Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for the ‘Lois McMaster Bujold’ Category

Thoughts on Comfort Books

with 6 comments

Folks, over the past several weeks, I have been struggling with a wide variety of things.

To wit…does my writing matter? Does what I’m doing as a person matter? Are my perceptions accurate, and will I be able to turn them into some decent-to-better quality writing in the not-so-distant future?

I don’t know if these questions would’ve hit me quite so profoundly without the ongoing housing crisis, mind. (That remains unresolved, by the way. I probably will be writing about that again…but not today, yes?) But they have…and in a big way.

That said, I have found a lot of comfort reading and re-reading my favorite books and authors. Some of the books I’ve read over the past couple of weeks include Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s Night Calls series, Lois McMaster Bujold’s THE CURSE OF CHALION and PALADIN OF SOULS, Patricia C. Wrede’s CAUGHT IN CRYSTAL and Enchanted Forest chronicles…and, of course, my go-to standby, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s wonderful Liaden Universe (TM), most particularly the stories featuring Daav yos’Phelium and Aelliana Caylon.

What reading these stories tends to do for me is twofold. One, it takes me away from my immediate problems and reminds me that others, too, have faced adversity (even if fantastical and unusual — then again, I like that sort of thing, as you might’ve guessed). And two, these stories are life-affirming, they often make me laugh, and they always make me feel better after I’ve read them.

In short, these comfort books remind me of why I started writing, oh, yea many moons ago…I wanted to tell stories like that, that made people laugh, and maybe gave them an hour’s ease from life’s burdens…and if I did my job superbly well, maybe someone would find my stories life-affirming, too.

I can’t be certain I’ve done that as of yet. But I’d like to think that in the not-so-distant future, I may well yet attain just that…ah, well.

Anyway, what are your favorite comfort books, and why? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments section.

——–

Edited to add: Mind, there are so many great storytellers out there, and I’m only naming a fraction of the people I’ve read over the past few weeks that I’ve enjoyed…so if your name isn’t on this list (yet), please don’t despair. (No need for that.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

June 1, 2016 at 3:51 am

Thoughts on Bujold’s “Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen”

with 5 comments

Folks, yesterday I reviewed Lois McMaster Bujold’s GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN over at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always**). I enjoyed Bujold’s newest novel, the latest in her long-running Vorkosigan Saga, and said so over at SBR.

But the longer I pondered Bujold’s excellent book, the more I felt I had to talk about…and some of my thoughts just wouldn’t fit into a well-ordered review no matter how hard I tried. Which is why I decided to come over here instead, to my personal blog, and try to discuss some of the issues Bujold raised.

Because I need to discuss GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN in depth, I’m likely to discuss spoilers. If you haven’t read this book yet, but you intend on doing so, you probably should not read this blog until you have. (On the other hand, if you have no intention of reading Bujold, but just want to read my thoughts about a widow well past fifty finding new love again, all unlooked for, here’s your opportunity to do so.)

One, final caveat: As this isn’t the first time Bujold has discussed the ramifications of death in the Vorkosigan Saga — far from it — long-time readers of my blog may notice certain themes I’ve discussed before with regards to Bujold.

Anyway, here are some of my further thoughts about GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN:

  • Bujold is bang-on the mark when it comes to depicting a widow, Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan, who truly loved her husband, and has felt the depths of despair.
  • Again, Bujold is bang-on the mark when it comes to how much widowhood has changed Cordelia. In some senses, Cordelia is much older, mentally, than she was when her beloved husband Aral was alive. This is due to grief, loss, and the frustration of no longer being able to be with her beloved husband. (Even in the far future, death can come suddenly and without warning — and thus it did for Aral.)
  • Bujold continues to get it right while showcasing what a powerful woman does without her powerful husband at her side. Cordelia is too strong a person and too complex, besides, to allow grief to devour her. (But in some ways, it was a near thing.)
  • I enjoyed the mature version of Oliver Jole, a character mostly seen in passing at a much younger age in THE VOR GAME. (At that time, Jole was a Lieutenant attached to Aral Vorkosigan’s staff.) He’s smart, has a similar background to Aral Vorkosigan and indeed knew Aral quite well in more than one sense…and yet, like Cordelia, he’s a man at loose ends. The fact that Jole is fifty and Cordelia is in her mid-seventies doesn’t matter one bit, because the pull between them — once acknowledged — is more than strong enough to deal with the age difference.
  • I even understood why Cordelia, once she felt alive again, wanted to bring more children into the world. (Children, I must note, that are to be fathered by her dead husband Aral’s sperm, and her own long-ago frozen ova.) It’s a subconscious way of declaring that she has more to do…and Cordelia, throughout the Vorkosigan Saga, has always been a maternal figure. (Having only one biological child never did suit Cordelia too well, methinks.)

