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Lois McMaster Bujold

Science Fiction and fantasy author from the USA


Women do desperately need models for power other than the maternal.
  • It's a bizarre but wonderful feeling, to arrive dead center of a target you didn't even know you were aiming for.
    • Cordelia's Honor (1996), "Author's Afterword"
  • 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.
    • Cordelia's Honor (1996), "Author's Afterword"
  • 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.
    • Young Miles (1997), "Author's Afterword"
  • 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.
    • "Women’s Hero Journey : An Interview With Lois McMaster Bujold on Paladin of Souls by Alan Oak at (June 2009)

Vorkosigan SagaEdit

These titles are arranged by the storyline chronology rather than publication date.

Falling Free (1988)Edit

It's an ancient and honorable term for the final step in any engineering project. Turn it on, see if it smokes.
Winner of the 1989 Nebula Award; nominated for the 1989 Hugo Award
All page numbers from the Baen Books mass market paperback first edition, 1st printing, ISBN 0-671-65398-9
  • On the sixth day God saw He couldn’t do it all, it read, so He created engineers.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 14)
  • Whether you function as welders or inspectors, the laws of physics are implacable lie-detectors. You may fool men. You will never fool the metal. That’s all.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 36)
  • Were you born inhuman, or did you grow so by degrees—M.S., M.D., Ph.D...
    • Chapter 4 (p. 72)
  • Of all the times to pick for this outbreak of idiocy, this has gotta be the worst possible. It’s got to be deliberate. Nothing this fouled up could be by chance.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 78)
  • The line of logic trailed off in confusion; he turned his thoughts impatiently from it. Mental wheel-spinning, as unproductive as philosophy class in college.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 89)
  • I don’t know whose judgement is worse, yours or the jerk’s who hired you—
    • Chapter 5 (p. 101)
  • Claire, listen to me. The proper response to Bruce isn’t suicide, it’s murder.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 122)
  • GalacTech’s not God, Claire. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your firstborn to it.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 122)
  • There are weapons all around us here, we just don’t recognize them because we call them “tools.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 142)
  • Even soldiers in battle have to be brought to a special state of mental excitement to shoot total strangers.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 143)
  • This isn’t a class. This is real life.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 152)
  • God’s not here. Somebody’s got to fill in.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 161)
  • The quaddies, he reflected, didn’t seem to have a very clear idea of private property. Probably came from a lifetime spent in a communal space habitat, with its tight ecology. Planets were communal in the same way, really, except that their enormous size put so much slack in their systems, it was disguised.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 166)
  • “The trouble with you, Ti,” lectured Leo kindly, “is that you lack teaching experience. If you had, you’d have faith that the most unlikely people can learn the most amazing things.”
    • Chapter 9 (pp. 166-167)
  • “We’ve run into a problem, Leo.”
    “But of course. Who ever tracks me down to impart good news?
    • Chapter 10 (p. 180)
  • We make our own luck. And it’s my responsibility to see it’s good and not bad.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 194)
  • He loathed letting her push his buttons; still, she had a valid point: cover-your-ass was a fundamental rule for survival even of the fittest.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 238)
  • Clearly, you could die while waiting for other people to start your life for you.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 254)
  • “I could bring almost nothing—I scarcely knew what to choose.”
    “Think of the vast amounts of money we shall save on shipping charges, then.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 256)
  • Shooting people was such a stupid activity, why should everybody—anybody!—be so impressed? Silver wondered irritably. You would think she had done something truly great, like discover a new treatment for black stem-rot.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 266)
  • If you ever have to make a choice between learning and inspiration, boy, choose learning. It works more of the time.
    • Chapter 14 (pp. 273-274)
  • And what is the most important leg of a three-legged stool? The one that is missing, of course.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 276)
  • He gave himself up to God and pressed the button.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 284)
  • “Smoke test?...What’s that?”...
    “It’s an ancient and honorable term for the final step in any engineering project,” Leo explained. “Turn it on, see if it smokes.”
    • Chapter 16 (pp. 295-296; ellipses represent minor elisions of description)
The laws of physics are implacable lie-detectors. You may fool men. You will never fool the metal.

