As a literary Long Runner, The Vorkosigan Saga has managed to not only provide funny moments, but got funnier as the series went along, primarily because of the reader's then familiarity with all of the characters and their motivations.
[The novels are presented in internal chronological order.]
- From Falling Free:
- Bannerji: What are you doing with that, Dr. Yei?
Dr. Yei: Applying psychology. (Whacks Van Atta on the back of his head with a wrench.)
Bannerji: Dr. Yei, if you're trying to knock a man out you've got to hit him a lot harder than that.
Dr. Yei: I didn't want to risk killing him...
Bannerji: Why not?
- Also, the reason she gave for borrowing the wrench in the first place: "To adjust an attitude."
- Cordelia accidentally setting her hair on fire.
- Cordelia is in a cell when the ship she's on is attacked, and the artificial gravity cuts out along with the lights. After getting turned around, she finds a corner and huddle there until it's over or the ship goes down. The ship does not go down. She, on the other hand...Then the ship groaned about her, and the lights came back on.
Oh hell, she thought, this is the ceiling.
- Later, when she escapes Beta Colony, she bluffs her way onto a ship claiming she's on a secret mission. When asked why she's wearing slippers, she says, essentially, "Uh... it's classified."
- Not that Cordelia finds it funny, but the Barrayaran doctor Comically Missing the Point after she's just surgically given birth, hiked across a good amount of countryside while on the run from an enemy faction that wants to kill her and her family, her feet bloody, still scarred from her surgery, and severely malnourished and dehydrated. His advice?"Have you considered starting an exercise program, Lady Vorkosigan?"
- The novel also uses Cordelia's "Shopping Trip" as the basis for a Running Gag about her coming home with severed heads. When Ekaterin suggests to Miles that they go shopping. Miles can only quip, "That's an offer seldom made to the son of my mother..." Later, Jole brings it up to Cordelia, and she firmly retorts that she brought one body part back from a trip once and people have never stopped bringing it up.
- During a mostly dramatic scene, Bothari talks about his childhood, raised by his abusive prostitute mother. Cordelia explains that Licensed Practicing Sexual Therapists on Beta Colony are considered providing a personal service on the level of a hairdresser, and are required to have a degree in psychology. Leading to the line:Bothari: Only on Beta Colony does a whore need a bloody university degree.
- Tung accuses "Admiral Naismith" of having delusions of grandeur, causing Miles to Spit Take:Tung: Who do you think you are? Lord Vorkosigan? note
- Arde Mayhew's horrified realization that Miles' almost manic energy was his normal state, and not the result of the stimulant drink the two had been sharing. This is magnified by the fact that Elena, who knew Miles from infancy, did not notice anything odd about his behavior when chugging amphetamines for days on end save for a degree of insomnia.
- During his recounting of the Tau Verde War at the end of The Warrior's Apprentice, Miles pauses to take some antacid. His father borrows the flask and takes a hearty swig himself. One gets the impression that this will not be the last time that Miles will cause this reaction...
- Miles has been tasered into unconsciousness by cops and sold onto an indentured servant ship in the middle of a mission far from Barrayar. he has a variety of exciting hallucinations. Then he comes to and sees his foster brother, Gregor, on the same ship with him:
- A face wavered into view. A familiar face.
"Gregor! Am I glad to see you," Miles burbled inanely. He felt his burning eyes widen. His hands shot out to clench Gregor's shirt, a pale blue prisoner's smock. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"It's a Long Story."
- Emperor Gregor's cover name, probably reflecting his mood: Greg Bleakman.
- Elena reacting to Miles' bluffing:"Damn," said Elena in a hushed voice. "If I didn't know you, I'd think you were Mad Yuri's understudy. The look on your face... am I reading too much into all that innuendo, or did you in fact just connive to assassinate Gregor in one breath, offer to cuckold him in the next, accuse your father of homosexuality, suggest a patricidal plot against him, and league yourself with Cavilo what are you going to do for an encore?""Depends on the straight lines. I can hardly wait to find out," Miles panted.
