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.