List of Vorkosigan Saga planets
- 1 Athos
- 2 Aslund
- 3 Barrayar
- 4 Beta Colony
- 5 Cetaganda
- 6 Dagoola IV
- 7 Earth
- 8 Escobar
- 9 Jackson's Whole
- 10 Illyrica
- 11 Kibou-Daini/New Hope II
- 12 Kshahtrya
- 13 Komarr
- 14 Marilac
- 15 Pol
- 16 Sergyar
- 17 Tau Verde IV
- 18 Vervain
- 19 Ylla
- 20 External links
A planet with an exclusively male population with is somewhat isolated and remote within the wormhole nexus. The homeworld of Dr. Ethan Urquhart in the novel Ethan of Athos. The population is maintained by obtaining ova from imported human ovaries, combining them with the father's semen, and incubating the resulting fetus in the ubiquitous "uterine replicator" which appears throughout the stories. Naturally only male babies are born. It is the reception of a shipment of bad ovaries that sends Ethan off-planet to find what happened to the proper shipment, and into the center of a plot involving Barrayaran and Cetagandan agents.
Most of the men form permanent or semi-permanent relationships to help in raising children, whose birth must be approved by local committees. Some men (who, it is implied, are strongly heterosexual) cannot enter into such relationships. They variously become "confirmed bachelors", monks of a sort, or simply leave the planet. The planet is named for the Mount Athos in Greece, which is home to monasteries where no women are allowed.
Predominantly agricultural planet connected to the Hegen Hub, which is its only route to the rest of the galaxy. Never seen firsthand in the saga.
A planet with a feudal, military culture. Homeworld of protagonist Miles Vorkosigan. It is an Earth-like planet with a 26.7 hour day, but its native vegetation is inedible, and sometimes dangerous, for humans and Earth-descended life; terraforming is necessary for settlement. Indeed, the settlers' dislike of the vegetation is shown in the choice of names, Bloody Puffweed and Razorgrass being among them. It has two major continents, as well as islands in its oceans. Since there are areas of Arctic-like climate, as well as temperate zones with winter snow, it has to be assumed that there are also polar oceans and/or land masses under icecaps. Geographical diversity is similar to the Earth, with flat plains, high mountains, swamps and river valleys.
Barrayar itself has a very small population relative to many other planets in the universe. The exact number is not mentioned in the novels, but there are known to be 60 Districts, each with a Count in charge, and some districts at least have populations measured in the millions. Thus a total planetary population of 60 to 120 million seems likely. In addition, Barrayaran casualties during the Cetagandan occupation are described as being "about five million", which would be disastrous in a population of 50 million or less. (Compare to Paraguay's losses during the Paraguayan War.) Compare this to Old Earth, with a population in the billions. The original settlement of Barrayar comprised about 50,000 people.
Four languages are spoken in Barrayar: English, French, Russian and Greek, all heavily dialectalized. Greek speakers are somewhat disparaged as "Greekie hicks" by the rest of the population, and they are reputed to be very conservative.
Barrayar's planetary economy is mostly based upon agriculture, though the role of industry has grown since the Cetagandan Invasion. The Barrayaran Empire draws most of its revenue from trade passing through the wormholes in Komarran space. Barrayar's economy is weak by the standards of many other planets. The currency of the planet is the "Barrayaran Imperial Mark", which is worth about one quarter of a Betan dollar, regarded as the hardest currency in the Nexus.
Barrayar is the main planet of the Barrayaran Empire, an Empire with hereditary succession. Its governmental system is largely unwritten, and is largely based on oaths. It is led by an Emperor, with supreme and absolute power. There is also a legislative body known as the Council of Counts, which largely controls the Barrayaran Empire's finances and is somewhat parallel to the traditional British House of Lords. Each member of the 60-man Council of Counts controls a District, or a large-sized slice of the planet. For instance, Count Vorkosigan controls the Vorkosigan District. There is also a Council of Ministers which controls the executive functions of the government, and other formal and informal advisors to the Emperor.
