Lois McMaster Bujold Quotes

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About Lois McMaster Bujold

Lois McMaster Bujold (born 2 November 1949, Columbus, Ohio) is an American author of science fiction and fantasy works, most noted for the works in her Vorkosigan Saga

Born: November 2nd, 1949

Categories: Science fiction authors, Americans, Living people

Quotes: 243 sourced quotes total (includes 3 about)

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I have a catchphrase to describe my plot-generation technique — "What's the worst possible thing I can do to these people?"
"You must go home eventually." "I would throw myself off a precipice first, except that I would land in the arms of the gods, Whom I do not wish to see again."
Biology is Destiny.
"Power is better than revenge. Power is a live thing, by which you reach out to grasp the future. Revenge is a dead thing, reaching out from the past to grasp you.
I attack both from the logic-side, scribbling outline after outline, and the long-walk relaxed-visualization-side, and while neither alone is enough, the combination synergizes. Which is just a fancy way of saying, "I think about it a lot, day and night."
Lois McMaster Bujold
• "Publishing, Writing, and Authoring", p. 67
• Source: Wikiquote: "Lois McMaster Bujold" (Sourced, The Vorkosigan Companion (2008): Edited by Lillian Stewart Carl and John Helfers)
"Just what kind of noose are you offering to put round my neck, here? Is this treason?" "Worse," Cazaril sighed. "Theology."
"I thought they'd never fall asleep." Ivan paused; a slow smirk displaced the snarl on his face. "But they were smiling, when they finally did."
Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.
"Mercy from the Father and the Mother, mercy from the Sister and the Brother, Mercy from the Bastard, five times mercy, High Ones, we beseech you."… Mercy, High Ones. Not justice, please, not justice. We would all be fools to pray for justice.
Confusion to the enemy.
The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is a duty of the living to do so for them.
"I don't duel, boy. I kill as a soldier kills, which is as a butcher kills, as quickly, efficiently, and with as least risk to myself as I can arrange. If I decide you die, you will die when I choose, where I choose, by what means I choose, and you will never see the blow coming. (...) I don't duel. But if you seek to die like a bludgeoned steer, cross me again."
If you make it plain you like people, it's hard for them to resist liking you back.
All true wealth is biological.
Some prices are just too high, no matter how much you may want the prize. The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart.
Adversity does teach who your real friends are.
I take it as a man's duty to restrain himself.
I could take over the universe with this army if I could ever get all their weapons pointed in the same direction.
War is not its own end, except in some catastrophic slide into absolute damnation. It's peace that's wanted. Some better peace than the one you started with.
An honor is not diminished for being shared.
Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.
When you give each other everything, it becomes an even trade. Each wins all.
It's a bizarre but wonderful feeling, to arrive dead center of a target you didn't even know you were aiming for.
But pain... seems to me an insufficient reason not to embrace life. Being dead is quite painless. Pain, like time, is going to come on regardless. Question is, what glorious moments can you win from life in addition to the pain?
"And the Bastard grant us . . . in our direst need, the smallest gifts: the nail of the horseshoe, the pin of the axle, the feather at the pivot point, the pebble at the mountain's peak, the kiss in despair, the one right word. In darkness, understanding."
You are what you do.
A weapon is a device for making your enemy change his mind.
"I'm *not* schizophrenic. A little manic-depressive, maybe." "Know thyself." "We try, sir."
If the truth doesn't save us, what does that say about us?
I don't confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is…the higher achievement.
Experience suggests it doesn't matter so much how you got here, as what you do after you arrive.
If you ever have to make a choice between learning and inspiration, choose learning. It works more of the time.
Exile, for no other motive than ease, would be the last defeat, with no seed of future victory in it.
Honesty is the only way with anyone, when you'll be so close as to be living inside each other's skins.
You must kill if you expect to survive." "No you don't," Miles put in. "Most people go through their whole lives without killing anybody. False argument.
