Administering Advice

(Still working on actual posts, but here, have a snippet…)

“One perpetual confusion among external Empire-watchers is the confusion between the Ministries of Throne and State and the Shadow Ministries – for example, between the Ministry of Harmonious Serenity, which is a duly empowered governance instrumentality and enforcer of rights and obligations both fundamental and civil, and the Ministry of Exquisition, which is a private Empire-wide circle of branches self-tasked with the promotion of fabulosity, and whose closest approach to governmental power is its chief executive’s entreé to the Court of Courts.

“It is this latter that gives rise to this designation: the leading figure of a Shadow Ministry is afforded the title of Minister as a praetorian courtesy rank along with their entreé; from this, the designation of such courtier-led associations individually as Ministries and collectively as the Shadow Ministries is a simple matter of back-formation and custom.

“Since everyone moving in such circles as are likely to bring them into contact with the Shadow Ministries or the Court of Courts are comfortably aware of this distinction, it is unlikely that any clarifying changes will be made; one should consult the latest edition of the Registry of the Imperial Service (available for reference at any Imperial Services office or directly from the Ministry of Civic Information1) to determine which type of Ministry you are dealing with.”

– Ten Thousand Parts in Approximate Formation: The Empire from Outside

1. A Ministry of State, underneath the Ministry of the Empire, a Ministry of the Throne.

 

Inspirational Not-My-Art of the Day

feliciaday-3Dprint

Today’s accidentally found art comes via Geek & Sundry’s article: “The Future of Cosplay, Today! Felicia Day Models 3D Printed Armor” (more images and photoshoot video at the link), in which the armor in question was designed by Melissa Ng (link to her work here, and seriously, check it out; it’s well worth it).

Which I post here, apart from the desire to share really awesome stuff, because upon seeing it, well, I could not help but conclude that it’s a work of art precisely in the Eldraeverse idiom.

(Not as armor, technically speaking, there being certain annoying physics-based necessities inherent in protecting one from flechettes travelling at a respectable fraction of c; but for the lady sentinel attending the Court of Courts or another similar formal occasion, it would be perfect.)

And so if those of you with an artistic headcanon could update it accordingly, that’d be shiny. I’ll be over here updating the non-head canon.

 

Trope-a-Day: Requisite Royal Regalia

Requisite Royal Regalia: It comes in four parts, each a pair of items, one for the Emperor and one for the Empress: the Crowns, the Keys, the Seals, and the Swords.

Crowns: There are the official Great Crowns of the Empire, of course, great heavy things in the shape of entwined dragons of five different metals, with eyes of black opal, and pearls and shining iöseraz in their mouths.

Of course, they have the slight disadvantage of being bloody heavy, and so are brought out only on formal occasions, by which I really mean occasions formal even by the standards of the Court of Courts. The rest of the time, the Imperial Couple wear their working crowns, simple braided circlets of platinum and (red) orichalcium.

(It’s the orichalcium that makes it Imperial, of course – while being able to cook the stuff up in alchemic nucleus-rearranging machines these days has brought the price down considerably from the days when it has to be scraped in tiny fragments out of Precursor ruins, and there aren’t any sumptuary laws that would prevent anyone who wanted to from having themselves an orichalcium tiara made, it’s the courtesy of the thing.)

Keys: Possibly the most symbolically important part of the regalia, the Imperial Couple each have a key – as do the President of the Senate and the Ephor President of the Curia, which is to say, the co-equal heads of the Imperial government.

These keys open the locked covers of the master ceremonial copy of the Imperial Charter, penned in exquisitely expensive calligraphy on equally exquisitely expensive pages, which master copy is brought out only when one of the aforementioned notables is being officially crowned, appointed, or otherwise sworn into office by the other two. But most importantly, they signify their function as the primary executors of, and the foremost servants of, the Contract and the Charter.

Seals: Not the privy seals, of course, which the Imperial Couple wear on their fingers like everyone else. This is the Great Seal of the Empire, which comes in two halves, one side each, and is rather larger than most privy seals, by nature of the significance of the thing. (It’s also rather larger than most organizational seals, but then, the Empire’s rather larger than most organizations.) It’s a big chunk of gold, mostly unornamented, and a little worn. It is, after all, a working seal. (And these days incorporates some nifty data-encryption hardware.)

The Seal, however, is not carried by the Imperial Couple themselves – that job belongs to the Imperial Dogs, who wear the halves on chains around their necks when the Seal is not actually in use.

(History does not recall the precise origin of this custom, but knowing Alphas I, it’s a fair bet that it had something to do with the utility of putting the device that could validate all manner of important Imperial documentation in the all-day-and-night personal care of someone who could bite off the hand of anyone who tried to relieve them of it.)

Swords: The Great Swords of the Empire aren’t greatswords, and indeed, are not all that impressive. Simple teirian, one with a wyvern-skin wire-wrapped hilt and one with one of plain leather, and complete with a few nicks and dings that just won’t polish out. That’s because they didn’t start out being symbolic; those are the original working swords of Alphas I and Seledíë III, and both of ’em got more than a little work done in their day.

That’s where they get their symbolic significance from, which probably makes them even more so. (They don’t work much these days, however, although it’s still theoretically possible that they might. They are, however, kept in condition against that possibility.)