Not much is known at this time about Barrayaran history, but it appears that some time after the first colonists arrived, the wormhole that allowed them contact with the rest of the galaxy closed, isolating them on Barrayar. During the "Time of Isolation," wars were frequent, with the Vor fighting among themselves, until Emperor Dorca the Just united Barrayar under his rule. These centuries of warfare made Barrayaran culture very militaristic, as did the invasion from Cetaganda that occurred about twenty years after the end of the "Time of Isolation." The occupation period continued for around twenty more years, costing about five million Barrayaran lives. After the Cetagandans were defeated, Barrayar was determined not to allow this to happen again, and conquered Komarr, the planet that controlled the only wormhole that allowed access to Barrayar; the Komarrans had accepted bribes from the Cetagandans to allow their invasion fleets to pass through the wormhole. This gave Barrayar a very militaristic reputation in the rest of the civilized galaxy, not unlike Prussia or pre-1945 Japan.
There are four major ethnic groups on Barrayar, descended from Russian, French, English, and Greek forebears, presumably to be found among the original colonists. The Greeks are an explicit minority on Barrayar, and it appears that Russian is the predominate culture, based on the number of Barrayaran cultural aspects that mirror, or are derived from, Russian culture. An example would be the prevalence of Baba Yaga in Barrayaran folklore. However, it appears that English serves as the predominant language, with the three others forming minority tongues. In the novel Brothers in Arms, Miles Vorkosigan is described as switching from his nasal Betan accent, which he affects in order to play the part of the mercenary Admiral Naismith, to the guttural Barrayaran accent when he reports in to the Barrayaran Embassy in London, on Earth, indicating that the primary languages of Beta Colony and Barrayar are the same. Barrayaran writing is described in the novel Cordelia's Honor as consisting of "curlicues", but is apparently Latin-based rather than Cyrillic like Russian. In A Civil Campaign Miles shows Ekaterin Vorsoisson a saddle emblem combing the letters "B" and "K" around the letter "V", symbolizing the union of the names Vorbarra and Vorkosigan in the marriage of Miles' grandfather Piotr to Olivia Vorbarra.
Barrayaran culture is feudal, dominated by a military caste known as the Vor, headed by an Emperor and sixty Counts each governing a district. (On Barrayar the title of Count is derived from accountant, since the original Counts were tax-gatherers.) Counts and their liege-subjects have reciprocal duties and obligations to each other. Members of the Vor class have the syllable "Vor" prepended to the original surname. The original surnames were mostly Russian. The result is somewhat similar to the use of "Von" for the Junker class in Prussia in the 19th century.
The entire setup is not unlike early-Meiji-era Japan, particularly since Barrayar was isolated from the rest of the known galaxy for many centuries, and devolved into a quasi-medieval level of technology. Modernization is proceeding rapidly at the time of the Vorkosigan Saga, but at the price of a great deal of culture shock. While the cities are modern, much of rural Barrayar is still not too different from conditions in the "Time of Isolation."
Barrayarans have many customs inherited from the Time of Isolation, in which the society was agrarian and semi-feudal. Barrayaran Counts take oaths of fealty from the residents of their Districts and their personal bodyguards, known as Armsmen. The oath of a resident is necessarily less formal and personal than that of an Armsman, and may consist simply of signing a document. Thanks to enlightened legislation pushed through by Count Vorkosigan, residents can easily switch their oaths to another District, causing Counts to compete with each other to improve the living conditions of residents. The oath of an Armsman or other Vassal is, necessarily, more formal and direct. It is taken in the same manner as was practiced in Europe during feudalism, with the hands placed between those of the individual administering the oath.
The first-born son in a family inherits any titles and family wealth upon the death of his father, no matter how many older sisters he has. The eldest son is also the legal guardian of his brother's children in the event of the brother's death, a fact which complicates the life of Ekaterin Vorsoisson after the death of her husband Etienne on Komarr. Etienne had no living brothers, so the guardianship went to his cousin Vassily, the nearest male relative of the same generation.