These were the major things I thought while I read GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN at least seven times prior to reviewing the book.

But you might be wondering why I put a LGBT tag on this book, especially if you haven’t gone to read my review yet. (If not, tsk, tsk!)

It’s simple. Oliver Jole is bisexual. He’s not been attracted to too many women in his life as he seems far more drawn to men. But he’s powerfully attracted to Cordelia, and he’s not sure why.

Some reviewers at Amazon and elsewhere have taken Bujold to task for making Jole bisexual instead of a gay man inexplicably attracted to a straight woman. I don’t see it that way, however, because sexuality is on a continuum. Some men are only attracted to women, while some other men are only attracted to men. And the rest are in the middle somewhere, actually attracted to both in a way that’s going to make itself be heard…that is just the way human biology works.

Or to put it another way that’s closer to home: My husband’s brother, Sam, was a proud gay man. But Michael told me that Sam dated two women that Michael was aware of, and Sam showed every indication of being attracted to these women…Michael told me this in a bemused voice, but said he would’ve been happy if Sam had found anyone he liked, regardless of gender identity or sexual preference. Because love matters more than the outward form.

That’s why I have no problem with Oliver Jole being attracted to Cordelia. It’s quite possible that Cordelia herself is so attractive, it doesn’t matter what the outside shape of her form is. But if Jole is attracted to her body as well as her mind, so what? (Either way, it works.)

I also don’t have a problem with Cordelia taking up with Oliver, either. She’s been widowed for three years when she starts a relationship up with Oliver (as I read this section, I thought, Oh, Cordelia. You think it’s bad after three years, don’t you? Try eleven.), so there’s been plenty of time for her to adjust to her new reality.

Ah, but I can hear you now, readers. “But Barb,” you protest. “It took you at least six years to even begin to deal with your husband’s untimely passing. Why is Cordelia different?”

There are a number of reasons why. First, Cordelia got many more years with her husband than I managed to get with mine. Second, Aral Vorkosigan was over eighty years old when he passed away, and my husband Michael was only forty-six. And third, Aral Vorkosigan had done everything he sought out to do…while my husband was still in the process of making a name for himself as a writer and editor, but didn’t get the chance to see most of his work come to fruition.

Plus, every widow and widower’s grief journey is different. Some people grieve for years, then remarry happily. (I’ve known a couple of younger widowers in this position.) Some grieve for a couple of years, then somehow set most of the worst signs of grief aside but don’t date. And some, like me, take years and years to process it all, then figure out a coping mechanism (mine, obviously, is in finishing up my husband’s writing, because I can’t bear to see it incomplete) so they can get on with life whether they ever date again or not.

Grief is a very individual thing, you see. But one thing is very obvious about grief that many reviewers of GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN are completely overlooking.

You see, grief changes you. It can’t help but do that. You are in so much pain, and you hurt so deeply, that you can’t be exactly the same after someone you dearly loved passes from this plane of existence.

So the comments on Amazon and elsewhere that go along the lines of, “But, but, Cordelia is a shadow of her former self! And that’s not right!” have it all wrong.

Yes, Cordelia, when she starts out Bujold’s newest novel, may be seen to be lesser than she used to be. Her beloved husband is dead, and she’s been without him for three years. That can’t help but to have marked her…now, all she can do is go on (which, I note, is what Aral would want her to do), and try to do the best she can with the time she has left — which in Bujold’s universe could be another forty years, for all Cordelia knows.

Bujold characterized widowhood correctly, folks. You might not like what being a widow has done to Cordelia — mind, if you asked Cordelia prior to the start of GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN, she’d probably tell you she doesn’t like it, either — but Cordelia’s feelings and demeanor are accurate. Much of Cordelia’s fire is now hidden, because the loss of Aral, her husband, is just that profound…and even though she’s quite happy to be with Oliver after a while, Oliver is still not Aral, so not all of Cordelia’s fire comes back.

I understand this, and I hope it’s not just because I, too, am a widow who lost a dearly beloved husband.

Anyway, GENTLEMAN JOLE AND THE RED QUEEN is an unabashed science fiction/romance hybrid. I loved it, and thought it had depth, passion, wit, warmth, style, and great characterization.

