Saturday, September 4, 2010

Entertainment in Medieval America

Tournaments
In times of peace, warlords will keep their skills sharpened with tournaments held in most major cities. Jousting is the largely the most popular, although melee will take a variety of forms. Around the Great Lakes, a common melee fight is is to try to grapple one's opponent with a guisarme, although these can get pretty rough and result in fisticuffs. The emphasis from melee to jousting gradients from east to west, as the flatter and more open lands give warlords plenty of practice with the horses. Although the port cities of the Northeast do not usually engage in mounted combat, as centers of trade they cannot pass up the opportunity to host events with such market potential. Their pool of nobles may often compete in fencing tournaments, and such homegrown heroes can be the crux of bitter rivalries. Suspected foul play in the battle between Michael Boniface of New York and Fred Connolly of Boston in 2823 was rumored to be the catalyst in a bloody war, and onlookers get nervous whenever fighters from those two cities compete with one another

The bluntness of technique also moves from north to south. In the more Northern regions, there's more of an emphasis on padding up and jumping straight in. Tournament fighting in the South is more about speed, since heavy armors can be uncomfortable in the hotter climate. It's for this reason the Southern nations will hold most of their major tournaments after the harvest season is over, in December and January. Although most of the competing knights are from below the Mason Dixon, everyone from Non-Denominational world is invited. Well-off knights from the north will gladly take a leave from their snow-ridden homes to test their skill in January's Super Bowl Tournament. (The at the behest of the Church, nobody performs on Sunday) The event is not only a big deal for competitors, but for merchants who can sample consumers from all over the continent. The tournament will even present theatrical shows.

Theater
The demands of labor, lack of wealth by most citizens, and religious concerns can often limit the performance arts in medieval society. However, the 20th and 21st centuries left people used to a steady diet of television and music, so performers were able to eke out livings here and there. In California, the major cities will have long-established theaters, paid for out of the government's coffers, as well as schools to train. Playwrights and actors even compete at bi-annual festivals in Hollywood. Because of this, the arts are more sophisticated, but also much more rigid. Playwrights often have to stick to long-established conventions, women are barred from acting, and only the most underground productions do not endorse current religious mores and established rulers.

In the forest zones of the east, performing is a much more amorphous, even sloppy trade. Only one out of two thousand people can make a living this way, and a single person is unable to create an entire retinue by oneself. The peasant class also rarely has the time, never mind the wealth, to be steady customers. Therefore, minstrels and theatrical troupes in medieval times often travel from place to place, which may contain a wide variety of jugglers, singers, dancer, actors and comedians--and very often these performers are jacks of all trades and masters of none. Because half the troupe may consist of people who aren't even very good actors, show have more of a broad and "variety" feel, and popular roles are familiar, cartoonish characters like Spiderman, Casper the Ghost or Mickey Mouse, so pratfalls and acrobatics can take the place of more heady, dramatic pieces. It also ensures they can have a paying audience. Larger cities can boast more specialized casts and bigger productions, but they still often have that caravan flavor.

Rodeos
Out on the plains, the cowboys are not one for dramatic representations. They find it a wasteful display of idolatry that breeds thievery and promiscuity. They also do not engage in the jousting style tournaments, as there is no noble class. What the herdsmen have rather, are rodeos. Here, cowboys can test their practical skills at herding, which include steer-wrestling, roping, bronc-riding and horse racing. Here, competing means more than just for riches or glory, but a very deep honor. Feats of being an excellent cowboy essentially mean one has the essential qualities of being a man. Leadership, livestock and women are awarded to rodeo champions. It can also be a somewhat less fatal means of issuing challenges for a slight. It's also sometimes tradition to have a prisoner of war dressed up in clownish outfits and facing the wrath or one or more angry bulls. For all the stakes and gruesomeness, however, rodeos are a festive affair, full of feasting, dancing and music.

Music is actually still an important part of cowboy culture, and the only art form one can portray religious and historical figures. Musicians are considered the guardians of history by the tribe, passing down lore and playing at wedding and funeral services. Because many instruments are made of wood and metal, they are invaluable family heirlooms

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lakes

The Great Lakes operate as a their own de facto sea. In fact, throughout America, it's often referred to as "the fourth coast", or the "drinking sea", or the "glass sea", due to the icing over at wintertime, and the light skin of its inhabitants. The Lake states are on good terms with each other largely due to the mutual partnerships influenced by the merchants of the shoreside cities like Buffalo, Chicago and Detroit. Winters are too harsh and enemies to fierce to want to throw away their advantage on war.

The premiere power is Michigan. It has the highest population, and it stands as the major water-gateway from east to west. As something of a peninsula, it overseas trade from Canada to much of the west. Its sister nation Wisconsin has claimed the the vestigial rump of Minnesota, where it now sits at the top (and much easier traveling point) of the Mississippi river.

The counties of the east are frequently embroiled in bitter warfare with New York, as they jealously yearn for eerie canal that connects the lakes to the Atlantic. Allegheny is currently the most powerful, with its all-but ownership of Lake Eerie, and the city of Pittsburgh at the mouth of the very busy Ohio River. The tough conditions and access to resources have made the Alleghenyians renown metalsmiths, and few wish to take its knights class head-on.

Though never part of the "United States" empire, Ontario has blended in with the rest of the Lakes culture it participates with, and as a result has largely "Americanized", or at least "Midwesternized". It even established a Non-Denom church in its capital of Toronto, in order to connect better with its southern neighbors. However, Canadian folk tradition still permeates from the rustics of Ocean Sound.

