Koskov: Today on The Old Walls, continued wrangling from the Councils concerning Komarran terraforming, funding has been authorized for another resonance mine, a new political scandal out of the Vormoncrief family, and most centrally, it's Biography Day here in the VBSB Studio.
Koskov: Welcome to The Old Walls. I'm your host, Piotr Koskov. Today is March 8, 3070, Earth Common Era. Today we have two separate interviews with scholars who have recently published books about major historical figures of Emperor Gregor the Great's reign. First is Doctor Professora Jenna Eckstein, from the Solstice University Department of Political Studies, with a new biography of Emperor Gregor himself, Let's See What Happens. Second is Doctor Professor Etienne Vorsoisson, of the University of Vorbarr Sultana History Department, with a new biography of Count Miles Vorkosigan, The Vorkosigan Saga. Since we have so much to get through, we'll begin not with our usual "Vorhartung Report," but go straight into the first interview. Welcome, Professora.
Eckstein: Thank you for having me on, Piotr.
Koskov: Now, you're Komarran, yes?
Eckstein: I'm sure the accent and the name give it away, yes.
Koskov: It's interesting to see a Komarran tackle the subject of the reign of Gregor the Great. Many seem to want to forget large portions of that period of history, especially the Regency.
Eckstein: For self-evident reasons, yes. There are exceptions, of course. The Massacre Shrine in Solstice, for example, is still one of the most commonly-visited places in the Imperium. It's no longer a symbol of resistance, but of memory, regret, and new beginnings by both native Barrayarans and Komarrans--even Sergyarans, given their connection to Viceroy Count Vorkosigan, who was of course called "the Butcher of Komarr" by some Komarran factions right up until his death. But you're right--with that exception, Komarrans seem largely focused on moving forward, embracing the opportunities that being a part of the Imperium grants. But it's important for Komarrans in particular to understand how much their position in the Imperium draws itself from the policies of Emperor Gregor. And his Regent.
Koskov: You actually start your book in 2973, with the death of Emperor Ezar Vorbarra when Gregor was four, then flash back to the Emperor's birth through the death of his father Crown Prince Serg in the failed invasion of Escobar. Why is that?
Eckstein: Primarily, because I divided my book into thirds, and that was the place where that first part truly begins. Effectively, as a biography of Emperor Gregor Vorbarra, the book should begin with his taking the throne. The four years before then barely exist in the conception of Gregor as Emperor. They were someone else's life. I had to include it as a matter of course, but the first period of this book is the Regency.
Koskov: And you continue into the War of Vordarian's Pretendership, the death of Princess Kareen, and the establishment of then-Regent Vorkosigan as Gregor's guardian, then you discuss Gregor's youth and his training. Your primary thesis in this section seems to be that Regent-Consort Cordelia Vorkosigan is largely responsible for the adult Gregor.
Eckstein: Absolutely. I titled the biography for what was reportedly one of Emperor Gregor's favorite sayings, "let's see what happens." According to contemporary sources, Gregor had a scientific air when he said that, as if whatever he was discussing were an abstract theoretical concept being tested. And when you look at who he was surrounded with--mostly military officers, though the Regent had transitioned from the military into the political arena--Lady Vorkosigan stands out as a scientist by training. She was, after all, a Betan Astronomical Survey captain before she was anything else.
Koskov: That section of the book ends with Emperor Gregor's majority, and then you turn from the personal to the galactic stage.
Eckstein: The second, and personally least interesting, part of the biography, yes. During the period roughly from 2990 to 3002, Barrayar was one of the major players in forcing a change in the Cetagandan expansionist policy. Actually, it's funny that you'll be interviewing Dr. Vorsoisson today; the two of us met because our research into our topics began to converge. The War for the Hegen Hub, for example, which is really where that section of the biography starts, involved both Emperor Gregor in his role as the statesman who welded together the Hegen Alliance, and then-Lord Miles Vorkosigan in a role I'll leave Tien to describe. Then later on, you begin to see Barrayar's role using cat's-paws, and one in particular, to push back the Cetagandans on all fronts. This culminates in the Marilac Resistance and the Cetagandan withdrawal from Marilac, which is where that part of the book ends.
