’m hoping you will give David Hewlett a message from one of his squirrels(fans) that belong to his website http://www.dgeek.com. Someone has hacked it and is redirecting to another website that is most likely malicious.

    I tried to get on dGeek and the main homepage came up. But, when I tried to sign in or go to any forum links I was directed to a webpage by Antivir64. It says my computer is infected and it tries to run a scan on my computer. I close the window and another pops up and I close that one and it finally closes.

    I thought I had adware, spyware or a virus on my computer until I ran a scan and came up clean. Then a bunch of squirrels all contacted each other and it seems we all have the same problem with dGeek so someone must have hacked the website and is directing it to a malicious advertisement. (which probably actually puts viruses on computers….that happened to my friend who fell for it and had a heck of a time getting it off her computer)

    Thanks in advance Joe, for passing on my message! *hugs*

    Kimberly aka Kdvb1(also Kdvb1 on David’s site)

  6. I just wanted to add my THANK YOU to the list… Ms. Bujold, I appreciate your time and participation and loved the “peek behind the scenes” in your mind!

    Way cool!
    Patricia Lee

  7. Thank you Ms. Bujold for answering all these questions so patiently and with so much interesting detail. And thank you for the recommandation for Young Miles. I already ordered it.

  8. Coucou mon Joseph!

    Sa va ?

    Outch …je ne connait pas cette auteur désoler….

    Je ne serais pas là ce week end car je la passe avec mon cheri!


  9. Hey Joe.

    I’m having a great time in England! You’re a fan of Doctor Who, right? Well, I thought you might like to know that next week I’m going to a Doctor Who Exhibition here in Chester. It shows you all kinds of behind-the-scenes things about the show.

    I’ll let you know how it goes.

    Thanks Joe.

  10. I am another Squirrel(Fan) that would love for you to give David Hewlett a message from his Squirrels:

    Can you tell him that we are very angry at the person who hacked his site and if he wants, we have many a weapon to punish them…lol

    We Squirrels are all willing to help in any way we can, as we love and live for ADB and dGeek.com.

    David has brought so many of us together from all over the world and many of us have become great friends and its all because of his site 😀
    We would like to thank him and Jane for making the site and let them know that we love it so much so that we will not let dgeek go down without a fight! :D:D

    Thanks 😀


  11. I just may have to check out this book, once I get through that humungous stack I already have waiting for me…

    Hey, can you tell David Hewlett his ‘squirrels’ will just visit his Twitter (in the hopes he can eventually get his site back up)?

    Can’t believe some *person* (grrrrrrrrrrrr, use that word cuz I can’t post what I really think of people like that) hacked his A DOG’S BREAKFAST site!

  12. LMBujold, fans & Mr M thanks for a terrific Q&A!!!!

    We’ll be home for Ghost in the Machine (cue Police) looks great, may it garner a 1.5 share!

    Wishing for a 17.7 share…

  13. PS BIIIGGG congrats to Martin Wood, nominated by the Directors Guild of Canada Awards in the television category.
    You deserve to win.

  14. Thank you Ms. Bujold for being kind enough to come onto Joe’s blog to answer questions about your book!

    Hey Joe,

    How’s it going? I’m glad you got a night off of blogging.

    Have you heard that David is thinking of ending his dgeek site? I’ve been flooded with e-mails by many squirrels (fans of David) who are very upset. Dozens of us go on his site more than once a day. I’m very angry that hackers have messed with the site. I understand David is super busy and not able to easily fix the problem. I truly hope this is not the end of his website. 🙁 I just needed to whine about that. *sigh*


    @Das: I think you would fit into my family pretty well. I was laughing at your story about resorting to eating your cats and neighbors. We’ve gotten those *looks* from people before, too! Usually when Jeremy will tell people that our children and pets are so well behaved due to regular beatings. He’s so obviously joking when he says it but we’ve literally had people turn tail and walk away from us! 😯 So, I feel your pain. 🙂 And also, I just know you had at least PART of a Tigger in you.

  15. Hi Joe,

    Quick chicken feet story – while in Bolivia at my host family’s house they served us soup one day with chicken which includes the feet. They served me with a foot in my bowl so I ate slowly and around it. The baby started gesturing my way and so I started with a potato, no go. Then her mom said, no I think she wants the foot. So it was with relief that I said, oh OK and gave her the foot. She sucked on it like a lollipop. Dodged that bullet, not so lucky with the guinea pig – though it was not bad.

