Sunday, September 1, 2019

Hair

Most of the continent tends to braid their hair when possible. It keeps it from getting messy, it keeps the oil out of your face, and it's good for doing labor. The stigma of women wearing their hair out is less common than the European middle ages, but it's still not encouraged. Even in the south, where women are given more status, you're likely to see hair wrapped up, but it's not so much because they're hiding their hair, as they have no hair to hide.

In the south it is extremely common to shave one's head, or at least crop it so close that it resembles a mixture of the U.S. Army crew cut, and the kind worn by Medieval Normans. There are both practical and social reasons. From a practical standpoint, once you get into the subtropical regions, hair can be rather uncomfortable, as well as prone to lice and infection. From a social standpoint, the racial mixture of the south meant that the wide variety of hair textures made catch-all means of treatment rather difficult, so the custom was to cut it as short as possible. During the times of blood quantums, it was also a way for Warlords to drop the question of lineage. It was also popular for members of the Non-Denominational church, as it helped unite all the Churchmen into one identity, as well give them a sense of anonymity when they're moved around from district to district.



Interestingly, as you go further and further south, the hair actually becomes somewhat longer and more elaborate. This is because the nobility of the deep south has taken to wearing wigs over their completely shaved heads. They favor lighter, even outright white hair for their wigs, but they're not powdered--they're usually made from livestock. They're also not the overly elaborate periwigs of the 17th and 18th centuries, but relatively simple--sometimes braided, but more common in the "Dutch page" cut, but bangs definitely feature heavily.

As you go out West however, it can be very common to wear one's hair long, but nobles and merchant cities favor a haved/braided combination not unlike the style of Native Americans, or the Chinese Queue, owing to both the Native and Asian influences that become much stronger past the Mississippi. The great plains will see long hair and and long mustaches, which would be evocative of a Hell's Angel.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Anachronisms

The technology levels are generally speaking, limited to no later than than the 15th century. Gunpowder, electricity, and combustion engines simply aren't, as is mass industrialization. (Once you lose the infrastructure to mass produce, it can be hard to bring it back.) But some things aren't so much technological advancements, as refinement of low tech. And some things just seem like a neat idea, but have been confined to things like toys or coats of arms. Even the umbrella or monocole is occasionally used. Here are some later technologies that remain as symbols or flights of fancy. Not all--nobody has really tried to do anything with the cotton gin.

Transportation

Any train tracks or train stations have long been gobbled up, but they lasted much longer than asphalt roads, which made them much easier to travel on for a generation or two. The train also featured heavily in the mythology of the western, and various Christmas stories, and of vintage America in general. As a result

Technically, people can make bicycles. But it does require so much precision materials as to make it exorbitantly expensive, and roads, as well as most medieval fashions, don't make it very useful to ride. But if one looks at medieval toys, it was very common to see toy knights attached to horses, in turn, attached to wheels. Toymakers sometimes cut out the middleman and depict figures riding a bike, simply because the design of being upright and rolling works too well.

Explosives

Cannons could be found in plenty of parks and memorial sites, and generally stood as points of pride for various towns, so they tended be melted for scrap much later than automobiles and the like. As a result, cannons retained something of a powerful symbolism, and it shown up as a heraldic charge or in a few tapestries. (To the the point old-fashioned cannons shows up depictions of things like Pearl Harbor)

Bullets stopped being a thing, but squirt guns, nerf guns, and most commonly pop guns still works, and so rifles still live on in toy form. Otherwise, they are somewhat forgotten, and when statues or pictures of people holding guns show up, it's assumed they're holding pikes where the end came off. Thus, restoration projects tend to "fix it", and turn their firearms into polearms.

Other

Fun fact, one can technically make an approximation of a telephone using a string and two cups. Nobody ever really has use of it, but once again, it shows up as a toy or piece of craftsmanship to encrust jewels or carvings into, with superfluous dials, and the ability to use telephones is one of the symbols of the lost Golden Age of civilization.

Traffic lights are sometimes approximated--making lanterns of red or green tinted glass, usually at places where people have to pay a toll, or to open or close markets.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Sigils and Heraldlry

Sigils and coats of arms are certainly very popular in America. Besides the practical purposes of distinguishing soldiers on the battlefield in feudal zones, they're just appealing to a country raised on sports teams and advertising mascots.

It should come as no surprise some of the most ubiquitous charges unique to America include the bald eagle, Lady Liberty and the Liberty Bell, and the coonskin cap associated with Davy Crockett. Denizens from America's own bestiary like Bigfoot and Jackelope can also be found.

The Big Four from Game of Thrones are very popular charges, as it became popular in Industrial times to evoke the main Houses from the show, even on generic medieval paraphernalia.