  • System of Government: Feudalism
    • Head of State:
      • Michigan: President,chosen by and from the warriors of the ruling Bauer family
      • Allegheny: Count, chosen by and from the warriors of the ruling Strater family
      • Ontario: Governor, chosen by and from the warriors of the ruling Campbell family

  • Population:
    • Michigan: 2,500,000
    • Allegheny: 1,230,000
    • Ontario: 740,000

  • Religion: Non-Denominational

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Jersey

Much of the Northeast tends to run by Republics; Either Merchant City States, territories administrated by the Church, or just a few peasant towns making their way in the world, New Jersey is a feudal state. New Jersey is one of a few feudal kingdoms found between Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound. The Pine Barrens have largely kept them off the coast, where the concentrate on the fertile fields within. Jersey is perhaps the most prominent due to the more fertile inland, and the Delaware River, one of the highways that connects the Northeast and Midwest.

This also owes largely to the presence of the Families. In some ways, they're different from the knights found in the heartland, as the warlords are not mounted knights for the most part, but hold pikemen armies. Their origins are a little different as well. the New Jersey warlords are a class that used to be a lower class, often underworld and secretive in their wars. But the tactics were essentially the same as the other warlords: Intimidation of the peasants, blood ties and a very organized hierarchy. In fact, the Non-Denominational Church found them to actually be more reasonable and easier to neogitate with than the petty knights throwing their weight around. It was just a matter of finding a family who was on the same page as them, faith-wise, since most of the families still practiced Catholicism.

One of the more respected clans was the Giaccino family. The Giaccino has aspirations of royalty, and were on relatively good trading terms with the United States. Also, Don Michael Giaccino really saw little point in sticking to a Church who's influence in the region was disappearing by the generation. The Giaccinos had eventually converted to Non-Denom, gaining the Church's blessing and allies from surrounding areas. Wiping out rivals like Martones and the Demasias, the Giaccino family was now out in the open and legitimate.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

New Mexico

The arid territories of New Mexico are the last stop before the lands of Mexico. Between the vast cities of Southern Mexico and the kingdom of New Mexico is a wide and blistering desert where only the most daring and hardened nomads live. To the west is the even more blistering Death Valley. To the North are craggy Rocky Mountains. Because of this, New Mexico usually only has to death with the nomads of Texas.

Much activity happens on the Rio Grande, New Mexico's best access to the sea. It was very early on the state was able to reclaim most of the rest of the river, as western Texas is largely unpopulated. The early New Mexico Governor sought this pivotal crossroads of the continent, and for fifteen years battled with the herdsmen for control. After they claimed it, the great river was essentially theirs.

The other major irrigated river is the Gila, extending into the former Arizona. Because it's not as much as a trading crux, the communities are much smaller, and mostly sustience communities and mines. Many of the farmers are descended from American Indians who had access to the larger parts of the Gila, and were able to sustain agricultural communities while the cities on the Salt River withered away. Though the Gila residents live under an iron rule as all desert societies do, the disconnect from the Rio Grande, and the lack of perceived importants, allow the peasants to enjoy their own culture.

While all the desert nations enjoy herdsmen as vassals, New Mexico is the only one where half the population of shepherds. While the New Mexican tribes are not particularly feared, they are generally free to do what they wish, they are protected from molestation from enemy tribes.

  • System of Government: Hydraulic Empire
    • Head of State: President, elected by and from the elders of the ruling Nervaiz family.
  • Population: 900,000
  • Religion: New Age
    • Totemic symbol: Winged Sun
  • Map

Quebec

The most Northern power in Medieival America is Quebec. starting at the end of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, although it's never been a part of the United States, the fractured feudal states means that it could never quite sit out on politics. The rest of America will tell stories of stories of axe-wielding Barbarians. Although darker times have made the nation fearsome, it's also a rich warrior culture. It has also in recent times become wealthy due to the fur trade, and deposits of gold.

The Quebecois French has largely been kept intact. This comes from a relatively small and consolidated populace along the St. Lawrence. The language has always been a distinctive part when it was a province of greater Canada, and in the medieval age, the Quebecois look at it something that marks themselves as a race. Therefore, any major breaks from the tongue have been considered as good as heresy. A french language makes up the court, as well as the Catholic Church. The Non-Denominational Church was looked at as an American, Anglo institution, and was thus never embraced in these parts. In fact, the Quebecois are the only sizable population not to practice Non-Denomination east of the Mississippi.

Because the land itself is so cold, and because their uniqueness has given it a sense of superiority, Quebec has long waged expansionist wars on the continent. New England has largely had little to fear from the kingdom. The rugged terrain of the Appalachians, particularly the Green and White mountains, have kept Quebec's knights at bay. Therefore, most attacks have been at the westward countries. Every couple of centuries, attempts will be made to conquor New York, for its warmer and fertile fields and vineyards. Access to the Hudson River is also a benefit, as the Hudson is a pivotal gateway between east and west. Quebec will also try to absorb its Canadian neighbors, feeling the lands of Canada were always rightfully Acadian. Invasions peter out or hit a brick wall at Toronto, and even though Quebec's empire is at a vestigial point, it did have the effect of breaking up the Province of Ontario, and eastern Canada is now a spectrum between Anglo and Franco cultures.

  • System of Government: Feudalism
    • Head of State:
      • King, oldest male heir of the ruling Frechette family
  • Population: 1 million
  • Religion: Roman Catholic
    • Totemic Symbol: Fluer De Lis (Lily Flower)

Friday, May 28, 2010

District of Columbia

The District Columbia is a unique feature in Medieval America. Located between the Cascade range and the rest of the Rocky Mountains, it's the only feudal state in the continent's west. It's also the only feudal state state which isn't Christian in denomination. There are no large cities in Columbia, but rather a group of estates and fortresses. The Columbian warlords hold a tight grip on the peasants, as there's on-stop war on every side.

