Monday, August 12, 2019

GAMMA: A showcase for the writers of The Twilight Zone

Cover art by Morris Scott Dollens
for Gamma 2 (1963)
    A guide to the short-lived fiction magazine based in Hollywood which published many of the science fiction film and television writers of the day.     

          Gamma was a digest-sized fiction magazine which appeared on newsstands in the spring of 1963, around the time the fourth season of The Twilight Zone was coming to a close. Reluctant to label itself science fiction, the magazine was instead subtitled “New Frontiers in Fiction” and featured an eclectic and sometimes experimental (poetry, drama, etc.) assortment of science fiction, fantasy, and horror fiction, along with interviews and original art. It lasted two years, with five issues irregularly appearing between 1963 and September, 1965. A sixth issue was advertised and anticipated but never appeared. An irregular publishing schedule and distribution problems plagued the magazine from the beginning and ultimately caused its demise as a dedicated readership was difficult to cultivate under those conditions.
Gamma was published by Star Press, Inc., a venture out of North Hollywood created by Jack Matcha (1919-2003), a journalist and playwright turned novelist who assumed the roles of Publisher and Executive Editor on Gamma and its short-lived crime fiction companion Chase. As a novelist Matcha wrote a hardboiled paperback for Fawcett Gold Medal (Prowler in the Night, 1959), several Brady Bunch mysteries for the Tiger Beat (from the teen magazine) imprint of New American Library, and novels of erotic pulp sleaze, the latter a service he also provided under the pseudonyms John Barclay and John (or James) Tanner. The Star Press team also included Publisher/Editor Charles E. Fritch and Managing Editor William F. Nolan, who departed his position after three issues.

Gamma can be counted among the many genre fiction magazines which folded as financial problems or a crowded newsstand brushed them away after a few issues. What separated Gamma, however, were the contributors to the magazine. Modeling itself on the high literary standards set by Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and, especially, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Gamma served as a showcase for the Southern California Group of writers and their associates, many of whom were also writing for film and television at the time. The Southern California Group (so-named by The Los Angeles Times literary critic Robert Kirsch) was a collective of close friends who formed creatively under the mentorship of Ray Bradbury (and later Charles Beaumont) and were those writers Rod Serling gathered around him to bring The Twilight Zone to life on television.
Nearly every major contributing writer to The Twilight Zone can be found in the pages of Gamma. Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, and John Tomerlin all appear in the first issue and most would appear again later. Other names, such as Robert Bloch, Ray Russell, Fritz Leiber, Robert Sheckley, Dennis Etchison, Patricia Highsmith, and Forrest J. Ackerman, will certainly ring familiar. Gamma also distinguished itself by including work from writers not known for speculative fiction, such as William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Bernard Malamud.
Gamma crowded a lot of material into its five issues, including dense but concise contributor biographies and insightful interviews. For a brief time in the early 1960s the magazine was the perfect vehicle of expression for a group of writers who would exert a wide-ranging influence upon American popular culture.

Below is a cover gallery, contents list, and notes for the five issues of Gamma. A gallery of the magazine’s interior art follows.


Gamma 1 (vol. 1, no. 1, 1963)
Cover art: Morris Scott Dollens
Editor & Publisher: Charles E. Fritch
Executive Editor: Jack Matcha
Managing Editor: William F. Nolan


-“About Our Cover Artist” – Biographical essay on Morris Scott Dollens (1920-1994) who was also a successful commercial photographer with many of Ray Bradbury’s book jacket author photos to his credit.

-“Gamma” – Mission statement editorial.

-“Mourning Song” by Charles Beaumont. Beaumont (1929-1967) was struggling with the ill-effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s at this time and “Mourning Song” was one of the last pieces of fiction he would write. It is also one of his finest, an ironic and meditative dark fantasy about fate and consequence. Judith Merril included the story in The 9th Annual of the Year’s Best SF (1964) and it was collected in the career retrospective Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories, ed. Roger Anker (1988).

-“Crimes Against Passion” by Fritz Leiber. A short play.

-“Time in Thy Flight” by Ray Bradbury. This story originally appeared in the June-July, 1953 issue of Fantastic Universe. It was collected in the second of Bradbury’s two collections for younger readers, S Is for Space (1966).

-“The Vengeance of Nitocris” by Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams. The first reprinting of an early story from the American playwright which originally appeared in the August, 1928 issue of Weird Tales.

-“Itself!” by A.E. van Vogt. This is reprinted from the January, 1963 issue of Scientific American. It was collected in The Far-Out Worlds of A.E. van Vogt (1968).

-“Venus Plus Three” by Charles E. Fritch. Fritch (1927-2012) was a prolific novelist and short story writer equally adept at science fiction and suspense. He was a core member of the Southern California Group and memorialized the group in perhaps his best-known story, “Big, Wide, Wonderful World,” from the March, 1958 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. “Venus Plus Three” was collected in Horses’ Asteroid (1970).

-“A Message from Morj” by Ray Russell. Russell (1924-1999) was the fiction editor for Playboy until he moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in the early 1960s to begin a screenwriting career working with directors Roger Corman and William Castle. Russell collaborated with Charles Beaumont on the script for Corman’s The Premature Burial (1962).

-“To Serve the Ship” by William F. Nolan. This story was reprinted a few months later in Nolan’s Impact-20 (1963). Some time back we interviewed Nolan about his long career. You can read that here.