The lion (or "lion", as Americans have largely conflated just about every larger-sized cats) is about as emblematic of a coat of arms beast as you can get, though the the continent doesn't have quite the attachment, due to wanting to distance itself from symbols of monarchy for the first couple of centuries. The stag however, is quintessentially American, associated with everything from hunts to Native American mythology.The wolf was certainly no stranger to European coats of arms, but it saw an upgrade, due to its status as one of the continent's apex predators, that House Stark is among the most sympathetic characters in George Martin's epic, and perhaps most importantly, the animal being the entry level badge for the cub scouts. As a result, it's one of the few heraldic beasts to more often being depicted by just its head.

Dragons are of course, very popular, but the Eastern version is actually more common, perhaps not to have it confused with the Jersey Devil, and because the ruins of Chinese restaurants left more of an impression on generations.

Creatures native to the America are largely the most frequently found, including the bison, the alligator, the raccoon, the bald eagle, and the rattlesnake. Old world animals which are arguably more prominent in America are the moose, the turtle, with bears and owls more or less being as frequent.

In terms of plantlife, the oak and its acorn is common pick, but olives and pomegranates are somewhat rare compared to pines and apples (and for that matter, the pineapple). The Fleur De Lis, with its connections to Quebec, Louisiana, and scouting organizations, will also tend to show up. Of course, the native maples and cacti are frequent charges on the frontiers of the feudal core. Shamrocks aren't unheard of, due to the large Irish ancestry, but mot Irish descended people live in the republics, and  not courtly families. New world crops are also common, particularly corn and tobacco.

Speaking of which, some of the man-made items that are fairly new feudal heraldry include the smoking pipe, the tomahawk, and the umbrella. (What a way to show your family is always prepared) It's also not uncommon to use astronomical phenomenon like comets or Saturn's rings. America's temperatures can be a lot more extreme, and depictions of tornadoes and hurricanes are up there with thunderbolts. Finally, it's not unheard of for a family to use musical notes as a sigil--to display culture, and to indicate they descend from someone famous--Elvis or the like.

In terms of symbols from American industrial and popular culture, they're not super frequent, but the Captain America shield can be found in some family or another from just about any major country. The five-pointed star surrounded by three rings will often use the red white and blue to indicate piety by way of the Non-Denominational Church, or may use colors found on the national flag. The Death' Head, reminiscent of the Punisher, is a carryover from its informal popularity with law enforcement. And of course, while the bat is animal found in actual medieval heraldry, the popularity of Batman probably kicked it up a notch.

To a cynic, perhaps nothing symbolizes America like McDonald's, and its relationship to feudalism isn't too far off (Ray Kroc famously franchised the brand by being a landlord, as opposed to claiming the IP). No, knights who use the charge aren't descended from former franchise owners, who used a Mickey D's as fortress, but it does serve as something of latter day version of the Horn of Plenty.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Game of States

Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire is arguably the medieval/ancient world setting most familiar to Americans, and what's more, is one of the few iconic fantasy series written by an American (and one who's always had an affection for comic books). To a certain extent, the series is very much Medieval Europe through an American's perspective in the same way Biblical stories and and 1001 Nights are the Eastern world through the view of a European.

I think the franchise fills a lot of the check boxes for a piece of popular culture that would endure in a Medieval American culture--it's homegrown, its setting is pre-Industrial (so no "scientist=wizard" metaphors that I would like overdo) and it is just about as iconic as anything that has become popular in the last ten years. Its major hurdle, one supposes, is that the large array of characters and plot points might be a little dense for a world with limited resources and literacy, but I would definitely keep that near the top.

It might be a little fun to think about the various aspects and compare and contrast them to Medieval America.

Martin has gone back and forth on how long the continent of Westeros is, but the general agreement is that the Seven Kingdoms runs about 3,000 miles longway, which isn't too different from the length of the United States (about 2,6000). If you cut off the North (Which, spoilers), and then the area west of the Mississippi, you have two areas of comparative size, and according to some estimates, a comparable population. (The Seven Kingdoms is estimated to have something between 25 and 50 million, a smaller density than the Eastern United States, which makes sense, as the American Heartland has less mountains, desert,  etc) If you get in the the Western U.S. you get a more diverse climate, and biomes that are also found on the continent of Essos. This will be important in a bit.

Urban-wise, the continent of Westeros has five major cities. America has " a big seven", although both the below-the-neck area and the American heartland respectively, have four, which is an interesting coincidence. However, no Game of Thrones lore makes any population figures for any urban settlement besides King's Landing, which is about 500,000. (Which is probably larger than city in Medieval America.) The map has many spots for "towns", while White looks to be staying away from showing settlements smaller than 25,000. (The United States, despite being a mercantile republic, does not seem to have any of the largest cities) So it's hard to compare the two on that front, but America is clearly more urbanized. It should be said that the 7 Kingdoms are almost completely feudal, while America has a wider variety of governments, especially out west.

