US writer who began publishing sf with "Barter" for Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, March/April 1985. Almost all her published sf work is part of a loose series of often humorous adventures set in a future of feuding galactic colonies connected by Faster-than-Light "Wormhole jumps". Most of these stories feature members of the Vorkosigan family, part of an elite military caste from the planet Barrayar, recently rediscovered by galactic civilization after regressing into semifeudalism. Shards of Honor (1986) and its immediate sequel Barrayar (1991) which won a 1992 Hugo, deal with the romance between Lord Aral Vorkosigan and a sophisticated off-worlder; the child of their marriage is Miles Vorkosigan, born with severe physical handicaps due to a politically inspired attempt to Poison his father. Miles grows up to become a supremely charismatic, witty, compulsively driven military genius who triumphantly transcends the difficulties caused by his brittle bones and 4ft 9in (1.45m) stature. His complicated double life in the Barrayaran Navy (as an ensign, soon transferred to Imperial Security) and the Dendarii Mercenaries (of which he accidentally becomes the founder and admiral) is followed, in order of internal chronology, in The Warrior's Apprentice (1986) - assembled with Shards of Honor as Test of Honor (omni 1987) - The Vor Game (first part February 1990 Analog as "Weatherman"; exp 1990), which won a 1991 Hugo; Cetaganda (October-December 1995 Analog; 1996), set in an interstellar empire controlled by a hierarchy of artificially created human subspecies; Brothers in Arms (1989) and the ambitious Mirror Dance (1994) (> Identity), recipient of a 1995 Hugo. The short stories in Borders of Infinity (fixup 1989) - assembled with The Vor Game as Vorkosigan's Game (omni 1990) - including the Hugo- and Nebula-winning "The Mountains of Mourning" (May 1989 Analog), feature Miles at various points in his early career. Ethan of Athos (1986), set after The Vor Game, focuses on Elli Quinn, who eventually becomes Miles's lover, and a representative of a male separatist culture threatened by the imminent failure of the technology which creates its children.
In Memory (1996), perhaps Bujold's most impressive novel, Miles is forced to confront the contradictions of his multiple identities and tangled loyalties, in the end choosing a vision of himself as an enlightened Barrayaran aristocrat over his life as a galactic mercenary. Chronologically subsequent volumes in the series present Miles as an older, more political and somewhat saner individual; to date these works comprise Komarr (1998), A Civil Campaign (1999) and Diplomatic Immunity (2003). Falling Free (December 1987-February 1988 Analog; 1988), Bujold's best known single novel and winner of the 1988 Nebula, is set 200 years before Shards of Honor and tells the story of a rebellion - by humans modified by Genetic Engineering to live in zero Gravity as "quaddies", with extra arms in place of legs - against the company which has created them and plans, once their commercial value has expired, to dump them on a planetary surface; their descendants feature in the later series, in particular Diplomatic Immunity. Throughout the Miles Vorkosigan stories Bujold displays a considerable range, from the adventure fiction of The Warrior's Apprentice to the romantic comedy of manners of A Civil Campaign; from the murder mystery of "The Mountains of Mourning" to the questions of personal identity raised by Mirror Dance and Memory. Considered as a whole, the sequence achieves a notable density of internal reference, forming what is almost a single narrative - a march to the music of time resembling that of Poul Anderson's Dominic Flandry, but one explored in rather greater psychological depth.
Bujold's only other works which could be treated as sf are those in the Sharing Knife sequence, consisting of Beguilement (2006), Legacy (2007), Passage (2008) and Horizon (2009). These books, which concentrate on the relationship between one of Bujold's characteristically damaged male protagonists and the woman who rekindles his interest in life, are essentially romances, set in a Pastoral Post-Holocaust world in which a few individuals possess limited extranormal Psi Powers. The Chalion sequence (for which see below), of which Paladin of Souls (2003) won both a Hugo and a Nebula in 2004, is Fantasy, as is the unrelated novel The Spirit Ring (1992). Arguably, however, these works display a more traditionally science-fictional concern with logical extrapolation than much of her sf; certainly the theological background (> Religion) of the Chalion novels shows a taste for rigorous invention. Bujold is a writer whose books are both funny and humane. Her characters have strong feelings for each other and, when compared to similar military figures in the work of such male writers as Jerry Pournelle, are often remarkably (and perhaps unrealistically) gentle. Though the ideas content in her work is generally low, her novels and stories succeed on their own terms; she has developed into a skilled entertainer with a considerable following. [NT]