Shards of Honor (1986)Edit

If it ever came down to exerting power by force, it would mean I'd already lost it.
  • 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.
  • If it ever came down to exerting power by force, it would mean I'd already lost it.
  • 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.
  • Seems to me the only difference between your friends and your enemies is how long they stand around chatting before they shoot you.
  • I could take over the universe with this army if I could ever get all their weapons pointed in the same direction.
  • I don't hate him. I can't say I worship him, either. But when he's cut, I bleed.
  • I have an aversion to closed doors anyway. You never know what's on the other side.
  • 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.
  • Most days it's just stumbling around in the dark with the rest of creation, smashing into things and wondering why it hurts.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A price is something you get. A cost is something you lose.
  • Why shouldn't a madman dream of being sane?
  • 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.
  • An honor is not diminished for being shared.
  • 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.
  • The good face pain. But the great — they embrace it.
  • Exile, for no other motive than ease, would be the last defeat, with no seed of future victory in it.
  • I am an atheist, myself. A simple faith, but a great comfort to me, in these last days.

Barrayar (1991)Edit

  • 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.
  • With all this manure around, there's got to be a pony someplace.
  • Check your assumptions. In fact, check your assumptions at the door.
  • You can't choose between evil and evil, in the dark, by logic. You can only cling to some safety line of principle.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Children might or might not be a blessing, but to create them and then fail them was surely damnation.
  • Experience suggests it doesn't matter so much how you got here, as what you do after you arrive.
  • 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.
  • My home is not a place, it is people.
  • 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.
  • You can say a lot in a little time, if you stick to words of one syllable.
  • Live, and so confound our enemies.
  • Our children change us…whether they live or not.
  • Suicidal glory is the luxury of the irresponsible. We're not giving up. We're waiting for a better opportunity to win.
  • 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.
  • One step at a time, I can walk around the world. Watch me.
  • 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.
  • I would fight the world for you, but I'm damned if I can figure out how to save you from yourself.
  • Oh, but he's my monster.

The Warrior's Apprentice (1986)Edit

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.
  • 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.
  • What you are is a question only you can answer.
  • It's never too late while you're breathing.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Heroes. They sprang up around him like weeds. A carrier, he was seemingly unable to catch the disease he spread.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I've got forward momentum. There's no virtue in it. It's just a balancing act. I don't dare stop.

Ethan of Athos (1986)Edit

  • A good friend of my son's is a son to me.
  • I take it as a man's duty to restrain himself.
  • Some men just aren't cut out for paternity. Better they should realize it before and not after they become responsible for a son.
  • There are always survivors at a massacre. Among the victors, if nowhere else.

The Mountains of Mourning (1989)Edit

  • Yeah, so I'm short. But wait'll you see me dance.
  • If you want to catch something, running after it isn't always the best way.
  • Aren't family squabbles jolly fun? Bleeding ulcers run in my family, we give them to each other.
  • 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.

The Vor Game (1990)Edit

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.
  • We don't just march on the future, we charge it.
  • A weapon is a device for making your enemy change his mind.
  • Pain hurts, sir. I don't court it.
  • 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.
  • If we shouldn't do it, we shouldn't be able to do it.
  • Those who do not know their history are doomed to keep stepping in it.
    • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • I may be small, but I screw up big because I'm standing on the shoulders of GIANTS.
    • This evokes the statement by Newton: "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."
  • 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.
  • Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
    • 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."
  • The cream pie of justice flies one way.
  • 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.
  • "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."

Cetaganda (1996)Edit

Behavior that is rewarded is repeated. And the reverse.
  • Hi, I'm a hero, but I can't tell you why. It's classified.
  • Hands are integral with brains, almost another lobe for intelligence. What one does not know through one's hands, one does not truly know.
  • No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy. Not when the enemy is me.
    • 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."
  • Vorreedi stated dangerously, "I am not a mushroom, Lieutenant Vorkosigan."
    To be kept in the dark and fed on horseshit, right. Miles sighed inwardly.
  • In my experience, milady, we can never get back to exactly where we started, no matter how hard we try.
  • You can't give power away and keep it simultaneously. Except posthumously.
  • Behavior that is rewarded is repeated. And the reverse.
  • The best strategies run on rails. Live or die, you make your goal.
  • Egalitarians adjust to aristocracies just fine, as long as they get to be the aristocrats.
  • "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?"
  • "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."
  • Luck is something you make for yourself, if you want it.

