Tag Archives: Shock Totem

The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 8

FOR THE LOVE OF JAWS
by Jeremy Wagner

BRODY: “Slow ahead. I can go slow ahead. Come on down here and chum some of this shit.”
HOOPER: “That’s a twenty-footer.”
QUINT: “Twenty-five. Three tons of him.”

What can one say about the movie Jaws that isn’t already common knowledge? Like, we know Jaws stands as one of the most epic/awesome/untouchable movies ever made. Glad we agree!

I write this Jaws-worship piece for Shock Totem on June 19th—just one day before the film’s 41st Anniversary. Just thinking of this movie brings back countless memories of the film (and the Peter Benchley novel, too) that I’ve had since I was 5 years old.

Jaws was actually the first “adult” novel that I ever read. My mom and some other family members all had Jaws in paperback and I was immediately hooked (no pun intended) by the cover art. I recall a sense of fascination and dread as I stared at the brilliant artwork created by legendary Hollywood movie-poster artist, Roger Kastel.

(Kastel’s original art was painted in just days. Moreover, the original 20×30-inch painting went missing around the time of the film’s release, and as of today is still missing and reported as “stolen.”)

Jaws, the film, directed by Steven Spielberg, was released on June 20, 1975, a little more than a year after novel. The movie profoundly changed my life. The music alone scared the shit out of me—just like John Carpenter’s Halloween score would do to me a few years later.

Jaws opened across North America on 464 screens. Shortly after, the film’s distribution expanded to nearly 700 theaters, and then by August 15, 1975, it was in more than 950 theaters nationwide. Distribution overseas followed suit, with massive television marketing and wide releases.

The filming was riddled with major problems and was deemed a failure as soon as production started. “Bruce,” the mechanical shark, was the #1 culprit. The laundry-list of calamities that transpired set a tone of doom over the cast and crew—with Spielberg convinced his career as a director was over—but when the dust settled, unreal, monumental success came out of what was predicted as catastrophe. The superb cast; the genius, award-winning editing of Verna Fields; the Oscar-earning film score, by John Williams; and the directorial suspense that Spielberg delivered all made for the most legendary horror movie the world has ever seen, in company with, and with complete respect to, The Exorcist, Halloween, The Thing, and Psycho, among others.

Moreover, Jaws’s success surpassed the horror genre, skyrocketing to the top of countless “Best Films of All Time” lists to where it sat atop the cinema mountain with The Godfather and Citizen Kane.

Jaws became the highest-grossing film of all time until Star Wars hit theaters in 1977.

All the deserved accolades, music, and blockbuster facts aside, let’s get to what makes the movie really awesome: the fucking TERROR of an unseen monster in the deep. Jaws instills a primal fear in us. Entertainment is a given, but this movie did to oceans what Hitchcock’s Psycho did for showers—getting wet at home or in the ocean caused great anxiety and fear. I know this feeling firsthand, as I was scared to even swim in the country lake near my grandparent’s farm in central Wisconsin after seeing Jaws!

This feeling of unease and horror can be directly credited to:

VICTIM #1: Christine “Chrissie” Watkins, whose nighttime swim made for one of the most unforgettable and terrifying pieces of cinema.

VICTIM #2: Pippet, the black Lab, who goes out to fetch and never comes back.

VICTIM #3: Alex Kintner, who is attacked in broad daylight (post Pippet the appetizer), with a fountain of blood and bubbling, underwater screams accompanying his destruction.

VICTIM #4: Survivors. Mr. Denherder and his friend Charlie cast out a holiday roast for Bruce and get more than they bargained for when the shark takes the bait and the entire pier with it, sending Charlie into the nighttime ocean. He makes it to shore in one piece—that is, until his wife gets a hold of him.

VICTIM #5: Ben Gardner. When his dead, one-eyed head pops out of the gaping hole in his boat, I peed a little!

VICTIM #6: The rowboat guy. Bruce hits the rowboat guy and also causes Michael Brody and his pals to tumble off their sailboat and into the water. The shark bites off rowboat guy’s leg and pulls him under.

