Charles C. Mann is a correspondent for Science and The Atlantic Monthly, and has co-written several previous books including Noah's Choice: The Future of Endangered Species and The Second Creation. A three-time National Magazine Award finalist, he has won awards from the American Bar Association, the Margaret Sanger Foundation, the American Institute of Physics, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, among others. In 2005 his book 1491: New Revelation of the Americas Before Columbus was released and in 2011, 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. His writing was selected for The Best American Science Writing 2003 and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2003. He lives with his wife and their children in Amherst, Massachusetts.
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A Conversation with Charles C. Mann
Although this book had its origins in an Atlantic Monthly cover story,
what was it that first drew you to the subject?
Two things, I think. More than twenty years ago, I wrote an article for Science (I'm a correspondent for the journal's news division) that involved going to the Yucatan peninsula. I visited some of the Maya ruins there and like so many other people was absolutely fascinated. I'd just spent two years living in Rome, and I was struck by how much more extensivebut equally finely builtthe Maya ruins were. I also was astonished by how different the aesthetic system wasthe vertiginous staircases, the corbel arches, the huge reliefs, etc.
This dovetailed with something else. The summer before seventh grade, my parents moved from the suburbs of Detroit to the Pacific Northwest, an area where the presence of Native Americans seemed much more evident. I was fascinated by the idea that very different peoples had lived in the area in the not too distant past, and that their descendants were still living nearby. But it wasn't until I got to Yucatan that the penny dropped and I grasped, really and truly, that when Columbus ...
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