Thursday, February 15, 2018

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 7

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

Volume 1, number 7 (October, 1981)


Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Cover Art: Tito Solomoni (for “Offices” by Chet Williamson)

TZ Publications
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
Contributing Editors: Gahan Wilson, Theodore Sturgeon
Editorial Assistant: Marc Stecker
Design Director: Derek Burton
Art and Studio Production: Georg the Design Group
Production Director: Edward Ernest
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Administrative Asst.: Eve Grammatas
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Mgr.: Chris Grossman
Circulation Director: Denise Kelly
Circulation Assistant: Karen Wiss
Circulation Marketing Mgr.: Jerry Alexander
Western Newsstand Consultant: Harry Sommer, N. Hollywood, CA
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Adv. Production Mgr.: Marina Despotakis
Advertising Representatives: Barney O’Hara & Associates, Inc.

Contents:

--In the Twilight Zone: “Wonders Never Cease” by T.E.D. Klein
--Publisher’s Note by Carol Serling
--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--TZ Interview: Richard Matheson by James H. Burns
--“Out of Place” by Pamela Sargent
--“Shootout in the Toy Shop” by Robert Sheckley
--“Zeke” by Timothy Robert Sullivan
--“The Burden of Indigo” by Gene O’Neill
--“Sea Change” by George Clayton Johnson
--TZ Screen Preview: The Beast Within by Robert Martin
--Dr. Van Helsing’s Handy Guide to Ghost Stories, Part III by Kurt Van Helsing (T.E.D. Klein)
--“Offices” by Chet Williamson
--“The Tear Collector” by Donald Olson
--“The Great Elvis Presley Look-Alike Murder Mystery” by Mick Farren
--“Paintjob” by Jay Rothbell
--The Twilight Zone: The Third Season by Marc Scott Zicree
--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Seven by Marc Scott Zicree
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Big, Tall Wish” by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: In November’s TZ . . .

--In the Twilight Zone: Wonders never cease . . .
-Klein’s editorial column follows standard procedure for this issue, brief bios of the contributing writers along with their thumbnail images. Klein calls attention to the fact that Marc Scott Zicree’s guide to the series no long has to rely upon publicity images for each episode as the dean and students at the Ithaca College School of Communication have sent the magazine images from the episodes taken from the school’s Rod Serling Archive.

--Publisher’s Note by Carol Serling
-This is Serling’s first return since the premier issue and she uses the occasion to share some of the encouraging letters the magazine offices have received since the publication began, as well as promote the magazine’s new short story contest.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
-In a change of pace, Sturgeon looks at fewer titles than usual and uses the majority of the column to trumpet John Crowley’s novel Little, Big, which Sturgeon describes this way: “More than five hundred pages, and when you reach the end, you mourn that there are no more, and you deeply envy those who have yet to read it; you wish you could be a fly on the wall to watch their surprise and delight as they turn these magic leaves.”

-Sturgeon also briefly looks at Stephen Englehart’s The Point Man (“as exciting a slam-banger as you’ll find this year”), Index to the Science Fiction Magazines 1980 by Jerry Boyajian and Kenneth R. Johnson (“the editors are convinced that magazines are still where the action is, and so am I”), and War Games by Karl Hansen, perfect if “your thing is battle, sex, violence, and hardcore sf all at once.” Sturgeon ends the column by wishing congratulations to Donald A. Wollheim on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Wollheim’s DAW Books.

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
-Wilson takes the opposite approach of Sturgeon and increases the number of films he looks at in this issue from his usual two to four. Wilson takes a brief look at Escape from New York (1981, director: John Carpenter), Outland (1981, director: Peter Hyams), Superman II (1980, director: Richard Lester), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, director: Steven Spielberg).

-The only film Wilson dislikes on an artistic level is Superman II, which Wilson believes fails to capture the relatively innocent feel of the original comic books, mainly though the film’s use of realistic violence. Superman II suffered from a troubled production which saw Twilight Zone director Richard Donner, who helmed the first film, exit the production. In recent years, a “Richard Donner Cut” of the film has been released.

-Wilson’s takeaway from Escape from New York and Outland is the inherent bleakness of each film, as the directors of those films present our voyage into the future and into space as violent, cruel, and dominated by the machinations of big business. Wilson is more pleased with Raiders of the Lost Ark, which he views chiefly through the lens of nostalgia, though he cheapens the film by not recognizing the artistry which separates the film from its admitted source material, the Saturday serial matinee. Hindsight is 20/20, however, and the film has gone on to be considered a classic of the adventure film.

