[Smashy the Hammer] [An Aspiring Luddite]
I carry no phone
An aspiring Luddite
In a wired world.
[Jeff Berry]
Jeff Berry is an early adopter of the Internet and the Web, a late adopter of Twitter, and declines to adopt Facebook. With the death of Google+, he's experimenting with federated platforms. He admins a medievalist Mastodon instance, and can found on t he PlusPora diaspora pod. He hates cell-phones.

Previous Entry

First Entry

Thirty-Five Years With Blade in Hand
Reminiscences on a life in the SCA
Part One

In November of 1983, the following announcement appeared on page 72 of Dragon magazine #79:

To be held at the Metropolitan State College Campus in Denver, Colo. Registration fee is $8 until Jan. 1, $10 thereafter. For more information, write to The Auraria Gamers Club, Metropolitan State College, 1006 11th Street, Box #39, Denver CO 80204.
It was there that I found the SCA for the second time - and that time it took. The first time would have been a few years earlier. I had followed up on this note, found in the back of the second edition of the RPG Runequest:
The Society for Creative Anachronism. Write to Society of Creative Anachronism, Inc. Office of the Registry, PO Box 594, Concord, Calif. 94522. [NB - yes, entry has 'for' in the first instance and 'of' in the second. - Ed.]
I wrote as instructed, found out where fighter practice was going to be, and asked my mom to drive me to it. It was kind of cool, but I was too young to do many activities and also too young to drive, so it fell by the wayside until that fateful convention in 1984.

The Barony of Caerthe, in the Principality of the Outlands, in the Kingdom of Atenveldt, was doing a demo at Crusader Con. We used to a do a lot of demos at gaming conventions. Remember, "gaming" at this time does not mean computer gaming. It's 1983! Computers were uncommon, but becoming more so, there was no consumer Internet, and computer gaming was in its infancy. Gaming meant tabletop wargames and role-playing games. Cons were excellent venues to reach people who might be interested in what the SCA had to offer. (As an aside, when I said before that "I wrote to Milpitas" I mean that I put paper into a typewriter, physically wrote a letter, and sent it through the post.) In this case, if memory serves, one of the organizers of the con was the son of an SCA member. (I think it was Lady Sara bat Meir, but don't quote me.) In any case, Katherine and Nicholas sat the Baronial seats, and they were gracious, kind, and helpful! when a young man approached them and asked about getting involved. I believe I got a copy of the newsletter, The Fortress, at the time the single best way to get information about meetings and events - no Internet, remember? - and an introduction to Sebastian the Wandering Mage.

Sebastian has sadly left little mark that I can find. He's not in the Outlands or Aten order of precedence under that name, and a bit of searching around turns up no results. Sebastian was a stage magician, and I had done some stage magic in the past, so he invited me to help with a show he would be doing in a month or so at the "Welcome Back the Sun" revel. I did a floating ball trick, and I helped out with a levitation - floating someone on sword-point. Also helping with the levitation was Lord Charles Francois.

Meeting Charles set the trajectory for much of my SCA career. Chuckie Frog, as he was sometimes jokingly called, was, when I met him, the first rapier champion of the Barony - the premier Premier Blade, if you will. He was therefore, at least notionally, the best fencer in the area. He had a background in modern épée fencing, and he became my friend and my fencing teacher. I remember driving across Denver on some weeknights to get extra practice in, since the regular Baronial practice was just not enough. I've been doing SCA rapier ever since.

Permit me a digression on the state of fencing in the SCA in the early 80s, at least in Atenveldt and the Outlands. (I will provide some outside context, for which I rely in part on Tivar's history - here.)

I don't remember there being formal, written rules for rapier in Atenveldt and the Outlands at the time. I recall being taught the rules by other more senior fighters. In fact, not only was Charles Francois working on a set of rules at about this time, but there were rules in existence. In the pre-Internet days, there were probably very few copies, and distribution would have been either in hard-copy, or by passing around physical disks - probably 3.5" floppies. As to the rules themselves, Tivar notes that the first set of Outlands rules in his files as Society Rapier Marshal date to 1987 - shortly after the Outlands went Kingdom, and that would have been Charles' set - while Atenveldt doesn't show up in his record until 1989. Don Jean-Eric (Sixth Defender of the White Scarf of the Outlands) wrote an article on the early days for the second Outlands Rapier Collegium in 1994, and notes that there was a set of Aten rules dated 19 October 1979, signed by Koris II and Leah II. So, the rules existed but if I saw any of them before Charles' set, I don't remember it.

There was also a set of Corporate rules (archived here by Tivar), but I never saw them either. (Or at least, don't remember seeing them.) Looking at them now, they seem to match my recollection of what we were doing pretty well. Foils, épées, and sabres were all allowed. (I still remember the pain that followed when I blocked a sabre shot with a dagger and the blade whipped all the way down my back along my spine - to this day the most painful shot I've ever taken fencing.) We used broken blades as parry-only daggers and experimented with other options - all such experimenting come to an abrupt halt when the first flexi-daggers became available in the late 80s. Armour standards were, shall we say, ad hoc. The basic test was, "Does it look sturdy enough and cover the right bits." My first armour was almost certainly dangerously illegal. I spent a few years after that in a modern jacket under a poofy shirt.

And don't get me started on authorizations ...

Culturally, fencing's reception varied. A lot. In the northern reaches of the Outlands, it was pretty well accepted. As mentioned, Caerthe had a rapier champion in 1983, and I believe it was the first in the Outlands by some years. There will be more about this later, rest assured.

To return to the main narrative ...

At the end of February, I went to my first event - the afore-mentioned "Welcome Back the Sun" revel. It was held, I think, in a church basement. (But I may be confusing it with early fighter practices.) I was learning about the SCA and trying on names and personae. It is frankly a miracle that I didn't end up with some horrible pseudo-medieval, D&D style name. I tried two or three names before settling on my current one. Most of them are lost in the mists of time - thank heaven. I do remember being Relwyn Goldsword for a month or so. The horror, the horror.

And I'd already set a goal for myself ... in September there was Caerthan Warlord and Premier Blade, a camping event to select the new champions for rattan and rapier, and I wanted to enter.

Disclaimer: This is based on my memory of the events and people, and although I have bolstered them where possible with references, it is a work of recollection. Errors, omissions, and all such-like are mine.
As an experiment, I'm linking to a Diaspora posting for comments and such.
Comment thread on PlusPora

Next Entry

Latest Entry

Luddite'sLog, 3 July 2019
© 2019 Jeff Berry
Links for the SCA

The Society for Creative Anachronism

The Kingdom of Drachenwald

The Principality of Insulae Draconis

The Luddite on Twitter

The Luddite on PlusPora

The Luddite on the Medievalist Mastodon instance

The Aspiring Luddite's main page

An American Reenactor Abroad

RSS for all things Aspirationally Ludditic, or
RSS for just An American Luddite in York