[LMB] Disability and the Vorkosigan-verse

Gwynne Powell gwynnepowell at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 20 04:11:38 BST 2018

A few thoughts on the Lemberg article:

Miles didn't survive because he was born to a high-caste family, he
survived because his mother was Betan. His grandfather would have
killed him in a second.

Miles wouldn't have survived if he was born to a poor family.

Miles was damaged because of his father's position.

Kou was criticised and often isolated because he chose not to commit
suicide, the expected action for seriously injured veterans, and others.

The comment that Cordelia should have asked/warned Bothari before
killing Vordarian is massively unrealistic - they were soldiers going on
a high-risk covert mission, he knew the score going in.

She misses Tien entirely - the massive problems caused by someone
who's suffering a deadly condition and is terrified to let anyone know.

She also misses Dubauer, who goes back to Beta to live with massive
brain damage - his mother gives up her career to become a full-time
carer for the rest of her/his life.

She avoids the question of the quaddies, who are differently abled, and
the way that's presented as a huge advantage for them when it's dealt
with properly.

She's furious that there aren't enough disabled people in the books. Just

like some people want more sexualities represented, more races, more of
whatever else is their own particular thing. The books aren't written to be
a treatise on any of that.

She entirely misses the point - the reason there's so few disabled in the books
is that in most of the Nexus they simply aren't born. Gene cleaning and
far more advanced medicine has eliminated the disabled from most societies.
And gene cleaning is certainly mentioned a great deal in the books.

In marginal cultures like old Barrayar, the disabled were routinely killed at
birth, or if seriously injured later in life were expected to commit suicide.

The society at that time simply couldn't support non-productive members.
They made it part of the culture, an honourable act, to enforce acceptance.
Mountains of Mourning presents this very clearly - a whole novella about
the murder of a handicapped child.

I think she's missed a great deal from the saga, and she has unrealistic
expectations about the books and the characters. There aren't many disabled
characters in Science Fiction, partly because it's assumed that in the future
genetic problems will be eliminated, and/or more advanced medicine will
cure just about anything. And that's a whole other question - if we can
do away with all disabilities, should we? And how will that affect society?

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