The rivalry of the Pacific Northwest city-states were coming to fierce and bloody heads. The Buddhist priests convened, and in an attempt to create solidarity, declared Holy War on the Empire of Deseret, who's heathen kings had raped the land and showed no respect for the Earth. It was every Cascadian's duty to vanquish the Mormons. The elites would finance these wars, and once Deseret fell, people began setting up colonies. These fiefdoms were at times, a strange mishmash of cultures. They would include Lords with out of town estates, warrior-monks with their own garrisons, and even a few herdsmen who were converted to Buddhism and set up settled communities. Columbia was seen as the future of the continent. The Cascadia way of life and faith would expand further.

However, a hardened Deseret regained control of Snake River. Their hopes of establishing a new world order were vanquished, and Pacific Republics abandoned this new project and went right back to squabbling with one another. While its size was drastically reduced, the warlord estates which had been there for generations remained. Loyalties and chaos would likely have seen the new nation collapse, however the armies of warlord Aiden Lang were able to unify the populace into a single state.

Columbia's relationship with its coastal neighbors to the west is tense and complicated. On one hand, the merchant-cities see the District as a bunch of country bumpkins with swords. On the other, it makes a good buffer against the Mormons. For its part, the District of Columbia seas the the cities of Cascadia as a neglectful parent which needs new blood.

  • System of Government: Feudalism
    • Head of State:
      • Chief-Lord, chosen by and from the warriors of the ruling Lang family
  • Population: 700,000
  • Religion: Buddhist
    • Totemic Symbol: Eco Ying Yang
  • Map

Louisiana

As the United States dominates the Eastern Seaboard, Louisiana is primarily the Maritime power of the Gulf Coast. It is a largely a collection of Creole merchants who set up ports on the edges of the southern bayous. The cities and towns are essentially marinas and flea markets, and largely informal. Not to the nomadic extent of the western herdsmen, but it's common to see open-air markets and ships rendered as sumptuously as houses. The main hub is the city of New Orleans, a sprawling city of canals that is the home to seats of government, important religeous figures, and a vast necropolis to bury the dead.

The city of New Orleans is one of the most important places in America, as it not only serves as the gateway between North and South America, but the Mississippi River is the primary access from inland America to the warmer seas. There used to be a few wars fought to control the city, especially to wrest it from the Voodoo practitioners who ran it, but the Midwest demanded that a peace be kept on the city, because sieges on the river and the city would mean a lapse in trade which could make the upper classes feel like petty country barons at best, and decimate the populations at worst.

Louisiana is also the primary trading partner with Texas. Texas has the port of Houston where it can trade things like leather-work, as they have very little interest in engaging with sea travel. Louisiana also makes a good intermediary buyer. The ruling Anderson family is not on good terms with its eastern neighbor, the Red River Territory. Although Texans and Louisianans are of mutually different faiths, the latter don't much care about that sort of thing, and don't really have anything the cowboys wants. Therefore, the mariners distribute the Texans' goods with the non-denominational world, and in turn bring sundry items to the Texans. All for a tidy profit, of course.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New England

New England is a fractured collection of City-States in the most Northeast of America. Denizens of New England consider themselves the spiritual and intellectual heart of the continent. Six Non-Denominal supervisors have jurisdiction here, making New Englanders some of the most prominent and heard voices in church matters. The new Englanders will also hold conferences the supervisors of the Maritimes. The denizens also tend to be a lot more learned, due to the high proportion of Church schools to population. With the shorter growing season, children have more time to occupy themselves, and schooling at the churches is a good way to keep busy. New England's universities are attended by nobles from all over the east, and such universities are centers of learning and culture.

The universities and church districts may sometimes serve as municipal hubs. Warlords have taken very little interest in the areas, which leaves the communities to run themselves. Most of the towns and villages in New England operate rather autonomously. Communities administer their laws through the local Town Halls, with councils generally voted upon by the citizens. The most direct democracy in Medieval America, although in practice guild leaders easily run these councils. The Non-Dominational district supervisors will often run the towns to extent. People are assigned to secular duties, but the Churchmen's counsel carries a special weight in legal matters.

Massachusetts

However Massachusetts, the largest and most populous of the New England states, runs a bit differently. They have a General Court and Towns Halls, but they operate as an oligarchic republic, much like the United States. Providence and Boston are ideal trading ports, and thus made way for a wealthy merchant class. With this wealth and array of ships, Massachusetts began to operate like a decadent bully, and acted like it ran the entirety of New England, and even the Maritimes. Because of this, the smaller New England states allowed the US to establish bases along their coast. It has since been a struggle between Massachusetts and US, with a tug of war on claims to Boston and Providence. Right now, Massachusetts' hope is getting the rest of New England behind them after the US has essentially dominated New England's coast.


  • System of Government: Republic
  • Head of State:
    • Massachusetts: Governor, elected in terms by houses of the General Court
  • Population: 2 Million
    • Massachusetts: 600,000

Friday, May 21, 2010

Cities

So how big are the cities in White's World? What are the most prominent?

New York and Los Angeles are the primary cities of the current U.S., and the second largest are Chicago and Houston. (Occupying the "other" two coasts) All four cities seem to see a downgrade in Medeival America. This is largely because these cities have benefitted from interconinetal trade, whereas the oceans feel a lot more vaster in the Medeival world, and trade has to be conducted closer to home. America, in particular, can't be a clone of Europe most of the time because there's simply no great counterparts to the Meditarrnean. All inland seas are in places that are too cold too dry, or too swampy. Therefore, the biggest cities are located on rivers.