The eldest son is typically given the first name of the paternal grandfather and the first name of the maternal grandfather as a middle name. However, in the case of Miles Vorkosigan his paternal grandfather, Piotr Pierre Vorkosigan, refused to permit this due to Miles Vorkosigan's extreme (POV Barrayaran culture) deformity. The answer was to name Miles after his maternal grandfather (Miles Naismith). The second son, however, also gains a name; this is the middle name of the maternal grandfather followed by the middle name of the paternal grandfather. Thus, the individual brought up as a clone of Miles (and, thus, effectively Mile's identical twin brother) would have a name. According to Miles, "You do have a name! You are Mark Pierre Vorkosigan. Sorry about the 'Pierre'; grandfather always hated it." (Thus, it can be inferred that this enate grandfather's full name was Miles Mark Naismith).
Barrayarans will sacrifice an item in a small fire to memorialize a dead person. The item may be a lock of hair, a memento, or an item specially made. The most important time for this is at a funeral, where the eldest son is expected to light the fire for his father, but Barrayarans may burn an offering for anyone at any time as an act of remembrance, or a personal catharsis. At a funeral, close friends and other family members will add their own items to the pyre. Miles Vorkosigan's sacrifices have included an illuminated copy of his graduation certificate from the Military Academy, for his dead grandfather, General Piotr, a lock of his hair for a baby killed in the backcountry whose murder he investigated, and an offering to one of the victims of the Komarran massacre for which his father is blamed. He also burns offerings for, and talks to, Konstantin Bothari, his childhood bodyguard and surrogate father.
Some Barrayaran families, especially the old Vor, arrange marriages for their children using a go-between known as a Baba. These are old women, and at the highest levels they are professionals who guard their reputations. Ekaterin Vorsoisson's first marriage was arranged this way, although she had the right to refuse Etienne. After Etienne's death she is shocked and elated to receive a proposal which she at first imagines to come from Miles Vorkosigan.
Traditionally after the death of her husband a woman would not entertain suitors for a year. She would signal this by wearing black. Apart from allowing her to recover from being widowed, this was designed to ensure that any child born after the husband's death would be clearly his and not that of any other man.
Significant locations on Barrayar
Vorbarr Sultana: the Capital of Barraryar, and the entire Imperium. A good deal of the story takes place here. Each Count maintains a residence in the city and this is also where the Emperor generally resides.
The Emperor's Official Palace in the city of Vorbarr Sultana. The building's architecture is very new in some parts, yet old in others. This is because as one emperor succeeded the previous, new rooms and wings were built. It features a main ballroom, stables, Imperial quarters, a large courtyard style garden, and a system of secret underground tunnels. The underground tunnels act as an escape route if the building comes under attack.
Vorkosigan House is the official residence of the Vorkosigans when in the city. This is the default residence since the Vorkosigans spend much more time involved in Imperial politics than in District politics. It is a large stone mansion, situated near the Vorbarr Sultana University.
Vorhartung Castle is where the Council of Counts meets, as the main legislative body on Barrayar.
Imperial Security's (otherwise known as ImpSec) headquarters are situated in the middle of Vorbarr Sultana. The building was designed by a paranoid and maniacal architect under the employ of Mad Emperor Yuri. It is described throughout the series as a very ugly building, mostly made of a cement-like substance. However, its design, while ugly, is very effective, and very secure. It is described in the novel Memory as having spaceship grade (or better) air filtration systems and secure water and food supplies.
ImpSec is the branch of the Imperial Military primarily concerned with the security of the emperor and the imperium. Mostly, ImpSec consists of Analysts and Covert Operatives. However, since ImpSec is the Emperor's Last Resort, they can requisition whatever forces they need.
The caravanserai is near the center of the old part of Vorbarr Sultana, and this area used to be a pit of poverty but during the timeline of the series has undergone some (but not much) renovation.
Vorkosigan's District: The District that the Counts Vorkosigan administer, as all Districts on Barrayar, is named after the family surname. There are a few cities and a great multitude of towns and villages in the District, which is largely agricultural and rural. A notable feature of the district is the Dendarii Mountain Range, which was used as a bolthole by Piotr Vorkosigan and a company of soldiers against the invading Cetagandans. During Vordarian's Pretendership, Cordelia Naismith hid in the mountains with Gregor to evade capture and assassination. Miles named the Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet after the mountain range.
