Wednesday, November 13, 2019

The Twilight Zone: A 60th Anniversary Celebration



The 60th anniversary of The Twilight Zone is coming to a close at the end of 2019 but fans of the series have one final special event to celebrate the milestone. Tomorrow, November 14, Fathom Events is presenting The Twilight Zone in theaters for one night only. Six restored episodes of the series will be shown alongside a brand-new short subject documentary, “Remembering Rod Serling,” about the life and imagination of the creator of The Twilight Zone.



 The six episodes being shown are:

“Walking Distance,” written by Rod Serling
“Time Enough at Last,” written by Rod Serling from the story by Lyn Venable
“The Invaders,” written by Richard Matheson
“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” written by Rod Serling
“Eye of the Beholder,” written by Rod Serling
“To Serve Man,” written by Rod Serling from the story by Damon Knight

We have reviewed these episodes here in the Vortex and those interested can find the reviews by title in the directory on the sidebar.

You can view the detailed press release here and find screening locations here.

-JP







*Video and images used in this post are shared from the Fathom Events Twilight Zone 60th Anniversary Event Page. 

Monday, November 4, 2019

Lost in the Fifth Dimension: Jerry Sohl's Legacy in the Twilight Zone



Jerry Sohl
Writer

In 1982 writer Marc Scott Zicree published the first edition of The Twilight Zone Companion, his exhaustively researched retrospective of Rod Serling’s celebrated fantasy series. The first book-length study of the show and its influence on the culture, The Companion shed a light on many aspects of the show that had gone largely unknown for nearly two decades. One of the more significant revelations was that science fiction writer Jerry Sohl had ghost-written three episodes of the show which, at the time of their original broadcasts, were all credited to frequent Twilight Zone writer Charles Beaumont. One episode in particular, season five’s “Living Doll,” had since become one of the most recognizable episodes of the series. He had also sold two additional scripts to the show during its fifth season that were never produced. Why then had his involvement with the show been all but erased from its history? The most significant reason is that he wrote them as a favor to his friend Charles Beaumont, who had begun experiencing symptoms of an undiagnosed neurological disorder that would eventually claim his life, in an agreement that they split the profit and that Beaumont receive the onscreen credit. Unfortunately, this violates guidelines set in place by the Writer’s Guild of America so even after the Twilight Zone went off the air, Sohl was hesitant to speak publicly about his involvement with the show. After the publication of Zicree’s book Sohl was finally able to take credit for his contribution to the show. But Jerry Sohl’s career as a professional writer was a prolific one, both on the page and the screen, and his place in the history of speculative fiction is worth exploring.

Gerald Allan Sohl was born on December 2, 1913 and was raised in Chicago, Illinois. Sohl became an avid reader at a young age, spending hours at the local library soaking in the early science fiction periodicals of the time. He eventually became a writer for The Chicago Daily News and several other local papers until he was drafted into the Army Air Corps where he served three years in the Airways Communications division. While serving he met and married his wife Jean with whom he would eventually have three children. After returning from service he and Jean settled in Bloomington, Illinois where he became the music and literature critic for The Daily Pantagraph, a job he would keep until 1958 when he left Illinois for Los Angeles to try his luck at writing for television.

But Sohl began his career as a prose writer years earlier when his story “The 7th Order” appeared in the March, 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction. The story was later adapted into a radio play for the NBC series X Minus One in 1956. Sohl was inspired to begin writing science fiction after interviewing Hugo Award-winning author Wilson Bob Tucker for the Pantagraph in 1950. As a lifelong admirer of the genre, Sohl dove headfirst into writing science fiction and by 1952 he had sold his first novel, The Haploids, to Rinehart & Company. Over the next decade he would average around a novel a year—The Transcendent Man and Costigan’s Needle in 1953, The Altered Ego in 1954, Point Ultimate in 1955, The Mars Monopoly in 1956, The Time Dissolver and Prelude to Peril—a mystery novel—in 1957, One Against Herculum and The Odious Ones in 1959. He was also publishing numerous short stories during this time in science fiction magazines like Galaxy, If, and Infinity.

