A Modest Proposal;
On the Proper Care and Feeding of a Viable Renaissance Faire

"The Book of Laws"

Cassiel C. MacAvity

    "A Renaissance Faire is a theatrical, realistic, recreation of European, usually English, life in the 1500s, in which particular Laws, set, understood, and obeyed, govern its achievement."

Case History------------------------------------------------

    Allow me to introduce myself . . . . . .

    I am Temujin MacAvity, an irregular improv actor of irregular habit with a penchant to pontificate, preferably from experience, someone else's if not mine, always in truth. I propose a series of essays, done as Laws, which I bloody well do not intend to write by myself, which discuss in detail and with uniform format, "The Proper Care and Feeding of a Viable Renaissance Faire."

    Obviously, my name is a pseudonym. This, too, I propose, should be part of the essays, for the point of this is not what a great ego each writer is, but, rather, is the importance of what is being stated in each essay. As Isaac Asimov is reputed to have once asked a supplicant; "Do you want to be a writer, or do you want to write?"

    Generally speaking, Renaissance Faires', RenFaires, and the Society For Creative Anachronism, SCA, started about the same time, with Phyllis Patterson and her beginnings of a faire in her southern California backyard, and Diana Paxson, et al, and a medieval party in her Berkeley back yard, both thirty or so years ago. In both cases, they acquired an enthusiastic, and sometimes rabid following, soon growing beyond their original, simple intents.

    Through word of mouth, often through science fiction conventions and college communications, the SCA quickly expanded out at such a rate that on one hand, it now has very active members on almost every continent and quite a few aircraft carriers, and, on the other hand, a visitor to the recent week- long thirtieth anniversary celebration, 3YC, stated something of "The SCA is so bloody organized that when the local police showed up at 3YC to help keep things in order, the SCA constabulary was so organized that the cops had nothing to do!!"

    RenFaires have had a less meteoric rise, having more of a theatrical orientation, but have also grown over time, first with the multiple weekend, Spring, Southern Renaissance Faire, first at Agoura, and then San Bernadino, Southern California, which next spawned the multiple weekend, Fall, Northern Renaissance Faire, in Novato, Northern California. Also, what has occurred is the small, usually one weekend, RenFaires, usually independent of each other, starting with, I believe, the San Louis Obisbo, SLO, Renaissance Faire, about ten or so years after Patterson and associates. These small faires are now seeming to pop up just about any weekend, and at just about any location, not just in California, but as with the SCA, spreading across the country.

    Early participants in the Agoura and Novato Faires included quite a number of SCA members, so much so that it has seemed that one can toss a broadsword at an SCA event and hit as many people with RenFaire experience as without. Unfortunately, given the level of organization and experience that the SCA has built up, rather than such a regular interchange continuing, the flow from one to another in recent years seems to almost solely be people who start with a RenFaire and transfer to the SCA, rather than the reverse.

    Recent developments have included the forming of a general association of small RenFaires in California, and also, as a particular example of the steady transfer of experienced personnel, the founding of "History Revisited" by former directors of "Friends of Faire", then "Friends of Living History", the volunteer coordination organization within the Novato and San Bernadino RenFaires, who are now themselves the owners and producers of the SLO RenFaire, and the relatively new Modesto RenFaire.

    The major change involving the Novato and San Bernadino RenFaires have been their purchase by the Renaissance Entertainment Corporation, REC, a publicly traded corporation specializing in renaissencish forms of entertainment ranging from a medieval banquet theme restaurant in the Los Angeles area, complete with jousting knights, to the Bristol Faire, in Wisconsin, just over the border from the REC headquarters in, I believe, the Chicago area.

    With the transfer of experience and personnel is the inherent transfer of knowledge. While it is true that this results in a general dissemination of the knowledge of How this Works, this can also result in the lack of such knowledge at the place where that knowledge was learned, and if this knowledge is not soon learned and assimilated by a new generation, at best, the wheel will have to get re-invented every couple of years or so, and at worst, as I will show with one of my contributions to this topic, entire lives can be utterly obliterated.

    What I think would be a good thing would be the forming of a set pool of this experience from which those working RenFaires can learn from those who have gone before, and for this, I propose this series of essays, presented as Laws, in this general format. Given parallel developments in computers and communication, not only could these Laws be posted and discussed in such forums as the internet newsgroup alt.fairs.renaissance and it's relations, but one such forum could be a web site, or two, or more, which not only lists each Law, but also displays assorted supporting photographs, data, footnotes, whatnot, as the explanation of each Law calls for.

    This will take a lot of work, but while I don't intend to do all of it, the existence of both the RenFaires themselves, as well as the existence of alt.faires.renaissance and its ilk, leave me to suspect that thee will be those willing to contribute to the support and continuation of our unique, educational, and, lets face it, Fun, way of doing things with our weekends and other aspects of our shared lives. . . .


>>> Format, the heading;

    Well, I get wordy, so don't use me as a guide to how many paragraphs you take to write one of these. What I do suggest is the general format I'm following here, with a number of set, marked parts.

