Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Desert

The Desert is a pretty vast region of Medieval America. And to eyes in both the present and the future, it may be the most outright alien. Encompassing much of the southwest, these nations have probably been kept isolated from the rest of the continent by plains and mountains. And kept isolated from each other by desert. The most distinct thing about each of them, from what we can tell so far, is that they have wildly different religions. Religion seems to be the best way to divide the three nations, if not states up. When White mentions peoples west of the Rockies, he seems to emphasize the religion. It makes sense as in the East, Warlords and Churchmen are distinct entities, but here there's no such separation of Church and Military. As a result, I think the soldiers there may have religious as well as secular duties. Some places, like Colorado and Nevada look to have three religions within their former borders, but that might not be a case of friction so much as petering out. In fact, Nevada itself seems to withered away, with no tourism industry, or technology to divert the rivers. The settlements of the desert may have suffered the most traumatic transition into this era, as the southwest is home to many bustling and growing cities, with the relative lack of resources to support it. It's said these places might never have attracted people in the first place if air conditioning wasn't invented. The climb back to the top must have been harsh, maybe even gruesome at times, but distinct nation-states were formed.

The lifestyle icon is a water pump denoting "irrigation". White has dropped reference to the fact farmers need to irrigate their land, building canals from rivers to farms in order to grow crops. The sunlight and lack of parasites make up for the shallow soils, but agriculture remains intensive. Civilizations pretty much appear on the river banks and nations are long, narrow bends and arcs. It's likely that not only do the rivers serve as the bases for farming, but also transport and fleets. This is another reason hydraulic empires are able to thrive with absolute authority. Cities are very condensed and built on a single route. White doesn't have any pictures, even in the archive, of what people in the desert look like. However, we probably don't need to imagine it too much. I think during the day, the farmers dress like the Southeast farmers, except maybe implimenting designs of the local culture. Something resembling the Middle Easter kaffa may be worn to protect the neck. Alternate sets of warmer clothes may be kept, as the desert gets very cold at night. However, half the desert population isn't made of farmers, but of herdsmen. They may look a little like their Plains counterparts, except maybe a little more colorful. What also makes this desert region distinct from the Middle East and Sahara is the Rocky Mountain range. These very high altitudes probably means desert dwellers are not completely unfamiliar with cold. The shepherds may even dress a lot warmer than desert nomads we're used to. Ice may also be feasible for the wealthy to access, which could affect society in several ways.

Most of the population of Mexico is found in the more forested, south, and the "border towns" of the desert are now firmly nomadic. In my opinion, this means that the territory is relatively up for grabs. Why would a nation want this area? Well, I think they would want the area around the Baja peninsula. Trade with South America probably shapes the mobility and initiative of the north, and the Gulf of California would make an excellent trade route without having to traverse the inland deserts. The main problem is how arid Death Valley is. These would not be great sources of agriculture for the region--they would be trade cities, plain and simple. A breakdown in trade, or a wane in demand for the goods would see such cities wither and die.

First we have New Mexico, which also seems to include Arizona, and even the edge of Texas. The desert shepherds and goatherds may play a very large role in New Mexico. The husbandry map combined with the West Map shows that within New Mexico's borders, we see quite a few nomadic tribes. They may even make up half the population. It's not so surprising since New Mexico and Arizona have always been more "Wild West" than the other desert states, and still boost a few ranches. Most are shepherds and goatherds, but it's possible at least 100,000 or so are cattlers. Another interesting thing is that the major cities seem to mostly be in the eastern half of the nation. However, there are settlements on the Gila river. I wonder if they're more spread out, and most resemble the old Native American cultures which have likely blurred over history. The religion map says "New Age", and I'm not sure what that is, or why primarily Catholic New Mexico would be practicing that. It's possible that, with the sun belt's collapse, people were looking for drastic new answers. The religions of the modern westerns world come mostly from the desert (The same desert, in fact), so it probably makes sense that if anything dramatically different were to pop up, it would be there. And it would probably take just one eccentric emperor to impose his new faith one everybody.

Speaking of which, Deseret is one of the more interesting parts of the country--it seems to be a nation that exists by force of will, with only a few things to keep it together--its place as a trade hub, and its unique religion. It's not unrealistic for a theocracy dominated by Mormons to do reasonably well during dark times. The Church of Latter Day Saints preaches self sufficiency, and many of the members are known to store a great deal of food. Probably the biggest contributors to Hurricane Katrina relief were Mormon organizations. As I've mentioned before, I imagine the army consists of warriors known as "Templars", named after the order seen during the Crusades, and reasonably appropriate considering Salt Lake City's monastic center is called a ""temple". Right now, it's thinking of expanding into less arid regions, and I wonder how that would effect its Hydraulic Empire status.

