For whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge

Spent the morning thus far snuggling with Steve and updating various pages on this website (not at the same time).  You should see new content on the Welcome page, the Upcoming in 2013 page and the Publications page.

Which brings me around, not too subtly, to a conversation I had recently with an earnest young thing who wished to express to me a number of  the things that the Liaden Universe® has gotten wrong over the years.  (No, no, I don’t know why (some) people feel compelled to do this.  Perhaps so I can do better in future?  Certainly, I can’t do better retroactively; the books that were written in the late 1980’s remain having been written in the late 1980’s.)

In any case, this earnest young person chiefly wished to express that it was Very Wrong of the Liaden Universe® to constantly perpetuate the outdated and harmful notion that women must leave their lives in order to follow their male partners*.

Now, this is an interesting observation, but I’m not sure how or why it’s a constant Wrong in terms of the structure of the Liaden Universe®.  I understand that my auditor believes that the continuing cultural insistence in the US that women put aside their lives, interests and careers in order to serve man and raise children is potentially harmful, to the woman and to society at large.  I even agree with her.  But, in terms of the Liadenverse, this is what I see:

Past this line there are potential spoilers for Liaden Universe® novels.  If you haven’t read the novels, you might consider stopping here.


Miri Robertson left her life as a hunted woman in order to follow Val Con yos’Phelium and become even more hunted.  When we meet her, Miri’s one biggest concern is staying alive.  She’s cashed out of the mercs; her legit job went badly sour and she doesn’t really seem to have any plans or aspirations aside from living to eat breakfast tomorrow morning.

Priscilla Mendoza had been cast out from her religion, her family, and her ship by the time she met Shan yos’Galan.  Her decision to relocate on Liad has much to do with the feeling that one must live somewhere, and that she wanted to be near her new, and true, friends.  At the end of Conflict of Honors, it’s not at all decided that they will prosper in a partnership, though later it appears, yes, as if things have worked out for them.

When first we meet Aelliana Caylon — indeed, within the first two dozen pages of Scout’s Progress — she has independently made the determination that, if she wishes to survive to pursue her art, she must leave her clan.  The rest of Progress and all of Mouse and Dragon is  the story of how she does that, and the compromises she makes — and forces Daav yos’Phelium to make — in order to arrive at a life that is acceptable to her.

I will allow that Anne Davis could easily have returned to University and taken up her former life.  Without her child, certainly.  And I do blame Daav for manipulating her in order to keep his brother and his brother’s heir on Liad.  But I do also recall that Er Thom had booked passage on a spaceliner for all three of them and had steeled himself to follow her.

I don’t believe that Natesa the Assassin has left her employ as a Juntavas Judge, despite having cast her lot in with Pat Rin yos’Phelium.  Her initial decision to accompany him was, in my mind, professionally motivated.

Cantra yos’Phelium‘s life was falling apart when she met Jela, but far from following him, she spends the first book trying to ditch him; then realizes that maybe he has an idea or two, after all, and if she wants to survive, which she does. . .

Anthora yos’Galan, of course, simply acquires Ren Zel, poor man, for which we may — and do — blame the Tree.

Kamele Waitley does leave the Wall in order to live in her onagrata’s establishment, something she apparently takes herself to task for during the course of their relationship, so it doesn’t sit easy with her.  She then mounts a rescue mission, meaning to bring the father of her daughter out of what she thinks is a wrongful imprisonment so that he can continue his life.

Theo. . .to the best of my knowledge, Theo isn’t following anybody anywhere. . .

So, what I’m saying is that, as one of the fond authors, I’m not seeing in the Liadenverse the mindless casting aside of a woman’s whole life “for love.”  I’m seeing women who have real problems, and their problems are in part mitigated by association with a man of Korval, whereupon they are empowered to be themselves more fully.

Perhaps that was the young person’s problem?  That the women are in trouble and the men fix it?  I suppose we could have been even more forward-thinking, there in 1984, and made certain that the “current” mature members of Korval were more female than male, and then had the folks in trouble be male.

But, yanno?  We didn’t.  And what is written is written; and everything that is based on what has been written must build on that past logically and consistently.  Also, we don’t believe in ret-conning**.  That means — we (us and you) are stuck with it.

So — that’s my rant on the topic.  Who has thoughts?


*Before anyone’s head explodes, this was actually a relief.  The last earnest reader who wanted to engage me in this vein wished to open my eyes to the way in which our stories put real women into real danger by perpetuating the dangerous, mind-controlling myth of True Love. I was, as I understood it, to consider myself a murderer.

