Tag Archives: John Skipp

And the Stoker Goes to…

Mercedes M. Yardley!

More accurately…

Earlier tonight, John Skipp won the Stoker for his epic of an anthology Demons: Encounters with the Devil and His Minions, Fallen Angels, and the Possessed, which Mercedes has an excellent story in.

A well-deserved win for a great editor and a fantastic anthology. Congrats to all involved!

Posted in Alumni News, Blog, Publishing, Recommended Reading, Staff News | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Tribesmen

One of the greatest rewards that comes from publishing Shock Totem is being able to watch young writers evolve within—and sometimes beyond—their craft. Even when I read something less than great, there remains something special about it.

It’s in the knowing that they’re going to eventually come back with something that will knock my socks off, I think. There’s an it factor, involved—easy to see, but impossible to explain.

And Adam Cesare has it.

Tribesmen is Adam’s debut novella, and it’s a thing of bloody-good brilliance. Setting the bar even higher, it was published under John Skipp’s new imprint, Ravenous Shadows, which is quite a place to make a literary home.

The book centers around a cast of filmmaking misfits attempting to create a movie that is less an homage to and more of a blatant rip-off of the Italian exploitation horror films from the 80s. In the spirit of Ruggero Deodato’s feel-awful classic from 1980, Cannibal Holocaust, Cesare’s Tribesmen takes place on a small Caribbean island, where the indigenous people become much more than visual props by instead making their directorial debut.

This is a character-driven book fueled by fear, greed, lust, violence, and the blood-red lure of cinematic glory. Tribesmen is a smart, visceral, and poignant commentary on the ugly side of humanity. Which, in this case, is a beautiful thing.

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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 Wicked Awesome Shock Totem Contest

As some of you know, issue #5 has been delayed until July 2012. However, in March 2012 we will be publishing our first novel. In celebration of that, I thought we’d hold a contest.

The first person to figure out the cypher at the bottom of that picture will win the following:

    1. One copy of our upcoming novel (title to be revealed once the contest is won), signed by the author.
    2. One copy each of the first four Shock Totem issues.
    3. One copy of Werewolves and Shapeshifters: Encounters with the Beasts Within, a massive tome edited by John Skipp and featuring our very own Mercedes M. Yardley, among other greats.
    4. A one-year (12 issues) digital subscription to one of my favorite publications, Apex Magazine.
    5. And because I have an extra, one old-ass (but in very good condition) copy of The Magazine of Fantasy of Science Fiction, from July 1970, which features the only appearance of Dean Koontz’s “The Mysteries of His Flesh,” the short story that would later be expanded to become his sixth novel, Anti-Man*.

      * Trivia: Dean’s preferred—and better—title was the same as the short story, “The Mysteries of His Flesh,” but the publisher thought it sounded “too gay.”

      Obviously this contest is a bit tougher than most, but I want you to work for those prizes. That said, it’s not as hard as it looks. All the clues you need to lead you to the answer are in this post.

      Post your answers in the comments below. First person to post the correct answer wins!

      (Some of you are ineligible to win, as you know the answer. We know who you are!)

      Amendment: If you guess right, I will ask how you got to that answer. A wild guess that happens to be correct will not count. If you have truly figured it out, you will have no doubt that your answer is correct.

      Amendment #2: If you think you have the correct answer, please post it in the comments section below like others have been doing, that way your answer is time-stamped. But also send me an e-mail at ken@shocktotem.com explaining how you came to that answer.

      Posted in Contests, Shock Totem News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

      The Dangerous Red Thief of Broken Redemption

      I first heard the name Mehitobel Wilson during the historic Shock Totem John Skipp interview of 2009, which first appeared in Shock Totem #1. Skipp is a walking Rolodex of information, and hers was a name that was mentioned a few times during the phone call. I added her work to my list of things to seek out.

      I finally procured a copy of her collection, Dangerous Red, and now see why Skipp touted it so heavily. Wilson doesn’t just kick ass, she straps on gigantic Herman Munster-style boots with razored cleats and stomps your ass. It is a brilliant collection of fresh dark fiction and then some.

      While I liked most of the stories, I will only name check a few. “Cut Glass” is a wondrous ghost story. “Madeline in Effigy” gives us new reasons to second-guess the vain. “Blind in the House of the Headsman” is a gory, sexually-depraved surreal sketch…maybe. “The Mannerly Man” has done its best to make politeness a thing to be fearful of. Then there is my absolute favorite of the collection, “Strays,” which takes on the issue of homelessness and sprinkles it with enough dread and disturbing imagery to give you nightmares for weeks.

      Wilson’s prose is quick and artful, the images and ideas strong and haunting. I look forward to reading more from her.

      Weston Ochse is another writer I have not read enough of. My first Ochse story was the brilliant “Playlist at the end,” which we published in Shock Totem #4.

      When I came across a copy of his chapbook Redemption Roadshow, I picked it up. Ochse writes in a clean style, and his characters are aching and have a depth you can immediately connect with. This story concerns Dolan Gibb, an Arizona highway patrolman who discovers you can’t outrun guilt and that the past will always catch up. Dolan discovers a group—almost a sideshow troupe—that seem ever present at roadside memorial shrines. Among them is the “Long Cool Woman,” a medium who bridges the space between the living and the dead, with unexpected consequences.

      This short tale is so packed with grippingly heavy images, I found myself thinking about it for days after I had finished it.

      I also recently rectified the fact that I am sadly under-read in the Tim Lebbon category.

      I had read The Nature of Balance, and loved its dark dreamy images and language. When my friend, Simon, recommended The Thief of Broken Toys to me, I listened. I’m glad I did.

      In this novella, Lebbon explores the deepening shades of grief and how loss is a thing of many facets. Ray is a broken man, slowly drowning in a self-made sea of loss and alienation. His only son has died and his wife has left him. Every day is a weighted exercise in existence. He comes to believe through honoring promises made to the dead, he can win back the slivers of time and love lost. He begins with the promises to fix his son’s damaged playthings. He then meets the Thief of Broken Toys, who helps in ways unimaginable and teaches him things that can’t be unlearned.

      And then things start to change.

      Lebbon has created a heartbreaking story with The Thief of Broken Toys. The loss and longing of Ray are painted so adeptly that I felt that heaviness in my chest, tears threatening to show themselves. Very subtle in its horror, but it is indeed there. One of the best, I’ve read this year. Available from Chizine Publications.

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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.

      Posted in Blog, On Writing, Recommended Reading, Writing Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

      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…)

      Posted in Alumni News, Blog, Interviews | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments