Lois McMaster Bujold

Science Fiction and fantasy author from the USA

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.

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.
I don't confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is…the higher achievement.
All great human deeds both consume and transform their doers.

QuotesEdit

 
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 WomenWriters.net (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

All page numbers from the Baen Books mass market paperback omnibus Cordelia's Honor ISBN 978-0-671-57828-2 5th printing, September 2010
 
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.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 40)
  • If it ever came down to exerting power by force, it would mean I’d already lost it.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 40)
  • Save me from that! To pour your life into sons for eighteen or twenty years, and then have the government take them away and waste them cleaning up after some failure of politics—no thanks.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 41)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 3 (pp. 43-44)
  • Even after four days of oatmeal and blue cheese dressing, they were a disappointment.
    “Are you sure this isn’t instant boots?” asked Cordelia.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 48)
  • The old customs are dead, and we keep trying on new ones, like badly fitting clothes.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 50)
  • She took the story in like some strange, spiked gift, too fragile to drop, too painful to hold.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 53)
  • “Seems to me the only difference between your friends and your enemies is how long they stand around chatting before they shoot you.”
    “Yes,” Vorkosigan agreed, “I could take over the universe with this army if I could ever get all their weapons pointed in the same direction.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 60)
  • I had a teacher who used to reflect back my questions that way. I thought it was the Socratic method, and it impressed me immensely, until I found out he used it whenever he didn’t know the answer.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 60)
  • “We were told the Betans killed you, sir,” he said suspiciously.
    “Yes, it’s a rumor I’ve had difficulty living down,” said Vorkosigan. “You can see it’s not true.”
    “Your funeral was splendid,” said Koudelka. “You should have been there.”
    “Next time, perhaps,” Vorkosigan grinned.
    “Oh. You know I didn’t mean it that way, sir. Lieutenant Radnov made the best speech.”
    “I’m sure. He’d probably been working on it for months.”
    • Chapter 4 (p. 61)
  • They stared at her curiously and she caught snatches of conversation in two or three languages. It wasn’t hard to guess their content, and she smiled a bit grimly. Youth, it appeared, was full of illusions as to how much sexual energy two people might have to spare while hiking forty or so kilometers a day, concussed, stunned, diseased, on poor food and little sleep, alternating caring for a wounded man with avoiding becoming dinner for every carnivore within range—and with a coup to plan for at the end.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 69)
  • Captains may come and captains may go, but the administration goes on forever.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 74)
  • Vorkalloner seemed suddenly less amusing. “Why are you all so anxious to put us in a bottle, anyway?”
    “Why, orders,” said Vorkalloner simply, like an ancient fundamentalist who answers every question with the tautology, “Because God made it that way.” Then a little agnostic doubt began to creep over his face. “Actually, I thought we might have been sent out here on guard duty as some kind of punishment,” he joked.
    The remark caught Vorkosigan’s humor. “For your sins? Your cosmology is too egocentric, Aristede”
    • Chapter 5 (p. 75)
  • I have an aversion to closed doors anyway. You never know what’s on the other side.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 78)
  • “Anybody ever tell you you’re a lunatic?”
    “Not in this context.”
    • Chapter 5 (p. 80; Vorkosigan has just proposed to Cordelia)
  • It’s a moribund body anyway, afflicted with the narrowest conservatism and stuffed with old relics only concerned with protecting their privileges. I’m not sure anything can be done with the Counts in the long run. Perhaps they should finally be allowed to dodder over the brink of extinction.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 81)
  • Do you know, I think you’d like politics at least on Barrayar. Maybe because it’s so similar to what we call war, elsewhere.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 81)
  • I’m sure we’d all rather be clever than brave.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 90)
  • So in the physics of the heart, distance is relative; it’s time that’s absolute.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 97)
  • No fear trembled his voice. Well, she reflected, perhaps he was not old enough yet to have really come to believe in death after life.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 101)
  • This war nonsense was a great psychological education. That chronometer had to be wrong. Surely it had been a year, and not an hour…
    • Chapter 7 (p. 104)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 127)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 128)
  • “Things going well for your side, are they?” she asked, oppressed.
    “We’re becoming nicely overextended. Some people regard that as progress.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 129)
  • But exile, for no other motive than ease—that would be to give up all hope of honor. The last defeat, with no seed of future victory in it.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 132; Vorkosigan to Cordelia; she quotes it back to him on p. 236)
  • “Suffering bastard.”
    “I thought you saw meaning in that sort of thing,” said Vorkosigan.
    “In the abstract. Most days it’s just stumbling around in the dark with the rest of creation, smashing into things and wondering why it hurts.”
    • Chapter 9 (pp. 138-139)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 141)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 162)
  • “Well, I don’t hate him. I can’t say I worship him, either.” She paused a long time, and looked up to meet her mother’s eyes squarely. “But when he’s cut, I bleed.”
    • Chapter 12 (p. 184)
  • “So this word of honor business—you believe he never breaks it?”
    “Well…”
    “He does, then.”
    “I have seen him do so. But the cost was huge.”
    “He breaks it for a price, then.”
    “Not for a price. At a cost.”
    “I fail to see the distinction.”
    “A price is something you get. A cost is something you lose.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 190)
  • “Women shouldn’t be in combat,” said Vorkosigan, grimly glum.
    “Neither should men, in my opinion.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 223)
  • Why shouldn’t a madman dream of being sane?
    • Chapter 14 (p. 224)
  • “Ah, yes. I recall from your file that you are some sort of theist.” said the Emperor. “I am an atheist, myself. A simple faith, but a great comfort to me, in these last days.”
    “Yes, I have often felt the pull of it myself.”
    • Chapter 15 (p. 230)
  • 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. Do you understand what I’m saying?
    • Chapter 15 (p. 235)
  • I’ve always felt that theists were more ruthless than atheists.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 235)
  • A person’s things can be a kind of exterior morphology of their mind.
    • Aftermaths (p. 247). Note: Aftermaths was originally published as a standalone short story in 1986, but since then has usually been reprinted as a sort of appendix to Shards of Honor, which it follows naturally in the series arc.
  • What a strange world you must live in, inside your head.
    • Aftermaths (p. 252)
  • An honor is not diminished for being shared.
    • Aftermaths (p. 253)
  • “Don’t be afraid,” she said. “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.”
    Yes, he thought, the good face pain. But the great—they embrace it.
    • Aftermaths (p. 253)

