You are hereGlitter Interstitials
What follows is a series of news articles that appeared before the first several chapters of Glitter, as world-building interstitials. They were removed early in the editorial process, but contain quite a few clues to future events...
The Governor of Central California sought federal aid today after the Department of Food and Agriculture confirmed Norwegian Blight in wheat crops across the state. The Blight—named for its destruction of Norway’s modest rye crops in 2022—has been blamed for food riots in the Middle East and economic tension in the European Union and Asia. This is its first confirmed appearance in the western hemisphere.
The announcement comes at an inconvenient time for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which only last week defended existing trade regulations as “sufficient” to safeguard American crops. The administration’s remarks were likely prompted by Dr. Lydia Williams of Johns Hopkins University, the research scientist who recently predicted that Norwegian Blight would appear in the United States within the year. Her peer-reviewed models show over three-quarters of grain crops on all six habited continents at imminent risk of destruction, with global famine to follow by 2025—something never before experienced in the United States.
Whether Dr. Williams’ dire predictions of rationing and starvation will come to pass remains to be seen, but the consumer price index is already on the rise as the meat and dairy industries brace for a sharp increase in the cost of feed. The Renewable Fuels Association, a trade consortium of ethanol manufacturers, has also announced a $25 million bounty for an effective treatment of Norwegian Blight, which has thus far proven impervious to known fungicides.
Fox News, USA
18 March 2023
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, and my fellow Americans:
Throughout its history, our great nation has conquered threats large and small—threats to our peace, to our prosperity, and to our freedom. Some of these threats came from other nations, while others came from within our borders. Some were global in scope, others, strictly domestic. American blood and American toil has preserved us, time and again, to our great benefit and often to the benefit of the world.
Once again the world finds itself enmeshed in crisis. But this is not a crisis we can overcome with military might. It is not a conflict we can win with economic or cultural pressure. The enemy is not an aggressive nation seeking expansion or a fundamentalist ideologue making threats. It cannot be pacified with words or concessions of any kind, and it relentlessly pursues not only the extinction of the United States of America, but the extinction of humankind.
In scarcely more than a year, the Norwegian Blight has transformed America from the breadbasket of the world to a nation on the brink of famine. Just ten years ago we exported almost 80 million metric tons of grain to feed the world; last year that number was less than 2 million, and if present trends continue it’s unlikely any grain-exporting countries will be left in the world by the end of the year. This creates serious problems for food manufacturers and meat producers alike, raising prices in our urban centers and devastating rural economies. We had hoped that, with the emergency funding Congress so generously approved, American research universities and corporations would find a robust solution, but though remarkable progress has been made, it remains far from adequate.
Fortunately, we were not entirely unprepared for this eventuality. Under my direction, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been encouraging American farmers to shift production to fruits and vegetables unaffected by the blight, with special focus on potato crops. But such large-scale change takes time and training. In the interest of stretching our resources as far as possible and preventing mass starvation, effective immediately, I am declaring a state of emergency during which the USDA, with the assistance of FEMA and American armed forces, will oversee food rationing across the country …
Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union
Washington D.C., U.S.A.
30 January 2024
Today, Sonoma Agriculture Inc. (NASDAQ: SNMA) filed for patent protection on processes cloning the gene designated Pi22. The gene selects for resistance to Magnaporthe norvegicus or “Norwegian Blight,” the fungal infection that has been devastating grain crops across Europe and into the Middle East, with other outbreaks spanning the globe.
Founded in the United States in 1981 by entrepreneur and agricultural visionary Charles Wyndham, today Sonoma Agriculture maintains branch offices in Japan, Egypt, and Brazil. After successfully repelling a hostile takeover bid by agribusiness competitor Monsanto in 2017, Sonoma quadrupled its investments in long-term research and development—and soon the whole world will reap the benefits. While chemical treatments released last year by Bayer and Dow Agro Sciences preserve as little as 10% of Blight-stricken crops, wheat with Pi22 expression yields 95% of stock strains and total immunity to M. norvegicus.