Borders of Infinity (1989)Edit

Men may move mountains, but ideas move men.
  • 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?
  • "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."
  • 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.
  • Let he who is without sin cast the first lure.
  • I can't quit, once I've started. I've been told I'm pathologically persistent. I can't quit.
  • Biology is Destiny.
  • The wounded want power, nothing else; they think it will keep them from being hurt again.
  • "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.
  • Men may move mountains, but ideas move men.
  • There is a subtle difference between being a prisoner and being a slave. I don't mistake either for being free.
  • 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.
  • When you can see the colors of the feathers, you'll also understand how you can expand your borders to infinity.
  • 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.
  • You're so hopelessly monosexual, Miles.
  • Mine is not a theology of the elect. I intend to preach to the masses. Even the sinners.
  • "Is this guy for real?"
    "He thinks he's faking it, but he's not."

Brothers in Arms (1989)Edit

The man who assumes everything is a lie is at least as mistaken as the one who assumes everything is true.
  • There are a number of people in the universe I'd be willing to double-cross, but my own wounded aren't among 'em.
  • Total strangers trying to kill me make me feel right at home.
  • It just happens to be very important to me to win with the hand I was dealt.
  • Three cheers for literacy... I feel sick.
  • I'm just dazzled by the glittering tinsel of neo-fascism.
  • The will to be stupid is a very powerful force.
  • There is no safety. Only varying states of risk. And failure.
  • You are what you do.
  • The man who assumes everything is a lie is at least as mistaken as the one who assumes everything is true.
  • 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.
  • And what goes on in the head of a walking dead man? What personal failure could he possibly fear more than death itself?
  • '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.
  • 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.
  • When you can't get what you want, you take what you can get.
  • "Don't panic."
    "I'm not panicking, I'm watching you panic. It's more entertaining."
  • "I'm *not* schizophrenic. A little manic-depressive, maybe."
    "Know thyself."
    "We try, sir."

Mirror Dance (1994)Edit

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.
  • I don't confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is…the higher achievement.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Since no one is perfect, it follows that all great deeds have been accomplished out of imperfection.
  • Do it for yourself. The universe will be around to collect its cut later.
  • "Damn the boy for making a fucking farce out of his own funeral!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • All true wealth is biological.
  • Confusion to the enemy.
  • I don't know. I do think, half of what we call madness is just some poor slob dealing with pain by a strategy that annoys the people around him.
  • Sometimes insanity is not a tragedy. Sometimes, it's a strategy for survival. Sometimes ... it's a triumph.

Memory (1996)Edit

The one thing you can't trade for your heart's desire is your heart.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • I am who I choose to be. I always have been what I chose…though not always what I pleased.
  • 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.
  • If you can't do what you want, do what you can.
  • It was never what I wanted to buy that held my heart's hope. It was what I wanted to be.
  • 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.
  • You try to give away what you want yourself.
  • "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."
  • Some fellows you have to hit with a brick to get their attention. Some you have to hit with a BIG brick.
  • "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."
  • Strange mercies, Illyan. You kill me so courteously.
  • The last thing a monster wanted was a fellow to follow him around all day long with a mirror.
  • I was never a mercenary, not ever. Not for one single minute.
  • Never argue with a pedant over nomenclature. It wastes your time and annoys the pedant.