And finally we have California. Or "The Californias". It seems this is two nations in one. The thing is, there's a fiefdom dominated by the Church of Scientology. But it also holds spiritual authority over the "Republic" of California. So it's hard to imagine just how that structure works. Is it like the Holy Roman Empire? White does mention that every now and then, the San Francisco is conquered by armies from the Pacific Northwest. (Perhaps a reference to the Bay Area not quite between the Northwest, and not quite being Southern California) The California area in general though, seems remarkably wealthy. The husbandry map shows the regions has the most farms west of the plains. And the trade map indicates it may have the finest goods of the west. Where the east is concerned, California may almost be legendary, with its sunshine, various fruits, and maybe even an insane amount of gold. Whether it produces that much as the time is besides the point; It's almost certain that in the east, lore about California has reached a mythic status. Speaking of California and myths, as I mentioned in the religion article, I think much of California's mythology is steeped in American pop culture, particularly Hollywood films. Star Wars may be the quintessential epic, especially since Scientology is a very celestial religion. I would bet Emperors often claim they're made into stars upon death--and local astronomers are bribed to name stars after their recently departed rulers.

Finally, I wouldn't be surprised if the Free Zone is home to the world's most stunning menagerie. Once upon a time, Southern California was home to the San Diego Zoo. Because of the Mediterranean climate, a few megafauna were able to make their home there, and eventually colonies of beasts went undisturbed. However, California is much more rigidly structured, and once Empires started popping up, they quickly collected these beasts. Some for exotic pets of the upper castes, and some for the fabled Labyrinth. The greed and short sightedness of some empires has probably kept megafauna from thriving as much as in Florida.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Plains

This is the area White seems to have spent the most time on. He gives us information on the lifestyle, religion and combat of the nomadic herdsmen. Two of the three nations he talks about are ones significantly shaped by them. The only one thing he leaves blank about the region is system of government, and to be honest, we probably only need to seemore for the tribes outside the Great Plains (And which take place outside the historic U.S.). In short, it seems this culture holds a special fascination for him. It probably also bears the most explanation, because we're not used to grassland cultures in pre-industrial times. Any look at a map will tell you countries are coasts. So what would culture look like in a sea of grass?

It's probably best described as cowboys and Indians rolled into one, with a little bit of the Mongol empire, and maybe a dash of Viking. Some say White was inspired by the Horseclan novels, but the lifestyle does make sense. In many ways, it's just a reversion to the pre-industrial free-grazers, settlers and natives. It's very easy to imagine society turning out this way. Many of the towns are quite distant from another, and have been most able to thrive with modern transport like planes, trains or even just automobiles. Cities turned to farms. Farms turned to ranches. Ranches eventually went mobile. The population density was just too scarce
for settled communities to work out, and city limits dissolved. The Herdsmen don't have towns, so it's hard to tell when they have actual nations. The West Map shows two particular Cowboy nations. Territory belonging to the Rizzinis, and Territory belonging to the Anderson. There might also be yet another tribe indicated by this map.

The Rizzini Tribe is talked about as one of the most powerful, and its flag of a deer's skull is certainly imposing. It conjures up images of bikers, who one can suppose these barbarian tribes resemble to a degree.

The Black Hills does seem to be one of the more relatively settled communities. The area extends from roughly South Dakota to Wyoming. White says it's a location for pilgrims, although the herdsmen map indicates quite a lot of people live there. As a result, there are probably entire camps in the Black Hills. The eventually move on, but this may be where festivals, trade and metalwork takes place. In fact, I've actually been wondering about trade. it's widely considered a neutral territory by all herdsmen clans? Does this only specifically apply to the cowboy tribes, or could anyone pass through the Black Hills? it would explain why Utah has superseded Colorado as a trading crux. Of course, being "allowed" might not even stop traders anyways. Caravans likely doll up their wagons like herdsmen, much like the frontier men would dress up like Indians in the days of pioneering.

There are probably countless tribes, but I wonder if there are certain kinds of nations. The main atlas, and the population map seemed to go by a rule of three for states that took place in the plains. I also noticed Dakota and Colorado switched places they do in today's borders. The third "nation" seems to be Texas. It probably does make sense it would be these three. For all of White's fascination with this culture, it seems to be on a wane. The Wyoming tribes seem to have been conquered, and possibly absorbed by Deseret. Kansas and Nebraska kept their eyes on the east, and have been absorbed into the culture of Iowa. That leaves Oklahoma, and I can very easily imagine Texas declaring war and wiping them out. The really interesting part is, evidence shows this may not be all there is of Texas.