- Miles suffering from an outbreak of limericks in the middle of an official poetry-recitation ceremony, and suppressing an impulse to run down into the middle of the ceremony to try to out the traitor Hamlet-style.A Degtiar empress named Lisbet
Trapped a satrap lord neatly in his net
Enticed into treason
For all the wrong reasons,
He'll soon have a crash with his kismet
A beautiful lady named Rian
Hypnotized a Vor scion
The little defective
Thinks he's a detective
But instead will be fed to the lion.
- During the Dénouement, we have Ivan's exasperation over Miles nearly getting himself killed. Again.Ivan: The last thing Aunt Cordelia said to me before we left was, "And try to keep him out of trouble, Ivan."
Miles could hear Countess Vorkosigan's weary, exasperated cadences quite precisely in Ivan's parody.
- Miles is off on another Miles-brained scheme with Ivan in tow and skirting dangerously near to the perpetrators who will kill to keep their secret. Ivan is, as usual, worrying about the consequences of Miles' latest madness.Miles: I may be panicking prematurely.
Ivan: I don't think so. I think you're panicking post-maturely. In fact, if you were panicking any later it would be practically posthumously. I've been panicking for days..
- A couple of drunk Dendarii get into trouble (take over a liquor shop and bluff that they have the place rigged to blow), and Miles has to switch into Naismith mode to get them out. Not funny for Miles, but hilarious for readers as:
Miles: Think of the London police not as your enemies, but as your dearest friends. They are, you know. Because until they get done with you, I can't start.
- Miles asks why they bluffed about a bomb and one says that it seemed like the sort of thing Naismith would do. Miles notes glumly that the soldier is too observant.
- Miles explains to his less-than-sober troops that this is not a combat situation and as such, they're going to surrender quietly and cooperate fully with the police.
- By-the-book officer Duv Galeni gets Lieutenant Vorkosigan and Admiral Naismith dropped on him with no warning and, finding Miles' dual identity a little baffling and alarming, accuses him of schizophrenia.Miles: I am not schizoid. (pause of consideration) A little manic-depressive, maybe.
Duv: (dryly) Know thyself.
Miles: We try, sir.
- When Miles sees his clone substitute, his first thought is Well, I always was my own worst enemy.
- Miles suffering from an outbreak of Richard The Third on fast forward after being doped to the eyeballs with fast-penta, followed by him vomiting then passing out.Duv: (after an hour of hands over his ears until Miles' unusual reaction runs down) What was that?
Miles: The play or the drug?
Duv: I recognize the play. What was the drug?
Duv: That is not fast-penta.
- When Cordelia buys Mark a ship to head to Jackson's Whole to rescue Miles, Simon - who thinks Mark may try to make sure Miles comes back a corpse - starts arguing with her. Cordelia expertly crushes every one of his statements, essentially saying, "Well, if you think that's true, maybe you should find Miles first?" When Simon hangs up, Cordelia is Genre Savvy enough to know who will be calling in a few moments. She's unsurprised when Emperor Gregor calls her; he bemusedly tells her not to rile up Simon so much (before he lets Mark have his rescue attempt.) Later, Mark tells Miles he missed watching Cordelia thoroughly "annihilate" The Dreaded Spymaster Illyan.
- Mark is quick to point out that his parents gave his older brother a whole fleet to play with!
- Miles's attempt to be a yes-man for Emperor Gregor, which consists of him answering everything with "Yes, Sire," until Gregor (who is, fortunately, also Miles's foster brother) tells him to stop.
- Miles' debut as Imperial Auditor is worth several chuckles.
- When Gregor sees Miles for the first time following a major epiphany, Miles is decked out in his house uniform and all of the medals he's earned over the years. Gregor's immediate action is a choked, "Good God."
- When Ivan finds out:Ivan: (indicating the elaborate gold chain and seal around Miles' neck) My God. Is that real?
Miles: You want to try to peel off the foil wrapping and eat the chocolate inside?
- As Miles arrives at ImpSec headquarters:Miles: (to the gate guards) Good afternoon, gentlemen. Please get on your comconsole and tell General Haroche that the Imperial Auditor is here. I request and require him to meet me in person at his front gate. Now.Guard: Aren't you the same fellow we threw out of here this morning?
