Weatherman (Vorkosigan Saga)
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In many novels, there is a contrast between the technology-rich egalitarian Beta Colony or more generally, galactic society and the heroic, militaristic, hierarchical society of Barrayar, where personal relationships must ensure societal continuity.
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Miles Vorkosigan, the protagonist of most of the series, is the son of a Betan mother and a Barrayaran aristocrat. Humanity has colonized a galaxy in which there are no competing intelligent species. Since then at least years before Falling Free or years before Shards of Honor , dozens of planets were colonized and have developed divergent cultures. Due to low genetic diversity on Barrayar during the time of isolation, a cultural phobia about mutation developed that leads to a high level of xenophobia.
Within the series, exploration and colonization of new planets is still ongoing, most notably on the planet Sergyar. Interstellar travel is achieved by "jumping" from solar system to solar system via spatial anomalies known as wormholes that create tunnels in a five-dimensional space. Typically wormholes are bracketed by space stations, military or commercial, which provide ports for jump travel. Stations may be owned by planetary governments, or by specific commercial organizations, or they may be completely independent of any planetary organization.
Barrayar's original wormhole collapsed, a rare event leading to the time of isolation. Barrayar was later re-discovered via a wormhole jump from Komarr. Komarr allows the neighboring Cetagandan empire to use their wormhole to conquer Barrayar, and is later conquered in its turn when Barrayar eventually defeats the Cetagandans. The stories feature several planetary systems, each with its own political organization, including government by corporate democracy, rule by criminal corporations, monarchies, empires and direct democracies.
In most cases, there is a single government which dominates the entire planet an exception is Jackson's Whole. Both Cetaganda and Barrayar have empires, acquired by conquering other planets via neighboring wormholes. As a tool to simplify the writing process, Bujold devises a standard system of timekeeping universal to all planets regardless of the length of their day and year.
Bujold herself has commented that her posited system is neither technologically nor economically feasible, but is rather a convenience for storytelling.
Most of the technology in the series is based on 20th-century engineering situations, [ citation needed ] projected into null-g or alternative solar system situations. Biomedical advances such as cloning, artificial wombs named "uterine replicators" and cryochambers to preserve and revive recently deceased people are featured heavily in the series. Two jump pilots with obsolete navigational brain implants and a number of characters created by genetic manipulation are psychologically stranded by the termination of the program for which they were designed.
The series features gravity manipulation, both artificially generated in spaceships, and artificially suppressed in ground transport and elevators. Falling Free and Diplomatic Immunity explore the relationship between a culture adapted to an environment without gravity and one which depends on gravity. In most societies featured in the series, paper has been mostly replaced by either plastic sheets or electronic devices, and two-dimensional video is replaced by three-dimensional holograms.
Most characters use portable computers called "wristconsoles" and personal computers named "comconsoles". Interstellar messages, however, have to be recorded on a physical disc which is transported through wormholes at a high cost, and relayed between wormholes by the ships' communication systems, imposing both time and cost constraints to interstellar communications.
As the series features a military background in several novels, special attention is paid to military technology. Ship to ship combat includes plasma rays and attacks based on gravity manipulation and defensive countermeasures. Personal combat includes the use of combat suits, plasma rays, needlers, and nerve disruptors, which are rays that destroy nerve tissue. Biological weapons are also mentioned in the form of wide spectrum toxin bombs and genetically modified microbes that target specific races, and in some cases, specific people.
A truth serum , "fast-penta", is a widespread tool used in interrogation. Several defenses are devised, like induced allergies that kill the subject before they can reveal information, genetic engineering to create immunity, or compartmentalization of information on a need-to-know basis. Miles Vorkosigan has an atypical reaction to the drug which enables him to thwart his enemies on at least one occasion.
The Vor Game.
In the Vorkosigan saga, humans live on planets with diverse degrees of habitability, and have developed diverse adaptation strategies to environments that are only approximately fit for human life. For example, Komarr is a cold planet with high CO 2 that is going through long-term terraforming to make it habitable, while Beta Colony is a hot sandy planet where humans must live underground. Barrayar's vegetation is incompatible with Earth's, and often poisonous or allergenic to humans; Barrayans clear native forest and use compost from Earth-descended plants or horse manure to grow new Earth vegetation.
In spaceships and space stations, people live in closed ecologies in which air and waste are continuously reprocessed. Medical advances are a fundamental part of the saga's worldbuilding. The most ubiquitous are "uterine replicators", devices that allow complete in vitro reproduction, with gene therapy "gene cleaning' to correct for congenital defects.
In Ethan of Athos , this also makes possible an all-male society in which eggs are produced by ovaries maintained in a lab. The Cetagandan haut go beyond gene cleaning, deliberately engineering the human genome in an attempt to produce a post-human species Cetaganda , Diplomatic Immunity. Other advances include genetic manipulation to produce microbes and animals tailored for specific purposes, including decoration, or humans adapted for combat or to live and work in zero gravity. Fertile hermaphrodites have been created in an attempt to surpass gender roles.
Medical prolonging of human life has advanced to achieve natural lifespans of years or more, though Barrayar lags galactic civilization on this.