So what are the absolute most major cities? The most populated? Maps indicate they would be Cincinatti, Portland and New Orleans. The next tier appears to be Buffalo, Sacremento, Philadelphia, and possibly Houston and Augusta. Interestingly, the latter two cities are not considred trading hubs, while the smaller Salt Lake City is. New Orleans itself may be the most populated city in America--it's certainly the gateway between the Mississippi River and the open ocean.

I'm also curious as to what District Capitals and "Major Fortresses" look like. These are towns which may or may not have large populations, but it seems they have a degree of importance despite size or trade convenience. In reasonable-sized cities like Nashville and Boston, there's probably a good deal of prestige combined with political power. Towns like Lexington and Dover may be glorified abbeys.

We may see less "special" cities out in the west. The "special" communities are very likely the nomadic villages, or cities with the strange monuments that are hallmarks of the Hydraulic Empires. However, there are settled communities in Arizona, but no named cities. I would frankly like to know what they look like.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

American Bestiary


As I mentioned before, it looked like one of things White wanted to do was a catalogue of monsters unique to Americana. He seemed to mostly draw from folklore and cryptozoology. The task can be pretty challenging for the same reason it had to be done--most United States culture post-dates a common belief in the supernatural. I theorize that, as a largely European-based culture, there's probably a lot of European creatures like dragons, elves and goblins. However, the point here is to explore the quintessentially American ones.

On the original map, White only has five; The Mothman, Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, some kind of representation of Aliens, and the Jackelope. The Jackelope has already been featured on the Herdsmen page. Bigfoot would be on the Pacific Northwest one, (Maybe the district of Columbia in particular) the Jersey Devil in New Jersey (natch--maybe the motivator in making it its own nation), the little Roswell fellow would probably be on the New Mexico page. The Mothman could be part of the Piedmont page, but it's not out of the question for it to be in Ohio. Somewhere in the Appalachian range. Maybe even the "East Heresy" or "Tennessy" page.

For me, five was too few though, and I added four more of the Jack O'Lanterns. I could have added many more, but that might have crowded up the feudal core a little too much. I wanted to spread it out a bit. But two monsters that have existed in folklore are the Squonk and the Goatman. The Squonk is said be an ugly, warty creature that sheds tears when captured, dissolving itself in self-pity and shame. The Goatman is an Satyr-like creature that attacks dogs and parked cars. Similar creatures are also said to inhabit Colorado and Kentucky. However, I wouldn't know where to put it. Not only does the Mid-Atlantic have its own beast, but Maryland, as an entity, no longer exist. Plus, less cars for it to attack.

Near the great lakes, one could talk about the hodag, another denizen of lumberjack myth, like the jackelope. A strange cross between a dragon and a rhino, they are said to inhabit Wisconsin and Minnesota. Legend has it, their legs cannot bend, so they sleep leaning against trees. Chopping down its sleeping tree will make it an easy capture.

Upper Quebec would be a great place to talk about the Wendigo, the most well-known of Native American monsters. Obviously, not a lot of American Indian myths would be subject to this kind of thing, (Their folklore is heavily guarded and taken very seriously) but the Wendigo has nontheless been a very frequent opponent in popular culture, throughout films, novels and comic books. It would also add a bit of spice to the Quebec page.

The next two, I'm not dead-set certain on. I have an icon placed on the gulf coast, because the gulf has always been treated as a ripe place setting for the supernatural. New Orealns itself is too "tame" for a mythical beast, but something may be out there in the bayous. Perhaps the best choice would be the "Loupgarou"--Louisiana's answer to the werewolf. Florida also has reports of a bigfoot type creature, the "Skunk Ape". Alabama is also home to the "Wampus Cat", a felinoid shape-shifter. In any case, these, or a combination thereof, could be great monsters.

And finally I have an icon for Death Valley. As you can see, there should be a pattern of "Here be monsters" in rather remote locales. The first one that comes to mind is the Chupacabra, the most famous modern monster in Latin America. However, between the Jackelope's page, and the possibility for the "Roswell" monster, it might be a little redundant. However, upper Mexico has many possibilities, like the weeping La Llarona, and the fiery El Zobro.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Forest Zones Around the World

Stored in White's archives is a map of Europe. Wondering what the point of it was, I soon discovered this page here, which seems to be a definitive map highlighting the most major medieval European cities. (I'm guessing in excess of 50,000) Noticeably, the map cuts out places like Scandinavia and most of the British Isles, and areas where there were no major cities until we get into Byzantine territory.That is, it seems a large part of what's covered is land once occupied by the Roman Empire, and over which the Catholic Church had a stronghold. (With the fluctuating example of Iberia) It's a pretty good marking line, but what intrigues me is White has a map right here, which is all the largest (50k) cities in the former United States. More interestingly, Roman-touched Europe is comparable in size to to Non-Denom America. with the same number of these major cities.

The point is, West Europe and East America are almost perfect analogs for one another. Similar climate, population sizes, and the general feudal remains of an expnansive empire, only united by the big religious entity . A few differences pop up here and there, though. Most cities crowd around Italy and Iberia, while America is a little more spread out. Medieival Europe, as a whole is a very peninsular continent, who's steepest mountain ranges cut through the middle, so we see cities hugging the coast, Toledo and Paris being the most inland cities. America's geography lends itself to different phenomena. On the Atlantic, there's really nowhere to go laterally, and while the Gulf of Mexico does make a good transport, the shores are swampy and less ideal for ports than the Mediterranean. The main water routes are the Missisipi and Ohio rivers. The Great Lakes also act as a de facto sea, , but the region is also prone to harsh winters. Ultimately, the different regions of America have their own pros and cons, no one spot dominates.

