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What Me Think

By Lord Mudgeon McGrumpypants

Putting the "Creative" in the SCA

Once upon a time, I was scornful of the people who would create hideous non-medieval objects and justify them by declaring, "This is the Society for Creative Anachronism!" These were usually the same people who bandied about the phrase, "If they'd had it, they'd have used it!" as a reason for why they could (for example) use a light table to make sure their calligraphy was straight, rather than just "manning up" and doing it with the same methods they used in the Middle Ages.

Of course, that was before I moved down to the Southern Wastes, where there are only three natural resources: snow, ice, and penguins. Admittedly, the first two resources let us stage some fairly awesome fort battles, even if we do have to conscript snowmen to swell the ranks of our armies. But there are only so many things you can make out of a penguin: quill pens, feather pillows, and feasts. Unfortunately, thanks to the distaff members of our incipient Barony, we can't even do that anymore. "They're so cute," they insisted. "Don't hurt them!" So there are really only two natural resources that we can use, thanks to those Whitepeace hippies.

We can't just drive down to the local Jo-Ann's to pick up fabric for new garb, or walk to the hardware store for wire to make chainmail. (We did try "liberating" some supplies from Tor Station once, but the blood of the Vikings still runs strong in those Norwegians.) And the supply ships, which only come once every couple of months, have limited space to bring us things we order over the Internet.

So we have to improvise. We have to "get creative". And it turns out that I still scorn the people I talked about in the first paragraph, but now it's because I realize that they weren't trying hard enough. I mean, anybody can make a leather mug to hide a can of Mountain Dew, or turn a golf cart into a full-size replica of the HMS Mary Rose.

No, it's far more challenging to try and make decent-looking Italian Ren clothing out of an old oiltarp and a ball of twine, or make lyst-legal armor out of a weather-reporting station. (That last one is especially hard, as duct tape doesn't stick very well in the Antarctic chill.)

Creativity in the Southern Wastes comes with its own special set of problems. Sure, we can build a replica Viking feasthall out of snow, but what do we do about the fire? You can't have a feasthall without a fire, but a good bonfire would melt the hall, and there's no wood to burn anyway. And you just can't have a bardic circle with everyone gathered around a Coleman lantern. Well, you could, but you'd look like a bunch of dorks.

Fortunately, being located at a research station, we have a lot of scientists available to help figure a way around this, and being the clever boffins that they are, they came up with a grand solution: Holography. We dug a hole in the floor, lined it with a waterproof oiltarp, and stuck a holographic projector in there. Of course, this raised the question of how we were going to power it, so we put in a gasoline-powered generator and disguised it as a throne.

So now Baron (pro tem) Aptenodytes Forsteri has a regal place to sit, we've got a beautiful roaring fire that doesn't melt our feasthall, and everybody's happy. Well, except for the people who actually try to sing or tell stories around the fire, because the generator tends to drown them out.

But if you'd ever experienced the quality of a Southern Wastes bardic performance, you'd realize that that's actually a blessing. And you know, if the Vikings had had the technology to drown out off-key skalds and lame storytellers, they'd definitely have used it.

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