[LMB] Why is Aral bisexual?

Paula Lieberman paal at filker.org
Wed Dec 9 15:59:57 GMT 2015

Squick alert below, some might want Brain Bleach... (I will provide a 
warning before it..,
There is also a RANT ALERT, which some (or most?) might want to or consider 
skipping, in the end portion of the post.


The science fiction community has had a number of homosexual or bisexual 
people in it--Tom Scortia, Frank Robsinson, and George Scithers were all 
gay.  Melissa Scott is lesbian, and her late partner Lisa Barnett was.  Kate 
Worley who wrote Omaha the Cat Dancer and other comic, was bi. Nicola 
Griffith is a lesbian.  Jean Johnson is bi.  Chip Delany is homosexual or 
perhaps bi.  Arthur C. Clarke was homosexual.  David Gerrold is gay.  Don 
Sakers is gay, and years ago he and his partner (husband since it was legal 
for gay marriage) won the "Oldiwed Game" held years ago at a Worldcon. o

The reality of homosexuality and bisexuality was/is a fact in the SF/F 
community, even if the larger mundane world society refused to accede to 
officially acknowledging it as "normal" and socially 
non-irresponsible/acceptable for anyone as opposed ,to regarding it as 
aberrant/evil/criminal/unacceptable outlook/behavior people.  That the 
official social opinion was condemnatory, of course, did not prevent 
high-level hypocrisy of condemning homosexuality, but nonetheless engaging 
in it (Ted Haggerty, for example...)

The default remains heteronormative, though social acceptability in the 
western world is majority acceding of homosexuality and to a degree 
bisexuality. Gender fluidity's less acceded to, "there's a MAN in the 
WOMAN'S restroom!" objectionability is an expression of discomfort wih 
transgendering. Homosexuality isn't intuitively obvious to the casual 
oberver seeing a random solo person who's out in public, but someone whose 
shape and physique and genitalia and attire appear to be unambiguously 
heteronormtive, being gender fluid not on the direction of physical 
appearance and genitalia, gets viewed as aberrant/threatening--and might be, 
if e.g. the person is actually heteronormative and is a predator claiming to 
be transgendered as a way of getting to potential victims.


Shards of Honor is an end of the 1970s start of the 1980s novel. Cordelia 
winds up on a Patriarchal planet at the end, and the focus of her emotional 
journey is not in her relationships with women (other than having her mother 
in it, and THAT is a place where lesbian relationships generally do NOT go 
in literature), but on her relationships with -men-, and particularly, with 


The gender balance is heavily male in the number of characters.  Female 
characters--Cordelia, her mother, Lady Alys, Dru (or doe she first 
chronologially apear in Barrayar?), the echoes of Aral's long-dead wife, 
long dead mother, long-dead aunt, and long gone grandmother Prince Xav's 

Male characters--Aral, Prince Serg, Ezar, Gregor, Piotr, Dubaer, Kou, Padma, 
Steady Freddie, the therapist, Bothari, Ges, various ImpSec sorts, the 
echoes of Prince Xav and Mad Yuri and Aral's older brother and the fellows) 
Aral killed dueling,

The novel has the environment of the end of the 1970s and start of the 1980s 
as regards gender balance of characters in SF/F.


"Traditional" SF/F focused on -male- characters and their concerns and the 
Hero's Journey... female characters in traditional SF were tophies or 
one-offs or in pink ghettoes.  I get very irritated in contemporarily first 
time published stories of "all pilots are male, Our Story is about the First 
Female Pilot..."  Ptui, I saw THAT story back around 1976, I was acquainted 
with Lorraine Straczinsky who was one of the first twelve women accepted 
into USAF pilot training, lost contact with her when she headed off to 
flight school, and lived it as the third of the first three women in ROTC at 
MIT and the first of the three to go on active duty in the military.  Don't 
wanna read more stories of stuff quite literally more than a generation old 
and outdated to me, set in the future.

And that's why "More Barrayaran Empire" fails to appeal to -me-. Resonances 
to issues which involved various unpleasantries and discomfort etc. more 
than half my life ago, tend to not be appealing to me.


--Paula Lieberman
-----Original Message----- 
From: anmar Caver
Sent: Tuesday, December 08, 2015 04:58 AM
To: Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.
Subject: Re: [LMB] Why is Aral bisexual?

On Monday, December 7, 2015, Beatrice Otter <
beatrice_otter at haugensgalleri.com> wrote:

> Beatrice Otter:Why is Cordelia straight?
> The default in Western society--the perspective that is called "normal,"
> which is the default character in fiction, the default audience for most
> advertising and political argument, most science research, etc, is white
> male heterosexual middle class able bodied.
> The vast majority of characters in fiction fit this description, a far
> higher percentage than in real life, but nobody notices. Yet change one of
> those factors, and people question it.
> Your question presumes that straight is the default and that there must be
> a reason for them not to be. Yet real gay people in real life don't exist
> for a narrative reason, they just exist. Same with disabled people, and
> women, and people of different races and social classes.
> As Mary Robinette Kowal said, "It's not about adding diversity for the
> sake of diversity, it's about subtracting homogeneity for the sake of
> realism."

Indeed, and it was a wonderful plot device on many levels, it sets Aral up
as the tragic figure from which much of SoH derives.  Saying that he could
have been heterosexual and had the same impact to the story is fatuous: it
drives much of the plot.

The fact that it might shock more conservative readers, especially of that
era, is a bonus, not a proximal cause.  As a heteronormative appearing male
who also appears white who happens to be one of the best in a field that is
traditionally thought of as very straight, I've had many people have a hard
time wrapping their minds around the fact that I am bisexual (pansexual)
because it just can't be.

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