FIVE THINGS FROM HISTORY THAT INSPIRED THE WORLD OF
EMPIRE OF SILENCE
Those ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it, they say. Well I say those not-ignorant about history are doomed to borrow from it. I have been an avid student of history all my life, thanks to my father’s good influence and my having the good fortune to grow up in an era when the History Channel still knew what its own name meant. (Not that I have anything against Ancient Aliens, but would it kill them to make one documentary about the Byzantines?) Though I sometimes struggle to remember what I discussed in the morning come the end of the day, I have an annoying habit of subjecting my friends and family to stories about how the Spanish city of Zaragoza derives from the Latin “Caesaraugusta” and dates back to the first century BC; or how it seems the Terracotta Army of Emperor Qin Shi Huang may have been built with the help of Greek sculptors; or about how Charlemagne was penpals with the Caliph Harun al-Rashid (who once sent the Holy Roman Emperor an elephant). They’ve since learned to tolerate my ramblings, for which I’m grateful.
The world of Empire of Silence shows history repeating itself in small ways, though the overarching plot isn’t based on any historical event. The Sollan Empire is by its nature deliberately reactionary and traditionalist, with humanity having organized itself into a feudal hierarchy after an ancient war against artificial intelligence.
1. THE IMPERIAL CHANTRY DRAWS ON THE QING LEGAL SYSTEM AND THE SPANISH INQUISITION
More accurately, the Chantry is part Qing legal system and part the English-speaking world’s impression of the Catholic Church. The Chantry functions as a religious institution, but also as the Sollan Empire’s judicial system, prosecuting civil cases in addition to investigating religious crimes (most typically the possession or use of illegal technologies). In carrying out this judicial function, the Chantry’s inquisitors carry out surgical mutilations according to a strict index of appropriate punishments inspired by the practice of judicial torture during China’s Qing Dynasty, where magistrates were given full authority to torture those convicted of a crime or even in the pursuit of that conviction. Similar practices were carried out throughout the Byzantine Empire, where it was common practice to mutilate beaten political rivals in order to permanently delegitimize them in the eyes of the public.
Of course, the most famous case of a religion using techniques of systematic torture on heretics is the Spanish Inquisition, though the truth of the events are badly exaggerated and distorted by centuries of both the British and American wars against the Catholic Spanish Empire. Many of the horrors commonly associated with the Inquisition—such as the iron maiden—were never used, and most of the horror attributed to that violent, anticolonialist chapter in Spain’s history instead has its roots in wartime propaganda from the Spanish-American War and the struggles between Spain and Britain. However exaggerated the accounts of the Spanish Inquisition were, they remain excellent fodder for stories.
2. ROMAN GLADIATORS WERE PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES
Many people (not you, of course) still believe that Roman gladiators were all slaves and prisoners made to fight to the death and kill one another for the amusement of the Roman public. Certainly, many slaves and prisoners did fight to the death, or were killed by lions or tigers or bears, but the gladiators themselves were superstars. Training a proper gladiator was an investment of time and money, and while some gladiators were slaves, very many were freedmen or even citizens sponsored and paid to fight. And since gladiators were such a big investment, it would hardly do to go killing them left and right for the amusement of the commons. Rather, gladiators were superstars, and Romans would debate whether a secutor-style Gladiator could beat a retiarius, or vice versa—and with the same fervor of today’s baseball fans comparing stats. In the Sollan Empire, gladiators are similarly treated as celebrities, and only ever fight in smart armor that locks up as they take damage. But the Sollan peasants like a good death every now and then, and so the professional gladiators will often square off against the myrmidons—a combination of paid volunteer fighters and prisoners. The myrmidons don’t have the luxury of high tech armor, either. They might triumph by locking up their enemy’s armor, but make no mistake: for the myrmidon pit fighters, it’s do or die.