-The Gamma Interview: Rod Serling. This interview is relatively brief but insightful and much of the discussion centers on The Twilight Zone.

-“The Freeway” by George Clayton Johnson. Johnson (1929-2015) remains well known for his television scripts, including such The Twilight Zone episodes as “A Game of Pool,” “Nothing in the Dark,” and “Kick the Can.” “The Freeway” was reprinted by William F. Nolan in the anthology Man Against Tomorrow (1965) and collected in the career retrospective All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (1999).

-“One Night Stand” by Herbert A. Simmons. A science fiction story from the reclusive African American writer. William F. Nolan reprinted the story in the 1970 anthology A Sea of Space.

-Advertisement for the sale of copies of The Ray Bradbury Review. The Ray Bradbury Review, a 1952 booklet featuring essays from Anthony Boucher, Chad Oliver, and Henry Kuttner, among others, was the first of William F. Nolan’s biographical and bibliographical works on Bradbury, which also includes The Ray Bradbury Companion (1975) and Nolan on Bradbury (2013).

-“As Holy and Enchanted” by Kris Neville. Neville (1925-1980) was a highly-regarded specialist in the SF short story who had largely abandoned SF writing by the time this tale appeared, reprinted from the April, 1953 issue of Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader.

-“Shade of Day” by John Tomerlin. Tomerlin (1930-2014) was a novelist, short story writer, and scriptwriter for such television programs as Thriller and Wanted: Dead or Alive. He collaborated with Charles Beaumont on the 1957 suspense novel Run from the Hunter, published under the joint pseudonym Keith Grantland, and adapted Beaumont’s 1952 story “The Beautiful People” for the fifth season Twilight Zone episode, “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.”

-“The Girl Who Wasn’t There” by Forrest J. Ackerman. This story was originally written by Tigrina (1921-2015) (Edythe Eyde), a secretary at RKO Studios and fanzine editor now remembered for creating the first lesbian periodical in the U.S., Vice Versa in 1947. Ackerman supplied the ending to the story for its first appearance in the fanzine Inside. For its appearance in Gamma, the story was rewritten by Charles E. Fritch and William F. Nolan. It was reprinted, with credit to all four authors, in Science Fiction Worlds of Forrest J. Ackerman & Friends (1969).

-“Death in Mexico” by Ray Bradbury. A second appearance by Bradbury in the issue with this poem, collected in When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed (1973).

-An Editorial – More or Less. Brief essay explaining the type of fiction a reader can expect from the magazine and the reason the magazine is reluctant to label itself a science fiction magazine.

-“Crescendo” by Richard Matheson. Matheson (1926-2013), Grandmaster of fantasy and writer of such Twilight Zone classics as “Nick of Time,” “The Invaders,” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” appears with a lesser-known tale. It was collected in Shock III (1966).

Gamma 2 (vol. 1, no. 2, 1963)
Cover art: Morris Scott Dollens
Interior art: Burt Shonberg, Luan Meatheringham
Editor/Publisher: Charles E. Fritch
Executive Editor/Publisher: Jack Matcha
Managing Editor: William F. Nolan


-Not Really an Editorial, But. Essay detailing the response to the first issue of the magazine. Lists a number of writers expected to appear in a future issue, most of whom do not.

-“The Granny Woman” by Dorothy B. Hughes. A tale of witchcraft from the noted mystery writer Hughes (1904-1993). The tale was reprinted in the 1970 MWA anthology Crime Without Murder.

-“The Old College Try” by Robert Bloch. Forever to be known as the author of Psycho (1950), Bloch (1917-1994) was the prolific author of scores of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and mystery novels and stories, many of which were adapted for film and television, often by Bloch himself. Bloch wrote the novelization of Twilight Zone: The Movie (Warner Books, 1983), which we reviewed. “The Old College Try” was reprinted by William F. Nolan in A Sea of Space (1970) and collected in Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow (1971).

-“Michael” by Francesca Marques. A debut story.

-“Deus Ex Machina” by Richard Matheson. Collected in Shock Waves (1970).

-“The Kid Learns” by William Faulkner. An early story from the American Nobel Laureate. The story originally appeared in the New Orleans Time Picayune during Faulkner’s time living in the city.

-“King’s Jester” by Jack Matcha. A story from the Publisher and Executive Editor.

-“Here’s Sport Indeed!” by William Shakespeare, assisted by Ib Melchior. Melchior (1917-2015) was the Danish-American son of the opera singer Lauritz Melchior. Ib is best-remembered for his scriptwriting work on such films as Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and Planet of the Vampires (1965). Here he selects passages from Shakespeare’s works which reflect a tour through our solar system.

-Portfolio by Burt Shonberg. Shonberg (1933-1977) was an American artist and fixture on the Southern California art scene. He co-owned the controversial Laguna Beach coffee house Café Frankenstein with George Clayton Johnson and provided paintings for Roger Corman’s films House of Usher (1960) and The Premature Burial (1962). Shonberg also provided the cover for George Clayton Johnson’s career retrospective, All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (1999).

-Everybody Out There Likes Us . . . Quoted praise for Gamma from an impressive roster of talents, including Rod Serling, Robert Kirsch, Ray Bradbury, Anthony Boucher, and August Derleth.

-“The Undiscovered Country” by William F. Temple. A reprint of the British SF author’s 1958 story, first published in Nebula Science Fiction, number 35. William F. Nolan reprinted the tale in A Sea of Space (1970) and it was collected in A Niche in Time and Other Stories (2011).