Miles: Not exactly, no. Note, please, that I am not trying to enter your premises. I have no intention of throwing you into the dilemma of trying to choose whether to disobey a direct order, or else commit an act of treason. But I do know it takes approximately four minutes to physically get from the Chief's office to the front gate. At that point, your troubles will be over.
(Four minutes, twenty-nine seconds elapse.)
Miles: Good afternoon, General.
Haroche: Vorkosigan. I told you not to come back here.
Miles: Try again.
Haroche: (staring at the Auditor's chain and seal) That can't be real.
Miles: The penalty for counterfeiting an Imperial Auditor's credentials is death.
Haroche: (voice cracking) My Lord Auditor.
- Shortly afterwards in Haroche's office, Haroche comments on Miles' Bling of War:Haroche: (somewhat plaintively) Vorkosigan, tell me is that really a Cetagandan Order of Merit?
Haroche: And the rest of it?
Miles: I didn't clean out my father's desk drawer, if that's what you're asking. Everything here is accounted for, in my classified files. You may be one of the few men on the planet who doesn't have to take my word for it.
- To understand why Haroche was so intimidated, understand that for a junior Barrayaran officer (actually, ex-Barrayaran officer by this point) to have a Cetagandan Order of Merit would be like a junior US officer having a Hero of the Soviet Union award.
- And then, later on, Miles and Illyan take a boat out fishing. When they are unsuccessful, they decide to use a stunner rejiggered into an improvised bomb. (In Komarr, Miles ponders on waiting for inspiration, and how it is less like hunting and more like fishing. Then he remembers the last time he went fishing.)
- Simon had earlier voiced suspicions about the piscine population of the lake:Simon: Do you suppose all the fish in your lake have been stolen?
Miles: They'd have to catch 'em first.
- Ivan noting how Miles obliterated Haroche's resolve encapsulates their entire relationship:Ivan: Watching you become the Little Admiral at him was worth the price of admission, though.
Miles: (startled) What?
Ivan: Wasn't it on purpose? You're acting just like you do when you play Admiral Naismith, except without the Betan accent. Full tilt forward, no inhibitions, innocent bystanders scramble for their lives. I suppose you'll say terror is good for me, clears the arteries or something.
Miles: Do you consider yourself an innocent bystander?
Ivan: (sighs) God knows I try to be.
- Gregor going awooing Big Beautiful Woman Komarran shipping heir Laisa. His tactics include planning a luncheon four days in advance, and having the ideal horse for Laisa to ride flown in from three districts over. Miles's snarky internal commentary implies that the horse is doped up to prevent it from acting out and ruining the show, the animal itself was shampooed to within an inch of its life before Gregor let it anywhere near Laisa, and the Emperor is possibly using the excuse of giving her a boost into the saddle to cop a feel.
- Ivan reflecting on Simon Illyan's only secret vice, so to speak:They had somehow got on to just what Illyan did and did not recall or miss from his memory chip, at which point Ivan had learned just where the largest and most arcane pornography collection on Barrayar had been secreted...
It's not as if I acquired most of it on purpose, Illyan had protested. But the damned chip didn't allow me to delete anything, whether I picked it up inadvertently or in a moment of bad mood or bad judgment or bad company, and then I was stuck with it forever. Or in the line of work, oh, God, those were the worst. Do you have any idea how many truly appalling surveillance vids I had to review in forty years...?
- Miles intrudes on the convalescent Simon Illyan sharing breakfast with a startlingly deshabille Lady Alys in his bedroom and completely fails to draw the obvious conclusion — possibly because he thinks of them as 'Aunt' and 'Uncle'. Or maybe because neither is at all embarrassed. Even funnier is when the penny finally drops as he watches the couple dance several evenings later.
- Good God. Illyan is sleeping with my aunt.
- And then later, Ivan's reaction to his mother's new...paramour:Miles: You don't need to bellow.
Ivan: I am not bellowing. I'm being firm.
Miles: Could you please be firm at a lower volume?
Ivan: No. Simon Illyan is sleeping with my mother, and it's your fault!
