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Interview with John Boden

With John Boden, one of the editors at Shock Totem, author of Dominoes and bearer of some of the most impressive sideburns in this hemisphere.

We talk to him about Dominoes, the new issue of Shock Totem and even spoken word.

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APOK: Dominoes is a unique offering, apocalypse in a prose poem illustrated to look like a children’s book. Can you talk some on how it came to be, as the writer?

JB:  I’ll try and give the short version.  Dominoes began as a series of micro flash pieces I had that I was going to compile as a piece called “Screaming Windows.”  I can’t recall why but I decided to tamper with the dynamic and scheme of the thing and add a bunch of odd shit. Lyrics, poetic snippets, gibberish.  I then sent it to some friends for their opinions, some dug and some did not so I stuck it in the wait locker and moved on.  It was influenced by many things: John Skipp & Craig Spector’s The Bridge, the work of William S. Burroughs, Throbbing Gristle…just wanting to do something that I thought would be neat to write.


APOK: And on the publishing side?

J.B.: In 2013, We at ST were discussing the possibilities of starting to put out chapbooks. We were each going to chose a project to handle for this and see what happened.  Tom Bordonaro, who was with us at the time wanted to do this and we decided to format it as a kid’s book…we  had a few false starts before we finally got it the way we were thinking it should be. Yannick Bouchard nailed it. Though he and ST parted ways, I owe him a great deal of thanks for helping get this out there.  It seems to be an experiment that worked somewhat as while not selling huge numbers, it moves and those who get it seem to dig it.


APOK: Shock Totem has been around a while now, bringing great fiction and more under its highly noticeable covers. How has it changed since 2011?

J.B. :  Man, in so many ways.  When we began in late 2008, it was an idea that Ken Wood had and brought up to Nick Contor and myself via messages on a heavy metal lovers forum.  We were originally going to be an e-zine, but the dream grew bigger and we  (after taking some serious public floggings and rib-kickings) finally decided what we wanted to do.  We have had more staff changes than we’d like, shit, who loves any?! Being as we are all friends first, it’s always painful when these changes happen.  We brought on Mercedes after getting to know her on the ST forums, not long after we accepted her story for issue #1.  When Nick left, it sucked. It seriously hit the dynamic and we weren’t sure how to proceed. We still miss Nick in the halls of ST manor.  Then Tom Bordonaro came on and then he left. Then Merc moved on to focus on her writing which as you can see if you follow that woman was the right thing for her to do, she’s everywhere.  We’ve brought on new folks and have a decent crew going now, but it’s always there….change…like a buzzard on the branch just biding its time.

The important thing, I think and hope, is that over the course or these years and the ten issues, two novels, one collection and one chapbook, is that we’ve remained true to our vision and kept the bar high.  All we ever strive for is to bring the world unique stories. Names matter not, although we are lucky to count a lot of big names in the genre among our fans.


APOK: The new issue is on its way out, care to tease us with some of the contents?

J.B.:  I am certain it will be another stellar issue. We have another amazing batch of fiction from authors known and unknown- Stephen Graham Jones, Bracken MacLeod, Tim Leider and loads more. Interviews are with Stephen Graham Jones and F. Paul Wilson. Plus the usual non fictiony goodness. Bracken stepped in for Simon Marshall-Jones to help me with the music article this go round.


APOK: Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

J.B.:  We’re readying Shock Totem #9 for release as soon as possible, we want and try to adhere to a schedule but we really run until we have enough quality to fill the issue.  We have a special Halloween treat coming as well.

Then We have a new novella, Zero Lives Remaining, from Adam Cesare in the chute and ready to drop very soon. I can assure you it will be one of the coolest limited editions ever.  I tend to not be a big supported of the limited edition as it generally consists of a hard cover pressing with an authors signature in it and for the $40 or more they usually run, that’s a bit shite.  So we wanted to offer something more…intricate. trust me, THIS is worth your money and with a number of one hundred being printed there will be hurt feelings when the snoozers realize they have indeed become the losers.

After that we have a novella from Justin Paul Walters, and we’ve discussed other things but nothing etched in stone.


APOK: Talk to us about you. Dominoes, you were in Radical Dislocations as well. Is poetry a passion? Or distraction? And does it always lean to the dark?

J.B.:   I started writing shitty stories in high school, shitty poetry as well. It wasn’t until the early 90’s, after hearing Steven Jesse Bernstein’s “Prison” cd, that I realized I was doing it wrong. There is no formula, meter or any of that shit necessary to poetry-just raw words. Sometimes it can have an agenda or sometimes just finger-painting with words and their meanings. So the style of my stuff changed.  I was invited to do some spoken word stuff with a local gothic industrial band, Suture.Seven (long defunct) but if you can find their cds, each of them feature a spoken word piece by yours truly.  I also got to do a spoken word piece on the album, “Gabriel” by the technical-trash band, Believer.

I like to write but but don’t do poetry as much as I once did. It depends, sometimes no other medium will work.  It is often dark but more often just odd.


APOK: Spoken word is often a combination of writing and performance. Did you change your composition tactics when you wrote those at all? And if so, did you bring any of that back into your toolset for fiction?

J.B.:  Not with Suture.Seven, I was friends with their main member and he was a fan of my writing and just had me records myself reading stuff and they put music to it.  Believer was a bit harder as they had a decided theme but the production was similar, I wrote the material and used my hand held digi-recorder to get it down. It didn’t really change much in the way I do things.


APOK: What are you working on now?

