[LMB] Being Betan

Pat Mathews MATHEWS55 at msn.com
Mon Jun 5 03:27:19 BST 2017

Beta doesn't admit it, but they seem to actually have what I'd call an empire in all but name. A trade empire, of course, but they are the great power everyone looks up to. And they do not need the crude methods of Cetaganda or pre-Gregor Barrayar or even the relentless commercialism of Komarr to enforce it. Their reputation and technical superiority do the job for them. (But there I hear Arthur C. Clarke's ghost whispering in my ear, remembering how a bunch of Barrayan hillbillies with homemade weapons wore down the Cetagandan occupiers under the leadership of a very hard-nosed teenaged Count.)

As long as Beta is respected rather than feared, they're in good shape. They don't seem to breed dictators; Steady Freddy's fault seems to have been that he was ineffectual, and that nobody *Cordelia* knew, voted for him! Oh, my, girl-in-a-political-bubble time. If they are also admired, that is also a good thing. Yet ...

Galactics who come to Barrayar seem to end up falling in love with it, at least those who land in the upper reaches of Barrayaran society. Even though there is a temptation to cry "Help! I've fallen into a Regency Romance and can't get out!"

From: lois-bujold-bounces at lists.herald.co.uk <lois-bujold-bounces at lists.herald.co.uk> on behalf of Damien Sullivan <phoenix at mindstalk.net>
Sent: Sunday, June 4, 2017 7:28 PM
To: Discussion of the works of Lois McMaster Bujold.
Subject: Re: [LMB] Being Betan

On Wed, May 10, 2017 at 02:04:39AM +0000, Gwynne Powell wrote:
> I'm wondering just how big a deal it is to be Betan.

As Zan says, oldest colony.  Some cachet there.  The Betan dollar seems
to be well-valued, too.  Baron Fell was hooked by "Betan longevity

JW and the haut might have an advantage in human genomics from being
able to perform unethical experiments, but still, I'd expect an
aggreesively "gene-cleaned" Betan to be pretty impressive, and they do
have that 120+ year default lifespan.

None are ever named, but between the BAS and Cordelia's reference to
running Sergyar as a daughter-colony, I would expect several planets to
be Betan-affiliated, like Canada and Australia with the UK.

I wouldn't be surprised if Beta and/or Earth were major backers of the
Galactic Census, the justice commission, and other such bodies.

> Betan help saved Barrayar during the Ceta invasion - was Beta just
> being nice, or is it a, or the, controlling power in the Nexus, apart from
> Cetaganda?

The physical reality of wormholes doesn't really allow for a controlling
military power in the Nexus; your reach is only as far as people will
let your ships through.  Even Cetaganda probably fades rapidly in
relevance to the neighbors of its neighbors.  Cultural and economic
power are a lot more pervasive.  OTOH, we're told that Earth is filthy
rich and a cultural mecca, but only rates a minor Barrayaran embassy.

...speaking of pervasive, recall that Betan help in the Occupation was
*before* Sergyar was found, when it took like a couple months to go
between the planets, via Escobar, Jackson's Whole, and Komarr; that Beta
even gave a fuck is impressive.

> Even Bourgos has absorbed details about Beta, and it takes a lot to
> get through his abstraction.

Scientific papers are one thing he'd pay attention to.

> Herms are rare in the Nexus, but everyone seems to know about them,
> and about Betan customs and lifestyle. As a contrast, they're pretty
> hazy on Barrayaran history and culture, despite Barrayar becoming a
> leading power.

Barrayar is mostly a military power, and as mentioned that has limited
reach.  JW is the next stop over from the Hegen Hub, and already doesn't
seem to care about Barrayar much.  Barrayar seem to have negative
cultural cachet.  Its money isn't considered hard currency.

Beta probably gets a lot more tourists, and not just because Barrayar is
a week in from Komarr.

-xx- Damien X-)
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