Komarr (1998)Edit

  • Cynicism did not seem nearly so impressively daring to her now as it had when she was twenty.
  • If suspicion was the deadliest possible insult, then trust was always right, even if it was mistaken.
  • Aim high. You may still miss the target but at least you won’t shoot your foot off.
  • Marriage was a lottery, and you drew your lot in late adolescence or early adulthood at a point of maximum idiocy and confusion.
  • I am not here to vent my feelings. I am here to achieve my goals.
  • As God is my witness, when I am laid to my rest, I hope my best beloved will have better to say of me than "He never hit me."
  • It was seldom he found himself in company who made him feel this stupid. It was probably good for his soul.
  • 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 Civil Campaign (1999)Edit

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.
  • Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.
  • Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.
  • 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.
  • When I was twenty, I chose my life. It wasn't this one.
  • Adversity does teach who your real friends are.
  • Honesty is the only way with anyone, when you'll be so close as to be living inside each other's skins.
  • If power was an illusion, wasn't weakness necessarily one also?
  • 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.
  • When you give each other everything, it becomes an even trade. Each wins all.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • You have to be careful who you let define your good.
  • 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"?
  • 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.
  • It is always easier to get forgiveness than permission.
    • 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."
  • "Let's see what happens." Yes, let's.
  • "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'.'"
  • Government by thugs in the Bloody Centuries gave Barrayar many colorful historical incidents, suitable for high drama. I don't think it's a drama we wish to return to in real life.
  • For her, this was a metaphor, he reminded himself. Though maybe he was a metaphor too, inside his head with the Black Gang. A metaphor gone metastatic.
  • The principal difference between heaven and hell is the company you keep there.
  • 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.
  • The trouble with oaths of the form, death before dishonor, is that eventually, given enough time and abrasion, they separate the world into just two sorts of people: the dead, and the forsworn.
  • I gather from the pattern of her flinches that the late unlamented Tien Vorsoisson was one of those subtle feral parasites who leave their mates scratching their heads and asking, "Am I crazy? Am I crazy?"
  • 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 sort of respect to you, as though it were some 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.

Winterfair Gifts (2008)Edit

  • I’d have worn them as a courtesy to your friend, I’ll wear them now as a defiance to our enemies.
  • Taura nailed it. She'll do for m'lord, all right. And God help their enemies.
  • She's just as bad as he is! God help me.

Diplomatic Immunity (2002)Edit

If you make it plain you like people, it's hard for them to resist liking you back.
  • If the truth doesn't save us, what does that say about us?
  • If you make it plain you like people, it's hard for them to resist liking you back.
  • The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is a duty of the living to do so for them.
  • I smell diplomacy.

"The Flowers of Vashnoi" (2018)Edit

  • "S funny. Piotr, toward the end of his life, looked at our district and only saw how much better it was. All the backbreaking, heartbreaking work he did cleaning up the messes after the war is taken for granted now, or mostly just forgotten. Instead, we look around and only see how much better it could be. And neither of us is wrong, exactly."

Cryoburn (2010)Edit

  • "Old age," she said, "is slower than a grenade, but a lot more thorough."
  • All the worry people expend over not existing after they die, yet nary a one ever seems to spare a moment to worry about not having existed before they were conceived. Or at all. After all, one sperm over and we would have been our sisters, and we'd never have been missed.
Old age is slower than a grenade, but a lot more thorough.

Captain Vorpatril's Alliance (2012)Edit

  • The most interesting question of history is always, What were these people thinking?

The Vorkosigan Companion (2008)Edit

Edited by Lillian Stewart Carl and John Helfers
Reading is an active and elusive experience. Every reader, reading exactly the same text, will have a slightly different reading experience...
  • 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.
    • "Putting It Together" p. 6
  • I have a catchphrase to describe my plot-generation technique — "What's the worst possible thing I can do to these people?"
    • "Putting It Together" p. 6
  • I am increasingly convinced that technological culture is the entire root of women's liberation.
    • "Putting It Together" p. 8
  • Parallels, spirals, and reflections are some of my favorite literary patterns.
    • "Putting It Together" p. 20
  • 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.
    • "'A Conversation With Lois McMaster Bujold", an interview with Lillian Stewart Carl, p. 52
  • 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.
    • "'A Conversation With Lois McMaster Bujold", p. 54
  • 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.
    • "'A Conversation With Lois McMaster Bujold", p. 54
  • I've always tried to write the kind of book I most loved to read: character-centered adventure.
    • "'A Conversation With Lois McMaster Bujold", p. 60
  • 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."
    • "Publishing, Writing, and Authoring", p. 67
  • 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.
    • "Publishing, Writing, and Authoring", p. 75

