A new anthology focused on science fiction and fantasy author Lois McMaster Bujold features essays by Regina Yung Lee and Jey Saung. Biology and Manners: Essays on the Worlds and Works of Lois McMaster Bujold, edited by Regina Yung Lee and Una McCormack, argues that Bujold’s corpus spans the distance between two full arcs of U.S. feminism, and has anticipated or responded to several of its current concerns in ways that invite or even require theoretical exploration. The collected essays cover not only Bujold’s science fiction and fantasy series, but also the fan fiction and role-playing games they have inspired.
In Regina Lee’s “Untimely Graces: Gender, Failure, and Sainthood in Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls,” she reads the protagonist Ista’s trajectory in the novel as transforming gendered, raced, and mistimed failures through the mediatory inversions of second sainthood.
In Jey Saung’s “Queering Barrayar: The Uterine Replicator in Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen,” they analyze the uterine replicator as a reproductive technology central to this fantasy world, one through which queerness and queer kinship become concretized.
Feminist (Science) Fiction Studies
This course taught by Regina Lee is one of the places where these ideas come alive in the classroom. GWSS 455 addresses science fictional narratives to trouble and transform the human, the inhumane, the scientific apparatus, and the natural world. Students examine gender, race, sexuality, and ability, alongside scientific documents and feminist theory, to better understand both science and fiction through feminist lenses. It is featured on the College of Arts & Sciences list of Cool Courses for Spring 2022.
Bujold Reading Recommendations
From Jey: I recommend Lois McMaster Bujold’s Cordelia's Honor (1999), an omnibus collection that includes Shards of Honor (1986) and Barrayar (1991). Cordelia’s Honor is a page-turning space romp that doesn’t shy away from its larger themes of war, imperialism, gender, disability, love, and family. It follows the titular Cordelia as she commands an expedition, makes deals with the enemy, falls in love, and turns worlds on their heads, including her own. There are good guys who aren’t all good and bad guys who aren’t all bad. Characters are amusing, complex, multi-dimensional, and heartbreaking. If you’re into uncovering seedy political plots, close calls with the enemy, and reimagining reproduction and the family with a bit of humor and snark sprinkled throughout, I’d strongly suggest giving Cordelia’s Honor a try!
From Regina: I can’t top that recommendation for what is also my favorite part of the Vorkosigan Series. I’ll just add that, if folks are looking for a fantastical upending of the hero’s journey in the middle of a reimagined Medieval Iberian peninsula, by way of gods, demons, saints, zombies, and middle-aged heros, Bujold’s two novels The Curse of Chalion and Paladin of Souls have much to offer as well.