Barrayar (1991)Edit

Winner of the 1992 Hugo Award; nominated for the 1992 Nebula Award
All page numbers from the Baen Books mass market paperback omnibus Cordelia's Honor ISBN 978-0-671-57828-2 5th printing, September 2010
  • Check your assumptions, Cordelia thought to herself in amusement. In fact, check your assumptions at the door.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 324)
  • You can’t choose between evil and evil, in the dark, by logic. You can only cling to some safety line of principle.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 374)
  • “What a barbaric custom.”
    “Well, we could treat crime as a disease, like you Betans. You know what that’s like. At least we kill a man cleanly, all at once, instead of in bits over the years….I don’t know.”
    “How will they…do it?”
    “Beheading. It’s supposed to be almost painless.”
    “How do they know?”
    His laugh was totally without humor. “A very cogent question.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 376)
  • “For all you Betans seem soft, you have an appalling cold-blooded streak in you.”
    “Rational streak, sir. Rationality has its merits. You Barrayarans ought to try it sometime.”
    • Chapter 9 (p. 393)
  • Stupidity, yes, but not unilateral stupidity. Something this screwed up had to have taken a committee.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 411)
  • My home is not a place, it is a person, sir.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 420)
  • “You think like a soldier, m’lady.” Kly sounded approving.
    Cordelia wrinkled her brow in dismay. What an appalling compliment. The last thing she wanted was to start thinking like a soldier, playing their game by their rules. The hallucinatory military worldview was horribly infectious, though, immersed in it as she was now.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 458)
  • Anyway, she now realized, the military histories she’d read had left out the most important part; they never told what happened to people’s babies.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 477)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 529)
  • Our children change us…whether they live or not.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 530)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 531)
  • Any community’s arm of force—military, police, security—needs people in it who can do the 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.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 533)
  • 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?
    • Chapter 17 (p. 534)
  • You have a little time yet. You can say a lot in a little time, if you stick to words of one syllable.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 536)
  • Why have these people so blithely handed me the right to risk their lives? God, I hate command.
    • Chapter 18 (pp. 540-541)
  • Suicidal glory is the luxury of the irresponsible. We’re not giving up. We’re waiting for a better opportunity to win.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 547)
  • I don’t want power. I just object to idiots having power over me.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 549)
  • Surely she was mad. 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.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 552)
  • Let me help. Rhymes with I love you, right?
    • Chapter 20 (p. 582)
  • Children might or might not be a blessing, but to create them and then fail them was surely damnation.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 583)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 583)
  • I would fight the world for you, but I’m damned if I can figure out how to save you from yourself. Go for it, kid.
    • Epilogue (p. 589)
  • 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 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.
    • Author’s Afterward (pp. 595-596)