-Chase. An advertisement for a companion crime fiction magazine. Chase lasted only three issues, with the first issue dated January, 1964 and ending with issues in May and September of that year.

-The Gamma Interview: Robert Sheckley. An interview with the prolific SF writer. Sheckley (1928-2005) frequently contributed to the early issues of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, including a brief tenure as books reviewer.

-Attention SF Fans! Advertisement for William F. Nolan’s first collection of SF stories, Impact-20, published by Paperback Library in November, 1963. There is brief quoted praise from Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock, and Anthony Boucher. The book included an introduction from Ray Bradbury.

-“Castaway” by Charles E. Fritch. Reprinted by William F. Nolan in the 1969 anthology A Wilderness of Stars.

-“Something in the Earth” by Charles Beaumont. Reprinted in The Bradbury Chronicles: Stories in Honor of Ray Bradbury, ed. William F. Nolan and Martin H. Greenberg (1991). I reviewed that volume here.

-Soon to Be Released – An advertisement for the imminent release of “a suspenseful paperback anthology,” A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Morgue, which I could not verify ever appeared, at least under that title. Contributing authors included Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, and Anthony Boucher.

-“I’m Only Lonesome When I’m Lonely” by William F. Nolan. Reprinted in the German horror anthology Horror Expert (1972).

-A Note on Ernest Hemingway. A short essay explaining that the editors originally planned to reprint a fantasy story from the American Nobel Laureate, “The Good Lion,” first published in the March, 1951 issue of Holiday magazine, before being denied by the late author’s publishers, Scribner’s. The essay also directs the reader to another Hemingway work, Today Is Friday.

-“Sombra Y Sol” by Ray Bradbury. Collected, as “El Dia de Muerte,” in The Machineries of Joy (1964).

Gamma 3 (vol. 2, no. 1, 1964)
Cover art: Morris Scott Dollens
Interior art: Luan Meatheringham
Editor/Publisher: Charles E. Fritch
Executive Editor/Publisher: Jack Matcha
Managing Editor: William F. Nolan


-“The Girl of Paradise Planet” by Robert Turner. The brief biography which accompanies this tale states that Turner (1915-1980) sold over one thousand stories to magazines. Turner also wrote for television, notably two episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His collection Shroud 9 (1970) collects 18 of his short crime and horror stories.  

-“The Feather Bed” by Shelly Lowenkopf. Lowenkof (b. 1931) is a retired UCLA writing professor and prolific novelist who at the time of this story was the Associate Editor of Gamma’s companion magazine Chase.

-About Our Interior Artist. A biographical essay on Luan Meatheringham.

-“Angel Levine” by Bernard Malamud. Reprinted from the author’s 1959 debut collection The Magic Barrel, winner of a National Book Award.  

-“The (In)visible Man” by Edward W. Ludwig. Collected, as “The Visible Invisible Man,” in The 7 Shapes of Solomon Bean (1983).

-“Inside Story” by Miriam Allen deFord. deFord’s (1888-1975) 1961 story, “A Death in the Family,” was adapted by Rod Serling for the second season of Night Gallery, directed by Jeannot Szwarc, starring E.G. Marshall and Desi Arnaz, Jr., broadcast September 22, 1971.

-“The Birth” by George Clayton Johnson. Collected in All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (1999).

-The Gamma Interview: Soviet Science Fiction. An interview with a Russian magazine editor going under the pseudonym Ivan Kirov. The interview was conducted at the Frankfort Book Fair.

-“Buttons” by Raymond E. Banks. The prolific Banks (1918-1996) was a fixture of the science fiction magazines in the 1950s and 1960s, writing under a number of pseudonyms.

-“Society for the Prevention” by Ron Goulart. Goulart (b. 1933) is a prolific and versatile writer best known for his humorous short stories and his works on the history of American comic books. Goulart was a member of the Southern California Group who later contributed often to the early issues of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. “Society for the Prevention” was reprinted by William F. Nolan in the 1970 anthology A Sea of Space.

-“The Snail Watcher” by Patricia Highsmith. The first appearance of one of Highsmith’s (1921-1995) most oft-reprinted tales, a modern horror classic. The American expatriate writer was best known for her novels which have been made into films, including Strangers on a Train (1950) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955).

Gamma 4 (vol. 2, no. 2, February, 1965)
Cover art: John Healey
Editor/Publishers: Charles E. Fritch, Jack Matcha
Special Outer Space Issue

-Changes this issue. Gone is Managing Editor William F. Nolan and cover artist Morris Scott Dollens.


-Remember . . . Brief editorial describing the Special Outer Space Issue, a nostalgic issue in tribute to the older style of pulp science fiction when “you didn’t need a slide-rule and a couple years of calculus to figure out what was going on.”

-“The Clutches of Ruin” by H.B. Fyfe. Horace Browne Fyfe, Jr. (1918-1997) was a prolific writer of short stories during the Golden Age of science fiction, his career as an SF author fading out with the 1960s.

-“The Towers of Kagasi” by William P. Miller. A well-known mystery writer of the time contributing a science fiction story.

-“Food” by Ray Nelson. An early story from Nelson (b. 1931) who’s had a dual career as an SF author and cartoonist.

-“Hans Off in Free Pfall to the Moon” by E. A. Poe. An abridged version of Edgar Allan Poe’s Hans Phall – a Tale, first published in the June, 1835 issue of Southern Literary Messenger.

