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Subject:Marilac, slaveholding, and religion
Time:05:50 pm
There's a few things that have been swishing about in the back of my head, and about which I'd like to solicit opinions.

1. Marilac. I'm pretty sure this is just one of those chrono-pretzels, but ... the official timeline says that in Cetaganda "Miles is 22", and in 'The Borders of Infinity'"is 24". John W. Braue III's timeline makes this 2795 and 2797 AD. In ch. 2 of Cetaganda it is clear from Vorob'yev's remarks that while the Cetagandan attack on Marilac is brewing, it has not yet happened; but in 'The Borders of Infinity' the Marilacan prisoners have already been on Dagoola IV for some considerable while, enough to reduce them to the conditions Miles observes, and before they got there there have to have been the Cetagandan attack, the bloody, myth-generating events culminating at Fallow Core, and the transfer of prisoners to Dagoola. Am I missing something? or is there simply not enough time available hereabouts? Please don't get me wrong: I'm not complaining, or worriting for its own sake - as a reader of each tale I don't care at all - but if one is concerned to be accurate about the overall timeline (for whatever reason) and there's a kink that won't iron out ...

2. Slaveholding. Over in another forum, teluekh, while remonstrating with me, stated flatly that "The haut are slaveholders". S/he didn't say if s/he had in mind the Ba, the ghem, the (canonically unseen) populations of the eight conquered satrapies, or even the haut themselves, in the sense that their geneered children have predetermined destinies. I can see the point, especially where the Ba are concerned (and Miles's diagnosis of the renegade Ba 'Dubauer' wanting children in the only way it could get them points to desperation), but the whole Cetagandan set-up, however authoritarian and absolute, seems to me more complex than 'slaveholding' can cover. Plainly, chattel slavery of the plantation kind is not in question, and (moralities aside) there's no indication of any form of economy in which such an inefficient form of bulk labour might have been preserved; but there are of course subtler kinds of slavery. There's also, for example, the stringent Cetagandan (or just ghem?) observance in the Dagoola set-up of the letter of the "Interstellar Judiciary Commission rules" about the treatment of PoWs, which however cynical does seem to rule out straightforward enslavement of captives in the Graeco-Roman manner. So ... opinions?

3. Religion. Barrayar, plainly, is predominantly and officially secular. Ezar was an atheist, no celebrant is required in wedding-circles, it's Winterfair not Christmas, and personal observance seems restricted to the burning of funeral and graveside offerings. Words like 'gods', 'heaven', and 'hell' may be used, though more metaphorically than precisely, and 'The Borders of Infinity', plainly, draws on Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress - but as a text that has intense, idiosyncratic meaning for Suegar and purely practical value for Miles, though he later hangs in his bedroom a "cheap photonic reproduction" of the relevant page "in a wildly expensive silver frame" (Mirror Dance, ch. 17). All well and good. But, practically speaking, do we believe that there are no organised, doctrinal religions in the Barrayaran Imperium? And in writing for another forum what (if any) are the proper limits on using phrases that (like so many in English) carry an explicitly or implicitly religious (esp. Christian) freight? I have, for example, found myself avoiding (at least in dialogue) the terms 'christening', 'Christian name', 'dust to dust' (which could easily have been used in Memory of little Raina, but doesn't seem to be),'Good God!' &c.. Are other readers of the canon and writers for the other forum conscious of this issue?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts on these matters.
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azurelunatic
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Time:2010-02-15 05:59 pm (UTC)
The framing story for the various adventures of Miles including the Marilac prison break happens some time after the events of the adventure itself. Miles is recounting the events to Simon to clear up some matters of accounting. If you were referring to the novel's position on the timeline, this might account for some issues.
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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-15 06:06 pm (UTC)
True, but J. W. Braue has the novella 'The Borders of Infinity' in 2797, and the framing links of the 'novel' Borders of Infinity in 2798, so the interval between Cetaganda and Miles's actions on Dagoola IV still seems (too?) short.
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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-15 06:36 pm (UTC)
I'd agree with all of that--and you make an excellent point about the practical rather than religious legacies of the Time of Isolation. The sufferings of the 'heavy-worlders' in (IIRC) the MacCaffrey/Moon bits of The Space Pirates trilogy come to mind as an example closer to the consequences one might predict.