As for other forest zones comparable to medieval Europe and America? Well, White has mentioned India as a region where feudal states tend to pop up. It's also a very easy-to-distinguish section due to its peninsular shape, and you can't throw a rock in the ancient world without hitting one of its major cities. You could say it's the third of these feudal areas. East Asia is hard to distinguishdue to China's incredible size and population--it's hard to know what to separate. If I had to establish a core point, it would be along the Yellow River, where historically most Chinese cities sprouted on--with the area around the Korean Peninsula being the upper limit. Like England, Japan would interact with this core, but only have a city inside it. The thin and rugged terrain of island nations limit their power in medieval times.

South America, particularly Brazil, would serve as the fourth great feudal culture. It's both easy and hard to imagine. It's structured a lot like the US; a heavily populated nation with a long racial gradient and a huge backyard; Its the jus the US has a west coast and Brazil doesn't. As I've mentioned before, the tropical climate brings India to mind. It can be somewhat simple to divide. The Southeast and Northeast are the most populated, so one could cut up a region there. On the other hand, the more temeperate and fertile south may yield higher populations, and absorb parts of Argentina and Paraguay. Meanwhile, Northern Bahia could serve as a buffer, where Northeastern Brazil starts to observe more Caribbean customs. The Caribbean is its own cultural zone really, but keep in mind we're working with areas of a certain amount of square miles and potential for twenty cities. (Western America, Central America, North Africa and the Northern Middle East are all examples of very populated and important cities that house impressive populations, but the arid conditions prevent too many from popping up.)

The last sizable forest zone in in Eastern/Europe, central Asia. The interesting thing is, this might be the one Old World location that wouldn't be a rerun of past eras. It's always been in flux, with conquerors as diverse as Byzantines, Ottomans and Mongols. And then there was Russia, which became a major power and a more solidified culture well after the middle ages, where in the 20th Century it was a major power. Would the steppes be conquered by nomads? Would someone make use of the black sea and the silk road? What would a post-communist medieval world look like? One could have fun there.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Types of People

Just for fun, I decided to keep a list of all the classes and ethnic groups that make up Medieival America. The one sin italics are my own personal spin.

Cowboys: Barbarians of the Great Plains that raise cattle for sustinence, horses for war.
Warlords: Master of feudal states, located chiefly in forest zones. Career warriors.
Churchmen: Members of the Non-Denominational Church. Beauracrats and civil servants.
Secretaries: Fill similar roles of Churchmen, only are female nobles found in the Caribbean.
Nomads: Technically, cowboys are nomads, but some million shepherds roam the desert.
Mariners: Sailors who's tarde and fighting piece together empires on the coast.
Governors: Rulers of the desert. Exerts spirtiual and secular rule.
Merchants: Traders who, on the coastal inlets, run Republican city-states.
Buddhists/Monks: Wanderers who preach environmentalism in the Northwest.
Mormons/Templars: Inhabitants of Deseret.
Scienoss: Californians who revere old Hollywood stories.
Shamans: Healers in the desert.
Canucks: Inhabitants of former Canada. Ride dogsleds and hunt for food.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Updates

Okay, so I think I've more or less done the articles for Government, Military, Lifestyle and Religion. I haven't really done, and probably will not do much, with the actual nation names, since 1) it's more about specific history than cultural overviews, and borders are essentially ever shifting and not necessarily beholden to nature, and 2) This is where I feel I would really be infringing on White's writing, as opposed to extrapolating. The only nation I really got any huge ideas for was New Jersey, which was inspired by the Mafia because they took to feudalism like ducks to water. Other nations I might do articles for might be New England, Quebec, Louisiana and New Mexico, because I think they have more going on culturally, as opposed to Piedmont or Ohio, which are more political.

Perhaps the "Here Be Monsters" articles, but even then, that's something that feels like somethig that horns in on White's writing, as opposed to answering questions he left asked.

In the meantime, I've been going back and refinign articles. Some changes;

Yankees: Because the icon was a plow, not a ship, I played down the maritime culture. It's still there, but I focused more on how the more solid land and decrease in infection allows a more structured population. I also took out the part about clothes, because it's redundant, we know what it would look like.

Republics: Renovated the whole building. Focused on Merchants as a class, and why some regions are feudal and some are republics. (And it comes down to compromise and having other people to answer to)

Feudalism/Knights: Focused more on the Warlords as a class. Still trying to figure out what would make it different in America. May explore Indian pyramaid mounds.

New Age: Added some stuff about healing crystals and other medicinal functions of the religion.

Scientology: More articulately explained why the Scrappy of religions took over California.

Voodoo: Decentralized the religion a little bit, since I had realized I turned Voodoo states into theocracies. And I get the sense the Caribbean regions are probably more free-wheeling than that.

Irrigation: Emphasized the importance of rivers. Pointed out how denizens may look like Southrons or Herdsmen, with their own cultural flavoring.

Cascadians: Pared down the article a little bit. I still fear the tree-houses may be ridiculous, although it does solve the rain problem. But in general, I came to the conclusion that the Buddhist page already explained what their lifestyle is like, so it may be a little redundant. I might fill in blanks by creating a separate "Pacific Northwest" article White was going to do, and try and make it a granola version of the United States of America page.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

American Buddhism

The West Coast of America has always looked beyond the Pacific for their philosophies. What the Euro-centric world ironically calls "The East". The religions and philosophies of China, japan and India have not only brought immigrants, but lifestyles and ideas. Very secular, and removed from the European way of life, the inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest have largely adopted Buddhism as their religion.

