Beta Colony is an important planet (although rarely the setting) in Lois McMaster Bujold's science fiction series the Vorkosigan Saga. The planet's biome is almost entirely desert, described as "screaming hot", and the colony itself exists primarily underground. Beta Colony's chief industries are weapons R&D and sex tourism.
The concept of Beta Colony was first created and introduced in "Dreamweaver's Dilemma". The idea was later expanded upon in Shards of Honor when Bujold needed a homeworld for Cordelia Naismith.
Beta Colony is noted for being a remarkably egalitarian state. Betan culture is also well known for its tolerance and liberal attitude towards all varieties of sexuality; a number of practices considered immoral on many other worlds, such as prostitution (in the form of paid sex therapy) and recreational drug use, are legal and accepted on Beta Colony. Beta Colony is also highly advanced, relative to most other planets, in many areas of technology and medicine. Many innovations mentioned in the Vorkosigan Saga originated on Beta Colony. For this reason, Betan dollars are considered one of the most stable and valuable currencies.
Due to its restricted habitats, reproduction is tightly regulated. After a girl has her first menstrual cycle, she receives a contraceptive implant, has her hymen cut, and has her ears pierced; it's considered a coming of age ceremony and a signal of young adulthood. In order to have children, the two prospective "co-parents" must take a course together and pass a number of physical, psychological and economic tests before being issued parents' licenses. Very few families are authorized to have more than two children. Three-fourths of all Betan children are gestated in artificial wombs, although co-parents who prefer to have their children through old-fashioned pregnancy are free to do so. Genetically engineered Hermaphrodites form a significant minority of the Betan population.
As another ramification of Beta Colony's inhospitable climate and underground development, Betans do not have any noteworthy works of architecture, but are very proud of feats of grand interior design and enclosed public spaces, and consider natural materials such as wood to be almost ludicrously extravagant. Cordelia Naismith is astounded that Barrayarans would use an intricate, antique parquet wooden floor as a dance-floor; on Beta, it would have been preserved and safeguarded as a great work of art.
Beta Colony does not have a large military, but what is does have is one of the most technologically advanced in the nexus. Beta Colony is a major arms supplier for other worlds, but they usually only sell weapons that have been made obsolete by their own most recent developments. The civilian Betan Astronomical Survey, which serves a largely exploratory and scientific purpose, also acts as a reserve military force.
Many place names on Beta Colony are derived from geological substances and phenomena, such as the city of Silica and its attendant university. Another notable settlement is the largely hermaphrodite town of Quartz.
- Cordelia Naismith (later Cordelia Vorkosigan) was born on Beta Colony and served in its military until, falsely accused of several crimes, she sought asylum on Aral Vorkosigan's homeworld of Barrayar. They married, and their son Miles Vorkosigan is 5/8 Betan; his paternal great-grandmother was also from Beta Colony.
- Admiral Naismith Miles Vorkosigan has dual citizenship, through his mother, and uses his Betan name of Miles Naismith when with the Dendarii Mercenaries.
- Bel Thorne Betan hermaphrodite who was originally involved with the Dendarii Mercenaries. In the novel Diplomatic Immunity, it has become a Port Master at Graf Station. It was one of the few Dendarii Mercenaries who knew Miles Naismiths's true identity and his relationship with ImpSec. It maintained its relationship with ImpSec even after leaving the Dendarii Mercenaries.
According to the author, Beta Colony was one of the first two colonies founded by Earth, both by American efforts; the other, Alpha Colony, vanished in a manner likened to Roanoke. Shortly thereafter, a world war destroyed much of America and effectively ended their space program, among others. As a result, Beta Colony, with its emphasis on personal freedom and tolerance, technological innovation, economic stability and influence, and racial and cultural diversity, came to hold a place in the political landscape reminiscent of an idealized version of America, specifically California.
- Bujold, Lois McMaster (1996). "Chapter 5". Memory (paperback). Baen. p. 66. ISBN 0-671-87845-X.
- Carl 2008, pp. 285–286, Beta Colony description in "An Old Earther's Guide to the Vorkosigan Universe" by Denise Little.
- Bujold 1995, p. 75, 203, "Dreamweaver's Dilemma".
- Bujold 1996, p. 328, Chapter 10 of "Barrayar".
- Bujold 1996, p. 241, Chapter 3 of "Barrayar".
- Bujold 1996, p. 272, Chapter 5 of "Barrayar".
- Carl 2008, pp. 341–630, "The Vorkosigan Saga Concordance" by Kerrie Hughes, John Helfers, and Ed Burkhead.
- Bujold 1995, p. 222, "Answers".
- Carl 2008, p. 36, "Putting it Together: Live, the Vorkosiverse, and Everything" by Lois McMaster Bujold.
- Bujold, Lois McMaster (1995). Lewis, Suford, ed. Dreamweaver's Dilemma (paperback). NESFA Press. ISBN 0-915368-53-6.
- Bujold, Lois McMaster (1996). Cordelia's Honor (paperback). Baen. ISBN 0-671-87749-6.
- Carl, Lillian Stewart; Helfers, John, eds. (2008). The Vorkosigan Companion (paperback). Baen. ISBN 978-1-4165-5603-9.