**ret-con = retroactive continuity changes (as often seen in comics and occasionally in movies)

9 thoughts on “For whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest I will lodge”

  1. I must be a superficial reader. I just loved the stories, and no, I haven’t read them all. I first discovered your books through Fledgling. I’m in the enjoyable process of reading forward and catching up! Thanks for the great stories!

  2. Yes, I note that more often, the men are bemusedly trailing after the women than otherwise here.
    One of my first thoughts on seeing the “women drop everything to follow men in the LU” was, “huh? What do most of ’em HAVE to drop? Miri was – as you mentioned – without prospects (at 28!) and USING Val Con to get out of trouble temporarily before planning to slip away from him, HE was the one who stubbornly stuck to her.
    Scholar Ceylon was planning to leave an establishment FULL of abusers, and strike out on her own, I’ve seen no sign Natesa is giving up her position, she’s simply also supporting Pat Rin.
    Anne didn’t give up her life, she continued as a highly respected, if controversial, scholar, in the perfect environment to study her subject, which seems to BE Liad. Duh.
    Priscilla, check, nothing to lose, drifting, found a home on the Dutiful Passage.
    I didn’t exactly have the impression that Cantra’s life was falling apart, but she was teetering a bit, trying to run without anyone to relieve her in watchfulness at any time. Jela, like his many times great grand son, Val Con, just glued himself to her.
    Anthora hasn’t given up squat.
    Kamale did take about 15 years to raise her daughter with a man she was comfortable with, but when her career needed it, she distanced herself a bit for another few years to get it back on track, & moved to higher rank so she had the leisure to take a year for the personal pursuit of ‘what’s happened to Jen Sar?’
    Theo was at a decision point, & used the options offered to her to help her friend & sometimes lover while she considered where her career & life would be going next, in light of complications including him, and her father, and recently discovered paternal relatives, and oh, the war on Liad?

    So… no, I don’t see this as a valid objection either.

  3. Oh leave the stories alone. They are just fine the way they are. And I LOVE reading everyone I can get my hands on. Thank you for writing them.

  4. I thought Aelliana did a lot of the saving of herself by herself. She was certainly helped a lot by Dave, but she won the ship herself. She learned to fly it. She had a lot of help, certainly, but had the drive and ambition to earn the things she had. After being locked in the teaching box got herself to help. I think perhaps I identify with her the most, as I got myself out of a bad situation (although my situation was certainly not as bad – I really liked her character)
    I think all of the women in your books are strong willed and the ones that were “saved” weren’t saved so much as earned their way out of jams with some help.

  5. Ok now that head is defused let me say “Earnest Young Person said what now?” I love your books and have devoured them with gusto with regular repeat visits and ridiculous (to those not book bitten) displays of joy when new ones come along and have never gotten a whiff of that.

    So have just deleted several lines that prove head was not as defused as thought. These are stories, wonderful, thoughtful, deep-in-your heart stories and I agree with previous writer’s on their strength. In any case may I point out the intervention of cats, norbears, turtles and trees?

  6. Who among us (male OR female) can extricate ourselves from the various sticky situations in which we find ourselves, without a little help now and then? Don’t start second guessing yourselves as authors; you are doing just great. Keep it up, PLEASE

  7. This amused me, and I thought of it after reading your blog entry. Your female characters DEFINITELY belong on the right side of this frame 😀
    (warning – the language is crude)

    To mash up universes a bit, I could also see Miri going on one of Cordelia Vorkosigan’s “shopping trips” (Lois McMaster Bujold’s ‘Barrayer’ novel).

    Your female characters are anything but weak!

  8. Primarily, these stories are brilliant and well balanced as they are. Please don’t change the formula now.

    In response to comments made by your young revolutionary, while damning the female power-sapping concept of romance between man and woman, that young one was definitely glowing in satisfaction at the objectification of men in the matriarchal society of Delgado. Thus her interest is codified by supremacy, rather than equality, and all her arguments are mute. DOWN WITH THE MAN! POWER TO THE WOMAN!?

  9. Your older stories are brilliant as are the newer ones. Don’t change a thing. The Young Thing is obviously in the throes of something not worthy of mention.

    Ignore such ignorance and carry on. You two are wonderful authors and never cease to thrill and amaze us with each new offering.

    I, too, agree with all the above comments… 🙂

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