In 1958, at the age of forty-five, Sohl quit his job at The Pantagraph and moved to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter. He had already established himself as a novelist in the science fiction community and he hoped that this small bit of notoriety would get him a foot in the door in Hollywood. After arriving in Los Angeles, Sohl attended the World Science Fiction Convention where he first met Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and George Clayton Johnson. Sohl would eventually form close friendships with each of them and would become a prominent figure in their extended circle of creative friends often referred to as the Southern California School of Writers, or simply the Group. Although significantly older than his new friends, Sohl’s work ethic and laid back personality seemed an immediate fit and their encouragement and influence was a prominent factor in his success.

Sohl sold his first teleplay to the NBC detective series M Squad in 1959. “The Upset” aired in December of the show’s third season. That same year he was hired as a staff writer for Alfred Hitchcock Presents polishing scripts and adapting short stories by Henry Slesar and others into fully formed teleplays. According to Sohl, many of his scripts for the show went unproduced but he did eventually see four of his teleplays make it to air. He wrote three episodes of the ABC series The New Breed and contributed two stories to the iconic anthology series The Outer Limits, adapting his short stories “The Invisible Enemy” and “Counterweight” for the show's second season. He also wrote two episodes of the Larry Cohen-created ABC series The Invaders. His first episode for the series, “The Watchers,” was a reworking of a script by fellow Twilight Zone alumni Earl Hamner.

Aside from his work on The Twilight Zone, Sohl is probably best remembered today for the three teleplays he wrote for the original Star Trek series. His first teleplay for the show, “The Corbomite Maneuver” was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and is considered an important episode in the show’s chronology as it was originally intended to be the first episode broadcast and introduces key elements of the show. Sohl wrote two more teleplays for the show, “This Side of Paradise” for the show’s first season—for which he received story credit under the pseudonym Nathan Butler after he removed his name from the project due to changes made to his script by Gene Rodenberry and writer D.C. Fontana—and “Whom Gods Destroy” for the show’s third season.

In the late 1960s, Sohl, Matheson, Clayton Johnson, and science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon formed The Green Hand, a legal corporation designed to pitch quality fantasy and science fiction projects to television networks and production companies. They were hired by Herbert F. Solow, then Vice President in charge of television production at MGM, and they set up an office on the MGM lot. George Clayton Johnston served as president and the four of them spent several years trying to get a wide variety of shows on the air including a series called Hunter, about a police detective with ESP, E.T, about an extraterrestrial's difficulty adapting to humanoid culture on Earth, and a Twilight Zone-like anthology series called A Touch of the Strange. Ultimately though, none of their ideas managed to catch the attention of network executives and they eventually dissolved the corporation.

After the Green Hand, Sohl begrudgingly continued to write for television for several more years but after a bad experience submitting a teleplay to the NBC series Man from Atlantis in 1977 he decided to call it quits and concentrate exclusively on writing novels and short fiction. His last script to ever be produced was a teleplay for The Next Step Beyond the following year called “Portrait of the Mind.”

Although Sohl concentrated his efforts mostly on writing for series television he did see several feature-length scripts make it to the big screen. In 1960 he adapted Richard Stern’s story “Set Up for Murder” into a feature length film directed by Edward L. Cahn called Twelve Hours to Kill. He also scripted two films for American International Pictures, both of which starred Boris Karloff and were adaptations of stories by H.P. Lovecraft. Monster of Terror (aka Die, Monster, Die, 1965) was an adaptation of Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” and The Crimson Cult (1968) was an uncredited adaptation of Lovecraft’s story “The Dreams in the Witch House.” Sohl stated in several interviews that he admired Lovecraft’s work a great deal. A few years before either of these films he co-wrote a feature-length adaptation of Lovecraft’s story “The Dunwich Horror” with Charles Beaumont that was, unfortunately, never produced. Aside from his own scripts he also wrote the plot synopsis to the 1965 Japanese film Frankenstein Conquers the World and he saw his novel Night Slaves (1965) adapted into an NBC Movie of the Week in 1970 which was directed by Twilight Zone veteran Ted Post.

Sohl was also indirectly involved in the inspiration for another television classic. An avid golfer, Sohl was golfing with Richard Matheson the day President Kennedy was assassinated. After hearing the news, the two packed up their clubs and decided to call it a day. On the drive home, they encountered a large eighteen-wheeler driving dangerously close behind them. Even after increasing their speed in an attempt to put some distance between themselves and the driver the truck remained just as close as before. They were now driving at a dangerously fast speed through steep hills with nowhere to pull over. Finally, they came upon an area wide enough to pull off onto and let the gigantic truck pass them by. This encounter stayed with Matheson for many years and he eventually turned it into the novella “Duel” which he adapted into the screenplay for the famous made-for-television film directed by Stephen Spielberg in 1971.

