Friday, September 22, 2006

Awards in the SCA

In my SCA career, I was honoured to receive two awards, the Award of Arms (AoA), and becoming a member of the Order of the Silver Crescent (OSC).

I received my AoA at an event in the Canton of Seashire (Halifax, NS) in the fall of 1991. I had no idea it was coming. At the time I fancied myself as a bit of a photographer, and I had been taking lots of pictures at various SCA events through the summer and fall. I had a photo of His Majesty Randall of the Dark and another of his lady Her Majesty Katherine Stanhope framed, and I intended to present the pictures to Her Majesty at Court at the event (Randall was not at the event). I spoke to the herald before Court and told him I had business for the Queen.

When my name was called, I was so awed by being in Court that I approached the Queen, bowing, before I realized I had forgotten the pictures back at my seat! I hastily withdrew, fetched the pictures, then re-approached the Queen. I presented them to her while mumbling something about them being a gift to the Crown. She showed them to the audience while complimenting me on them, and they received some applause. I was just about to withdraw, when she said, "So Rupert, while you are here..." and proceeded to give me my AoA.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. I couldn't believe it. She told me the AoA was being given for my service as Seneschal of Lyndhaven (and indirectly for Lyndhaven finally becoming a shire, no doubt). Then she presented my scroll to me, turned me around and presented me to the masses as Lord Rupert Maxwell amongst many VIVATs.

I shakily made my way back to my seat and sat through the rest of Court in a daze. I was trembling and almost crying, I was so overcome. That was one of those "wow" SCA moments that come along once in a while.

I wish I could relate a similar experience for my OSC but it was very anticlimatic in comparison. I remember that I had missed one of the Great Northeastern Wars in Malagentia, and we held a War at Lyndhaven shortly after that. One person from that War was talking with me, and she said it was too bad I didn't attend GNE as I missed "a big surprise". She wouldn't elaborate, and after some reflection I concluded she had to have been talking about an OSC for me. It didn't help that a visiting noble asked very pointedly what the next event I would be attending would be, ostensibly to present an AoA for my lady. She insisted that we should attend so my lady could get her AoA. I knew AoAs were given "in absentia" so I figured that was an excuse to get me there. I don't fault her for that - it's difficult to coordinate these things without letting the cat out of the bag.

My lady and I attended an event later that fall in Ruantallan. In Court they called all the members of the Order of the Silver Crescent up, and I knew my time was coming. I was the first one called up, as my award actually dated from the GNE event. I was pleased to join such a special group of people and honoured that I was chosen. Although my inducation was less exciting than my AoA, it meant a lot more to me. I had a lot of respect for everyone in the Order as they had worked hard to get there.

One of the benefits of being in an Order is you get to suggest new members to the Crown, and offer your opinions on candidates others have suggested. In this electronic age a list was circulated every now and then by email and members could "vote" on it. I say "vote" in question marks because it is all advisory and the Crown has the final say on who should be inducted into the Order. I hope and assume that the Crown lent great weight to the Order's advice but I have no way of knowing. For each candidate, we could either vote yes, no, or abstain. I abstained for most candidates because I did not know them. Occasionally I would vote in the negative because I felt the candidate had not done enough to be considered for the Order, but usually I voted an enthusiastic positive for those I knew. I was always pleased to see those I knew become candidates, because I knew how much work they put in for their groups, the Kingdom and the Society as a whole.

Suspending my membership in the Order was about the last thing I did in the SCA, and it was hard. I really liked being a part of that group.

I never actively tried for either of the awards, but I do feel I earned them and I am honoured that I received them.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Service in the SCA, or The Inability to Say "No".

Like many people, I held a number of positions in my local group, that being the Shire of Lyndhaven. In vaguely chronological order, they were Exchequer, Seneschal, Chronicler, Herald, Company Captain of Archers.

When our group first became incipient (aka "group in training"), everyone got a position. That's what happens when there's a small group of people - everyone gets to be a General and nobody has to be a Private. I guess I got the short straw because I got to be the Exchequer, commonly known as the Treasurer in most groups. It was a pretty easy job at first, since we had no money and didn't spend any. Filing a bunch of "zero reports" was simple. Things became more complicated once we finally started holding events, and the position became a real pain in the butt. The hardest part of the job was chasing down autocrats (event organizers) to get them to cough up the financial details of the event. Often there was a discrepancy, in the order of ten or twenty dollars, between the receipts and the cash on hand. That was the real difficulty, trying to figure out WHY. I was the shire Exchequer for ever, as nobody else wanted the job no matter how many times I asked for help.

I became Seneschal after Dave Westwick headed for greener pastures. I can't remember what kind of election process was held, if any, but I got the job. I stayed in the job through our lengthy incipient period until late 1997, when I resigned and Aetheric took over.

Being Seneschal of an incipient shire (especially an inactive one like Lyndhaven was) could be both easy and difficult. It was easy because reports were simple - "we did nothing". It was difficult because after a while, the regional seneschal started asking why we weren't doing anything. At the time the Northern Regional Seneschal was Master Harold von Auerbach. Harold and I became friends and I credit him for keeping Lyndhaven around. I think many other people would have said "give it up" but Harold was always positive and encouraging. Not to blow my own horn, but after Lyndhaven became a full shire Harold told me the only reason he didn't can us was because I kept on diligently filing reports. Hope springs eternal.

Regrettably, every volunteer group has politics and the SCA is no exception. Once Lyndhaven became a full shire, my job as Seneschal became far harder. There were a few factions within the group working to different purposes, one separatist group, and several people who clearly hated each other. It made for some difficult conversations and a lot of mediation. It didn't help that at least one person actively worked to sabotage my position through others (I'm not going to name names).

It really became apparent to me that it was time to move on when I was accosted by someone at one event I attended and encouraged to step down. They had been sent by this person and I thought it was particularly low to get some innocent person to do your dirty work. I figure that if you have a problem with someone, as an ADULT you have two options: 1) go talk with them and work it out, or 2) get over it. There is no option 3, backstab.

In any case, I resigned as Seneschal late in 1997 after a ten? year run. It was past time for me to go.

I was the Chronicler of the group for a few years in conjunction with my then-wife. I remember producing the newsletter on my Amiga, which shows how long ago that was. I think we did a good job with the newsletter, and indeed I have continued with newsletter production in the CRHA until recently. The struggle with many newsletters is finding people to write for it. I remember I produced one "All Rupert" edition.

For a short time I was the shire Herald (Pursuivant), after resigning as Seneschal. I confess I did a poor to nonexistent job and I feel bad about that. I'm not entirely sure now why I took the job but mercifully I didn't hold the position too long.

I trained as an archery marshal and as such became the shire's Company Captain of Archers by default, being the only marshal in the group. We had some good archery practices but in general they were poorly attended. I confess I could have done a better job of evangelizing archery. I was the Captain during the latter half of my SCA career where my enthusiasm was rapidly declining.

I vaguely remember training as a heavy list marshal but I don't believe I ever completed the training.

Outside of the Shire, I was the Regional Exchequer for Canada (whatever the SCA name for that was). That was challenging at times, especially trying to talk about finances with people from Quebec who barely spoke English. This was actually the last position I held in the SCA before my retirement.

All in all, being seneschal was the most enjoyable and the most frustrating. I do recommend serving your group in whatever capacity you can. Everyone is a volunteer in the SCA and someone has to do the administrative stuff so everyone can have fun playing. To those who serve... vivat!