"The Origin of the Betting Man's Guide"
On October 22, 1936 some science fiction fans took the train from New York City to Philadelphia in what was later called the first science fiction convention. Two of the fans on the train were my friends David Kyle, and the late Fred Pohl and they have each spoken of the event.
On May 1, 1966 a bunch of science fiction fans met for a grand tournament which was later called the first SCA event. I have spoken with people who were there, and have received generous correspondence from others on the subject.
I set up this comparison to note more comparisons and differences between the groups, which are, in essence, parent and child. One significant difference is that SF fandom fully embraces acronyms, while the SCA generally limits acronyms to awards and a few other places.
One place where the SCA loses in this comparison is their lack of the acronyms FIAWOL and FIJAGH. Certainly the sentiment has existed in the SCA as long as I have been there. For those who don’t know FIAWOL stands for Fandom Is a Way of Life, and FIJAGH stands for Fandom Is Just a Goddamned Hobby. Substitute “The SCA” for fandom and you have a major conflict during my first decade in the SCA.
As is happens, I fall on the FIJAGH side of the discussion. I believe that events and combat should be engaging, and at times, fierce. But it should leave us healthy enough to go to work on Monday morning. Nowhere has this dichotomy been stronger than among fighters. Some want to make fighting as realistic (and brutal) as possible. I want to be able to go to work on Monday.
For the Spring Crown Tournament of the East in 1986, I decided to make something of a statement; so the week before the tourney I wrote a betting guide. I wrote it mostly for my own amusement, and I wrote it in the style of any number of sports guide that I had read. I made pointed comments about other fighters, and generally pushed my FIJAGH agenda.
That might have been time well spent, but then I went crazy and made four copies and brought them with me. I showed them to a few people and let some circulate. This should have been the end of any hope of my ever becoming a peer. I expected people to be angry with me.
But that’s not what happened.
The fighter’s went a little nuts trying to get copies. They couldn’t believe I brought only five. They all wanted to read about themselves. They wanted to buy copies. I had provided validation for their fighting careers by taking them (semi-)seriously as fighters. It was a huge hit. The King asked me why I didn’t ask for a list of fighters so I could be more accurate. I couldn’t have been more confused by the response. I had produced an underground protest publication with some edginess to it, and the “audience” was acting as if it were as established as Sports Illustrated.
As it happens, the tourney was won by Sebastian Nightwind who I had listed in the dark horses at 40:1 odds. I thought he, at least, would be ticked off. Instead he was delighted, and by royal decree, my nickname for the next year was 40:1 Hak. He invited me to be part of the procession at his coronation.
Well, suddenly I was in the middle of things I had never thought I would be in the middle of. For the next ten years I published a BMG for each Eastern Crown, all proceeds donated to the Crown for travel expenses. The Royalty provided lists of those who had submitted letters of intent. It did not take long before Master Josef Alaric started actually taking bets on the Crowns and all those proceeds were also donated for travel expenses.
I had created a small magazine which could not sell over a hundred copies, but also could not sell less than thirty.
Of course, somewhere in there I was knighted. And Aethelmearc became a principality. And I started doing the Betting Man’s Guide to Coronet Tourney. After a few years of doing four of these publications a year I started adding some articles about the history of the East and Aethelmearc.
After twenty issues of the BMG to Eastern Crown, I decided to give it a rest. I was in graduate school, just had my second child, and I needed to focus elsewhere. Apparently, I had not learned the lesson of the first BMG. There was definitely some distress in the small but diligent crowd of fans for the BMG. Baron Mitchell McBain came up to me at the tournament to discuss it with me. He gingerly wondered whether he might not continue the BMG if I did not want to do it any longer. I told him I’d be delighted if he wanted to take over. And so he did. And Duchess Luna after him, and more after her. For all I know, the East may still have a BMG.
But Aethelmearc definitely has one. (Thanks Bear.)
I note here that I have always put one request on those publishing the BMGs. The request is that they publish the finalists of the previous tournament in the current issue.
There are many historical organizations in existence. I believe that the thing that is most special about the SCA is the “Crown Cycle of events.” This is a term from the earliest days, and refers to Crown Tournaments, Coronations, and Twelfth Nights. I note that the term derives from a time when Twelfth Night in the West Kingdom included a Crown Tournament and immediate Coronation.
I wanted to (and still want to) save the history of that cycle of events. I spent countless hours tracking down the finalists of all Atlantean Coronets and Crowns, all Drachenwald’s Coronets, and all Eastern Crown finalists save one. I gave copies to each of those places. I hope they continued them.
I would have the knowledge I researched continue, but I can’t be the one to chronicle it all. By creating the BMG I hope I created a forum to save the knowledge of who vied for the crown, who won, and who lost. And if the fighters find validation in that, I’m all for it.