Why I read Lois McMaster Bujold
The reasons I continue to read Ms Bujold are her vivid characters and settings, her ability to write character-driven plots, and her beautiful use of language. But what first attracted me to read her was that her books are female-friendly. That is, the women characters are there and so are their strengths and weaknesses. They are not just prototypes representing half of humanity simply because of their sex. Their needs are addressed by the society by whatever degree is possible. This is not a common thing in sci-fi.
Quite a few sci-fi settings are centered squarely on males and their needs. Want to legalize prostitution? Create android sex-partners? (Which, by the way, I consider to be just as insulting to men as to women.) Have a male-only soldier story? A war story where women are fit to be only as victims? Ignore women in society altogether? I've read dozens of these and I had the distinct feeling that I, a woman, was not wanted as a reader or a buyer. That I was encroaching on a man's world where there's no place for women at all or at most as mothers and brainless sex-kittens and victims. This sort of picture of the future horrifies me. Because I'm here and I damned well want to be part of the future and not as a side-liner!
Was is any wonder that I stopped reading science fiction and read fantasy and mystery instead? (Not that they're much better. But at least with them there's the excuse that the writers have a limited technology to use.)
And then along came Shards of Honor. Which had a strong female lead who was not a victim but herself and more importantly, a leader of other people, including males. She was in control of her life, her body, and her future.
Then I read about Beta Colony with its reproductive implants and uterine replicators. Wow! No more "high tech" societies where human fertility seems to be the only thing that isn't controlled. Or rather the writer hasn't even though about its importance and impact on the society and the characters because to him it's a non-issue. And a democracy to boot. That's also pretty rare in sci-fi.
You can probably imagine my disappointment when the overwhelming majority of the books are set in the patriarchal and backwater little Barrayar. Instead of exploring the interesting social mores the Beta Colony must have, we are given once again the tired old "women are second-class citizens and must be either a virgin or a whore" and "women's place is at home". Yes, it's important to write about these things but... that's the fight we are still fighting in the real world. I just sometimes need a break from that.
And if we can't even imagine a world without these old attitudes, how can we create one in the real world?
Still I continue to read Bujold. She has very good ideas, interesting characters, and good plotting. And variety. There.s no chance of anyone mixing up her books.