Splatterpunk #7

Splatterpunk has been a favorite of mine since I first received their second issue in the mail about two years ago. I love the old D.I.Y. look and feel of the thing. I also love the fact that Jack Bantry and his project have a growing legion of fans. He has also begun release chapbooks in the interim between issue releases.

Splatterpunk #7 is more of the same stuff they are known for; short and brutal tales of the horrific and sometimes strange. The issue opens with an article by Bizarro patriarch, Jeff Burk, an article in which he defends his adoration for film maker Eli Roth.

This gets us to the first story by Kristopher Rufty called “The Chomper.” A wildly off beat tale that has a familiar set up and arc but with a unique spin on the monster of the tale. A perfect small town that has a high price to pay for being allowed to live there. But instead of a beastly troll from the nearby woods or anything, we get a monster from a 1970’s Ed “Big Daddy” Roth decal. I loved it.

Jeff Strand gives us the second tale. He along with Cesare are becoming Splatterpunk veterans. In his story, “Awakening” a man with a disturbing hobby and a penchant for denial comes face to face with the consequences of his actions. Garrett Cook delivers a batshit tale that oozes dysfunction, brutality and mutilation with “Pas De Deux.” And the honor of closing out the issue falls upon Adam Cesare, one of the genre darlings and with good reason-he’s wonderful! His short “Readings off the charts,” shows us the outcome of a paranormal investigation at an abandoned mental hospital. All that is a really wordy way of saying Splatterpunk #7 is another solid issue.

Travelling across the pond with the above mentioned issue was the chapbook, Atrocious Madness. This trio of stories was written by Splatterpunk editor, Jack Bantry and Nathan Robinson. It begins with a story of death and toads called “Squish.” This collaborative story appeared in an earlier issue of Splatterpunk.
The second tale is entitled “Keep Safe” and is a Jack Bantry solo offering that concerns home invaders who pay a unique price for their greed when they stumble upon one house’s cellar secret.

The final story is by Nathan Robinson and is called “Weather Girl.” A bizarre and unsettling account of a young man with an obsessive crush on the local TV weather girl. When the crush elevates to stalking, things take a strange and disturbing twist…and just get twistier.

Another fine offering from this little press. These are great days for horror fiction and Splatterpunk is a great return to bloody roots.

Both might still be available via Splatterpunk Press.

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Lamplight: Volume One

Being aware of the competition is one of the first things they teach in business classes. One of the magazines that Shock Totem is sometimes mentioned with is Lamplight. Edited by Jacob Haddon, Lamplight delivers short fiction and classic public domain tales that are usually—and wrongfully—long forgotten. These are corralled with great interviews and a series of non-fiction pieces written by J.F. Gonzalez that chronicle varying stages and movements in horror literary history. Very inspirational and educational work there.

This compendium gathers all printed work from Lamplight’s first year, four issues, and most of it is quite good. From Kevin Lucia’s staggering tale of guilt, regret and the special ghosts they make to Elizabeth Massie’s story “Flip Flap,” which is quite a wonderful tale of sideshow revenge. Robert Ford gives revenge a new face and it’s muddied with garden soil. Kelli Owen’s “Spell,” which I raved about when I reviewed her collection last year, is still one of my favorite short stories of all time. Brilliant and harrowing.

Nathan Yocum hands in one of the saddest and sweetest apocalyptic tales I’ve ever read in “Elgar’s Zoo.” In and around these tales are numerous others. William Meikle’s retro-styled “The Kelp” buoys alongside Tim Leider’s angry rantosaurus of a tale, “A Gun to Your Head.” The stories are all fairly solid. In fact, were I to harbor any sort of negative criticism at all, it would be the directed at the interviews, rather the lack of creativity in them. The same questions are asked of each author. Very little interplay, which makes them come off sort of contrived. As an interviewer myself, I know they can be a bitch to nail. I hope that in time this fellow learns to inject a little personality in the mix.

Overall, Lamplight is a great publication with a fine eye for dark fiction. A comrade more than competition. In this business, we need more of the former and less of the latter. We’re all on the same ship, in the same choppy waters, and I would gladly share a lifeboat with Lamplight. Give them a shot.

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Despumation: Volume 1: Issue 1

Despumation: The act of throwing up froth or scum; separation of the scum or impurities from liquids; scumming; clarification.

Those are the dictionary definitions of the word. I will add that it is also the name of a very exciting new magazine on the block. Edited, illustrated, and conceived by Kriscinda Lee and Anthony Everitt, Despumation has the look and tone of a heavy metal album. This is good, as that’s what they’re aiming for.

See, this is a digest of short fiction; not horror specifically but stories that are inspired by metal, based on metal songs, and forged in the fucking fires of metal! That being said, most of the tales between the covers are of the dark variety—it’s metal, remember? Most have a surreal slipstream narrative quality, that makes them read like music videos in word form. Lots of shadow and blur, robes and demonic imagery, rhythms that jar your spine and skull.