Much of Plains Texas is held under what's considered "Anderson Territory". Once the second largest state and crossroads between wildly different cultures, its shrunk to a small amount of its size, but retains an interesting aspect. Looking at the government map, the area is operated by feudalism. Houston seems to remain a major city. Yet, the area is primarily New Israelite. This lends itself to one of two possibilities; One is that the southern front has conquered these areas, and a few warlords oppress the New Israelite population. Another is that this is a nation of herdsmen that decided to mix agriculture with their usual herding lifestyle. (Either that, or the Herdsmen came out of this settled community) think the towns may look a lot like the early Anglo-Saxon settlements, but with a bit of an old west vibe. They don't have elaborate cathedrals, but chapels with ministers usually specifically part of the warlord's court. (Or conversely, the ministers may have their own following--think famous prophets from the Bible) I'm not sure how the relationship between the herdsmen and the farmers who's culture they resemble get on--though maybe the Texan nomads see them as reasonably pragmatic. The east of Texas is too swampy for pasture, and this aberration of society does exist as a good buffer between the nomads and the Non-Denominational Church.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Gulf

The Gulf is one of the smaller sections of Medieval America, but is certainly amongst the most unique. So unique, that it appears that it doesn't even have that many historical precedents (In the way that say, Northeast=Italy, California or New Mexico=Egypt) It's its own society, born out of a vast, but medieval civilization in the subtropics. It's hard to tell how many live on the Gulf Coast or in the Deep South according to this map, but I would say the region is between four and six million in residents. For the purpose of this article, "The Gulf" includes the Caribbean sea, but not Texas, which while on the Gulf coast (and Houston is a very important port) its culture is very dissimilar from Louisiana, Florida and the Islands. I'll talk about it when I get to The Plains.

South/Central America is a foreign, scary place where the beasts are ferocious and the stars are strange. But it's also the source of many goods we take for granted, like cocoa, coffee and rubber. In short, it's to North America what the Orient was to Medieval Europe. And that's where the Gulf Nations make their mark--as a gateway to exotic goods. (In fact the Gulf Coast is the location of a sugar belt) The main religion in these parts is Voodoo. I found that a little strange, how it could have exploded, but in religion articles I explain how it seems to work very well with the a more woman-friendly society. However, this probably puts it at odd with the rest of the American East.

As mentioned, the government here is, for the most part, secretarial. This means civil and bureaucratic work is done by women. Men's roles in society seem to be a little more distant. The idea of a structured woman's society while the men are distant, coming home to reproduce and assert rule reminds me very much of lions. Which makes me wonder if women have some martial prowess of their own. After all, if the men are away, it would make sense for the other half to be able to defend themselves. I'm thinking something not quite as intensive as naval and cavalry training, but something that could resemble martial art called Capoeira. Dancing is important in Southern society, so maybe it would be a good way to combine ritual practices with practical self-defense.

White only mentions one country here; Louisiana. Louisiana as a country seems to have retreated southward, (Most of inland Louisiana is part of a nation called Red River) and moved eastward. Some of Mississippi's and Alabama's coasts have been absorbed Much of the population is palpably African-descended. New Orleans is described as the most important trade city in the region, and the major funnel from South America to North America. The ethnicity and religion of the region tells me that if any language dominates the country, it is Creole. I don't know if it's leaned towards English, or even more strongly clung to its French routes for ceremonail reasons. It should probably be mentioned that White wrote these articles before Hurricane Katrina, which took a heavy toll on the population of New Orleans. Who knows how that would have affected what he wrote, but possibly not much. Remember, there's no reason for Deseret to be that populated, but it thrives on being a gateways. This is no longer the age of skyscrapers and interstates. If Louisiana's going to be flooded, they'll just use boats. Maybe a canal city, similar to Venice, except more easily-reconstructed building like seen in Southeast Asia? I wouldn't be surprised to see New Orleans as strange atmosphere of transport boats and open-air markets.

Also worth mentioning is the status Florida. In the present day, Florida is the fourth most populous state in the union, and two of the twenty most populated metropolitan areas in the country. Also, it's much closer to the island nations of Cuba and Haiti/Dominican Republic. Yet White seems to have reduced it to a footnote, with no major cities (Except a Non-Dom district capital in Tallahassee) And the population map leaves it practically blank around the peninsula. There seems to be little mention of it in Warfare as well. It seems a large reason for this is the poor drainage of the soil. As a result, people had a hard time building farms, and where there are no farms, populations drift away.