(Right before the attack on rowboat guy, a gal on shore sees Bruce’s immense dorsal fin and tail as it swims into the estuary/pond. She croaks out, “Sh..shark! It’s going in the pond!” And I gotta tell ya, just that scene alone still fills me with immense dread. Well done.)

VICTIM #7: Quint becomes dinner. Quint—my favorite character played by the amazing Robert Shaw, and based on real-life monster shark-hunter, Frank Mundus—spent most of his days catching sharks and boiling their jaws. Unfortunately, all those dead sharks get their comeuppance as Bruce destroys Quint’s boat and eats the hard-edged captain.

All these death scenes created what some call the “Jaws effect.” This phenomenon had unfortunate consequences as great white sharks—and many other species—were slaughtered for pure sport and with extreme prejudice. This troubled both Steven Spielberg and Peter Benchley years later. Thankfully, great whites are now protected in many parts of the world, and conservation is paramount to most countries—except Japan who still insist on eating shark fins and contribute to the 273 million sharks killed annually.

I won’t get on my soap-box and preach about shark conservation, but it is extremely important to me and, fictional horror-sharks aside, I’m a self-proclaimed “great white shark expert” and have huge understanding of their biology and ecology and harbor a deep love for these animals. “Harbor” and “deep,” there I go again with the unintentional puns.

After 41 years, this film still holds up and is one amazing movie. Even though I own this flick, if this movie is just on normal TV and I stumble upon it, I just drop everything and say,” Fuck my day…Jaws is on.” It’s one of the best movies ever made. I’m always floored when someone young or old tells me that they haven’t seen it. I passionately inform said virgins that they’re missing out on seeing pure cinematic greatness and that they need to get off their asses and GO WATCH IT NOW!

I’m not only a huge Jaws fan, but I’m also an insane memorabilia collector. I own the movie in every film format ever made, I own numerous photos and original posters signed by cast and crew alike, I own countless film-related toys, and the crown jewels in my collection include one of the five yellow barrels used in the film, a harpoon used on the Orca in the actual movie, and one of the original film PRODUCTION/CREW t-shirts.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet Susan Backlinie (Chrissie), Carl Gottlieb (Meadows, and the author of The Jaws Log), and Joe Alves (production designer/epic story boarder), all of whom are not only gracious and friendly, but will also happily talk about their Jaws experiences and give you personal insight. For a Jaws nerd like me, that’s pure gold.

It’s summertime. The beaches are open. Go swimming and watch Jaws…and then go back in the water again. And for those who haven’t seen it, I’ll say it again: GET OFF YOUR ASSES AND GO WATCH IT NOW!

You’ll thank me later.

Jeremy Wagner has written lyrics to numerous published songs spanning several albums with his band Broken Hope. He also writes horror fiction with work published in RIP Magazine, Terrorizer, Metal Edge, Microhorror, and various works of short fiction published through Perseus Books, St. Martin’s Press, Ravenous Romance, and others.

Wagner’s published works include the best-selling debut novel The Armageddon Chord, the short stories “Romance Ain’t Dead” (Hungry for Your Love) and “The Creatures from Craigslist” (Fangbangers: An Erotic Anthology of Fangs, Claws, Sex and Love), the anecdotal “When I Scared Myself Out of Halloween” (Shock Totem #9.5), and Now Write! Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror, an exercise in writing horror.

The Armageddon Chord earned a Hiram Award, a first-round ballot Stoker Award Nomination, and received critical acclaim in Decibel, Publisher’s Weekly, and Rolling Stone. Wagner has since completed two novels.

Wagner’s currently recording Broken Hope’s seventh studio album. The band last released Omen of Disease via Century Media Records.

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Open for Novel/Novella Submissions

Shock Totem Publications is once again open for novel/novella submissions!

Please read our updated guidelines and submission requirements on our Submittable page prior to uploading your work.

If you have any questions, please e-mail us.