-The Gamma Interview: Forrest J. Ackerman

-“Open Season” by John Tanner. Tanner was a pseudonym of Publisher and Editor Jack Matcha.

-“The Woman Astronaut” by Robert Katz. A short play.

-“Happily Ever After” by William F. Nolan. Reprinted in the 1969 anthology A Wilderness of Stars and collected in Alien Horizons (1974).

-“Don’t Touch Me I’m Sensitive” by James Stamers. Stamers was a pseudonym for a California based CPA and Doctor of Law. He published a number of SF stories in the periodicals of the time under the name.

-“The Hand of Mr. Insidious” by Ron Goulart. A satirical story of the mysteries of the orient.

Gamma 5 (vol. 2, no. 5, September, 1965)
Cover art: John Healey
Interior art: William F. Nolan, Luan Meatheringham, Bernard Zuber, Burt Shonberg
Editor/Publishers: Charles E. Fritch, Jack Matcha
Note the irregularity in numbering.


-Across the Editor’s Desk – Editorial on the wildly different types of mail being sent into the Gamma offices. The editorial also includes a brief biographical sketch from the cover artist John Healey.

-“Nesbit” by Ron Goulart. A short novel. John Healey’s cover illustration depicts a scene from the narrative.

-“Policy Conference” by Sylvia Dees and Ted White. Dees is described as a professional photographer, an award-winning artist, and an amateur musician. Ted White (b. 1938) made his mark primarily as a longtime editor in the SF field, lifting the literary quality of such magazines as Fantastic, Amazing Stories, and Heavy Metal. White was also a notable SF fan in his early years and enjoyed a long career as a fiction writer.

-“Auto Suggestion” by Charles Beaumont. This story about a car which begins to communicate with its owner is one of Beaumont’s fugitive pieces, not appearing in any collection under the author’s name. It was reprinted by editor William Pattrick (Peter Haining) in Mysterious Motoring Stories (1987), reprinted in paperback the same year as Duel: Horror Stories of the Road.

-“Welcome to Procyon IV” by Chester H. Carlfi. A pseudonymous work by Charles E. Fritch. The story was collected in Crazy Mixed-Up Planet (1969).

-“Interest” by Richard Matheson. A lesser-known story from Matheson. It was reprinted in Matheson’s Collected Stories, issued by Dream Press in 1989.

-“Lullaby and Goodnight” by George Clayton Johnson. Collected in All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (1999).

-“A Careful Man Dies” by Ray Bradbury. Reprinted from the November, 1946 issue of New Detective. It was collected in A Memory of Murder (1984).

-“The Late Mr. Adams” by Steve Allen. Allen (1921-2000) was a popular and influential television personality and comedian who co-created The Tonight Show. “The Late Mr. Adams” is reprinted from Allen’s 1955 collection of short stories Fourteen for Tonight.

-“Wet Season” by Dennis Etchison. Etchison (1943-2019), who recently passed away on May 29, is now regarded as one of the finest short stories writers of horror and dark fantasy in the latter half of the twentieth century. At the time of this story Etchison was still in college, having sold a handful of stories to science fiction magazines. Etchison was a student in a UCLA writing course taught by Charles Beaumont and recounts the experience in his introduction to Beaumont’s “Free Dirt” in Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories (1988). “Wet Season” was collected in Red Dreams (1984).

Interior Art:

Gamma 2:

Burt Shonberg portfolio:

Illustration by Luan Meatheringham:

Gamma 3:

Illustrations by Luan Meatheringham:

Gamma 5:

Illustration by Luan Meatheringham:

Illustration by Bernard Zuber:

Illustration by Burt Shonberg:

Cover gallery for Chase, the short-lived crime fiction companion magazine to Gamma:

Grateful acknowledgement for information contained in the text and cover images:

Transformations: The Story of the Science-fiction Magazines from 1950-1970 by Mike Ashley (Liverpool University Press, 2005)

Galactic Central (

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (

The Internet Archive (

Monday, July 29, 2019

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 14

In which we take a closer look at each issue of the magazine. For our capsule history of the magazine, go here.

Volume 2, number 2 (May, 1982)

Cover art: William Stoneham

TZ Publications, Inc.

President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice-Presidents: Leon Garry, Eric Protter
Executive Publisher: S. Edward Orenstein
Publisher: Leon Garry
Associate Publisher/Contributing Editor: Carol Serling
Editorial Director: Eric Protter
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Assistant Editors: Steven Schwartz, Robert Sabat
Contributing Editors: Gahan Wilson, Thomas M. Disch
Design Director: Derek Burton
Art and Studio Production: Georg the Design Group
Production Director: Stephen J. Fallon
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Administrative Assistant: Doreen Carrigan
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Manager: Chris Grossman
Circulation Director: William D. Smith
Circulation Manager: Janice Graham
Eastern Circulation Manager: Hank Rosen
Western Newsstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Advertising Production Manager: Marina Despotakis
Advertising Representatives: Barney O’Hara & Associates, Inc.


