Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- The State of Shock Totem Publications, or We Are Not ChiZine Publications
- Closing for Submissions
- Shock Totem Returns!
- Apex Publications Acquires Shock Totem Book Line
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 8
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 7
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 6
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 5
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 4
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 3
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Tag Archives: Jason Sizemore
Shock Totem Publications was born in 2008. With the help of John Boden and Nick Contor (and many more in the years to follow), we created Shock Totem magazine, of which there have been a total of thirteen issues to date. Eventually we branched out into books. We produced some great ones, written by equally great authors.
Then my wife and I had kids, and everything changed.
I’ve discussed all of this before, so I won’t bore anyone with the details yet again. The bottom line is, I’ve tried to keep it all together, but certain things have slowly fallen apart despite my best efforts. The reasons are many, but mental exhaustion is the biggest, I think. I have struggled greatly.
At some point in the past year, I stepped back and realized I was slowly but surely becoming a bad publisher. Royalty payments were late; e-mail replies weren’t sent in a timely manner if they were sent at all; promotion was non-existent; and the distance between me, Shock Totem, and our readers was growing. Worst of all, my relationship with our authors—all of whom I respect greatly and consider friends—suffered because I was not present to perform my duties as a responsible publisher.
Because of this, I have put an end to the Shock Totem book line.
Instead of simply dumping all of our authors and leaving them responsible to find a new publisher, I reached out to Jason Sizemore at Apex Publications. I have great respect for Jason and what he’s done with Apex (the original Apex Digest was the biggest inspiration for Shock Totem magazine, after all), and so I asked Jason if he was interested in acquiring our books, a simple transfer of rights (and cover art, illustrations, the whole nine).
Thankfully, he was. And so very soon the following books, including two that were forthcoming from Shock Totem Publications, will have a new home at Apex Publications:
Beautiful Sorrows, by Mercedes M. Yardley
The Wicked, by James Newman
Ugly As Sin, by James Newman
Shine Your Light on Me, by Lee Thompson
Greener Pastures, by Michael Wehunt
Everything That’s Underneath, by Kristi DeMeester
Aetherchrist, by Kirk Jones
Adam Cesare has decided to self-publish Zero Lives Remaining under his own Black T-Shirt Books. John Boden’s Dominoes will remain with Shock Totem.
As much as I regret having to make this decision, I have no doubt Jason and Apex Publications will do right by our authors and present greater opportunities for them in the years to come. They deserve at least that much.
Shock Totem Publications is not dead. We will carry on and focus on one-off limited editions, special projects, and Shock Totem magazine, things I can work on in fits and starts, as time permits. More on that soon…
For now, we sadly say goodbye to some fantastic authors and books.
Some staff news, ya’ll! Cue banjo!
This coming October, if not sooner, Apex Publications is set to release Appalachian Undead, a new anthology dedicated to the walking dead. I contributed a quirky tale called “Long Days to Come.”
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The brilliant artwork was created by Cortney Skinner. Quite a lineup, too: Elizabeth Massie, Jonathan Maberry, Tim Waggoner, S. Clayton Rhodes*, Maurice Broaddus, Bev Vincent, Tim Lebbon, Steve Rasnic Tem, John Skipp* & Dori Miller, and Gary A. Braunbeck, to name a few more than a few.
If you’d like to check out the full table of contents, click here.
You can also pre-order via the above link (and get 5% off if you tweet the link), but before you do, check out this groovy contest they’re running for those who do pre-order.
As always from Apex Publications, you can expect quality.
Not to be outdone, Mercedes and John each have stories—“Murder for Beginners” and “Intruder,” respectively—in Psychos: Serial Killers, Depraved Madmen, and the Criminally Insane, the latest slab—and I do mean slab; these things are massive—in an ongoing series edited by the inimitable John Skipp which has thus far included Zombies: Encounters with the Hungry Dead, Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, and Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed.
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Psychos is due out in September via Black Dog & Leventhal, and features new and classic fiction from the likes of Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Jack Ketchum, Joe R. Lansdale, Lawerence Block, Neil Gaiman, Leslianne Wilder*, Violet LeVoit, Weston Ochse*, Kathe Koja, and many more.
If you order now, Amazon has it for $10.07. That’s 608 pages for $10! No-brainer.
We hope you’ll buy both!
* Shock Totem alumni.
I love me a good zombie tale. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite movie of all time, Romero is a god to me, and my first book is about those meandering, rotting corpses. So when I was sent The Zombie Feed, the new compilation put out by Apex Publications and edited by Jason Sizemore, for review, I was more than pumped to dive right in.
Inside this volume are 17 tales of zombies in all of their various forms. At first I expected a grouping of run-of-the-mill apocalyptic, undead stories. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered how different the collection is, with how many various directions the authors took what very often are clichéd tropes and plot devices.