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.
All page numbers from the Baen Books mass market paperback omnibus Young Miles ISBN 978-0-7434-3616-8 3rd printing, January 2008
  • To kill a man, it helps if you can first take away his face. A neat mental trick. Handy for a soldier.
    • Chapter 2 (pp. 29-30)
  • Ask a simple question, get a simple brick wall.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 44)
  • It’s never too late while you’re breathing.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 80)
  • What you are is a question only you can answer.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 123)
  • I’ve got forward momentum. There’s no virtue in it. It’s just a balancing act. I don’t dare stop.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 136)
  • “You know,” he said as they started back up the corridor, “it might be better if we don’t yell, going in. It’s startling. It’s bound to be a lot easier to hit people if they’re not jumping around and ducking behind things.”
    “They do it that way on the vids,” Mayhew offered.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 144)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 144)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 154)
  • Organization seemed to be the key. To get huge masses of properly matched men and material 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.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 169)
  • Some saw stars, it seemed, and some saw the spaces between them.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 215)
  • A mercenary who can’t honor his contract when it’s rough as well as smooth is a thug, not a soldier.
    • Chapter 13 (pp. 221-222)
  • In the long run more mercenaries have had their asses shot off by their contractors than by their enemies.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 223)
  • Heroes. They sprang up around him like weeds. A carrier, he was seemingly unable to catch the disease he spread.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 287)
  • “Ivan, one of these days somebody is going to pull out a weapon and plug you, and you’re going to die in bewilderment, crying, ‘What did I say? What did I say?’”
    “What did I say?” asked Ivan indignantly.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 295)
  • He should be keeping reality and fantasy separate in his own mind, at least, even while mixing them as much as possible in others’.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 302)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 305)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 18 (pp. 305-306)
  • That idea only makes sense if you don’t think too hard about it.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 308)
  • Not only was Ivan an idiot, but he generated a telepathic damping field that turned people nearby into idiots too.
    • Chapter 18 (p. 311)
  • There was no way he could anticipate every contingency. 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.
    • Chapter 19 (p. 320)
  • You know, 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.
    • Chapter 20 (p. 340)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 21 (p. 362)

The Mountains of Mourning (1989)Edit

Winner of the 1990 Hugo Award and the 1990 Nebula Award for best novella
Originally published in the May 1989 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and often reprinted. All page numbers here are from the Baen Books mass market paperback omnibus Borders of Infinity ISBN 0-671-57829-4 5th printing, limited edition, September 1999
Italics as in the book
  • The trick of handling horses isn’t to be faster than the horse, or stronger than the horse. That pits your weakness against his strengths. The trick is to be smarter than the horse. That pits your strength against his weakness, eh?
    • p. 28
  • Yeah, so I’m short. But wait’ll you see me dance.
    • p. 35
  • Aren’t family squabbles jolly fun? Bleeding ulcers run in my family, we give them to each other.
    • p. 83
  • The fundamental principle was clear: the spirit was to be preferred over the letter, truth over technicalities. Precedent was held subordinate to the judgment of the man on the spot. Alas, the man on the spot was himself. There was no refuge for him in automated rules, no hiding behind the law says as if the law were some living overlord with a real Voice. The only voice here was his own.
    • p. 90
  • The old ones are fighting it. They call it off planet corruption, but it’s really the future they fear.
    • p. 92
  • Ordinary people need extraordinary examples.
    • p. 92
  • I know you have courage, and I know you have will. The rest is just picking yourself up and ramming into the wall again and again until it falls down.
    • p. 96
  • How small those mountains looked from space!
    • p. 99
  • Peace to you, small lady, he thought to Raina. 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 blast them into the sky…
    He knew who he served now. And why he could not quit. And why he must not fail.
    • p. 100 (closing words)

