Friday, June 1, 2018

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ten/Fifteen Years Later

This week, fifteen years ago, Matthew White first created his Medieval America page. While the ten year mark is a little further for this blog, I thought it'd be interesting to reflect on the way the U.S. has changed, or historic events that have occurred, since the very idea was conjured up. Fifteen years is nothing compared to the near millennia of the future history, but speculative fiction is often about where we live now.

In 2003, White proposed New Orleans would be one of, perhaps the largest city in North America. A couple of year later, Hurricane Katrina would do major damage to the city, seeing it depopulated. Granted, cities are much smaller under medieval limits, and perhaps its place as the geographic center of trade might mean it wouldn't matter, but it's interesting to think about what effect Katrina would have in White's overall plan, if any.

Perhaps the biggest, where the U.S. is concerned, is the election of two historic presidents. At the time of the blog, the president was George W. Bush, who's administration and policy was along the typical neoconservative lines, and as a born-again, second generation president, which certainly evoked dynastic rule, and a revival of the Crusades at that.

About five years after AoMA was created, and a couple of months before this blog, Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president. A charismatic but collected figure, Obama was the first president of African descent. Very historic, and likely to be remembered even a thousand years later, although in the 30th century, with the pool found around the Chesapeake, it probably wouldn't be unusual for Presidents to look like Obama. He might be a popular figure in the Non-Denominational world, lessso in the lands west of the Mississippi. Interestingly, a Conan-style comic was published depicting Barack Obama as a Barbarian hero--rather interesting because the archetype of Obama comes across as a less martial, more brainy, statesmen. Although, he did come from Hawaii, which in in Medieval America probably comes across as more foreign than ever.

Obama was momentous for People of Color, (which would which now constitute roughly half of what was the eastern U.S.), but his election also galvanized the white supremacist aspect of the U.S., particularly the white, rural, low-government right wing types who would be largely influential on the Feudal Core. In 2016, they threw in their lot with Donald Trump, who in many ways is both a throwback, and in others unprecedented. He gives off the image of a latter-day Nero, and is both obessed with heraldry and installing a "court" composed of offspring and retainers. But his demeanor and aesthetic are so undeniably post-Industrial. For the record, there is a twitter account depicting a medieval version of him. In any case, we have recently seen a manifestation of openly white supremacist groups, and believe me, I have thought about "Ku Klux Klan" knights, and while the Atlas is not necessarily about depicting a utopia, this blog is supposed to be fun, so I have no plans to dwell on that too much.

Maybe the biggest story in popular culture has been the huge explosion of the superhero genre, and Marvel in particular. At the time of the writing, Spider-Man, and to a lesser extent, the X-Men, were rather popular in the large cultural consciousness, but the buzz went largely to fantasy franchises like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings (Which might have been what inspired White). When I started the blog, Iron Man was a big breakout, but Avengers/Infinity Stone movies have become particularly dominant. Admittedly, it's not bad fit to medievalize the Avengers, with knights, wizards, and even the thunder god, Thor.

Another pop culture phenomenon has been Game of Thrones, based George R.R. Martin's novels. Thrones has become the byword for "medieval" in the current culture, and as Martin is an American author, weaned on comic books himself, it's certainly easy to imagine the occasional de-fictionalization of tropes from the series come into wider society--just little things here and there; A Kingsguard, "Khaleesi" as a description for any warrior woman, and the tendency for royal families to adopt sigils (Flags already being a big part of White's project).

Most recently has been a trend in the popularity of horror--particularly PG-rated, broad-appealing horror. A lot of like The Conjuring and Slender Man have been about real-life or urban legend type horrors (elaborated as it all may be), or social commentary like Get Out or The Purge.  Generally, the kind of stuff that makes for great campfire stories. (I'm largely of the stance that of all movie monsters--your Freddys, your Jasons, even your Predators, would probably endure the most in the slide to Medievalism)

Around the time White's page was created, Scientology was certainly not looked at fondly, but it was much more mysterious. Since then, documentaries and tell-all books have broken through the mystery, and many of the big-time Hollywood stars who served as spokesmen have since waned in their careers. White it's conceivable some kind of loopy cult would emerge and take over California, Scientology has probably lost its window.

Perhaps the biggest change since the the Atlas was created, is the proliferation of social media--which has changed how we talk, interact, and pick up news. This would clearly dissipate in a world with no internet--it's interesting to speculate what might remain. OKCupid and Twitter in particular, evoke Roman Gods and messenger birds, respectively, so they might remain in the lexicon. Also funny that the 2001 fairy tale parody Shrek features banners that look like medieval versions of the Facebook logo. Funny enough, de facto social network nations exist much along the same lines as the urbans clusters found in the city maps.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter

Easter traditions in the Non-Denominational world can vary somewhat, due to the gaps between wealth, and the harvest season gradients. Like most holidays, Easter dinner is  a communal effort shared by the entire village or estate. Master and servant don't quite switch places, as this is a reverent holiday and competence is demanded, but the lord of the manor is definitely expected to "help out" with the grunt work. Feasting is where the divide between Northern and Southern cuisine is starkest--with the mutton and grains of the north vs the ham and greens of the south. In fact, Northerners try and shoot for something more resembling a Brunch--a lot of breakfast foods and pastries, because they'e composed of edibles that have been preserved over the winter. (raisins, jams, eggs, and fats)

The lack of feasts for Northerners is somewhat made up for in the Northern, coastal cities having more access to chocolate, which is a rarity for Easter sweets. Candy bunnies are usual made up of marzipan, or something else more flour-based. Eggs are still boiled and dyed, of course, but green eggs are not common because it's hard to make a non-toxic green dye. Easter egg hunts can be done with dyed eggs, or for more well to do families, small gifts may be hid in painted wooden eggs.