Over 12,000 acres of Blight-resistant wheat have been harvested in Kansas and Nebraska, yielding some 14,000 tons of seed that has already been sown in secured facilities across the globe. Seed crops of barley, corn, and rice incorporating the Pi22 gene are also in production. In coordination with governments around the world, Sonoma strives to bring a swift end to the hunger and strife brought on by the Norwegian Blight, while enhancing its decades-long reputation for delivering unparalleled shareholder value.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.A.
18 September 2026
With almost 50 million tons of Blight-resistant wheat harvested in the past month, Sonoma Agriculture seems poised to single-handedly resolve five years of nutritional, economic, and political crisis. The company experienced a significant setback earlier this year when its Blight-resistant rice strain proved highly susceptible to “rice blast,” a less destructive relative of the Blight that rice growers have been battling for years. Sonoma later announced that their Blight-resistant corn and barley strains are flourishing, however, shoring up flagging share prices as well as hopes for an end to the global crisis.
Still Sonoma’s biggest hurdle may yet remain. Since 2001, the European Union has maintained strict bans on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for human consumption, bans that have remained in place for over a quarter of a century. Special dispensation has been made for importing processed derivatives of Sonoma’s Blight-resistant wheat, but farmers argue that they should also be permitted to import Blight-resistant seed, at least on a temporary basis. Environmentalists counter that the long-term consequences of reliance on GMO strains could be even worse than the present crisis.
France, historically one of the largest and most vocal opponents of genetically modified food, has been particularly committed in its opposition, adding SNMA 22 wheat to a list of banned crops that began in 2014 with MON 810 corn. But many are saying that in the face of this disaster, old arguments no longer apply. Without Sonoma’s Blight-resistant seed, it seems inevitable that France will fall from its position as one of the largest grain exporters in the world; the French government maintains, however, that traditional agricultural safeguards will eventually prevail.
BBC News, UK
2 May 2027
Our top story, a special report on the end of an era. Once the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter, France is now a country on the brink of full-fledged collapse—and so today determined that it can no longer afford to stand on principle. Caving to pressure from its citizens and global trade organizations, France has lifted its decades-old ban on GMOs. In particular, Sonoma’s Blight-resistant grains are to be planted on 20 million acres of French farmland as soon as possible.
Following the announcement of France’s agricultural deregulation, no one was surprised to discover Sonoma Agriculture was well-prepared to capitalize on France’s misfortunes and immediately began importing seed it had stockpiled in Germany and Spain. Still, French government officials worry that they waited too long to act. The cost of keeping France’s people fed this year will be, in a word, tremendous—and the French economy is already in a shambles, angering France’s closest allies by exerting significant downward pressure on the value of their shared currency.
Perhaps the most poignant evidence of France’s financial straits comes in its recent solicitation of bids for administration of the historic Palace of Versailles. France had been spending some ten million Euros annually on renovation and upkeep of the sprawling palace, but between the collapse of French tourism and damage from recent food riots, Versailles has been closed for two years. Now France is hoping to find an organization that will commit to the restoration, maintenance, and display of the 18-acre complex as a world-class museum of the French Baroque era.
Though numerous national monuments around the world have been privately administered for decades, the development is seen by many as a symbolic defeat. But one French official, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that while privatizing Versailles is indeed a drastic step, sacrifices must be made when the greater good of French economic stability is at stake.
“We thought we could find a greener solution. We failed. We stood our ground for too long and this is part of the price we have to pay.”
21 August 2028
“Be carefully what you wish for” is the message from France today. According to Ouest-France, a new bidder has thrown their hat into the ring for the famous Palace of Versailles. Haroldson Historical Society is reportedly seeking stewardship under unprecedented terms: offering not only to pay full market value for the opportunity to administer the property, but also to restore and exhibit portions of the complex that have remained untouched, crumbling with disuse, and closed to the public for centuries. The generous offer, however, comes with strings attached, as the Society has asked France to additionally renounce police powers over the Versailles complex, allowing it to be governmentally administered at the Society’s discretion—an organizational move that has in recent years been termed “pocket sovereignty.”