- Miles and Aral's encounter at the end of the book, when Miles points out that he has acquired one of the few titles (Imperial Auditor) that his father never did, and that neither had any of their ancestors.Miles: I'm unprecedented!
Aral: This is not news, Miles.
- Illyan's list of the motivations of men: "Money, power, sex... and elephants." And the explanation that followed about a difficult diplomat who tried to stymie Emperor Gregor with the demand of an elephant — and how shocked and delighted he was when ImpSec managed to import one from Earth just for him.
- Miles and Ekaterin have fallen into a pond when Miles tries to have a Take My Hand moment and utterly fails (due to his small size):Ekaterin: (faintly) Oh, drat.
Miles: (mildly, after a meditative pause) Madame Vorsoisson, has it ever occurred to you that you may be just a touch oversocialized?
- When Tien's creditors call Ekaterin, Miles blithely jumps into the call and forwards them to ImpSec to get rid of them.Ekaterin: Now, was that nice?
- The novel has the secondary title of "A Comedy of Manners and Biology" for a reason. For starters, what the Shopping Trip from Barrayar is to Awesome, the Dinner Party from A Civil Campaign is to Funny.
- "Mother, father, I'd like to introduce you to — she's getting away!"
- "Here, buggy buggy..."Aral: Now...that cries out for an explanation.
- Particularly when the guests start to leave:Lord Dono: Thank you, Lord Vorkosigan, for a most memorable evening.
Aral: Who was that? Looks familiar somehow...note
- And then...Cordelia: Pym! I seconded you to look after Miles. Would you care to explain this scene?
Pym: (after a thoughtful pause) No, Milady.
- As Miles retreats in utter disarray:Aral: Miles, are you drunk?
Miles: Not yet, sir. Not nearly enough yet.
- Mark's line following Miles talking in oddly analytical praise of Ekaterin:Mark: I wasn't questioning her fitness. That was merely a random noise of surprise.
- In fact, both Mark and later Cordelia both remark that Miles made Ekaterin sound like a horse, not a potential partner, whilst at one point when discussing her new employer with her relatives Ekaterin herself notes with some embarrassment that she sounds like someone defending buying a horse against veterinary advice.
- A popular character-defining moment for Miles, when Simon Illyan visits Ekaterin a few days after the Party:Simon: Do you know all those old folk tales where the count tries to get rid of his only daughter's unsuitable suitor by giving him three impossible tasks?
Simon: Don't ever try that with Miles. Just... don't.
- Ivan bludgeoning his way through Miles' guards to deliver a list of chores from Lady Vorpatril.Ivan: My strength is great because my cause is just. My mother has sent me a list of chores for you as long as my arm. With footnotes.
Miles: Your determination is relentless because you're more afraid of your mother than you are of my guardsmen.
Ivan: So are you. So are your guardsmen.
- "Who in the world could [Nikki] be calling on the comconsole?"note
- Followed shortly by the reaction to the Imperial Security fast-reaction squad showing up at the front door."Who did he call?"
- Gregor getting rid of Ekaterin's Abhorrent Admirer by mildly sending him away where he can be "less busy". His casual wrecking of Vormoncrief's life makes it funny. His order provides the page quote for the Literature tab of the trope.Gregor: Gerard, take a note. This is the third time this month that the busy Lieutenant Vormoncrief has come to my negative attention in matters touching political concerns. Remind Us to find him a post somewhere in the Empire where he may be less busy.
- Followed shortly by the reaction to the Imperial Security fast-reaction squad showing up at the front door.
- Richars attempting to repeat the slander that Miles killed Ekaterin's husband so that she would be forced to marry him. Ekaterin begins to engage him. The speaker then objects to the chaos, but Aral gives him a signal that Miles interprets as "No, no. Let him hang himself." Ekaterin then proposes to Miles, and after Miles stumblingly accepts, she gives one last middle finger to Richars with a single word: "Twit." Ivan, whose POV the reader follows during the entire scene, is grinning like a loon during the entire exchange.