(Also, although not royal, the President of the Senate has a large, long-hafted, double-headed axe. It’s sort of like the traditional parliamentary ceremonial mace, except a little more emphatic. Fortunately, since the Guardians of the Senate came into existence along with the Senate, it’s never actually had to be anything more than ceremonial…)

Trope-a-Day: Knighting

Knighting: Somewhat different; the actual title in the Empire is lathlé, which literally means “holder of certain privileges” – and are given out for a rather wider variety of reasons – and depending on exactly why you’re being appointed as one, where you are being so designated, from the Court of Courts to a backwater demesne, the accompanying circumstances, and so forth, the associated ceremonies can range from the full pageantry of a days-long full-Court-of-Courts ceremony to simply being handed the essential part (your letter patent) and told not to screw it up.  No kneeling (see: Pose of Supplication, wince), no swords, and no swearing of loyalty, it being either assumed/already done and thus not needing (and quite rude) to be restated or irrelevant (i.e., you’re being recognized, welcomed to the Exultancy, and given your certain privileges even though you happen to be foreign).

Trope-a-Day: Deadly Decadent Court

Deadly Decadent Court: Half true.  The Court of Courts and its lesser cousins certainly qualify as decadent, inasmuch as (a) those actually involved in the business of government at that level are very generously remunerated in order to (i) remove some of the incentive problems, and (ii) keep up the sort of appearances that make them look like the sort of people you ought to follow, and (b) the Privy Council and other courtiers, even many if by no means all of the entrenotres, tend to be drawn from the Names, Numbers, and Novas, which is to say, the core lineages, plutocrats, and innovative geniuses.  Which is further to say, the most outrageously wealthy segment of an already outrageously wealthy society – and one which never evolved most of our quaint hedonism-is-bad memes.

Not very deadly, though.  That went out when the runér replaced the korásan, whose costly political intriguing and tendency to consider sabotaging and assassinating each other in the course of zero- or negative-sum games thoroughly discredited this sort of thing, so while ambition continues and The Game has been reinvented, most of the competition these days revolves around outdoing each other at deeds which, if not always useful, are at the least not harmful, and flaunting the size of one’s (artistic/scientific/commercial/other) clientele.

Trope-a-Day: Pose of Supplication

Pose of Supplication: Wince.  No, don’t.  Really.

Never kowtow, kneel, genuflect, otherwise grovel, or even bow deeper than, oh, 45 degrees unless you’re about to apologize in the full formal old Japanese sense of the phrase.  Keep your head up and look people in the eye, even for values of people including the Imperial Couple speaking from the Throne.

Remember always that the Imperials make something of a point about being free people, and that the runér, in particular, do not appreciate being confused for the korásan (or other rulers-not-by-unanimous-consent-of-the-citizen-shareholders).  Shows of respect are one thing.  Obeisance, on the other hand, implying submission, is an insult (because it implies that the person in question wants your submission) and not a slight one – at best, it will get you thrown out, unheard.  Especially don’t ever try this at the Court of Courts, because there it would be so great an insult as to entirely impair your chances of leaving the building alive.

(And, yes, that includes in the temples, too.  The eikones are very uninterested in your submission; they only care about your perfection.  That, and the eldrae would have no patience with gods that went around demanding all this groveling and self-abasement; much like the Vikings, they would be inclined to ask what sort of deity doesn’t want followers strong and worthy enough to stand in its presence!)

Shiftsculpture

Opening today at the Anchalate is the final exhibition in the Empire-wide shiftsculpture competition sponsored by the Delphys Academy of the Shaping Arts and the Company of Assemblers and Free-Roaming Nanoengineers.  General admissions will begin at Waterclock-18, after the special exhibition for the Imperial Couple and the attendance of the Throne.

The focus of the exhibition are the five finalists in the competition, now acknowledged as among the best shiftsculptors in the Empire, whose entries will be judged by a panel drawn from the Academy of the Shaping Arts and aesthant members of the Polygnostic Conclave:

Anys Lién-ith-Liés offers us a vision of unity with her statue Everysoph, a marbled bust that shifts continuously and imperceptibly through a range of eigenfaces drawn from many of the species found in Imperial space, finding aesthetically pleasing transition states between them.

<Trenchant Cyan Leitmotif in E> veers into pure abstraction, with Interconnections.  An ever-changing mass of wheels, gears, motors, pistons, bearings, and other machine parts, Interconnections is forever changing its shape and make-up, while the machine entire continues to work in perfect order despite its continual change.  When questioned as to which set of interconnections his work represents – vital, ecological, financial, societal – <Trenchant Cyan Leitmotif in E> simply replies “Yes.”

Stone Garden, an unusual bionano work by the esseli artist GAAATTCCCTGTATATACGACCTT, brings a representation of evolution down to the sophont scale.  In the Stone Garden, individual bionano organisms form and discard different adaptive structures as conditions change, forming symbiotic alliances and engaging in bitter competition to best adapt to the challenges they meet and to produce the next generation best suited to continue.

Stormheight, by Samis Archés-ith-Archiel, shows us a dynamic picture of a realm similar to the battle-halls of Kalasané or Makrekken of the kaeth, depicting a battlefield upon which tiny warriors of liquid metal do battle, being struck down into the bloody morass only to rise again and fight once more, while arcs of lightning crash all about them; a searing depiction of both the horror and the glory of war.

The final piece, an ammonia-ice sculpture by the qucequql artist <ping>-cdeeca-<semiclick>, is titled Time and Chance; illustrating the flow of time and the spread of ripples from a single cause through an endlessly reshaped, endlessly reshaping tree of flowing rivulets within a pyramid of ice, sourced from a single stream falling from above onto the apex.

The ultimate winner, to be announced in one month, will receive the centurial title of Unparalleled Master from the Academy and recognition by the Conclave to the status of Aesthetic Paragon, as well as the generous patronage of the Court of Courts.

In addition to the five finalists’ entries, the top contending works from each of the regional finals will also be on display, making this an unforgettable display of the finest shiftsculpture in the Empire.

– from the Calmiríë Daily Journal