But I can see where some people really would rather not see Cordelia so diminished (at least, before Cordelia decides to live again — and that decision, I might add, comes before she realizes Oliver is interested in her, much less they do anything about that interest). Because pain is hard to bear, even in a book…and Bujold is one of the best in the business at conveying that pain, even indirectly as through the excessively analytical Cordelia.

___________

**– Note: Shiny Book Review is now found at the domain shinybookreviews.com — with an -s after review — as our old domain name was bought by someone else.  If you’re following SBR, please make sure to follow it as shinybookreviews with the -s. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog, already in progress…

Right Under the Wire, Barb Does the #SinCBlogHop!

with 5 comments

Folks, lately I’ve been getting tagged — informally or otherwise — by a number of wonderful writers in the hopes that people who otherwise have never heard of me, or my writing, might be interested enough to take a gander at my comic YA urban fantasy/mystery/romance novel, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE.

In this case, I was informally tagged by author Dora Machado, author of THE CURSE GIVER (a great fantasy/mystery in its own right). She told me about the Sisters in Crime Blog Hop (which is abbreviated as it’s shown above: #SinCBlogHop, presumably for Twitter purposes), and that she planned to do it if she could find the time . . . but that whether she did it or not, she felt I definitely should.

After our discussion, I went to the Sisters in Crime page that explains the blog hop, and decided for extra grins and giggles that I’d answer all of the questions — not just some.

So ready or not, here we go!

Question One: Which authors have inspired you?

Oh, that’s easy. The ones who have actively helped and inspired my work include Michael B. Caffrey, my late husband, my mentors Rosemary Edghill, Stephanie Osborn, and Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, and friend and writing buddy Jason Cordova.

Or do you mean the writers I loved to read when I was growing up, who inspired me to tell my own stories? Those include Andre Norton, Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Elizabeth Moon, and Lois McMaster Bujold.

Those are just some of the many wonderful writers who’ve inspired me in one form or another along the way.

Question Two: Which male authors write great female characters? Which female authors write great male characters?

The female author question is easier for me to answer, because it contains most of the same people I listed above: Andre Norton. Lois McMaster Bujold. Rosemary Edghill. Katharine Eliska Kimbriel. Stephanie Osborn. And Elizabeth Moon. All of them have written outstanding male characters as well as wonderful female characters.

Male authors writing female characters. Hm. Well, in military science fiction, the biggest example of that is David Weber, who has sold a boatload of books in his Honor Harrington series. (So he must be doing something right.)

However, another of my writer-friends, Christopher Nuttall, is also very, very good at writing female characters. His fantasy novels, in particular, are centered around strong, talented young women with heart and spirit, and are a joy to read. (Check out SCHOOLED IN MAGIC or BOOKWORM if you don’t believe me.)

Finally, Michael Z. Williamson has written a number of novels from a female perspective, and he gets the issues right. (For example, in FREEHOLD, his female character Kendra must find a brassiere with excellent support once she goes to the Freehold of Grainne, as Grainne has higher gravity than Earth and thus poses more of a challenge for a busty woman. Not every male author would think about that, much less understand what the problem was; kudos to “Mad Mike” for getting it right.)

Question Three: If someone said “Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men,” how would you respond?

Oh, boy.

First, I’d bite back an expletive of some sort. (I’m sure of this.)

Then I’d say, “Wow. You’re really missing out on a lot, then.” And I’d point to Rosemary Edghill’s work (again), this time to her three novels included in the BELL, BOOK, AND MURDER omnibus. Or maybe to her short-story collection FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT.

Or perhaps I’d ask this person if he’s read any of Sarah A. Hoyt’s work, as I’m definitely a SF&F genre writer. Most of her stories have some elements of mystery in there, and there’s a ton of action — guys who love shoot ’em up thrill-rides should be ecstatic with A FEW GOOD MEN or DARKSHIP THIEVES.

I mean, seriously. There are so many wonderful writers, why must anyone stay with only male authors? Must gender always win out? Can’t we see words for what they are, irrespective of the author’s gender?

Question Four: What’s the best part of the writing process for you? What’s the most challenging?

The best part of the writing process is actually writing. When I have a story and am fully involved in it, the world is a better place — or at least it seems that way while I’m writing.

The most challenging part is coming up with ways to market my writing after the book is done and out. (No, this isn’t part of the writing process, and it’s just as well it’s not. But it’s still so very difficult that I felt I’d mention it anyway. I can see why big-name authors hire publicists.)

Question Five: Do you listen to music while writing? What’s on your playlist?