In fact, one can compare the western half of America to the continent of Essos, which is much more rife with city states. If one doesn't want to cheat too much, one might include the Free Cities as part of whole "area" as comparable with the U.S. (Basically quantifying "The North" and beyond as the equivalent to Canada and Alaska) you have a lucky 13 cities, which as it turns out is the exact number of the larger urban centers on this map here. Should one want to split the difference between the Seven Kingdoms and the Valyrian Freehold, you would get five cities, which is, interestingly, the number of THE most important cities according to the trade maps.

One thing that George R.R. Martin, and many cartographically -inclined fans focus on, is the fancy castles. White does have a few "major fortresses" on his map, but much, much fewer than any Game of Thrones maps. It should be said this is possibly a difference in world-building, as Martin gets a little more into the fantastical, creating many expansive fortifications that stretch credibility, or are found on geological structures that simply don't exist in America. (It's possible the U.S. terrain isn't especially suited to castle building, but we'll never know) In Martin's world, castles are seats of power unto themselves, and capitals are less often than not part of the larger mercantile areas. On the subject of capitals, the one thing White has that's unique to the Medieval American world are the District Supervisors, which are located in former capital cities, and get marked on the map regardless of size. How Supervisor cities differ from other settlements in terms of infrastructure is up for conjecture.

On another note, somebody came up with a few trade maps of their own, which varies a little bit in terms of resources, but there are similarities as well.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

American Myths recap

Very little on White's official page has covered folklore and mythology that might be found in Medieval America. We know there are roughly five spots on a "Here be Monsters" map, indicating Cryptids and their ilks.

The Jackelope is the only page White has written. Jackalopes aren't "cryptids" in the usual sense, in that they are not truly the subject of hunts for real life monsters, but they are a fanciful creature exclusive to Americana.

Bigfoot: The most famous creature in American folklore, and perhaps a top 10 iconic monster period.

Jersey Devil

Mothman

Ufo: This is where it gets particularly interesting, as UFOs are strictly a high tech phenomenon more at home in science fiction than a culture that believes in magic

Elvis: Not strictly a monster (though modern day people are starting to find his behavior in life appalling), but definitely a subject of urban legends and supermarket tabloids.

Wizard of Oz is the platonic ideal of an American Legend.

What's also interesting is two of the biggest pheneomenons of the 2010's--Game of Thrones and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's seen as rather fitting that both are concluding their "sagas" within the same month in the last year of the decade.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Roads and Retails

A popular game in Medieval America, "Roads and Retail", which approximates the epic warriors of the Industrial Age. They race each other on roads, and hunt for treasure in the sunless labyrinths known as "malls".

Character  classes include

Highway Patrol: Kind of the Paladin/Ranger of game.

Paramedic: The Healer--every party tries to have one.

Fireman: Definitely one of the more popular classes--you get to wield elemental power AND an axe. For game balance, they can only fight the elements, not other cars.

Biker: Leather clad and fights with a chain and sometimes crowbar. The best class for those who want to fight melee.

Exterminator: Medieval Americans can't get their heads around the amount of vermin that existed in the industrial world, and it's probably reached a level of mythologizing. Exterminators are specialists in fighting vermin.

Bulldozer: With their burly physiques, and even burlier vehicle, they're Barbarian of the industrial world.

Taxi: Something of a gestalt of everything Medieval Americans believe about 20th Century Middle Easterners, and sometimes Native Americans. Medieval Americans are rather ignorant.

Ice Cream Man: Uses ice magic to give energy and healing to his allies, and headaches to his foes. Has a wooden staff with riddles.

Nascar: The druidic priest of the road--they covered in incantations beseeching countless lesser Gods.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Hipodromes



In medieval times, horse racing served a largely utilitarian purpose. Knights were always looking for best steeds, and sellers/breeders showed them off at the track in order to get the best prices. This is largely how it works across America in the new Middle Ages.

As a sport unto itself, it's most prominent along the Ohio River, where the relativity high urbanization allows for  relatively more infrastructure and specialization, and the location of Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby, the most prestigious equestrian event in the U.S. (That Indianapolis is so close to the Ohio River Valley means some elements of racing culture makes it in, but more along the lines Indycar than NASCAR. The South is far too decentralized to build stadiums and a middle class.) This is where the best horses in the Eastern U.S. are bred, and when people sell horses, they're not just selling horses, but their entire lines. This is where horse racing can be an actual profession. In the industrial era, jockeys were slight of build to give the horse an edge, but that's not the case here since the ability to carry weight is extremely important in a horse.

Chariot racing has not really caught on because it died out in the western world before the Medieval Era ever really started, and Americans try and breed the largest possible horses, which can be cumbersome when tied to chariots. A few Emperors in California and even Mexico have experimented with reintroducing chariots, but there is no real continuity with chariot-building cultures, so they're not particularly refined.