Company towns are nothing new—the American city of Sauget, Illinois is said to have been founded in 1926 to minimize taxes and environmental regulation on Monsanto’s chemical manufacturing interests—but it was pharmaceutical giant Pfizer that breathed new life into the idea with its recent purchase of 200,000 unsettled acres in Argentina. Argentina agreed to the unusual scheme, which made Pfizeria an autonomous protectorate of the South American nation and spared Argentina from a major default on its sovereign debt. Never one to be outdone by its fiercest competitor, GlaxoSmithKline turned to Greece to purchase their own protectorate.
So while the Historical Society’s request is not without precedent, creating a pocket sovereignty at the Palace of Versailles poses unique difficulties. It would be the first such territory directed by a non-profit entity, raising questions of motivation and revenue alike. It would also be the first pocket sovereignty to form in an existing metropolis—and, of course, the first to incorporate a historic landmark. Based on these complications, France was expected to refuse the bid out of hand, however in a statement released this afternoon the President’s office reported that the Haroldson Historical Society’s offer is under consideration and that negotiations are ongoing.
2 February 2029
The stalemate of Versailles may be coming to an end, and word on the street is that France will blink first. With the threat of Norwegian Blight quelled at last, France’s coalition government must now address its recession-mired economy. That means, in part, reclaiming its historic position as the world’s number one tourist destination—but restoring its most popular attractions may require resources France simply doesn’t have. Since the Haroldson Historical Society made its unusual offer to curate the Palace of Versailles in exchange for sovereignty concessions, two more corporations—previously Russian-based Gazprom and France’s own Axa—have established headquarters in their own “pocket sovereignties,” increasing pressure on France to accept the Society’s terms.
The controversial proposal took a new twist this week when it was discovered that Sonoma Agriculture, the devil France finally dealt with to deliver its citizenry from the jaws of famine, has been snapping up urban properties in the city of Versailles at an alarming rate. Sources close to the Prime Minister say that pressure is mounting to close the deal on the landmark that is the heart of Versailles, if only to show Sonoma that France will not be steam-rolled by the corporation’s agenda—whatever it might be.
On the other side of the table, Haroldson Historical Society has thrown down the gauntlet, issuing an ultimatum: France must finalize the deal by the end of the year, or the Society walks.
5 December 2029
France cries foul! The Haroldson Historical Society, which recently inked an agreement securing sovereignty concessions from France in exchange for preservation, restoration, and display of the Palace of Versailles, has been revealed as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sonoma Agriculture, the GMO multinational that delivered France—and the world—from the disaster of the Norwegian Blight.
This latest revelation heaps insult onto injury as Sonoma recently purchased over a million acres of farmland in the north of France, citing excellent growing conditions for further cultivation of its Blight-resistant GMO crop strains. The nearly fifty billion Euros invested by Sonoma in farmland and other real estate, especially in the city of Versailles, has made it one of France’s largest private landowners virtually overnight—and given a much-needed shot in the arm to France’s struggling economy. While Sonoma continues to enjoy the world’s good will—and record stock valuation—for its role in defeating the Blight, France’s coalition government claims it would never have approved Sonoma’s acquisitions had it known the Historical Society was a corporate puppet.
Meanwhile Sonoma CEO Kevin Wyndham seems to be focused on more personal matters. His announcement that he intends to reside within the Palace of Versailles itself shocked the world and drew sharp criticism from France, which issued a statement that it would honor its sovereignty concessions for only as long as the Historical Society—and its parent company—upheld its trustee obligations to maintain and display the Palace as a museum of the French Baroque. Wyndham released a statement that all obligations would be met, but declined to elaborate; stay tuned for exclusive footage of Wyndham’s face-to-face confrontation with the President of France.