World of the Five Gods seriesEdit

The Curse of Chalion (2000)Edit

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.
I for one find a casual destruction of a man's life even more repugnant than a determined one.
Ignorance is not stupidity, but it might as well be.
  • 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.
    • p. 58
  • Right or wrong, what I also saw was that you made an enemy, and left him alive behind you. Great charity. Bad tactics.
    • p. 60
  • The joys of command — well, you know. You taught them to me. One part glory to ten parts shoveling manure.
    • p. 76
  • The gods' most savage curses come upon us as answers to our own prayers, you know.
    • p. 94
  • 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.
    • p. 224
  • 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.
    • p. 233
  • The confusion of mind you dub honor is a disease.
    • p. 282
  • I for one find a casual destruction of a man's life even more repugnant than a determined one.
    • p. 292
  • 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.
    • p. 313
  • Ignorance is not stupidity, but it might as well be.
    • p. 316
  • Second sight is redundant to reason anyway.
    • p. 328
  • "Just what kind of noose are you offering to put round my neck, here? Is this treason?"
    "Worse," Cazaril sighed. "Theology."
    • p. 333
  • Surely only correct understanding could lead to correct action.
    • p. 369
  • And you could just watch men begin to see what he told them they were seeing, whether it was there or not.
    • p. 433
  • "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.
  • A skilled soldier kills your enemies, but a skilled duelist kills your allies.
  • "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."

Paladin of Souls (2003)Edit

The gods give no gifts without hooks embedded.
One learns better than to hand one's choices to fear. With age, with every wound and scar, one learns.
  • The shocked silence that followed was decidedly baffled. And even, possibly, a little thoughtful, if that was not too much to hope.
    • p. 31
  • 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.
    • p. 36
  • "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."
    • p. 44
  • 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."
    • p. 61
  • "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."
    • p. 61
  • A stunning first impression was not the same thing as love at first sight. But surely it was an invitation to consider the matter.
    • p. 125
  • The entire center of her life was a blackened waste, its long years not to be recovered nor replaced.
    • p. 125
  • The gods give no gifts without hooks embedded.
    • p. 157
  • 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.
    • p. 201
  • "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."
    • p. 271
  • "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."
    • p. 281
  • 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.
    • p. 295
  • You are a most excellent lawyer, for a dead man.
    • p. 296
  • One learns better than to hand one's choices to fear. With age, with every wound and scar, one learns.
    • p. 296
  • "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."
    • p. 379
  • 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.
    • p. 459

The Sharing KnifeEdit

Passage (Vol. III in Tetralogy) (2008)Edit

  • We see the world not as it is, but as we are. ~ Dag Redwing hickory Bluefield
    • p. 163

Knife Children (2019)Edit

  • Her eyes were full of new; it made them brighter
    • Loc 1972 of 2974
  • Words won't break bones seemed like the lying-est lie Barr had ever been told, as a child. Bones knit eventually, he knew from close personal experience. The scars of slander, an insult not just delivered but believed, might never heal in a lifetime.
    • Loc 2243 of 2974
  • "Thing is... she may get mad, but she isn't whiny or naggy about it. She doesn't store it up like a, a compost heap, all hot on the inside and rotting. She's angry like she has a right, and no one disputes it." She added after a moment, "Or tells her to be a good girl, or be quiet, or apologize. Or go to her room" ~ Lily Mason, on why she admires Captain Amma
    • Loc 2480 of 2974

A Girl's World interview (2006)Edit

Online interview at
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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Geek Speak Magazine Interview (2010)Edit

Online interview at
  • Some fortunate, prolific writers seem to be able, efficiently, to keep several projects going at once; it appears I am not one of them.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Quotes about BujoldEdit

  • Read, or you will be missing something extraordinary.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Toni Weisskopf in "A Conversation With Toni Weisskopf", interview by John Helfers, in The Vorkosigan Companion (2008), p. 78

External linksEdit