Jonathan’s “On the Opening Vignette” is so fresh and smart that the only response is to turn it into a contest: who can write the best opening vignette of their own. To keep things from getting out of hand, let’s run it only once a century.
Here’s my opening submission:
It was a dark, stormy night. The Qianlong Emperor © looked up, his brow furrowed with idle concern, his hand clutching the Imperial Red Brush. What could these Barbarians have in mind? No matter. Tonight he would dine with He Shen, his favorite enunuch. Minor matters could wait.
Can you do better? Of course!