As to when the colonists left &c., at a meta-level I wonder about the Russian model. By and large Barrayar seems to me successively much more like the Russias of Ivan the Terrible and Catherine the Great than anything much later - but Grishnov's Political Officers quite strongly recall Beria's NKVD, and LMB was of course (conceiving and) initially writing in the late Cold War, so perhaps there was (and thus is) a Soviet overlay that brings with it a certain godlessness.
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fabricdragon
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Time:2010-02-15 06:57 pm (UTC)
no clue on the time line

slaveholding.
well. thats intriguing.. you see, as pointed out when she gave Miles a coil of her hair.....the haute Riann owns .... nothing.
she is property of her family and clan. she has no choices, she has no home of her own, she has nothing she can give as a gift... she doesnt even own her own genome.
she could easily be called a slave.
she is owned by her constellation, and her father. the head of her house in any case.
until she marries the Emperor.

but if she married a mere Haut? unclear.

and of course a Haut woman can be GIVEN as a gift if she is unmarried. GIVEN as a reward to a ghem warrior.....without her consent.... (see the situation with the villains in that story)

the Ghem warriors in question ..... wel they may or may not be able to turn down a haut wife.. but THEIR wives have no say in it, and it functionally disinherits the ghem kids.....

i would say that women , while holding power in some very odd ways, are slaves in many senses of the word on Cetaganda.

of course it has been proven they HAVE slaves (chattel slavery at that).... witness "Ethan of Athos"
two kids were created in a lab, property of the scientist who made them.....
they were later found valuable. their genetics desired to be added to the haut genome....but still they may not leave.. they may not complain... they may not quit, ask for money.. marry...have their own feelings, work their own jobs....

so yes, the Cetagandans are a slave holding race in MULTIPLE senses of the word.


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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-15 07:15 pm (UTC)
Ok, lots of persuasive comments there. Thanks. I take your points about genetic creations and women especially, and in some sense all haut are genetic creations, but while we certainly know of one haut woman who objected violently to her ghem-marriage, because of the exclusion from her former Celestial Garden privileges, others seem to function quite powerfully as such wives--Lady d'Har, in particular--and whether it's quite as cold as it may seem to Barrayarans seems to me at least a little moot.

As a comparison, if you know the Liaden Universe, all who belong to a clan have binding duties to that clan, and can be required at their Delm's discretion to enter contract marriages, bear or father children, accept unwelcome postings, &c.. But while the whole society is clearly extremely rigid in certain respects, and not given to the kinds of individual liberty, elective marriage, and self-determination Western humans presently tend to suppose uniquely right and normative, one really can't see it as practising enslavement.
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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-15 09:06 pm (UTC)
Fair points all--thanks. I don't myself think of LMB as altogether that kind of world-builder, though. I distinguish 'icebergers' (like Tolkien or David Weber, not that there's any other comparison!) from 'searchlighters' (like Le Guin and LMB), and with searchlighters you only ever get what the spotlight following the protagonist/s happens to fall on. Hence the many gaps.

And Midsummer is a known festival on Barrayar, isn't it? Or did I make that up and wrongly assimilate it to canon?
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philomytha
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Time:2010-02-15 09:04 pm (UTC)
In a fic I'm working on I've mentioned the survival of some Orthodox communities on Barrayar, as a legacy of the Russian and Greek immigrants (and I'm sure that posed interesting problems for the galactic Orthodox community after the ToI ended, since I doubt there were any bishops amongst the Firsters and their doctrine likely took some interesting turns). I would imagine other religious groups also came in the initial immigrants, but that those that survived are definitely minority practices.

I think it's clear that Barrayarans have a certain amount of Christian cultural awareness. We get, frex, in TWA, Elena saying she's being sent to Miles like the Virgin Mary sent to intercede with Jesus, but it does seem to be cultural rather than stemming from widespread practice. When Mark gets his tour of Vorbarr Sultana, he sees historic spots and government buildings and monuments, but he doesn't visit any cathedrals or churches.
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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-15 09:10 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I'd missed that line in TWA. Chapter? If it were Elli one would be dealing with non-Barrayaran inheritances, but if it's Elena ...

And I shall look forward muchly to that fic.
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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-15 09:19 pm (UTC)
I don't know what point you were trying to make

No agenda--just trying to think through the flatness of teluekh's assertion and my own responses to it. And yes, I'd thought of Byzantine (and earlier Persian) eunuchs--exactly the sort of complication that made me jib slightly about just saying 'slaveholders'.

Thanks for your thinking on the matter.
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bookblather
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Time:2010-02-15 10:35 pm (UTC)
About the timeline issues, it seems to me that two years is a not unreasonable timeline, depending on how much travel time there is between Marilac and Dagoola IV. Battles happen fast, even stretched out for the vast distances involved here. And in conditions like on Dagoola IV, if you're not Miles and don't know that there's rescue coming, such a breakdown could also happen very quickly. Within the space of a month or two. I agree that it's a quick turnaround on the attack, but I don't think it's necessarily unworkable.
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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-15 11:17 pm (UTC)
Maybe so, but I'm not wholly persuaded.