--In the Twilight Zone: Happily ever after . . . by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan
--TZ Interview: Terry Gilliam by James Verniere
--“The General’s Wife” by Peter Straub
--“Frontiers” by Kit Reed
--Front-Row Seats at the Creepshow by Ed Naha
--TZ Screen Preview: Dark Crystal by James Verniere
--“The Other One” by Rick Norwood
--“The Father of the Bride” by Connie Willis
--“Turn Down for Richmond” by G.J.A. O’Toole
--“Weigh Station” by Robert Crais
--“J.C. in the Springtime” by I. Daniel Roth
--“A Lover’s Alibi” by Chet Williamson
--The Doomsday Poems by Richard L. Tierney
--“All of Us Are Dying” by George Clayton Johnson
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Four of Us Are Dying” by Rod Serling
--Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Fourteen
--Looking Ahead: In June’s TZ

--In the Twilight Zone: “Happily ever after . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
-Klein’s usual editorial space used to introduce the contributors to the issue, marking the first appearance of Thomas M. Disch as books reviewer, the novella by Peter Straub, and the interview with American expatriate film director Terry Gilliam, whose 1981 film Time Bandits had recently found success in America.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
-This is the first books review column from Disch (1940-2008), the celebrated poet, essayist, and science fiction writer. Disch will continue to provide book reviews for the magazine until the Jan-Feb, 1985 issue. Disch also provided book reviews for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and Omni during this time and wrote several literary essays which appeared in non-genre periodicals. Some of this work was collected in On SF (2005). Disch also contributed three lists to The Fantasy Five-Foot Bookshelf series in the May-June, and July-Aug, 1983 issues of Twilight Zone. Disch first came to the attention of science fiction readers as one of the more talented New Wave writers. His novels The Genocides (1965) and Camp Concentration (1968) and the collection 334 (1972) are widely considered modern classics of the form.

-Disch takes a look at three works for his first column. Here’s a sampling of his thoughts.

On The Sword of the Lictor (volume three of The Book of the New Sun) by Gene Wolfe:

“Wolfe’s special effects are only apprehensible to those who will read his prose with a precision proportional to his precision as a writer. Most science fantasy – and most sf, for that matter – is written in a gassy, approximative prose from which it is possible to construct, at best, figured landscapes as sketchily drawn and crudely colored as comic book illustrations. What Wolfe offers is a much higher degree of image resolution; not photo-realism but something like an animated version of a Botticelli painting. But to have the benefit of Wolfe’s verbal cinematography you must give every word its true weight and inflection.”

-On GOSH! WOW! (Sense of Wonder) Science Fiction ed. Forrest J. Ackerman:

“Ejjay is definitely getting my vote for the Big Heart Award at the next con. He must have spent weeks in the dust of the copyright office finding out which stories he could use strictly for the sake of nostalgia without the corrupting taint of commerce.”

-On The Abyss by Jere Cunningham:

“It’s always a mistake for a fantasy writer to multiply his hypotheses too wantonly, especially if he means at the same time to observe the decorums of psychological verisimilitude. Cunningham piles on the grue (as Straub did in Ghost Story) without rhyme or reason, and the novel that results has the esthetic integrity and emotional impact of the Tunnel of Terrors at a county fair.”

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
-Wilson does not look at any single film in this column but rather pens a freewheeling, satirical rumination on the future of the movies, particularly where the ever-evolving special effects may take the medium next. He begins this way: “Although I’ve always been a total patsy for films, this business of viewing them in a sort of official capacity for Twilight Zone (together with getting involved with them directly in another incarnation) has caused me to look at them, yes, indeed, more critically. What are the damned things, anyhow? And how big a chunk of the society and its members do they represent? What do you suppose is the accumulation of their effect? And – more and more intriguing to me – where in God’s name are they going?”

-Wilson provides satirical speculations on where the movies will go next in terms of special effects and the ways in which we view movies, going so far as to suggest a Westworld type of fully immersive experience while taking the obligatory shot at the litany of Jaws sequels. The column reads as though intended to be humorous but contains an edge of pessimism which largely spoils the effect. Wilson’s view is prescient, however, as films begin more and more to bear a resemblance to a technical exercise than a creative one. Special effects are often used to mask inefficiencies in storytelling on the part of the filmmakers but audiences hardly seem to care, or recognize the difference. In a way, Wilson is addressing the old argument of whether it is better to leave some things to the imagination or to show it all without allowing the audience to color anything in with their own imaginings. It is an interesting topic of discussion though Wilson does not attempt a serious examination of the issue but merely uses the influx of special effects-heavy productions to lament the days when story came first in films and the movie-going experience was more intimate.

--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan

-Sullivan, the American genre historian best known for his 1978 study Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood, the 1983 anthology Lost Souls: A Collection of English Ghost Stories, and as editor of The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986), returns with another installment in his history on macabre classical music, looking this time at postwar composers. Here’s the rundown of what Sullivan covers:

Bernard Herrmann’s Symphony (1941) by Bernard Herrmann
First Symphony of William Walton
Second Symphony of William Walton
Sinfonia Antarctica (1952) by Ralph Vaughn Williams
Harpsicord Concerto, Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto by Frank Martin
Symphonie Concertante by Frank Martin
“Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance” by Samuel Barber
Piano Sonata by Samuel Barber

--TZ Interview: Terry Gilliam: Finding comedy on ‘the dark side of the coin.’
Interview by James Verniere 

-At the time of this interview (and perhaps still) Gilliam was best known as the lone American in the British comedy troupe Monty Python. Gilliam provided animated sequences for the troupe’s first film, And Now for Something Completely Different (1971), co-directed Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), and co-wrote Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979). He co-wrote and directed the 1977 British fantasy film Jabberwocky, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem, and was fresh off the success of Time Bandits (1981), a film whose success belied the difficulty of its funding and distribution.

