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Lois McMaster BUJOLD

Answers to questions of Russian fans

October, 16, 2000

Questions was composed by A.Hodosh & A.Balabchenkov

Is the planet Barrayar called in honor of the ruling family VorBarra or vice versa? As the Imperium existed not from the first days of the Time of Isolation what was the planet's previous name?
I don't know. I make up my backgrounds as needed for the tale I'm writing, and I don't fix the details until they are needed (they might, after all, need to be something else.) So we won't find out until I set a tale in that period, which doesn't look likely to happen any time soon.

Is the Imperial Security an independent department submitted directly to the Emperor through ImpSec Chief or is it merely one of military branches submitted to General Staff?
ImpSec reports directly to the Emperor, but co-operates with other intelligence-gathering and security departments -- when it pleases to do so. Said other departments are required to cooperate with ImpSec, however. 'Service Security', mentioned somewhere, is the military police.

Is the Municipal Guard a division of ImpSec or not?
No. Any municipal guard is that city's police force.
Is the Municipal Guard Chief of Vorbarra District position, which is occupied either by Count Vorbonn ("Barrayar") or by Lord Vorbon the Younger ("Civil Campaign"), hereditary?
Probably not, but nepotism being what it is on Barrayar, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some jobs tend to run in families, being handed down from father to son, etc.

What is the Galaxy common language? English or not?
It depends on the region. In Miles's neck of the woods, it appears to be English. Some English- descended dialect may be the interstellar lingua franca the way English is the language of international air traffic, for the same practical reasons (it got there first, everybody needs to be able to communicate with everyone else for safety reasons, whatever.) I haven't explored the probable effects of really good automatic/computerized real-time translations that we may presume would be developed by then, except in passing at that dinner scene in Brothers in Arms where the earbugs were late arriving.

It's said in "Shards of Honor" that Ministries are in opposition to the Counts. How real is the hypothesis that the Ministry of Political Education was founded by Ezar Vorbarra himself to control the Vor army and to prevent the military coup-d'etat (as the one which let him to throne)?
I suspect the Ministry was inherited from Dorca via Yuri, and re-vamped by Ezar to meet his current needs, evolving and changing over time and with each Emperor.

What is the system (chain) of military ranks in Barrayar? It's rather difficult to understand, because there are navy and army ranks at the same time and there is a contradiction in ranks chain, for example:
- Illyan was promoted to Captain from Commander;
- Miles became a Captain after being a Lieutenant;
- Aristede Vorkalloner was a Lieutenant Commander at first and then he was promoted to Commander.

My theory is that Barrayar retained all the names of the various ranks when they went to a combined service, so what you call a man can interchange depending on his assignment of the moment. Thus, he might be a (navy) Captain one day and an (army) Colonel the next. Very confusing to non- Barrayarans, but the Barrayarans are used to it. You may be quite sure that, somewhere, all these floating verbal monikers are gridded to a strict numerical ranking with pay rates and seniority factored in. Those color-coded plastic collar tabs doubtless reflect this, not the verbal names.

What was a Privy Council destroyed by Yuri the Mad? What was the role of this structure in Barrayar's political life? Who were its members? Did it exist under Ezar and Gregor?
I would have to write a novel, or at least a novella, to find that out.
Why is that destroying named "Defenestration" - is it a metaphor or did the mad Emperor throw them all through the window?
The window, of course. Why do you think he's called Mad? Messy, that. Although the actual hands- on pitching of bodies may have been by his thuggish bodyguards or other assistants at his order, I'm pretty sure Yuri was physically present in the room at the time.
I have a little back-story on Princes Yuri and Xav. I figure that while Xav was out running around the wormhole nexus getting foreign aid for Barrayar against the Cetagandans, a sort of cross between Peter the Great and Benjamin Franklin, and getting more and more civilized as a result, Yuri was back home in the trenches actually doing the down-and-dirty fighting, and growing more and more traumatized and brutal. By the end of the war, the brothers were almost strangers to one another.

As to the Lord Protector's name.
Since there was a General Vorhartung (whose name was given to the battle cruiser) so "Vorhartung" is not only a place-name (toponim) but a family name. The Castle Vorhartung may be called after its owner, and thus he was a Count but not an ordinary Vor.

Well, he was a Vor who had a castle, once. I don't know if he was a count or not.
Why is the Council of Counts held it the building owned by one of them?
It is now owned, as it were, by all of them; it's government-owned, in other words.
Maybe it's the Lord Protector's (a.k.a. Council Speaker) title.
I don't think so.
In this case the Counts Vorhartung should have given their family castle at the Council disposal and have got the eternal right to hold its Sessions.
Buildings change hands and purposes over time. Maybe the Vorhartungs were on the wrong side of a war, or a lawsuit, or the family simply died out and the property reverted to the Imperium (its good condition suggests the latter.) I mean, look at The Hermitage, for example.