--TZ Interview: Richard Matheson, Spinning fantasy from daily life
By James H. Burns
-The concluding half of Burns’s two-part interview with Twilight Zone writer Richard Matheson is very rewarding. Matheson recounts his time scripting feature films, including an in-depth look at the Edgar Allan Poe series from director Roger Corman and American International Pictures. In this and subsequent sections of the interview Matheson occasionally comes off as difficult to please as he expresses dislike for the AIP Poe films as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, which Matheson at one point had the opportunity to script until Hitchcock disagreed with Matheson’s vision that the birds should rarely be shown in the film.

-Matheson proceeds to discuss all of his film work for the large and small screens, those he scripted and those scripted by another hand based on his work. He discusses the difficulty in adapting his own work as well as in adapting the work of others. Some of the films Matheson discusses in detail include: The Morning After, Die! Die! My Darling, The Devil Rides Out, and The Stranger Within, the latter taken from Matheson’s story “Mother By Protest” (aka “Trespass”). Matheson also discusses the failings of The Legend of Hell House and Somewhere in Time, as well as his television ventures outside of The Twilight Zone, including the Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within,” which Matheson claims was tampered with by Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Matheson discusses the production of Duel, his work with producer/director Dan Curtis, and the occasional odd project such as the television film Dying Room Only, which Matheson greatly enjoyed.

-Matheson concludes by discussing the effort to make a film from his latest novel, What Dreams May Come, a project which would not see fruition until 1998. Matheson also teasingly states that “I have loads of Twilight Zone episode ideas left over from when I was working on it. Hosting a fantasy series would be a lot of fun.” Unfortunately, we never got to see Matheson host his own fantasy series or use those Twilight Zone ideas. As I stated in last issue’s review, this interview with Matheson is one of the finest and most in-depth I’ve read outside of Matthew R. Bradley’s career retrospective interview “The Incredible Scripting Man.” It comes highly recommended. 

--“Out of Place” by Pamela Sargent

Illustration by Annie Alleman
“‘To see ourselves as others see us’ can be pretty disconcerting – especially when it’s through the eyes of your own pet cat!”

-Seen through the perspective of a housewife and her interactions with her pet housecat, the world awakens one day to find that the thoughts of animals can be heard aloud. Grade: B

-The strength of this tale lies in the fact that Sargent does not play it for laughs but commits to a serious extrapolation of what might occur if humans could suddenly hear what animals were thinking. Sargent predicts that animals would reveal our hates, prejudices, fears, and guilt but that ultimately humans would overcome this burden and force the social order to return to what it was before the advent of the “miracle.”

-Due both to its quality and to its subject matter concerning housecats, the story has been reprinted several times, most frequently in cat themed anthologies such as Magicats! (1984), Roger Caras’ Treasury of Great Cat Stories (1987), and The Cat Megapack (2013). The story was included in The Best of Pamela Sargent (1987).

-Sargent (born 1948), whom T.E.D. Klein describes as “one of science fiction’s most consistently interesting young novelist,” was near the beginning of her career when this story appeared but has since become one of the most productive and accomplished female voices in SF. She has been the recipient of two Nebula Awards, a Locus Award, and been nominated for dozens more. Her work as an editor is equally accomplished as she compiled three volumes of the Nebula Awards anthologies as well as the innovative and important Women of Wonder anthology series. Associate Publisher Carol Serling found a liking for Sargent’s work as Serling included a story from Sargent in all three anthologies Serling compiled for DAW Books between 1993 and 1995. Sargent was the only author to have a story in each anthology. 

--“Shootout in the Toy Shop” by Robert Sheckley

Illustration by Randy Jones
“Baxter was big, hard-boiled, and hard to scare. But he finally met his match in the . . .”

-A down-on-his-luck and unlikable private detective is given a much-needed job by the owner of a toy shop whose inventory is disappearing nightly. Grade: D

-Sheckley returns to the magazine with this brief tale which attempts to combine the hard-boiled genre with the fantasy tale and is largely unsuccessful in doing so. The problems lie in the tone and the length of the tale. Sheckley never settles on a proper tone for this one, unsure whether to play it for comedy or for suspense or for wonder. He settles for a bit of everything and the mixture doesn’t quite gel. Also, the tale is too short and centered on the wrong character. Though its premise of a living doll is hardly original, as a reader I would have rather spent time with the toymaker and the toys than with the unlikable private detective who gets a taste of tragedy when he instantly falls in love with the doll only to destroy it in a jealous rage.

-Sheckley (1928-2005) was known for his mordantly funny, bitingly satirical short science fiction and fantasy tales, collected in such volumes as Citizen in Space (1955), Shards of Space (1962), and The People Trap (1968). During the 1950s and early 1960s he was unquestionably one of the finest practitioners of the short story working in SF, during which time his work was frequently adapted for television. He won a special author Nebula Award in 2001. 