- Ekaterin and Gregor's ironic, outlandish solution to a subplot that's mentioned twice in the entire book. She proposes the solution, he makes it an Imperial Decree.
- Miles: We want to be out of the chamber before he reaches the second page.
(From inside the chamber a few moments later): DOWRIES! A hundred and eighteen dowries!
- Miles grandstanding as he resolves the problem with Dr. Borgos' extradition to Escobar.
- Kareen Koudelka wondering why her parents are so uncomfortable with the presence of an old sofa in Lady Vorkosigan's study:Kareen's Thoughts: They looked like nothing so much as two guilty teenagers caught... hm. Like two guilty teenagers caught screwing on the living room couch, actually.
- Lord Dono, nee Lady Donna, discovers how much it hurts to get kicked in the balls.
- Ivan is always trying to reassure himself that the problems that arise around him aren't his fault or responsibility, which makes it a Funny Moment in A Civil Campaign when Dono informs him that had he married him while he was still Lady Donna, all of the Vorrutyer succession issues would have been moot. He tells Ivan, "Yes, it's all your fault." Ivan steams that Dono knows him way too well.
- There's a Running Gag surrounding Lord Midnight, a horse that the fifth Count Vortala managed to make his official heir after the Count had a massive falling out with his own son. As Aral says, "claimed the horse was just as bright and had never betrayed him..." This being Barrayar, it isn't just an amusing historical anecdote but sets an actual legal precedent; it means Counts are able to chose their own heirs who aren't necessarily related to them by blood, rather than the eldest son or the closest male relative automatically inheriting. At one point, two of Miles' friends are using the case of Lord Midnight to either hold on to their title or claim it from a less worthy candidate, as are the antagonists. As history professor Duv Galeni notes, the ruling can swing in favor of both parties; when Miles asks Galeni about precedent for the situation he's in, the usually quiet and serious Galeni immediately responds, "Lord Midnight the horse, who always voted 'neigh.'"
- The opening scene, where Miles is looking at "baby pictures" of Aral and Helen in their replicators. The only problem is, Miles is basically watching his sperm go into his wife's egg, which manages to be simultaneously heartwarming, hilarious, and just a little bit creepy.Ekaterin: Ah, admiring your sperm again, I see.
Miles: And your excellent egg, my lady!
- The reunion of Miles and Bel Thorne in Diplomatic Immunity is quite amusing, as for the benefit of the onlookers, both of them have to casually pretend they don't know each other; after all, Bel worked with Admiral Miles Naismith for a number of years, but has never met Lord Miles Vorkosigan. Bel thoroughly enjoys Trolling Miles during the exchange.
- Miles being forced to explain to the quaddies that no, the fact that he's referred to as speaking with the Emperor's Voice doesn't mean the Barrayarans think Emperor Gregor's voice is literally coming out of Miles's mouth.
- The Running Gag of "What the hell, Simon?", culminating in one from Gregor himself. You have to wonder if Gregor secretly enjoyed the opportunity to be sarcastic behind closed doors with Illyan — Illyan sure thinks he did.
- The entirety of Ivan and Tej's Citizenship Marriage.
Ivan: I, Ivan Xav Vorpatril, being of sound mind and body-
- "Unhand Lady Vorpatril!"
- Moments beforehand (as Immigration, the local cops, and the landlord are trying to get past the barricaded apartment door):
By: That's for wills, Ivan. I thought you said you knew this stuff?
Ivan: Do take thee, uh... what did you say your name was, again?
By: *buries his face in his hands*
Ivan: I am not a Fate Worse than Death, dammit!
- Byerly pecking Tej on the cheek en route to the door is a brief, but brilliant, detail.
- A couple of minutes before that, Tej is weighing the desirability of marrying Ivan vs. jumping out of the window...
- And a couple of minutes before that, when Ivan's superior is insistently trying to call his wristcom and is not taking no for an answer, Ivan flings said wristcom into the fridge to get it to shut up.
- Later, when Tej describes the circumstances of her Citizenship Marriage with Ivan to Miles and Gregor, Miles tries his very very best not to laugh, instead making some funny noises and crinkling his eyes. Ivan is not amused, telling him to stop laughing when he's not actually laughing.