Marta blinked at him with manufactured innocence. "Kareen had it from Mark. I had it from Ivan. Mama had it from Gregor. And Da had it from Pym. If you're trying to keep it a secret, Miles, why are you going around telling everyone"?
Adulthood isn't an award they'll give you for being a good child. You can waste... years, trying to get someone to give that respect to you, as though it were a sort of promotion or raise in pay. If only you do enough, if only you are good enough. No. You have to just... take it. Give it to yourself, I suppose. Say, I'm sorry you feel like that and walk away. But that's hard.
It's never too late while you're breathing.
Our children change us…whether they live or not.
You try to give away what you want yourself.
Surely only correct understanding could lead to correct action.
The will to be stupid is a very powerful force.
If power was an illusion, wasn't weakness necessarily one also?
The good face pain. But the great — they embrace it.
Check your assumptions. In fact, check your assumptions at the door.
You have to be careful who you let define your good.
A price is something you get. A cost is something you lose.
There are always survivors at a massacre. Among the victors, if nowhere else.
The principle difference between heaven and hell is the company you keep there.
Were you born inhuman, or did you grow so by degrees — M.S., M.D., Ph.D...
Never argue with a pedant over nomenclature. It wastes your time and annoys the pedant.
The gods' most savage curses come upon us as answers to our own prayers, you know.
Aim high. You may still miss the target but at least you won’t shoot your foot off.
I am who I choose to be. I always have been what I chose…though not always what I pleased.
A hundred objective measurements didn't sum the worth of a garden; only the delight of its users did that. Only the use made it mean something.
A tactical retreat is not a bad response to a surprise assault, you know. First you survive. Then you choose your own ground. Then you counterattack.
I've described my usual writing process as scrambling from peak to peak on inspiration through foggy valleys of despised logic. Inspiration is better — when you can get it.
I guess it just doesn't look very heroic to sneak up behind somebody and shoot them in the back. I can't help thinking it would be more efficient, though.
'It didn't work, so let's do it some more'? In my line of work, they call that military stupidity. I don't know what they call it in civilian life.
His mother had often said, "When you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action." She had emphasized the corollary of this axiom even more vehemently: when you desired a consequence you had damned well better take the action that would create it.
Any community's arm of force — military, police, security — needs people in it who can do necessary evil, and yet not be made evil by it. To do only the necessary and no more. To constantly question the assumptions, to stop the slide into atrocity.
Not all books are created equal, and for the special ones, you begin to know it sometimes even before the work is finished, but always by the time you slam that last line home and shriek, "Done! Done!," and fall head-down across your keyboard like the runner from Marathon.
Lois McMaster Bujold
• "'A Conversation With Lois McMaster Bujold", p. 54
• Source: Wikiquote: "Lois McMaster Bujold" (Sourced, The Vorkosigan Companion (2008): Edited by Lillian Stewart Carl and John Helfers)
I smell diplomacy.
Oh, but he's my monster.
You're so hopelessly monosexual, Miles.
Live, and so confound our enemies.
"Ba Vorpatril?" Miles intoned, eyes alight.
Passage (Vol. III in Tetralogy) (2008)
Pain hurts, sir. I don't court it.
Three cheers for literacy... I feel sick.
Second sight is redundant to reason anyway.
God's not here. Somebody's got to fill in.
Why shouldn't a madman dream of being sane?
The cream pie of justice flies one way.
Men may move mountains, but ideas move men.
Strange mercies, Illyan. You kill me so courteously.
The gods give no gifts without hooks embedded.
Read, or you will be missing something extraordinary.
My home is not a place, it is people.
Behavior that is rewarded is repeated. And the reverse.
I'm just dazzled by the glittering tinsel of neo-fascism.
It is always easier to get forgiveness than permission.
Lois McMaster Bujold
• This seems to be derived from a statement attributed to Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, and which she regularly used in her public addresses: "It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission."
• Source: Wikiquote: "Lois McMaster Bujold" (Sourced, Vorkosigan Saga: These titles are arranged by the storyline chronology rather than publication date., A Civil Campaign (1999))
He gave himself up to God and pressed the button.