Travel time, of course, is imponderable despite the best-efforts of Nexus-mappers. Marilac is close to ... Xi Ceta? (a Ceta planet anyway) ... but I don't believe we have any clear or precise idea where the Dagoola sytem is in relation.

But Miles does think (in 'Borders' the novella) of "The ingenious and tenacious civilian defenders of Carson Transfer Station", and of the "survivors of the high-tech fortress at Fallow Core", while Suegar talks of "House-to-house fighting" in Port Lisma, which all point to a longer rather than a shorter Cetagandan campaign. And I don't think 10,214 survivors of the 14th Commandos, "Marilac's finest", would succumb quite so quickly as you suggest, even in shock. By way of comparison, it took the Japanese a year+ of serious pressure on PoWs after the mass surrender of British and Indian troops at Singapore in 1942 to break them down to a point where they could begin recruiting Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs to their Indian National Army--and those captured were by no means all crack troops, nor anything like, as well as having been completely stunned by the efficiency and ruthlessness of the Japanese blitzkrieg.
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(Anonymous)
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Time:2010-02-16 04:17 am (UTC)
For the Ghem, consider knights in Germany as late as the 14thC. They were an "unfree" warrior class. They were restricted in where they could live and who they could marry, required their lord's permission for quite a few things, several of the cities wouldn't allow them to take part in the city government.

But they were still privileged in other ways, often wealthy, and of course heavily armed....

It changed over time, but as far as I know it changed because warfare and economics changed, rather than because the knights themselves objected.
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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-16 04:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks, anonymous, that's an interesting parallel; or even source, maybe. And like those Byzantine eunuchs a complicating case - but then isn't it a given of the whole Vorkosiverse that real power does not grant freedom, but restricts it. Who in the Barrayaran imperium has more power than Gregor? and how much freedom does he have?
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teldreaming
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Time:2010-02-16 07:57 am (UTC)
Marilac: Yeah, it's a little bit of a timeline issue. If you assume Marilacan years are short and put the Marilacan invasion around the same time as Cetaganda it works without too much stretching.

Slaveholding: fabricdragon made a couple of the points I was trying to make, and one or two I hadn't even considered, but the term slave is used by Miles in Cetaganda several times to refer to the ba, once to Benin's face without apparent insult being taken. "ba-slave", "Imperial slave", etc. There's also the mention of ghem-lords cloning servitors. (Reminds me of the Dubai sheikh who imagined his city would one day only be inhabited by rich people. Real work? "I would hope robots or clones will do all that by then.")

I don't think it's by accident that Lois has the buck for all the Cetagandan awfulness in 'Ethan of Athos' stop at... Rian. Cetaganda's somewhat like similarly stratified historical societies in that it may be pretty, but it's not the slightest bit -nice-. Elli Quinn saw it as just a "typical male-dominated totalitarian state".

Religion: The elite seem to be fairly nonreligious as a whole, but it's mentioned in 'Aftermaths' that Barrayarans are in general wildly superstitious. I wouldn't be shocked if some vestige of Orthodoxy held on in ethnic enclaves, but it seems the penetration of new wedding customs (and necessary abandonment of older religious ones) is pretty universal even among the 'Greekies'. I'd expect 'new' religions would make some inroads after the ToI. Barrayarans do use 'God', but infrequently. Hints at a monotheist worldview. Quinn by contrast seems to come from a polytheist culture.
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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-16 05:08 pm (UTC)
Hi, teluekh - I wondered if you'd post! Thanks for doing so.

Marilac: Yes, that seems fair. I thought it was just a chrono-pretzel.

Religion: Good point about Elli. I don't, btw, want more religion in the Vorkosiverse (though I do quite like, amid his longueurs, what David Weber has done with religion in the Honorverse), but as LightGetsIn agreed it does become an issue when writing for the other forum.

Slaveholding: You've persuaded me to a considerable degree, though I'd still not be quite as flatly definite as you were in the other forum, and I think omnivorous's comments about Byzantine eunuchs and anonymous's parallel between the ghem and late mediaeval German knights potently suggest why. Using my newly acquired vocab I could also say that I don't find the Doylist emotional resonance of 'slaveholding' especially helpful to Watsonian thinking about the Vorkosiverse.

Mustn't cross fora too much, but apropos of our original thread I can certainly now see much more clearly where you were coming from, and don't disagree - though I still think a feelgood AUverse is fair enough, its indulgences being a part of the point.