Are there numerous colored races in LMB Universe?
Only three Mulattos and one Eurasian ("Brazilian Chinese") were mentioned. How could the American writer avoid the of being "politically incorrect"... or correct?
There are lots more races, mixed race, and non-white characters mentioned in passing than that. See the Bharaputras, the Duronas, Captain Arata, etc.
In Barrayar and Beta Colony's cases, it's simply a result of their colonization histories. Both were, in quite different ways, 'lost' colonies. The original colonizing groups were likely up to 80% Caucasian, and the minority racial phenotypes present among the founders were subsumed over time.
'Race' is an arguable concept anyway in a universe where anyone can alter any genetic trait at will in their offspring, and, with rather more medical difficulty, even in themselves. Incidentally, despite her appearing as blond on the Russian cover, Fiametta Beneforte, heroine of The Spirit Ring, is black.

Here is our version of Vorloupoulos's Law based on the information provided in your books.
How far off the mark are we?

Seems pretty much OK to me.

 1. Only Vors - "The Sinews of the Imperium, the Emperor's Right Arm" - are permitted to own personal weapons.
CONSEQUENCE: a prole is not permitted to own personal weapon.
 2. Emperor's Vassal Secundus (Count or Count's heir) can issue the prole with his own weapon in exchange for an armsman oath.
CONSEQUENCE: if somebody who wasn't confirmed as a Count or Count's heir receives an Armsman's oath, it is a crime.
 3. An armsman is entirely submitted to his liege-lord, and the lord is entirely responsible for him
CONSEQUENCE 1: the liege-lord is entirely responsible for his armsman's weapon using.
CONSEQUENCE 2: all charges against armsman must be addressed only to his liege-lord
CONSEQUENCE 3: as this submittence is absolute people who are on actual Imperial Service or who brought a lifetime oath to the Emperor (like Vors) cannot be armsmen.
I suspect arrangements and adjustments can be made by mutual agreement among all parties, in practice.
 4. Because armsmen serve as a personal guard of their liege-lord, their number cannot be more than twenty.
That's a 'new' rule from Dorca's time, when he basically eliminated 'livery and maintenance' in the British legal phrase, or in other words, private armies. For obvious historico-political reasons, I would think.

In "The Warrior Apprentice" a strange chain of inheritance was mentioned: Count Aral Vorkosigan -> Miles -> Ivan Vorpatril -> Lord Vortain -> Count Vordrozda. What's the relationship between Ivan and Vortain?
I don't remember. I made that stuff up in, let's see, 1984. 16 years ago.
How is it possible that a single person (Vordrozda) could rule two Districts at the same time and have two votes in Council?
Early carelessness on the Author's part. I'm quite certain rules now exist on Barrayar (though they may not have, in the historical past) to prevent such concentrations of power.

Ivan Vorpatril - is it a common Russian name "Ivan" (like czar Ivan the Terrible) or just a coincidence (like Ivangoe)?
I try to use as many ethic names as possible to reflect Barrayar's colonization history. French, Russian, Greek, and British names thus should appear a lot, with an odd smattering of names of totally unrelated ethnic origins depending on who chanced to be among the 50,000 Firsters.

You mentioned a lot of Barrayarian native plants. Are there any native animals except bugs?
I mentioned horned hoppers at one point, something I envision as being about the size of a toad.
If there are any, do you think they are big and dangerous?
I don't think there are any big dangerous land animals. There is, presumably, a whole ecosystem's worth of little critters out there. I feel there may be some big sea animals.

What is the level of Barrayarian technology, especially weaponry, by the end of the Time of Isolation? Can it be compared to any Earth centuries (15th, 18th, or 20th)? Were fire-arms or swords wide spread, common, and popular?
Firearms were back well before the end of the ToI, as was water power. Steam, I think, was just being re-developed at the end of the Time of Isolation, with electricity hovering in the wings. Also balloon flight. If Barrayar had not been re-discovered by the galactics, I think it would still have had a home- grown industrial revolution in the century following Dorca's re-unification of the planet.

"The Warrior Apprentice": how could Count Vordrozda bring his needler to the Council Chamber? What for? Was it his hobby to take arms along everywhere? :) We know for sure that everybody was checked against weapon so how did he manage to hide his one and why its energy pack not show on the security monitors in the Council Chamber? He did not expect Miles to come so who was he going to turn the needler against? Was the Emperor his target?
I don't know. (Written in 1984, remember.) I could probably make up a backstory to account for it all, but wouldn't you rather I spent my time and energy writing something new?