In the fourth issue of Shock Totem, K. Allen Wood and crew have compiled yet another eclectic collection of horror fiction. This issue features previously unpublished stories from the likes of Weston Ochse, Lee Thompson, A.C. Wise, Jaelithe Ingold, David Busboom, and others. Also to be found, conversations with Kathe Koja and Rennie Sparks, nonfiction by K. Allen Wood, reviews and more.
I like to read short story collections. I find a lot of new authors in this manner. Shock Totem 4 looms large above the average collection.
Running down the stories that I liked the most: Beneath the Weeping Willow- by Lee Thompson. I liked this one so much I bought some other offerings by Mr. Thompson. 5 Stars! Full Dental -by Tom Bordonaro. This was his first published story and it was Freaking Awesome! Fun filled, tongue in cheek and creepy. 5 Stars! Fade to Black-by Jaelithe Ingold. A different type of cemetery story. 4 Stars! Weird Tales-by David Busboom. Super short, super excellent! 5 Stars! Playlist at the End-by Weston Ochse. A short story with a music score. 5 Stars! Dead Baby Day-by Michael Penkas. It sounds much worse than it is. 4 Stars!
A couple of other things you do not find in most collections of this type: Bloodstains and Blue Suede Shoes by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones. This is a bit of a history...
Lee Thompson was charitable enough to give away a few copies of Shock Totem's latest issue and I was lucky enough to snag one. When it comes to periodicals, I buy the electronic versions exclusively because of shipping costs to Canada, so this was a real treat. I bought and read a Kindle edition of Shock Totem 1 not too long ago and was eager to read some more.
This time around there was a very diverse ensemble of authors from varying backgrounds, with established names like Weston Ochse, as well as first publications for authors like Tom Bordonaro. There's also a couple of interviews, one with Kathe Koja that turns into an opining on the state of publishing today, and a chat with one of this issue's contributing authors, Renny Sparks, that includes discussion about her music career. And one of the missing sections from digital editions is the book...
Shock Totem 4 is the team's biggest and best collection yet. I say collection, not magazine. This is an important distinction. The term magazine would imply that ST is a periodical, but periodicals have shelf-lives. The bulk of each installment of Shock Totem is fiction--stellar fiction to be more precise--and fiction never goes stale.
My favorite selections of this consistently strong volume are Lee Thompson's melancholy oddity "Beneath the Weeping Willow" (which is narrated in second-person by its young autistic protagonist and never comes off as exploitative even given its difficult premise), "Playlist at the End" by Weston Ochse (which may be one of the very few serial killer stories that I've ever enjoyed, due in large part to its novel "playlist" structure and the sheer quality of the writing and characterization) and "Dead Baby Day" by Michael Penkas (a short-short story that perfectly captures what little jerks kids can be to each other). Also of note are the...
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