    The first is the general series title, as above;

    A Modest Proposal; On the Proper Care and Feeding of a Viable Renaissance Faire

    followed by a space or two,

    and, in quotes, a short, pithy title, for an individual name of the particular Law. For the title, don't specifically attempt to summarize. "Brown V. Board of Education" doesn't summarize anything, but the name tells quickly What it is that is summarized. In turn, as with the plaintiff Brown, have actual people upon which to hang your example, rather than vaguely cite generalities. In turn, if the message can be compressed in its name, go that way, while still citing people in the case history. If "Harry Baffleson's Law", whoeverthehell he was, can be better stated as "Be Prepared", then go that way. In turn, rather than "It looks really bad when you have a 1500s recreation, only in the middle of the main shopping area you're selling Renaissance Faire baseball caps." it would be better to call such "Ganglia's Law". The more concentrated the message, the more af an impact it will have.

    Following the title, after a space or two,

    what Is your pseudonym? Feel free to use your faire name, an old nickname, something you've just now made up, but by all means, let's trumpet the writing, not the authors. Keep in mind, though, when painting these essays in Primary Colors, "Anonymous" was a columnist at Newsweek magazine.

    After another space or two,

    list, in quotes, your one or two, or one, sentence introductory explanation. If the name of the Law is still better than such a paragraph, use it!

>>> Case history, the main core:

    Deliberately marking it as I have done above, and borrowing from business and Law schools, I propose that the main explanatory core be an actual, from reality, case history. Rather than play with hypothetical what ifs and how many customers can stagger on the edge of a beer cup, a case history of what actually went wrong or right will unmistakenly underline the Law that is being stated.

    Yes, that's right, state What Actually Went Wrong. When you screw something up, you become a lesson for yourself. Whether you like it or not, when you totally screw up and affect one or more besides yourself, you become a lesson for others. No one ever remembers the time that a mere speedboat was a life preserver or two short, and when it went down, somebody had to share a floating pillow.

    Does Anyone Remember The H.M.S. Titanic?


>>> Analysis, Why, Why, Why???!!!!!;

    There are a number of short points I think will be important for this: Vetting, Pseudonyms, Sub case histories, The Book Law, and, Organization and presentation.

>>> Vetting;

    This IS a good thing. If nothing else, while waiting for someone to get around to reading your great thought and then get back to you on why the idea sucks, it does give you an opportunity to figure out for yourself that it sucks, so that you can have the rewrite ready by the time someone emails you that it sucks. I, myself, am passing these off to a, if not The, most respected guildmaster in Northern, or more, California and Nevada, to someone in his guild, to someone else who has been in and around Faires, SCA, science fiction conventions, something of the sort, for years, and to anyone else I can use for a bullshit detector. In the case of the above, I sent out several notes, some thought it was a great idea, fewer were silent, and with the guildmaster announcing;

    "Hi MacAvity, Sounds good. What can I do to help? MacIain"

>>> Pseudonyms;

    As I suggested, go with pseudonyms, because the point is what is said. When MacIain wrote the original of the above quote, what he really used was his and my given names, since with my five years in his guild before my retirement, he and I bloody well know who each other is. Go with real names if the person is dead. Again, it's the words, not the speaker.

>>> Secondary case histories;

    Use the analysis to point out and comment upon specific occurrences in the case history, but if there are further occurrences that fit the Law, use them as well, using that main case history as the main body for the stated Law, using the rest as they fit. In any case, save the histories for the facts, and save the analysis for later.

>>> The Book Law;

    Paul Erdos, 1913-1996, was a Hungarian mathematician who had no home, no job, is the most prolific mathematician ever, and spent his life wandering from university to university, doing nothing but math. One of his working models was a great book of mathematical proofs, one that contains only the clearest, most elegant proofs of all possible math problems. As he'd worked with any number of mathematicians, a common observation when someone had come up with something that only sort of gets the job done in explaining an idea was; "Well, Ok, but lets look for the book proof, let's try to find the book proof."

    I propose, as a working model, the Book of RenFaire Laws, containing the clearest, most elegant Laws that govern how RenFaires are best operated and run. There are ways to do a faire, and there are ways to explain how this works, but there will be times when there is one explanation, one Law that is given, but a better explanation turns up six months later, that is closer to The Book Law of RenFaires. These succeeding Laws will supersede each other as more and more clarity appears, and, also, there will be overlapping Laws, as case histories arise which cover more than one Law, or where one Law gets covered by several care histories.

>>> Organization and presentation;

    As far as keeping track of all these Laws, order is not going to be a major concern. The reason is that while this essay could be cited as being the first Law, being the general outline, any others could get written up and posted all at the same time, or one Law could get superseded by another, and so, the "official" order should be little more than alphabetical by title, and, maybe, grouping by general topic.

    As for location, an internet newsgroup is an ephemeral platform, being little more than one step above email. However, with its reach, a newsgroup such as alt.fair.renaissance can be the perfect theatre to continue the discussions which are already taking place. Myself, I'm going to be relatively lazy and repost any relevant email I get once these start going out, precisely to simplify assorted discussions. In turn, for more permanent access and consideration, a web site, or two, or more, preferably all with links to each other, becomes a very good place all these Laws that all of us come up with.

>>> Summary

    Finally, as a contrast to the start of the Law, and its cold, beginning presentation of an idea, a summary can wrap things up, citing very short references, as need be, to that which is now known and discussed, and now serves as a support to that Law.


    I propose a series of essays, called Laws, on the proper care and feeding of a viable RenFaire, written by and for we who are of the Faire, work the Faire, and Are the Faire.

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© 1996 Cassiel C. MacAvity