What you are is a question only you can answer.
Yeah, so I'm short. But wait'll you see me dance.
We don't just march on the future, we charge it.
Let he who is without sin cast the first lure.
She's just as bad as he is! God help me.
The confusion of mind you dub honor is a disease.
Ignorance is not stupidity, but it might as well be.
You are a most excellent lawyer, for a dead man.
Women do desperately need models for power other than the maternal.
Just because we're adults doesn't automatically mean we can save you...
A good friend of my son's is a son to me.
You can't give power away and keep it simultaneously. Except posthumously.
Luck is something you make for yourself, if you want it.
There is no safety. Only varying states of risk. And failure.
If you can't do what you want, do what you can.
Parallels, spirals, and reflections are some of my favorite literary patterns.
With all this manure around, there's got to be a pony someplace.
If we shouldn't do it, we shouldn't be able to do it.
Hi, I'm a hero, but I can't tell you why. It's classified.
Total strangers trying to kill me make me feel right at home.
"Don't panic." "I'm not panicking, I'm watching you panic. It's more entertaining."
I was never a mercenary, not ever. Not for one single minute.
When I was twenty, I chose my life. It wasn't this one.
One step at a time, I can walk around the world. Watch me.
The best strategies run on rails. Live or die, you make your goal.
How could I have died and gone to hell without noticing the transition?
Why did so many antique myths agree that hell was a circular place?
"Is this guy for real?" "He thinks he's faking it, but he's not."
When you can't get what you want, you take what you can get.
A skilled soldier kills your enemies, but a skilled duelist kills your allies.
If you want to catch something, running after it isn't always the best way.
Those who do not know their history are doomed to keep stepping in it.
Lois McMaster Bujold
• This evokes the famous statement by George Santayana in The Life of Reason Vol. 1 (1905): "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
• Source: Wikiquote: "Lois McMaster Bujold" (Sourced, Vorkosigan Saga: These titles are arranged by the storyline chronology rather than publication date., The Vor Game (1990))
Do it for yourself. The universe will be around to collect its cut later.
Taura nailed it. She'll do for m'lord, all right. And God help their enemies.
I am increasingly convinced that technological culture is the entire root of women's liberation.
Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
Lois McMaster Bujold
• This evokes a statement in "Death of a Hired Man" by Robert Frost: "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in."
• Source: Wikiquote: "Lois McMaster Bujold" (Sourced, Vorkosigan Saga: These titles are arranged by the storyline chronology rather than publication date., The Vor Game (1990))
No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Not when the enemy is me.
Lois McMaster Bujold
• This includes a common paraphrase of a statement which originates with military strategist Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke: "No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force."
• Source: Wikiquote: "Lois McMaster Bujold" (Sourced, Vorkosigan Saga: These titles are arranged by the storyline chronology rather than publication date., Cetaganda (1996))
Egalitarians adjust to aristocracies just fine, as long as they get to be the aristocrats.
I can't quit, once I've started. I've been told I'm pathologically persistent. I can't quit.
I have an aversion to closed doors anyway. You never know what's on the other side.
The wounded want power, nothing else; they think it will keep them from being hurt again.
I've always tried to write the kind of book I most loved to read: character-centered adventure.
Lois McMaster Bujold
• "'A Conversation With Lois McMaster Bujold", p. 60
• Source: Wikiquote: "Lois McMaster Bujold" (Sourced, The Vorkosigan Companion (2008): Edited by Lillian Stewart Carl and John Helfers)
If it ever came down to exerting power by force, it would mean I'd already lost it.
You can say a lot in a little time, if you stick to words of one syllable.
Aren't family squabbles jolly fun? Bleeding ulcers run in my family, we give them to each other.
I may be small, but I screw up big because I'm standing on the shoulders of GIANTS.
It just happens to be very important to me to win with the hand I was dealt.
Since no one is perfect, it follows that all great deeds have been accomplished out of imperfection.
If suspicion was the deadliest possible insult, then trust was always right, even if it was mistaken.