-Gilliam speaks candidly about aging (“I hate it. I find my brain addling a bit”) and the theme of childhood in Time Bandits. Gilliam speaks of the differences between America and England, particularly where children are concerned. Gilliam was appalled by what he felt was declining literacy in American children and the neutering of children’s fairy tales to remove anything frightening or challenging. Gilliam, a bibliophile, speaks on the importance of reading and books.  Gilliam examines his own childhood influences which he has carried with him into adulthood to inspire his creative career. Gilliam began in animation, working with the late Harvey Kurtzman on Help! When this periodical folded, Gilliam headed for England. Gilliam also speaks on what it was like working in Monty Python and discusses his next project, then unnamed and now known to be the satirical dystopian film Brazil (1985). Gilliam has gone on to direct such films as The Fisher King (1991), 12 Monkeys (1995), Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), and The Brothers Grimm (2005).

-This one will be a treat for Monty Python fans and those who enjoy Gilliam’s films. It is interesting to read of Gilliam leaving America for the better shores of England but also bringing along many formative aspects of American culture such as Mad magazine and American cartoons. A final note: Gahan Wilson reviewed Time Bandits in his movie review column in the March, 1982 issue.

--“The General’s Wife” by Peter Straub
Illustrated by José Reyes 

“The English were a shifty race, her husband warned; but Andrea never realized how right he was until she met the General – and learned just what it meant to be . . .”

-Andy (Andrea) Rivers is an American living in England and enjoying the change of culture even though her abusive and oppressive husband Phil hates England and its people. To occupy herself, Andy finds a job assisting a WWII hero, General Alexander Leck, with his memoirs. Andy’s work is performed in a rat-infested, rundown home in Kensington Park Gardens, an outward symbol for the turmoil of the General’s inner life. Andy soon begins an affair with the General’s grandson Tony only to find herself pulled ever deeper into the psychosexual horrors of the General’s haunted past.

-“The General’s Wife” is an excised sequence from Straub’s 1983 novel Floating Dragon, which won the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 1984. The novella was published in a standalone volume in November, 1982 by Donald M. Grant with illustrations by Thomas Canty. It was issued in a limited edition of 1200 copies, signed by author and artist. The story was inspired by Straub’s time living in England, a decade in which he wrote the novels which sparked his long and successful career as a leading novelist of horror and suspense, including Julia (1975), If You Could See Me Now (1976), and Ghost Story (1979). The story of Straub’s return to America and the ironic culture shock which, in part, inspired Floating Dragon can be found in Straub’s introduction to the 2003 edition of the novel published by Berkley. “The General’s Wife” has a deliberate buildup wherein Straub highlights the English culture and the geography of London before moving into the more intimate setting of the General’s rundown home. Here the story takes off and begins to display its bouquet of dark revelations, structured like a Matryoshka doll in which each subsequent layer of story is more disturbing than the last, culminating in a crescendo of erotic horror which will linger long in the reader’s memory.

-Straub is particularly good when working with the long story, much like Henry James, an author Straub has spoken of as a strong literary influence. Straub combines James’ literate style and depth of characterization with the excesses of ‘80s horror fiction for a potent combination. Although Straub largely abandoned this type of horror after Floating Dragon, “The General’s Wife” remains a reminder of how good Straub was in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. This one is far and away the best piece in the issue and a strong contender for best fiction yet published in the magazine.  

--“Frontiers” by Kit Reed 
Illustrated by Brad Hamann 

“It was just like the Old West: The Prairie, the Settlers, and the Homestead. The only things missing were the Savages.”

-The patriarch of a family that lives in a contained home in a vast area of contaminated land leaves to find supplies at the nearest outpost. When he returns he finds his family (wife and two daughters) gone. Despair settles over him as weeks of searching turn up nothing. Then early one morning his family returns to him, transformed by the wilds beyond their home.

-Beyond the obvious parallels of this futuristic story to tales of the Old West, it is difficult to determine if the narrative held any other ambition than as a narrative exercise in symbolism, using the old, recognizable images from the western and pasting them upon a futuristic setting with a background of ecological disaster. As such it is a suitably evocative tale which effectively uses not only the recognizable symbols of the western but also many of the standard tropes of “after the end” tales: the unbreathable air, the lack of supplies, the dangers of isolation, etc. The story was reprinted in the first issue of Night Cry and collected in Reed’s 1986 collection The Revenge of the Senior Citizens ** Plus.

-Kit Reed (1932-2017), born Lillian Hyde Craig, was a prolific California writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror who also wrote psychological thrillers as Kit Craig. Her first science fiction novel, Armed Camps, appeared in 1969. The New York Times Book Review (Jan 1, 2006) characterized Reed’s work (a review of Dogs of Truth) as “dystopian stories that specialize in bitterness and dislocation,” an apt description for “Frontiers.” She was nominated for the World Fantasy, Hugo, Tiptree, Shirley Jackson, and Locus Awards, among others. A career retrospective of Reed’s short fiction, The Story Until Now, appeared in 2013.

