I was watching the documenatry, Empire of Dreams, included in the new DVD box set of the Star Wars trilogy, and I was amazed at how close the original Star Wars movie was to never getting made.
Nobody was interested in making the movie. Even Alan Ladd Jr., George Lucas' supporter at 20th Century Fox, believed only in George's talent, not in the picture itself. George Lucas was a young, inexperienced director; clearly unprepared to deal with the rigours and complexity of directing a big budget picture. His special effects team, that would later become Industrial Light and Magic, were trying to come up with visual effects that had never been done before, and were simply making it up as they went. Mere weeks before principal photography was due to wrap, the studio pulled the plug on the project. That should have been it, but instead of telling them to stop, Alan Ladd told George he had a week before the next board meeting to get it all done.
Though it wasn't made on a shoestring, an apt metaphor might have been a tightrope. One misstep and Star Wars might never have been. How would our entertainment world be different today?
The chain of events proceding in a direct line from the success of Star Wars is remarkable. Aside from six blockbuster science fiction movies, the last of which is preparing to knock our socks off this May, without Star Wars, the Indiana Jones movies do not get made. And without those, the movie Spielberg is best known for is Jaws. Not a horrible film, but it's no Schindler's List.
The PIXAR computer system used to create fabulous 3D animation effects was originally developed by Industrial Light and Magic. Without Star Wars, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles do not get made. Look at the ILM website. The list of projects they have been involved in reads like a list of the top Sci-Fi and Action/Adventure movies made in the last twenty years.
The home theater revolution was driven by THX, another Lucasfilm company. Without Star Wars, you wouldn't have that fancy surround sound stereo system in your living room.
Even the way we talk has changed. The simple phrase, "I've got a bad feeling about this," has a whole extra layer of subtext whenever it is spoken, due to Star Wars. Even people who have never seen a Star Wars movie know what the words, "jedi mind trick" mean. It is a part of our culture.
I'm not saying that George Lucas is a great director. Of his group of contemporaries, Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, and Steven Spielberg are all more talented. He is, however, a great storyteller, and a man who knows how to push his people to new achievements. George Lucas changed the way movies, all movies, were made. He is probably among the most influential figures in the world in the last fifty years.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Friday, March 25, 2005
Have you ever made a small mistake, and tried to fix it, only to make it worse? But still, you figure it is salvageable, so you try to patch it up again, only to mess it up even worse? And then you get determined to fix it up if it is the last thing you do? Have you ever been watching someone while they go through that process? Kinda like a train wreck, isn't it? You can see the inevitable chaos and destruction coming, but you can't do anything about it, and you can't look away. Of course, if you take a picture of it, you're just a sick bastard.
We called it a California Earthquake, and served it anyway. Tasted great.
If you've read my (almost) 100 things about me, which by the way was updated a couple of days ago, you'll remember that I commented on the love-hate relationship between my dog and my cat. With spring in the air, the cat has been gathering her courage and making sorties to the main floor in search of windows to look out at the birds from. Inevitably, she overextends herself, and ends up getting pinned down by the dog, and forced to fight her way back to base.
Think I'm joking?
Shadow just wants to play, but as you can see from the above series of pictures, she's having none of that. She's given him several solid bats on the snout, but she has no claws on her forepaws, and he doesn't even flinch anymore. Luckily, she wins the staring contests, and when he blinks, she runs for the safety of the basement.
Oh, and speaking of Shadow...
He's not so much the puppy anymore, is he? And he's big! The average weight of an adult, male Border Collie is forty-five pounds. Shadow is over sixty-five, and he's only nine months old. We can hardly afford to feed him, he eats more than Matthew.
And more variety. I could only dream of Matthew eating broccoli, carrots, lettuce, and cabbage. This dog lives for vegetables. His favourite treat in the whole wide world is cherry tomatoes. I'm trying to get a picture of him beside Matthew to compare with the first pictures I ever showed you. If I can get them both to stand still long enough, I'll post it up here soon.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
This sure has taken me a while. I finally finished writing my last set of interview questions, and sent them off to Dornbrau. Watch her journal for the answers.
Posting answers last week were The Warm Fuzzy One, and The Virtual Mustang Rider. Thanks for playing, Rachel and Tina.
