Thursday, March 17, 2011

Magazine Review: Shock Totem Issue 3

Shock Totem is an awesome up-and-coming horror publication that features short stories, interviews and reviews. I’ve reviewed their first and second issues, and now their biggest issue yet, #3 is out!

This issue is their most impressive yet, featuring short stories by John Skipp, Aaron Polson, Joseph Morgado, Amanda C. Davis, Tim Lieder and many, many more! The publication also boasts interviews with bizarro author D. Harlan Wilson and the singer/guitarist of Ghoultown, Count Lyle, plus an amazingly touching article from Mercedes M. Yardley and a cool new series called “Bloodstains and Blue Suede Shoes” that focuses on music of a decidedly darker nature.

In a magazine packed so full of excellent stories and articles it is really hard to pick just a few favorites. As usual, editor K. Allen Wood kicks things off with an informative and entertaining note. In this issue he discusses the digital revolution in publishing and how technology can change entire industries in such a short span. I always dig Wood’s editorials, but this one really made me appreciate the changing landscape of how we enjoy literature. Then Tim Lieder starts things off with his dizzyingly fascinating “Bop Kabala and Communist Jazz”. I cannot even begin to describe this short story, but fell in love with Lieder’s writing. I just cannot resist sentences like “Fifty-two dead in a church on a Sunday morning. Ed K. with his double life and me with my rude flesh, my sinful eyes and my debased hypocrisies.” or “The clouds took the sky and the wind tortured the chrome.” I am itching to check out more of Lieder’s writing after reading this gem!

Another favorite is the second story in the book, “The Meat Forest” by John Haggerty. This grim little tale is about a remote prison situated smack dab in the middle of the “meat forest”. There is a reason why so few prisoners attempt escape, because everything out there eats…I loved the dismal prison setting of the story and the idea of a forest that devours everything. Kinda shines new light on the saying “a rolling stone gathers no moss”.

The third story, “Drift” by Amanda C. Davis is a real keeper as well. We’ve all felt the biting cold, especially this past winter, but what if the cold, and more specifically, snow, literally bit?? Throw in a family who thinks they have a five-year-old with a wild imagination coupled with a snow phobia and you’ve got yourself “Drift”.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten to the third story in the publication I’ve come to the conclusion that ALL the stories contained therein are my favorites and I will just end up listing them all if I keep going like this! How could I not mention John Skipp’s story “Worm Central Tonight!” that shows us the perspective from a corpse-eating worm? Or “Day Job” by Merrilee Faber about how even angels, after years of living amongst imperfect humans, can snap and switch teams. And then there is the tense “A Birth in the Year of the Miracle Plague” by Jeremy Kelly about kids growing up amidst the rubble of a post-apocalyptic world…with the threat of the resurgence of a plague closer than they know. Plus, there is the melancholy ghost story “Wanting It” by Aaron Polson. Next is Joseph Morgado’s “Eye, You” an amusing and frightening look at the Twitter/Facebook/YouTube, instant-gratification, ego-driven generation and how the wired-in technology that chronicles the minutia of our everyday lives can have deadly consequences. I thought this story was so relevant and absolutely adored it! “Stitched” by Christopher Green gives us a look at the world of a cutter who is convinced people fade away and disappear if he doesn’t cut himself and stitch himself back together. Next is the 2010 flash fiction contest winner, Steven Pirie, and his story “Ruth Across the Sea”, set perhaps some time in the Dark Ages and features a woman trying to save her lover from the executioner’s rope. The weird world of “Duval Street” is examined by Mekenzie Larsen in the next tale. The magazine closes with S. Clayton Rhodes creepy tale “Mr. Many Faces”.

Besides all of these amazing short stories, this issue of Shock Totem contains informative reviews and the entertaining interviews with Wilson and Count Lyle plus an awesome introduction to their new music series “Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes”. This issue shows how much love and devotion has been put into Shock Totem and this publication is definitely turning into a must-read for me! I’m already looking forward to the next issue…

Seek it out…you won’t be disappointed!

Buy it on Amazon!

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