- Gregor is confused when Ivan relates throwing his combadge into the fridge when Desplains was calling. Miles assured Gregor it makes perfect sense.
- When Ivan goes to Count Falco Vorpatril to get out of his emergency marriage of convenience with Tej:Falco: Do either of you accuse the other of adultery?
Ivan: There's hardly been time, sir!
Admiral Desplains: May I ask why, if Lady Alys Vorpatril wishes to know what is going on in her only son's life, she applies to me and not to you?
- Even better, when Falco asks Tej if Ivan's been... less than satisfactory in bed, Tej resorts to open praise of Ivan's bedroom abilities in a Barrayaran court. Falco murmurs, "Lucky man". Later, Ivan gets a card from a female lawyer, who tells him to call her after his marriage has been dissolved.
- When Ivan, Tej and Rish are trying to come up with a way to get divorced, adultery is brought up. Ivan is against the idea of Tej sleeping with By, and especially at the idea of him sleeping with By; Rish expresses a definite interest in the latter pairing. When a foursome is broached, Ivan finally retorts no one is sleeping with By (save Rish). Then there's Tej's "No. Just... No" Reaction to the idea of her sleeping with Illyan.
- Also, this:
Ivan Vorpatril: Experience?
- The book has a whopper of one at the climax. Beginning with, "Guy...has ImpSec HQ always been sort of... tilted up on one side?", and ending with Simon's total failure to disguise his glee at learning that ImpSec HQ will have to be replaced.
- It's followed by Mark buying the former ImpSec HQ and turning it into a tourist trap. Ivan chuckles at how obvious it is that Miles is completely flabbergasted and upset at Mark, but can't say a word about it and is resorting to strained snarking.
- And made even funnier by the brief summary of the events in the novel in the timeline at the end of the book: "ImpSec Headquarters suffers a problem with moles."
- Miles finds a Barrayaran official who has had enough of his behavior:Miles: My case budget allows for a lot of discretion, you know.
Vorlynkin: Then I wish you'd buy some!
- After Roic saves the day stunning a hostage-taker at point-blank.Leiber: You're pretty free with that thing.
Roic: It's all right. I have a license to stun.
Leiber: I thought that was supposed to be a license to kill.
Roic: That, too. But you would not believe all the forms that have to be filled out, afterward.
- Jole tells Cordelia a story about the late Count Vorkosigan: After the Hegen Hub War, the one Cetagandan diplomat kept sending flowery diplomatic notes to him, each anointed with up to a dozen scents, each of which had a hidden meaning, which generally combined to be an elaborate Stealth Insult. After a while, Aral got sick of it, took the latest note to the bathroom, added his own scent, and had Jole return it. Jole enjoyed watching all the blood drain from the diplomat's face when he received it. Afterward, the diplomat was permanently replaced and the Cetagandans sent a new one who was interested in hashing out a peace treaty.Cordelia: (thinking) Pissed off, indeed.
- Cordelia revealed that one of the slanderous rumors about her was her sleeping with Alys. She scoffs that naturally it was untrue, but at least that rumor gave her the virtue of having good taste.
- The GURPS Source Book gets one, at least to those who have already gotten to know and love Miles, in the elegant simplicity with which they sum up his personality in a single aside. They recommend not having Miles Vorkosigan as an NPC. Why not?If you include him, he'll try to take over the plot from the PCs. If he doesn't try to take over the plot, you're not doing him right.
- Bujold cites this exact problem when describing the writing process for Captain Vorpatril's Alliance: the only way to keep Miles from taking over Ivan's book was to send Ivan to another planet. Naturally, when Ivan gets home, Miles calls him — and while Ivan tries to ignore him, Miles uses his Imperial Auditor code to override being placed on hold, then forces Ivan and Tej to meet him and Gregor. Bujold also found another way to stymie Miles: have Aunt Alys forbid him. When Ivan worries about Miles crashing the Arqua/Vorpatril dinner party, she tells him she's quite capable of controlling her invite list. Not even Miles dares offend Vorbarr Sultana's Grand Dame (and his mother's Best Friend).