Magazines & Anthologies
Rampant Loon Media LLC
Our Beloved Founder and Editor-in-Chief

Follow us on Facebook!


Read them free on Kindle Unlimited!





Blog Archive

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ruminations of an Old Goat

Near the end of the summer of 1989, an article in the Comics Buyer's Guide (CBG) introduced me to a new science fiction author. New to me, anyway, as she already had four novels, a Nebula Award for one of those novels and was about to win both the Hugo and Nebula for one of her novellas. The article in the CBG was one of a series of monthly columns in which a retailer reviewed non-comic book items he had read, enjoyed, and thought might be of interest to comics fans. In this column, he included a brief review of a novella from the August, 1989, issue of Analog. I went out immediately and bought that issue just to read the novella.

The novella was titled Labyrinth. The author was Lois McMaster Bujold. The main character in the story was Miles Vorkosigan.

Labyrinth was not as good as the review had led me to expect. It was better. With any other character, Labyrinth could have been an enjoyable adventure story. The brave and resourceful hero, captured and in peril, uses his mighty thews to fight his way out of a makeshift dungeon, deal irreparable harm to the bad guy, and escape with the beautiful woman he rescued along the way. And that's sort of how the story goes, with some exceptions.

First, there is a woman to be rescued, though she's hardly your typical damsel in distress. This woman is a bio-engineered super soldier who is extremely fast and strong. Created for fighting, she has claws and fangs and generally fails to meet any of the standard damsel tropes except that she is in distress.

Second, the hero, Miles Vorkosigan, while brave and resourceful, is significantly lacking in the "mighty thews" department. The end result of his mother's near fatal exposure to poison gas while she was pregnant with him, Miles has extremely weak bones, a bit of a hunched back, and doesn't top five feet. Unable to simply bull his way through waves of minions, Miles must rely on intelligence, planning, and guile to succeed.

The characters raised Labyrinth well above your typical science fiction adventure story. And really, who can't guess why? Miles Vorkosigan is the guy all male science fiction readers want to be. Miles succeeds through superior brain power, not superior muscle. He's the anti-Conan, if you will. Many fans of written science fiction believe they are considerably smarter than the hulking bullies who made life difficult for them in middle school and high school. Many of them even have good reason for believing that. In Miles, they can see the hero they believe they could be, if only they had the opportunity. And, perhaps, command of a small company of heavily armed mercenaries.

I suspect Miles if popular with female science fiction readers for a different reason. Perhaps he's the guy they all want to take care of? Perhaps I'm way out in left field on that guess, though, so maybe some of women reading this could explain it to us poor old males.

Anyway, I finished reading that novella and immediately went out and bought everything I could find written by Bujold. I have continued to do that for the last 21 years and expect to continue doing so as long Bujold is willing and able to write stories. Throughout those 21 years, I've become a huge fan of the Vorkosigan stories. But more than that, I've become a huge fan of Bujold's writing. So much so that I tend to get her books both in hardback and in audio format when they are offered on audible.com (a great site if you like audio books, btw).

Her forays into fantasy -- her three-novel Chalion series, her four-novel Sharing Knife series, and her stand-alone novel, The Spirit Ring -- have all been excellent. Bujold is very careful with the portrayal of magic in her fantasies, placing restrictions on magic that both keep it from becoming a "silver bullet" for every problem and making magic seem realistic within the setting.

When my wife, who generally enjoys fantasy more than science fiction, asked if I had any good audio books for her to listen to in the car, I loaded up Bujod's Sharing Knife series. A month later, after listening to all four books, she asked what else I had by her new favorite author. She's listened to the Chalion series and is now listening to Vorkosigan books. It's always fun to share something you love with someone you love.

Given all I've written, perhaps it's easier to understand why, when I attended NASFIC nearly two months ago, I was so disappointed I wasn't able to snare a pre-release proof of Bujold's latest novel, Cryoburn. I was prepared to wait until mid-October to buy a copy, but I sure would have loved to snag an early copy.

Then, shortly before Dragon*Con, I received a package from a certain good friend who is closely associated with the Friday Challenge. Having read of my disappoint, he contacted his friend, Lois McMaster Bujold, and got an autographed copy of the pre-release proof of Cryoburn! I started reading it immediately and highly recommend it to all of science fiction fans reading this.

Cryoburn will be released in hardback on October 19. The rest of the Bujold's novels are already available in your bookstores now.
blog comments powered by Disqus