Hassadar is the capital of Vorkosigan's District, and contains the administrative offices of the Count's government, as well as higher educational and medical facilities. It became district capital after Cetagandans destroyed former capital Vorkosigan Vashnoi using nuclear bombs. The Count's official Residence in the District is found there, but the Vorkosigans spend more time at Vorkosigan Surleau when in the District.
Vorkosigan Surleau is a small village situated in the Vorkosigan District. The Vorkosigans maintain a summer home nearby, on the shore of The Long Lake. The Vorkosigan home was originally an outlying barracks for a castle dating from the Time of Isolation. That castle is now a burnt out ruin on a headland overlooking the lake.
Silvy Vale is a remote Dendarii Mountain village, and the location of a significant event in Miles Vorkosigan's life, described in The Mountains of Mourning, when he acted as his father's Voice in an infanticide-for-mutation case just after his graduation from the Imperial Service Academy. Profoundly impacted by the experience and the people he met, he returns there from time to time to rest and recuperate.
Kyril Island: An arctic island used as a training base for the military, it is considered the worst posting in the entire Empire. During the long winter night the permanent staff suffer from boredom relieved only by alcohol. In the summer when trainees arrive, the permanent staff scramble to keep the raw recruits alive in an environment consisting of sudden violent storms and tundra bogs that can swallow vehicles whole. Ensign Miles Vorkosigan was posted to the island as Weather Officer after his graduation from the Military Academy. This resulted in his arrest for mutiny and, since he is Vor, treason. Years later Lieutenant Alexi Vormoncrief was posted there as Laundry Officer, as punishment for his activities in Vorbarr Sultana politics, specifically the attempt to smear Miles Vorkosigan for the death of Ekaterin Vorsoisson's husband.
One of the most scientifically advanced planets in the galaxy, despite its inhospitable desert climate. Also, one of the most liberally tolerant and open, as well as egalitarian. Homeworld of Cordelia Naismith Countess Vorkosigan, mother of Miles Vorkosigan. Beta Colony was first created and introduced in "Dreamweaver's Dilemma."
A planet with a culture based on genetic engineering. Center of the eight-planet Cetagandan Empire.
Site of a Cetagandan prisoner of war camp.
Though Earth is highly advanced and heavily populated, it nevertheless does not play an important role in galactic affairs, due to being located in an unstrategic backwater of the wormhole nexus and lacking a unified planetary government. There are hints of catastrophic changes in its history: mutated animals and insects, and greatly elevated sea level, presumably due to global warming.
A wealthy and advanced planet, Escobar is situated somewhere between Sergyar and Beta Colony. Various personal and place names suggest it was founded by a Latin culture. The Barrayaran Empire attempted to invade Escobar in Shards of Honor, with disastrous results. It becomes a regular port of call for the Dendarii fleet in subsequent books for repair and medical treatment. The Durona Research Group, co-owned by Lord Mark Vorkosigan, is based there.
A planet with no government other than the predatory capitalistic "Houses", each led by a "Baron". Much of the population is in "techno-serfdom" to one of the Houses, or ekes out a miserable existence outside of House protection. Everything is done based on what you can pay for, and only "THE DEAL" is sacred. The climate is cold and dry. Homeworld of Mark Pierre Vorkosigan.
Famous shipbuilding planet, also the source of Simon Illyan's artificial memory biochip. Never seen firsthand in the saga.
Kibou-Daini/New Hope II
The setting for the Vorkosigan book, CryoBurn. The inhabitants of this planet freeze their dead in the hopes of one day being able to revive them, causing a demographic imbalance impairing the planet's functions over time. Various personal names and honorifics suggest that the founding culture was Eurasian, and predominantly Japanese. A local Kibou-Daini lad is one of the three viewpoint characters in the book.
Seldom mentioned planet but their mercenaries and special forces are legendary for their discipline; the name appears to derive from that of the Hindu warrior caste.
