Shock Totem Holiday Tales of the Macabre and Twisted 2011
Ed. K. Allen Wood

Shock Totem Publications, November 16th, 99 cents
Review by Darkeva

The first of its kind, Shock Totem Holiday Tales of the Macabre and Twisted 2011 collects eight holiday-themed horror stories and mingles various writers’ most memorable holiday experiences interspersed in this anthology. My favorite part of each issue of Shock Totem is the fiction, which is usually top notch, so I thought it would be a delightfully macabre holiday treat to take a look at some of these tales.

Some may wonder about the timing of a holiday-themed anthology around the holidays, but let’s not forget that the Victorians had some pretty creepy ideas about what constituted fun around Christmas, often reading ghost stories, such as Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol to cite a famous example.

The first tale is from Mercedes M. Yardley, called “Heartless” and it deals with what happens when a stranger comes into a woman’s bed wanting only sleep but then re-visiting every night and eventually asking her if she can love him, but there’s no yearning or sexuality in their exchange. Simply an eerie desire for togetherness.

“Streamer of Silver, Ribbon of Red” by K. Allen Wood looks into the world of a creepy clown wearing a Santa suit who tries to convince the kid in the house he’s broken into that he’s the real thing, and although the kid’s dad gets involved, it seems as though the story is going one way and then the victims cleverly turn the tables on their aggressor in an unexpected manner.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Get You” by Kevin J. Anderson is one of the stand-out stories as it starts with a familiar beginning to a Christmas story that we all know, but twists it in a grim re-imagining of what Santa does to the kids who are on his naughty list. It takes the words of a harmless children’s Christmas carol and makes them infused with tension, something not easy to pull off, but that works well here.

“Tinsel” by John Boden is more of a tragic tale of missing a loved one during this time of year and how difficult it is for those who have lost a loved one. Just because one appreciates a person before they pass on, it doesn’t mean it hurts any less when we lose them.

“One Good Turn” by Robert J. Duperre is about a man who, as a child, witnessed his dad doing foul things in a Santa suit, which set him down a lifelong path of believing that little girls hold evil within them and that he must “purge” them but the family he decides to visit as an adult has some different ideas.

“Christmas Wish” by Sarah Gomes is about a kid who hates his abusive father and suffers some pretty foul things, but at least he’s got a copy of Shock Totem to keep him company (nice bit of intertextual reference on the part of the writer).

“Twas the Night” by Nick Contor deals with a widower preparing for Christmas with her children in a decidedly unique and unconventional way, while Ryan Bridger rounds off the fiction with “A Krampus Christmas”, my favourite of the bunch, as Krampus helps Santa Claus collect evil kids, but with a surprise ending.

As with each volume of Shock Totem produced, the writers all have blurbs at the back of the book as to why they wrote a story and what inspired them to do so, a nice addition as always.

This anthology would make a great stocking stuffer for any horror lover, and it’s a great way to rekindle the Victorian “scary stories around Christmastime” tradition.

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