--Front-Row Seats at the Creepshow by Ed Naha 

-A set report by Naha from Pittsburgh where George Romero is filming Creepshow, written by Stephen King. This film, released in November, 1982, is now widely considered by horror film fans as one of the great horror anthology films. At the time, however, the film was no sure thing. Romero was working with his first big budget and a distribution deal with Warner Brothers, and Stephen King was watching the filming of his first screenplay, a splatter film homage to the great EC Comics of the 1950s (Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear). The production had a few aces in the hole, however. The first was makeup effects artist Tom Savini whose work on Creepshow is revered to this day and formed a large portion of Savini’s 1983 book Grande Illusions. The production also had special effects supervisor and production designer Cletus Anderson, who was also a professor at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie-Mellon University. Finally, the production was graced with an outstanding collection of performers, including Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, E.G. Marshall, Ed Harris, Viveca Lindfors, Ted Danson, appearances from Twilight Zone alumni Fritz Weaver, Jon Lormer, and Don Keefer, and memorable appearances from Stephen King and his son Joe Hill.

-Naha gets the scoop on filming Creepshow from Romero and King, including how the project came to be, as well as Cletus Anderson on the challenges of production design. Naha talks to the performers who describe a fun and lively filming process. George Romero was fresh off the success of Dawn of the Dead and was coveted in Hollywood circles but continued to work independently, which attracted top performers and confounded big studios. This method was not without consequence, however, as Romero’s non-union crew attracted union protesters who picketed the sets, forcing Romero and company to keep the locations secret. The article concludes with a number of perspectives on what is hoped for with the movie. Creepshow went on to become a critical and commercial success, spawning a 1987 sequel, a tie-in comic book illustrated by Bernie Wrightson, and a current revival by the streaming service Shudder with showrunner Greg Nictero, who visited the Creepshow set as a seventeen-year-old and contributed makeup effects to Creepshow 2. 

--TZ Screen Preview: Dark Crystal by James Verniere 

-This is a full-color preview of The Dark Crystal, the Jim Henson production four years in the making, with a sizable $25 million budget, which was released on December 17, 1982. The article examines the genesis of the film in the works of British fantasy artist Brian Froud, who designed the production, and the challenges for Jim Henson and puppeteer Frank Oz in bringing Henson’s puppet creations to life. Verniere also provides a rundown of the many and various types of fantasy creatures which feature in the film. 

--“The Other One” by Rick Norwood
Illustrated by Robert Morello 

“You don’t know what terror is until you’ve come face to face with . . .”

-An ironic short-short about a man on the run from a Man in Black who he believes is Death. There is a humorous snap ending. The story was reprinted in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories (1984). Norwood is a mathematician and comic book historian who edits the Comics Revue. He is also a short story specialist and occasional essayist who has been published in Analog and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. 

--“The Father of the Bride” by Connie Willis
Illustrated by Marty Blake 

“The fairy tale had ended; the kingdom was awake once more. But not everyone lived happily ever after.”

-In this take on the legend of Sleeping Beauty, the King finds the old ways of his Kingdom crumbling around him as the ruthless wheels of progress march across his lands.

-Connie Willis (born Constance Elaine Trimmer) is one of the most honored SF writers in history, which a shelfful of Hugos and Nebulas to honor her long career as a novelist and short story writer. Still in her early career here, she returns to the pages of the magazine with this poignant short tale examining the ways in which industrialization and the rise of Christianity destroyed the magic and mystery of the old kingdoms of fairy tales. This sort of retelling of fairy tales came into vogue some years later with Ellen Datlow’s and Terry Windling’s fairy tale anthologies which began with Snow White, Blood Red (1993). Willis was ahead of the curve here and this short tale captures many of the tropes which will come to define this sort of fairy tale deconstruction. A contemporary work on a larger scale which approached the subject in the same manner was The Enchanted World series from Time-Life Books (1984-1988), a 21-volume collection of illustrated books on folklore whose overarching theme was the decline of magic with the rise of monotheistic beliefs. “The Father of the Bride” was reprinted in the magazine’s only annual volume, Great Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine (1982), and included in Willis’ collection Firewatch (1985). 

--“Turn Down for Richmond” by G.J.A. O’Toole
Illustrated by Dennis Meehan 

“It was a simple four-word message – yet on it hung the future of a nation.”

-This is a ghost in the machine tale about a junk collector who chances upon an old telegraph sounder which emits a Morse code message at the same time each night. That message, “turn down for Richmond,” is instruction to ease the tension on the armature spring in order to receive the remainder of the message. That message, once received, reveals information which may have saved Abraham Lincoln’s life, over one hundred years too late. Its ghostly message sent, the sounder falls silent. This nifty little ghost story appears to be the only work of speculative fiction G.J.A. O’Toole published. It was reprinted some years later in the anthology Eastern Ghosts (1990). 

--“Weigh Station” by Robert Crais
Illustrated by D.W. Miller
“The road to Hell was a six-lane highway, and the damned all drove big rigs.”

-When his sports car breaks down on a desolate stretch of highway, David hitches a ride with an 18-wheeler to a weigh station which serves as a portal to hell.

-This story is largely a mood piece and the setting is expertly handled. Crais perfectly illustrates the loneliness of traveling on a deserted stretch of California highway during the dead of night. The supernatural aspect of the tale is largely ambiguous but the weigh station of the title serves to transform travelers into a sort of mindless entity, damned to drive the roads for eternity. There is also a nod to Richard Mathson’s famous tale of road terror, “Duel.” The story was reprinted in the first issue of Night Cry.