Koskov: Here, you tend to focus on Gregor's, and by extension Barrayar's, growing prominence on the galactic stage.
Eckstein: Emperor Gregor's policies, and in some cases his person, changed the galactic perception of Barrayar. When his reign began, many of the galactic powers in the Nexus saw Barrayar as dangerous and backward--neobarbarians with a hair trigger. During the Regency and more centrally during the early years of Gregor's majority, that perception changed. The War of the Hegen Hub, the years of cold war between Barrayar and Cetaganda, the Marilac Resistance...this all cemented Gregor's, and Barrayar's, role and reputation as a force for stability, peace, and prosperity in the Nexus.
Koskov: And this phase ended with the Cetagandan withdrawal from Marilac.
Eckstein: Well, the Cetagandans were still able to stir up trouble, but yes, it's fair to call that the end of the expansionist policy, at least for that generation. And yes, that's where Gregor's primary focus shifted to internal policy, and remained for the rest of his reign. Barrayar's galactic interface was stable, by then, and it was time to tackle the move to a true multi-planet empire. It's not quite fair to the Sergyarans, but really, this section is about Komarran integration. Emperor Gregor had Sergyar well in hand the moment he appointed Count and Countess Vorkosigan as Viceroy and Vicereine. But Komarr...
Koskov: Nowadays, of course, Emperor Gregor is a revered figure in the Komarran..."hagiography" seems a bit strong.
Eckstein: You're not too far off, though. Emperor Gregor, Empress Laisa, Counselor Galeni--all of the people who shepherded Komarr from a subjugated world to a truly integrated part of the Empire--are looked upon now as near-mythic figures.
Koskov: This final section of the biography begins with Gregor and Laisa's courtship, doesn't it?
Eckstein: Yes. They met around then; amusingly, Counselor Galeni--who was a mere Captain in Imperial Security at the time--originally escorted Dr. Laisa Toscane to an Imperial reception, which is where the future Imperial couple met. This caused some brief friction between Gregor and Galeni, but it was quickly sorted out--and in fact Commodore Galeni became one of the first to follow in the new trend of cross-planetary marriage, when he married the eldest daughter of one of the Vorkosigan family's closest friends.
Koskov: You spend a lot of time on examples and results of the Imperial policy of integration.
Eckstein: Yes. The appointment of Commodore Galeni as head of Komarran Affairs for Imperial Security was a brilliant stroke. Galeni's history was well known, he was the scion of what had once been a major Komarran clan, the Galens, who had suffered greatly in the Komarran conquest. Galeni's father, Ser Galen, had spent years in exile planning a grand return, before he was confronted on Earth and died resisting apprehension. Appointing Galeni to a major position of trust and responsibility was seen by many Komarrans as a bit of getting their own back. Galeni's loyalty was never questioned, though. He seemed convinced that integration and assimilation was the only way forward for the two worlds, a policy that seems to have been correct.
Koskov: And, of course, that the Imperial line would contain Toscane blood didn't hurt.
Eckstein: Absolutely. There was early criticism in the form of some rather...sexual connotations drawn between Komarr and the new Empress--one line was "Komarr gets screwed again"--but that died down quickly. The Soletta Incident of 3003 was a minor bump in the road; it may have even been a blessing in disguise, as this gave Gregor the leverage he needed to give Komarr an improved soletta array as a "wedding gift." Things steadily got better, culminating in Komarr holding a global day of celebration when Gregor's son, Crown Prince Aral Vorbarra, married Helen Natalia Vorkosigan. To Komarrans, Emperor Gregor II was a closing of the circle. Komarr's favorite son, the half-Komarran Imperial scion--who was even named Aral--marrying the granddaughter of "the Butcher." Of course, I'm jumping ahead, over one of the other most significant incidents--
Koskov: Duv Galeni's appointment as Imperial Counselor.