Collaboration was common within the Group and Sohl spent the first few years of his career as a screenwriter co-writing scripts and other projects with various members of the Group’s inner circle. Second to Richard Matheson, Sohl would become Charles Beaumont’s most frequent collaborator, although for most of the projects he worked on with Beaumont he was less of a collaborator than a ghostwriter as Beaumont would often receive sole credit for the assignment. In addition to the aforementioned script for "The Dunwich Horror" Sohl and Beaumont collaborated on a handful of projects. He co-wrote an episode of The Naked City with Beaumont and William F. Nolan called “Down the Long Night” and he co-wrote an episode of Route 66 called “The Quick and the Dead” with Beaumont and John Tomerlin. He and Beaumont also collaborated on two articles for Playboy, “Requiem for the Holidays” (June, 1963) and “Lament for the High Iron” (October, 1963). Beaumont received sole credit for these. Both articles later appeared in Beaumont’s nonfiction collection Remember, Remember (1963) which he dedicated to Sohl and fellow collaborator OCee Ritch.

The majority of these collaborations were written in early 1963 when Charles Beaumont’s health first began to deteriorate. These experiences working with Sohl are likely the reason the busy writer trusted him with his material for The Twilight Zone when he found it difficult to reach production deadlines during the show's fourth and fifth seasons. Sohl wrote a total of five scripts for the show under Beaumont’s byline: “The New Exhibit” for season four and “Living Doll” and “Queen of the Nile” for season five. He also wrote two additional scripts, “Pattern for Doomsday” and “Who Am I?” which were originally bought by producer Bert Granet at the beginning of the fifth season but were later cut from the production schedule by Granet’s replacement William Froug who also axed another Beaumont script, “Gentlemen, Be Seated” and Richard Matheson’s “The Doll” among others. Beaumont had varying degrees of participation in the writing of these scripts ranging from fully thought out story treatments to virtually no involvement at all. But all of the finalized scripts that were handed to the show's producers were written by Sohl.

In the early 1960’s Sohl took an extended hiatus from writing novels and short stories to concentrate on his new career as a screenwriter. By the end of the decade, however, he had returned to the format and was now writing far outside the genre of science fiction. Starting with the publication of his novel The Lemon Eaters by Simon and Schuster in 1967 Sohl’s fiction began to take on more of a mainstream dramatic aesthetic aimed at a wider audience. He published several novels through the prominent publishing house including The Spun Sugar Hole (1971) and The Resurrection of Frank Borchard (1973). Sohl put a tremendous amount of creative effort into these novels and it earned him a great deal of critical acclaim. Unfortunately, the sales were moderate at best and by the 1980s Sohl had more or less abandoned the mainstream market. Throughout the late 70s and 80s Sohl published novels in a variety of different genres including several horror novels, two historical romances under the name Roberta Jean Mountjoy, a series of romantic suspense novels under the name Nathan Butler, and a novelization of the Japanese film SuperManChu: Master of Kung Fu under the name Sean Mei Sullivan in 1974. A renaissance man of many talents, Sohl also released two semi-satirical instructional books on Bridge, Underahanded Bridge, and chess, Underhanded Chess, both published by Penguin Books in 1973.

Although Sohl published several dozen short stories during his career, he never saw a collection of his short fiction published during his lifetime. He attempted to publish a collection of stories in 1959 under the title Filet of Sohl but it never materialized. In 2003 BearManor Media finally published Filet of Sohl as a career retrospective of Sohl’s work featuring his original introduction to the 1959 edition, new and old works of short fiction, and his two unproduced Twilight Zone teleplays. In 2004 they published The Twilight Zone Scripts of Jerry Sohl featuring his three scripts that were made into episodes of the show (“The New Exhibit” “Living Doll” and “Queen of the Nile”). Both volumes were edited by frequent Southern California School of Writers biographer Christopher Conlon and feature tributes to Sohl from George Clayton Johnson, William F. Nolan, and Richard Matheson, as well as Sohl’s children.