In order to adequately break down this fantastic collection, let’s look at The Zombie Feed story by story.
Not Dead by BJ Burrow: A woman wakes up on her deathbed, questioning if she’s still alive. A touching story of the nature of faith and what really defines humanity.
Tomorrow’s Precious Lambs by Monica Valentinelli: An original, if somewhat clunky, take on the origins of the outbreak and the privileged nature of the wealthy. It could’ve been spectacular given the original premise the author came up with, but it falls flat. A little too “Ah, gotcha!” for my taste.
Cold Comfort by Nathaniel Tapley: What is this? A zombie tale without a true zombie? A fantastic story dealing with the undead that only exist in the narrator’s head, as a Russian mortician whose wife is cheating on him communes with his recently-departed patients. Ironically enough, in this particular tale it isn’t the dead who should be considered zombies.
The Final December Day by Lee Thompson: This one follows more along the lines of a traditional zombie tale. A lone cop, searching for his long-lost partner on his last day on Earth, runs across a young photographer. An interesting take on the apocalypse where the zombies are simply drug-addicted, insane humans, and aliens roam the earth. I enjoyed the message, but it fell a little short. This is one short story that begged to be longer.
Broken Bough by Daniel I. Russell: A particularly heartbreaking tale of the end of the world, told from the point of view of a young family of three struggling with the ultimate decision. Truly sad, it makes you wonder what you might do should the unthinkable happen. Would you be able to take the actions necessary? Haunting.
The Sickness Unto Death by Brandon Alspaugh: A somewhat convoluted tale of the recently departed rising up, remembering their pasts and able to act as human, though they’re no longer living. A bit confusing, and written in a way that I think might seem like the author is trying to “put one over” on the reader. I’m all for an original, inventive story, but this one seemed too clever for its own good.
A Shepherd in the Valley by Maggie Slater: Now this one was creepy. A man, all alone and living in an old airport, has figured out a way to “tame” the dead. A heartening examination of a parent’s love and the sacrifices one must make in the face of absolute terror.
Twenty-Three Second Anomaly by Ray Wallace: Eh, I could give or take this one. The story of human experimentation and how exact science can be. Interesting, but the punch isn’t punchy enough and the emotions seems forced. Not bad, but could be better.
The Last Generation by Joe Nazare: Another very interesting and not-quite-zombie story. All people have fallen over and entered a state of non-death, and only a few wake up, albeit minus their memories and sense of self. An inventive story, but lacking in some important information (such as how do they remember pop culture references and not their names or pasts) that could have made the story much more affecting. Decent nonetheless.
Bitten by Eugene Johnson: One of the few standard zombie tales in the whole collection. A very short story of a bunch of folks trying to protect a house at the end of the world. It is what you’d expect.
Lifeboat by Simon McCaffery: A very entertaining story of a group of people surviving the apocalypse by sailing the ocean on a cruise ship. Intriguing and imaginative, the narrative takes twists and turns I never expected, coming out at the end in an intense, hell-bent-for-leather climax. One of the best in the bunch.
Rabid Raccoons by Kristen Dearborn: Now this is what I call taking a genre and flipping it on its head. A teen girl does her friend wrong, only to be assailed (possibly mystically) by zombie raccoons. A stupendous job of telling a story from the viewpoint of a young adult, this tale captures the sense of seclusion and fear beautifully. Great story.
Zombies on the Moon by Andrew Clark Porter: Another short tale, and while the imagery of a moon cluttered with zombies has stuck with me since I’ve read it, this is another example of a story that could use some fleshing out to be perfect.
The Fare by Lucian Soulban: The absolute best story of the bunch. A lonely man in the aftermath of the world’s end hires a mysterious cabbie to help him obtain closure for his past sins. A tremendous study of the human condition, of how guilt can guide our actions after a traumatic event, no matter if we were in the right or not.
What’s Next? by Elaine Blose: This is the only story that I don’t think belongs in this collection. It wants to be campy, describing a world where aliens bring about the zombie apocalypse, only to have monster after monster appear in their wake, but it comes off as amateurish. The rest of the stories in this collection are so strong and insightful, it seems entirely out of place.
Goddamn Electric by K. Allen Wood: Another ingenious story, imagining a “different” sort of zombie, when the skies open up during an apocalyptic storm and fry everyone who wasn’t smart enough to find shelter. High on anxiety and even (surprisingly) emotion, this story follows an old man who’s lived a long life and isn’t quite ready to give it up.
