This issue of Shock Totem brings together eight short stories, as well as eleven short trips down memory lane with various authors sharing their Christmas memories--twisted and macabre as they might be. It starts off with a story by Mercedes M. Yardley called "Heartless" that is just all the way disturbing, about a heartbroken woman who finds a demon in her bed and she is too lonely to wish it away.
K. Allen Wood's "Streamer of Silver, Ribbon of Red" is a story that starts off with a sinister sense of humor. I mean, the villain is a homicidal clown dressed up as Santa--come on. The story plays out through the clown's point of view, which I had my doubts about, but as it played out it became clear that the story just wouldn't work any other way. And the payoff had a mischievous Hitchcock feel to it.
My favorite story is a relatively short piece called "Tinsel" by John Boden. I'll simply sum up my thoughts on this tale by saying stories of loss and loneliness don't always resonate as well as this one. Well done.
There's a couple other stories that offer some snow-dappled scares like Kevin J Anderson's "Santa Claus Is Coming to Get You!" and Robert J. Duperre's "One Good Turn." As for the holiday memories, they were like bonus interludes between the stories. Jennifer Pelland's had one of those childhood memories that echoes something from my past, while I'd say Mark Allen Gunnells had one of the more charming stories.
Honestly, I would have been perfectly happy to trade the memories from more fiction, but I'm not complaining. It's a nice slice of holiday hellscape wrapped with a pretty red ribbon--and dripping with blood. Happy holidays!