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Chat with Lois Bujold; the full transcript

at the Russian fan convention VorCon 2002, Moscow


*** Lois has joined #Vorkosigan

VorCon Hi Lois, we are ready!
Lois Hi folks.  I'm here...
Lois I'm delighted to be "there", without having to spend 
11 hours on an airplane!
VorCon Well, thank you for your greeting message!
Lois I was glad Annah let me know this was going on.  And 
I'm very grateful to my friend Patricia Wrede for suggesting 
the possibility of a chat.
VorCon Well, let's start our question session!
Lois When answering questions, I may run on -- I'll try to 
remember to put a "ga" when I've come to the end of my blather, 
which means, "Go ahead, over to you."  So... ga.

VorCon Hi, Lois. Here's our first question: 
VorCon (for the start, something of a joke:)
VorCon Why there were exactly 9 Auditors? Are they sort of 
Lois Heh.  Actually, I was thinking of both the Nazgul, and 
the American Supreme Count.  One can take one's pick.  ga.
Lois That's "Court".  Typing too fast, proofreading too 
slowly... ga.

VorCon Before, you usually wrote long, big novels. Now we 
know that you're writing something more short, a story about 
Miles and 'Catherine. Is that the new genre you're going to 
work in? Or is that just by chance?
Lois The length of my books has varied over time, both long 
and short.  My shortest was actually _Ethan of Athos_.  The 
longest was _Mirror Dance_.  So it goes back and forth on 
Lois Unless you are referring to the wedding novella I wrote 
for Catherine Asaro's romance/sf crossover anthology, and not 
to _Komarr_ or _Diplomatic Immunity_...? ga
Lois The novella (which turned out to be 23,000 words long, 
about a quarter of an average novel length) was explicitly 
solicited for this anthology.  It sounded as if it would be 
fun to do, and indeed it was.  (It's all done and turned in 
Lois I should probably add re: the novella, the title is 
"Winterfair Gifts", it's from Armsman Roic's point of view, 
Taura appears, and it will be out from NAL/Roc next February 
in an anthology titled _Irresistible Forces_. ga

VorCon Well, thank you. Another question is: one of our 
ladies breeds cats. She asks your permission to call her cat 
breeding farm "Barrayar." She breeds cats called "Curilean 
bobtail". Can she have your permission"
Lois A cat farm named after my planet?  there's a new one. 
Šeople have named their *cats* after my characters several 
times now.  Sure, why not?
VorCon Thank you! That's a really great peace of news! 
There's applause here!

VorCon We're going on. Now about ghem lords. We surmise that 
"haut-lords" are derived from the french form of "high", and 
why "ghems" - is that a derivation of the word that means 
"blood"? Or is there another origin for that term?
Lois It's a word I just made up for the sound of it, back 
when the Cetagandans were just a throw-away line.
Lois I saddled myself with a lot of nomenclature problems 
that way, over the course of the series.  Having a setting 
where all the main characters have names starting with the same 
syllable, for example... ga

VorCon Okay. Ghem clans and constellations - are they two 
terms for the same or are these two different things?
Lois I see we're going to run a little out of phase on 
questions & answers, but I'll trust you to figure out what 
goes with what.  Ghem clans are ghem families, haut 
constellations are haut genomic grouping.  So, two different 
classes of Cetagandans being considered.  ga
Lois One can think of them as haut clans or extended families 
-- or one can think of them as genetic petrie dishes.  There 
are how the haut divide themselves up to keep track of various 
genetic experiments/crosses that they run. ga
Lois Neither sex nor marriage are entialed in constellations, 
just your genome. ga

VorCon Thanks. We're going on. Why Ryan in the finale of 
"Cetaganda" touched Miles' cheek? We surmised that she took a 
sample of his tissue. Is that all?
Lois Miles shed plenty of cells through that tale for sampling 
purposes; I don't think Rian would have needed to collect any 
more by then.  ga
Lois I think Rian was just curious.  She'd not touched Miles 
before then, as I recall. ga
VorCon (yeah, meanwhile, a short question about Rian touching 
Miles: did she like it? :-)

VorCon Here we're going to have a role-playing game about the 
Cetagandian war just because that's one period that was not 
described in details in your books. So we don't know much about 
it. Are you going to describe that period in any of your future 
Lois I don't plan to get back to the Cetagandan invasion and 
Piotr's time any time soon, but you are not alone in your 
fascination with the period.  Besdies more stories about Ivan, a 
tale set in that period is what I'm most frequently asked for by
 readers.  I dunno.  I may do some more short work one of these 
days to pick up odd corners to which I don't want to commit a 
year and a whole novel.  But this year I'm head-down in Chalion, 
and not thinking ahead
Lois The new Chalion book is up to Chapter 9, but I had to stop 
for a local convention, a bunch of editorial and proofreading work, 
and now this trip to Croatia, so I don't expect to get back to it 
till late May :-( ga

VorCon The next question: what will prevail among your future 
books: the fantasy genre or the "traditional" hard SF?
Lois Fantasy or SF, gosh.  Me I like both.  I don't know if I'll 
switch back and forth on some regular schedule -- probably not.  I 
like to keep my choices open, and not contract books too far ahead.
Lois A book contract is a lot more like debt than income.  It's 
like paying off a mortgage, when you turn in the manuscript.  I 
like the freedom of being between contracts, when I can look at 
new ideas without limit. ga