Sohl passed away on November 4, 2002 in Thousand Oaks, California. He was 88.



Jerry Sohl
(1913-2002)


Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following publications:

Filet of Sohl edited by Christopher Conlon (BearManor Media, 2003)

The Twilight Zone Scripts of Jerry Sohl edited by Christopher Conlon (BearManor Media, 2004)

“Jerry Sohl” interview with Sohl by Edward Gross in Starlog (October and November issues, 1988)

"Sohl Man: From the Twilight Zone to the Outer Limits and Beyond" interview with Sohl by Mathew R. Bradley Filmfax #75/76 (October, 1999)

California Sorcery edited by William F. Nolan and William Schafer (Cemetery Dance, 1999)

The Work of Charles Beaumont: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide compiled by William F. Nolan (Bibliographies of Modern Authors series, Borgo Press, 1986)

The Twilight Zone Companion, 2nd edition by Marc Scott Zicree (Silman-James Press, 1992)

Jerry Sohl at imdb.com

Jerry Sohl at isfdb.org

--Brian




From the jacket of The Spun Sugar Hole (1971)





Monday, October 21, 2019

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 16


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

Volume 2, Number 4 (July, 1982)

Cover art: David White

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 and Consulting Editor: Carol Serling
Editorial Director: Eric Protter
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Assistant Editor: Robert Sabat
Contributing Editors: Gahan Wilson, Thomas M. Disch
Design Director: Michael Monte
Art Production: Wendy Mansfield, Carol Sun, Susan Lindeman
Production Director: Stephen J. Fallon
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Assistant to the Publisher: Judy Borrman
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Mgr.: Chris Grossman
Accounting Ass’t: Annmarie Pistilli
Office Ass’t: Katherine Lys
Circulation Director: William D. Smith
Circulation Manager: Marie Donlon
Northeastern Circ. Mgr: Jacqueline Doyle
Eastern Circ. Mgr: Hank Rosen
Western Newsstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Adv. Production Manager: Marina Despotakis
Advertising Representatives: Barney O’Hara & Associates

Contents:
--In the Twilight Zone: “Market report . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Screen (“Digging The Boogens) by Stephen King
--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan
--Other Dimensions: Etc.
--TZ Interview: Robertson Davies by Terence M. Green
--“Offer of Immortality” by Robertson Davies
--A Glimpse of Ghostly Britain by Stephen DiLauro (text) & Don Hamerman (photos)
--“Tommy and the Talking Dog” by Lewis Shiner
--“Chompers” by Joe R. Lansdale
--On Location with The Last Horror Film by Steve Swires
--TZ Screen Preview: The Thing by Robert Martin
--“Not Our Brother” by Robert Silverberg
--“Why the Traveling Salesman from Aldebaran Doesn’t Stop in Omaha Anymore” by Hal Goodman
--3 Journeys Into Nightmare:
            -“Picnic Area” by Joan Aiken
            -“A Trip to New York” by Nina Downey
            -“Food, Gas, Lodging” by Craig W. Anderson
--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Sixteen by Marc Scott Zicree
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: In the August TZ . . .

--In the Twilight Zone: “Market report . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
-The subject of Klein’s editorial is the lamentable state of the market for short genre fiction. Klein takes as his launching point Barry N. Malzberg’s personal history of science fiction, Engines of the Night (reviewed last month by Thomas M. Disch), in particular the section in which Malzberg details his six-month editorship of Amazing and Fantastic in 1968. From there Klein examines the shrinking of the market and expresses the hope that the success of TZ Magazine will produce imitators to publish the many publishable stories which Klein must reject each month for lack of space in the pages of TZ. Klein then provides his customary capsule biographies of the issue’s contributors along with thumbnail images.

