Today I am interviewing Arkady Martine, author of the new science fiction novel, A Memory Called Empire, first book in the Teixcalaan series.
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DJ: Hi Arkady! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Arkady Martine: Hi! I’m a writer, a city planner, and a Byzantine historian (kinda in that order). I mostly write speculative fiction, academic articles, and creative nonfiction/reviews & criticism. I’m a New Yorker in that obnoxious way that New Yorkers have of declaring their city the center of the universe, but I’ve lived on three continents so far — highlights are the UK, Turkey, and Sweden — and right now I live and work in Baltimore with my wife, the author Vivian Shaw. I’m obsessed with urban architecture, climate resiliency planning, deserts, and eleventh-century Armenian-Byzantine cultural contacts, and when I’m not writing or working on adapting our cities to climate change, I climb aerial silks (badly), make chocolates (okay), and sing choral and shapenote music (decently.)
DJ: What is A Memory Called Empire about?
Arkady: It’s about empire and assimilation, and technology that makes people maybe-immortal, and how falling in love with a culture that’s eating your culture alive is a thing that really happens to people. Also it’s a big, sprawling political thriller. In space.
DJ: What were some of your influences A Memory Called Empire and the series?
Arkady: The book is in a lot of ways the fictional version of what I did a postdoctoral project on at Uppsala University in Sweden. My research there was about the contacts between Byzantium and the ‘eastern frontier’, particularly Armenia, during the eleventh century – and how those contacts were remembered, represented, and narrativized by the people who lived through them. The project was very much about borderlands as trauma spaces, about history and memory as narrative repairs to a wounded sense-of-the-world. This book came out of that project, and a lot of previous research into the history of imperialism, its methods and horrors and seductions.
I’m also highly influenced by CJ Cherryh’s Foreigner books, particularly the first six books (which, to me, form the heart of the arc of the series). Cherryh’s diplomat-embedded-in-an-alien-culture, dealing with assimilatory and existential pressures in a time of political crisis, Bren Cameron, is a direct ancestor of my Mahit Dzmare. Continue reading