I am an atheist, myself. A simple faith, but a great comfort to me, in these last days.
I've got forward momentum. There's no virtue in it. It's just a balancing act. I don't dare stop.
Mine is not a theology of the elect. I intend to preach to the masses. Even the sinners.
Cynicism did not seem nearly so impressively daring to her now as it had when she was twenty.
You have a reputation as a bold Barrayaran barbarian—say that six times really fast—too dangerous to let loose.
I for one find a casual destruction of a man's life even more repugnant than a determined one.
Children might or might not be a blessing, but to create them and then fail them was surely damnation.
The last thing a monster wanted was a fellow to follow him around all day long with a mirror.
The entire center of her life was a blackened waste, its long years not to be recovered nor replaced.
One learns better than to hand one's choices to fear. With age, with every wound and scar, one learns.
Suicidal glory is the luxury of the irresponsible. We're not giving up. We're waiting for a better opportunity to win.
Heroes. They sprang up around him like weeds. A carrier, he was seemingly unable to catch the disease he spread.
In my experience, milady, we can never get back to exactly where we started, no matter how hard we try.
There is a subtle difference between being a prisoner and being a slave. I don't mistake either for being free.
When you can see the colors of the feathers, you'll also understand how you can expand your borders to infinity.
It was never what I wanted to buy that held my heart's hope. It was what I wanted to be.
I’d have worn them as a courtesy to your friend, I’ll wear them now as a defiance to our enemies.
It's an ancient and honorable term for the final step in any engineering project. Turn it on, see if it smokes.
I would fight the world for you, but I'm damned if I can figure out how to save you from yourself.
There are a number of people in the universe I'd be willing to double-cross, but my own wounded aren't among 'em.
The man who assumes everything is a lie is at least as mistaken as the one who assumes everything is true.
It was seldom he found himself in company who made him feel this stupid. It was probably good for his soul.
The joys of command — well, you know. You taught them to me. One part glory to ten parts shoveling manure.
Most days it's just stumbling around in the dark with the rest of creation, smashing into things and wondering why it hurts.
You can't choose between evil and evil, in the dark, by logic. You can only cling to some safety line of principle.
Some fellows you have to hit with a brick to get their attention. Some you have to hit with a BIG brick.
And you could just watch men begin to see what he told them they were seeing, whether it was there or not.
The shocked silence that followed was decidedly baffled. And even, possibly, a little thoughtful, if that was not too much to hope.
Seems to me the only difference between your friends and your enemies is how long they stand around chatting before they shoot you.
Some men just aren't cut out for paternity. Better they should realize it before and not after they become responsible for a son.
Hands are integral with brains, almost another lobe for intelligence. What one does not know through one's hands, one does not truly know.
And what goes on in the head of a walking dead man? What personal failure could he possibly fear more than death itself?
Marriage was a lottery, and you drew your lot in late adolescence or early adulthood at a point of maximum idiocy and confusion.
You couldn't be that good and not know it, somewhere in your secret heart, however much you'd been abused into affecting public humility.
Right or wrong, what I also saw was that you made an enemy, and left him alive behind you. Great charity. Bad tactics.
East is west, up is down, and being falsely arrested for getting your C.O.'s throat cut is a simplification. I must be on Barrayar.
I'm sorry. I can love you. I can grieve for you, or with you. I can share your pain. But I cannot judge you.
Rule 1: Only overrule the tactical computer if you know something it doesn't. Rule 2: The tac comp always knows more than you do.
Vorreedi stated dangerously, "I am not a mushroom, Lieutenant Vorkosigan." To be kept in the dark and fed on horseshit, right. Miles sighed inwardly.
Mother Nature gives a sense of romance to young people, in place of prudence, to advance the species. It's a trick—that makes us grow.
Modern warfare wasn't supposed to have this much blood in it. The weapons were supposed to cook everyone neatly, like eggs in their shells.
Eloquence consists of persuading people of things they desperately want to believe. Demagoguery, I suppose, is eloquence sliding to some least moral energy level.
