NPR

Questions For Arkady Martine, Author Of 'A Memory Called Empire'

City planner and Byzantine historian Arkady Martine puts her academic experience to work in a new novel about an ambassador from a small space station who comes to the court of a devouring empire.
Source: Tor Books

Before she was a novelist (and occasional NPR contributor), Arkady Martine was a Byzantine historian and an apprentice city planner — and that expertise is on display in her new book A Memory Called Empire. It's the story of an ambassador from a small, independent space station on the edge of a huge, devouring galactic empire, who arrives in the imperial capital and is almost immediately launched on a wild ride of intrigue, courtly manners, poetry and plotting.

Martine's Teixcalaanli Empire has overtones of Byzantium and the Aztecs, among other cultures. "I wanted to think about empires that were conquest-oriented, that were war-and-sacrifice oriented, and that led me to the Mexica — the Triple Alliance of the Aztecs," she tells me in an email conversation. "The world of Teixcalaan isn't Byzantium, and it isn't the Mexica, and it isn't any of the other cultures I added in, but I wanted to look outside of what I knew best, see what other imperial structures with a universalizing we-are-the-center-of-the-world ideology

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