Science fantasy worldbuilding in Phoenix 5: Exotic technology

Exotic Technology

Introduction

One of the most exciting parts in science-fantasy is coming across some complex piece of alien technology, or an ancient artefact of unknown power. Describing something completely incomprehensible by our standards can be challenging, but it’s these concepts that really add colour to the world. 

In Phoenix, the ‘Astrolabe’ is a device integral to the storyline. Let’s see how it is first introduced.

It was a thick black disc, blacker than black, like a chunk of outer space. It was made from some kind of metal that looked like it had fallen from the sky. It felt cool to the touch, and though it was as big as both his hands cupped together, it was very comfortable to hold.

There were no words on it. But around its circumference were faint markings, intricate patterns. Twelve symbols, like a long-forgotten alphabet, carved into the black.

He couldn’t take his eyes off them. He didn’t recognize them, but just looking at them made his skin tingle. They looked ancient. They looked mystical. They looked almost alive.

And within this circle of symbols lay other, smaller circles. A series of dials, like wheels within wheels, tracing elegant arcs and crescents, describing a geometry as precise as it was mysterious.

PhoenixS.F. SaidSource

This description communicates that the device is complex, mysterious, somewhat magical and completely alien.

Being artfully vague

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