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Shock Totem at Anthocon

After a long absence from conventions, this coming weekend, June 5–7, we will have a table at the fourth annual Anthology conference (AnthoCon) up in Portsmouth, NH. Special guests include Christopher Golden, Tom Monteleone, James A. Moore, Gene O’Neill, and more…

Cat and Barry will be manning the table and selling copies of all Shock Totem releases at a generous discount. Barry will also be selling his hand-drawn bookmarks, individually or as a set.

Anyway, it is sure to be a helluva good time. Stop by the Shock Totem table and say hello (and maybe buy a thing or two).

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The One-Hour Flash Fiction Challenge

This Saturday, August 8th, at 8 PM EST, we will once again be hosting our bi-weekly flash fiction challenge. The challenge: You have just one hour to write, edit, and post your story.

This is a “prompted” challenge, meaning your story must be based on the prompt, which will be revealed just before 8 PM. The challenge takes place here on our forum, so you’ll need an account if you want to participate.

The purpose of the challenge is to force you, the writer, to clear your mind of all distractions and write a complete 1,000-word-or-less story within the allotted time. You’ll have to not only write the story, but also edit it, and then post it by 9 PM EST.

For those interested, here are the rules:

Unlike our bi-monthly flash fiction contest, the bi-weekly one-hour flash challenge is just for fun. The challenge will be held every other Saturday, officially beginning at exactly 8 PM EST. There are no prizes! And the rules are simple.

1. All stories should be complete, written and posted within one hour, and can be anywhere from one sentence to 1,000 words in length.

2. You may choose to write your story in any genre.

3. Your story must be built around the restrictions—words, themes, photo prompts, word limits, etc.—provided by the Flashmaster at the beginning of the challenge.

4. Once the participants’ work is posted, the voting and comment session begins and continues until all votes are in. Time limit for voting will be determined on the spot, depending on how many people finish the challenge.

5. The winner becomes Flashmaster and hosts the next contest.

And that’s it. Simple and fun.

Think you can do it? Join the forum and be present this coming Saturday at 8 PM EST. More information can be found on the forum.

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And the 2014 Flash Fiction Contest Winner is…

There’s a Tongue in the Drain
by Roger Lovelace


As many of you know, throughout the year we host a bi-monthly flash fiction contest on our forum (not to be confused with the bi-weekly one-hour flash challenge). From those bi-monthly winners, an overall winner is chosen by a neutral judge, to be published in the next issue of Shock Totem.

This year’s judge was our good friend David G. Blake, author of the excellent “A Kite for Sarah” (Nature, Mar 2014) and “Night in the Forest of Loneliness,” which we just reprinted in our Halloween issue.

Of the five bi-monthly winning stories from 2014, David chose “There’s a Tongue in the Drain,” by Roger Lovelace, as the winner. The contest prompt for this story was a simple photo:

I asked participants to answer two questions with their story: Who is this person? What’s up with the grate? You’ll be able to read what Roger came up with in Shock Totem #10, due in early 2015.

Congratulations, Roger, and all our other top three finishers this year!

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Shock Totem #9—Available Now!

We are very proud to announce the release of our ninth issue!


Click for larger image.

In this ninth issue of Shock Totem you will find not only a brand new, previously unpublished tale by Stephen Graham Jones, but also an interview with this modern master of words. Kathryn Ohnaka presents “Buddy,” a twisting, slithering serpent of a tale. The words are pure poetry, with fangs. “Saturday,” by Evan Dicken, follows, creeping and crawling and filled with Things that whisper of doom.

Similar whisperings can be heard in Bracken MacLeod’s “Thirteen Views of the Suicide Woods” and most of you will know the voices. Tim Lieder’s darkly rhythmic “Hey Man” will get you toe-tapping and “in the mood.” With a touch of science fiction, Emma Osborne’s “The Box Wife” is sure to leave you uncomfortable. The box wife is one and many, but you’ll recognize all.

Stephen King once called Jack Ketchum “the scariest guy in America.” What scares the scariest guy in America? Karen Runge. And you’ll know why after reading “Good Help.” Peter Gutiérrez provides the poetry with his outstanding “Anteroom.” Closing out the fiction in this issue is S.R. Mastrantone’s “Alan Roscoe’s Change of Heart,” a tale that chips away at a well-mined vein–the near-death experience–but manages to produce an untouched gem.

