Kingdom A&S was, as usual, lots of fun for me. I saw some interesting research, cool work, and was able to encourage some people. That always makes me feel good.
My two favorites were one I judged, a map of the SCA version of the Kansas City area by Hugo von Harlo, and one I didn’t, a fascinating collection and comparison of a variety of fectbuchs by Gawin Keppler. Neither was terribly ground-breaking, but they will increase the fun of our hobby while also providing stepping stones to further research.
The best of what we do in the SCA is academic-level work. Better, in some instances, because often academic work is purely theoretical and until one tries some re-creation archaeology, one can’t be sure the theory works.
Sadly, many academics look down on the SCA. Some of that criticism is justified. As I said, the best of what we do is excellent, but because of the “big-tent” approach the SCA adopted, there’s a huge spectrum of quality. The bottom level is worse than basic, it’s completely wrong. Fortunately, we’ve gradually improved overall so that the bottom level is becoming increasingly rare as anything but a stepping stone to better work.
The SCA is an entry drug to learning medieval archaeology. That’s a good thing. When done well, the SCA and those who went through the SCA and on to even more detailed research have pushed the boundaries of our understanding.
There’s no doubt peer-reviewing and gatekeeping has much value. Consistency can be a good thing, and theoretically those ensure that the bottom level of academic work is of consistent quality.
However, that consistency can sometimes create artificial limits. The beauty of Frost’s paths diverging in the woods is that each goes somewhere. There’s not a right path, merely one that makes all the difference.
Kingdom A&S is a yearly reminder of that.