--“Zeke” by Timothy Robert Sullivan

Illustration by Chris Pelletiere
“An alienated man confronts ‘the world’s sleaziest roadside attraction’ – and ends up shaking hands with . . .”

-An albino man struggling to adapt after a messy divorce finds solace from a creature viewed at a roadside freak show on a lonely stretch of Florida highway. Grade: C

-This is the strangest tale in the issue and it possesses an overall quality of ambiguousness that somewhat captures of the feel of the original television series. In a brief passage, the protagonist imagines himself in a Twilight Zone episode with his movements described by Rod Serling’s narration. Again, this is another story in the issue with tonal problems, as much of it is described in terms which would normally denote humor, including broad, unflattering Southern archetypes, but Sullivan chooses instead to try and achieve a tone of awe and wonder, coupled with a rather weak attempt at a concluding moral. Sullivan also attempts, not altogether successfully, the old trick of presenting stereotypical characters only to display the fallacy of the stereotype.

-Sullivan (born 1948) appeared on the SF scene in the late 1970s with short fiction and the occasional essay in genre journals. His few attempts at the novel appeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during which time he also compiled the themed horror anthologies Tropical Chills (1988) and Cold Shocks (1991). Sullivan’s preferred form is the short story and he continued to place his short fiction with genre magazines as recently as 2015. 

--“The Burden of Indigo” by Gene O’Neill

Illustrated by José Reyes
“He wore the hated badge of the pariah. Why should the world care what was in his heart?”

-The tale follows the tragic events of a few days in the life a man cursed with the forced skin pigmentation of a social outcast in an unnamed future society. Grade: C

-This tale is marked by its strong social message, one which perhaps still speaks to us today, as it concerns a group of social outcasts who are marked with varying shades of synthetic skin pigmentation based upon an undisclosed tier of social or criminal transgression. O’Neill is wise in not attempting to delineate too much of the future/alternate society in which his tale takes place, leaving much of the detail to the imagination of the reader. The fault in the tale lies in the ambiguousness of character, as O’Neill is clearly attempting the tone of a moral fable but only succeeds in giving the reader enough of a glimpse of character to be disappointed when that glimpse does not flower into a fuller illustration. In other words, a reader may find it difficult to care for a character one knows little to nothing about. The main message of the tale rings clear, however, and that is the brutality of the righteous often equals or exceeds that of the transgressor.

-“The Burden of Indigo” was O’Neill’s (born 1938) second professional published SF story and he has continued to turn out short fiction and the occasional SF novel to the present day, mostly in the horror and dark fantasy genres. He has been nominated for multiple Bram Stoker Awards, winning two, one for his 2009 fiction collection Taste of Tenderloin and again in 2012 for his novella “The Blue Heron.” A recent interview with O’Neill can be found in the March, 2016 issue of Lamplight magazine. 

--“Sea Change” by George Clayton Johnson

Illustration by Robert Morello
“Lucho had a horrifying secret – even more horrifying than he himself realized.”

-A gunrunner suffers a gruesome accident in which he loses his hand only to discover that his hand has slowly grown back and the lost appendage has grown a doppelganger. Grade: B

-“Sea Change” was originally written as a story treatment and sold to The Twilight Zone for production during the second season. For reasons of objection from a sponsor of the series, a food company who believed that the story’s gruesome subject matter would turn viewers from their appetite, series producer Buck Houghton was forced to ask Clayton Johnson to buy back the story. Johnson, who had subsisted by occasionally selling his stories to the series, resulting in such episodes as “The Four of Us Are Dying” and “Execution,” used the opportunity to offer Houghton a deal. Johnson agreed to buy back his story under the condition that he was allowed an attempt to write an original teleplay for the series. Houghton agreed and the result, “A Penny for Your Thoughts,” marked the first of several distinguished episodes from Clayton Johnson’s typewriter, including such classic segments as “A Game of Pool” and “Nothing in the Dark.”

-The title is taken from Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1610 or 1611: “Nothing of him that doth fade, /But doth suffer a sea-change, /into something rich and /strange,”). Had the tale been dramatized on the television series, it likely would have resulted in a truly unique and unsettling segment which may be viewed as a classic along the lines of Johnson’s other efforts. It also would have struck a pleasing strain of Gothic horror too seldom featured on the series. As it is, Johnson held on to the tale for twenty years before allowing it to appear in this issue, the first of several such “lost” episodes that the magazine would feature in its pages. “Sea Change” was nominated for the now-defunct Balrog Award for superior achievement in short fiction and was reprinted a year later in Great Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, the only annual issue the magazine produced, as well as in the first issue of Night Cry, indications that T.E.D. Klein thought highly of the tale. Johnson chose the story as representative of his work for Masters of Darkness, edited by Dennis Etchison, and the story appears in Johnson’s career retrospective, All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories.