Yes, I listen to music while writing. It helps me attain “alpha state,” or whatever/wherever it is that I go when I’m writing.

What’s on my playlist? Usually a little Alice in Chains, a little Nirvana, a little Soundgarden . . . and a whole lot of Stabbing Westward. (What can I say? I like 1990s rock. A lot.)

Question Six: What books are on your nightstand right now?

(Note that this doesn’t count all the half-finished e-books on the figurative pile, or we’d be here all night.)

Question Seven: If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business?

I’d tell her that publishing is a very difficult and frustrating business, but not to give up. She needs to believe in herself and what she’s doing, and keep doing it as long as it takes . . . push until it gives, and then some.

Because the name of the game in publishing — and in life itself — is persistence. So do not give up.

Don’t ever give up.

This concludes my first-ever Sisters in Crime Blog Hop! And I do hope you enjoyed it! (Normally, I’d tag someone else — as that’s what a blog hop is all about — but as it’s the 30th already, please go check out some of the work of the fine authors I’ve mentioned above instead!)

 

Just Reviewed Bujold’s “Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance” at SBR

leave a comment »

Folks, if you’re looking for a good, farcical military SF adventure with romance, look no further than Lois McMaster Bujold’s newest novel, CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE.  This, the fifteenth book in the long-running saga about Miles Naismith Vorkosigan and his family and friends, is full of biting wit, thrilling adventure, and good romance.

Tej Arqua is a “galactic,” meaning she’s from Jackson’s Whole (a planet that exemplifies the phrase “capitalism run amok”), while Ivan Vorpatril is a Barrayaran Captain who works in Ops as an administrative professional (read: paper pusher, or perhaps the less-flattering term “REMF,” which I did use in my review).  Ivan, you see, is a guy who’s smart, talented, good-looking and interesting — but he can’t hold a candle to his brilliant cousin Miles, nor can he hold a cousin to his brilliant (albeit cloned) cousin Mark, either.  Plus his mother is the formidable Lady Alys, and his quasi-stepfather, Simon Illyan, is the former head of Barrayaran Imperial Security (ImpSec, for short) . . . in other words, Ivan has spent his whole life falling short of the mark, even though he’s quite good when taken for himself.

Tej is a child of similar circumstances, albeit from a completely different background . . . she, too, has had much expected of her.  And while she’s a perfectly good person in her own right — interesting, funny, and sweet by turns — she’s not a genius, doesn’t want to be, and doesn’t particularly want anyone to attempt to make her into something she’s not, either.  So when she meets up with Ivan in a most unusual way, sparks fly . . . and the two of ’em just might be right for each other after all (go read my review to find out why).

As this is a Bujold romance, think “Georgette Heyer in space” rather than the more overt military SF/romance of Linnea Sinclair or even Catherine Asaro.  Both Sinclair and Asaro are great writers, too; I’ve reviewed several of Sinclair’s novels and will certainly be reviewing Asaro’s in the near future as well.  But they are much more graphic than Bujold tends to be; Bujold likes to hint rather than give flat-out exposition, such as when Ivan tells Tej how odd it feels to be married and to have sex with her, the first time, as a married person — he mentions this, then she says something about one of her names meaning “Light,” and he says, “Well, then, illuminate me” — best paraphrase, that, as I don’t have the book in front of me.  Fade to black.

Anyway, everything works in this novel, but it’s not a full A-plus because Bujold herself has written better novels in this series — several of them, to be exact (MIRROR DANCE, the two-book set CORDELIA’S HONOR, THE VOR GAME, the short story collection BORDERS OF INFINITY, etc.) — and that has to be factored into the decision.

Besides, Ivan and Tej are both past masters of conflict avoidance, which makes it tough to see their virtues at times.  (Tough, but possible.  And well done — oh, so very well done.)

But don’t let the lack of an A-plus review stop you from appreciating this fine and funny novel.  Go read my review, then go grab the book, either as an e-copy at Baen Books, or as a hardcover via the usual places.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 25, 2012 at 12:29 am

My favorite “comfort books”

with 2 comments

After several extremely trying days, I read some of my favorite “comfort books” in order to feel better and be able to keep going.   And that got me thinking about what, exactly, is a “comfort book?”

To my mind, a “comfort book” is one that will give you a positive feeling time and time again.  It’s a book that gets your mind off your troubles, or at least diverts you from them somewhat.  And it’s a book that you tend to admire for some reason — maybe due to how well the writer in question uses language, maybe because the characters “speak” to you, maybe because it has a bright and lively feel to it, or maybe just because these characters have survived something terrible but have lived to tell the tale.