It also has me thinking about zoos in the United States. An interesting question to ask would be; What happened to the animals? Some would likely be killed for meat, hide, or just being a nuisance or a threat. Some might not be equipped to deal with the habitat. Some did fine, but there obviously weren't enough of them to form colonies. However, in Florida, which is the closest place on continental America to qualify as a jungle, animals that escaped from circuses and zoos managed to make their way to the Everglades and thrived, untouched by man. Elephants, hippos, rhinos and tigers joined pythons and their like in staking out a claim in the Florida swamps. Once these populations exploded, they started invading human settlements. Without cars and lights to care them, or guns to shoot them down, nature easily won this round in the corner of the world, and humans dispersed to less dangerous places like the Florida panhandle.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Lakes

I talked extensively about the Feudal Core, so I felt I had to talk about the lakes separately. Even though it's only a couple of nations, it's very distinctive from a lot of the Southern Kingdoms. (Ohio is something of an "in-betweener") The winters are longer and harsher, the agriculture more limited. It may. in general, resemble more what we recognize as Europe, due to ancestry and climate. What also makes this distinct from the Southern Kingdoms is, of course, the lakes themselves.

The area today is sometimes referred to as "The Third Coast", because the vast size of the lakes (as well as the connecting rivers and canals) have allowed it to operate as a de facto sea, with their own waterways, ports, and peninsulas. and  the Lakes probably have something resembling a maritime culture. Since it's freshwater, the boats can only carry so much, and they can also freeze in winter, but naval warfare and trade are probably an integral part. The Lake Kingdoms may interact mostly with each other, and the Canadian tribes. They may also concentrate more on minerals. While iron and steel are not as instrumental a resource in a non-industrial world, it's still very useful for a warrior society. (Sparta in fact conquered the helots for their iron deposits) The trade page shows  metal, as well as metalwork is a big part of the region's economy. The Lakes are probably renown across the continent for their metallurgy

The most northern country is Wisconsin. It doesn't seem to have a flag, but the Iowa page indicates it is its own nation and Milwaukee is depicted as a decent-sized city. The nation has about a million people, and though it lost some territory to Iowa, it has also absorbed Michigan's upper peninsula, as well as some of Minnesota's population. (where the Twin Cities population center once was) Minnesota, fr its part, has largely withered, either due to the cold conditions, or because of raids from cowboy tribes.

We then move on to Michigan. Most of the population is located in the lower part of the peninsula, and the population in the neighborhood of two to three million. Because of its excellent soil, and ability to connect the lake routes, Michigan is possibly the top dog of the Lake Kingdoms, and Detroit is a major city. I'm not sure what the flag is, but it's either a  a beaver or a wolverine. The last two makes the most sense. Beavers are certain both a useful and a clever animal, and that motif might make sense in the context of a lakeside nation. The wolverine is associated with the University of Michigan, and I have a feeling it may have a particular totemic significance What animal strikes more fear in the frozen north?

We then move Eastward, to what may possibly be the flag for the Allegheny County. Its flag is recognizable to a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, but it's actually a logo for the steel industry. Probably same difference, as Lake Eerie Pennsylvania has thrived on steel-making. We also have Genesee County, which has in its borders the very important port of Buffalo, one of the largest cities on the continent. It's no surprise these places have been cut off from the Pennsylvania and New York of the coast. The Appalachian mountains are a very good divider, and people would remark about Pennsylvania being "Alabama in the middle". I wonder if these two counties have a relationship with each other, and are descended from Steel or other business barons.

And finally, we have the "peninsula" of Ontario. It just calls itself Ontario, but it has the maple leaf flag. Much of Industrial Canada's population was centered here. It may actually be the last vestige of Canadian culture, as Vancouver has more or less melded with the Northwest republic, Quebec has become its own distinct entity, and the rest of the country has reverted into Barbarism. Officially. It seems to be a trader of wheat, which makes one wonder who it sells it to--possibly New England or Quebec, or maybe the wilder tribes of the north, who in turn sell furs. Here's something interesting to ponder; The area that was once Ontario clearly as two million people. I wonder how much is still Ontario, though? The Ottawa metropolitan area borders Quebec, and has a very strong francophone influence. Quebec has likely tried to move south to expand its nation. So the entire area that borders Lake Eerie could be anglophone, francophone, or a strange mix of the two.