In addition to the previously-mentioned conversation with Stephen Graham Jones, F. Paul Wilson is also interviewed. The seventh installment of our music-meets-horror serial, “Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes,” tackles the 80s and Catherine Grant provides the editorial, a scary piece that hits close to home for creators and readers of horror.

All that and more!

Here is the official Table of Contents:

* Unacceptable Content, by Catherine Grant (Editorial)
* Buddy, by Kathryn Ohnaka
* Saturday, by Evan Dicken
* Morning Books and Evening Books: A Conversation with F. Paul Wilson, by Barry Lee Dejasu
* Thirteen Views of the Suicide Woods, by Bracken MacLeod
* Anteroom, by Peter Gutiérrez (Poetry)
* Strange Goods and Other Oddities (Reviews)
* Hey Man, by Tim Lieder
* The Nightmare Rolls On: A Conversation with Stephen Graham Jones, by Zachary C. Parker
* You Are Here, by Stephen Graham Jones
* The Box Wife, by Emma Osborne
* Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes, Part 7, by John Boden and Bracken MacLeod (Article)
* Good Help, by Karen Runge
* Alan Roscoe’s Change of Heart, by S.R. Mastrantone
* Howling Through the Keyhole (Author Notes)

The print edition can be purchased at our webstore or Amazon.com and other retailers. The Kindle edition can be found here.

As always, thank you for your continued support!

Please note that if you buy the print edition through Amazon.com, you will also receive the Kindle edition for free.

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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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A Conversation with Photographer Stacy Scranton-Morgan

Stacy Scranton-Morgan is a popular photographer, and I’ve run into her at several different conventions. She’s not only great at taking pictures of the panelists and speakers, but also takes wonderful behind-the-scenes pictures of moments that wouldn’t otherwise be captured. Stacy also takes headshots, which is a necessity for every author. I tracked her down and asked for a little advice on how to take a decent author’s photo.

Mercedes M. Yardley: Hi, Stacy! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. As authors, we’re used to using words and phrases to convey nuances and emotions. As a photographer, you do things visually. It’s a completely different world.

Take the subject of author’s photos. They can be quite daunting to a writer. Suddenly one photo is going to basically encapsulate us as a person. They’ll be used online, on the backs of our books, and as promotional tools. The experience of taking an author’s photo can be terribly awkward. This is where your expertise comes in.

Is it possible to take a good photo if the author is extremely nervous? What would you suggest is the best way to calm down?

Stacy Scranton-Morgan: The first part of the question reminds me of the episode of Friends when Monica and Chandler were having their engagement portraits taken. Chandler was so nervous that he just could not get a good picture. So I would say there are those extreme cases. Most people, especially ones that are not used to having their photographs taken, do get nervous in front of the camera. The best thing you can do is try to relax and have fun with it. Take a few deep breaths. When I’m photographing people, I try to have fun with them. I like to joke around and get them laughing a little bit. By being a little goofy, it usually helps to loosen up my subject. Just remember, you have the easy job. You just have to sit there and be yourself.

(more…)

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Staff Spotlight: The Exquisite Death Audiobook

Several Totemites make an appearance in the Exquisite Death audiobook, which was released by In Ear Entertainment on August 13, 2013.

The book features “Ray the Vampire” and “The Exquisite Beauty of Death” by Mercedes M. Yardley, Shock Totem staff member and contributor to Shock Totem #1.

Cate Gardner, featured in Shock Totem #2, is represented by “Opheliac” and “Reflective Curve of a Potion Bottle.”

Also included is “The Plumber,” by Anthony J. Rapino (interviewed here on the Shock Totem blog) and Benjamin Kane Ethridge’s “Chester” and Todd Keisling’s “Radio Free Nowhere” complete the collection.

What’s even better? Using the code TearsOfBlood will get you 15% off the purchase price, making the audiobook less than $5.

Click here to purchase in GBP (£). 
Click here to purchase in USD ($).
Click here to purchase in Euro (€).

Enjoy.

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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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