In “Brothers & Sisters,” Dustin LaValley shows us that the lines between fans and tribal family are not that far apart, if they are at all. T.J. Tranchell spells out heavy metal tragedy in “Nail Shitter,” and Mary Goff’s nightmare prose poem, “Inspiration,” is haunting . “Basement,” by Ben Gwin, is an expose of the demons that live inside a fractured young woman. And Nathan Meyer’s “Severed Ties” is a furious collage of riotous violence and fear.”The Light from Dead Stars” is a great darkly sci-fi read, written by two fellows who know a bit about it: Stephen Jansen and former Hawkwind bassist/keyboardist, Harvey Bainbridge.

The vibe, tone and look of Despumation is exactly as they warn you—it’s metal. And it’s great. Being a metalhead most of my life (although not into the really heavy shit that the kids prefer these days), I love the whole idea behind this magazine. I hope it works and they keep putting out issue after neck-snapping, head-banging, horns-throwing issue. Give them a chance and get ready for some interesting reading.

Despumation is available through Despumation Press.

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Splatterpunk 4

I received the fourth issue of Splatterpunk last week, and wasted no time digging into it. I am a big fan of Jack Bantry’s nostalga-dripping DIY zine. He was also kind enough to throw me a copy of the larger size debut issue so I now have a complete collection.

But enough of that, let’s get our gloves on and dissect this bad boy, shall we?

Opening with a short editorial by Bantry himself, which gives way to a wonderfully witty essay by Jeff Burk on why he loves extreme horror, we then have our first story of the issue, “I’m On My,” by Shane McKenzie. This tale of accidents and bad choices made with the best intentions is raw and throbbing, like a fresh wound. We follow that story’s blood trail to a great interview with both McKenzie and John Skipp, which is both insightful and fun.

Next we have “A Bit of Christmas Mayhem” by the always wonderful Jeff Strand. This story made me laugh out loud. It is so darkly insane and funny as we follow the main character, Mr. Chronic Bad Luck, who finds himself in the most ridiculous of Christmas Eve situations.

We are then given a glimpse into the truly twisted and hardcore life of “Wicking,” a violent and twisted tale by editor Jack Bantry and Robert Essig.

We get a chance to breathe when we pull into the reviews column, where Bantry and Gambino Iglesias give us the scoop on some newish books we should check out. And rounding out the fiction is a story by J.F. Gonzalez, “Ricochet,” which is a frightening glimpse into the perils of Internet technology and secrets. After which we get a short interview with Mr. Gonzalez.

Overall, Splatterpunk 4 is another great issue of over-the-top horror stories presented and paired with great artwork. Splatterpunk is a consistent little zine and one that packs as much heart into each issue as some larger presses manage to do in a year’s time. If you like your horror fresh and bleeding and harder than heroin, give Splatterpunk a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

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Splatterpunk 3

After only reading one issue of the U.K.’s best DIY flavored extreme horror magazine, I’d call myself a fan. So when Jack Bantry sent me the next issue, I dove right in.

I’ll begin by showing my ignorance as to who the cover art is trying to portray, but I’ll be damned if the M*A*S*H fan in me doesn’t want it to be a psychotic Alan Alda brandishing a butcher knife. And again, Wrath James White’s cover blurb—“It makes me nostalgic”—could not be more truthful.

But let’s get to the meat of the sandwich, shall we? The fiction begins with “Balance,” a strange tale by J.F. Gonzalez, wherein a man wakes up to find everything in his life skewed, but not quite that skewed. The same people occupy this life but in differing roles. A heady but not all that extreme tale.

Ryan C. Thomas offers up “Ginsu Gary,” a darkly comedic take on an old urban legend. In this one we meet a flustered mafia henchman as he tries to get the “cleaner” to stop pitching products and get to work.

Splatterpunk editor Jack Bantry teams up with Nathan Robinson to deliver a strange tale of odd justice in “Squash.” Never before have amphibians and revenge worked so well together. Robert Ford turns in a story entitled “Maggie Blue,” which, while being written well and cringe-worthy in its nastiness, seems a bit disjointed and wonky in its logic.

As always, the stories are wonderfully illustrated, this time the guilty parties are Glenn Chadbourne, Dan Henk, and Daniele Serra.

The featured interview this time around is with the always witty Jeff Strand, he of the twist ending and nasty premise, who is not afraid to show a lovable goofy sense of humor. Dig him.

Rounding things out are another interview with editor Paul Fry and reviews (including a great one for Shock Totem’s reissue of James Newman’s The Wicked).

While I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as I did the last, it was still great fun. Please, do check Jack and Splatterpunk magazine out. They have their black hearts in the right place and aim to entertain. And that is the best target.