A stunning first impression was not the same thing as love at first sight. But surely it was an invitation to consider the matter.
Some fortunate, prolific writers seem to be able, efficiently, to keep several projects going at once; it appears I am not one of them.
"The gods would take him and leave me bereft, and I curse them!" "I have cursed them for years," said Ista dryly. "Turnabout being fair."
One scarcely knows if he would be of more use to us as a hostage, or set loose to be a very bad enemy leader.
Good soldiers never pass up a chance to eat or sleep. They never know how much they'll be called on to do before the next chance.
If you're trying to take a roomful of people by surprise, it's a lot easier to hit your targets if you don't yell going through the door.
It's not a comfortable thing, to be chosen so. I tried to avoid it for a long time, but God finds ways of dealing with draft dodgers.
How could you be a Great Man if history brought you no Great Events, or brought you to them at the wrong time, too young, too old?
"So much for that line of reasoning, Lord Richars," Ekaterin finished. She sat back with a hand-dusting gesture, and added, by no means under her breath, "''Twit'.'"
I think it (i. e., sainthood) is not so much the growth of virtue, as simply the replacement of prior vices with an addiction to one's god.
When the time came to leap in faith, whether you had your eyes open or closed or screamed all the way down or not made no practical difference.
One of the best things about writing is how it redeems, not to mention recycles, all of one's prior experiences, including — or perhaps especially — the failures.
Only the saints would joke so about the gods, because it was either joke or scream, and they alone knew it was all the same to the gods.
"Such a perilous concentration of demons would create chaos all around it." "War gathers on these borders," said Ista. "A greater concentration of chaos I can hardly imagine."
How can I give you up? You're the mountains and the lake, the memories — you have them all. When you're with me, I'm at home, wherever I am.
From fried witchetty grubs to gold-plated turnips, when you're a writer you never know what's going to appear on your plate next. It keeps a woman alert, it does.
Lois McMaster Bujold
• "Publishing, Writing, and Authoring", p. 75
• Source: Wikiquote: "Lois McMaster Bujold" (Sourced, The Vorkosigan Companion (2008): Edited by Lillian Stewart Carl and John Helfers)
Don't be afraid. The dead cannot hurt you. They give you no pain, except that of seeing your own death in their faces. And one can face that, I find.
When a normal ensign looked at his commander, he ought to see a godlike being, not a, a... future subordinate. New ensigns were supposed to be a subhuman species anyway.
Like integrity, love of life was not a subject to be studied, it was a contagion to be caught. And you had to catch it from someone who had it.
His heart still seemed to ache, the way an overstrained muscle twinged when one put weight on it. Like muscle strain, it would pass with a little rest, he suspected.
He gave me no sign. I was never the sort to receive portents, or to delude myself that I had. Silence was always my portion, in return for my prayers.
Hunting hawks do not belong in cages, no matter how much a man covets their grace, no matter how golden the bars. They are far more beautiful soaring free. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
He said that permitting private judgments to turn my duty in the smallest matter would be just like getting a little bit pregnant — that the consequences would very soon get beyond me.
Your "accidents," I once noticed, have ways of entangling your enemies that are the green envy of mature and careful strategists. Far too consistent for chance, I concluded it had to be unconscious will.
There is no more hollow feeling than to stand with your honor shattered at your feet while soaring public reputation wraps you in rewards. That's soul-destroying. The other way around is merely very, very irritating.
I got the same sort of feeling reading her works as I had gotten from classic Heinlein: a renewed faith in humanity and a desire to explore and do good in the universe. Great feeling.
Mark's own taste in women, if ever he should live to exercise it, ran more to something like that little blonde clone...Somebody short, soft, pink, timid, somebody who wouldn't kill and eat him after they mated.
I have no right to risk. No, that's not quite correct. I have no right to failure. And I don't trust myself anymore. I don't know what's happened to my edge. Lost it in a strange land.
No, no, never send interim reports. Only final ones. Interim reports tend to elicit orders. Which you must either then obey, or spend valuable time and energy evading, which you could be using to solve the problem.
