Is she the real deal?

Nearly two decades have passed since Avril Lavigne’s debut single, but one can still run across people questioning her credentials as an artist. Is she punk? Is she any good? Is she authentic? I’m a fan, but I don’t think the answer to all those questions is necessarily yes.

The Pop Punk Princess

I was living in Sapporo, Japan in the early aughts when pop punk exploded. Every time I turned on MTV Japan, it was to Blink-182, Sum 41 and Good Charlotte. Like their forebears (and contemporaries) Offspring and Green Day, they sneered at society but not too viciously, had a relentless sense…

In ‘Emergency Skin’ the celebrated sci-fi author takes a jab at supremacist fantasies

*Warning: This post contains spoilers.*

The Forward collection of short stories is great reading. Conceived and curated by Wayward Pines author Blake Crouch, each installment features a different author telling a standalone tale of the future. In Emergency Skin (Amazon Original Stories, 2019), N.K. Jemisin takes a trick from 20th-century novelist and philosopher Ayn Rand, turns it inside out, and puts paid to the supremacist fantasies of yesteryear and today.

The Book

Emergency Skin’s backdrop is a human exodus to the stars necessitated by environmental collapse and overpopulation on Earth. Evacuating Earth for one reason or another is an old standard in…

Where do little Hansels and Gretels go?

WARNING: The following work of fiction based on a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm contains references to graphic violence that some readers may find upsetting, disturbing or otherwise objectionable. Reader discretion is advised.

Brummer dragged the children to the cutting house. He placed a tin bucket on the floor at the head of the worktable and looked around for his tools. As he found each one, he hung it from a nail protruding from the underside of the table. When he had assembled them all, he put his hands on his waist and took a deep breath.

Everything was…

After battle come unsettling visitors.

The battle between the United States Army and Modoc Tribe raged across the lava beds, leaving behind the flotsam and jetsam of war. Moaning horses lay in troughs of churned earth. Dead hands gripped fallen standards. Bodies lay in a litter of spilled cartridges, bayonet shards, fragments of clothing, and bits of photographs and letters from home. And onto this field stepped three gunmen in black.

Bo “Bronco” Riley hit the dirt. The hell’d they come from? he thought as he wriggled behind the body of a dead horse and peeked around for another look.

All three of the figures…

To one unholy victor go the spoils.

From his cover in the darkness, Bishop Diclux watched the witches cavort in the light of their bone-fire. Breasts shook and trembled. Sweat flew from tossed hair. Mouths ejected grunts and spewed wild ululations. Within the flames, a massive form hunkered, turning its shaggy, horned head from side to side in slow, baleful arcs. Diclux, Christian priest in public and diabolical warlock in secret, wrapped a hand around the hilt of his sword.

This was going to be a hunt to remember.

Diclux’s companions this night were his Hammer, eight warriors chosen from his enclave for their loyalty, cunning and…

Looking back at a series that’s uneven at best

Note: The following review of the Dune book series was originally published at on February 21, 2014. As the new film adaptation of Dune by director Denis Villeneuve finally approaches release in October this year, I’m reposting this piece here with a few changes. **There are spoilers ahead.**

I just finished Sandworms of Dune, the eighth and final book in the Dune series as envisioned by Frank Herbert and finished by his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J. …

A couple films bring out the killer in us all

Fantasy space is among the many interesting concepts in Slavoj Zizek’s Looking Awry. The book explores the concept through examples from film and literature. Here, I will take a look at the concept through Zizek’s own example of legendary director Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window (1944) as well as the recent remake of Total Recall (2012).

According to Zizek, “fantasy space functions as an empty surface, as a kind of screen for the projection of desires.” In works of fiction, fantasy space takes the form of a world within, underneath or in the cracks of everyday reality: dreams…

One music fan grapples with the method and madness of the masses

I have a memory of playing Dungeons & Dragons at a friend’s house with the coolest music in the world playing in the background. It was the nineties, but the band was a horror-punk outfit out of the seventies called The Misfits. Band leader Glenn Danzig, also known for Samhain and Danzig, is still going, and he kicked up the usual discord on social media last week when he complained to Rolling Stone about wokeness. I haven’t written about this kind of thing in a while, so here goes. What do I think?

“People don’t understand, because everything’s so cancel-culture…

Amor Towles’s instant classic encourages civility above all

Can a gentleman be a gentleman in Moscow anytime after October 1917? Is there any room for gentlemen anywhere in the world today? A Gentleman in Moscow (Viking Books, 2016), the third novel from American author Amor Towles, examines these questions and in the process brushes against class, class consciousness and class warfare.

The Book

A Gentleman in Moscow is about Count Alexander Rostov, a Russian aristocrat whom the Bolsheviks place under house arrest in the Hotel Metropol Moscow in 1922. There, the count will be unable to harm anyone with his aristocratic values. …

As a matter of personal taste . . .

Whenever I don’t like music everyone is raving about, I assume I must be wrong. So I give it an unending series of reappraisals in the hope that at some point it’ll click. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. Here are five albums that never have. At best they do nothing for me, and at worst I can’t stand them.

Only Built for Cuban Linx… by Raekwon (Loud / RCA, 1995)

Two years after the Wu-Tang Clan released its first album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) in1993, group affiliate Raekwon dropped his first solo album, Only Built for Cuban Linx…. Reviewers praised the rapper’s lyrics and RZA’s production, fans consider…

J.P. Williams

I write about the intersection of arts and ideas, my small contribution to the #ThinGraphiteLine between civilization and its collapse.

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