Eckstein: If Komarr was thrilled to get an ImpSec head of Komarran Affairs who was a native son, his appointment as Viceroy of Komarr had them absolutely ecstatic. I'm told it nearly gave several Conservative Counts apoplexy, but he was eminently qualified and no one could doubt his loyalty. After twenty years of service in ImpSec, Galeni had begun climbing the ranks in the Counselor's staff, and the old Counselor was fading...best of all, Gregor, always the strategist, leveraged the celebration of his son's reaching his majority. No Barrayaran could complain about this when they were busy honoring Aral Vorbarra.
Koskov: Gregor finding ways to create faits accompli culminated, then, in his deathbed decree.
Eckstein: Exactly. Counselor Galeni had been advocating for Komarr to have a place not only in its own affairs, but those of the Imperium at large, and Emperor Gregor was nothing but forward-thinking, looking to the increasing size of the Sergyar colony as well. So, his dying act as Emperor, something nobody could gainsay, was the establishment of the Council of Commons. Of course, like Gregor himself, I don't have to spend any time discussing the workings of the Council. I'll leave that to the biographer of Emperor Aral, just like Gregor left it to Aral himself. Count me lucky.
Koskov: Clever. Thank you for speaking to us, Dr. Eckstein.
Eckstein: My pleasure.
Koskov: Dr. Jenna Eckstein, Let's See What Happens, a biography of Emperor Gregor the Great. Available now. We'll pause for local weather for your region, and after that, Donna Vorrutyer with the "Vorhartung Report," followed by Dr. Etienne Vorsoisson with his biography, The Vorkosigan Saga.
Koskov: And now the "Vorhartung Report." We go, as always, to Donna Vorrutyer. Donna?
Vorrutyer: Hello, Piotr. The Councils are at loggerheads again concerning funding for the next round of Komarran terraforming. The Komarran bloc of the Council of Commons is threatening to filibuster everything that goes through it until the Imperium agrees to shoulder some of the burden of the upcoming transition phase of the work. The various Barrayaran and Sergyaran coalitions range from sympathetic to apathetic, though there is little active opposition, in the Commons anyway. The Conservative wing of the Council of Counts is dead-set against the idea, and even the Progressives are troubled by the price tag. Officially, of course, Emperor Gregor maintains Imperial neutrality, but sources tell me that he thinks the Counts are being shortsighted, and has jokingly bemoaned the fact that he's already married, or he could "just do what my grandfather did."
Vorrutyer: One rumor suggests that the Komarran bloc has considered offering up a trade. The Counts have always been annoyed at the fact that both wormhole resonance mines are administered by Barrayar, finding them expensive to maintain. There are rumors that the newly-authorized resonance mine may be placed in a jump off of Komarran territory, and will be administered--and paid for--by Komarr. There does seem to be some ImpSec pushback on that front, for unknown reasons, but insiders report that the most likely scenario will cut a deal granting the funding in exchange for Komarran administration of the new mine.
Vorrutyer: With the "Vorhartung Report," I'm Donna Vorrutyer, returning later for "Society Pages," and the curious case of Sigur Vormoncreif.
Koskov: Thanks, Donna. Now, we turn to our second interview of the day. Doctor Professor Etienne Vorsoisson is a professor of history at Vorbarr Sultana University, and openly admits that one reason he wrote this biography was his personal connection to the subject: Count Auditor Miles Vorkosigan was his step-grandfather. Professor Vorsiosson, welcome to the show.
Vorsoisson: Thank you for having me, Piotr.
Koskov: Now, you didn't actually grow up in Vorkosigan House, is that correct?
Vorsoisson: Yes and no. My father, Nikolai Vorsoisson, was Count Vorkosigan's stepson, and he had grown up from the age of ten in Vorkosigan House, but he and my mother had their own home in Vorbarr Sultana. He was away for so much of the year, though, and his mother, my grandmother, still lived in Vorkosigan House. My mother and I spent a lot of time there; it became sort of a second home for me.
Koskov: But you didn't have much encounters with Count Vorkosigan himself?