3. HADRIAN IS IN PART MODELED ON LORD BYRON
To say the English poet Lord Byron cuts a unique figure is to undervalue the term. Born with a club foot and a chip on his shoulder, he forced himself to ride horses and learned to box and swim. Something of a rebel without a cause, he fought for Greek Independence and died of fever at age 36 attempting to liberate that country from the Ottomans. Himself a nobleman, he resented rank. He was prone to sullen rages and thoughts of revenge, but was eminently likable and charismatic at the same time. He was also prone to racking up large debts and leaving behind jilted lovers and bastard children, and it’s often said that Ruthven, the main character of John Polidori’s The Vampyre, was based in no small part on Byron, who was Polidori’s friend. My hero, Hadrian, lacks Byron’s club foot and philandering habits (he’s also not a vampire, I’m sorry to say), but like Byron he’s someone not at home with himself. Like Byron, he puts little stock in the position he was born to—though he is happy to take advantage of the position when it’s useful. Like Byron, he despises authority: He’s a bit manic, and more than a bit melodramatic. He shares Byron’s love of ancient cultures and literature, and is an artist himself. Byron himself became the archetype of the so-called “Byronic Hero,” which features many of these traits, but when I started Empire of Silence it was that limping, half-mad poet I first thought of, not knowing that the man had already made himself a meme.
4. ARRANGED MARRIAGE IS A THING AGAIN
In order to secure alliances between houses, the genetically augmented noble class in the Sollan Empire has taken to arranging marriages once again. As in medieval Europe and elsewhere, both sons and daughters are married away where it is convenient for the families in question. But because the noble class tends to use gestation tanks to grow their children, these marriages are little more than contracts, and many noble couples—like their ancient and medieval counterparts—rarely even see one another. Moreover, these couples may be male/female, male/male, or female/female, regardless of the preferences of the two getting married—it all depends on what is convenient for the allied families. Because of this, most houses do not rest the criteria for inheritance on a child’s sex or birth order, but choose their heirs based on individual merit (as did the first four of the Five Good Emperors—including Hadrian—until Marcus Aurelius ruined everything for everyone).
5. THE SCHOLIASTS WERE INSPIRED BY THE EARLY CHRISTIANS...AND WERNHER VON BRAUN
My father grew up during the heyday of the Apollo program (sorry to age you, dad), and when I was little he would regale me with stories about the astronauts and the scientists who made it all possible. An engineer himself, he would tell me stories about Wernher von Braun, the Nazi-turned-NASA engineer who designed the Saturn V rocket that took us to the Moon. As a boy, the idea of this brilliant scientist changing sides after the war seemed very compelling. The scholiasts in Hadrian’s world are a set of monastic scientists who serve the Sollan Empire’s feudal lords. Like von Braun, their order began with technicians captured from the defeated Mericanii—the totalitarian system the Empire overthrew at its founding. Stripped of their reliance on machines, the scholiasts cultivated a series of mnemonics and learning techniques that help them serve as de facto replacements for computers in a world where artificial intelligence is banned. Science fiction fans will recognize echoes of Frank Herbert’s mentats in this, but this is where the early Christianity comes in. The scholiasts’ principle concern is the regulation of emotion and bias. The writings of early Christian fathers, like Origen and Evagrius, are similarly interested in banishing such passions. Evagrius in particular believed that such passions obstructed the faithful’s relationship with God. (His teachings, it should be noted, passed on through writers like Maximus the Confessor and Cassian before arriving with Pope St. Gregory the Great, who codified these passions as the Seven Deadly Sins). In a similar fashion, the scholiasts believe that their human senses and desires cloud their relationship to objective truth, and—like the early Christians and the Stoics who preceded them—they practice extreme self-restraint in order to strip away bias, desire, and subjectivity. Like Christian monks, they also preserve the literature and traditions of Earth’s Golden Age in massive libraries, such as the one on the planet Colchis where Hadrian is said to have left his diary (which begins with Empire of Silence), and like those early Christians preserved Latin well after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the scholiasts still use today’s English, even though the common language of the Sollan Empire is a pidgin of English, Hindi, and German (which I am not talented enough a linguist to have created much of).
