The terms “mother” and “military science fiction” are probably not ones you’d naturally put together in the same sentence.
But there are a few good reasons you should.
(Mother’s Day is this weekend, in case you’ve somehow been avoiding all the television and radio commercials for dozens of roses at deep discounts and cute teddy bears and other kitsch that moms supposedly like, and in case you missed Ross’s post about Mother’s Day movies.)
My mother and I have incredibly different tastes in books, but I do have her to thank for my love of reading. Not only did she make sure my brother and I had plenty of books growing up, but she encouraged us to try new authors and found new series for us to read all the time.
That’s why this post is about military science fiction, specifically about two of its moms, and why they’re awesome — because my mom found these for me to read.
Reason #1 Why You Should Think of Moms When You Think of Military SF: The Honor Harrington Series (Or, Moms are More than the Sum of their Babies)
David Weber’s Honor Harrington books were my first introduction to military science fiction. As soon as I read the first book in the series, On Basilisk Station, I was hooked (thankfully Weber is still writing Honor novels, and there’s a movie coming out in 2015, and now there’s a comic book series spin-off, and a young adult series…basically I’m in heaven).
The series’ protagonist, Honor, is a genetically modified spaceship commander who is a tactical genius. Over the course of the series, she picks up many other skills as well, and eventually becomes a mother as part of a polygamous marriage that involves one man and one other woman who has a physical disability.
As a middle-schooler struggling to figure out what kind of person I wanted to be, Honor was a great role model. She is smart, strong in many ways, but flawed too. Sometimes she makes the wrong decision, and sometimes she lets her emotions get the best of her. But she learns from her mistakes, and doesn’t let tragedy ruin her life.
Honor’s pregnancy came as a surprise (in the eleventh book, At All Costs): All members of the space fleet have birth control implants to prevent pregnancy while they’re on active duty. Because of some crazy stuff that happened, Honor’s expired and no one realized it. She decided to keep the baby, and I appreciate Weber’s portrayal of this difficult decision. I also appreciate that Honor’s child is not the ultimate happy ending for her. Of course she does get joy from her baby, but she finds fulfillment elsewhere, too: from her work and her other family members.
Reason #2: The Vorkosigan Saga (Or, Moms Have Their Own Adventures, Too)
Although a majority of Lois McMaster Bujold’s 16 Vorkosigan Saga novels focus on Miles Vorkosigan, a hyperactive nobleman from the planet Barrayar who moonlights as the admiral of a mercenary fleet under a secret identity, the first two focus on his mother, Captain Cordelia Naismith. Cordelia makes frequent appearances in Miles’ books as well.
Cordelia’s two books have been collected into an omnibus titled Cordelia’s Honor, or you can read them separately as Shards of Honor and Barrayar. Shards of Honor follows what happens when the survey team Cordelia is leading is attacked on an uninhabited planet they’ve discovered. Cordelia winds up stranded and captured by Captain Lord Aral Vorkosigan (who, yes, you guessed it, she later marries, but don’t worry, it’s not as cheesy as it sounds, I promise). Vorkosigan’s crew is on the verge of mutiny, and guess who helps stop it? Cordelia, because she’s awesome.
I love Cordelia. She’s an adventurer and a leader, and she has the uncanny ability to figure out how other people work and what they need and want. As a mother, she gives her son room to explore while still providing boundaries and a safety net.
When she appears in Miles’ books, it’s often in the form of Miles thinking, “What would my mother do?” When she makes a physical appearance, she tends to take over the chapter with her nuggets of wisdom and wisecracks. I wouldn’t trade my mom for anything, but I wouldn’t complain if I had happened to land Cordelia as a mother. Bujold is a mother herself, and I’d imagine she channeled some of her own experience into Cordelia.
What books has your mother (or other important lady in your life) introduced you to? Share them with us in the comments!
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