Discovered centuries prior to the events of the Vorkosigan Saga, Komarr is undergoing a major terraforming project to make the outside air breathable. During this centuries-long program, the Komarrans are confined to domed cities, with controlled air supplies. The outside air is presently far too rich in carbon dioxide. The planet is also very cold, somewhat similar to Mars. At the time of the Vorkosigan saga, the most complicated life form outside the domes is a genetically modified peat moss. There is also a large orbital mirror, which increases amount of sunlight actually hitting the planet. The terraforming program, and the orbital mirror, are major plot points in the book Komarr.
Komarr has strategic importance because its local space contains the single known wormhole into Barrayar, the heart of the Barrayaran Empire. It is also a major trade nexus.
Capital City: Solstice.
Komarr is ruled by the Barrayaran Empire, but has its own dominant class of oligarchs. The planet is divided into a number of equal-sized sectors, with responsibilities for regional government. Komarr is governed by the First Councilor, a position appointed by the Emperor that is equivalent in rank and responsibilities to the Viceroy of Sergyar. The plutocratic and nominal democracy is divided into two types of votes—one person, one vote—and "extra votes" that are granted to any settlers starting a new domed-city. These "extra votes" are inheritable and trade-able on a secondary market. The plutocratic oligarchies control the government by holding these extra votes. This system of extra votes becomes the basis of an attempted invasion by the Kibou-danii to wrest control of Komarr away from the Barrayarran Imperium.
Many large domed metropolis-sized cities.
As Komarr controls at least six important wormhole routes (to Barrayar, Sergyar, Escobar, Pol and Cetaganda, as well as a few other minor jump points), much commerce passes through the system and is taxed. Komarr's economy is dominated by the oligarch families, whose large fleets are sent on trade runs (lasting 5–12 months) to many areas throughout the galaxy, often returning with very large profits.
Barrayaran conquest and strategy
Eighty years prior to the Vorkosigan Saga, Barrayar was invaded by Cetaganda. As the only entrance to Barrayar was through Komarr, the Cetagandan empire bought Komarran cooperation. Cetagandan forces occupied Barrayar for twenty years but were eventually driven out of Barrayaran space. After thirty years of recovery and technological regrowth, Barrayaran forces poured through the wormhole to invade Komarr for three main reasons:
- 1) The Barrayarans wanted to be able to control their own wormhole entrance so Komarr could not again let enemy forces into Barrayaran space.
- 2) The Barrayarans understood that Komarran trade would be very helpful in regaining revenue for the Barrayaran Imperium. Also, this would allow Barrayar to contend with other powerful galactic markets, such as that of Beta Colony, or the Hegen Hub.
- 3) The Vor of Barrayar wanted revenge on Komarr for allowing the powerful Cetagandan invasion force through to Barrayar.
The Barrayaran invasion was successful. Komarr is currently controlled peacefully by Barrayar. A number of Komarrans have reached high rank in the Imperial military, and Emperor Gregor has married Dr Laisa Toscane, member of a Komarran oligarch family.
The Solstice Massacre
After the invasion, 200 prominent citizens, including members of the oligarchy, were held captive by Barrayarans in Solstice, the capital city of Komarr, having been promised safety by Admiral Lord Aral Vorkosigan. In Vorkosigan's absence, the prisoners were all murdered on the orders of his political officer (who had been assigned to Admiral Vorkosigan against his will). In retribution, and to regain his honor, Admiral Vorkosigan killed the political officer with his bare hands. As the suspected perpetrator of the massacre, Vorkosigan was afterward known as the "Butcher of Komarr".
The Solstice Massacre inspired an upsurge in terrorist activity. One of the Komarran terrorist groups would eventually become responsible for the creation of Miles Vorkosigan's clone-brother Mark.
Laisa is a member of the Komarran Oligarchy who marries into the Barrayaran Imperium and bears Emperor Gregor's heirs.
Soletta Array and Technical Rebellion
Following the destruction of the Soletta Array, newly minted Lord Auditor Miles uncovers an attempted rebellion by a group of scientists/engineers who believe they have a way to shut off the wormhole between Komarr and Barrayar.