Keep in mind, this is still a very Americanized approach to Buddhism. It actually incorporates a somewhat distilled, layperson's idea Asian religions. Many sport the Yin-Yang as a symbol, which is actually more associated with Taosim. American Buddhists have more or less appropriated what they needed to legitimize a philosophy that more strongly influenced the Pacific Northwest: Environmentalism. In fact, the Cascadian Yin-Yang is blue and green, the color scheme of the Earth. The collapse of the industrialized world built up more than a little resentment, and many even took it as a punishment from the earth for what mankind has done to it. The basic tenets of Buddhism made a lot of sense for a de-industrialized, environmentalist world. Fueng Shui and the balance of nature encouraged people not to ravage the land and take up all the resources. The concept of reincarnation gave the incentive to take care of the environment so future lives would have something to live in. The skewing towards vegetarianism also mashed well with the regional culture. In fact, the eating of beef is explicitly forbidden due to the land that must be cleared for cow pasture, and the methane bovines produce.

Trees, rivers and mountains are considered sacred, and while it's not frowned upon to chop wood to build a home or furniture, the real sin is doing so without planting a tree in its place. Lumber workers are an important profession, but they, along with blacksmiths and butchers, are viewed with a great deal of trepidation, and they're often not the most auspicious of professions for country folk. However, out in the city, they're more valuable and better paid, and some of the merchant classes really give the religion more lip service than anything.

While Buddha is regarded as an important teacher, the religion has also taken on a pantheon of Animal Spirits. These include the Bear, fighter of fires, the Owl, fighter of refuse, and the Turtle, fighter of toxins. These spirits make up the Cascadian Zodiac, which includes many of these signs, as well as the Dragon and the Bigfoot. Like the Chinese zodiac, they are divided into yearly, as opposed to monthly cycles. However, the tier of elements is strictly that of the Western classification. (Fire, Earth, Wind, and Water) These beings will often feature int totems, tiny ones worn by just about anyone, or large totem poles found outside temples and palaces.

Buddhism is much more informal than other religions in America, and there tends not to be any great central power--teachers and leaders are pretty much local and autonomous. Most families will have a shrine in their home they pray to, but many might visit the temples to seek favor or guidance. There is no official headquarters, although the city of Seattle is considered especially holy as it's said if was the origin of many singers who found Nirvana. Monks who wish not to live the monastic lifestyle may travel the countryside playing an instrument and sing these Seattle songs. These grunge monks, so called because they live in poverty and live off the generosity of others, carry a whisker basket on their heads due to the pouring Northwest rains.

American monks have not taken a vow of celibacy, and can often marry and start families. To support themselves, they may take up a variety of careers, like the aforementioned musicians. However, some become holy warriors, conquering land out east. The current District of Columbia is a small kingdom grown out of Holy Men who have taken up the sword.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mormons

One of the few cultural institutions to hold over from the old United States was the Church of Latter Days Saints. In Industrial times, its members were instructed to keep stores of food in case of disaster, and even the Church itself had supplies of grain on hand. When disaster did indeed turn out to strike, the preparations and rigid structure of the Mormons allowed them to ride the storm out with a relative lack of problems also helping out was the Mormon epicenter, Utah, being sandwiched between mountains and barren desert. This not only create buffer from sieges, but it allowed the non-Mormons to either be weeded out or quickly kowtow to spiritual salvation in order to secure earthly salvation.

With most of the population already leaning this way, and power over things like food and water in these times of strife, the Church of Latter Day Saints transitioned from a de facto theocracy to an active one. It was from here a Hydraulic Empire was secured, and the Church became one with the Empire of Deseret. Even in more secular times, much of its members' daily lives revolved around the church and its very rigid structure, so it was not too hard to flex its power a little more. Mormon congregations, called Wards, play an active role in every day life. Even courting between young singles is pretty much instructed by the Wards. Elite and middle class families are often enlisted to do the Church's work for a period of time, maybe even years. Peasant families' involvement varies more, as not to disrupt the growing season, but children may often be drafted to fill the ranks of soldiers, bureaucrats or concubines. Still, any Mormon is expected to serve the Church at the drop of a hat.

Through much of the millennia, Mormonism has changed little. Tobacco and liquor are outlawed, though the more fiscally-minded governors have allowed trade to pass through the borders. The book of Mormon is taken more seriously than ever, and theological history the places the faith in the continent give Mormons a sense that it is the true faith of America. (Of course, other religions feel that way, this is just their argument) Multiple wives have been allowed again, due to the wish to populate the basin and new colonies as much as possible, as well as the lecherous intents of previous Governors. It also helped that the mainstream Church absorbed a few fringe groups. With the United States no longer a concern, the offshoot compounds were not a major concern, though leadership was eventually supplanted with the President's family.

The President is voted on by the ruling family, which can often be quite numerous. The most powerful twelve are the elders, and although they play a significant role in theory, power-hungry Presidents are not always comfortable with the politicking and backstabbing that can take place. As a result, they may kick contentious Elders upstairs to distant states. Most of their advice are taken from loyal Eunuchs, who they refer to as counselors.

Colonies are a major part of the Mormon manifest. After all, the desert can only support so much life, and the Church very much means to convert the world. Therefore, missions, which were very peaceful in Industrial times, are now extremely warlike. The President's army consists mounted knights known as Templars, who are instructed to sway or slay the native heretics. These newly conquered areas are known as Stakes, territories from which to spread the book of Mormon. This usually results most of the males being taken out and the females becoming wives to form a new Stake community.

Our in the East, the Non_Denominational Church does not have much a relationship with the Mormons, but refers to the Church as "The Temple".

