Discovering Shock Totem
By Jason Harris
Shock Totem: Volume 1
I recently read the first issue of Shock Totem: Curious Tales of the Macabre and Twisted. I had picked up the first four issues at the NEHW booth at the Hebron Harvest Fair in September.
The magazine was first published in 2009 and Publisher K. Allen Wood explains in the editorial how the magazine was created and the different names they had for the magazine before settling on Shock Totem. It’s a lot better than Papercut Stigmata or Bleeding Penis Pens.
Volume one includes stories about vengeance meted out by childhood toys (“The Music Box”). Author T.I. Morganfield captures the magic of those special toys a person has as they grow up. As you read about Snowflake, you can’t help but think about a darker version of Toy Story. Morganfield even mentions in the “Howling Through the Keyhole” section of the magazine that he took the conflict between the toys in the Pixar movie in a “darker direction.”
In “Murder for Beginners,” the reader is lost as the story begins with a woman holding a shovel as she stands over the body of a dead man. As the tale continues, you find out there is another woman with her. By the end of this interesting story, the reader finds out about these two women plus what connections they have to the guy they are standing over. You are not lost by the end of the story. What Mercedes M. Yardley does with her tale is keep the reader interested and reading. Who wants to stop reading after a story begins with two women standing over a dead body? At that point, you want to know why they killed him or even if they killed him. There are so many questions the reader wants to find the answers to, and Yardley answers those questions.
Baseball fans will enjoy David Niall Wilson’s story, “Slider.” It involves a tale of a ball that has a bloody and cursed history. You don’t even have to enjoy the game of baseball to become engrossed in the story about the death of pitcher Jeb Rabinowicz.
One other story I will mention is Kurt Newton’s “Thirty-Two Scenes from a Dead Hooker’s Mouth,” which tells the story of a prostitute’s life from her death to her birth. It will remind you of the movie Memento, which inspired Newton when he wrote this story. He states, “knowing the outcome of events doesn’t necessarily remove the mystery.”
Shock Totem has a section “Strange Goods and Other Oddities,” which deals with reviews of books, movies, music, and more written by the magazine’s staff. This section reminds me of a similar section within the pages of Fangoria magazine.
The magazine also offers interviews with authors and artists in the horror community such as John Skipp and William Ollie. Those interviews make one want to go to the nearest bookstore and find the books these authors were discussing in these articles.
The “Howling Through the Keyhole” section is great if you want a peek into the writer’s mind. Well, that is if the writer wants to give you a glimpse into their dark playground. Each author has a little blurb about their story and the inspiration behind their story.
I am looking forward to reading the other volumes of the magazine that I own. Click on Amazon or Shock Totem to go to either site to buy any issue of the magazine. The issues are available in print and digital formats except for the Holiday issue, which is only available as an e-book.