I discovered Shock Totem magazine back in 2012, with issue # 4. This issue featured a short story from Lee Thompson, (an author I have since developed a friendly relationship with), a non fiction piece “Bloodstains and Blue Suede Shoes” by John Boden and Simon Marshall-Jones, (as a lover of the Blues, this article resonated with me), and a non fiction story by K. Allen Wood, who is the Editor-in-Chief of Shock Totem Publications.
It was also through Shock Totem that I discovered the awesome James Newman, author of The Wicked, an ST publication. In addition to the story being most excellent, it also had this cool, faux-aged cover. I was immediately intrigued since I had never heard of or seen such a thing. It made me think that these Shock Totem folks were creative and interesting and I wanted to know more about them. So here we are.
Shock Totem was founded by K. Allen Wood in 2008. Also on board as Contributing Editor is John Boden. They are each also authors.
There are several other people listed on the site, but today we are speaking with Ken and John, the cool, (and in no way goofball twins), pictured below.
HAD: Thanks for taking the time, gentlemen! How did you two meet?
Ken: I met John and Nick through a music forum called Heart of Metal. John and I in particular had a lot in common, from music to horror to our sarcasm and extremely lowbrow sense of humor.
John: I want to say Ken and I met via the CD trading site Lala.com initially…then moved our blossoming love over to the Heart of Metal forum. We all had a great connection, but Ken and I are literally like brothers who were separated at birth. We have a similar sense of humor, similar tastes in music and horror…if you ever meet us in person, we’re goofball twins who look nothing alike.
Ken: This is true. The “goofball twins” part, anyway.
HAD: How did Shock Totem get started?
Ken: When I was younger I had ambitions to be a musician. I played in bands and such, but to get a greater understanding of the music business I started a small record label and published a zine called Satan Stole My Devil Horns (a little tribute to one of my favorite local bands, Wargasm). By playing in bands, running the label, and publishing the zine, I learned a hell of a lot.
Twenty or so years later I was done with music, having lost interest in the whole Rock Star gig, and I was focusing on my writing, something I probably should have done much earlier. As such I felt a bit behind the curve, as they say, so I took the same approach. How do I quickly learn about the publishing industry? Become a publisher.
And that’s it, really. Armed with an idea, I approached John Boden and Nick Contor, both of whom I knew shared a love of horror, and we were off.
John: That seems about right. I recall Ken sending us a message and asking if we wanted to be a part of a horror magazine he wanted to start. I don’t think I was able to say “Fuck yeah!” emphatically enough. I had zero experience in much of anything, just a working stiff all my life; but I did write and am a voracious reader…
HAD: What’s the goal/ mission statement of Shock Totem, if any?
“Shock Totem is a publication full of stories that we, as readers, enjoyed the hell out of.”
Ken: Oddly enough, it was Clive Barker who led me to fantasy. Particularly with Everville, which I pulled from a bargain bin long ago. Reading it, I didn’t realize it was a sequel, and it certainly was confusing at times, but I’d never read anything like it and couldn’t put it down. It blew me away. I then read the first part, The Great and Secret Show, and quickly moved onto his other fantastical works, Weaveworld and Imajica. From there I jumped into more traditional fantasists like Eddings and Brooks and Salvatore.
HAD: How did you come up with the fiction/non fiction mix featured in your magazines?
John: Yep. I’ve done one of the nonfiction pieces, and they certainly aren’t easy, that’s for sure. And I think the reason the Skipp interview turned out so well is…well, I’m a Skipp fanboy.
HAD: Of what Shock Totem project are you most proud?
I am also quite proud of the brilliant artwork for The Wicked. It’s a great cover, for sure, but you really need to see the physical edition to really get an idea of how amazing the artwork is, the melding of work by Jesse David Young and Yannick Bouchard. And speaking of artwork, Beautiful Sorrows is equally amazing, both in artwork and fiction. It’s an amazing collection, and Mercedes is a fantastic writer.
And Dominoes holds a special place in my heart, namely because I wasn’t fully on board with the idea at first. I was open to it, but I just didn’t know if it would work. Once we began putting it together, though, I was convinced. It is a wholly unique book.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure I gave you way more answer than you wanted and failed to actually answer the question. I’m a turd. Sorry.
HAD: Can you share with us what you have going on now or coming out soon?
Ken: Zero Lives Remaining is next in the queue. In addition to the limited hardcover edition, it will be released in digital and paperback. After that we put our tenth issue, thirteenth if you count the three holiday issues. That’s a pretty big deal, really, of which I’m very proud.
Beyond that, who knows? We’ll go where inspiration leads us.
John: Zero Lives Remaining might be the coolest thing we’ve ever done. No slight against the other authors, but in design and execution—hoo-whee, will it be sweet! We’ve mentioned various ideas for additional projects, but you’ll have to wait and see what happens.
HAD thanks both of you for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with Zero Lives Remaining and your other upcoming projects!