Tag Archives: Cody Goodfellow

The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron

I approach most multiple-author anthologies skeptically, because more often than not, they turn out to be a mixed bag. This doesn’t necessarily mean they turn out to be bags full of crap—only that some of the stories may be good (or even great), and others—not so much. Co-edited by anthology wizard Ross E. Lockhart and Justin Steele (who conceived of this anthology), The Children of Old Leech is unfortunately no exception to the mixed-bag phenomenon, but it’s an unusual one in that all of its stories are set in (or are otherwise inspired by) the terrifying worlds penned by the author Laird Barron.

If you don’t know the works of Barron, I highly recommend you change that right now, and not just for the sake of this review. He’s an amazing writer, perfectly fluent in the language of nightmare, as well as of English. The world he sees and describes is, as the subtitle to this anthology suggests, a “carnivorous” one, wherein malignant forces aren’t merely waiting to creep into our collective consciousness and bring darkness over us all—such forces are already here, gleefully watching humankind blithely walk about in this illusion of light, sanity, and safety, just waiting for us to stumble into the dark that’s always all around us. When you read Barron, you discover that holes in trees and basement doors left ajar are doorways into the howling, bloody voids. Dark forces seem drawn to the Broadsword Hotel, set in Barron’s hometown-cum-playground of the Pacific Northwest. Copies of a mysterious book, Moderor de Caliginis, “Black Guide,” a sort of unholy travel guide to these dark places, frequently pop up in his tales. And just how well, a character in one of his stories may ask you, do you really know that friend of yours, or even your loved one? Does that scar on their neck almost appear like a seam in a flesh-mask? Ah, but perhaps it is, and perhaps they are in fact a Child of the Old Leech themselves—but don’t worry, for they love you…

So what of the seventeen authors’ respective tales in The Children of Old Leech, then? What else of Barron’s nightmarish world could be explored? Could there possibly be anybody but Mr. Barron himself whom could properly observe and tell tales of his “Pacific Northwest Mythos?” The answer, judging from this collection, is in fact largely a yes—and sometimes, a no.

First of all, there are a bunch of solidly written stories that rightfully belong here, even if they aren’t immediately obvious in their inclusion. For instance, the opening tale, “The Harrow,” by Gemma Files, is a fine tale of building madness as a woman starts digging up strange artifacts from her backyard. Orrin Grey’s “Walpurgisnacht,” while reminiscent of the works of Klein, Brite, and even good ol’ Lovecraft in narrative, felt like a tale that would make Barron proud. And “Pale Apostle,” by J.T. Glover and Jesse Bullington, is a pulpy tale set in a Chinatown gift shop, with the “Barron-ian” vibes hovering just outside its closed windows.

Then there are many stories that are far more obvious in their complements, and although not all of them worked (T.E. Grau’s “Love Songs From the Hydrogen Jukebox” was a little overlong in its buildup, and Michael Griffin’s “Firedancing” kind of lost its steam toward the end), some of them really nailed their tribute to Barron and neatly earn their places in this book.

There were also a number of tales that made spins on traditional narrative. The mercurial prose of Jeffrey Thomas’s “Snake Wine” and Stephen Graham Jones’ “Brushdogs” made for reads that were every bit as hypnotic as they were eerie. Two tales even took a straight-up epistolary approach: “Good Lord, Show Me the Way,” by Molly Tanzer, which neatly wove a three-person e-mail conversation regarding a grad student’s questionable dissertation (and its mysterious aspects thereof), and Paul Tremblay’s “Notes For ‘The Barn In the Wild,’” a series of notes (and footnotes!) written by an ambitious explorer looking to make a new account of his excursions into nature, and the strange discovery he makes in the woods. Both of these tales were as psychologically engaging as they were creepy, and were among my favorites out of the whole collection.

The story by Cody Goodfellow, “Of a Thousand Cuts,” is also of particular note, for the sheer fact that it is a spin on Barron’s often-overlooked short novel, The Light Is the Darkness. If you haven’t read that novel, I’d highly recommend you do so before jumping into this punchy tale.

And then there was John Langan’s “Ymir.” The only thing I could say after I finished reading that one was “Wow.” The amount of locations and even subgenres that it dexterously navigated was almost dizzying—and it was a short story, for crying out loud! And like the other tales I most enjoyed here, while I seriously didn’t quite understand what I experienced in its hallucinatory whorls of mesmerizing prose, I got enough out of it to know it was one hell of a cool ride. (Points also to one of its key characters being named Barry.)

