The Answer Isn’t a Simple One

Photo by Erik Mclean from Pexels

If you have paid any attention to popular culture over the past several years, you have surely noticed the explosion of what some call a new literary genre and others call a weird obsession: fan fiction. Whichever category it falls into, and I think it’s probably a bit of both, it has become even bigger than some of the works that inspire it. It is also a literary behemoth that can be a controversial subject in the bookish world and beyond.

In case this is the first time you’re hearing the phrase, fan fiction (more commonly called fan fic) is…


Yes, Films Really Can Be Both

The Alamo (2004) (Photo: Touchstone Pictures)

Last week I published an article about five of the worst movies ever made, at least as far as their historical accuracy. To show that I’m not just a grumpy old man who hates everything, today I want to present the flip side of that: five movies that are both excellent films and historically accurate as well. Sadly, there aren’t as many of these as there are of the bad ones as an overall total of what Hollywood puts out. On the plus side, not a single film listed here features that bane of historical filmmaking Mel Gibson.

1. The…


It was a glorious year

The Last Word Bookstore at night

A little over five years ago, having just been laid off from my job after two decades, I had the following brief conversation with one of my daughters:

Me: “Is it crazy to be thinking about opening a bookstore?”

Her: “No crazier than talking about it your whole life and never doing it.”

And a child shall lead them.

I found myself remembering this conversation, and the bookstore that resulted from it, while pondering a writing challenge on the Vocal Media site called (No)Regrets. That challenge is about an embarrassing or cringeworthy experience in your past, and this is neither…


Those Glorious Days Before the Internet

Photo by Dylan Mullins on Unsplash

This morning I was reading a superb article by Terry Barr about seeing Neil Young live in 1973, which naturally got me thinking about my own concert experiences. Surprisingly, where my memories wandered (they wander a lot these days) was not to the actual concerts, which we still have today, but to something that is now an afterthought: the way we purchased tickets for a concert.

Ok, I get that if you are younger than 30 you may wonder what the hell I am rambling about. Here’s what: in the Dark Ages before the Internet, we actually had to physically…


I am not a poet, but I have this advice for those who are: find a guitarist. Find a drummer, a bass player, and a keyboardist too, because unless you’re…


It Will Probably Change By Tomorrow

Image: Marvel Studios

Over the past few months I have written several articles about the Marvel Cinematic Universe (you can find all of them here). But whether I was defending Iron Man as the greatest Avenger or pointing out the many times Black Widow was the most badass member of the team, these were all fact-based analyses; you know, the type of hard-hitting journalism you’ve come to expect from someone who can work a Springsteen reference into articles about the rainforest and global finance.

What I have yet to do is a simple ranking of my favorite Marvel characters. Not by who is…


It’s Not as Straightforward as It Seems

Image: USA Today

There is no doubt that Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, is one of the most famous rulers of all time; when you are one of the historical figures that Shakespeare chose to write a play about, you’re a big deal. Multiple films have been made about her as well, and a new film is what caused me to delve into one of the biggest myths about this legendary woman.

Cleopatra has been back in the news recently because of an upcoming film about her that reunites the Wonder Woman team of Gal Gadot and director Patty Jenkins, and not without some…


Writer in Residence: Chapter One

Image by Author

Camden Templeton and Heather Morrison are returning from a late lunch. They are in no hurry, as the weather is perfect and being in the sun definitely beats being inside. As they reach the bookstore, however, they find several irritated customers standing outside the store, unable to enter, their way blocked by two large wooden shipping crates. Three burly delivery men in grimy coveralls are attempting, with no success, to move the crates inside. Just inside the door, nearly obscured by the crates, is Sal Terranova, shouting instructions.

“We’re gonna have to take them out of the crates” he says…


THUNDERDOME

The Contest Isn’t Even Close

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures
Thunderdome is a FanFare series where our writers good-naturedly debate some matter of pop culture and then leave it to the readers to decide. Read each post and vote at the bottom!

When you think of the teachers from the Harry Potter series (whether the books or the films), a few come immediately to mind. The first is probably Professor McGonagall, followed by Severus Snape, Delores Umbridge, and even Hagrid. …


The Story of a Family Feud

Photo by Attentie Attentie on Unsplash

I come from a big family, so big it would put 19th century Italian-Americans to shame. I’m also the oldest, which comes with its own baggage. If you’re a first-born son, you know what I’m talking about. All eyes on you, the combined expectations of an entire lineage, all that nonsense.

When I was younger Dad was cool. He was still a little strict for my taste, but he wasn’t some overbearing taskmaster. We all hung out and did the stuff families do. It should have been that way forever.

But then my dad changed. Sure, everyone changes as they…

Paul Combs

Writer, bookseller, would-be roadie for the E Street Band. My ultimate goal is to make books as popular in Texas as high school football...it may take a while.

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