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Sunday, April 5, 2020

Virtual Atlantia

There's a reason why I haven't been to an SCA event since February 8, when I attended Bright Hills Baronial Birthday. One of the members of my household was awarded the Pearl, which is the Grant of Arms-level award for arts and sciences in Atlantia, so I wanted to be there (plus, our outgoing submissions herald received the Golden Dolphin award -- with the late Pedro's medallion).

My attitude toward the SCA hasn't changed. But the world has, with this COVID-19 pandemic we're currently experiencing.

It was if society packed up their toys and went home around mid-March. SCA events left and right were canceled. One minute the staff of Gulf Wars XXIX in the Kingdom of Gleann Abhann (southern Mississippi) said that the event was still on, and people should use hand sanitizer; the next minute it was canceled, even though people were starting to arrive on site and many more people were en route.

Overnight, it seemed, most of the rest of the March events on Atlantia's schedule were postponed or canceled, followed by virtually all of the April events.

Except Coronation. But how could Coronation go on if gatherings of more than 10 people were strictly prohibited? The outgoing King is a lawyer and, as an officer of the court (as, I think, all members of the bar are), he can't be found disobeying the law.

So yesterday we had a Virtual Coronation, live-streamed on YouTube from the back yard of the incoming King and Queen:

The woman who was elevated to Laurel was supposed to have been elevated at Gulf Wars (but see above). The outgoing Majesties wanted to make sure she received her due recognition before she and her husband moved out of Kingdom for mundane reasons and she had to make a whole new set of acquaintances. There were also a few other pieces of business that were supposed to have been transacted during March.

As you can see, it was a nice enough day in North Carolina that the "event" could be held outside. A woman in Storvik, Dame Emma West, made the beautiful silk banners hanging on either side of the tent.

So, now the next big Kingdom events are supposed to be Spring Crown Tourney and Ruby Joust, both in May. However, both are scheduled to take place in Virginia, where the stay-at-home order does not expire until June 10. The new King and Queen did not announce anything about these events, particularly Crown, yesterday. Probably they are working behind the scenes, and communicating with the SCA Board of Directors, to figure out how to handle the situation.

I haven't surveyed all of the SCA kingdoms -- there are 19 of them besides Atlantia -- but I do know that the East Kingdom has postponed both Coronation and Crown and combined them with another big East Kingdom event on Memorial Day weekend. That won't quite work for us, because our Memorial Day weekend event, Ruby Joust, is still technically prohibited in Virginia. I don't think the Kingdom of Aethelmearc has yet postponed its Spring Crown Tourney, which is supposed to be held the same day as ours (first Saturday in May). I am less familiar with other kingdoms.

So far, Pennsic 49 is still a go. The Mayor of Pennsic 49 decided to nip rumors in the bud by putting out an emphatic statement that Pennsic 49 will be held unless HE says it is canceled (link goes to a PDF). I suspect that the Pennsic executive staff uses the annual Aethelmearc War Practice event (held the weekend before Memorial Day weekend) as its big planning meeting, because the Mayor said the meeting would be held virtually if War Practice has been canceled in person. (Update even as I continue to write this: Today the Sylvan Kingdom announced that Aethelmearc War Practice has been canceled.)

I don't want to start any rumors, and I do NOT speak for the Pennsic staff, but I can't help thinking that the go/no-go decision needs to be made no later than late May. At least the decision *by* the Pennsic staff (obviously, if the state government shuts down fairs and festivals, it's not the choice of the Pennsic staff). The deadline for paid, online pre-registration for Pennsic 49 falls on June 16, and that is also the deadline for refunds. Yet some other SCA branches have offered refunds after the cancellation of their events (Pennsic is a different beast altogether, though, because of its sheer size -- it's kind of a partnership between the SCA and Cooper's Lake Campground). I don't think the Coopers want to give back huge amounts of refunds, and I really don't think people will be happy if they can't get refunds from a canceled Pennsic. So ... we shall see.

Anyhow. Back to my own Kingdom of Atlantia.

Just since this crisis began, Duchess Adelhait and the Kingdom Web Minister have put together a page called Virtual Atlantia, a central location where online gatherings and classes can be posted. People can even get University of Atlantia credit for teaching or attending classes!

One of the first online Kingdom-wide happenings was a Saturday afternoon in which the participants in a Zoom meeting started to read aloud The Decameron by Boccaccio. Reading aloud a book of stories "told" by people stuck on an island during a huge plague -- what a medieval thing to do! There were about 15 or 16 of us, including a few bardic Laurels, and we managed to get through the introduction and all ten of the stories from Day One in about three hours. It was enjoyable, but I have no idea when we will take up Day Two.

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