Vorsoisson: Unfortunately, I was fairly young when Count Miles passed away. I think that's part of why I ended up studying him. Though he was gone, I was very much aware of his presence. My grandmother and my various Vorkosigan relatives and their retainers, not to mention the Vorbarr Sultana rumor mills and gossip scenes, told tales of him for years, if not decades, after his death. I eventually decided to look him up in the historical archives, just to have some truth as an antidote to the tall tales. What I found was that the tall tales actually fell short.
Koskov: Which is why you titled this book The Vorkosigan Saga?
Vorsoisson: It was originally going to be titled Forward Momentum, a way that Count Miles often described his particular method of action. But as I read the declassified ImpSec documentation, I realized that this sold it short; the only way to describe Count Miles's life was as a saga.
Koskov: You begin your biography further back than the average. You start with the meeting of Aral Vorkosigan and Cordelia Naismith in the opening moves of the Escobar War, instead of Miles's birth.
Vorsoisson: Well, even more than in a typical biography, what happened to Count Miles's parents before his birth was critical. The political circumstances surrounding their marriage were fundamental to explain Count Miles's infamous soltoxin damage. And I have to admit, I would have taken any excuse to tell the "shopping" story.
Koskov: Of course.
Vorsoisson: Actually, the most interesting part of the biography begins with the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet. This was far and away the most fascinating research, not to mention, getting the ImpSec clearances was a nightmare.
Koskov: Can you talk about that more?
Vorsoisson: Well, I don't want to give too much away, because it's such an enjoyable read, but the short form is that in about 2990, then-Lord Vorkosigan was on a trip to Beta Colony and sort of accidentally created a mercenary fleet. He then ran that fleet for the next thirteen years, posing as a Betan admiral. The Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet, Daring Rescues Our Specialty, operated as a covert arm of Barrayaran Imperial Security during and after that period. You spoke with Doctor Professora Eckstein earlier; her mention of the War of the Hegen Hub and the cat's-paws ImpSec used to curb Cetagandan aggression? Well, their number one cat's-paw was Admiral Miles Naismith and the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet.
Koskov: And he was a Service Lieutenant at the time?
Vorsoisson: Amazingly. ImpSec, of course, wanted to keep this under wraps, but I was able to argue my case that some of the details should be declassified. For one thing, the Dendarii disbanded a few years ago, and the fact that Lord Auditor Miles Naismith Vorkosigan and Admiral Miles Naismith were the same person had become an open secret years prior.
Koskov: Why was it ever a secret at all? It's not as if Lord Vorkosigan faded into a crowd.
Vorsoisson: Well, early on, the details were sufficiently unclear, and Lord Vorkosigan wasn't exactly a famous figure. And then, just when the Cetagandans--this was the period of Cetagandan expansion Professora Eckstein was talking about--started to suspect, well, in came Mark Vorkosigan.
Koskov: Count Miles's clone.
Vorsoisson: Brother. Miles was absolutely precise in that. Since Miles had a Betan mother, after all, and her position on clones was absolutely clear, Miles knew--knew--that Mark was his brother. Even if Mark had been cloned by a group of Komarran terrorists and intended to replace him.
Koskov: But Mark helped his brother instead?
Vorsoisson: Chalk it up to Miles's incredible charisma. Miles and Mark managed to confuse the Cetagandans--if there was one clone, why not more? Word went out that Naismith was also a clone, but that he'd escaped and grew up on Beta. This kept the Cetagandans and everybody else guessing for a long time. Finally the pieces came together. That was the argument that finally convinced ImpSec: it's not like the Cetagandans didn't know, it was far too late to be annoyed at us, and given that Miles was decorated with the highest orders of Cetagandan merit, twice, they should just count their blessings.
Koskov: You couldn't get everything, I note. Including certain details of those two Cetagandan honors.
Vorsoisson: Some details of Count Miles's life are still classified, yes. I made a deal with ImpSec that I would report on the rumors, but would not go into which if any were true, in those sections.
Koskov: We've drifted a little--what happened when "Admiral Naismith" was done?
