[LMB] LQ #30: Laisa as Empress

Elizabeth Holden azurite at rogers.com
Tue Sep 9 05:12:52 BST 2008

--- On Mon, 9/8/08, Tony Zbaraschuk <tonyz at eskimo.com> wrote:

> Gregor is Vor first and foremost, and that's a
> commonality.

No, he's emperor foremost. He's Vor because emperors come from the Vor class - the ruling class.  Doesn't mean there's any kind of equality anywhere.  In an absolutist state, no one is the equal of the emperor - not even his siblings (or especially not his siblings).  An emperor is pre-eminent in everything.  

Now, exactly what socio-political historical models (or philosophies) Lois is following isn't entirely clear, and I think she intends it that way, for wise reasons - including allowing herself space for new ideas. But I see nothing that implies egalitarian notions regarding the Emperor of Barrayar by any of his subjects, counts or otherwise.
> Rulers have vast power... so long as people are willing to
> obey.

Well, yes.  Any Emperor can be assassinated. But that doesn't mean there's any commonalty with his subjects.  Some Emperors are first among equals; many are first among the aristocrats; others are the only true power and everyone else must obey them. 

> And they obey because of common interest, common loyalty,
> common habits.  

Or for any number of reasons: Laws, fear of retribution or divine wrath, reverence, respect, all sorts of things.

A wise ruler nurtures and understands those
> > commonalities, and does not seek to extend his power beyond 
> the point of obedience.

No, but that's not a limitation on this power by others. That's self-imposed.  Not all Barrayaran emperors have been wise.

> Those who come to believe that obedience of subjects is a
> law of nature like unto the law of gravity... eventually 
> discover that it isn't.

My point is entirely the other way around. It isn't that either Gregor or Laisa is power-hungry. It's that Barrayaran custom and law makes them pre-eminent and the choice is theirs to rule with a heavy hand or a light one - no one else can make that choice for them.  They can treat their Imperium like a democracy if they wish, but no one else can legally force them to do it.


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