J.B.:   I try to keep at it, but life has a way of seeing to it that doesn’t happen.  I recently finished my first ever novella. It’s called Jedi Summer and concerns the adventures of a thirteen year old and his little brother during the summer of 1983. I read a bit from this at Scares That Care! last summer.  I started another novella or longer project under the working title of Spungunion. This one concerns a grieving trucker looking for answers in the murder of his wife, the quest will lead him to odd places and even odder, um…people. It’s my attempt at something noir-ish and I hope it comes out of my head as cool as it is in there. I have notes on a bizarro/horror thing I’ll be co-writing with Brian Rosenberger one of these days, a crypto zoological drug war epic.  I also started another Dominoes -style short thing about a haunted house. I usually try to keep stories out in the submitted ether. I do have some stuff coming out soon in Blight Digest, Despumation magazine and Halloween Forevermore.

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Dominoes, by John Boden is highly recommended by us, get it for your bedtime reading.

Shock Totem Issue 9 is out soon, get it, and the previous ones for a great selection of the macabre.

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Interview with E. Catherine Tobler

Read The Glass Falcon, which continues the adventures of Folley and Mallory, out now!

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E. Catherine Tobler, author of Rings of Anubis, and all around extraordinaire.  Her work has appeared in LampLight, a story called “By The Book” which was a literary sci-fi detective story. She helps edit over at Shimmer, and current has a story at LightSpeed.

Her new book, Rings of Anubis came out in July, so we talked with her about it, writing and what is coming up.

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APOK: Rings of Anubis has just been released, tell us about it

ECT: First and foremost everyone should know it’s the best book ev–

Er, Rings of Anubis is my first novel, and I’m equal parts excited and nervous over it. It’s very strange to have people buying your book and reading the words you’ve worked on for so long. You wonder how they will react and then realize you have to let go of that, because that’s out of your control.

Rings of Anubis is a mashup of science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and historical fiction, taking our heroine from turn of the century Paris to Cairo where she will undercover secrets–though they aren’t the secrets she thinks they are. Along the way, she encounters werewolves, ancient Egyptian gods, and a side of herself she never knew. As you do.


APOK: Writing historical fantasy, I assume, presents its own sets of troubles, with both history and your world building creating their own rules. Did you have troubles with that? Did you find yourself having to bend one rule set to make it fit with the other?

ECT: There is certainly an aspect of the book that is alternate history. When the story began to take on a fuller shape, I knew there was no way it would be Exactly What Happened In History. It was also important to me to respect the actual history of Egypt, mindful of the customs and myths as I worked to build my own alternate version. Wanting to both show and respect the magic of Egypt was a fine line to walk.

I kept having to tweak what I’d already done to make sure everything stayed where I’d put it–kind of like when you’re making a model, or a puzzle, and the pieces don’t totally snap together, so you realize you’ve borked something earlier in the process. Branching off from real historical events was hard to wrap my mind around at times. “It didn’t happen like that,” I would find myself thinking, and being okay with that was a slow process.


APOK: Were you drawn to this time period first? or had you been working on a story and thought “you know, if i set this in Paris… yes yes…(maniacal laughter, mad scientist noises)” ?

ECT: I was not drawn to this time period first. The book started set in the near future; picture Blade Runner but not quite so rainy and bleak. I knew I wanted to talk about the preservation of the past by someone who had a personal stake in that preservation, but when coupled with the technology of the future replacing it, the set up felt entirely too much like Tolkien and his nature vs. technology arguments in LotR. So I took a step backward and started to wonder.

It was while I was looking at images of the Eiffel Tower under construction that it hit me. What could possibly be more metal and steampunk than the Eiffel Tower? I knew at that point it was Paris in addition to Egypt, I just needed to determine Paris of what era. World’s Fairs have always fascinated me and when I read more about the Tower, and why and when it was built, everything fell together naturally from that point. Seeing airships actually photographed around the Eiffel Tower…

Well yes, there was maniacal laughter at that point.


APOK: Tell me a little bit about how you became a writer to begin with

ECT: I started writing fan fiction, chiefly Star Trek, because stories where people are on journeys, seeing strange worlds and new ideas remain intoxicating for me. Fan fiction gave me a safe place to practice, and introduced me to a bunch of friends who also wrote. Then, Pocket Books did its Strange New Worlds anthologies, which is where I made my first pro sale (I was in SNW #4 and #5). But when Trek-writing friends began to write Trek novels, I realized I wanted to write in my OWN worlds, so took that leap and never looked back.


APOK: Do you have a specific writing process? Mood lighting and light music,  or a crazy hectic coffee shop?

ECT: I sit down. I apply my fingers to the keys. I type.

Okay–possibly it’s not that basic (but it also is). I have a brain that doesn’t want to write every day and when I stopped trying to force that, I became a happier and more productive writer, and I also started to sell more.

I’m the kind of writer who fills up on art, music, movies, the creative output of others, and feeds all of that into the “writing” part of my brain, before spewing words onto the page. And after I’ve emptied all those ideas, I have to go back and fill up again.

Some stories get soundtracks; some don’t. Sometimes I write in complete silence. Mostly, the writing happens at my desk, no coffee shops, no libraries, because when I’m out, I watch people–I find myself filling back up, rather than writing.


APOK: What is on the horizon? Releases? Appearances? Dance off-s?

ECT: I am appearing daily at my desk for editing and writing adventures! I may also attend MileHiCon in Denver later this fall. (

“A Box, a Pocket, a Spaceman” appears in the August Lightspeed (and will be free on the site starting August 19).

As for releases, September sees another book from me (in digital release to start), Watermark. This is the story of a fairy who is sent to the human world as a kind of punishment; of course things don’t always go as planned, and the center cannot hold. Chaos ensues!

As to dance offs, we totally have a future date with one of those. Maybe we’ll cosplay as Daft Punk at the 2015 Worldcon?


Check out Rings of Anubis, out now in print and ebook, as well as some more links below.