Dreamweaver’s Dilemma

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Lois McMaster Bujold’s novels mix space-opera adventure with sharp character delineation and future twists in bioengineering. They have won a wide audience as well as multiple Hugo and Nebula prizes. DREAMWEAVER’S DILEMMA: SHORT STORIES AND ESSAYS shows where some of their ideas come from and provides a glimpse into Bujold’s development as a writer.

The three short stories are tales of neighborhood life gone askew. Garage sales, potholes, and overwhelmed moms take unexpected turns here, probably echoing the author’s frustration as an unemployed housewife stuck in Marion, Ohio. This period of her life was creatively important, as it forced a choice between boredom and a serious commitment to writing. Fortunately, she chose the latter.

The novella “The Lady on the Embankment” comes from an even earlier time, written just after the author had completed college. It is a Sherlock Holmes pastiche—in science fiction terms, a fan— fiction story. “Dreamweaver’s Dilemma,” another novella, is a suspense story set on a future Earth. Anias, the dreamweaver, falls into danger and a moral dilemma when she takes a lucrative commission to custom-dream a violent scenario.

“The Mountains of Mourning” previously appeared in ANALOG magazine and in THE BORDERS OF INFINITY. The most polished and intricate of the fiction in this volume, it follows Bujold’s hero Miles Vorkosigan on an unwanted mission from his father. Miles goes into Barrayar’s backcountry to discover and punish the murderer of a deformed baby. The assignment reawakens his own vulnerabilities, but he uses his mind and bravado to solve the problems, as he does so successfully in his later adventures.

The essays include Bujold’s views on the reader’s part in fiction-building and on future biotechnology. In an interview transcript, she tells why she has always been “called” to science fiction. There are also supplemental features, including a map of the Hegen Hub Wormhole region (in her novel’s universe) and timelines and a genealogy for the same series.