Friday, October 2, 2015

Twilight Zone Anniversary

"Where is Everybody?"

Today marks the anniversary of the premier of the Twilight Zone on CBS television with the broadcast of the episode "Where is Everybody?" on October 2, 1959. This episode, written by Rod Serling and starring Earl Holliman, remains a fan favorite and did much to establish the look and feel of the show. Below are portals to our coverage of the genesis of the show and the episode guide to "Where is Everybody?"

The Premier of the Twilight Zone

Episode guide to "Where is Everybody?"

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Playboy Fiction Anthologies of the 1960s and 1970s

-Here's a short article about the high quality short fiction anthologies from the pages and press of Playboy in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of The Twilight Zone show writers were featured as well as writers that influenced the look and fell of the show. 

Beginning in 1966, with The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Playboy Press, the magazine's book publishing arm, began publishing a series of paperback (and occasionally hardcover) anthologies that would mine the magazine's accumulated collection of short form horror, crime, and science fiction. The fiction editor at the time was Ray Russell, himself a notable fiction writer of modern Gothics (Sardonicus and Other Stories; The Case Against Satan), who had, since the beginning of the '60s, bought fiction from the finest genre (and non-genre) writers of the time.
Playboy was, even then, a high paying fiction market that allowed its writers to produce fiction free of the restraining components of genre magazines and of a more violent and sexually exploratory nature than was acceptable to the standards of mainstream "slick" magazines, the latter of whom were largely ignoring genre fiction anyway, with the exception of an occasional Ray Bradbury or Jack Finney offering. The result was the accumulation in a single market of some of the most outstanding horror, crime, and science fiction of the late middle portion of the 20th century. In a relatively short number of years the magazine had assembled a wealth of high quality genre material with first book publication rights held on nearly all of it. Once Playboy Press was created to enter the book publishing market, it became obvious how to use that store of quality fiction.

The production of genre anthologies from Playboy Press began slowly. 1966 saw the release of The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Playboy Book of Crime and Suspense in hardcover. It was followed the next year with the hardcover The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural. 1968 saw all three books reprinted in paperback editions. Playboy's Stories of the Sinister & Strange, a paperback, followed in 1969. These titles, especially The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernaturalare still highly sought after items, noted among fans for the quality of the fiction. It became apparent that the anthologies were popular and also that the magazine held the publishing rights to a number of other extraordinary stories. They prepared to commit to book form nearly every science fiction, fantasy, horror, and crime story in the young magazine's considerable possession.

After a quiet 1970 in which Playboy Press published no genre anthologies, nine paperback anthologies appeared in 1971, most of them under the banner title Playboy Science Fiction, which also published science fiction novels and single author collections under the same banner. Most of the stories contained within the anthologies seamlessly blended variations of the established elements of science fiction and horror, a type of genre mash-up that was particularly popular at the time. Stories of psychological alienation and of man's diminishing importance in the face of an infinite universe proliferated. A self-conscious, modern form of the horror story matured in the pages of the magazine and were later reprinted in the anthologies. These horror stories were set in a recognizable middle class milieu, where monstrosity, murder, and mutation were as likely as after dinner cocktails. The single editorial demand imposed upon the writers was for high quality fiction.

The anthologies were occasionally themed ("10 Stories of Space Flight," etc.) and usually took the book title (The Dead Astronaut, The Fiend, etc.) from the title of the lead story within. A list of notable authors represented in the anthologies are too many to completely list here, but include such luminaries as J.G. Ballard, Arthur C. Clarke, Charles Beaumont, Frederik Pohl, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Robert Sheckley, Robert Bloch, Algis Budrys, Gerald Kersh, Ray Bradbury, William F. Nolan, Dennis Etchison, Anthony Boucher, Theodore Sturgeon, Norman Spinrad, Henry Slesar, Richard Matheson, Fredric Brown, Avram Davidson, William Tenn, Damon Knight, Italo Calvino, Arthur Porges, and the list goes on and on.

After that fruitful year of anthologies, the production of that type of book from Playboy Press abruptly slowed down, undoubtedly due to the depletion of available genre material in the magazine's possession. 1974 saw an anthology of crime stories, Murder, My Love, but Playboy Press had begun to concentrate their efforts on works of original fiction and on non-fiction books consisting of reprint material, such as Beyond Reason: Playboy's Book of Psychic Phenomena. 

There was, however, an all-too-brief resurgence of the horror anthology from Playboy Press beginning in 1979 with Nightmares, an anthology compiled by horror writer and editor Charles L. Grant. This anthology, and those that quickly followed, were unlike the preceding anthologies in that the stories were not first published by the magazine. The anthologies were assembled in a more traditional manner. Grant's work with Playboy Press continued with the paperback edition of the first volume of his celebrated Shadows series of anthologies in 1980, followed by Horrors in 1981, and Terrors in 1982. Stuart David Schiff, creator of the marvelous but long discontinued Whispers magazine, delivered the horror anthology Death in 1982. The contents of these anthologies were a combination of established masters (Saki, Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, William F. Nolan, Joseph Payne Brennan, etc.) and younger writers, some of whom were on the verge (with Stephen King's considerable best-selling help) of implementing the horror publishing "boom" of the emerging 1980s. With the benefit of hindsight it is unquestionable that these horror anthologies from Playboy Press, along with the excellent horror anthologies compiled by literary agent Kirby McCauley between 1975 and 1980  (Night Chills, Beyond Midnight, Frights, Dark Forces), were a significant part of the foundation upon which a short lived but fiercely marketed publishing campaign was built, that of mainstream horror publishing. This publishing movement allowed a genre once relegated solely to genre magazines and small press publishing houses to proliferate and be found at every checkout counter in America.

It is interesting to note two further related events. In 1980 Playboy Press published the retrospective volume Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction in hardcover. It is a celebration of the best of Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine with stories from the magazine's archives and memoirs from the writers that contributed to the magazine. It was also available through the Science Fiction Book Club.

The later Playboy fiction editor, the venerable Alice K. Turner, compiled a hardcover volume in 1998 titled The Playboy Book of Science Fiction. It is a fine volume of stories and an excellent companion to the Ray Russell-edited volume from 1966.

Most of the volumes discussed are affordable if not downright cheap to purchase either online or at quality used bookstores. I highly suggest the original trilogy of paperbacks: The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy, The Playboy Book of Crime and Suspense, and The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural. Complete lists of contents can be accessed at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database, which provided the cover images.

Here are the anthologies:
-Most of the anthologies were compiled by regular Playboy fiction editor Ray Russell and credited as by "The Editors of Playboy." It is noted below where Russell was not the editor.

The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy
The Playboy Book of Crime and Suspense

The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural

The Playboy Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy (paperback)
The Playboy Book of Crime and Suspense (paperback)
The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural (paperback)

Playboy's Stories of the Sinister & Strange

Transit to Earth
Last Train to Limbo
From the "S" File
The Dead Astronaut
The Fiend
The Fully Automated Love Life of Henry Keanridge
Weird Show
The Future is Now (edited by William F. Nolan)

Murder, My Love (edited by Eric Corder)


Galaxy: Thirty Years of Innovative Science Fiction (edited by Frederik Pohl, Martin H. Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander)
Shadows (edited by Charles L. Grant)

Horrors (edited by Charles L. Grant)
Galaxy: Vol. 1 (paperback)
Galaxy: Vol. 2 (paperback)

Death (edited by Stuart David Schiff)
Terrors (edited by Charles L. Grant)

The Playboy Book of Science Fiction (edited by Alice K. Turner)

--Jordan Prejean