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Shock Totem 5: Curious Tales of the Macabre and Twisted Kindle Edition
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My two favorite stories this time around were Ari Marmell's "In Deepest Silence" and Jaelithe Ingold's "Little Knife Houses".
"In Deepest Silence" is my first experience with a Lovecraft-esque story. The story, set in the depths of the ocean inside a submarine, has a very authentic feel -- the lingo, the characters all feel real without burying us in technical terms. The tension rises steadily and kept me flipping pages. Who could ask for more?
"Little Knife Houses" was relatively brief, but fascinating. The idea of taking something as little and common as a kitchen knife and spinning this dark, lovely story from it is just awesome.
With many more great fiction finds and a few nonfiction interviews and poems, Shock Totem #5 delivers the same beautifully dark speculative experience that I've come to expect from them.
"In Deepest Silence" by Ari Marmell kicked things off story-wise with a Lovecraftian tale set in a nuclear sub of all places. The claustrophobic atmosphere was handled well, with plenty of navy jargon that didn't feel overwhelming, and a cool premise of literally not being able to see the indescribable horror swimming in the ocean's depths. Cool stuff.
Before that though, there was a brief defense of the horror genre from Mercedes M. Yardley. Not her most heart-wrenching essay in ST's pages, but one I found myself agreeing with wholeheartedly. People may not want to call it "horror," but it's out there--and it's everywhere. There's plenty more nonfiction to be found in this issue as well, including an interview with Jack Ketchum.
Back on the story front, the assortment varied in styles, but kept a similar stark tone. From D. Thomas Mooers' "The Girl and the Blue Burqa" and its paranoia gone wild, to what may be my favorite from the offerings, Joe Mirabello's "The Catch." An quirky, creepy, otherworldly bit of horror that would fit in well with The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, with an annual fishing trip through time--and a Viking chauffeur. Plus, there's the other stories from F.J. Bergmann, Nick Contor, Kurt Newton (accompanied by some stunning artwork), Darrell Schweitzer, Jaelithe Ingold, Anaea Lay, Mekenzie Larsen, and Sean Eads.
ST ought to be on your radar if you love horror or short fiction. And if you love both, then you have no excuse. Really good stuff, and I already have Shock Totem #6 on my Kindle, and waiting for #7.
My two favorite stories were `Postmortem' and `Little Knife Houses'. Postmortem played with my heartstrings, and other vital organs, in ways apparently only Kurt Newton could fathom. And Little Knife Houses was just classic terrifying goodness, kind of like biting into a delicious brownie all gooey in the center from zombie brains. A delight all around. I give it five ninja throwing stars.
If you're familiar with ST, you're getting the same quality of stories you're used to. It's been a while since issue #4, but here's #5 and it's worth the wait. (#6 is close on its heels, too, coming out very soon.)
The range is as eclectic as ever, but somehow the stories mesh well together. Ari Marmell leads things off with "In Deepest Silence," one of the best Lovecraftian tales of recent years. This deserves to be reprinted in a Lovecraftian anthology sometime in the future. Set on a submarine, the tension is automatically there, and Marmell just dials it up until your ears are about to pop. The voice is effortless, too.
"Jimmy Bunny," by Darrell Schweitzer is probably my favorite of the bunch. One of the best haunted house stories I've read in some time, and that's saying a lot after I read an entire anthology of haunted house stories in the past year. The less said of this story the better.
"Little Knife Houses" by Jaelithe Ingold takes an interesting look at people compelled to cut themselves. Kurt Newton's "Postmortem" is an illustrated prose-poem sort of experiment that works unsettlingly well...it's kinda like a horror story in five cantos.
There are other stories--nine total, plus a poem--and not one of them is a clunker. But the story apt to get the most discussion is the one that closes out this issue's fiction: "To 'Bie or Not to 'Bie," by Sean Eads. A zombie story that involves Shakespeare...but not in the way you'd think. It's a fun, beautiful narrative, and Eads walks the tightrope between Elizabethan and modern (in language and theme) with true skill.
The non-fiction pieces are as good as ever. Mercedes Yardley starts the issue with a heartfelt pep rally for the horror genre. The great John Boden's serialized essay with Simon Marshall-Jones, "Bloodstains & Blue Suede Shoes," continues. And Nick Contor wrings perhaps the most emotion of the issue with the excellent essay "Eyes of a Stranger."
Really, you can't go wrong, especially when you look at the price. You get a lot and it's all top-shelf. In the end, it's refreshing to see a great publication steadily getting even better.