-Johnson’s (1929-2015) skills at characterization were rivaled only by Rod Serling on the series and in this brief tale he develops two clearly delineated characters that immediately pull the reader into the dramatic situation. The concept itself may seem hackneyed to a modern reader but one must remember that Johnson originally wrote the material in 1962. If there is a fault with the tale it lies in its brevity. It feels too much like a story treatment rather than a proper story. That being said, it hardly suffers for this and remains an intriguing and enjoyable tale. 

--TZ Screen Preview: The Beast Within by Robert Martin
-Martin’s latest look at upcoming horror films covers the production of The Beast Within, a 1982 film which began life when producer Harvey Bernard bought the film rights to Edward Levy’s novel of the same name merely from reading the description of the novel in a catalog from publisher Arbor House. Needless to say, the film does not follow the events of the novel. The resulting film was not successful, monetarily or critically, and has largely been forgotten except by those with a taste for cult films or those with a particular interest in horror films. Directed by Phillipe Mora from a screenplay by Tom Holland (later a successful horror film director, Fright Night, Child’s Play, etc.), the story concerns the emerging bestial nature of the teenaged progeny of a rape. Among the cast is Twilight Zone actor R.G. Armstrong, who had a memorable role as the sympathetic contractor in “Nothing in the Dark.”

--Dr. Van Helsing’s Handy Guide to Ghost Stories by Kurt Van Helsing (T.E.D. Klein)
Illustrated by Lee Brown Coye, with illustrations taken from the August Derleth-edited anthologies Sleep No More (1944) and Who Knocks? (1946).

-For this third installment of Klein’s examination of the literary ghost story, the writer considers the esthetics of the ghost story, with particular attention paid to form, tone, and the unity of effect in the successful tale of the supernatural.

-This installment is much more engaging than the previous entries for no other reason than Klein finally gets down to examining what makes a ghost story successful as well as offer an answer to the question of why there are relatively few truly distinguished ghost stories despite the thousands which have been written since the birth of the literary form. Klein largely espouses the views first proposed by M.R. James, author of some of the finest ghost stories in the English language, who opined, in the preface to his second collection of ghostly tales, More Stories of an Antiquary (1911), that the ghost story works best when the ghost is "malevolent or odious: amiable and helpful apparitions are all very well in fairy tales and local legends, but I have no use for them in a fictitious ghost story." Klein also forwards the opinion that the humorous ghost story is in fact rarely humorous, serving only to undermine the essential ingredient in the proper ghostly tale: the reader must be made to believe that these uncanny events can happen and thus be frightened by that realization. Klein also believes the tale of supernatural horror should be short in nature, no longer than a short novel, as it is difficult to maintain the essential atmosphere of the ghostly tale over a long novel. Klein disparages the five hundred page novels which were popular at the time. Ironically, Klein produced one of these giant supernatural novels, and a fine one at that, a few years later with The Ceremonies (1984). Klein prominently quotes from successful authors of ghost stories, from Edith Wharton and Henry James to Walter de la Mare and L.P. Hartley. Klein also promises a fourth and final installment next issue. 

--“Offices” by Chet Williamson

Illustrated by José Reyes
“The twentieth century has spawned a whole new way of life. Now it’s even spawned a new breed of ghost.”

-A copywriter discovers that the spiritual essences of his coworkers haunt the office building during the nighttime hours. Grade: A

-“Offices” was Chet Williamson’s (born 1948) first professionally published short story and received the cover of this issue of the magazine. It is no surprise, however, as T.E.D. Klein knew he had something special when Williamson submitted this tale. It is easily the finest in the issue and one which perfectly captures that unique Twilight Zone feel. It is a shame “Offices” wasn’t adapted for the revival Zone television series.

-“Offices” may remind one a bit of Charles Beaumont’s “The Vanishing American” in its examination of the effects of the nine-to-five workday on the spirit of the common person. Williamson has produced an admirable body of SF fiction, having garnered multiple award nominations for his efforts, winning the now-defunct International Horror Guild Award in 2002 for his story collection Figures in Rain. Williamson recently completed a sequel to Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho published by Thomas Dunne Books in 2016 as Robert Bloch’s Psycho: Sanitarium.