Gahan Wilson's cartoon explaining his absence.
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Stephen King
“Digging The Boogens”

-With Gahan Wilson on a publicity tour, Stephen King steps in to praise the simple pleasures of the low-budget horror film The Boogens. The film, about ravenous creatures who ascend from an abandoned mine to terrorize a small town, was directed by James L. Conway and written by David O’Malley and Bob Hunt. It was released in 1981. King extols the pleasures of the simple premise, crude special effects, and performers who are “either in the Young and Fresh or Old and Grizzled category.” King also gently scolds horror film fans who have become so demanding of the form that they can no longer enjoy the pleasures of a simple monster movie. King makes an interesting slipup when he credits Robert Barbour Johnson’s 1939 story "Far Below” to Robert Townley Watson, the latter of whom is a character from King’s own work. Robert Townley Watson was the founder of the Overlook Hotel in King’s 1977 novel The Shining. He is the grandfather of Bill Watson, the maintenance man who shows Jack Torrance the ins and outs of the hotel after Torrance agrees to accept the job of winter caretaker. “Digging The Boogens” is a fugitive nonfiction piece from King as it does not appear to have been collected or reprinted since its appearance here.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch

-Disch looks at Upside Downside by Ron Goulart, Software by Rudy Rucker, The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders by Isidore Haiblum, Roderick by John Sladek, The Impending Gleam by Glen Baxter, and Poetry Comics by Dave Morice.

-Disch describes Goulart’s Upside Downside as “unarguably a dud – the least comic comic novel, on the basis of chuckles per chapter, that I’ve ever read.” Goulart is a regular contributor to TZ Magazine and Disch continues by describing not only the process by which a work such as Upside Downside gets published but the futility of reviewing such a book.

-Disch praised Rudy Rucker’s first published novel White Light but criticized Rucker’s follow-up Spacetime Donuts. Rucker is back with a new novel, Software, which Disch finds more to his liking, largely on the basis of its conscious imitation of the works of Philip K. Dick.

-Disch had this to say about Isidore Haiblum’s The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders: “For me, the whimsy is too gentle and the plot line too much like a game of Dungeons and Dragons combined with a pillow fight, but that just shows that I’m a grumpy old so-and-so who can no longer giggle at three in the morning. You kids have fun. I’m going up to the study and grab forty winks.”

-Disch next reviews John Sladek’s Roderick, an excerpt of which was featured in the September, 1981 issue of TZ Magazine. Disch generally praises the work, ending with: “What remains to be said of Sladek is that, like almost all great humorists, under the hilarity and ingenuity there is a smoldering magma of other emotions: anger, of course, for every satirist is an angry man, but a good deal of pain and sorrow, too.”

-Disch concludes his column by recommending the works of two cartoonist, Glen Baxter, whose The Impending Gloom will appeal to those who enjoy the works of Addams, Gorey, and Gahan Wilson, and Dave Morice, whose Poetry Comics “treats the texts of famous poems as comic book texts, in styles that vary from brain-damaged funky . . . through traditional cute-mouse capers . . . to a collage of Emily Dickinson done in the style of True Romance comic.”


--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan

-Sullivan returns with another installment in his history of macabre classical music. He begins by covering the music of George Liegeti’s Requiem as it was used by Stanley Kubrick in The Shining. The remaining selections are:

Symphony no. 7 & Symphony no. 8 by William Shuman
Symphony no. 7 by Peter Mennin
“Eight Songs for a Mad King” by Peter Maxwell Davies
“Et Expecto Resurrectionem Mortuorum” by Olivier Messiaen

--Other Dimensions: Etc.

-The second installment of this new feature finds humor and food for thought in the predictions of a psychic from the pages of the December, 1968 Playboy, a graphic design from Stephen Schlich in which the text reads “Twilight Zone” one way and “Rod Serling” the other, a quotation from The Black Book of Clark Ashton Smith (Arkham House, 1979), a passage on the pulp magazines from Frederick Pohl’s memoir The Way the Future Was, two examples of the use of “Twilight Zone” from the March 14 and March 28 issues of The New York Times, and a poem written in parody of H.P. Lovecraft: “Another Fungus from Yuggoth” by Baird Searles. The offer of a poster of Maximillian the Twilight Zone cat is also reiterated to those who contribute usable material.


--TZ Interview: Robertson Davies by Terence M. Green
“Canada’s literary magician speaks his mind on ghost fiction, evil, and the modern age.”

