Over 10,000 people participate in the annual Pennsic War held by the Society for Creative Anachronism in Slippery Rock, PA. Emily Guendelsberger’s brilliant article for the Philadelphia Citypaper ”Reports from a medieval war” may not sum it up – because that’s impossible – but clearly explains why the event is cherished in fannish hearts.
“Many, many, many moons ago, a gentleman won crown in the Midrealm. His name was Cariadoc.”
I’ll hear several versions of this story over the next few days; everyone seems to have heard it a thousand times but doesn’t mind hearing it once more. The essentials that remain the same: In the very earliest days of the SCA, Cariadoc of the Bow, the first King of the Middle Kingdom, challenged the East Kingdom to meet up and have a war. The loser would take Pittsburgh. The East ignored the challenge.
“But in the real world, Cariadoc is a professor. He has a normal job like everyone else. His job changed, and he found himself in the East Kingdom, where he proceeded to fight crown tourney (which is how we choose our kings), and he won. Upon winning crown, he gets a pile of paperwork and backlogged scrolls that needed to be taken care of. Sitting on top of the pile is a scroll from the king of the Midrealm, saying that they need to go to war … signed Cariadoc.” People have gathered to listen, and though the story is obviously very familiar, they laugh.
“’How dare they?’” Douglas exclaims in mock outrage, to the general amusement of all. “Cariadoc accepts the challenge from the Midrealm, and so becomes the only king in history to declare war on himself…” he pauses to let others chime in on the punch line. “…and lose.” A big laugh from the group.
Since then the Pennsic War has been held each summer for over 40 years.
Once people hear that it’s my first time at an SCA event, I’m delightedly warned about a dozen things in quick succession: Drink lots of water; stop at camp to get more layers after dinner because it gets cold fast; don’t go down to the Swamp or Bog at night without a buddy; don’t go to the Tuchux’s camp ever because they’re a weird barbarian cult that keeps women on leashes and aren’t even part of the SCA anyway (wait, what?); never drink Strawberry Surprise, because the surprise is that it’s all liquor, no strawberries.
This is by far the best article I have ever seen about a fannish event in a mass media publication. Go read and enjoy it, too.
[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the link.]