These books all inspire me to do more, be more, and to keep trying, no matter how hard it gets and no matter how long it takes.  Though the plotlines are disparate, and the situations all over the map, they all have in common one thing — they reach me, no matter how awful I feel, and no matter what sort of chaos is going on all around me.

So in no particular order, here are my favorite books that I turn to again and again when I’m feeling the most down and out:

MIRROR DANCE, Lois McMaster Bujold — Mark Vorkosigan’s story goes from anti-hero to full-fledged hero, has huge peaks and miserable valleys, and contains some of the best writing of Ms. Bujold’s career to date.

CORDELIA’S HONOR (omnibus of SHARDS OF HONOR and BARRAYAR), Bujold — Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan’s story is humane, interesting, revealing, and engaging.  Cordelia makes her own life her own way, yet realizes she’s as fragile down-deep as anyone else.   Finding a mate as extraordinary as she is in Aral Vorkosigan is half the fun — watching what they accomplish together is the rest.  This is my favorite of all Ms. Bujold’s novels/novel compilations; it also was my late husband Michael’s favorite work by Bujold.

Poul Anderson, the “Dominic Flandry” series (two outstanding novels in this series are A KNIGHT OF GHOSTS AND SHADOWS and A STONE IN HEAVEN) — Flandry is an interstellar secret agent, a literate and erudite man with impeccable taste who still manages to be a flawed human.   He’s also a bon vivant with an alien valet and a romantic heart buried beneath his cynical exterior.  If you haven’t read any of these stories yet, you should.

André Norton, FORERUNNER FORAY and ICE CROWN — Note that Miss Norton wrote many, many outstanding novels in the science fiction, fantasy, romance and historical romance fields; these are my two favorites.  The former novel has a heroine in Ziantha who goes from unwanted child to highly-trained psychic, albeit in thrall to the latter-day version of the Mafia; how she breaks free and finds friends and companions is well worth the read.  The latter features Roane Hume, an unwanted cousin forced to do her uncle’s will on a backward planet that knows nothing of space travel or advanced societies; Roane finds her own inner strength and throws off her shackles while finding the right man for her (more alluded to than delineated, but there), proving that knowledge indeed is power.  (Note that André Norton was Michael’s all-time favorite SF&F writer.  He had good taste.)

Stephen R. Donaldson — A MAN RIDES THROUGH.  This is the second book of the “Mordant’s Need” duology and is a rousing tale of romance, mistaken motivations, political intrigue, and contains an unusual magic system dealing with the shaping and control of various mirrors.  The two main protagonists, Terisa and Geraden, go from not knowing anything to being supremely powerful and confident in and of themselves while maintaining their fallible, undeniably human nature in a realistic way that reminded me somewhat of medieval epics (albeit with magic).  Excellent book that works on all levels, and as always, Donaldson’s command of language is superb and worth many hours of study.

Rosemary Edghill, TWO OF A KIND and THE SHADOW OF ALBION (the latter written with André Norton) — the first is a hysterically funny Regency romance, the second is an “alternate Regency” with magic.  Excellent books.

Mercedes Lackey, BY THE SWORD and Vanyel’s trilogy (MAGIC’S PAWN, MAGIC’S PROMISE, MAGIC’S PRICE) — both emotional and well-conceived, these books draw you in and don’t let go.  Ms. Lackey is one of the most popular novelists in fantasy literature, and it’s easy to understand why.

KRISTIN HANNAH, WHEN LIGHTNING STRIKES — I go back to this book again and again because of the strength of its romance between contemporary woman Alaina “Lainie” Constanza and the outlaw John Killian in 1896; this is a paranormal, time-traveling romance that gets everything right.  The characters are engaging though deeply flawed, and have had terrible things happen to them in the past but manage to overcome all difficulties by believing in the power of their love — but taking time to get there, which makes things far more realistic.

Linnea Sinclair, AN ACCIDENTAL GODDESS.  I enjoy all of Ms. Sinclair’s work, but it’s the story about psychic priestess Gillaine “Gillie” Davré in the far future (she’s a Raheiran, is also a soldier and member of the Raheiran Special Forces) that always draws me back.  Gillie is a complex heroine that, despite her special abilities (of which she has many), still remains a flawed human being.  (The Raheirans think of themselves as human.  Other types of humanity, such as the Khalarans Gillie works with, tend to think of them as lesser Gods and Goddesses, which discomfits Gillie no end.)  Her love story with Khalaran Admiral Rynan “Make it Right” Makarian, a man as complex and interesting as she is, holds my interest time and time again.