Vorsoisson: Well, during a Dendarii mission, Lord Vorkosigan ended up badly injured, and frozen in a cryo-chamber. He eventually was revived, but he suffered a form of epilepsy for the rest of his life. He was honorably discharged from ImpSec at age 30, and just as he was at loose ends, he was appointed a temporary Ninth Auditor to investigate ImpSec. The legendary Simon Illyan, Chief of ImpSec, had fallen ill, and there was some debate whether it was natural or artificial causes. Miles managed to unravel the situation, and as a result of his great work, Emperor Gregor the Great appointed him Auditor.
Koskov: Not that his life calmed down at that point. But you also go into his personal life more at this time, as opposed to before.
Vorsoisson: When Miles could be Admiral Naismith, Lord Vorkosigan was something of a nonentity. He didn't really have a life as Miles Vorkosigan until he was Lord Auditor Vorkosigan. And the first case he investigated after his confirmation as a full Auditor was the Soletta Incident, which led to his meeting his future wife, Ekaterin Vorvayne Vorsoisson. My grandmother.
Koskov: You are fairly frank about the suspicious circumstances of your grandfather's death.
Vorsoisson: Yes, and I also discuss the rumors that Vorkosigan had something to do with them. Both my father and my grandmother denied those rumors vehemently, and their word was good enough for me. But besides that, by the time that Lord Vorkosigan and Madame Vorsoisson were engaged, the rumors were squashed. The infamous Butter Bug Dinner, followed by Ekaterin's proposal in front of the entire Council of Counts, were and are Vorkosigan family stories.
Koskov: You continue tracing Lord--then Count--Vorkosigan's life, both personally and professionally, until his young death. He was 57, yes?
Vorsoisson: Between his prenatal soltoxin damage, the cryo-revival epilepsy I mentioned, and a later bout of Cetagandan bio-engineered plague, Count Vorkosigan was sometimes known to say he was amazed he survived as long as he did. But his memory lives on, and in his final days he would often talk about how much Barrayar had changed for the better--especially in its tolerance of genetic engineering and mutation. Since he was frequently mistaken for a "mutie," even though his damage was all teratogenic, not genetic, he was probably in a better position than anyone to appreciate it.
Koskov: Thank you, Professor.
Vorsoisson: Thank you.
Koskov: Doctor Professor Etienne Vorsoisson, Vorbarr Sultana University Department of History, the book is The Vorkosigan Saga. We'll be right back with Donna Vorrutyer and "Society Pages."
Koskov: Now, for our last item of the day, we go once again to Donna Vorrutyer and "Society Pages."
Vorrutyer: Thanks, Piotr. Lord Boris Vormoncrief has been accused in the Council of Commons of improper interference with that Council's operations. According to the charges, Lord Vormoncrief was trying to influence the votes of Nikol Adropolous and Marie Smythe, the two Barrayaran Common Councillors who are citizens of Vormoncrief's District. This is, of course, prohibited quite explicitly; the punishment can range, depending on the nature of the interference. The Lord Guardian of the Speaker's Circle for the Council of Counts is leading the investigation personally, with assistance from the Guardian of the Floor for the Council of Commons. There are rumors that depending on what they find, Emperor Gregor may order a full Imperial Audit of Lord Vormoncrief.
Vorrutyer: Lord Vormoncrief himself claims to be innocent of any charges, but his Conservative Party allies are already distancing themselves from him. Count Vorhalas, whose family have been the ethical backbone of the Conservative Party for several generations, is calling on Lord Vormoncrief to volunteer for an Audit, specifically to clear his name. Vormoncrief has not responded.
Vorrutyer: With "Society Pages," I'm Donna Vorrutyer.
Koskov: And that's our show. You've been listening to The Old Walls, I'm Piotr Koskov. Our recording engineer is Ivan Jonas, our producers are Greg Horowski and Beth Longbonn, and our director is Erik Sherlenn. Thanks from all of us here at Vorbarr Sultana Broadcasting, and we'll see you next time.