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.
Winner of the 1991 Hugo Award
All page numbers from the Baen Books mass market paperback omnibus Young Miles ISBN 978-0-7434-3616-8 3rd printing, January 2008
All italics and ellipses as in the book
  • We don’t just march on the future, we charge it.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 468)
  • Pain hurts, sir. I don’t court it.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 473)
  • He’s not like anything, Ahn. He’s the original.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 488)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 508)
  • If we shouldn’t do it, we shouldn’t be able to do it.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 532)
  • Those who do not know their history, his thought careened, are doomed to keep stepping in it. Alas, so were those who did, it seemed.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 551)
    • 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.”
  • A weapon is a device for making your enemy change his mind.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 551)
  • The facts appear to be mutating every forty minutes. like bacteria.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 558)
  • Your moral scruples may be admirable, Miles, but I’m not sure I can afford them.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 562)
  • “Other than that, how was Kiril Island, Ensign Vorkosigan?” inquired the Count. “You didn’t vid home much, your mother noticed.”
    “I was busy. Lessee. The climate was ferocious, the terrain was lethal, a third of the population including my immediate superior was dead drunk most of the time. The average IQ equalled the mean temperature in degrees cee, there wasn’t a woman for five hundred kilometers in any direction, and the base commander was a homicidal psychotic. Other than that, it was lovely.”
    • Chapter 6 (pp. 565-566)
  • “This isn’t a good war game, Dad says,” commented Miles. “Not enough random factors and uncontrolled surprises to simulate reality.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 579)
  • Mercenaries thrive on other people’s chaos.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 580)
  • The job was interesting for a week, while he was learning it, mind-numbing after that.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 582)
  • Geography is the mother of strategy.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 584)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 655)
  • Yes, well…actual combat…is a lot stupider than I’d imagined. If two groups can cooperate to the incredible extent it takes to meet in battle, why not put in a tenth that effort to talk?
    • Chapter 11 (p. 666)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 666)
  • There is no moral difference between ordering an execution, and carrying it out.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 698)
  • “The key of strategy, little Vor,” she explained kindly, “is not to choose a path to victory, but to choose so that all paths lead to a victory.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 706)
  • I may be small, but I screw up big because I’m standing on the shoulders of GIANTS.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 707)
    • This evokes the statement by Newton: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
  • “Face like an angel, mind like a rabid mongoose?”
    Oser’s lips twitched very slightly. “You’ve met her.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 716)
  • “Is she pretty?”
    “Yeah, if you happen to like blond power-mad homicidal maniacs, I suppose she could be quite overwhelming.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 737)
  • I don’t think I’m destined to die today. I must be being saved for day after tomorrow.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 738)
  • “Think of the glory. Think of your reputation. Think how great it’ll look on your next resume.”
    “On my cenotaph, you mean. Nobody will be able to collect enough of my scattered atoms to bury. You’re going to cover my funeral expenses, son?”
    “Splendidly. Banners, dancing girls, and enough beer to float your coffin to Valhalla.”
    Tung sighed. “Make it plum wine to float the boat, eh? Drink the beer.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 742)
  • It could be worse was always an unassailable assertion.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 746)
  • “Damn,” said Elena in a hushed voice. “If I didn’t know you, I’d think you were Mad Yuri’s understudy. The look on your face…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. I can hardly wait to find out,” Miles panted. “Was I convincing?”
    “You were scary.”
    “Good.”
    • Chapter 15 (p. 768)
  • 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.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 787)
  • Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 806)
    • 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.”
  • Beware of wishing for justice. You might get it.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 811)
  • She could be the only person on Barrayar to automatically put Gregor the man before Gregor the emperor. All our ranks look like optical illusions to her, I think.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 818)
  • “I’m afraid of power…” Gregor’s voice went low, contemplative.
    “You aren’t afraid of power, you’re afraid of hurting people. If you wield that power,” Miles deduced suddenly.
    “Huh. Close guess.”
    “Not dead-on?”
    “I’m afraid I might enjoy it. The hurting.”
    • Chapter 17 (p. 820)
  • The arrow of justice flies one way.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 820; parodied on the next page as “The cream pie of justice flies one way.”)
  • He leaned forward to put his elbows on the comconsole, and lace his fingers together, and regarded Miles with a kind of clinical disapproval, as if he were a data point that messed up the curve, and Illyan was deciding if he could still save the theory by re-classifying him as experimental error.
    • Chapter 17 (pp. 822-823)
  • “Ensign Vorkosigan,” Illyan sighed. It seems you still have a little problem with subordination.”
    “I know, sir. I’m sorry.”
    “Do you ever intend to do anything about it besides feel sorry?”
    “I can’t help it, sir, if people give me the wrong orders.”
    • Chapter 17 (p. 823)

