After eight years, Bujold brings back beloved series hero Miles Vorkosigan in CryoBurn, an interplanetary adventure involving shady cryonics cartels.

Eight years is a long time. Was Miles lying low for fear of what you might do to him?

The eight-year hiatus was well filled with several other books, in the worlds of Chalion and the Sharing Knife. But I think that mainly the themes of CryoBurn were something I myself was not ready to tackle until now.

For me, writing is more a process of discovering the book than planning it. In fact, Miles shot through what I'd dimly thought was going to be the whole plot of this book by the end of chapter eight. Miles is, by now, a very experienced man and less inclined to waste time than ever. Fortunately, there was plenty more plot where that came from.

There's a very strong theme of mortality in CryoBurn, along with cryogenics as a form of health care. Where did that come from?

I spent my 20s working in patient care at a large university hospital, an experience that has informed all my work and has given me a lot of human observation to draw on. The U.S. health care overhaul, if it's actually allowed to happen, is at least three decades overdue, in my view. Cryonics, of course, is a science fiction staple, but my take on it came in part from some conversations with a fan who was, for a time, working for a company that is actually freezing human bodies here and now, in the hope that someday someone can figure out how to revive them. When not hand-waved in a science fiction tale, this stuff is really emotionally, financially, and legally complicated. I wanted to put some of that real-life feel into the subject, and also explore the demographic implications of cryonics as a staple, as opposed to a fringe technology.

You are very accessible to your fans, both at cons and online. Any regrets?

My feelings are mixed. I wouldn't be human if I didn't enjoy the positive feedback. (I just have to swallow the negative, as with all writers with an ounce of sense and self-preservation.) The Internet gives me both a huge range of human observation, far more than I could have (or want) in real life, and a bottomless time-sink. And energy-sink. I began my writing career in a very isolated place and time. The phrase "It's so noisy in here, I can't even hear myself think!" does apply.

I enjoy cons, but I don't enjoy traveling so much these days. Seems like half my anxiety dreams are about airports. To save myself from becoming exhausted (and subsequently sick, like clockwork), I've had to learn to say "no" to nice people who like me, which is hard.

Also—in my isolated past, trips to SF conventions were the only place I could access other fans, pros, or talk about the business and pleasures of writing. The Net provides a con-in-a-box, 24/7. I've gone from dearth to glut, which involves retooling my whole approach lest I drown in the abundance.