Whew! Now, on to the next one. I stole this one from a thread on a message board I used to frequent. I call it "Ten Things That Might Be True About..." The idea is to pick a blogger who's journal you regularly read and make up ten things that you suppose could be true about that blogger. They don't have to actually be true. They don't have to be supported by any specific evidence. They just have to sound plausible based on what you know about that blogger. Just, you know, be nice.
I'll start. Here are Ten Things That Might Be True About Karen Funk Blocher:
2) The highest pair of heels Karen owns are two inches, and she's only ever worn them once.
3) Karen's Joshua Wander series was to have included fictional television commercial jingles that she wrote and recorded. They were later edited out.
4) Karen once lost her car keys for a whole week. Only after she had paid to get them duplicated did she find them under some papers on her desk.
5) Karen still has, tucked away in a drawer, every pair of eyeglasses she's ever owned. except one. They were her favourites.
6) Karen isn't even remotely interested in the new Dr. Who series coming out. She thinks it will be "complete bullocks."
7) In grade school, Karen never raised her hand, even though she knew all the answers.
8) Karen likes to collect nostalgic toys because she feels guilty about how badly she treated her toys as a child.
9) Karen has clear high school recollections of grades 9 and 11, but can remember almost nothing about grade 10.
10) Karen will neither confirm nor deny the rumour that she was once locked in a storage room for fifteen minutes with Scott Bakula.
And there you have it. Karen, I hope you don't get too upset with me for making you the example in this new bloggame. You're next. Pick a blogger you read and fire away. But, once again, be nice.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Friday, March 18, 2005
For the Judith Heartsong March artsy essay contest...
Once upon a time, in a far off land, there lived a young Prince. Prince Credulorum, for that was his name, upon attaining his twenty-first year, began the study of statecraft at his father's directive. His father, King Boldinough, then approaching his fortieth birthday, had grown weary of the demands of kingship, and wished to abdicate the throne in favour of his heir.
Credulorum approached the thought of governance with some trepidation. He had enjoyed being a Crown Prince. His days normally consisted of playing polo, and reviewing troops, and occasionally going to state functions of other kingdoms his father considered too unimportant for his own attention. He did not think he wanted to take on the responsibility of Kingship. He lacked the self confidence that his father had displayed throughout his reign.
As the date of his coronation approached, he became increasingly nervous. One cool spring day, as he sat by the river contemplating his future kingship, he was approached by a small creature. Manlike in appearance, but only about three feet tall, this being was clad in earth toned felt vest and breeches. A vivid white beard hung down to the centre of his expansive belly, and a tall pointed red hat perched jauntily upon his head. Perhaps you recognise this little fellow? Yes, indeed, he was a gnome.
Now gnomes, as everybody knows, are busybodies by nature, and cannot help but stick their noses into other people's business whenever the opportunity arises. This particular gnome had been watching Credulorum mope about for several days, and had put his ear to the ground about the town, to collect whatever information he could on what might be bothering the young Prince. As such, he was already quite well informed about Credulorum's situation before ever he approached.
"My good Prince," he said, as popped up from behind rock. "Please allow me to introduce myself. I am Count Rippinuov, master of mysteries. I am here to help you in your time of need." The little gnome essayed a deep, formal bow; a surprising feat for a creature of his girth, let me tell you. As he straightened, he looked the Prince in the eye, and murmured, "assuming the responsibility of one's birthright can be a frightening proposition."
Now Prince Credulorum was startled by the wee fellow's statement. He had never before seen the chap. He was quite sure there was no Count Rippinuov at his father's court. How could the gnome have known what it was that bothered him? "My good gentleman," he said to the bearded creature, "how is it that you know the thoughts and feelings of my innermost heart?"
Count Rippinuov allowed a swift smile to play across his face, and once again bowed deeply. "The mysteries of a man's heart, mind, and soul are readable by one versed in the sacred arts of divinarcation, and remunerology, my Lord," he replied. "As are," he added, "the shadowy paths of the future." As he finished saying the words, he added a sly wink for effect.
"Do you mean," asked Credulorum haughtily, "that you will tell me what to do?"
The gnome put a hand to his mouth in mock astonishment (actually, he was covering another smile). "My good Prince," he exclaimed. "A mere creature like myself could never presume to instruct royalty. What I can do, is to make somewhat more clear the various potential outcomes of different paths of action. Simply said, I can provide information invaluable to you in your own decision making process. Information, I might add, that is not available anywhere else, for I am the only legitimate practicer of bilateral-incendiary-revelabism in the kingdom." He made a third, sweeping bow, and remained prostrate, waiting.