Cetaganda (1996)Edit

 
Behavior that is rewarded is repeated. And the reverse.
All page numbers from the first mass market paperback edition, Baen Books, 1st printing (October 1996), ISBN 0-671-87744-5
All italics as in the book
  • Hi, I’m a hero, but I can’t tell you why. It’s classified.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 23)
  • “Hands are to be hired. Design is the test of the intellect.”
    “I must disagree. In my experience, hands are integral with brains, almost another lobe for intelligence. What one does not know through one’s hands, one does not truly know.”
    • Chapter 2 (p. 36)
  • “Do me the honor of grasping that I may just possibly know what I’m doing!” I wish to hell I knew what I was doing. Intuition was nothing but the subconscious processing of subliminal clues, he was fairly sure, but I feel it in my bones made too uncomfortably thin a public defense for his actions.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 58)
  • All in all, it was probably a good thing these youths had no political interests. They were just the sort of people who started revolutions but could not finish them, their idealism betrayed by their incompetence.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 80)
  • He knew now why they called it “falling in love.” There was the same nauseating vertigo of free fall, the same vast exhilaration, the same sick certainty of broken bones upon impact with a rapidly rising reality.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 89)
  • “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Not when the enemy is me.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 98)
    • 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.”
  • “I made up a lot of instant barbarian folklore—I told ’em a Vor prides himself on self-control, that it’s not considered polite on Barrayar for a man to, you know, before his lady has. Three times. It was considered insulting to her. I stroked, I rubbed, I scratched, I recited poetry, I nuzzled and nibbled and—cripes, my fingers are cramped.” His speech was a bit slurred, too, Miles noticed. “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.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 104)
  • “So use your initiative!”
    “I don’t have initiative. I follow orders, thank you. It’s much safer.”
    “Fine, I order you to use your initiative.”
    • Chapter 10 (p. 162)
  • Vorreedi stated dangerously, “I am not a mushroom, Lieutenant Vorkosigan.”
    To be kept in the dark and fed on horseshit, right. Miles sighed inwardly.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 199)
  • Rian seemed less and less like a damsel in distress all the time. In fact, he was beginning to wonder if he was trying to rescue the dragon.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 217)
  • In my experience, milady, we can never get back to exactly where we started, no matter how hard we try.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 222)
  • Lord X was a tyrant, not a revolutionary. He wanted to take over the system, not change it.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 226)
  • You can’t give power away and keep it simultaneously. Except posthumously.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 226)
  • Behavior that is rewarded is repeated. And the reverse.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 231)
  • Vorreedi, Miles reminded himself, was Intelligence, not Counter-intelligence; curiosity, not paranoia, was his driving force.
    • Chapter 13 (p. 236)
  • “The best strategies run on rails like that.” Miles pointed out. “Live or die, you make your goal.”
    • Chapter 15 (p. 281)
  • “How did your mother cope, Lord Vorkosigan?”
    “You mean, being an egalitarian Betan and all? No problem. She says egalitarians adjust to aristocracies just fine, as long as they get to be the aristocrats.”
    • Chapter 16 (p. 287)
  • “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?”
    • Chapter 16 (p. 289)
  • “Good luck,” snorted Ivan.
    “Luck is something you make for yourself, if you want it.”
    • Chapter 16 (p. 301)

Ethan of Athos (1986)Edit

All page numbers from the Baen Books mass market paperback first edition, 1st printing, ISBN 0-671-65604-X
  • Women. Uterine replicators with legs, as it were.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 34)
  • The rest of the universe was disappointing at first glance.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 35)
  • Some places have religion. Here we have safety drills.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 48)
  • There are always survivors at a massacre. Among the victors, if nowhere else.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 54)
  • As long as I’m going to commit a crime, let it be a perfect one.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 62)
  • Quinn ignored the admonition with a verve bordering, Ethan thought, on the anti-social.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 71)
  • Life with women did not just induce strange behavior, it appeared; it induced very strange behavior.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 96)
  • Innocence might be bliss, but ignorance was demonstrably hell.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 97)
  • A fool is twice a fool who tries to conceal it.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 141)
  • Ethan had never found himself clinging to a cusp of human history. The trouble with the position, he found, was that in whatever direction you looked there fell away a glassy, uncontrollable slide down to a strange future you would then have to live in. He had never wanted to pray more, nor been less sure that it would do any good.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 152)
  • “The probabilities would now seem to lean that way,” agreed Millisor. “I doubt everything, you see.”
    Ethan thought this over. “Encountering the truth must be horribly confusing for you, then.”
    Millisor’s lips twitched dryly. “Fortunately, it happens very seldom.”
    • Chapter 12 (p. 185)
  • Do not mistake charm for virtue.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 188)
  • Curiosity is not a theological virtue.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 214)
  • “I was just a little taken aback. That—that wasn’t the proposition I was expecting, is all. Excuse me. I fear I am become incurably low-minded.”
    “You can’t help that, I’m sure,” Ethan said tolerantly. “Being female, and all that.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 216)
  • Change is a function of time and experience, and time is implacable.
    • Chapter 14 (p. 217)