-It is a good thing that interviewer Terence M. Green provides a brief biography of Davies before the interview proper since little about Davies’s life and career are approached in the interview. The interview somewhat narrowly focuses on the influences in Davies’s fictions, from Davies’s thoughts on supernatural fiction and the idea of Evil, to the neutering of fairy tales and the works of Poe and Mervyn Peake. Davies also speaks a bit on the current sociopolitical climate and the fundamental importance of personal experience in the creation of fiction. Despite the somewhat narrow focus and lack of biographical detail, the interview is a delight as Davies is engaging and intelligent. Davies’s works which are discussed are his ghost stories (an example of which follows the interview), the Deptford Trilogy of novels (Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of Wonders), and his then-current book, The Rebel Angels. Davies died in 1992, aged 82.


--“Offer of Immortality” by Robertson Davies
Illustrated by Lisa Mansolillo
“Forget the warm weather – it’s Christmas in Toronto! So settle back in your chair, let your dinner digest, and listen as the Master of Massey College recounts his last college ghost story.”

-The narrator (Davies) befriends a visiting professor from Colombia, Jesus Maria Murphy, who offers to reveal the secret of his immortality. As the narrator is taking a day to decide whether he wants to be cryogenically frozen in order to return and observe the progress at the college, Murphy comes to a bad end during the annual Christmas dinner.

-Davies, the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate college associated with the University of Toronto, made a tradition of telling ghostly and strange stories during Christmas at the college, much like that master of the ghost story, M.R. James. “Offer of Immortality” was the final story told by Davies at Christmastime before his retirement. It was collected, along with Davies’s other Christmas ghost stories, in High Spirits (1983). Perhaps the most notable aspect of the tale is the level of humor, which Davies acknowledged as a conscious attempt to contrast the “somber” quality of many ghost stories.
 
Dead Man's Tree
--“A Glimpse of Ghostly Britain” by Don Hamerman (photographs) & Stephen DiLauro (text)
“The Druids are long dead, they say, but in their land the ancient mysteries survive”

-This feature essentially functions as a travel guide to the legendary haunted places of Great Britain, covering Stonehenge in Wiltshire, Dead Man’s Tree in London’s Green Park, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Tower of London, and the tombstones in a courtyard of the Blackfriars section of London. This was a fun and engaging short feature with some excellent photographs.

--“Tommy and the Talking Dog” by Lewis Shiner
Illustrated by Donni Gilles
“More important, what he said made sense.”

-A young boy is offered a pair of magical shoes by a talking bulldog with the promise of treasure to be discovered. After putting on the shoes, the boy finds that he can walk into any room in a motel and speak candidly with the inhabitants there. Eventually, the boy throws the shoes away only to later discover that the treasure he sought was the ability to see the world in any way he desired.


-Lewis Shiner returns to the pages of the magazine after an appearance in the May, 1981 issue with his story “Blood Relations.” With “Tommy and the Talking Dog” Shiner gives us a grimy, modern parable which may have worked better with a bit of humor in it. Instead it is written in a sober manner while presenting the rather clichéd moral of a young boy who escapes his drab existence by imagining such things as talking animals. Still, it’s a breezily written fantasy from a writer who would make greater inroads in the SF community with his cyberpunk stories and novels. “Tommy and the Talking Dog” was collected in Nine Hard Questions About the Nature of the Universe (Author’s Choice Monthly #4) (1990).


--“Chompers” by Joe R. Lansdale
Illustrated by Randy Jones
“One thing about that old lady: she never bit off more than she could chew!”

-A homeless lady finds a pair of fake teeth lying in a pool of blood and, having few remaining teeth herself, pops them into her mouth. Soon, she finds herself to be ravenously hungry while the teeth grow larger and sharper. She begins to eat anything in her way, including several people, before the teeth turn on her. Afterwards, a homeless man finds the fake teeth in a pool of blood and, having few remaining teeth himself, pops them in. Soon, he discovers that he’s ravenously hungry . . .

-“Chompers” works a bit like a darker and more humorous version of the Twilight Zone episode “Dead Man’s Shoes,” in which a magical object is passed from one homeless person to the next with each unaware of the object’s deadly power. Lansdale, now better known for his mystery and historical fiction, wrote many of these short, funny, macabre tales early in his career. Most of them were collected in Bumper Crop (2004). Lansdale appeared in earlier issues of TZ Magazine with similar type tales with “The Dump” in the July, 1981 issue and “The Pasture” in the December, 1981 issue. “Chompers” was first collected in Stories by Mama Lansdale’s Youngest Boy (Author’s Choice Monthly #18) (1991). A short film was made of the story in 2008 by writer/director Joseph Gatto.