Ultimately, these seventeen tales were mere candles held up in the middle of yawning, pitch-black caverns, catching mere outlines and glimpses of that “Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All.” Laird Barron will return with a new, definitive tale (or collection of tales) of madness soon enough, I’m sure—but in the meantime, this is a nice appetizer from fans and for fans of the master navigator of our blackened world.

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Shock Totem #8—Now Available!

Shock Totem Publications is proud to announce that our eighth issue is available for purchase!

Shock Totem returns with its eighth issue, featuring classic tales of hauntings, monsters, and clowns!

Cody Goodfellow and John Skipp, who as collaborators have penned numerous short stories as well as the modern-horror classics Jake’s Wake and Spore, provide “The Barham Offramp Playhouse” and “Depresso the Clown,” respectively. Carlie St. George’s “We Share the Dark” follows a woman struggling to leave her ghosts behind. “Death and the Maiden,” by David Barber, revisits a classic time and a classic character in horror fiction. D.A. D’Amico’s “Watchtower” and John C. Foster’s “Highballing Through Gehenna” both traverse surreal landscapes full of monsters and madness.

WC Roberts, last seen in our third issue, returns with another mindbending slice of poetry, while newcomer Harry Baker’s “Fat Betty” is a stark reminder that sometimes it’s better to give than to take. “Stabat Mater,” by Michael Wehunt, our flash fiction contest winner for 2013, takes parental sacrifice to a whole new level.

You will also find conversations with Cody Goodfellow and rising star Adam Cesare, narrative nonfiction by Catherine Grant, an article by Joe Modzelewski, reviews, and more…

Come see why Shock Totem is billed as “…one of the strongest horror fiction magazines on the market today” (Hellnotes).

Table of Contents:

* Nosferatu: The Origin of Vampires on Screen, by Joe Modzelewski (Article)
* Highballing Through Gehenna, by John C. Foster
* We Share the Dark, by Carlie St. George
* The Highland Lord Brought Low, by Catherine Grant (Narrative Nonfiction)
* A Conversation with Cody Goodfellow, by John Boden
* The Barham Offramp Playhouse, by Cody Goodfellow
* Whisperings Sung Through the Neighborhood of Stilted Sorrows, by WC Roberts (Poetry)
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* Watchtower, by D.A. D’Amico
* Death and the Maiden, by David Barber
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 6, by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones (Article)
* Fat Betty, by Harry Baker
* A Conversation with Adam Cesare, by K. Allen Wood
* Stabat Mater, by Michael Wehunt (2012 Shock Totem Flash Fiction Contest Winner)
* Depresso the Clown, by John Skipp
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

Currently you can purchase the print edition through Amazon or our webstore. More online retailers will follow in the days and weeks to come. The digital edition can be purchased here.

Please note that all of our releases (except Dominoes) are enrolled in Amazon’s MatchBook program, so everyone who purchases a print copy gets a Kindle copy for free.

Interested in our back catalog? All past issues are still available digitally and in print and can be ordered directly from us or through Amazon and other online retailers.

As always, thank you for the support!

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Announcing Shock Totem #8…

Shock Totem Publications is excited to announce the upcoming eighth issue of Shock Totem magazine.

We do not have cover art finalized at this time, but it will once again be created by the amazing Mikio Murakami.

Here is the unofficial Table of Contents:

* Article (TBD)
* Highballing Through Gehenna, by John C. Foster
* Death & the Maiden, by David Barber
* Narrative Nonfiction (TBD)
* A Conversation with Cody Goodfellow, by John Boden
* The Barham Offramp Playhouse, by Cody Goodfellow
* Whisperings Sung Through the Neighborhood of Stilted Sorrows, by WC Roberts (Poetry)
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* Watchtower, by David D’Amico
* Fat Betty, by Harry Baker
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 6, by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones (Article)
* We Share the Dark, by Carlie St. George
* A Conversation with… (TBD)
* Depresso the Clown, by John Skipp
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

We will fill in the blanks as we draw closer to release. Look for it in January 2014!

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The Missing Dead Spore

I briefly met Sarah Langan at a convention this summer, and by “briefly met” I mean, I think I said “Hello” as I walked by. I’m a bit shy at times. I picked up this book after hearing wonderful praise for her most recent novel by revered authors like John Skipp and Jack Ketchum. I’m glad I did.

