Post by David Johnston Post by James Nicoll
Barrayar (Cordelia Vorkosigan, book 2) by Lois McMaster Bujold
It's worth bearing in mind that Beta is the Federation and Barrayar is
the Klingons. Also it's not so much that Cordelia was unaware of Betan
therapeutic practices as that they were bending the hell out of the
relevant laws in a spasm of wartime mentality.
I think we should start by dealing with any fictional universe on its own terms as a self-consistent world, at least until it is clear that it can only be understood as a pale copy of e.g. Star Trek. I think the Vorkosiverse passes this test with flying colours. To the extent that Beta colony is inspired by anything, from my admittedly far away point of view I have always viewed it as an extrapolation of west coast American liberalism/progressivism. I think Star Trek is too much of a moving target - the clearest view of civilian Star Trek life is the TNG "communism works!" line, which I can't believe is what Roddenberry originally had in mind.
Most of what comes to mind about any Beta Colony underclass comes from books other than "Barrayar" - as the title would suggest. In "The Warrior's Apprentice" when Jesek is living off goldfish he is told
"all you have to do is report to a Shelter and get Carded, and you can have all the protein slices you want - any flavor, clean and fresh from the vats. Nobody has to eat a dead animal on this planet, really"
I'm pretty sure that somewhere they say that the equivalent of internet access is a human right on Beta Colony - so I guess if I could move to Beta Colony I could sustain myself indefinitely living on the free food, reading their equivalent of Project Gutenberg, and posting to rec.arts.sf.written. Of course, if I became a public nuisance I might also be in Beta Colony therapy indefinitely - as referred to in Shards of Honor, I think, where Cordelia says if she was a public defender all of her clients would be in therapy indefinitely.