5 May 2030
As the restoration experts and construction crews begin their work on the historic Palace of Versailles, Sonoma Agriculture CEO Kevin Wyndham seems to have settled into an uneasy truce with the French government. The Conseil d’État, France’s highest administrative court, last week declined to invalidate the trust agreement that grants Sonoma Agriculture, through its subsidiaries, title to the sprawling palace complex that in its better years served as a major tourist attraction. By judicial decree, so long as the Palace is restored and exhibited as agreed, the Fifth Republic must honor its concessions.
Sonoma’s subsidiary, the Haroldson Historical Society, has announced that its world-class construction teams will work around the clock until the famous landmark is restored to its previous beauty. The organization has declined to comment on rumors that the Palace is being modernized for habitation, but at least one French MP has publicly warned that lapses in historical presentation would not be tolerated and would be taken as an abandonment of the trust agreement.
Polls on the issue reveal tremendous ambivalence among French citizens. Many remain angry about Sonoma’s underhanded acquisition of their beloved landmark and are concerned about the ramifications of having a pocket sovereignty carved out of the middle of their country’s largest metropolis. But the successful re-opening of the Eiffel Tower last month has whet the Parisian economy’s appetite for tourism, and massive budget overruns on renovations at the Louvre Museum have taxpayers reconsidering the virtues of private landmark administration.
24 Oras, Philippines
30 March 2031
The Haroldson Historical Society’s obligation to “restore, maintain and display the Palace of Versailles as a museum of the French Baroque” enters its second phase next month, with Versailles to open to the general public for the first time in seven years. The multi-billion Euro, two-year-long restoration of the Palace has been universally declared a masterwork, and Sonoma Agriculture’s chief public relations officer, Stanley Benton, today revealed that nearly three times as many rooms will be accessible as at any point in history since the French Revolution. Lending further credence to speculation that the Palace of Versailles was being transformed into a sort of “historical theme park,” additional exhibits will reportedly include traditional rituals of the Sun Court performed by “permanent residents”—presumably, actors employed by the Historical Society.
Buried within the announcement was surprising mention of the regular Palace tour schedule being limited to one day per week; whether the French government will contest that as a breach of trust remains to be seen. The unveiling gala is scheduled for June and ABC will be there, covering every moment of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
6 May 2033
“Eccentric” may be the kindest thing anyone is saying about CEO-turned-King Kevin Wyndham of Versailles. Many are calling him a megalomaniac, and a recent op-ed in the New York Times even suggests he might be a dangerous criminal. Wyndham shocked the public at the grand opening gala of the Palace of Versailles this summer when, in lieu of the costumed actors everyone expected, Wyndham, his corporate officers, and many of Sonoma’s directors, appeared with their families in full 1500s regalia. But every expectation that the “Wyndham court” would have their laugh, then shed their costumes and return to daily life, has proven in vain.
In fact the pocket sovereignty of Sonoma has been granting titles to its corporate officers and “citizenship” to its employees. Furthermore, those who work and reside in the Palace of Versailles, including its many luxury apartments, are required to submit to months of “cultural training,” a sort of historical indoctrination into the manners, fashion, rank, and nobility of seventeenth-century France. This, apparently, is how the Haroldson Historical Society’s trusteeship is to be fulfilled.
“King” Kevin Wyndham has gone so far as to show up for the European Council in brocade jackets and jeweled, heeled shoes. Government officials and business leaders alike have commented that they are not impressed, and many feel downright uncomfortable—but Wyndham’s idiosyncrasies don’t seem to have hurt Sonoma Agriculture in the least. The company is thriving on the attention and press, with shares rising three percent in the last six months—most of that growth since the unveiling in May, exceeding broader market trends.
In related news for France, less than three years after the privatization of the Palace of Versailles the French economy is showing signs of life, with employment up and inflation reaching a twelve-month low—leaving all of France and the world to wonder: was it worth it? Only the coming years can answer that question, as the world waits to see just how big an embarrassment Paris’ new neighbor turns out to be.
Meanwhile, tourists are delighted. The Palace of Versailles is open every Wednesday from 6:00am to midnight and not only do viewers have the privilege of seeing the magnificently restored rooms, they also get a peek into the lives of people whose wealth and influence may genuinely rival that of the nobility they have decided, for whatever reason, to emulate. So what do you think? Is Versailles a theme park, a museum, a reality show, or some combination of all three? Let us know on our website.