"Well, perhaps it can't hurt, can it? What can you tell me?"
Count Rippinuov popped to his feet with a grand smile upon his face. "If my Lord could but accompany me to my humble abode, I will perform the mystical flambatorous revebilation. I need only some small amount of fire wood for this task."
So, Prince Credulorum followed Count Rippinuov over the small footbridge, and along a small path through the woods. As he went, he collected fallen wood from beside the trail at the behest of his guide. "Surely you don't need this much wood for one fire," the Prince asked from behind a pile of branches that reached the top of his nose?
"My dear Prince," replied the Gnome. "You must forgive me. This art, while highly precise and successful, is not an exact science. It is possible, if the paths of the future are quite clouded, that more than one fire may be necessary. Why, I once needed six distinct fires to solve a particularly difficult problem. While I have high hopes that tonight that intense effort will not be needed, it never hurts to be prepared." Credulorum had to admit the wisdom inherent in that statement, and he complained no more. Presently, he was able to deposit his load beside the door to the small hovel the Gnome called home.
As it happened, Rippinuov needed only a few twigs to cast his foretelling. As they crackled merrily in the fire pit, he waved his hands around rhythmically, sending wisps of smoke around the room, and into Credulorum's eyes. At the very moment the Prince blinked due to the stinging of the woodsmoke, the little Gnome clapped his hands and yelled, "aha! There it is."
Credulorum wiped desperately at his eyes, but they stung too much to open, and he could not see that about which Rippinuov had exclaimed. "What, what," he shouted?
"Did you not see it, my Lord," asked the Gnome? "Right there, clear as day. I saw a vision of the throne room, the beautiful red carpet leading up to the golden throne. I saw you sitting on that throne, my Lord, a great crown on your head, and a sceptre in your hand. You were dispensing wisdom and justice, and your people loved you."
Now, the Prince was astounded by this vision. He was quite sure Count Rippinuov could have no knowledge of the upcoming abdication of the King. There were some odd details, though. He pointed out to Rippinuov that the long carpet in the throne room was blue, and that his father's throne was made of carved wood, and that the crown of his kingdom was a simple silver circlet upon the King's brow. Rippinuov just smiled his enigmatic smile and pointed out that those things were true today, but who could tell what the future might hold. "Did you see anything else," asked Credulorum?
"Well, yes, now you mention it," replied the Count. "I do not pretend to understand it, though. In my vision, just behind the throne, where a King's trusted advisor might stand, I saw...me."
Prince Credulorum made his way slowly through the darkening woods back towards the castle, with many thoughts spinning through his head. He had much thinking to do, but the Gnome's prognostication seemed to indicate that he would, indeed, ascend to the throne as his father planned, and be successful there, and that was heartening. He made a decision at that moment to apply himself to the lessons of statecraft his father's chancellor was teaching with renewed vigour to become the best King he could be.
That night, the Gnome who called himself Count Rippinuov was as warm as could be beside a merry fire made with wood he did not need to collect himself.
...to be continued.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Monday, March 14, 2005
There are, at last count, three more people waiting for questions from me. Rachel, Tina, and Jody, I have not forgotten you. Personalized questions will be forthcoming in short order. Anyone else who wants to play, I'm questioned out. Check out those who have played, and ask them to set you up.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
We live our lives under the communal delusion that our children are all little angels, and that those few trouble-makers we find are products of unfortuante upbringings, but I have seen through to the heart of this fallacy. Our children are natural born criminals.
The truth of this postulation lies in the evidence. Any time, anywhere, you see a child doing something wrong, you have simply to walk up behind them and utter the single word, "ahem." The fact that they immediately stop whatever they are doing, without so much as a second look proves that they are in full possession of the knowledge of right and wrong.
This never happens:
Innocent Child: lovingly polishes the ball of solid ice he or she has been packing together for the entire thirty minute recess period.
Responsible Adult: Steps up behind child and clears his or her throat.
Innocent Child: Looks up questioningly at Responsible Adult.
Responsible Adult: "What do you have there?"
Innocent Child: "An ice ball."
Responsible Adult: "What are you doing with it?"
Innocent Child: "Polishing it."
Responsible Adult: "Why?"
Innocent Child: "Because it's pretty."
Responsible Adult: "Give it to me."
Innocent Child: "Why?"
Responsible Adult: "So you don't throw it at anyone."
Innocent Child: Eyes widen in astonishment. "Throw it at someone?"