Hipsters in Love by Danger_Slater: This is the oddest story of the bunch. I absolutely hated it until I was a couple pages in, when I went back to the beginning and re-read the title. This is a complete farce of a tale, a satire poking fun at a certain segment of our modern culture, complete with kids and their ironic t-shirts worrying about obtaining some Pabst Blue Ribbon in the face of the undead. A highly funny romp, it’s the perfect choice to end this anthology.
So that’s it! In all, I’ll say this is well worth the read, and the best zombie anthology to come out in years. Congrats to Apex and to Jason Sizemore. You’ve collected something highly entertaining and even touching. I highly recommend this to anyone who loves this genre of story.
As mentioned here before, Jason Sizemore, owner of Apex Book Company, has released volume one of a new anthology series under his The Zombie Feed Books imprint. The anthology, simply titled The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, features fiction from issue #4 author Lee Thompson, Daniel I. Russell, BJ Burrow, Monica Valentinelli, Simon McCaffrey, and many others, including yours truly.
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So how about a free copy?
Head on over to Jason’s website and check out the “bad-ass” contest he’s set up where two lucky—and creative—people will win autographed proofs of The Zombie Feed. You can find the contest here.
(Tip: Pick me!)
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The Zombie Feed Vol. 1, edited by Mr. Sizemore.
It should be noted that this anthology features my story “Goddamn Electric,” the first—and currently only—zombie story I’ve ever written. I’m excited. And I want you to own it.
In addition to this, if chosen, your question will be answered by all sixteen authors featured in the anthology. Should be interesting…
So go here, read the rules, and ask away. Good luck!
Darkness dwells in Harlan County, since the dawn of time and through the end of days. The people are wonderfully strong of will, insular, and prone to insanity or possession. The mountains and mines are shadowy monoliths, their presence always felt even when not actually seen. Harlan County Horrors is a collection of twelve stories, delving into the rich horrific literary tradition of the isolated mining community.
The anthology starts with “Harlan County,” by TL Trevaskis, which features some beautiful poetic descriptions of the town, and an entertaining ride through adventure and madness. Two superb examples of dark faerie tales and modern folklore follow in Alethea Kontis’s “The Witch of Black Mountain,” where a girl in an unfortunate circumstance meets a dark power on the mountain, and Debbie Kuhn’s “The Power of Moonlight,” a tale of magic and love and the price of their misuse.
We then go to the distant future with the seriously sci-fi “Hiding Mountain: Our Future in Apples,” by Earl P. Dean, where despite the changes in tech and society, the hard life of the Harlan miner stays the same. The book begins to hit its stride with Geoffrey Girard’s “Psychomachia,” an apocalyptic story of Harlan’s past and evil beneath the earth. The prose gets a little heavy at times, but it’s appropriate for the scale of human devastation depicted. I read this story a few times, and enjoyed it more with each read.
“Yellow Warbler” by Jason Sizemore is my favorite of this collection. It’s an excellent sci-fi tale about age and wisdom versus xenophobic ignorance. Preacher Jeremiah and his world captured my interest and left me hungry for more.
Another story of future Harlan comes in the form of Jeremy C. Shipp’s “Kingdom Come,” which tells of an authoritarian dystopia that would give nightmares to Orwell. “Trouble Among the Yearlings,” by Maurice Broaddus, returns us to the unforgotten mines with his story of kin, vengeance, and coming of age in blood and darkness.
Story number nine is “Spirit Fire.” Robby Sparks spins a classically entertaining adventure about a small-town cop standing against ancient evil. Strong characters, exciting climax, solid story. Ronald Kelly presents an awesomely hilarious splatter-fest in the name of “The Thing at the Side of the Road.” Good monster, cool phrasings, it put a psychotic smirk on my face the whole way through. Excellent.
The Chiang-shih comes to Harlan in “Inheritance,” by Stephanie Lenz. It has intrigue and gore, a multi-cultural concept while keeping the small town vibe, and some disturbingly incestuous threads, all woven together to create quite the memorable tale. The last story is Steven L. Shrewsbury’s “Greater of Two Evils,” a fun and strong ending to the book; it is a Call of Cthulu-esque adventure, an outsider’s look at the county’s pre-history.
I always expect excellence from Apex Publications, and was not disappointed with Harlan County Horrors. I had some minor issues with some of the stories—some monologuing here, too weird or confusing there, an occasional lame character name or a strain on disbelief—but all of the stories had wonderful concepts and some great lines, good impact and humor. Over half the stories are very strong and positively memorable, classic ideas with unique twists. Harlan County Horrors is another quality product from Apex, exactly what I look for from a small-press anthology.
Originally appeared in Shock Totem #1, July 2009.
The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, a new anthology featuring issue #4 author Lee Thompson and yours truly, among others, is now available for pre-order. It is being edited and published by Apex Publications owner Jason Sizemore, so you can expect quality.
Pre-orders come signed by the editor. Click here for more details.