Ms. Bujold is best known for her oddly dashing feudalistic prince Miles Vorkosigan. Though Bujold has written many stories about this fiefdom planet and it’s oddly egalitarian prince, perhaps her best known signature technology is the uterine replicator. The replicator is mentioned as a plot device from the very beginning and its use and development follow a logical path. Its first use is to prevent the death of a fetus in distress. As with actual technology the replicator eventually becomes the preferred method of “bearing children” as they are better cared for, have more complete health monitoring, and gender and traits can be more easily controlled.
Though the technology itself is not often mentioned its impact on her human universe is huge with some planets using it for specific purposes.
Ethan of Athos: is the story of a planet founded on religious principals. The premise is that monks adhering to an unnamed religious order found the planet with the intention of excluding all women due to the temptation that gender poses. The uterine replicator is used to maintain planetary population.
Ceteganda: is the story of a planet populated by both genders, but reproduction is strictly controlled by the ruling council (called the Star Crèche) which is conducting a clandestine genetic experiment extending to its entire population. This program is widely known to the population, but unknown to other human worlds.
Prior Art: though the artificial womb has been suggested as far back as “Brave New World,” Bujold actually gave its development a logical progression and made it a vital device for some plot points in selected stories. She also provided a far more detailed description of the device, even suggesting how blood, amniotic fluid, and other vital components would function.
Ectogenesis (outer growth) is not yet possible, but as an idea has its devoted followers. The problems are reproducing the function of the placenta, passing the proper nutrients to the fetus, creating viable amniotic fluid, and ridding the device of waste. Because this device would represent experimentation on humans, an ethical no-no, plans for such a device are rarely seriously discussed.
Real World Research
In fleshing out the idea Bujold interviewed a number of doctors about the idea. Two responses that struck her as interesting were from a married male doctor who thought it was a marvelous idea and a single male doctor who was firmly against it.