    I really wish I could keep up with all the reading that ya’ll are doing. I just don’t have the time. I have figured out that I might be able to keep up with one a month and instead of ordering them all, I’ll stick to the one that interests me most at first glance.

    Thanks for the really great blog – I enjoy learning so much about the process that goes into creating one of my favorite shows.


  16. Definitely a good author/ess, and an article I shall wish to reread in detail. David Weber is another that is very popular, though that can probably be said about most of the Baen.com authors. Actually I stumbled onto this article trying to post a comment about the Atlantis Newsie-Kiwi comment.

    I was reading the Remnants info at Gateworld and noted a post which read NEW! July 23 – “Will had phoned me up last night to inquire about Dr. Conrad’s patch. ‘She has a slight accent,’ he said. ‘I think it’s either Australian or New Zealand.’ … Aussie won out over Newzie (incidentally, Fondy tried to convince me that people from New Zealand are referred to as Kiwi’s, not Newzies, but I knew she was pulling my leg).”

    Please please please tell me you were joking! Newzie??? The only Newsie I have heard of is the media. The New Zealand equivalent of Aussie IS Kiwi. Trust me on this, I am one, albeit one currently over the ditch. Feel free to do a quick bit of research for confirmation. Given the nets anonymity I could be Wraith for all you know, well possibly not but it is past dinnertime 🙂 As an aside Aussie Vs Kiwi is probably equivalent to Canadian Vs American.

    Sorry this is probably the wrong section but I’ve no idea where it should go, blogs aren’t my forte, and this appears to be the most current. Assuming you do read the comments hopefully this will correct the error, or lead to confirmation that I missed the joke.

  17. It totally sucks about dGeek. Can you please let David know I’ll help if I can to get the site restored? I can send any relevant information via you if he wants.

    Cheers, Chev

  18. Robert said:

    Definitely a good author/ess, and an article I shall wish to reread in detail. David Weber is another that is very popular, though that can probably be said about most of the Baen.com authors. Actually I stumbled onto this article trying to post a comment about the Atlantis Newsie-Kiwi comment.

    I was reading the Remnants info at Gateworld and noted a post which read NEW! July 23 – “Will had phoned me up last night to inquire about Dr. Conrad’s patch. ‘She has a slight accent,’ he said. ‘I think it’s either Australian or New Zealand.’ … Aussie won out over Newzie (incidentally, Fondy tried to convince me that people from New Zealand are referred to as Kiwi’s, not Newzies, but I knew she was pulling my leg).”

    Pleae please please tell me you were joking! Newzie??? The only Newsie I have heard of is the media. The New Zealand equivalent of Aussie IS Kiwi. Trust me on this, I am one, albeit one currently over the ditch. Feel free to do a quick bit of research for confirmation. Given the nets anonymity I could be Wraith for all you know, well possibly not but it is past dinnertime 🙂 As an aside Aussie Vs Kiwi is probably equivalent to Canadian Vs American.

    Sorry this is probably the wrong section but I’ve no idea where it should go, blogs aren’t my forte, and this appears to be the most current. Assuming you do read the comments hopefully this will correct the error, or lead to confirmation that I missed the joke.

    Ah Robert, Joe has a very wicked sense of humour. Yeah you kinda missed the joke.

    Cheers, chev

  19. (Sorry Joe…)

    @ Trish – Yeah, at least I’m part Tigger. Funny thing is, the first time I met ‘Tigger’ (at Disney World) was when I was 19, and that’s the same year I came out of my shell, so to speak. So, maybe I caught Tiggeritis, or something. 😀 And then on top of it, a few years back I compounded everything when I came down with a terrible case of Jack Sparrowsilliosis…I mean, CAPTAIN Jack Sparrowsilliosis. 😉

    I’m just SO glad you knew where I was coming from. I’m sure some people don’t…but I’m used to it. That’s why I joke when people get a bit snarky or develop misconceptions about me. I figure why get defensive when you can have fun, fun, fun, fun, FUN!

    bouncey-bounce-bounce-bou….aaaarrrrgggggghhhh! *falls off cliff* 😛


  20. That is a shame about dGeek being shut down. Perhaps David Hewlett could start a blog on WordPress similar to Joe’s?
    That way he could post pictures and keep in touch but let someone esle worry about cyber security and whatnot. A great deal less stress and hassle. Wouldn’t exactly be the same as the entire website with it’s community feel, but he could still keep in touch with his fans and squirrel friends.