No. What happens is this:
Responsible Adult: "Ahem."
Innocent Child: Leaps immediately to his feet and thrusts iceball behind his back. "I wasn't doing anything."
Responsible Adult: "Give me the ice ball."
Innocent Child: "What ice ball?" discreetly drops ice ball in ground behind his back.
Our children don't have any problems discerning right from wrong. They know when it's wrong, and they do it anyway. They do it because it's wrong. They only stop doing it if you can convince them they cannot, ever, get away with it. That is why the current crop of kids are such trouble. Their parents have not been paying enough attention. I'm not talking about the poor children being neglected, and acting out in order to draw attention to themselves, that's hogwash. It's just that the little criminals aren't being caught often enough.
You need to be watching them every single moment of every single day. You need to make sure that every time they pick up an ice ball, you are there behind them saying, "ahem." You need to drill it into their heads that they are going to get caught every time. Every time.
It's not about punishment. Punishment just makes them resentful. Punishment makes the problem worse. It's about catching them. Every single time. For the good of society.
Friday, March 11, 2005
I just watched the new trailer for Star Wars III: The Revenge Of The Sith. It's available exclusively to Hyperspace members, and AOL members. :p Up until now I've been pretty blase about the upcoming movie. Episodes I and II were good, but did not really excite me, and the teasers available for Revenge so far did not change my expectations.
This new trailer goes far more deeply into the story Episode III will tell, and for the first time, I am really looking forward to this movie coming out. It's gonna be awesome.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
Several people have volunteered to be asked five tough questions. Now, I am no professional television producer/director/interviewer, but I have done my best to come up with some questions that might be relevant to those hearty souls.
To Karen, I sent these five questions:
1) What specific piece of your writing are you most proud of, and why?
2) As a science fiction/fantasy fan and writer, and a Catholic, what is your take on the evolution vs. creation controversy?
3) You recently returned to college as a mature student and completed your degree/diploma. What was the best part of that experience? What was the worst part?
4) Leaving aside the fantasy genre, what hard science fiction work of literature has most influenced you, and why?
5) Sam Beckett or Jonathan Archer? Why?
Stay tuned to Musings from Mavarin for her responses. If you don't know who Sam Beckett or Jonathan Archer are, I'm sure she'll elaborate.
Simon also has expressed the opinion that I am no Barbara Walters, and that he has no fear of anything I might ask him. Here are his questions:
1) Which young and foolish activity do you look back upon with embarrassment and chagrin? Full details please.
2) If you were to be tragically taken from your family tomorrow, how would your wife describe you to your son when he is grown up?
3) The Lions of Al Rassan has recently been optioned by a major motion picture studio. What other novel would you most like to see given a movie treatment? What novel that you like should absolutely never be made into a movie, and why?
4) You have lived in Ontario and Alberta. What is your take on the East/West Canadian political debate.
5) What is the better second movie, Wrath of Khan or Empire Strikes Back, and why?
Don't stray too far from Simian Farmer over the next few days. You don't want to miss a thing.
Amy also offered to participate. Her journal, Hippies in Yuppieland is private. I have not reproduced her questions here. If you are on her readers list, you will see them. If you are not, tough luck.
Rachel has offered to participate. I'm not as familiar with her as I am with the others, so I am going to defer her questions until I have had an opportunity to peruse her journal, Rachel's Warm Fuzzies, in some more depth.
And there you have it. Another detestable LiveJournal 'meme' has been released into the wilds of AOL J-land. I am truly sorry.
Wednesday, March 9, 2005
This is a messageto the AOL journals technicaldevelopment team. I would like youto address the bug thatcauses the journal software tostring together words when you save the entry. I havejust spent fifteen minutes tryingto fix my previous entry, and everytime I inserted a space between twowords and clicked on save, twonew words would get jammedtogether likethis. It is really, really, annoying, and I would likeyou to fixit.
OK Mr. Wiseacre,
Welcome to the chamber of DOOOOOOM! Or Lissa's five questions:
1) You have a chance to taste the world's top fifteen beers at home in one
week or travel to an exotic land. Which one do you choose and why?
2) Tell us about your ideal job?
3) You have a chance to fulfill one wish on your list, which one do you
pick, and why (yes you can do more than one if you MUST)?
4) Tell us about one regret in your past and if you had a chance to change
it would you?
