At Play On the Planet of Men


On the Cultural Gutter this month, I have At Play On the Planet of Men, about science fiction author Lois McMaster Bujold, her novel Ethan of Athos, and the way science fiction deals (poorly, often) with female, LGBT, and minority characters, creators, and fans.

The Vorkosigan family does not appear at all in Ethan of Athos. A supporting character, Commander Elli Quinn of Miles’ Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet, from The Warrior’s Apprentice becomes a major character in this story, but the book is otherwise self-contained. It is a slim novel, considered by many to be a light-hearted lark when measured against the greater portion of Bujold’s writing. It is a throwback to the classic scifi pulps of the Golden Age, as well as a subversion of that same age in how it politely forces questions about gender, sexual preference, sexism, and religion. At the same time, the book deals with these elements in a way that is, if not quite breezy, certainly not heavy-handed or preachy.

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