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Splatterpunk 2

The blurb on the cover from Wrath James White says it all: “It makes me nostalgic.”

Splatterpunk is a blast from the past, seriously 80s fanzine past, as in folded and stapled papery goodness. When Ken said he was sending it to me, I was sort of expecting something else but was quite happy to be disappointed.

The brainchild of editor Jack Bantry, each issue of Splatterpunk features a handful of stories—hardcore and guaranteed to make you squirm—and the usual zine fodder: reviews, columns, and interviews.

The interview in this second issue is with the genre legend Ray Garton. The stories feature an illustration for each, beautifully rendered in stark black and white.

Four tales make up the fiction in this issue, which opens with “Fair Trade,” by Jeff Strand. This unsettling tale chronicles a hapless man called out on his infidelity by his wife. She gives him an ultimatum that becomes heavier than initially thought, and then Strand smacks us in the face with a twist ending. He’s good at this, a master.

The second tale is by Shane McKenzie, a young man I can say I’ve been watching since the beginning. He turns in “Fat Slob,” the grossest of the four stories. In it, our morbidly obese hero embarks on a weight loss journey. It features no smoothies or treadmills, no squat thrusts or carb reduction. Just a flab-hungry demonic creature, gruesome and downright icky. Shane does not disappoint when it comes to inducing the cringe.

Barry Hoffman delivers the third tale, “Room for One,” which is quite different in tone than the others. Almost dreamily surreal, but stark and raw in its emotional punch. This short tale of revenge and urban decay is superb and not easily forgotten.

Closing us out is Ronald Malfi and his tale, “The Jumping Sharks of Dyer Island.” A stunning parable about vacations and fraud and things not being what you expect them to be. To say anymore would be a disservice.

Splatterpunk is the real deal. A bare bones gooey love letter to extreme horror. I hope to see it around for a long time.

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Fangoria Reviews Shock Totem #6

John Skipp has reviewed Shock Totem #6 on Fangoria’s website.


Shhh…listen!

“[Jack] Ketchum and I are in firm agreement that Shock Totem is living proof that we’re in a golden age when it comes to the short horror story. Some of the best stories ever written are being written right now.”

To read the full review, click here. Have you picked up your copy yet?

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Bring More Lore!

Born in a New Jersey basement in the mid-90’s, Lore was a DIY magazine for dark fiction and fantasy. In their time, they took home a number of awards, including The Dragon’s Breath Small Press Award for Best New Magazine, as well as had several stories from within their pages garner awards of their own.

I must admit, here, that I had never heard of Lore. This is a fact I am now somewhat ashamed of, after reading this, a collection of stories that appeared during their five-year run. I missed out on some quality reading back in the day.

I won’t go through every story in this collection, but will touch upon those that stuck with me most.

Starting things off with Harlan Ellison is always a smart move. Ellison has long been regarded as a master of speculative fiction, and with “Chatting with Anubis” we get a tongue-in-cheek tale of archaeology and spiritualism and the dark threads that bind them.

“The Mandala,” by Kendall Evans, is a bizarre exercise in surrealism as symbolism. Patricia Russo’s “Rat Familiar” is Grimm-style fantasy that is served up nasty and dark, while Jeffrey Thomas’s “Empathy” is a sadly sweet tale of trust, mistreatment and revenge.

Brian Lumley turns in “The Vehicle” which is a lighthearted “fish out of water” sort of sci-fi tale. Donald R. Burleson gives us what might be my favorite tale in the book, “Sheets,” a terrific haunted-house story, and it is exactly not what you think it is.

All the stories in this volume are strong. Some skirt the edges of the Horror estate, while others wander that bizarre and weird landscape on its outskirts. “The Challenge From Below,” a group-penned tribute to Lovecraft, as well as many other pieces, have never been reprinted before this. And a few are nearly science fiction. All, however, have a classic feel and mature voice.

This is old-school writing.

As of 2011, Lore has resurrected itself. I would have loved the magazine back in its heyday, so I hope to follow them, now, and keep up with what they put out.

This volume can be purchased through the Lore website.

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The Shock Totem Holiday Issue Gets Some Love

The Shock Totem holiday e-book has been reviewed by Hellnotes and The Crow’s Caw. They dig it!

In general, this issue seems to have gone over well with readers. If you purchased a copy, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Especially in a review on Amazon. The reviews really do help.

And this will help us decide whether or not to do this again next year.

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Shock Totem #4 Receives Some Love

The first two reviews of Shock Totem #4 have come in.

The first can be found here on The Crow’s Caw. And Hellnotes once again gives us the thumbs up.

As always we’re greatly appreciative and humbled by the positive response to Shock Totem and the outstanding work our authors have allowed us to publish.

Share the good vibes!

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