  21. @ Bailey – at least you didn’t get the Rogue Winkie like I just did – NOW Joe probably thinks I’m flirting with him… 😛


  22. Thanks Chev
    I couldn’t tell if he was joking or being the stereotypical American. The thought that he might have been serious when he made such a public error irked me. Miseducation, of course another Americans talking about 57 states (no not islamic ones) never worried me so I guess it’s relative. I may have wasted a wee bit of time typing my response but I guess the discovery of the Bujold interview still leaves me ahead 🙂

  23. Hi Joe I was perusing the science journal ‘Scientific America’ when I came across an article on the Joys of Summarized Cinema.

    The one that caught my eye was….. ‘Stargate’ Kurt Russell and his buzz cut outwit the guy who played the girl who was a guy in The Crying Game.

    Others included….

    A feisty cat survives tense times onboard a spaceship.

    The future governor of California and the future governor of Minnesota go hiking.
    ‘Predator’. (For those amongst us who are clueless Arnie Schwarzenegger and someone called Jesse Ventura.)

    And my personal favourite…Valliant insects try to repel totalitarian invaders.
    ‘Starship Troopers’

    Perhaps this one for Stargate Atlantis

    ‘The Daedalus Variations’
    The multiverse kicks ass. One man finds he’s a genius which ever Universe he’s in. Doh!


  24. Okay, the green snot monster I can live with, but the red tail thing noooo.

    I really hope it is a tail and not a….well I leave that to your imagination.


  25. @kdvb1

    You might want to double check your computer for a keylogger – I had the same problems you describe after visiting DH’s website. I ran Spyware Doctor and it found and removed 10 infections of the same spyware which it said was “high risk” (can’t remember the name of the keylogger but it started with an “i”).


  26. Hey Joe

    So it’s raining here again – so far we’ve already set a record rainfall for the summer and there are still 37 days left! Yesterday in the afternoon it looked like someone was literally throwing buckets of water on the city from above. Which makes me wonder – what do you guys do if you are scheduled to shoot on location somewhere and it just pours?


  27. Hey Joe!

    Great news! David’s website is up and running again. This is why he is our Squirrel King! 😆

    So all is right in my corner of the universe again.

    *bounces away in glee*

  28. *slinks back in*

    Maybe I spoke too soon. There are some problems with the site. But still, HORRAY for David! He’s really busy and should be fighting the Wraith not hackers.

    And I’m done talking about it.

    Who’s excited about Stargate Atlantis tonight? I know I am! 😀

    @Das: I saw that rogue winkie get ya. Yeah, Joe is CERTAINLY thinking you are flirting with him now. 😛

  29. @ Trish – I’m just glad to get SGA back, but it’s a busy night; we’re supposed to go out of town early tomorrow – and I have a lot to do yet – which clearly explains why I’m playing here. 🙄 Plus, we’re expecting storms which may screw with my satellite. I hate stormy Friday nights…

    And as regards Joe, I’m sure he’s secure in the knowledge that he’s neither green enough, nor creepy enough, to tempt the likes of me.

    So, you’re safe, Joe…unless, of course, you shave off your eyebrows and plop a granny wig on your head. THEN maybe you’d be in trouble… *insert Rogue Winkie here*


  30. Wow, thank you so much, Lois, for this fabulous guest appearance! It was very interesting and fun to read. I can’t wait to read more of your books.

    And thanks again to yopu, Joe!

  31. Yeah~~~ SGA is back tonight!!! WAHOO!!!

    Ghost in the Machine!!! WOORAY!!!

    *waves at Trish*

    Patricia Lee

  32. R.e. “Ghost in the Machine”: Aww. 🙁

    The beginning was fantastic, really wonderfully tense. I loved the shot of the jumper bouncing off the space gate and the gate righting itself. It was also really cool to see how the space gates deal with being knocked out of place; and also cool to see the answer to a question I’ve always had, i.e. what happens if you go through the gate from the other side (answer: apparently there is no ‘wrong’ side of the gate. Nifty!).

    The Fran actress (Morgan?) did a really good job playing ‘Elizabeth.’ I felt like I was seeing her mannerisms here and there, and hearing the cadence of her voice, to the point that by the end of the episode I felt like I could see Elizabeth in her face and especially her eyes. (Her voice — even when it was being piped through the computer before she made herself a body. When she says “Is that Richard Woolsey?” the hesitation, the wryness, and the way she says the word ‘that’ really sounded like Torri. Nice.)