5) Choice of a) or b) Have you experienced a defining moment in your life,
or what is your best memory of an event that incited change in your life?
Have a great time with these!
1) I see you have decided to start me off with some soft toss. I appreciate it. The short answer to number one is, of course, "are you freaking nuts?" The whole answering a question with a question faux pas aside, the short answer is not really why we are here, is it? Therefore, the long answer follows.
The first option is to stay at home and try fifteen of the world's top beers. That brings up the whole issue of how you determine what the world's top beers are. If you go simply by the most popular brands, the top fifteen list would be populated by names like Asahi, Carlsberg, Corona, Heineken, and Kirin. All of those brands are in the top 10 best selling beers in the world, with Budweiser, 'The King of Beers' sitting on top of the heap. Expanding the list to fifteen allows even Bud Light to sneak in. Quite frankly,I have tried all of those, and...meh.
I am sure, however, that Lissa was thinking differently. She intended to offer me the choice of trying the world's fifteen best beers. So, what are they? Here is one list of top beers. Here is another. They overlap a little bit. They are also Americentric. If there were more European representation on the list, I am sure it would look a little different.
OK. For the sake of argument, let's pick one list. Do I want to sit at home and try a bunch of different beers? Or, do I want to travel to an exotic country, where I could, if I so chose, try a bunch of different beers?
Which takes us back to the short answer. Next question?
2) OK, so that's not soft toss anymore. Girlfriend's playing for real now. My first thought? I would like to have been the one who applied Cleopatra's nipple rouge. On second thought, perhaps not. A simple, involuntary, vascular reaction, and it could have been, "off with his head!" if you know what I mean.
When I started thinking about this question, the lyrics to an old, psychedelic-era song popped into my head. The chorus of Traffic's, The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys goes:
The percentage you're paying is too high priced
While you're living beyond all your means
And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
From the profit he made on your dreams...
Obviously, my ideal job would take me out from under the thumb of that 'man in the suit.' I would like to work for me. Perhaps as a writer. I know, I know, there are already more of those than the market can support. I did not say it was a well thought out plan.
3) How come you did not offer me bonus points for mentioning world peace? Jendo got bonus points. Hardly fair.
So, screw world peace. Pipe dream anyway. We are an antagonistic bunch of assholes, we humans. The Chinese hate the Japanese. The Greeks hate the Turks. The Arabs hate the Jews. The Irish hate the...uh, Irish. World peace just ain't happening.
I had to think about this one some. If I had the chance to fulfil one wish on my list, I would have to start a list then, wouldn't I? I mean, I have a fabulous wife, a bright, precocious son, the continued use of all ten fingers and toes...what more could I ask for? We have a friend, the mother of one of Matthew's school chums, who was recently diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), or Lou Gehrig's Disease. In less than six months, she went from living a normal, everyday life, to living in a wheelchair, with the knowledge that her life expectancy is 3-5 years. So, what do you want I should wish for myself?
OK, so I have to wish. Thinking back over my lifetime, one of the things I see as being unfulfilled potential is the space program. We went to the moon when I was four. Now I am forty, and we are having difficulty breaking orbit, for Christ's sake! Thirty-six years ago, the human race was able to send a man to another celestial body using oversized tin cans and computers less advanced than some of today's universal remote controls. The technological progress we have made since nineteen sixty-nine in astounding, yet we cannot even take the next step, and get a man to the next closest planet in line.
We are a rapidly expanding infestation on this little ball of rock, and one day soon we will reach the limit of mother earth's ability to sustain us. There are two alternatives. We will expand into space, or we will die. My wish is to see mankind exploiting our solar system in my lifetime. There.
4) Eye-yi-yi! Regrets? Yeah, I probably have some, but I choose not to dwell on them. I am a real 'take it as it comes' kind of guy. Sure, there are things I regret doing or saying, but they are done, or said, and over with. Ain't no going back and changing them, now.
I know, I am not playing along. OK, there was this time when I was six... I was playing T-ball. It was the final game of the season, bottom of the last, bases loaded, two out, little Paul at the bat. The coach came up to me and said, "hit the ball down the third base line, and run to first base." I hit the ball down the first base line, and ran to third. Three down, game over, we lose. Kinda set a tone, you know?
5) Lissa's been sending me e-mails, trying to light a fire under my butt. I guess I have been taking too long to answer these questions. The truth is, I have been stuck on this one.