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Medieval Latin America

The people on the alternate history boards have speculated on what the rest of the world looks like. I haven't spent too much time on that, because as White wrote

"In most of the world, the New Middle Ages were merely a rerun of the Old Middle Ages. In England and Japan, the constitutional monarchies dumped their constitutions. Europeans turned again to the Roman Catholic Church for guidance. Camels plodded along the caravan routes of the Middle East, bringing silk from China and pilgrims to Mecca, just as they did a thousand years ago"


So except for a few specific border or language changes, there would probably not be major upheavals. Society as a whole would pretty much resemble its Middle Ages counterpart. England might stick to its Anglican Church (Island nations can do that), and China may or may not be an empire, or so isolationist in this period. Some things, like pizza or Fried Chicken or Lord of the Rings or Baseball can probably never be unlearned, but given a few centuries, the old world cultures will appropriate it as we see fit. But Asia, Africa and Europe would probably be pretty similar. (Africa was actually pretty advanced until its population was raided for the slave industry) Russia is the only "old world" region which would have a hard time resembling its Middle Ages equivalent. America is so fascinating for medieval case studies because it was so radically changed by colonialism.

Australia is another continent that was colonized by Europe, although not to a great extent, as the country only has 20 million people. This would mean 4 million in medieval terms at best. The wildlife is also very dangerous, and the soil not great. I guess I would expect something similar to the Arabian peninsula--a few port cities around the coast, but a largely nomadic desert population. The proximity to the much more populated Indonesia could radically change it. New Zealand, for its part though, might more closely resemble England with an upside-down calender.

But then there's Latin America. Consisting of almost twice as many people as in the US, Central and South America have ties we're vaguely familiar with, but may not know as much as we should. In some ways, it's easier to gauge its medieval life, because 1) Its Pre-Columbian civilization was more advanced than North America's, 2) It has been colonized for longer. Still, systems in the feudal ages take hundreds of years to develop, so I do think we would see differences. One interesting thing to point out that "Middle Ages" is a term that mostly to Europe--many other civilizations of the Western World were doing alright. Even thriving. But considering most of the planet had to start over, it's possible both North and South America are working at the same place.

But Latin America does have the benefit of much more resources than Anglo-America. White even references cocoa, rubber, balsa and coffee, in addition to many precious metals. Spices are possible as well. Important trading ports also possibly exist around Central America, with the Panama Canal being the crucial gateway from East to West.

Mexico is already touching some regions of the US, however White did not generally include it like he intended to with Canada. This is because the majority of Mexico's population is actually separated from the U.S. by large desert, which only pockets of nomads inhabit in the new Middle Ages. Today Mexico contains 100 million people, with a large percentage centered around Mexico City. It possesses one of the most diverse landscapes for a country of its size, with deserts, alpine mountains, grassland and rainforest. As a result, it's hard to really find a great counterpart, but if I were to choose one, it would be the Anatolian Peninsula, which Turkey is located on. Unlike much of the U.S., Mexico always had a relationship with its pre-Columbian past, and was the site of a thriving civillization. Of course, it would be ridiculous for Middle Ages Mexico to be a copy of its Maya or Aztec past just as one would expect the Middle East to copy the Persian Empire. But because there was a level of advancement for Mexico, one could see the occasional trappings of art and even social structure combined with Christianization and additions like carts, horses and grain. There's a lot of speculation to how big the Mexican nation-state would be. Before Spanish colonization, the empire did claim a large part of Central America.

Brazil is the largest nation in Latin America, both in size and population. Also, like America, it's a nation that was more radically influenced by its colonization than its native roots. As such it definitely bears the most inspection. As a nation of rainforests, savannah and scrubland Brazil, from a biome standpoint, bears a strong resemblance to India. It probably also shares aspects like being the source of natural resources. Its distance from the rest of the New World definitely allows it to go its own path. But South Asia would probably be the model for Medieval Brazil. During the Middle Ages, almost half the of the world's largest cities were in the Indian subcontinent and its sphere of influence. India was also the largest economy at the time. Not hard to imagine for a city of its resources. Sadly, in some ways, Brazil resembles modern India in its less positives aspects--the large divide of rich and poor. A rigid caste system would most likely plant itself.

Of course, as a large nation, Brazil is not going to be one homogenous entity, (Neither are most South Asian nations, contrary to popular belief) although I'm sure people from around the world will sometimes consider it one. But the country is divided into five sections, with very distinct identities. The North and Central parts would probably not have much of a population at all...just various tribal villages. The Northeast is definitely has an Afro-Caribbean sensibility. They may even resemble the Secretarial states, provided a South American empire doesn't claim it. Conversely, the southernmost points of Brazil start to draw more on its European heritage (As well as slightly more European temperatures). Not only that, but the grasslands also start to resemble neighboring nations like Argentina and Uruguay. There's much grassland here, but I don't see them quite going Nomadic, due to their proximity to the coast. What we'll probably have is a feudal structure like in the Neo-Medieval Midwest. All in all, aspects of Southern South America might resemble Europe in some ways, but due to Brazil's sphere of influence, the calender of the Southern Hemisphere and isolation from everything else, there could be some radical differences.

Finally, there are the more Andean nations. On this side of the continent, including nations like Peru, Paraguay and Chile, we finally see a strong native ethnicity amongst the populace. In fact, some of the more mountainous areas even have the old Native languages still intact. What's also interesting is, that like the West Coast of North America, there's chapparel, and desert hugging a large mountain range. In a lot of ways, it's the mirror image of its American counterpart, and I wonder if there could be an entire seafaring culture with strong Native/Hispanic roots being a common denominator in the entire Western sliver of the Americas. This probably wouldn't be dissimilar to the long but narrow Muslim world of the Middle Ages.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Folklore

White's site primarily focuses on history/realism. not the fantastic. (I mean, besides the very premise of the site.) However, whenever we think of medieval times, we're less inclined to think of the real figures and politics, and more of the fairy tale version of it. With the possible exception of (A very broadly conflated version of) the ancient Middle East no region/era has been more associated with magic over real history than Medieval Europe. Perhaps this may be the result of J.R.R. Tolkien, whom most fantasy fiction draws from, placing his universe in a Medieval European setting. It may have been Walt Disney. But ultimately, this creates the temptation to ponder what the fantasy version of Medieval America is like, either when extrapolating what myth and folklore exists, or wanting to set some kind of role playing campaign in it. As I've said, White doesn't get into this much--he seems to primarily want to focus on the somewhat real. Plus, it's very easy to get taken over by popular culture, which I'll get to later.