    Also, really nice way of explaining what Elizabeth came back as Fran and not as Torri. It sucked enormously not to see Torri again, but it made pretty well perfect sense.

    John having to watch Elizabeth go to her ‘death’ again, not being able to save her again, again letting her make him let her go instead of ignoring her and trying to save her…wow. That was like a split second for Joe Flanigan to pack a ton of emotion and a blizzard of guiltangerhorrorregretdespair into a brief expression, and he just. Nailed it. Gah. Flanigan does so incredibly well with a range of emotions, I hope we get to see him deal with some much more layered scenarios and stories soon.

    On one hand, I felt like the other Replicators had acted in good faith and didn’t deserve what Elizabeth and Atlantis did to them. On the other hand, I also felt like it was implied that Elizabeth could sense something, in herself and possibly in the others, that let her know that they were as much on the knife’s edge of turning as Corusan was. But is that correct? Was I reading that right?

    Really wonderful episode. Thank you!

  33. I just recently watched Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long blog.
    It was created by Joss Whedon during the writer’s strike. Have you had a chance to watch it yet? If so what did you think of it?

  34. I never thought a soundwave on screen could hold my attention for as much exposition as it did, but thumbs up to Carl Binder and Ken Girotti for a well written and directed episode – I loved Ghost in the Machine.

    It was a bit creepy to see how well Michelle Morgan channeled the mannerisms and inflections associated with Weir.

    I’ve already put my DVR through its paces rewatching the end of the episode a few times and I really liked how it took a sudden turn. Joel Goldsmith’s score and the wide shot pulling away to show the puddle in the gate room admittedly lulled me into expecting a “safe” ending, which made the cold reveal hit much harder and suddenly recast the reactions, notably Joe Flanigan’s as Sheppard watches her step through the gate, in a new light as the context is revealed. Brilliant ending.

  35. Yes, Joe Flanigan, really *IS* skilled at “Face Acting”! A smirk is worth a half page of dialogue…

  36. Sorry if this posts twice, wordpress didn’t seem to take the first time.

    Regarding “Ghost in the Machine”, on May 15, 2008, Joseph Mallozzi wrote: “Answer: As I already mentioned, the last time Torri was on the show late in season four, she seemed genuinely excited at the prospect of the new storyline (and the fact that we hadn’t closed the door on Weir). Based on that reaction, we went ahead and wrote Ghost in the Machine. In the interview cited, Torri states she didn’t want to commit to a guest appearance because “it was very unclear as to what it was going to be, what they’re going to ask you to do, and it was unclear as to if it was going to be a tidying up of her or if it was gonna to continue to be a vague ‘is she here, is she not there.” Surprising given that she did receive a copy of the script. She followed up with a request for some sort of closure for the Weir character. After some discussion, we let her know we would accommodate that request. But, in the end, she decided to pass anyway.”

    I just watched “Ghost in the Machine”. *raises eyebrow and deadpans* Great closure, Joe. I have no idea why Torri didn’t go for that one.

    On the up side, Michelle Morgan did an incredible job portraying Elizabeth Weir, she made me wonder several times if she was channeling Torri Higginson. Also, I am really liking the way you guys are developing Woolsey. I have to say that I couldn’t stand Rodney McKay the first few times I saw the character either, but now he’s my favorite ‘Gate character next to Sam Carter.

  37. Joe M’s ZPM must be depleted…no update for the 15th yet. The Ghost In The Machine…another great episode. Not quite on par with the previous 4 episodes, but still great.
    First, lets give some props to Robert Picardo. He gave an amazing performance as a true commander. His speech on them all dying together and to go ahead and sink it showed no sign of hesitation or weakness. He has stepped into Carter’s shoes and is wearing them well.
    And Michelle Morgan did an excellent job as Weir/Fran. She must have really studied tapes of previous episodes because in many scenes she dead on nails Tori’s speech pattern and manerisms. I hope she returns as a replicator again.
    There was one thing that kept this from being a perfect episode…no Tori. I am not blaming anyone. I’m sure she had her reasons for not doing the episode. And it is not a criticism of Ms. Morgan. She hit it out of the park. And it is not the fault of the writers for having to rework their original story to accomidate Tori’s absence. It just didn’t work as well as it could have.
    Next week’s previews look great. Bring on the Shrine!

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