Sure, I have had my share of interesting, funny, sad, dramatic or tragic experiences. Anyone who gets this far has. One in particular those who really know me could probably point to as being 'life altering.' (I don't mean to be cryptic, but it is not something I am prepared to talk about here.) But, how 'defining' or 'life altering' was it? How can I know? There is no way to say how my world would have unfolded had things happened differently. Things might have ended up much the same as they are now, or I might have become a completely different person. Thinking about it is wasted time and energy because, well, because things happened the way the happened, I am who I am, and time machines do not exist, so there is no way of changing it.
If you want to split hairs, every single moment of your life is a defining moment. We make a million little decisions every day, most of them totally unconsciously. I had peanut butter on my toast this morning, instead of jam. Would my day have gone differently if I had chosen the jam? Probably not, but you never can tell. I went to the post office before the grocery store today. Who knows what might have happened to me if I had done it in reverse order. As I look back over my life, I have many memories that stand out. Can I point to any of them and say they changed the course of my life? No, not one. Or, yes, all of them.
As these things go, now that I have participated, I am required to propagate. If you would like me to interview you, drop me an e-mail, or leave a comment here, and I will send you a list of five questions designed specially for you.
Friday, March 4, 2005
I searched for Patton Pending, I got an American Page. I search Patton pending.canada and got junk, I searched How to patton, I searched patton,how. I searched paton idea.and patton idea, canada. I put as many things I could think of to find a page that would give me information on how to patton an idea. The only one I found was an American, patton agent who only did American pattons. I wish you would make searched easier. I rarely find what I search for. I alway get inappropriate material or material that is for the US only. A search is not much use if you fail to find everything but what you want. I should have been able to put down "patton pending" and get items that dealt with patton information. even if it was information on how to find the right page I want. I am just about ready to get rid of my internet connection. If I'm not going to get the answers I want, then I might as well go to the liberary.
I stole this from James Randi, although it wasn't originally his anyway. Whoever wrote this was obviously using too specific a search criteria. He should have requested information on a more general patton.
(Almost) 100 things about me updated 8:00pm
Thursday, March 3, 2005
Apparently, March third is World Book Day, and we have been encouraged to write about books; maybe recommend a couple. If you have checked out the links listed in my favourite sites section, you will know that a Canadian writer by the name of Guy Gavriel Kay is one of my favourites.
Guy Kay's work can be rather difficult to pigeonhole, for those who want to do so. His writing career began in the mid-seventies when he befriended Christopher Tolkien, and was subsequently invited to Oxford, where he assisted in the organisation and editing of the material that eventually became The Silmarillion: J.R.R. Tolkien's elaboration of the mythic and historical framework in which he based The Lord of the Rings. (I know, that sentence is way too long. I tried breaking it up, but I couldn't get it to read the way I wanted, so just deal with it.) Returning to Canada, he pursued a law degree before turning again to writing on the CBC television program The Scales of Justice. It was not until 1984 that he published his own first novel.
The Summer Tree was the first book of a classic high fantasy trilogy called The Fionavar Tapestry. It, and its follow up novels The Wandering Fire and The Darkest Road were a response by Kay to both the dry, narrative-driven style of Tolkien, and the general decline in the quality of the fantasy genre during the late seventies and early eighties.
Having got that out of his system, so to speak, Kay turned in a different direction. His next novel, Tigana, examined the nature of names and memory, and how those things affect identity, both of an individual, and of a people. Still set in an imagined world, there are strong parallels between Kay's Peninsula of the Palm and fifteenth century Italy.
This is trend he would continue with A Song For Arbonne, The Lions Of Al Rassan, The Sarantine Mosaic, and The Last Light Of The Sun. All of these novels take place in worlds only slightly removed from our own history. The Lions Of Al Rassan, which examines the Christian re-conquest of Spain has recently been optioned by a major motion picture studio.
Although there are Sorcerers in Tigana, and Faeries in The Last Light Of The Sun, all of Kay's work since The Fionavar Tapestry has been much moreaccessible to non-fantasy readers. Readers, especially, of historical fiction will find it a short and comfortable step into Kay's world. A good jumping off point might be The Lions Of Al Rassan, as it has the most historical aspect of all the novels, and involves very little mention of the supernatural.
Once you have immersed yourself in Kay's universe of compelling, real characters though, you will find yourself devouring the rest of his novels in short order. Just don't ask to borrow a copy. I'm already down a Tigana first edition hardcover that I lent out and no one will admit to having.