Orbs of Pondering

An older model Spherecomm™. Note the attachment at its base.

A popular fad of the 2200s and 2300s was the Spherecomm™, a portable communications terminal in the form of a light, hand-held crystal ball. Most of the time, the Spherecomm™ provides the same functionality as any terminal, using a special interface designed to make use of the “infinite, omnidirectional scrolling” provided by its spherical screen, and to allow manipulation with all four fingers and the thumb while the Spherecomm™ is held in the palm of the hand; however, with a quick mode-switch, the Spherecomm™ can instead use its internal volume as a fully functional volumetric display, suitable for both trinet and trivision reception as well as other trigraphic applications.

Early versions of the Spherecomm™ required an attached base (as seen in the picture at right) to house the power supply and associated electronics. While also functional as a stand to hold the Spherecomm™ at rest and prevent it from rolling away, this proved unpopular in use, and interface designers lamented the loss of the ability to treat rotation of the device as a meaningful gesture.

Fortunately, technology was soon to provide alternatives, with the power supply being reduced to a minimal size and located in the center of the Spherecomm™, with light being refracted around it – rendering it invisible – as a function of the device body’s crystalline structure. Meanwhile, the addition of low-power ionic/magnetohydrodynamic thrust to the Spherecomm™ casing allowed it to keep itself upright when set down, and as a small and light device, even suspend itself in mid-air for group viewing, or to follow its owner while in use – the forerunner of today’s commonplace docuspheres and conversation balls.

While the Spherecomm™ fashion eventually came to an end in favor of ring terminals and other jewelry-cased designs, and of free-space volumetric displays, the devices themselves never entirely passed out of use. Is it time for a revival of the form factor?

I think so.

Our Old Inspirations, Your Novel Ideas (1Q 3025 edition)

Heaven’s Ash

Rising above the surrounding hills and forests like mountains in their own right, the grandest emanations of Syjéral and the greatest of the kami serving the daughters of Sylithandríël are the lórréra, the World Trees.

Far above any dryad, naiad, or lesser emanation, the scattered handful of lórréra work together with the mechal elementals produced and commanded by the dweomerbergs to manage the planetary ecology.

A massive, mountain-sized tree with a blue glow hovering around its branches.

The World Trees, like the lesser dryads, are trees at heart, albeit unusually large and healthy ones, optimized to produce through their natural processes the energy needed to support their other functions. Each of the lórréra is, beneath the bark, an unthinkably complex biocomputer composed of complex arrays and meshes of lignoneurons laid down within the xylem. This system and its animating intelligence are sufficient to model in real-time a complete picture of the lands, woods, and waters around the lórréra, and make such adjustments as the model calls for to maintain stability.

The lórréra exist in a world of continuous communication. They exist as major relays within the same delicate electromagnetic tapestry as the other mechal elementals, with metallic deposits embedded in their lignoneuron-stived xylem serving as their antennae, of course, but more subtly they are participants in the complex web of ecological communication around them. In this, the obvious bluelife bioluminescence is the least part; the intertwining roots and rhizomes of a mature lórréra can cover half a continent, and in doing so, touch all the life thereupon with chemical signals of breathtaking subtlety.

Is it any wonder, then, that we, too, should have learned to communicate with them, and they with us? While thaumaturgical lore – the knowledge of the mechal elementals and the art of reading and commanding them – remains well documented, there remain only fragments of its origins, and that of much other ecological and silvicultural lore – in the shamanic practices of the Emergence, going back into the Gloaming, when eldrae first learned to underhear the electromagnetic whispers of the World Trees, and to attempt deeper communion with nature by crude pagan rituals involving the consumption of their sweet, nanite-rich sap.

(It is also from fragments dating from the Emergence that we have the tale of one Sárvis, called “the Ill-Wit”, who commanded the tribe of which he was king to fell one of the World Trees that he might build for himself “a hall like none other that ever was, or ever would be.” Upon attempting this, his tribe were plagued by ills “as if all the spirits of nature rose against them”, until Sárvis pledged himself to be slain among the branches of the offended lórréra to appease its wrath. The surviving fragments do not record the success or failure of this gambit, or whether or not his people survived.

None have attempted to repeat such grand folly in all the centuries since.)

– A History of Nature’s Artifice and the Thaumaturgy of Machines,
Enneagram Press

Father One-Punch

While little but myth remains about Evéris Vennistál, the life-bound bodyguard of Loran Camríäd, Théarch of the Deeping at the time of the foundation of the Empire, one tangible artifact passed down through the modern era is his signet ring. While appearing to be a massive piece in solid gold, as befits Vennistál’s background as an eminent itinerant of Kalasané, the ring later known as Evéris’s Final Argument was fashioned of practical gilded steel: well-suited for the purpose to which he put it in legend, that of felling those who sought to dispute matters in ill-pleasingly informal ways with a single blow, leaving behind it only the sygaldry of the one who defeated them.

Artifacts of the Early Imperial Era, University of Calmiríë

At Arm’s Length

comprador: A native contract supplier for one or more interstellar corporations abroad. Usually subordinate to the responsible factor.

In Imperial trade parlance in particular, the term comprador refers to both the title of the native contracts corporation and the executive operating it. Such a native contracts corporation functions as an interfacer writ large, acting to bridge the divide between the freewheeling contractual culture of the Empire and the Accord on Trade simply interpreted, and the various aids and incidents demanded by local regulators. Such is often particularly necessary in the sphere of employment relations, the Empire never having institutionalized the concept, placing the comprador in a position akin to that of a financial institution performing maturity transformation: transforming short-term money-for-task contracts from the interstellars into long-term employment on local terms.

This naturally transfers risk from the interstellars (the “Clean Hands”, in a cynical borrowing from the ISS jargon term) to the comprador, and it is by its skill in negotiating and, where necessary, manipulating both local regulations and transeconomic arbitrage that the success of a comprador may be judged. Such transformation is generally to the economic disadvantage of local hires, who receive less total remuneration for their performance and upon less favorable terms than direct contract would have permitted – a fact which is considered one of the many sad ironies associated with operating in emerging markets.

– A Core Economic Dictionary, Aurum Press (6900)