During Hilary of Serendip's tenure as Steward of the SCA, she wrote articles that were addressed to the members of the SCA for Tournaments Illuminated. For a variety of reasons attempts to publish these articles never came to fruition. However, Hilary has recently obtained permission from the Board to collect and publish these articles online.
She contacted me about the possibility of including them on the West Kingdom History Website, and I said "sure!", as they are SCA history. They are not specifically West Kingdom History, although Hilary lives in the West Kingdom ...
All of these articles are the intellectual property of Hilary of Serendip, in the non-SCA world known as Hilary Powers. Read them at your own risk -- they may cause you to think about and re-evaluate some of your perceptions of the SCA ... you have been warned. -- Hirsch von Henford, Web Minister of the West Kingdom History Website
My cousins, herewith for your enjoyment and assistance are the columns I wrote for Tournaments Illuminated whilst serving as Steward of the Society. They appear in chronological order, intermixed with a few other items that seem to fit the set.
The Society grew and changed over the eight years of my tenure, and so did my own ideas, so some of my comments no longer reflect my view of the Known World. It was tempting to edit the original text, but I left it alone except for a few minor corrections. You’ll find boxed notes introducing the columns to put things in historical perspective—mostly written in 1994, when this collection was commissioned, but with a few updates to reflect a further decade’s insights.
However, one change in worldview deserves mention here, if only to save repeating a
long paragraph over and over throughout the first half of the book.
I used to use the word mundane a lot, and now it almost never slips out. It’s efficient to have a tag for the concept not-in/from-the-SCA, but “mundane” is a public-relations disaster in that context. For those outside the SCA, it doesn’t mean outside the SCA, it means ordinary, with strong connotations of dull and boring. People who hear or see it react badly to it, often without knowing why. I used to think it was safe to use as long as the audience was all in the Society—it is so very useful, after all—but I’ve learned it’s not ever safe.
My attitude changed abruptly in the course of working with a state auditor, who interrupted my gentle explanation of the way the SCA supports the community to snap, “I know you don’t like us anyway; you think we’re MUNDANE!” That auditor had never heard me use the word, but it appeared in our literature...and that was enough to force me into a nasty salvage job. We got through the audit in good shape because we really are a constructive organization and true to our tax-exempt purpose, but it was a lot harder than necessary because the auditor was primed to be displeased with us. The audit had to get done so the auditor had to stay around long enough to give me a chance to clear up the misunderstanding. Site owners and other casual contacts don’t have to keep working with us if they take offense, and they often just go away feeling hostile. We don’t need that sort of grief.
No single word covers all the situations where mundane might fit, but it’s almost always possible to find an alternative for its neutral uses. (Of course, if you really mean dull and boring, feel free to use mundane—it’s part of the language—just be as careful as with any insult.) The simplest solution is to leave out the adjective for the non-SCA version: Law (meaning what the government enforces) vs Society Law, for example, or Name vs Society Name. When you need a word or phrase, try modern or legal or state or federal or civil or criminal, or recast the sentence so it refers to things outside the SCA without needing an adjective to do the job. It takes a little longer, but it’s worth the effort!
2004 insight: Another habit of language you’ll find in the columns is the “generic masculine”—the use of he and him and his to refer to a human whose personal plumbing is not relevant to the discussion. (I thought—wrongly, as it turns out—that it was the period usage, but that’s another story.) I wouldn’t use it now; in my post-Stewardship career as an editor, I’ve learned to construct sentences that don’t leave holes for pronouns, and in this hypersensitive age that’s what I always recommend to my clients. But this is a historical document, and I hope you will accept that it wasn’t my intent to suggest that all officers—or all troublemakers—are necessarily male.
I wish you all the best of good fortune and prosperity in these Current Middle Ages,
and remain as ever,
Yours in service though no longer in office,
Mistress Hilary of Serendip
LIFTING THE VEIL
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
“THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW!”
SO THAT’S THE WAY IT WORKS
PUTTING OUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
PUT YOURSELF IN MY SHOES
PURPOSES AND MOTIVES
HEAT AND LIGHT
EVENTS AND PARTIES
INLAWS AND OUTLAWS
SIZE AND SHAPE
PLAYING WITH THREE FIRES
NON SCRIPTUM, EST ANYWAY
TAKING THE HIGH GROUND
FORWARD INTO THE PAST
MONEY FOR WHAT?
PUTTING PEERAGE IN ITS PLACE
PHANTOM COLUMNS (THE ONES THAT NEVER GOT WRITTEN)
OLD VS NEW
TURN BLUE AND DIE
BRIGHT THREADS OF KNOWLEDGE
TALKING TO YOURSELF
THE TWELFTH COMMANDMENT
PROMISES TO KEEP
THE WORDS MOST MISTREATED IN THE SCA
THE FALL FROM VIRTU
ON THE EDGE
OTHER ITEMS OF INTEREST
VISION OF THE FUTURE
HOW TO GET HELP FROM THE SCA ADMINISTRATION
HISTORY OF THE SCA
THE ART OF SCA POLITICS FOR THE NON-POLITICIAN
MIRRORS AND WINDOWS
The West Kingdom History Website was created by and is maintained by Hirsch von Henford (mka Ken Mayer).