Thanks again.
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beatrice_otter
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Time:2010-02-17 07:38 pm (UTC)
Religion:

It is often the case that the elite of a society are less devout than the lower classes. This may be the case on Barrayar. The Vorkosigans, in any case, aren't exactly your typical Barrayarans. The festivals they are most involved in are those that the Emperor is most involved in--if there are lower-key celebrations/fests that don't involve balls at the Imperial Residence, we're less likely to see it. Also, remember just how little time we've spent on Barrayar, compared to the amount of time we've spent elsewhere. Just because we haven't seen observances and festivals, doesn't mean they don't exist. And just because the Betans dismiss things as "superstition" doesn't mean that's all there is. (Voodoo gets dismissed as mere superstition all the time, in our world.)

Christianity: if there are any congruences with today, the Russians and Greeks would have been Orthodox; the French would have been Roman Catholics. The thing is, both Orthodox and RC churches have lots of hierarchy and require huge amounts of training for their priests (RC is eight years, four of philosophy followed by four of theology). Both require lots of resources to support, in addition to a society that is built around their needs. Could Barrayar, in those first few generations, support that kind of an institution? As they're scrabbling to survive? Particularly if you assume that not all of the colonists would have been devout and thus committed to preserving the church? Not to mention the traumatic events they were living through would have had a huge impact on both practice and theology. So in the first few generations after settlement, Christianity on Barrayar would have changed radically and possibly lost cultural hegemony. They would certainly have lost the hierarchical structure; apparently, they never evolved it again. Without that structure, you don't have cathedrals because you don't have bishops acting as princes of the church to need them. So that's why you have references to the Virgin Mary and images of Baptism woven throughout Memory because there are Christians, but it's not overt and formal like we would expect.

Other religions: things like ancestor worship do count as a religion (and Barrayarans, even those who don't count themselves as theists, clearly do believe in it). Most non-Judeo-Christian religions don't expect the kind of active, regular participation in worship by lay-people (i.e., not professional clergy) that Christianity does. They may instead have active, regular participation in rites that take place in the home. Our window into Barrayaran society comes from a household that isn't very religious, which means we wouldn't see any of that.
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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-17 07:50 pm (UTC)
Crisp, cogent, and persuasive. Many thanks. I like the idea of church institutions and infrastructure as a casualty of the Time of Isolation, and the notion of home-rites fits well both with ancestor-worship and something like Roman lares and penates.

I agree with you about voudoun, btw, if you meant the fullblown Haitian version. Jamaican obeah is less impressive, in my experience; and I've never seen santeria or
[Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('<candomble</i>') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.]

Crisp, cogent, and persuasive. Many thanks. I like the idea of church institutions and infrastructure as a casualty of the Time of Isolation, and the notion of home-rites fits well both with ancestor-worship and something like Roman lares and penates.

I agree with you about <i>voudoun</i>, btw, if you meant the fullblown Haitian version. Jamaican <i>obeah</i> is less impressive, in my experience; and I've never seen <i>santeria</i> or <candomble</i> up close enough to judge, though I've been told they've become very mixed up with the inroads protestant US evangelists have been making in Latin America.
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filkferengi
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Time:2010-02-23 04:19 pm (UTC)
Lovely, crunchy discussion! Have you considered bringing it over to the main mailing list? There're links to join over at http://www.dendarii.com/ .
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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-23 04:32 pm (UTC)
Could do, filkferengi - I did wonder - but given the abutment to fanfic (which is in part where I'm coming from) I thought it might be discourteous to Lois to do so. I also figured most folk would likely see the post here, but do pass word along. And thanks for your post in appreciation.
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mindstalk
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Time:2010-02-24 02:41 am (UTC)
New option for Cetagandan 'slavery':
the haut have a lot of anti-human bioweapons.

How are these tested?


You can do a lot in vitro, or in simulation, and decerebrate clones are a possibility -- JW doesn't use them because cerebrate ones are healthier, though one wonders about a more legal competitor who used decerebrates and physical therapy -- but still, one has to wonder.
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bracketyjack
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Time:2010-02-24 07:15 pm (UTC)
Yup. I'm with you on some of this, mindstalk. It's only really coming clearer in my head as I *write* more Cetagandan scenes, but if you're interested you'll find some pointers along these lines in my continuity in the other forum. I've already posited that Ryoval pere was a renegade haut (or possibly Ba) who escaped detection by having his/its brain transplanted - explaining an unhappy amount about the rapid Jacksonian development of murderous clone-'therapy' for the ageing and wealthy.

And as per my post in the Cetagandan/slaveholding thread above, I think the haut have field-tested their bio-weapons at least once, on the invasive ancestors of the ghem. I don't think they'd be very interested in decerebrate clones, but I'm willing to be the Creche had both one helluva computer modelling system and chunks of vat-grown metabolising human tissues of various kinds on which bio-weapons can be tested.
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