VorCon Lois, okay, the next question. Both of your books are set 
in the Renaissance time. Why this period, and not the traditional 
Medieval times?
VorCon Sorry I meant FANTASY books.
Lois I liked the period -- it's very lively, and also better 
documented.  A period of ferment and change, not that all times 
haven't been that.  
Lois Re: Chalion, I was particularly fascinated my the life of 
Isabella of Spain, and that particular book was a chance to explore 
some of that fascination ga
Lois Isabella was a lot like Elizabeth I of England, a scary 
youth, a determined self-made young woman.  All her hopes were 
pinned on her children, though, and ran out in tragedy that altered 
the face of Europe. ga

VorCon The next question. During their "belated honeymoon" Miles 
and Katherine visited the Earth. Did they see Tung? And how his life 
is going on?
Lois Heh.  I don't know if Miles met Tung on earth, but it does 
seem likely, doesn't it?  I wonder if Miles went water-skiing on the 
Amazon, or whether no one would let him on account of his health?
Lois I suspect they visited a lot of gardens on Earth.  OK except 
for that unfortunate encounter with the killer bees... ga
Lois I feel certain that if Ekaterin left Miles alone in a garden 
to get bored, he *would* find killer bees.

VorCon Has Suegar survived during the evacuation from Dagula? And 
if yes, has he tried to found a new religion?
Lois Yes, I think Suegar survived.  And no, I don't think his 
"religion" would have outlasted his need for it as a way of 
psychologically coping with the hell-camp.  I think he probably went 
on to something politcal and responsible on some middle level, after 
the war. ga.

VorCon The next question is about the passages that you write but 
do not include in the final variants of your texts. Would you like 
to show them somehow - either to publish them or to read them to 
Lois I do a lot of outlining in advance, so I almost never cut 
whole scenes -- that selection gets done in the planning stage.  
there are a few floating around.  I wrote an experimental prologue 
for _DI_ from Guppy's point of view that I ended up not using.  
I'll probably let some convention program book print it someday -- 
they always ask for bits.
Lois I wrote it because I though the book might need to start 
with more action, but cut it when I decided for sure I would use 
single viewpoint Miles only.  Also, it contained too many spoilers 
for the mystery aspect of the book. ga
VorCon Well, would you give US such a permission??? PLEASE...
Lois After Diplomatic Immunty gets around, maybe.  Spoliers, 
after all.  ;-) ga
VorCon Thanks!!!!!!
Lois Next year, perhaps, or whenever ACT gets their translation 

VorCon Well, the next one. About the Southern Continent. Whom 
does it belong to? Are there counties there? When did its 
terraforming start?
Lois I think the south continent belongs mostly to the Emperor.
Lois Its terraforming did not start till the end of the Time of 
Lois I still haven't made up my mind if Gregor will install new 
counts there.  Or if the old counts will want him to.
Lois By increasing their numbers, they might fear it would dilute 
their powers.
Lois Still, one sees a possible future job for Ivan... :-) ga

VorCon The next one. Miles has twins. Well, and what about Gregor? 
Did he managed "to produce a crown prince somehow"? And what's his 
Lois I thin Gregor and Laisa must have had a son, or Miles would 
not have started his yet.
VorCon Sorry, could you comment that phrase???
Lois Miles would not have chosen to start his kid till he was 
sure Gregor had a heir to put between Miles's kid and the dangers 
of the throne.  He (the new prince) didn't impinge on the new tale 
(DI), so I didn't lock myself in to any particulars yet.
Lois Gregor may have a couple of boys by now for all I know. ga

VorCon Thanks. The next one. Dmitriy Corbeau - is he a lieutenant 
or an ensign?
Lois He's supposed to be an ensign.  He started out as a 
lieutenant, but I changed him midway because I didn't want readers 
mixing him up with poor Lt. Solian. 
Lois Then I lost track in the proofreading... sigh.  It will be 
corrected in the paperback version.  Meantime, you can think of it 
as a stockade promotion... ;-)

VorCon The next one. Would you like to write a book someday from 
a Cetagandan point of view? So to say, a "look from the inside" at 
the Empire?
Lois I think of the haut as an oocytic (egg as opposed to sperm, 
female as opposed to male) empire -- instead of spreading 
themselves outward, they concern themsleves with gating things 
inward.  Quality, not qunatity -- so far.  ga

VorCon Why Ivan wasn't present at his nephews' birth?
Lois Ivan isn't into babies, I suspect.  In terms of the book, 
he's not there because the third to the last page is a bit late to 
introduce characters in a novel.  It's something to speculate about 
-- though for all we know, he may pop in in the next five minutes 
to see the tykes.
Lois Someday, I would like to write a book with Ivan and Byerly, 
just for the witty dialogue.  I haven't thought of a plot for them 

VorCon Okay, Lois. These are all the questions we've prepared. 
Thank you greatly for your time and your patience. It was great to 
know all these things from you personally! We hope you liked it, too!
Lois I hope you are all having a good time, and will post a con 
report with pictures to Mike Bernardi, to put up on the webbsite.  
Enjoy your weekend! (Hi to Nikolai Naumenko, too!)
VorCon Certainly, we'll say hi to him from you! Enjoy your weekend,
Lois Now you can go to bed, and I can go to the grocery.  Bests, 
VorCon (We are: Annah, Sanykool, Smolyani, Irene and about 30 other 
people :-)

*** Lois has quit IRC