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Cloning is featured in the series, prominently in the person of Mark, Miles' clone-brother, and in a morally dubious industry on Jackson's Whole that grows clones of wealthy people to transplant their brains from elderly bodies to youthful, healthy ones. Barrayar is an exception to most of these advances due to its long isolation from the rest of humanity. Women carrying their babies to term without uterine replicators is the rule at the beginning of the series, and there is an ingrained fear of mutation in its society.
The social challenges posed by medical technology and Miles Vorkosigan's visible deformities are integral to the plot of several of the stories. The Wormhole Nexus allows Bujold, paradoxically, to imagine a world in which travel and communication require far more time and effort than in the real-life 21st century, since the wormhole jumps present a special barrier. Each planet is a kind of petri dish in which a particular human culture—derived to some extent from a culture known historically on Earth—lives and changes.
The worlds of Barrayar and Athos, for example, suggest aspects of preindustrial Europe and America. Cultures range from the monosexual but not celibate utopia of Athos to the genetically enhanced and highly aggressive inhabitants of the Cetagandan Empire; from the cut-throat capitalists of Jackson's Whole to moderate and scientific Escobar. The quaddies, people genetically engineered to be the perfect zero gravity workers by replacing their feet with additional hands, practice a communalism in which the work gang is the basic unit of governance.
Although Bujold explores and satirizes many kinds of societies and prejudices, her universe isn't infinite and doesn't explore every possible idea. She doesn't focus much on several sources of social organization and prejudice on Earth, for instance: language, skin color, and religion. In general Nexus inhabitants speak a common language, though they may know other languages or have a planetary accent.
On the other hand, the most prominent genotype on Barrayar is olive skin and brown eyes and dark hair  and Tej, who has coffee-brown skin, is described by Ivan Vorpatril as very pretty. Bujold builds prejudice into the "locale", i. The Barrayarans, with their single wormhole to defend and a broadly habitable planet, both need and can afford a militaristic society with a certain amount of internal competition as large families spread out into newly terraformed regions.
They see discipline as emanating from the Emperor through the all-male militarized hierarchy. The Betans, on a hostile planet where they must live in domes, rely on industrial export; they limit not only childbearing but also every kind of behavior that might be considered "antisocial". From their point of view, Barrayaran society is irrational and backwards, while the Barrayarans view them as sexually and politically undisciplined, referring to a "Betan vote" as an obstacle to decision-making.
Planets accessible by many wormholes become centers of trade and finance, whether benign Komarr, Escobar or malicious Jackson's Whole. Finally, some dwellers in space habitats look down on those who call one planet home as "dirt suckers". In all the books except Ethan of Athos and Falling Free , the protagonists are connected to the planet Barrayar, home of the Vorkosigan clan.
For this planet Bujold devised a history which allowed for "swords 'n' spaceships" due to the transition between the Time of Isolation and galactic culture. In the conservative backwoods, some still practice infanticide if signs of mutation are detected.
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Barrayar is a planet colonized by humans some four hundred years prior to Shards of Honor , the first Vorkosigan novel. Shortly after colonization, the 50, settlers are cut off by a failure of the sole wormhole connecting Barrayar to the rest of humanity. During the following centuries, the "Time of Isolation", the colony regresses socially and technologically, eventually developing a feudal form of government, in which the Emperor of Barrayar is supported by sixty regional counts and other minor aristocrats, identified by the honorific prefix Vor- in their names.
The Vor caste is a military one, and Barrayaran culture is highly militaristic and hierarchical. The Counts, however, originate as accountants, with the duty of ensuring that the Emperor's taxes are collected. Because of Barrayar's tradition of direct military action, the Counts also become extremely militaristic. Barrayar is eventually rediscovered via a different wormhole route controlled by the rich merchant planet Komarr. The Komarrans allow the neighboring expansionist Cetagandan Empire to invade Barrayar in return for commercial rights and concessions.
Despite a significant technological advantage, the Cetagandans are finally expelled at great cost after many years of occupation and guerrilla warfare, in large part due to the leadership of General Count Piotr Vorkosigan, Miles' paternal grandfather. Due to a massacre initiated by a subordinate, Aral Vorkosigan acquires the sobriquet "Butcher of Komarr.
Aral Vorkosigan later meets Cordelia Naismith, an enemy officer from Beta Colony, at the commencement of another war. Forced to work together to survive on a hostile planet, they fall in love and eventually marry, resulting in the conception of Miles. An attempt to poison Aral during his regency for the child Emperor, Gregor Vorbarra, leads to the exposure of a pregnant Cordelia to a teratogenic poison. Desperate experimental medical procedures are required to save the unborn baby, and the side effects of the antidote threaten to kill Cordelia.
Miles is transferred to a uterine replicator to allow medical procedures that would threaten his mother. Miles' physical development is severely affected; in particular, his long bones are short and fragile. As an adult, he is subtly but noticeably misshapen and no taller than a nine-year-old boy. As a result, he has to deal with the deeply ingrained prejudice against mutants on his native world though he is not technically a mutant since the damage is teratogenic.
With nearly pathological determination and high intelligence, aided by his supportive parents and their high social rank, he fashions an extraordinary military and civilian career for himself in the Barrayaran Empire. A Warrior's Apprentice comic book was published in France in , which was the first of a projected series called La Saga Vorkosigan. The title story features Beta Colony, and another story contains a character named Cordelia Naismith, perhaps a distant ancestor of the Vorkosigan character.