Labyrinth (1989)Edit

Originally published in the August 1989 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, and often reprinted. All page numbers here are from the Baen Books mass market paperback omnibus Borders of Infinity ISBN 0-671-57829-4 5th printing, limited edition, September 1999
Italics as in the book
  • If you can’t be seven feet tall, be seven feet smart.
    • p. 106
  • “Some party,” commented Bel. “I went to a pet show with an atmosphere like this once.”
    • p. 110
  • Miles was no musician, but even he could sense an intensity of passion in the playing that went beyond talent, reaching for genius.
    • p. 112
  • It’s not what you don’t know that’ll hurt you, the old saying went. It’s what you do know that isn’t so.
    • p. 161
  • One maneuvers to the limit, but the golden moment demands action. If you miss it, the gods damn you forever. and vice versa.
    • p. 186
  • Devotion to duty, or pragmatic ruthlessness, which was which? He would never know, now.
    • p. 194
  • He had his idea-fixee now, and its ramifications and his rage were an effective block against incoming data.
    • p. 197

The Borders of Infinity (1987)Edit

Originally published in the anthology Free Lancers and often reprinted. All page numbers here are from the Baen Books mass market paperback omnibus Borders of Infinity ISBN 0-671-57829-4 5th printing, limited edition, September 1999
Italics as in the book
 
Men may move mountains, but ideas move men.
  • How could I have died and gone to hell without noticing the transition?
    • p. 215
  • He lay a long time, cradled in pain. He was not sure how long. The illumination from the force dome was even and shadowless, unchanging. Timeless, like eternity. Hell was eternal, was it not? This place had too damn many congruencies with hell, that was certain.
    • p. 220
  • “The devil can quote scripture, y’know.”
    Yes, that was rather what I had in mind…
    • p. 223
  • Communication. This lack of word from the outside world might drive even him crazy shortly.
    It was as bad as prayer, talking to a god who never talked back.
    • p. 237
  • “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.”
    • pp. 239-240
  • 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.
    • p. 241
  • “Is this guy for real?”
    “He thinks he’s faking it,” said Suegar blandly, “but he’s not.”
    • p. 243
  • “It’s true,” agreed Oliver, “that if your religion failed to deliver a miracle, that a human sacrifice would certainly follow.”
    “Ah...quite,” Miles gulped. “You are a man of acute insight.”
    “That’s not an insight,” said Oliver. “That’s a personal guarantee.”
    • pp. 243-244
  • Let he who is without sin cast the first lure.
    • p. 247
  • I can’t quit, once I’ve started. I’ve been told I’m pathologically persistent. I can’t quit.
    • p. 248
  • Biology is Destiny.
    • p. 250
  • “Power is better than revenge,” suggested Miles, not flinching before her snake-cold, set face, her hot coal eyes. “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.”
    • p. 254
  • Men may move mountains, but ideas move men.
    • p. 254
  • There is a subtle difference between being a prisoner and being a slave. I don’t mistake either for being free. Neither do you.
    • p. 256
  • “I have a particular aversion to stalemates. I prefer winning wars to prolonging them.”
    She sighed, momentarily drained, tired, old. “I’ve been at war a long time, y’know? After a while even losing a war can start to look preferable to prolonging it.”
    • p. 261
  • “You don’t have any inhibitions at all, do you?”
    “Not in combat.”
    • p. 272
  • I hate an enemy who doesn’t make mistakes.
    • p. 274
  • 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.
    • p. 296