Christopher Ruocchio is a debut novelist writing in the tradition of Dune and The Book of the New Sun. He is an editorial assistant working for a US publishing house, and lives in North Carolina, USA. You can learn more by following @TheRuocchio on twitter.
BookNest has once again the honor to be one of the 10 Judges on this year's SPFBO. As a matter of fact, we were so excited that we ended up buying some cosplay costumes. From now on, whenever we judge a book we will be dressed like this:
In a previous post on our Facebook Group, I announced that Dyrk Ashton, a fan favorite of our community, and Rob J. Hayes, the winner of last year's SPFBO, will join the BookNest.eu team for the first round of this year's contest. In this post I'll introduce the rest members of our team, and how things will go down on our side.
Our initial batch of 30 books has been split into 6 groups of 5 books each. Dyrk Ashton and Rob J. Hayes will join our very own Michael McLendon, C.T. Phipps and Katerina Papasotiriou, as well as the guest Lynn Kempner (Grimmedian). Each one of them will read the 5 books assigned to them, review all of them (*without* rating them) and pick the best one among them, which will proceed to the second phase of the 1st round as a Semi-Finalist. That's right, you understood correctly - we will review all 30 books assigned to us! I (Petros) will then proceed to read all 6 semi-finalists and pick the best one among them to be our Finalist in the 2nd round of the SPFBO.
In the second round I'll be joined by Rita Sloan to read and review the Finalists of the other 9 Judges.
Here's the aforementioned groups, and the Judges assigned to them:
Best of luck to all of you,
The BookNest.eu Team
A typical night might find me in front of the television watching a movie with my husband. If I got to pick the movies all the time, they’d be horror movies. While my husband has nothing against them, he gets tired of watching the “same old thing” all the time. (His words, not mine.) Not me, though. I could watch horror every night of the week and then some. I love the effects, the suspense, the tension (no matter how manufactured it is), and the experience as a whole. I love not knowing what I’m in for every time I choose a new movie. I love investigating the new mythos a horror movie presents to me, still operating within a framework we all understand, but putting its own spin on it. But I never used to.
Hello, I’m Jesse Teller, author of The Manhunters series. This is a dark fantasy trilogy that works as a great introduction to my world and to future books that will be written in it. It’s an exciting tale that is part adventure, part romance, and part crime story. I’ve loaded this series with twists, turns, and pitfalls, and other unexpected things, that will keep you guessing and laughing, at times crying, but always enjoying the journey The Manhunters take for justice in the land of Perilisc.
I’m here to reveal the cover of CROWN, the third and final book of this trilogy. Here’s a recap of the series so far.
Some of the darkest minds in Perilisc attacked Mending Keep, releasing all its prisoners. Despite his strained relationship with the crown, Rayph Ivoryfist calls old friends to his aid in a subversive attempt to protect King Nardoc and thwart terrorist plots to ruin the Festival of Blossoms. But someone else is targeting Rayph, and even his fellow Manhunters might not be enough to save him. [BOOKNEST.EU REVIEW]
The busiest pirate bay in Perilisc is newly infested with vampires. These monsters will soon overrun the world, but the Manhunters must try to stop them in secret. Agents of the king are hunting Rayph’s vigilante crew. With one false step, they could all end up at a royal execution.
And without further delay, the cover for book three, set to release October 5th this year.
CROWN (The Manhunters Book Three)
Brody Bedlam, immortal source of chaos, has taken over the crime network of the oldest city in the nation, holding the mayor in his pocket and the citizens in fear. Rayph and his Manhunters move to usurp him, but the street war brings casualties Rayph cannot justify. With his crew unraveling and pressure mounting from the unsatisfied king, will this mission be Rayph’s end?
The stunning covers were created by Seedlings Design Studio. What a fantastic job! This is a breathtaking trilogy, and you won’t have to wait long for its completion. This is a world you don’t want to miss.