15 October 2033
French Correspondent Peter de Gaulle: A lot of people are saying this is just crazy—you’ve crowned yourself King of a Pocket Sovereignty.
Kevin Wyndham: With the Board and corporate officers as nobility, that’s right.
PdG: You’ve moved your home and your company’s headquarters into one of the most iconic landmarks in all of Europe.
KW: Yes we have.
PdG: And you don’t think it’s crazy at all.
KW: To the contrary! I want France—I want the world—to see just how fully I intend to comply with my trustee obligations. Not just the letter of the agreement, but the spirit of it.
PdG: Well, you’ve certainly done a magnificent job on the physical restoration, I could—
KW: Thank you!
PdG: —I could hardly believe my eyes, just walking into this place, it’s amazing. But your shareholders have got to see all this and be asking, what’s the bottom line?
KW: Well, that’s why we grant these interviews, isn’t it? [laughter] Look, our shareholders—and of course I’m a shareholder myself—but our people know how business works, and they know the value of brand image. There are, what, two or three-dozen Pocket Sovereignties around the world, now? And every one of them is run a lot like a kingdom. That’s how you run a successful company: strong executive, clear vision, and cohesive culture. What we’re doing here is just a natural outgrowth of the concept. But it’s special, too, because we’re making history and preserving it at the same time.
PdG: Still, it seems like a lot of effort—and no small expense. I guess what I’m saying is, I see something a lot bigger than corporate strategy here. I see passion. Or as some might put it, if I may say, obsession.
KW: [laughter] Okay. I can cop to that. Peter, when I found out that France was prepared to relinquish Versailles to private management, I saw an opportunity to truly live in a world that has always fascinated me.
PdG: And you live there now.
KW: Well, sure, but I don’t just mean sleeping in the Palace—though that itself is a dream come true. The political policies of the Sun Court were fatally flawed; everyone knows that. But the culture! The culture was extraordinary. The rank and courtly manners. The level of respect and elegance. The elaborate formality. There’s nothing like it in our modern world. Nothing. I’ve always thought it such a shame that this amazing culture has been so entirely lost, replaced with a thin, homogeneous gruel of mass-produced Western consumerism. Acquiring Versailles as a Pocket Sovereignty represented a chance to resurrect a small part of something really great.
PdG: Your Board of Directors—they share your, ah, passion?
KW: Do you know why Louis XIV built Versailles outside of Paris? Why he went to the trouble of draining a swamp, in point of fact? He had a perfectly serviceable palace in Paris. Why Versailles?
PdG: I admit, I don’t.
KW: He did it to get his nobles out of Paris, away from its intrigues and close to himself. To have a powerful, but intimate sphere of influence. He didn’t have to summon them, the nobility came willingly, and lived the way he lived, because everything of importance in French politics was happening at Versailles. The only way they were going to have a part in it, was if they came to live in the Palace. And live his way.
PdG: And that’s what you’re doing?
KW: Whether it’s my doing or not, Peter, it’s certainly happening.
27 April 2034
pocket sovereignty: Any area over which regulatory authority, including but not limited to taxation and police powers, has been ceded to an individual or entity. Differs from microstates such as Monaco, Singapore, and Vatican City primarily in that host nations retain a reversionary interest: after a set period of time or under certain specified conditions, the original sovereign may resume control. However pocket sovereignties are not federal subdivisions, as they are not generally subject to the laws of their host states. Rather, pocket sovereignties are micronations that have achieved full recognition, at minimum, as independently governed protectorates of their host states, and possibly secured recognition from other nations as well. They are generally free to negotiate treaties and issue sovereign debt, and some have been granted limited participation in the United Nations, the European Union, and other international governance organizations.