The Missing is a sequel to her debut novel, The Keeper, but is a fantastic standalone read. It concerns the haunting of a small town, in both the literal and figurative sense. A school field trip to a disaster site serves as the catalyst of darkly disturbing events. A troubled young boy strays from the group, only to awaken something malevolent and hungry that will not stop until it has consumed all. What the boy and the other affected do over the course of this book played back in my head for days upon completion. The infected and their “de-evolution” to an almost animal state, as well as the feedings, made me almost giddily jittery. This novel gave me a feeling I have not felt in a long long time while reading. It was a nostalgic vibe along the lines of what my teenage self would feel when a new Stephen King book dropped.

Langan’s prose is lean and smooth and carries an old-school tone, both intelligent and easy to read. Not to say it is simple, but that it is a classically constructed novel. The characters are brilliantly painted and the setting and events are well rendered. Above all of these other positive attributes, and most importantly, it is a scary book.

It has been widely documented that I have been a fan-boy of the mighty John Skipp since I was a teenager and I was loaned that paperback copy of The Light At The End. I have since read almost everything available from this twisted genius. Reading a John Skipp book, solo or collaboration, is usually like having a conversation with a hyperactive savant, a “Rain Man” raised on monster movies and Rock & Roll. The latest collaboration, Spore, once again with evil cohort Cody Goodfellow, is well up that twisted razor-edged bar.

Spore tells the surrealy bizarre tale of a nice young couple, Rory and Trixie, hip deep in love and trying to forget their troubled pasts. A wild turn of events finds them up to their necks in an adrenaline drenched horror show. A sentient fungal entity has rooted itself beneath the city of Los Angeles. It works itself into the drug supply, mixing its spores in with the cocaine that is oh-so-readily available. The spores infest the brain and eventually drive the infected to acts of barbarism and savagery.

While some of the characters seem to be more caricatures, it plays out smoothly and is an over-the-top festival of fun. Jaw-dropping images are a main staple of this tale, some of which will no doubt haunt you for a long time to come. It’s a Hollywood zombie apocalypse as only these cats could write. It’s the slam-dancing progeny of The Stuff and Scarface. But more important than all of that, it made me fucking smile.

The Loving Dead was another recommended read. Skipp touts this novel quite a bit, and I usually listen to whatever he tells me (I know, I know!). Amelia Beamer gives us a zombie novel that is not about zombies much at all. It is a stark portrait of the real monsters. It’s about us. People, with their dishonest nature and skeevy motives, even in the face of a major crisis and looming danger, we can’t get our heads out of our asses, our minds out of each others pants and just get down and be “real” with each other.

Kate and Michael are housemates. They also have a thing for each other, one of those mutual-but-held-down-so-tight-that-no-move-has-ever-been-made sort of things. The story begins with Kate saving her belly-dance instructor from a feral derelict. She takes her home where there is a party in full swing. Things happen, people get naked…and a zombie virus rears its ugly head. Zombie virus…as in STD. The only apparent warning symptom being horny moaning followed by a breathy “something’s happening,” after which it’s all milky eyes, cannibalism…and fucking. Lots and lots of fucking.

The shuffling nympho-dead are more of a set piece than anything in this novel. The skeleton of this book is about people and how they interact, how we interact. We are selfish and distrusting as well as untrustworthy. The characters are honest and scarred…and scared. Sympathetic and not entirely likeable. This is what made this such a compelling work.

If the fate of the free world hung from your shoulders would you shrug or bear it as long as you could, and would you still find time for a quickie in the restroom?

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A Demonic Acceptance

Some Big News for one of our own.

Mercedes M. Yardley’s “Daisies and Demons” made it into the upcoming anthology Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed, edited by the almighty John Skipp.


[ not final or accurate cover art ]

The anthology is slated to come out this October through Black Dog & Levinthal. Mercedes has declared that she’ll sign her story with “a lipstick kiss” if you bring it to her.