--“The Tear Collector” by Donald Olson

Illustrated by E.T. Steadman
“His rows of colored bottles were beautiful to look at – but how many lives had he squeezed dry to fill them?”

-A young woman with a propensity to cry is engaged by a rich tear collector. Grade: C

-This slight fable of fortune and misfortune is the rather simple tale of a young woman who suffers a series of misfortunes and has a propensity to cry. She has a chance encounter with an eccentric collector of tears. She soon falls in love with the collector, bringing her happiness and after which she can no longer provide tears, thus ending their relationship. The ending suggests an amusing narrative cycle.

-Olson (born 1938) has not produced a great amount of SF material but has seen “The Tear Collector” adapted for the television series Tales from the Darkside, a competitor to the revival Twilight Zone series, as the sixteenth episode of the first season. He has seen some of his other short stories published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and subsequently reprinted in one of the various book anthologies which bear Hitchcock’s name.

--“The Great Elvis Presley Look-Alike Murder Mystery” by Mick Farren
Illustrated by George Chastain
“There were dozens and dozens of suspects – all of them sporting sideburns and guitars!”

-A detective is tasked with sorting through the suspects of a murder at an Elvis Presley look-alike contest. Grade: B

-This one is an entertaining and funny riff on a classic mystery set-up. Farren has a gift for characterization that carries the tale along and the ending, though somewhat weak, has a pleasingly uncanny edge. Farren (1943-2003) was equally known as a singer, journalist, and fiction author. He was associated with the British underground music scene and much of his fiction reflects his interest in rock n’ roll and related subjects. Farren found time to be an impressively prolific author, not only in the realm of SF but also in fringe non-fiction and journalism. He began publishing SF with his 1973 novel The Texts of Festival and continued to produce SF stories and novels until his death. 

--“Paintjob” by Jay Rothbell

Illustrated by Earl Killeen
“A painting’s supposed to be two dimensional, not three – and certainly not four.”

-A proud landlord sets out to paint over a mural created by a tenant with unexpected results. Grade: C

-This slight tale has not aged well in one particular area, its unsympathetic portrayal of immigrants. Rothbell’s immigrant landlord is an extremely controlling, ignorant, and unlikable figure who hates Americans and who one assumes will come out of his frightening experience wiser but it is uncertain that he will do so. Nevertheless, Rothbell evokes some memorable imagery in the tale and the final third descends into the impressively hallucinogenic strains of a nightmare.

-Rothbell (born 1954) is perhaps best known as the fourth wife of writer Robert Sheckley and is sometimes credited as Jay Sheckley. They met and married in 1981 and after only a few years their marriage ended in divorce. Rothbell collaborated with Sheckley on a story, “Spectator Playoffs,” published in Night Cry. Rothbell would go on to provide both Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine and Night Cry with several additional stories and articles. She ceased writing SF in the late 1980s.

--The Twilight Zone: The Third Season by Marc Scott Zicree
-Here Zicree writes a brief essay on the transition from the second to the third season of the original television series, something he had not done for the second season transition but something he would later incorporate into his The Twilight Zone Companion.

--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part 7
-Zicree continues his guide to the original television series with episode summaries along with Rod Serling’s opening and closing narrations. With this issue, Zicree enters the third season of the series. The episodes Zicree covers, all of which we have also covered here in the Vortex, include: “Two,” “The Arrival,” “The Shelter,” “The Passersby,” “A Game of Pool,” “The Mirror,” and “The Grave.”

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Big, Tall Wish” by Rod Serling
-Presented here is the full original teleplay for Serling’s “The Big, Tall Wish,” filmed as the 27th episodes of the first season, directed by Ronald Winston, and starring Ivan Dixon. The episode originally aired on April 8, 1960. You can read Brian’s review of the episode here.

--Looking Ahead: In November’s TZ
-Coming up in the next issue are stories by Tanith Lee, Thomas M. Disch, Evan Eisenberg, Clark Howard, Melissa Mia Hall, Gordon Linzner, Juleen Brantingham, Stanley Schmidt, and a now-classic (and controversial) horror story by Ramsey Campbell. Robert Martin previews Halloween II, Klein, writing as Kurt Van Helsing, completes his examination of ghost stories, and Rod Serling’s classic teleplay, “Death’s Head Revisited,” is presented in full. See you back soon!

-JP

3 comments:

  1. Nice work, Jordan. I always enjoy your reports on the TZ magazine.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jack! I hope in some way my efforts help to raise the reputation of the magazine, which I think is underrated. The first year was a bit up and down but it soon settled into a nice groove and published some now-classic material.

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  2. Great! Ends with a twist but I'm not giving it away.


    -Jane@showboxbuzz

    ReplyDelete