Pocket sovereignties proliferated rapidly in the early- to mid-21st century, promising economic revitalization through massive corporate deregulation during a period of global instability. Early critics worried that the resulting plutocracies would have devastating socioeconomic and environmental impact, though nonprofits including historical societies and aboriginal tribes soon adapted the pocket sovereignty to non-corporate ends. After an initial boom based on their status as tax havens, the tremendous cost and political difficulty of securing and administering a pocket sovereignty resulted in very few being created after 2050. The movement suffered further in 2056 when joint U.S.-Mexican operations raided two pocket sovereignties harboring narcotics trade and human trafficking activities; as a direct result, most existing pocket sovereignties were pressured to submit to INTERPOL jurisdiction or face reversion.
Today, pocket sovereignties still host dozens of multinational corporations and cultural preserves worldwide. But while the reticence of government officials to grant recognition to micronations in China and the Middle East is sometimes blamed for ending the proliferation of pocket sovereignty, it may simply be that a return to political and economic stability has dampened the world’s appetite for experimental solutions to poorly-understood problems.
Grey’s Law Encyclopedia
14th Edition, 2061
Kevin Wyndham, CEO of Sonoma Agriculture and self-anointed king of the pocket sovereignty of Versailles, has died. Wyndham was ninety-two and remained active as both CEO and monarch until three months ago, when health concerns finally convinced him to retire. Within minutes of his passing, candlelight vigils sprang up honoring the man credited with saving the world from the Norwegian Blight—forty years ago, a serious threat to the world’s food supply, today a distant memory.
More than simply the passing of a legend, Wyndham’s death raises new challenges for his second-most famous achievement: the Baroque retro-culture of Sonoma’s corporate officers, board members, and major shareholders. Versailles was Kevin Wyndham’s pet project. Will the board of directors, in his absence, continue to fund the living museum of French history? Will the next CEO be equal to the task of simultaneously running a profitable company and ruling a sovereign nation?
It comes as no surprise that Versailles’ younger citizens, many of whom have never known life outside Wyndham’s carefully-curated cultural preservation project, favor Wyndham’s son, Aidan, to succeed his father as both CEO and king. But the heir-apparent is opposed by Chairman Chen Tremain, who has publicly expressed interest in bringing an “orderly conclusion” to the company’s involvement in Versailles.
Sonoma Agriculture shares are down sharply on the news, with a shareholder meeting and board election scheduled for the Monday after Kevin Wyndham’s memorial services. A public viewing will be held Friday; we’ll be streaming live from the Palace in Versailles.
28 October 2064
King Aidan Wyndham was all smiles at the Kingdom of Versailles’ golden anniversary gala tonight. The party was in the usual Baroque style, with invited Heads of State permitted to attend the festivities in the renowned Hall of Mirrors—a rare opportunity for outsiders, who are ordinarily cordoned off from exhibition events.
In the fifteen years since Wyndham took his father’s throne he has proven exceptionally protective of the pocket sovereignty and its unusual retro-culture. Though the palace remains open to tourists one day each week, the tone of play-acting that once accompanied public display of historic routines and ceremonies is almost entirely gone, replaced by an almost nativist pride. This is especially amusing in light of the primarily Anglophone heritage of the pocket sovereignty’s citizens, but even tonight the message is clear: this is a celebration of the people of Versailles, others are merely invited to observe.
Not everyone is surprised by this development, however. The first generation born to the palace in centuries are not only fully grown, now, but becoming parents and grandparents. Regardless of whether one of Aidan Wyndham’s children succeeds him on the throne, the Sonoman way of life seems increasingly unlikely to go away. In fact at this point it would almost certainly be harder for many of these people to transition to a mainstream lifestyle than it would for an outsider to join their ranks.
While Versailles celebrates fifty years of sovereignty—and much of the world celebrates with them, as the Palace is host to over a million visitors each year—it’s worth remembering that the citizens of France are not quick to forget how Sonoma’s kingdom came about. EU regulation requires France to maintain open borders with its protectorate, but half a century later, many Parisians still refuse service to citizens of Sonoma.
Primero Noticias, Mexico
1 May 2080