I cannot emphasize enough that I do not start with a plan or agenda and mechanically manipulate characters and events to carry it out. I set characters in motion, and let them teach me what the book is.
Lois McMaster Bujold
• "Women’s Hero Journey : An Interview With Lois McMaster Bujold on Paladin of Souls by Alan Oak at WomenWriters.net (June 2009)
• Source: Wikiquote: "Lois McMaster Bujold" (Sourced)
Leadership is mostly a power over imagination, and never more so than in combat. The bravest man alone can only be an armed lunatic. The real strength lies in the ability to get others to do your work.
I've always thought tests are a gift. And great tests are a great gift. To fail the test is a misfortune. But to refuse the test is to refuse the gift, and something worse, more irrevocable, than misfortune.
It's... a transcendental act. Making life. I thought about that when I was carrying Miles. 'By this act, I bring one death into the world.' One birth, one death, and all the pain and acts of will between.
"All right," Miles pulled Suegar to his feet, "let's go preach to the unconverted." Suegar laughed suddenly. "I had a top kick once who used to say, 'Let's go kick some ass,' in just that tone of voice."
She didn't feel anything, no grief or remorse, though her heart was racing and her breath came in gasps. A shocky combat-high, that immortal rush that made men charge machine guns. So this was what the war-addicts came for.
Never... ever suggest they don't have to pay you. What they pay for, they'll value. What they get for free, they'll take for granted, and then demand as a right. Hold them up for all the market will bear.
The gods...the gods may forgive much, to a truly penitent heart." Her smile grew bitter as desert brine. "The gods may forgive Ista all day long. But if Ista does not forgive Ista, the gods may go hang themselves."
"I would be considerably more impressed with your god, dy Cabon," said Ista through her teeth, "if He could have arranged one life's worth of simple protection in advance, rather than three hundred lives' worth of gaudy vengeance afterward."
The deadly weapon seemed unnaturally light and easy in his hand. Something that lethal should have more heft, like a broadsword. Wrong, for murder to be so potentially effortless — one ought to at least have to grunt for it.
You can't solve problems by running away from them, it was said, and like the good child she had once been, she had believed this. But it wasn't true. Some problems could only be solved by running away from them.
Miles cursed himself silently, then out loud. He really had to try to cultivate a more normal attitude toward senior officers.... When a normal ensign looked at his commander, he ought to see a god-like being, not a, a... future subordinate.
If you desire a man to tell you comfortable lies about your prowess, and so fetter any hope of true excellence, I'm sure you may find one anywhere. Not all prisons are made of iron bars. Some are made of feather beds.
Now there's this about cynicism, Sergeant. It's the universe's most supine moral position. Real comfortable. If nothing can be done, then you're not some kind of shit for not doing it, and you can lie there and stink to yourself in perfect peace.
Miles started to track the vote, but by the time the roll came around to him, had taken to jotting repeated iterations of Lady Ekaterin Nile Vorkosigan intertwined with Lord Miles Naismith Vorkosigan in his fanciest handwriting down the margins of his flimsy.
I have no idea why some of my books draw awards and others don't, except that the ones I spent the least time worrying about other people's response to — that I wrote for myself — seem to do the best of all.
Lois McMaster Bujold
• "'A Conversation With Lois McMaster Bujold", p. 54
• Source: Wikiquote: "Lois McMaster Bujold" (Sourced, The Vorkosigan Companion (2008): Edited by Lillian Stewart Carl and John Helfers)
I don't take information and experience into my mind in that organized a fashion, but when I want to bring it out, somehow it's there. You write what you know because — like there's another choice? The trick is to try and know as much as possible.
"Most men", he quoted, "are of naught more use in their lives but as machines for turning food into shit." Ivan cocked an eyebrow at him. "Who said that? Your grandfather?" "Leonardo da Vinci," Miles returned primly. But was compelled to add, "Grandfather quoted it to me, though."