The Table of Contents is as follows:

CHERUB – Adam-Troy Castro
THE DEVIL – Guy de Maupassant
THE BOOK – Margaret Irwin
THE MONKEY’S PAW – W.W. Jacobs
THE HOUND – H.P. Lovecraft
…THE BLACK CAT – Edgar Allan Poe
THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER – Stephen Vincent Benet
NELLTHU – Anthony Boucher
THE HOWLING MAN – Charles Beaumont
THE EXORCIST (excerpt) – William Peter Blatty
HELL – Richard Christian Matheson
VISITATION – David J. Schow
…BEST FRIENDS – Robert R. McCammon
INTO WHOSE HANDS – Karl Edward Wagner
PILGRIMS TO THE CATHEDRAL – Mark Arnold
THE BESPELLED – Kim Harrison
NON QUIS, SED QUID – Maggie Stiefvater
DEMON GIRL – Athena Villaverde
HE WAITS – K.H. Koehler
HAPPY HOUR – Laura Lee Bahr
…STAYING THE NIGHT – Amelia Beamer
DAISIES AND DEMONS – Mercedes M. Yardley
AND LOVE SHALL HAVE NO DOMINION – Livia Llewellyn
MOM – Bentley Little
20TH LEVEL CHAOTIC EVIL ROGUE SEEKS WHOLE WIDE WORLD TO CONQUER – Weston Ochse
CONSUELA HATES A VACUUM – Cody Goodfellow
OUR BLOOD IN ITS BLIND CIRCUIT – J. David Osborne
EMPTY CHURCH – James Steele
…ANGELOLOGY (excerpt) –Danielle Trussoni
THE CODA OF SOLOMON – Nick Mamatas
John Skipp THE LAW OF RESONANCE – Zak Jarvis
STUPID FUCKING REASON TO SELL YOUR SOUL – Carlton Mellick III
HALT AND CATCH FIRE – Violet LeVoit
SCARS IN PROGRESS – Brian Hodge
THE UNICORN HUNTER – Alethea Kontis
OTHER PEOPLE – Neil Gaiman

If you’ve read Skipp’s previous anthologies in this series, Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead and Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters With the Beast Within—which includes Mercedes’s “Werewolf 101″—then you know you can expect a hefty—and I mean hefty; these things are HEAVY!—platter of great fiction, old and new.

Dig on that!

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Sunday Reads: On Writing, Podcasts, and Zombie Ants

Here’s a handful of links from around the Internet that we found interesting this past week.

First, over at Liberty Conspiracy, Gard Goldsmith has posted two podcasts featuring over an hour’s worth of interviews and commentary recorded at this year’s World Horror Convention in Austin, Texas. You can listen to part one here and part two here. Great stuff!

On the writing front, here’s something for the struggling writer: Thirteen tips to help you get some writing done. And this would probably fall under the category of Struggling Writer, but specifically, here’s a little something for the depressed writer. But maybe you’re neither struggling nor depressed, so how about a Writer Reality Check? Can’t hurt.

Right?

For those of us venturing into the world of e-books, check out Nathan Bransford’s enlightening piece on the 99 cent e-book and the tragedy of the commons. It’s bananas (while they last).

Now for the fun stuff: Zombie ants! Heard of them? Have you read Spore, by John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow (dude, you need a website)? Either way, check out another example of art imitating life.

And with that, I’ll leave you with these amazing images.

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First Teaser Trailer for John Skipp’s Rose

John Skipp has unleashed Please Stand By, the first teaser trailer for his upcoming feature film Rose: The 3D Zombie Puppet Musical.


Of the trailer, Skipp says: “It’s two minutes of whacked-out laffs and flesh-eating mayhem, introducing Chase McKenna in the indelible title role. (And author Cody Goodfellow as the heartwarming Homeless Moe!)

To make Rose happen, Skipp and those involved with the project are making a direct appeal to fans to help fund the 3D zombie puppet musical. You can join in on this collaborative fan experience by visiting the project’s Kickstarter page.

You can also “like” them on Facebook and listen to songs from the movie’s soundtrack by clicking here.

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A Conversation with John Skipp

For most—horror readers and writers, at least—John Skipp needs no introduction. The rest of you, however…

John Skipp came into prominence in the mid-80s, pioneering the splatterpunk style of horror with Craig Spector. Together, the duo tainted the 80s and early 90s with more than a half dozen nasty novels. They split as collaborators in 1993.

Since their split, Skipp has continued collaborating as well as writing solo. He’s also branched out into music, film, and family. And in recent years, he has resurfaced as a ferocious blip on the literary radar; first with the novella Conscience followed by The Long Last Call, a novel. Both were repressed together in 2007. His most recent works are Jake’s Wake, a new collaborative novel with Cody Goodfellow, and Opposite Sex, an erotica e-book, by the lovely Gina McQueen (aka John Skipp).

Most, if not all, of this is touched upon in the following interview…gleaned from the man himself through a series of e-mails and phone calls. Enjoy!

(more…)

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