--On Location with The Last Horror Film by Steve Swires
“How with limited time, a limited budget, and plenty of chutzpah, Judd Hamilton managed to make a Cannes-based thriller with a cast of thousands.”

-This is a rather lengthy look at the making of the 1982 horror comedy film The Last Horror Film, which began as a vehicle for star Caroline Munro developed by her then-husband Judd Hamilton. It concerns an obsessed fan, played by Joe Spinell of Maniac fame, who stalks a female horror star (Munro) during the premier of her film Scream. The film was directed, guerilla style at the Cannes Film Festival, by director David Winters from a script by Winters and Hamilton. Steve Swires gives a full rundown of the making of the film, including interviews with Hamilton and Munro and plenty of photographs.


--TZ Screen Preview: The Thing by Robert Martin
“TZ’s Robert Martin, on location, braves the frozen wastes to witness some climactic scenes from John Carpenter’s terror epic.”

-This is a fascinating set report from the production of a film which, though not entirely successful during its initial release, has come to be considered one of the true horror classics of the 1980s. The Thing was released in the summer of 1982 to lukewarm reviews and underwhelming business. Since that time, however, Carpenter’s reimagining of John W. Campbell’s 1938 novella “Who Goes There?” has grown in stature, due to its excellent direction, claustrophobic atmosphere, engaging cast, and the startling special makeup effects of Rob Bottin. The film was further enhanced by a score from Ennio Morricone, one of the rarer occasions in which Carpenter did not provide the score for his film. Accompanied by great photos, Robert Martin gives a full set report from the making of the film, including aspects of location scouting and shooting, production design, casting, fire and demolition stunts, as well as slight but tantalizing descriptions of the makeup effects being developed by Rob Bottin. Interestingly, the report ends with a glimpse of some of Carpenter’s possible future projects, two of which sound intriguing but never came to fruition: a weird western titled El Diablo and an adaptation of Stephen King’s Firestarter, the latter of which became a disappointing 1984 film directed by Mark L. Lester starring Drew Barrymore and George C. Scott.


--“Not Our Brother” by Robert Silverberg
Illustrated by Richard Basil Mock
“The mask was the thing he sought most – yet behind it was the one thing he feared.”

-An American collector of Mexican masks barely escapes with his life after he finds himself in a small Mexican village where a local celebration of animal deities summons dangerous inhuman entities.

-As Klein notes in his editorial, Silverberg, the Grand Master of Science Fiction, returns to the magazine with a horror story about strange happenings in a small Mexican village after placing two earlier stories with the magazine about strange happenings in Chile and Jerusalem (“How They Pass the Time In Papel” from the May, 1981 issue and “A Thousand Paces Along the Via Dolorosa” from the July, 1981 issue). This might be the best of the bunch as it possesses some unnerving scenes and well captures that disorienting “stranger in a strange small town” atmosphere which seemed to be so popular in horror fiction in the 1980s. The climax, though somewhat telegraphed, is capably handled and Silverberg expertly captures the character of an out-of-the-way Mexican village, or at least how an American would imagine it to be.

-The story was reprinted in Great Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine (1982) and collected in The Conglomeroid Cocktail Party (1984). It was most recently reprinted by Stephen Jones in The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories (2018), which also offered a preface detailing the genesis of the tale. Silverberg had recently become fascinated with Mexican masks and begun to collect them. He was also producing short fiction at a rate he had not experienced in decades. Since the story was horrific fantasy and thus unlikely to sell to the science fiction magazines, Silverberg first sent the story to Alice K. Turner at Playboy. Turner rejected the story on the basis of its resemblance to “A Thousand Paces Along the Via Dolorosa” and the fact that she felt it possessed the same problems as that earlier story. Silverberg then sent the story to T.E.D. Klein at TZ who published the story but not without also commenting on the tale’s resemblance to the earlier stories Silverberg placed in the magazine.


--“Why the Traveling Salesman from Aldebaran Doesn’t Stop in Omaha Anymore” by Hal Goodman
Illustrated by Bill Logan
“‘Call me Al,’ he told everyone. But he should have added, ‘Caveat Emptor!’”