Jane Austen, EMMA and MANSFIELD PARK — these are my two favorite novels of Miss Austen’s output, partly because the first is a biting satire and the second a morality play in addition to the “comedy of manners” Miss Austen seemingly could write in her sleep.   I appreciate Miss Austen’s work more and more as I get older; her craftsmanship was outstanding and her eye for detail even better.  (Note that Jane Austen, like André Norton, was one of Michael’s favorite writers.  It was because of Michael’s insistence that I re-read EMMA and realized the fluffy nature of it concealed biting wit and savage satire, then I went on to re-read everything else.)

Finally, there’s the writing team of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller and their entire “Liaden Universe” series.  I can’t say enough how much I admire these two writers, how much I appreciate their fine series of books (twelve or so to date), and how much I’m looking forward to GHOST SHIP, the sequel to both SALTATION and I DARE.

These books are all emotionally honest, they get the issues right, they don’t play games with the reader and the way these writers use the English language is superb.   I gain more every time I turn to these authors and their books, and I believe you will, too, if you give them a chance.

New book review — LMB’s “Cryoburn” — plus remembering my husband, Michael

leave a comment »

I reviewed Lois McMaster Bujold’s new novel about Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, Cryoburn, at the “sister” site Shiny Book Review this evening.  Please go to this link:

http://shinybookreview.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/lois-mcmaster-bujolds-cryoburn-once-more-into-the-breach-dear-friends/

All I’ll say here is, Cryoburn is worthy, interesting, and weighty — but not a pleasure-read by any stretch of the imagination.  Make sure you are prepared for this, as Cryoburn, simply put, is all about death — and potential revival, for those who elect it — and that is not an easy or lightweight subject to contemplate.

And as for the writing of the review, it was far more difficult than I’d anticipated.  I really, really like Lois McMaster Bujold’s writing — I like it a whole lot.  But a novel about death, and about the survivors of those who’ve died but may yet be revived — well, it’s not an easy novel to enjoy, let’s put it that way.  (At least not for me as a widow.)

******** SPOILER AND REMEMBRANCE ALERT ********

Reading Cryoburn stirred up all sorts of issues I thought I’d dealt with in my grief cycle, because I completely understood why Cordelia Naismith Vorkosigan made the choice she did at the very end (in her “drabble,” a short bit of story in 100 words).   I would’ve done exactly as Cordelia, and for the same reasons, were our medical technology more advanced at the time of my beloved husband Michael’s passing; if a man has brain damage, and it is extensive — whether it’s from lack of oxygen or whatever else — and medical science cannot bring him back to the level he was before the brain damage, what kind of life would that be?

Fortunately I did not have to make that determination.  Michael fought hard for life and I knew he wanted to stay with me.  I desperately wanted him to stay with me, too, and prayed hard for that miracle to occur.  But it wasn’t to be; his life on this plane of existence ended, but who he was and what he was all about lives on.  That’s what Cordelia understood that her grieving son, Miles, did not get — maybe could not get.  Simply put: the most important thing about her husband’s life, or mine, is this — he lived it his way.

If you’ve followed my blog to this point, or know anything about me at all, you know full well that I will do whatever I possibly can, ethically and morally, to keep Michael’s writing alive.  I will finish it since I must, even though I wish with all my heart and soul and spirit  that Michael were still with us in the totality of his intelligence, bright spirit and strong will.  I’d rather he were alive to do this, because I loved watching him create, and I loved reading his stories.

Still.  I am the only one left who understands what he was getting at, and I can write his style (with great effort, but I can do it).  That’s why I will do whatever I can to complete his work, because in that way and only in that way do I feel like I’ve remembered Michael properly, as the man he always was — creative, alert, intelligent, witty, and beloved beyond words. 

It’s important to remember a person as he lived, not as he died.  That’s why the process of creation is so important to me.  It was important to Michael, too, because writing something, creating something, meant we’d done something no one else on the planet was able to do in the same way.   Creating is one way of exerting your own sense of individuality, of how you see the world, and it’s the best way to remember a creative person, in my opinion.

At any rate — while life is for the living, it’s also for remembering, positively and with great care, the honored dead.  Maybe that’s why it was so hard for me to like Cryoburn, as it hits way too close to home for comfort.

Written by Barb Caffrey

November 1, 2010 at 11:30 pm