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"Back to the Future"

Reading, Writing, Renaissance:  Author uses historical fantasy to tell life story

Story by Anne Marie Mills
The Signal Staff Writer
Reprinted from online archives
dated May 14, 2003

Science fiction author Ray Bradbury once said, "You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." Steve Romano, a science fiction buff since high school and a fan of Bradbury, may well be living by this maxim. A Canyon Country resident for the past five years, Romano describes himself as a self-taught artist and author. A rather humble description coming from a man who can tool designs into leather, fashion costume renaissance weapons out of bone, build entire facades of historically accurate medieval buildings (just for a party with friends) and create beautiful surrealistic airbrush paintings as well as highly detailed drawings.

A Renaissance Man in his own right, Romano has been participating in Renaissance Faires for the past 15 years, appearing as his alternate persona, "Laktos the Intolerable." Romano attended his first Renaissance Faire fully expecting to have a miserable time amidst heat, dust and hay. But he was pleasantly surprised when he immediately took to the jovial surroundings abundant with improvisational theater, craftsmanship, artistry and camaraderie. "It was an atmosphere I could not get enough of," he said.

Renaissance Faires, as we know them today, began in the late 1960s and reflect the late Elizabethan period in English history. So just what is the underlying appeal of Renaissance Faires? Is it dressing up in medieval costume? A fascination with history? "Interaction," Romano said, "You can wait on line for a ride at Disneyland for an hour and never speak to the person waiting behind you. That can't happen at a Renaissance Faire: they won't let you be reclusive. It's like a huge family reunion without the politics."

Not surprisingly, Romano met his current wife of five years, Heidi, at a Renaissance Faire where she was portraying herself as the medieval maiden, "(Captain) Inga Cuckoo."

"Do I have to wear a costume?" is the first question most people ask about Renaissance Faires. The Romano's respond with a resounding "No!" Many people arrive as "civilians," which is Faire lingo coined for those not in costumes (writer error: the correct term is "mundanes"). First-time visitors often become so enthusiastic they rent or buy a costume on the spot. A basic peasant costume for a woman starts at around $40 and usually includes a corset. Men's costumes start in the same price range and can be accessorized with pouches and swords. Selecting an outfit also involves selecting a social class. One can dress up as a mere peasant or as a high-ranking member of the royal aristocracy. "People pick their costumes according to how they see themselves," Romano said, "and it is one of the most fascinating things to watch."

The Romano's said Renaissance Faires are for the whole family. There are games and shows for children, including live rat races, juggling, and plate tossing. Among the many activities visitors can enjoy are magic acts, Shakespearean-type plays, and even jousting, a medieval sport where opposing men on horseback try to dismount each other.

Photo © Bryan Kneiding Steve Romano as "Laktos the Intolerable" displays a variety of hand-made medieval weapons.

Just about everyone is very friendly at Renaissance Faires. Well, almost everyone. Don't be surprised to come across a mock argument replete with Elizabethan insults, such as "you whey-faced bugbear!"

While in character, Steve Romano loves to entertain visitors with a variety of amusing props. Carrying a large sword that he made himself out of bone and steel and a burlap sack filled with stuffed toys, he delights children by handing out small gifts. Always prepared for a glass of ale, his garb also includes every Renaissance man's staple: his own tankard attached by a chain to his belt.

The formation of guilds is another facet of medieval life recreated at Faires. Medieval guilds were similar to today's unions, providing a forum for men of particular trades such as goldsmiths or bakers. There are many guilds to be found at Faires, each reflecting a different aspect of the Renaissance. The Romano's and other local friends formed their own guild. (After it disbanded, they formed the Privateer Dragons shortly after this article came out.)

In just three years, the number of members has grown from eight to 60 and some members travel from as far as Georgia and Arizona to join their guild at a Faire. The Romano's said their guild represents "having fun."

Jilted by an ex-wife and a former best friend who left him, as he describes, "penniless and friendless," Romano developed a strong urge to write about his experiences though the eyes of his alternate persona, Laktos the Intolerable. "The book has been part of a healing process," Steve said.

A sci-fi fantasy adventure novel set in the future after war has devastated the Earth, "Prophesies of the Ancients" starts off with Laktos awakening on top of a mountain with no recollection of how he got there. Faced with a world now ruled by dark forces, Laktos cannot tolerate the evil in men's hearts. Determined to rediscover the past he cannot remember, Laktos is guided by dreams as he goes on a series of strange adventures that lead him into an even deeper mystery. All the while he gains new friends and allies as he attempts to defend the innocent from evil wizards that threaten to conquer the world. Steve Romano is working on his second novel, "Dreams of Betrayal."

"Dreams of Betrayal" can be ordered online at major online booksellers. Romano also has a website at www.dreamsofbetrayal.com.

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