I don’t write stories to tell readers what to think, or even tell them what I think; I write stories to show me what I think. Writing is always a journey of discovery that way, as suspenseful for me as I hope it will be for the audience.
It's important that someone celebrate our existence... People are the only mirror we have to see ourselves in. The domain of all meaning. All virtue, all evil, are contained only in people. There is none in the universe at large. Solitary confinement is a punishment in every human culture.
I suppose my determination to be a soldier stems from that date. I mean the real thing, not the parades and the uniforms and the glamour, but the logistics, the offensive advantage, the speed and surprise — the power. A better-prepared, stronger, tougher, faster, meaner son-of-a-bitch than any who came through that door.
"You go on. You just go on. There's nothing more to it, and there's no trick to make it easier. You just go on." "And what do you find on the other side? When you go on?" "Your life again. What else?" "Is that a promise?" "It's an inevitability. No trick. No choice. You just go on."
Acting or reacting, we carry him in us. You can't walk away from him any more than I can. Whether you travel toward or away, he'll be the compass. He'll be the glass, full of subtle colors and astigmatisms, through which all new things will be viewed. I too have a father who haunts me, and I know.
"Do you know what this is, Lord Vorkosigan?" Giaja asked. Miles eyed the medallion of the Order of Merit on its colored ribbon, glittering on a bed of velvet. "Yes, sir. It is a lead weight, suitable for sinking small enemies. Are you going to sew me into a silk sack with it, before you throw me overboard?"
You don't pay back your parents. You can't. The debt you owe them gets collected by your children, who hand it down in turn. It's a sort of entailment. Or if you don't have children of the body, it's left as a debt to your common humanity. Or to your God, if you possess or are possessed by one.
Was this the trick of it? Secrets so dire as to be unspeakable, thoughts so frightening as to make clear young voices mute, kicked out into the open with blunt ironic humor. And suddenly the dire didn't loom so darkly any more, and fear shrank, and anyone could say anything. And the unbearable seemed a little easier to lift.
"Am I reading too much into all that innuendo, or did you in fact just connive to assassinate Gregor in one breath, offer to cuckold him in the next, accuse your father of homosexuality, suggest a patricidal plot against him, and league yourself with Cavilo -- what are you going to do for an encore?" "Depends on the straight lines."
Organization seemed to be the key. To get huge masses of properly matched men and materials to the right place at the right time in the right order with the swiftness required to even grasp survival — to wrestle an infinitely complex and confusing reality into the abstract shape of victory — organization, it seemed, might even outrank courage as a soldierly virtue.
The really unforgivable acts are committed by calm men in beautiful green silk rooms, who deal death wholesale, by the shipload, without lust, or anger, or desire, or any redeeming emotion to excuse them but cold fear of some pretended future. But the crimes they hope to prevent in that future are imaginary. The ones they commit in the present — they are real.
Peace to you, small lady. You've won a twisted poor modern knight, to wear your favor on his sleeve. But it's a twisted poor world we were both born into, that rejects us without mercy and ejects us without consultation. But at least I won't just tilt at windmills for you. I'll send in sappers to mine the twirling suckers and blow them into the sky.
He found oddly little regret in his heart for his own lost life. He'd seen more of the world than most men ever did, and he'd had his chances, though the gods knew he'd made little enough of them. Marshaling his thoughts, as he sheltered under his covers, he realized with some wonder that his greatest dismay was for the work he'd be forced to leave undone.
Don't worry about that depressing old dictum "Write what you know". If you need to know something, look it up. Learn how to find out what you need to know to make it right. Be passionate, be picky, have enough self-criticism to demand of yourself your best and not sort of let it slide by. And remember that the greatest defect any piece of fiction can have is not to be finished.
Reading is an active and elusive experience. Every reader, reading exactly the same text, will have a slightly different reading experience depending on what s/he projects into the words s/he sees, what strings of meaning and association those words call up in his/her (always) private mind. One can never therefore, talk about the quality of a book separately from the quality of the mind that is creating it by reading it, in the only place books live, in the secret mind.
