This week, fifteen years ago, Matthew White first created his Medieval America page. While the ten year mark is a little further for this blog, I thought it'd be interesting to reflect on the way the U.S. has changed, or historic events that have occurred, since the very idea was conjured up. Fifteen years is nothing compared to the near millennia of the future history, but speculative fiction is often about where we live now.
In 2003, White proposed New Orleans would be one of, perhaps the largest city in North America. A couple of year later, Hurricane Katrina would do major damage to the city, seeing it depopulated. Granted, cities are much smaller under medieval limits, and perhaps its place as the geographic center of trade might mean it wouldn't matter, but it's interesting to think about what effect Katrina would have in White's overall plan, if any.
Perhaps the biggest, where the U.S. is concerned, is the election of two historic presidents. At the time of the blog, the president was George W. Bush, who's administration and policy was along the typical neoconservative lines, and as a born-again, second generation president, which certainly evoked dynastic rule, and a revival of the Crusades at that.
About five years after AoMA was created, and a couple of months before this blog, Barack Obama was elected as the 44th president. A charismatic but collected figure, Obama was the first president of African descent. Very historic, and likely to be remembered even a thousand years later, although in the 30th century, with the pool found around the Chesapeake, it probably wouldn't be unusual for Presidents to look like Obama. He might be a popular figure in the Non-Denominational world, lessso in the lands west of the Mississippi. Interestingly, a Conan-style comic was published depicting Barack Obama as a Barbarian hero--rather interesting because the archetype of Obama comes across as a less martial, more brainy, statesmen. Although, he did come from Hawaii, which in in Medieval America probably comes across as more foreign than ever.
Obama was momentous for People of Color, (which would which now constitute roughly half of what was the eastern U.S.), but his election also galvanized the white supremacist aspect of the U.S., particularly the white, rural, low-government right wing types who would be largely influential on the Feudal Core. In 2016, they threw in their lot with Donald Trump, who in many ways is both a throwback, and in others unprecedented. He gives off the image of a latter-day Nero, and is both obessed with heraldry and installing a "court" composed of offspring and retainers. But his demeanor and aesthetic are so undeniably post-Industrial. For the record, there is a twitter account depicting a medieval version of him. In any case, we have recently seen a manifestation of openly white supremacist groups, and believe me, I have thought about "Ku Klux Klan" knights, and while the Atlas is not necessarily about depicting a utopia, this blog is supposed to be fun, so I have no plans to dwell on that too much.
Maybe the biggest story in popular culture has been the huge explosion of the superhero genre, and Marvel in particular. At the time of the writing, Spider-Man, and to a lesser extent, the X-Men, were rather popular in the large cultural consciousness, but the buzz went largely to fantasy franchises like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings (Which might have been what inspired White). When I started the blog, Iron Man was a big breakout, but Avengers/Infinity Stone movies have become particularly dominant. Admittedly, it's not bad fit to medievalize the Avengers, with knights, wizards, and even the thunder god, Thor.
Another pop culture phenomenon has been Game of Thrones, based George R.R. Martin's novels. Thrones has become the byword for "medieval" in the current culture, and as Martin is an American author, weaned on comic books himself, it's certainly easy to imagine the occasional de-fictionalization of tropes from the series come into wider society--just little things here and there; A Kingsguard, "Khaleesi" as a description for any warrior woman, and the tendency for royal families to adopt sigils (Flags already being a big part of White's project).
Most recently has been a trend in the popularity of horror--particularly PG-rated, broad-appealing horror. A lot of like The Conjuring and Slender Man have been about real-life or urban legend type horrors (elaborated as it all may be), or social commentary like Get Out or The Purge. Generally, the kind of stuff that makes for great campfire stories. (I'm largely of the stance that of all movie monsters--your Freddys, your Jasons, even your Predators, would probably endure the most in the slide to Medievalism)
Around the time White's page was created, Scientology was certainly not looked at fondly, but it was much more mysterious. Since then, documentaries and tell-all books have broken through the mystery, and many of the big-time Hollywood stars who served as spokesmen have since waned in their careers. White it's conceivable some kind of loopy cult would emerge and take over California, Scientology has probably lost its window.
Perhaps the biggest change since the the Atlas was created, is the proliferation of social media--which has changed how we talk, interact, and pick up news. This would clearly dissipate in a world with no internet--it's interesting to speculate what might remain. OKCupid and Twitter in particular, evoke Roman Gods and messenger birds, respectively, so they might remain in the lexicon. Also funny that the 2001 fairy tale parody Shrek features banners that look like medieval versions of the Facebook logo. Funny enough, de facto social network nations exist much along the same lines as the urbans clusters found in the city maps.