Attempted governmental overthrow from Kibou-daini
A faction of the Kibou-daini cryocorp WhiteCrys attempts to gain control of Komarr using cryogenics to gradually acquire a majority of votes through cryogenics, the same methods that succeeded in giving the corporations control of the Kibou-daini government. The plot is uncovered by Miles Vorkosigan.
Occupied by the Cetagandan Empire; eventually regained its independence, thanks in part to covert Barrayaran aid. Never seen firsthand in the saga. Marilac goes through all three phases in the course of the series. Pre-invasion, a Marilac ambassador scoffs at the notion of a Cetagandan invasion in one book. The next time we meet Marilac characters, they are POWs and their planet is under occupation. Finally, we learn of Marilac's liberation in the news.
Link from Komarr to the Hegen Hub. Never seen firsthand in the saga.
Sergyar is one of the three planets that comprise the Barrayaran Empire in the Vorkosigan Saga. The other planets are Barrayar and Komarr. The entire planet has been said to be the personal property of Barrayaran Emperor Gregor Vorbarra. It is the newest addition to the Barrayaran empire, and was a previously uninhabited planet with a link from Komarr to Escobar. Only seen firsthand once, well before colonization.
Sergyar was first discovered by Barrayar shortly before the Escobar War. It is the site where Cordelia Naismith and Lord Admiral Aral Vorkosigan first met when her Betan Astronomical Survey ship landed a party to explore and catalogue the planet and its biome, unaware of Barrayar's earlier territorial claims on the planet.
Sergyar is strategically important because it is a link from Komarr to Escobar, and then Beta Colony. This opens up trade in the wormhole nexus significantly for Barrayar. It was the site of massive caches of ordnance and other materiel for Barrayar's abortive attempt to invade and conquer Escobar.
Native life on Sergyar seems to have a general radial symmetry, with most lifeforms having six limbs or appendages. While there are no known native sentient life forms, there is a diverse ecology. Various species mentioned include large predators referred to as 'fuzzy crabs' that hunt in packs, and their 'hexapedal' herbivorous prey - large, six-footed grazing animals.
Smaller creatures, radial in design, seem to fill the ecological niches filled by insects on Earth. There are also mentions of airborne lifeforms, similar in appearance to jellyfish, that float through the atmosphere, supported by gas-filled sacs, that descend from above to leech blood from larger, moribund lifeforms. The gas is mostly hydrogen, and will explode if exposed to fire.
In later books, there are mentions of a Worm Plague on Sergyar; its survivors have puckered, swirling scars on their skin.
According to the naming scheme of Barrayar, the particle "-yar" likely means "planet", "world" or something similar. Thus, Sergyar was named for Crown Prince Serg, the one-time heir apparent to Emperor Ezar Vorbarra and father of now Emperor Gregor Vorbarra. Prince Serg died in the Escobar War.
The seat of its government is a settlement dubbed "Chaos Colony." In the later series, Count Aral and Countess Cordelia Vorkosigan governed Sergyar as Viceroy and Vicereine, respectively, until Aral Vorkosigan's death from a brain aneurysm. A steady flow of immigrants from Barrayar and Komarr have made new homes on Sergyar, many of whom were former residents of the Vorkosigan District.
Tau Verde IV
Its system was the site of Miles's subversion of the Oseran Mercenaries into the Dendarii Mercenaries. The planet itself was never seen firsthand.
One of the planets lying off of the Hegen Hub; briefly invaded by the Cetagandan Empire.
A terrestrial planet with an Earth-like atmosphere and ecology, although the ocean waters and aquatic life are dangerous for humans. It is introduced at the end of Captain Vorpatril's Alliance as the place of temporary exile for Ivan Vorpatril and his new life partner Tej Arqua after the events of the novel. The planet is sparsely populated with small industrial cities in temperate climates and tropical islands, one of which becomes the site of the Barrayaran consulate after Ivan takes over as Senior Military Attache and decides to relocate the consulate from a bleak industrial city to somewhere more to his liking.
The name Ylla may refer to a character in The Martian Chronicles.