-Robert Crais published some SF early in his career but is best-known for his crime and detective fiction, particularly the Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels which began with The Monkey's Raincoat in 1987. The latest entry in the series is A Dangerous Man, released in June, 2019. For a time Crais was also a prolific television writer. His earliest credits for television date back to 1977 and episodes of Baretta. Crais has also written for such shows as Hill Street Blues, Miami Vice, and L.A. Law, among others. He contributed the original teleplay “Monsters!” for the fifteenth episode of the first season of The Twilight Zone revival series. 

--“J.C. in the Springtime” by I. Daniel Roth
Illustrated by E.T. Steadman 

“A park bench, a sunny April afternoon, and a wino with a paper bag. What better setting for a miracle?”

-The J.C. of the title may clue the reader in on the theme of this short-short as it concerns a homeless man who bestows a blessing on a distraught businessman. It is an interesting, if somewhat standard, take on the wandering savior theme. The story has not been reprinted since its publication here and it appears to be the only SF story from I. Daniel Roth.

--“A Lover’s Alibi” by Chet Williamson
Uncredited illustration; signature indeterminate
“There was only one thing wrong with the murderer’s story. It was getting too believable.”

-Chet Williamson returns to the pages of the magazine with this clever and disturbing tale. It concerns a man who murders his cloying wife to be with his lover and finds his flimsy alibi transformed into an airtight one by a series of inexplicable circumstances. The murderer soon discovers that his wife loved him so much that her ghost has been changing events to protect him. There is a satisfyingly nasty twist in the tale, however. The story was collected in Williamson’s 2002 collection Figures in Rain.

-Williamson is one of the leading writers of dark fantasy from this era. He wrote a series of novels during the ‘80s horror boom which are now prized by collectors, such as Soulstorm (1986), Ash Wednesday (1987), Lowland Rider (1988), and Dreamthorp (1989). He has written several in-universe novels as well, including a sequel to Robert Bloch’s Psycho titled Psycho: Sanitarium (2016). 

--The Doomsday Poems by Richard L. Tierney
Illustrated by Marty Blake 
-Seven dark poems: “The Pilgrimage,” “Hope,” “The Madness of the Oracle,” “To Great Cthulhu,” “Optimism,” “This Great City,” “To the Hydrogen Bomb,” reprinted from Tierney’s Collected Poems: Nightmares and Visions, published earlier in the year by Arkham House. Some of the poems were first published in small press periodicals such as The Arkham Collector and Myrddin. The poems are ironic and tinged with the macabre. An apt example is this, from “Hope”:

The world’s a dead harlot – a corpse of a slut
Where Death-vultures settle to rend and to glut
            While man flounders blind in the gloom –
And Hope’s a mirage on a desert of sand
Where horrors go ravening over the land,
And life’s but the road to doom.

-Richard L. Tierney is a prolific poet, short story writer, and Lovecraft scholar who is perhaps best-known for a series of novels written with David C. Smith about Robert E. Howard’s Red Sonja. He was a frequent contributor to Robert M. Price’s Crypt of Cthulhu fanzine. 

--“All of Us Are Dying” by George Clayton Johnson
Illustrated by Gregory Cannone 

“This fiendishly original tale – about a most unusual talent – became the basis of a now-classic Twilight Zone episode, ‘The Four of Us Are Dying.’”

-The unnamed protagonist uses a unique talent, the ability to resemble any person according to the desires of others, to con others out of money and sexual favors until he happens upon a man who sees the one he most wants to kill.

-George Clayton Johnson sold this story to Rod Serling and Cayuga Productions in 1959 where Serling adapted it as “The Four of Us Are Dying” for the first season of The Twilight Zone. The story was later published in the October, 1961 issue of Rogue. Clayton Johnson chose the story for his entry in SF: Authors’ Choice 4, ed. Harry Harrison (1974), which includes a preface from Clayton Johnson explaining the genesis of the tale. The story was also included in Twilight Zone: Scripts & Stories (1996) and was the title story of Clayton Johnson’s career retrospective All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (1999). See my post on “The Four of Us Are Dying” to read about the differences between the story and Rod Serling’s script, plus the way in which the story influenced Clayton Johnson’s later Star Trek script “The Man Trap.” 

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Four of Us Are Dying” by Rod Serling 

-Rod Serling’s complete teleplay for the first season episode adapted from George Clayton Johnson’s story. The teleplay is illustrated with some interesting production photographs of the four actors who feature in the episode. The episode was the thirteenth episode of the first season. It was directed by John Brahm, starring Harry Townes, Ross Martin, Phillip Pine, Don Gordon, and Beverly Garland. The episode highlights the cinematography of George T. Clemens, some innovative production design, and a great, jazzy score from Jerry Goldsmith. Read our review here.

--Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Fourteen by Marc Scott Zicree
-Zicree, author of the essential guide to the series, The Twilight Zone Companion, continues this early guide from the magazine. In this installment he covers the following fourth season episodes: “Printer’s Devil,” “No Time Like the Past,” “The Parallel,” and “I Dream of Genie,” providing cast and crew information, Rod Serling’s narrations, and a summary of each episode. Zicree has caught up with us here in the Vortex as we have just recently covered these episodes with the exception of “I Dream of Genie,” which is next on the agenda.

--Looking Ahead: In June’s TZ
-Next month’s issue is highlighted by the first publication of Richard Matheson’s never-produced Twilight Zone script “The Doll,” along with an essay by Marc Scott Zicree. Also, there are stories from Richard Christian Matheson and Pamela Sargent, Philip K. Dick’s final interview, and a screen preview of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. See you then.