Praise for The Manhunters:
“Teller’s world is stunning in its complexity.” —M. L. Spencer, Bestselling Author of The Rhenwars Saga
“Action, adventure, conflict upon conflict and larger-than-life beings make this another fabulous read that is pure reading bliss for everyone!” —Dii Bylo, Tome Tender Book Blog
“A very surreal and mythical feel to it that’s something unique to itself.” —The Weatherwax Report
“Teller truly understands how human relationships work, and I was impressed with how well-written these many relationships were developed.” —Forever Lost in Literature
“I think this is one of those book series that will just get better with multiple readings.” —Uncaged Book Reviews
“Jesse Teller has created a convincing world and populated it with characters that are endearing and relatable.” —Readers’ Favorite
Jesse Teller fell in love with fantasy when he was five years old and played his first game of Dungeons & Dragons. The game gave him the ability to create stories and characters from a young age. He started consuming fantasy in every form and, by nine, was obsessed with the genre. As a young adult, he knew he wanted to make his life about fantasy. From exploring the relationship between man and woman, to studying the qualities of a leader or a tyrant, Jesse Teller uses his stories and settings to study real-world themes and issues.
Hi everyone, Petrik from Booknest here. Today I’m bringing you an interview with author R.F. Kuang, whose upcoming debut novel, The Poppy War, completely blew me away. I truly believe this book will end up being not only the best debut of the year, but possibly of all time.
To celebrate the release of The Empire of Ashes (The Draconis Memoria #3) by Anthony Ryan, one of my favorite series and authors respectively, I'm holding an International Deluxe Giveaway in which I offer all of his books (hardcovers) in one lucky winner! That's right, all you have to do is write a simple comment (make sure to include your email so we will be able to contact you) and you could win 6 brand new hardcovers! To make it even better, I'll also select 2 winners to get a 'The Empire of Ashes' hardcover from people who have shared our giveaway on Facebook and retweeted it on Twitter, so make sure you share and retweet for two extra chances to win!
The lucky winners will be selected and announced on July 2, 2018 (one day before the book's release) and the books will be shipped out the next day!
Epic Fantasy filled to the brim with Grimdark Reality
If one looks too long into the abyss, the abyss looks back. Drangar Ralgon has been avoiding the abyss's gaze for far too long and now he turns to face it. For a hundred years the young kingdom of Danastaer has thrived in peace. Now their northern neighbor, mighty Chanastardh, has begun a cunning invasion. Thrust into events far beyond his control, the mercenary Drangar Ralgon flees his solitary life as a shepherd to evade the coming war and take responsibility for his crimes.
In Dunthiochagh, Danastaer's oldest city, the holy warrior Kildanor uncovers the enemy's plans for invasion.
As ancient forces reach forth to shape the world once more, the sorceress Ealisaid wakes from a century of hibernation only to realize the Dunthiochagh she knew is no more. Magic, believed long gone, returns, and with it comes an elven wizard sent to recover a dangerous secret.
SHATTERED DREAMS is a rich, layered high fantasy, the beginning of an epic that will be well worth following for years to come. Looming menace, thoughtful world-building; a winner! --Ed Greenwood (NYTimes bestselling fantasy writer)
To celebrate the paperback release of Arm of the Sphinx on March 13, 2018 (US) and March 15, 2018 (UK), we are giving away four different paperback sets (Senlin Ascends & Arm of the Sphinx) to four lucky winners! Two winners will be chosen from the comments on this post (simply make a comment and you're in), and the other two will be chosen on our facebook post, where a like counts for 1 entry, a comment for 5 entries, and a share for 10 entries.
The winners will be chosen and announced on Friday 16, 2018. Good luck!
The Lucky Winners are:
Richard McDonald (comment)
Eric Davis (comment)
Alex John (Facebook like)
Md Fharman (Facebook like)
If you are one of the comment winners, send us an email via the contact form using the same email you used to make your comment. If you're one of the facebook winners, contact us on our fb page. Everyone else, better luck next time!