A while back, I started a second blog, one just for my renaissance fair novel, Blackthorne Faire. I’m combining them, because, well, it’s a lot easier to maintain one blog than two, and a lot of the topics I want to write about, like music in fiction (just to name one), fit equally well in both.
So I’m moving the Blackthorne Faire posts here. I hope you’ll stick around.
Here, if you missed it, was the second of the posts from that blog….
On Renaissance Fairs and the Feeling of Being Lost in a Story
Why do I love Renaissance fairs so much? Why do I love them enough to have written a book about one? One answer, I think, is because when I step through the gates, I feel like I’ve fallen into the pages of a story.
I was the kid who grew up spending way, way too much time reading under the covers with a flashlight, and standing in line to see The Empire Strikes Back on opening night. My love for story has been a part of the very core of my being since … well, as long as I can remember.
I don’t think I’m alone in that.
There is something intrinsic in our collective identity as human beings that makes us strive to find narrative in anything and everything, including, perhaps most of all, the chaotic happenstance of our daily lives. There is something in us that recognizes (or creates … toe-MAY -toe/toe-MAH-toe) patterns, and weaves them into meaning.
We recognize, somehow, that our lives are more than just episodes and coincidences. We respond to stories because we recognize in them the way we’re meant to live, something that we’re supposed to be. We are, all of us, the makers of stories. I am fond of something Alan Kay of the Walt Disney Company said:
“Why was Solomon recognized as the wisest man in the world? Because he knew more stories than anyone else. Scratch the surface in a typical boardroom and we’re all just cavemen with briefcases, hungry for a wise person to tell us stories.”
For me, for that kid reading under the covers way past bedtime, it wasn’t enough just to read a story. For reasons I couldn’t begin to articulate at the time, I longed to be in a story. I wanted to visit Narnia, to climb the hills of Prydain, to brave the forests of the Commonwealth, or sip a pint at the Prancing Pony in Bree.
When I visit a Renaissance festival … something I try to do single year, even if I seldom succeed … I’m that kid again. I’m turning a tattered cover and finding myself lost in another place, another time. I’be broken through the page and found myself, just for that fleeting moment, in a story.
I’ve noticed something else about Renaissance fairs and stories. There is something in both of them that inspires communities.
Recently, my business partners and I incubated our own publishing company, Gramarye Media (the world’s first cross-media story incubator) through Georgia Tech’s Flashpoint program.
As a part of our research, we spent a lot of time talking to readers. One of the things we learned (it didn’t really come as a surprise, I confess) was that many readers long for community … to be with people like them. Many equate their best and dearest friends with people who love the same stories. When you find those rare someones (it’s a lot easier now in the days of Internet communities), there’s an instant connection.
C.S. Lewis put it like this in The Four Loves:
“Friendship … is born at the moment when one man says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
There is, in my experience at least, an instant assumption of kinship when you meet someone who loves the stories you do … a feeling that this person is like me in a way that other people aren’t. The other person has to do something dastardly indeed to break that assumption of immediate friendship.
In doing our research for Flashpoint, we saw that some people had communities that they counted among their very dearest friends … even though they’d never met in person.
I found those same communities, or ones very much like them, at Renaissance fairs … among people who attend them and among people who perform there. These people have stories, all of them. The casts at Ren fairs always seemed especially close, and, deep in the heart, I always wanted to be a part of those fellowships. I never was — I had neither the time nor (alas) the talent. That’s one of the sadnesses of my life.
When I first started researching my own Renaissance Fair novel, Blackthorne Faire, I asked Mr. Bryan Thompson (AKA Ik, King of the Trolls)* for help. He very kindly invited me to a gathering of the cast of the Georgia Renaissance Festival after the fair had ended on a Sunday night. We met at a long table at a nearby Mexican restaurant, and we ate and drank and laughed late into the night. I listened, and they told stories.
There was a community there, dear and close, made more so by the fact that (as with so many of the best theatre companies) they knew their fellowship was a temporary one, bright and gone like the flash of a falling star.
I found that I envied them.
I was a welcome guest, but I wasn’t a part of their community, of their story, and I never really could be. But I loved it all the same. Like a reader glimpsing Narnia or Middle-earth distantly, through the dark glass of the page, I was only a visitor, and my time among them was short.
Funny though … all those years later, I still think about that night. I am probably the only one who does; it was one of many for them, and I doubt anyone was wise enough to recognize how precious it was, how soon they would scatter without ever recognizing that one night that was their last together. But in me, though, that night is preserved, in all its giddy glory. I will always be the outsider in that family, the traveler passing, but I remember. Maybe an outsider is the only one who can.
And maybe that’s my role in this story. I remember, and I tell. I can’t be a part of that story. But I can remember it, I reshape it into new patterns, and I can tell it. Hence, Blackthorne Faire.
*By the way, his Highness King Ik has a cameo or two in Blackthorne Faire.