He does delve a little into what imaginary beasts people might come up with. Almost hidden on the Herdsmen page is a link to the Jackelope, an imaginary animal that is a rabbit with antlers. Looking in the archives, you see four more monsters have been cooked up. From the Appalachians, you have Mothman. From the mid-Atlantic, the Jersey Devil. From the Southwest, you have a Roswell Alien. And of course, from the Northwest, Bigfoot. These are essentially cryptids; Creatures that have not been proven to exist, but have attracted sightings and claims that they're very real.

1) That we came from a society that simply does not believe in elves or goblins, and it's hard to go back. With the exception of the Jackelope, many people do believe in these creatures, or at least more than other fantastic creatures. So it could be something like "Unicorns are ridiculous, but Jersey Devils, that's something to be afraid of!"

2) Regional issues. A lot of mythical creatures that are in the popular lexicon like elves and trolls simply come from across the sea. So it may have been White's intention to focus on the creatures that emerged from American folklore.

3) Public domain. Would we believe in things like Wookies and Predators in the future? Perhaps, but that might cause legal problems. I would have also guessed at first that White wanted to steer clear of things with Industrial Age connotations except for the Alien-like being ruled that out.

So here we are, ready to flesh out what folk beliefs in legends exist in Medieval America. I suppose we could divide it all into three categories. Public domain, modern characters, and real world figures.

The first part would be the folklore figures. As mentioned, we got into the strange cryptid things. Some of the creatures from American folklore and urban legends include the Goatman, the Hodag and the Squonk. It's also possible Native American myths like the Wendigo, and the Thunderbird persist. And finally, much of the Caribbean folklore (Which would be brought along with Voodoo) would make its way to the gulf. It's too extensive to get in there too. And then there are the heroes. Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry, Zorro, and the like may catch on.

Some of the people featured in tall tales are actually real, like Calamity Jane. Daniel Boone, Davey Crockett and countless others have gained folk hero status, and could probably survive, especially in Texas and the mountain states. Paul Revere might remain an important hero in the Northeast. Many presidents and founding fathers could conceivably play a big role, but there might be too many records of them to truly retain "folk" status. I imagine the major presidents like Washington and Lincoln will still remain known, however. Sports heroes may also become mythic figures, although mostly the ones who truly symbolized their field like Wayne Gretsky and Michael Jordan. Granted, many athletes tend not to stand the test of time, but in America we've really hyped the people up. Will the centuries turn them into warriors? Give them magic powers?

Movie stars would be an interesting case. I've pointed out California would likely canonize Hollywood figures. Probably not a lot of actors would be famous as historical or folk characters. Maybe a few who were personified as a certain type like Clint Eastwood. Likely a few tragic ones like Marilyn Monroe. And maybe any that went on to be high profile historical leaders like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Musicians might sift more in the tides of time, except those with a cult of personality all their own. White had an image of Elvis on his site, so it's very possible he would work himself into the folklore of this age.

Literary characters like Tom Sawyer and the headless Horsemen might exist as legends. I think the fictional work with the biggest penetration would possibly be the Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch, the Yellow Brick Road, the Ruby Slippers. Star Wars is another of the quintessential myths of America. Other than the Wizard of Oz and perhaps Batman, it has the most characters and paraphernalia that are known to the average person on the street. I have theorized that Star Wars may potentially have a stronger reach in the West than the East, but who knows if the story

But speaking of Batman, a part of me thinks comic book superheroes might be the bread and butter of American mythology--many have theorized it's already the case. Superman and batman have the most mythic elements besides themselves to be part of the public consciousness. Villains, kryptonite, the bat-signal, etc. I think other characters that would appear, in order of likeliness, would be Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, The Hulk and Wolverine. (The last in particular around the Canadian regions) After that, I think we may see characters that fill niches, but may not be the same one. For instance a stretchy guy, a fire guy, that sort if thing. The may have continental popularity, but it wouldn't surprise me to see characters catch on in certain regions more than others. I can't help but think Superman in particular would be a symbol of the very American states.

What are other characters and heroes that would filter through the centuries? I mean, just think about how we have so many stories simply in a 100 years. Do we expect it all to last? Indiana Jones, I think could exist. Perhaps Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Even if the character has not become a major media franchise, she's probably the most well known of monster vanquishers. Perhaps something akin to James Bond, but filtered through a very American lens. (Absorbed into Jason Bourne? Jack Bauer?) In mind, the most enduring would be slasher monsters like Freddy Kruger, Jason Voorhes, the Alien, the Predator. Basically because they feel like such natural fits to previous folk stories. I've noticed the monsters of 80's horror movies seem to slaughter lustful teenagers or greedy corporations. Like morality plays on the seven deadly sins or something.

What's truly the rub with mythology, things don't stay exactly the same for hundreds of years. Would you believe Robin Hood, Maid Marian and Friar Tuck were their own separate legends, before being pooled together in one? So I've tried to be absolutely vague, and I suppose later I could come up with a more streamlined vision. But this has been what's been going in my head.