This is most likely the day people will be awarded new clothes, as much for practical purposes as vanity, since this is the time of the year people will start wearing thinner linens, and not huddle in front of the fireplace for weeks on end. Not necessarily bonnets, but something important and nice-looking.

In some remote locations, villagers may try and capture a rabbit, name it that year's "Easter Bunny", and care for it in the hopes of a good farming year. The fate of the rabbit may depend on how well the harvest turns out, or the temper of the villagers.

Passion plays are also extremely popular, and a large enough of a cultural hub may even do a week of shows depicting various stories from the Bible. (The story of Moses generally being the second-most popular), and a well coordinated collection of acting troupes will specialize in their own productions. In fact, despite their general aversion to drama, even New Israelites, especially in settled communities like Iowa and Texas, will hold passion plays, although they will try their best to avoid depicting jesus Christ himself.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Rainbow Girls

Pueveyors of Medieval American girly art have some pretty strange tastes.

One of the things men missed most with the collapse was pornography--the driving force of most technology. Sure, some magazines here and there stuck around, although weathered, they would in turn transform into unusual purple, green, or yellow hues. But coming up with new erotic images meant having to draw or paint them. This would be the reliable source of income for artists, in a world that didn't have much of an economy for the arts. The women would sometimes be drawn with skin tones not found in nature, for several reasons. One, because painters would use whatever they had on hand. Two, because by drawing them as mermaids or cat ladies allowed them to make the image more distinct, without having to draw new faces. Third, it offset the uncanny valley. And fourth, because it allowed models a degree of anonymity.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Beverages

Libations are the cornerstone of any civilization, and especially in time periods where drinking the water is not always safe or possible.

In the Industrial age, beer was the drink of choices for Americans, and that's still largely true in Medieval America, where there's enough wheat and barley surplus enough for fermentation. Grain beers are specialized enough in the midwest that they actually make beer, where in most of the country, grains are used quickly and haphazardly made into ale.

Wine: Wine is by far the most popular drink on the west coast, with the rich Nappa Valley the home of countless vineyards, to the point it's more common to drink wine in the grain-growing parts of the Pacific Northwest. There's also vineyards in the Great Lakes region, where the lake effects creates its own distinctive wine flavor. While more or less a drink more for the upper crusts than the peasantry, a great deal of wine is exported to Catholic Quebec.

Cider: Cider was originally the drink of choice for early American colonists--apples being much easier to grow on the east coast than grain or grapes. Cider fell out of favor in the early 20th century due to prohibition, but with the localization of goods, the dependence on fermented apples ranging from Maine to North Carolina saw them make a comeback. It's also a more popular rustic drink in Columbia.

Rum: In the deep south, where warm beers are less palatable, and wine has never really caught on, the denizens tend to drink spirits, especially rum, as it's versatile and easy to come by as a byproduct of sugar cane. It's very common to mix rum with citrus fruits and creams

The Mormons of Deseret are not allowed alcoholic beverages, so they tend to drink tea, which is made from boiled water. In general, Mormons don't have to worry about the perils of unhygienic water, it's much drinking water actually comes from wells and aqueducts from the mountains.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Card Culture

In a lot of ways, Medieval Americans don't like to consider themselves as living in a medieval time period. Most people don't. For a while, however, they did realize the the modern world was lost to them. Americans have largely written off the culture of the 20th and 21st centuries. It's not to say some modern stuff hasn't stuck around here and there; Elvis is still venerated, dads play catch with their sons, and pizza is not only possible but convenient, but for the most part Americans consider the height of society to generally be the late 18th century/Pre-War America, and do their best to emulate and drawn inspiration from that. Basically the society you would see on a Christmas card, or a musical about Main Street.

A lot of this had to do with the gutting of  the middle and technical class. The suburbanites, the office drones. A world of supermarkets and drive-thrus. There were largely three types of people left. Those who could produce their own food, those who could win a fight, and those who could maybe by their way out.

The farmers and ranchers who were best able to weather the storm retreated into the image of a pastoral, wholesome America . One where people knew their scripture and the value of hard work. Small town and horse-drawn carriages. This was the life. A world of computers and cable TV got everybody into trouble in the first place, so missing that time in history was akin to missing a gangrenous limb.

The wealthiest embraced a somewhat Luddite lifestyle for different reasons. There were no more yachts, no more sportscars, no latest fashions from Europe, or visiting Europe for that matter. They had to use the majority of the jewelry and finest items as currency. The only way to feel like they were the upper crust was to evoke a sense of breeding, and usually on a budget. Poetry, classical music, seafood. Affect the tastes of time old timey Europe, and maybe even sometime Eastern culture. (Kimonos were quite popular with aristocracy for a while) Anything some yokel wouldn't be familiar with.

Probably the most nostalgia for 20th century can be found in the southern parts of the country, and the locations of the old cities, with people largely descended from non-white populations, and thus unlikely to view the "good old days" with similar eyes. As a result, more modern pop hip hop songs, or oral history of summer blockbusters are more likely to be found in this area.