Re-Release: Ep052 – A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

Re-Release: A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine

The 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novel, A Memory Called Empire is Arkady Martine’s debut novel of interstellar intrigue. In this episode we dive into the characteristic that this book excel at: worldbuilding.

Book Discussion

  • Worldbuilding: The strength of this book. Direct and passive worldbuilding are well-balanced to paint a picture of the interstellar empire, the culture of the court, and the strong contrast between Mahit, the main character, and the ever-expanding empire. Passive worldbuilding, the showing more than telling, for example shows up in the names of the characters (Three Seagrass, Six Direction), the poetry contest. Direct worldbuilding, the telling, for example appears when the Imago devise is described.
  • Epigraph structure of passive worldbuilding, where the beginning of each chapter begins with an excerpt of a history book or report from a
  • Exceptional usage of the magic key, the object or resource the main character possesses that plays a pivotal role in the plot of the story. The magic key of A Memory Called Empire is Mahit’s imago device, a device that allows Mahit to obtain the memories of her predecessor. The imago plays the role as the magic key as it is common to Mahit’s culture, and also is the reason for the death of her predecessor and why the emperor put off choosing a proper successor.
  • Setting: Settings react. A Memory Called Empire has a powder keg set up, and Mahit moves through the world as the powder keg explodes. An important aspect of conflict and plot is to set the story within a powder keg, which means to have the story set with multiple type of conflict occurring: political, economic, geological, geographic, etc.
  • Other topics discussed on:
    • Pacing: speed and tonal whiplash.
    • Physical vs Intrigue conflict.
    • Character depth.
    • What makes a story award winning?