-This slight, Bradburyesque tale is a humorous short-short about an alien who arrives on Earth and sets up a booth at a local fair to sell items he’s collected on his journey across the universe. He sells a trio of young sisters some items which take on a life of their own, prompting the alien to make a fast escape when the girls’ father comes after him with a shotgun.
 
--3 Journeys Into Nightmare
“Picnic Area” by Joan Aiken
“A Trip to New York” by Nina Downey
“Food, Gas, Lodging” by Craig W. Anderson

-Three short stories in which the atmosphere of dreams and nightmares is used to explore predicaments of character.

--“Picnic Area” by Joan Aiken
Illustrated by D.W. Miller
“After long years of absence, he was returning to the past – or perhaps it was the other way around.”

-A middle-aged man is driving through an area of Wales in which he spent time as a boy during The Blitz. He stops at a picnic area where he is bitten by a dog. Seeking help at a nearby village, he finds himself in the very house in which he lived during his brief childhood relocation. There, the repressed memory of a terrible sin rises again to the surface with deadly consequences.


-Joan Aiken (1924-2004) returns to the pages of the magazine with a well-wrought, haunting meditation on memory and repression. The rising tension and weird atmosphere are handled well and the ending is suitably grim. The story was collected in A Whisper in the Night: Stories of Horror, Suspense, and Fantasy (1982). The collection also includes Aiken’s “Old Fillikin,” which appeared in the April, 1982 issue of TZ. Aiken’s 1958 story “Marmalade Wine” was adapted for the second season of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. Aiken’s father was the American poet and short story writer Conrad Aiken (1889-1973), whose 1932 story “Silent Snow, Secret Snow” was also adapted for the second season of Night Gallery.

--“A Trip to New York” by Nina Downey
Uncredited illustration
“Fun city was their destination – but getting there was more than half the fun.”

-Dave and Sally are driving across the country on their way to New York. They never seem to make progress since each day starts over in a seemingly never-ending cycle of repetition. Only Dave seems to be aware of their predicament and is unable to convince his wife of the dilemma.

-This was a neat story on an old theme, that of the inescapable repetition of a series of events, the ultimate nightmare of déjà vu. It was Downey’s first published story and was originally submitted for the magazine’s first annual short story contest.


--“Food, Gas, Lodging” by Craig W. Anderson
Illustrated by Frances Jeter
“Three little words – surely that was too short for a death sentence.”

-A white-collar criminal is on the run with his ill-gained assets when he chances upon an out-of-the-way diner which conceals a sinister secret. This was a predicable yet enjoyably nasty story in which the primary pleasure is watching a villain twist in the wind before getting his just deserts. The story would have been right at home in an issue of Tales from the Crypt or as an episode of Tales from the Darkside. It is in the mold of such TZ episodes as “Deaths-Head Revisited” and “The Last Night of a Jockey.” The story was reprinted in the Summer, 1985 issue of Night Cry.

--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Sixteen by Marc Scott Zicree
“Continuing Marc Scott Zicree show-by-show guide to the entire Twilight Zone television series, complete with Rod Serling’s opening and closing narrations.”

-Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion (now in its third edition), continues his guide to the original series, with cast and crew listings, Rod Serling’s narrations, and episode summaries. This month he covers the fourth season episodes “On Thursday We Leave for Home,” “Passage on the Lady Anne,” and “The Bard.”


--TZ Classic Teleplay: “A Hundred Yards Over the Rim” by Rod Serling
-The complete teleplay for Rod Serling’s second season episode in which the leader of a wagon train (Cliff Robertson) finds himself suddenly transported to 1961. The episode was directed by Buzz Kulik and originally aired on April 7, 1961. You can read Brian’s review of the episode here.

--Looking Ahead: In August’s TZ
-Next month looks like another great issue beginning with Edgar Allan Poe’s and Robert Bloch’s great collaborative effort, “The Lighthouse,” and continuing with stories from Michael Kube-McDowell, Barbara Owens, and Janet Fox. The issue also features an interview with perhaps the greatest of the Twilight Zone directors, Douglas Heyes, and a trio of screen preview features on E.T, Tron, and Poltergeist. Thomas M. Disch returns with more book reviews and Ron Goulart steps in for Gahan Wilson on movies. The TZ Classic Teleplay for next month is Rod Serling’s “The Trade-Ins.” See you then.

-JP