Lois McMaster Bujold
• "'A Conversation With Lois McMaster Bujold", an interview with Lillian Stewart Carl, p. 52
• Source: Wikiquote: "Lois McMaster Bujold" (Sourced, The Vorkosigan Companion (2008): Edited by Lillian Stewart Carl and John Helfers)
Lots of us SF-types like the idea of traveling to the Future (although, having now done so once myself -- the hard way -- I’m less sure), but why do we imagine the Future would want us? Oh, a few 21st-century Icemen, perhaps, as historical curiosities, but in our hundreds of millions? It would be like the greatest wave of immigration ever, but from the past into other people’s Now. It might seem to them like sacrificing resources needed for their children to their great-great-great-grandparents. Counter-evolutionary, among other things.
The loonies who sought a glorious death in battle found it very early on. This rapidly cleared the chain of command of the accumulated fools. The survivors were those who learned to fight dirty, and live, and fight another day, and win, and win, and win, and for whom nothing, not comfort, or security, not family or friends or their immortal souls, was more important than winning. Dead men are losers by definition. Survival and victory. They weren't supermen, or immune to pain. They sweated in confusion and darkness. And … they won.
I have denied my eyes, both inner and outer. I am not a child, or virgin, or modest wife, fearing to offend. No one owns my eyes now but me. If I have not the stomach by now to look upon any sight in the world, good or evil, beautiful or vile, when shall I? It is far too late for innocence. My only hope is the much more painful consolation of wisdom. Which can grow out of knowledge alone. Give me my true eyes. I want to see. I have to know.
Welcome to Barrayar, son. Here you go: have a world of wealth and poverty, wrenching change and rooted history. Have a birth; have two. Have a name. Miles means "soldier," but don't let the power of suggestion overwhelm you. Have a twisted form in a society that loathes and fears the mutations that have been its deepest agony. Have a title, wealth, power, and all the hatred and envy they will draw. Have your body ripped apart and re-arranged. Inherit an array of friends and enemies you never made. Have a grandfather from hell. Endure pain, find joy, and make your own meaning, because the universe certainly isn't going to supply it. Always be a moving target. Live. Live. Live.
The apparently effortless fluidity of both style and story may actually have mitigated against critical notice, in comparison to notorious stylists like William Gibson, or, again, Ursula Le Guin. But, despite Bujold's space opera plots, the flashes of humour rare either in Le Guin or in SF as a whole, and the steady pigeonholing of her work as military SF, her similarities to Le Guin go far beyond the presence of that wall. Firstly, both are consummate character-builders. Indeed, characterization, emphasis on character, and plots that depend on character and the novums of technology are among Bujold's strongpoints. Nowhere does this emerge more clearly than if her work is taken as military SF and compared to that of writers like Jerry Pournelle or David Weber.
All great human deeds both consume and transform their doers. Consider an athlete, or a scientist, or an artist, or an independent business creator. In the service of their goals they lay down time and energy and many other choices and pleasures; in return, they become most truly themselves. A false destiny may be spotted by the fact that it consumes without transforming, without giving back the enlarged self. Becoming a parent is one of these basic human transformational deeds. By this act, we change our fundamental relationship with the universe — if nothing else, we lose our place as the pinnacle and end-point of evolution, and become a mere link. The demands of motherhood especially consume the old self, and replace it with something new, often better and wiser, sometimes wearier or disillusioned, or tense and terrified, certainly more self-knowing, but never the same again.
I am a much better person and a better writer having had my children than I would be otherwise. I would have missed a whole aspect of the human experience that's tremendously fundamental to things like characterization. A lot of writers write as if the hero sort of popped out of the box at age 22 fully formed. And one thing that raising children does is give you some sense of how human beings really are put together. So when you go to put together a character you can have a more realistic sense of where people really come from, why they really behave the way they do and what a tremendous amount of life and complexity lies behind every human being. But I think you can get that from being a father too. I think it's something you can do by growing up and being observant even if you don't have children.

End Lois McMaster Bujold Quotes