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.
All page numbers from the mass market paperback first edition, published by Baen Books, 6th printing (September 1999), ISBN 0-671-69799-4
All italics as in the book
  • There are a number of people in the universe I’d be willing to double-cross, but my own wounded aren’t among ’em.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 9)
  • But at least think about it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human being who needed to get laid worse than you do now.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 11)
  • “You’re pretty damn casual about it.”
    “Early conditioning. Total strangers trying to kill me make me feel right at home.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 13)
  • So slight a compression of the lips, and widening of the eyes, to convey so much amusement and contempt.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 14)
  • The building had a strange hermetically-sealed flavor to it, redolent to Miles’s experienced nose as paranoid security in action. Ah, yes, a planet’s embassy is that planet’s soil. Feels just like home.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 15)
  • Between justice and genocide there is, in the long run, no middle ground.
    • Chapter 1 (p. 23)
  • “If I got assassinated now,” he shrugged helplessly, “my father would kill me.”
    • Chapter 1 (p. 23)
  • What the hell was HQ thinking of? It seemed extraordinarily obtuse even for them.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 37)
  • I have taken up the art of bonsai for a hobby. The ancient Japanese are said to have worked on a single tree for as long as a hundred years. Or perhaps it only seemed like it.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 41)
  • “I am not schizoid.” Miles bit off. “A little manic-depressive, maybe,” he admitted in afterthought.
    Galeni’s lips twitched. “Know thyself.”
    “We try, sir.”
    • Chapter 5 (p. 91)
  • “Can you be paranoid about being paranoid?”
    She smiled sweetly. “If anyone can, it’s you.”
    • Chapter 5 (p. 104)
  • He did not attempt to capture her hands. He did not make a single move that might embarrass them both. Old friends were harder to come by than new lovers.
    Oh, my oldest friend.
    Still. Always.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 105)
  • Sociopath therapy was invented for people like him. No, no. The last person he wants for a character witness is someone who weeks him.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 109)
  • I’m not responsible for my weird ancestors. Quite the reverse. Exactly the inverse.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 114)
  • It just happens to be very important to me to win with the hand I was dealt.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 118)
  • “You have the instincts of a gentleman, Ivan,” said Miles, absorbed in breaking into the coded files. “How did you ever get into security?
    • Chapter 7 (p. 126)
  • Some people would rather drown our domes in blood than learn anything from history. Or learn anything at all.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 156)
  • He seems to have this strange difficulty grasping that I actually mean what I say.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 179)
  • The will to be stupid is a very powerful force—
    • Chapter 9 (p. 183)
  • So. This one has never struck a man for real before. Nor killed either, I wager. Oh, little virgin, are you ever in for a bloody deflowering.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 199)
  • “Power is safety.”
    “Let me give you a hint,” said Miles. “There is no safety. Only varying states of risk. And failure.”
    • Chapter 10 (pp. 200-201)
  • You are what you do. Choose again, and change.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 202)
  • The man who assumes everything is a lie is at least as mistaken as the one who assumes everything is true. If no guarantee can suit you, perhaps the flaw is not in the guarantee, but in you.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 203)
  • They are the most insidious propagandists ever to cloak self-serving greed with pseudo-patriotism.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 203)
  • Miles clutched Quinn’s elbow. “Don’t panic.”
    “I’m not panicking,” Quinn observed, “I’m watching you panic. It’s more entertaining.”
    • Chapter 11 (p. 219)
  • “No, no, never send interim reports,” said Miles. “Only final ones. Interim reports tend to elicit orders. Which you must then either obey, or spend valuable time and energy evading, which you could be using to solve the problem.”
    • Chapter 11 (p. 224)
  • Permanent justice is well worth a temporary offended protest, I can assure you, Lieutenant.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 243)
  • “Do you see assassination as an option, sir?”
    “A compelling one.”
    • Chapter 12 (p. 244)
  • They’re my officers, dammit, not my harem, Miles’s thought snarled silently. But no Barrayaran officer of Destang’s age would see it that way. Some attitudes couldn’t be changed; they just had to be outlived.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 245)
  • And what goes on in the head of a walking dead man? Miles wondered. What personal failure could he possibly fear more than death itself?
    • Chapter 13 (p. 255)
  • And so men organized themselves for the sake of their technology as they never had for their principles. The sea’s politics were unarguable.
    • Chapter 13 (pp. 255-256)
  • “Security, Lieutenant,” Miles said blandly. “I can’t discuss it even with you.”
    “Security,” she sniffed, “doesn’t hide as much from Accounting as they think they do.”
    • Chapter 13 (p. 262)
  • It’s so damned useless! The dead hand of the past goes on jerking the strings by galvanic reflex, and we poor puppets dance—nothing is served, not us, not him, not Komarr…
    • Chapter 13 (p. 266)
  • “The revolt,” breathed Galen almost to himself, “must not die.”
    “Even if everybody in it dies? ‘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.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 279)
  • “Some stand-offs,” said Galen, “are more equal than others.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 280)
  • “You must learn to 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.”
    • Chapter 14 (p. 283)
  • He felt like a man trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle of live pieces, that moved and changed shape at random intervals with tiny malicious giggles.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 304)
  • Men met energy wave with predictable results.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 307)
  • Miles had heard weird tales of strange relationships between people and their clones. But then, anyone who deliberately went out and had a clone made must be kinky to start with. Far more interesting to have a child, preferably with a woman who was smarter, faster, and better-looking than oneself; then there was at least a chance for a bit of evolution in the clan.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 309)
  • Still, what d’you expect of the descendants of a colony that started as a hijacker base? Naturally they developed into an aristocracy.
    • Chapter 15 (p. 312)
  • “At least this should be simpler than our late vacation on Earth,” he said hopefully. “A purely military operation, no relatives, no politics, no high finance. Straight-up good guys and bad guys.”
    “Great,” said Quinn. “Which are we?”
    Miles was still thinking about the answer to that one when the fleet broke orbit.
    • Chapter 16 (p. 338; closing words)

