Take Five with China Mieville, Author, “Embassytown”


China Miéville is the contributor for this week’s Take Five, a regular series where we ask authors and editors to share five facts about their latest books. Miéville is the author of Embassytown, available now.

In the far future, humans have colonized a distant planet, home to the enigmatic Ariekei, sentient beings famed for a language unique in the universe, one that only a few altered human ambassadors can speak.

Avice Benner Cho, a human colonist, has returned to Embassytown after years of deep-space adventure. She cannot speak the Ariekei tongue, but she is an indelible part of it, having long ago been made a figure of speech, a living simile in their language.

When distant political machinations deliver a new ambassador to Arieka, the fragile equilibrium between humans and aliens is violently upset. Catastrophe looms, and Avice is torn between competing loyalties—to a husband she no longer loves, to a system she no longer trusts, and to her place in a language she cannot speak yet speaks through her.

China Miéville:

1) The aliens of Embassytown are based on aliens I came up with when I was 11. I still have the school exercise book in which I wrote what I suppose is the first draft of Embassytown, 27 years ago.

2) The second draft I wrote about 8 years after that. It was a short story. I either never quite got it together to submit it to Interzone, or they rejected it. I can’t remember.

3) Embassytown contains a homage-by-inversion to Ursula le Guin. The Embassytown universe was conceived of as a thoroughly ‘ansible‘-less one, where communications are excruciatingly slow.

4) In the second draft of Embassytown, the city contained a room the windows of which were two sheets of glass a fraction of an inch apart, with water and freshwater fish swimming between them.

5) One of the imaginary creatures in the book was not imagined up by me.