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.
Winner of the 1995 Hugo Award
All page numbers from the first mass market paperback edition, published by Baen Books, 1st printing (March 1995), ISBN 0-671-87646-5
All italics as in the book
  • “I really like this married-couple cover, for travel,” he remarked. “It suits me.” He took a slightly deeper breath. “So we’ve had the honeymoon, why don’t we have the wedding to go with it?”
    • Chapter (p. 25)
  • Be careful who you pretend to be. You might become it.
    • Chapter (p. 39)
  • The medic glance up only to say, “Be sure you get the carotid and not the jugular.”
    “I’m trying. They’re not color-coded.”
    • Chapter (p. 121)
  • Realize this, though. Half my genes run through your body, and my selfish genome is heavily evolutionarily pre-programmed to look out for its copies. The other half is copied from the man I admire most in all the worlds and time, so my interest is doubly riveted. The artistic combination of the two, shall we say, arrests my attention.
    • Chapter (p. 211)
  • I grant you he’s a genius, but don’t you dare try to tell me he’s sane.
    • Chapter (p. 216)
  • Don’t attempt to camouflage your real blame by taking more than your share.
    • Chapter (p. 217)
  • “You’re scaring him, dear’” the Countess remarked.
    “On that topic, paranoia is the key to good health,” said the count ruefully.
    • Chapter (p. 220)
  • “It’s important that someone celebrate our existence,” she objected amiably. “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.”
    • Chapter (pp. 226-227)
  • Lady Peace is the first hostage taken when economic discomfort rises.
    • Chapter (p. 237)
  • I don’t confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is…the higher achievement.
    • Chapter (p. 287)
  • “I swear,” Mark whispered, “excess suspicion makes us bigger fools than excess trust does.”
    • Chapter (p. 333)
  • 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.
    • Chapter (p. 344)
  • If anyone was sane here, he swore it was by accident.
    • Chapter (p. 422)
  • I don’t know what passion he inspires in you—were you lovers? You’d be amazed how many people have clones made for that purpose.
    • Chapter (p. 443)
  • His taste for heavily-armed girlfriends did have potential drawbacks.
    • Chapter (p. 459)
  • Never give aversion therapy to a masochist. The results are unpredictable.
    • Chapter (p. 460)
  • You can tell you’re alive when somebody touches you back.
    • Chapter (p. 467)
  • He had looked forward to making posthumous reports to Illyan. Now he wondered if he was going to live long enough.
    • Chapter (p. 477)
  • They hesitated. Ah, the downside of perfect obedience: crippled initiative.
    • Chapter (p. 495)
  • It wasn’t, he swore, that he picked up so many women. Compared to Ivan, he was practically celibate. It was just that he never put any down. The accumulation could become downright embarrassing, over a long enough time-span.
    • Chapter (p. 522)
  • Sometimes, insanity is not a tragedy. Sometimes, it’s a strategy for survival. Sometimes...it’s a triumph.
    • Chapter (p. 533)
  • Lilly had promised him that her stimulants would buy him six hours of coherence, after which the metabolic bill would be delivered by hulking bio-thugs with spiked clubs, virtual repo-men for his neurotransmitter debt.
    • Chapter (p. 535)
  • Their good fortune, Mark decided, was divided exactly fifty-fifty; Miles got the good luck, and he got the rest.
    • Chapter (p. 539)
  • Yet being beaten by your student was the ultimate victory, for a teacher.
    • Chapter (pp. 550-551)
  • I don’t regret knowing myself, ma’am. I don’t even regret…being myself.
    • Chapter (p. 554)
  • 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.
    • Chapter (p. 555)

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 agirlsworld.com
 
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 geekspeakmagazine.com
  • 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

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