Monday, February 25, 2019

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 12


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

Volume 1, number 12 (March, 1982) 



Cover art: Tito Salomoni

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 & Consulting 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, Robert Sheckley
Design Director: Derek Burton
Art and Studio Production: Georg the Design Group
Production Director: Edward Ernest
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Administrative Asst.: Doreen Carrigan
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Mgr.: Chris Grossman
Circulation Director: William D. Smith
Circulation Manager: Janice Graham
Eastern Circulation Mgr.: Hank Rosen
Western Newsstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Adv. Production Manager: Marina Despotakis
Advertising Representatives: Barney O’Hara & Associates, Inc.

Contents:

--In the Twilight Zone: “Pleasant Dreams . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Books by Robert Sheckley
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan
--TZ Interview: Fritz Leiber
--“The Man Who Never Grew Young” by Fritz Leiber
--“The New Man” by Barbara Owens
--“The Return of the Screw” by Kevin Cook
--“Crusoe in New York” by Ron Goulart
--Some THING wicked This Way Comes! by Ed Naha
--TZ Screen Preview: Stab by James Verniere
--“The Bite” by Elizabeth Morton
--“Incident on Park Bench 37” by Robert E. Vardeman
--“Three Bananas” by Larry Tritten
--“Sleep” by Steve Rasnic Tem
--“Breakthrough” by Richard Stooker
--Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Twelve
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “A Passage for Trumpet” by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: In April’s TZ

--In the Twilight Zone: “Pleasant Dreams . . .” by T.E.D. Klein

-Klein spends his editorial space writing about dreams and their influence on fantasy fiction. He alludes to H.P. Lovecraft’s dream stories, particularly the early story “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” and muses on the origin of “Persons from Porlock,” a term denoting the incident in which Samuel Taylor Coleridge was interrupted by a visitor from Porlock while attempting to complete his dream-influenced poem “Kubla Kahn,” which he never finished. Klein then introduces this issue’s contributors with brief bios and thumbnail images.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Robert Sheckley

-Sheckley reviews a clutch of then-current fantasy and horror books. Briefly, here’s what he had to say:

On Ghost Story by Peter Straub: “Straub’s interweaving of details, action, and apparently unconnected events is finely done. This is a first-rate horror novel, in a class with the work of Stephen King and one or two others: not to be missed.”

On Congo by Michael Crichton: “Crichton is fun to read. His prose is clear, he knows what he’s talking about, and he tells a compelling story. What else must the guy do? Can’t we forgive him for not revealing the darkest secrets of the human heart?”

On The Fantastic Stories of Cornell Woolrich edited by Francis M. Nevins: “Woolrich lacked a way with words. Reading him, we know why the pulps died.”

On The Nameless by Ramsey Campbell: “I wasn’t much taken with this novel, but I suspect it’s a pretty fair one. The pace picks up steadily throughout; there are some scary sequences, and a neat resolution at the end.”

On Splatter Movies by John McCarty: “This is a large-format paperback with many black and white stills from splatter movies past and present, and an informative and interesting commentary.”

On Is Nothing Sacred? by Gahan Wilson: “Wilson is a master of graveyard humor. He comes up with bizarre twists on everyday situations and everyday twists on bizarre situations.”

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson

-Wilson reviews the delightful 1981 British fantasy film Time Bandits, written and directed by the American expatriate Terry Gilliam, a member of Monty Python who also directed such well-regarded SF films as Brazil and 12 Monkeys. Wilson spends the majority of his glowing review on the cast and it is an impressive one: Sean Connery, David Warner, Shelley Duvall, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, Ralph Richardson, and John Cleese, among others. The late Beatle, George Harrison, was an executive producer on the film and provided the song “Dream Away” for the production. Wilson briefly examines fantasy films concerning children who find their way into a fantasy world, such as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Since Wilson enjoyed the film he gives it a thorough comb through to uncover interesting instances of character and circumstance. Wilson’s reviews are far more informative than the average offering and as such come recommended.

--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan

-Sullivan is back with another installment in his examination of classical macabre music. Sullivan provides listings of the best then-current recordings of the selections he covers. If you have an interest in classical music, particularly macabre music, then this essay series is required reading. It is a thorough, dense examination of a niche subject and the only place I have seen such space devoted to cataloging the subject. 

--TZ Interview: Fritz Leiber: SF’s Wizard-in-Residence
Interview by Paul Sammon 


-If you read this blog regularly then you likely know my affinity for the works of Fritz Leiber (1910-1992). Leiber was one of the finest of the late-era pulp writers who made titles such as Unknown and Weird Tales essential reading for fantasy and horror fans. Leiber was the son of successful stage and film actors and initially pursued an acting career before discovering a love of writing through voracious reading and correspondence with his friend Harry Fischer. Inspired by Fischer, Leiber began his most notable work, the stories and novels recounting the adventures of the sword-and-sorcery duo Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. The first story in the series, “Two Sought Adventure” (1939), was Leiber’s first professionally published work of fiction and began a series he would continue to work on for the rest of his life. Leiber refined the sword-and-sorcery genre by adding humor and a high literary style to his tales. Later in life Leiber was paid regular royalties by game publisher TSR for the influence of Leiber’s tales on the popular roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. Leiber was awarded Grand Master recognition in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

-This interview shines a light on many aspects of Leiber’s personal and professional lives, including his early acting roles, his work in the pulps, his correspondence with H.P. Lovecraft, the occasional adaptations of his works in film and television (including two Night Gallery episodes: “The Dead Man” and “The Girl With the Hungry Eyes” as well as Burn, Witch, Burn (aka Night of the Eagle) an adaptation of Leiber’s novel Conjure Wife by writers Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont), his current projects, and even his battle with alcoholism. Leiber’s incredible range as a writer comes through clearly. He was equally adept at the story, novel, or essay in the genres of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and, occasionally, detective fiction. Leiber speaks on his influences in all of these genres and his inspiration in creating some of his most notable works, such as his World Fantasy Award-winning masterpiece Our Lady of Darkness.

-The one aspect of the magazine I have been most impressed with since beginning this read-through is the interviews with the leading genre writers of the day. These interviews are conducted by seasoned genre journalists and are very in-depth. Often the interviewer will have conducted the interview with the subject over a number of days, not hours, as was the case with Sammon’s interview of Leiber. If you are a fan of such interview books as Faces of Fear by Douglas E. Winter or Dark Dreamers by Stanley Wiater then I highly recommend tracking down these early issues for the interviews.

-Paul Sammon, interviewer, is a longtime genre journalist and editor probably best known for Future Noir, his book-length examination of Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner. Sammon also edited two now-collectible anthologies from the ‘90s: Splatterpunks: Extreme Horror (1990) and Splatterpunks II: Over the Edge (1995). 

--“The Man Who Never Grew Young” by Fritz Leiber
Illustrated by JosĂ© Reyes 

“The classic tale of a backwards Methuselah and a future that didn’t work.”

-An old man witnesses the course of human events turn backwards from the future to the earliest civilizations.

-Accompanying the interview with Fritz Leiber is this 1947 story. It was first published in Leiber’s first book, Night’s Black Agents (Arkham House). The collection is a Leiber sampler, with examples of his supernatural horror, his urban horror, and his sword-and-sorcery with “The Man Who Never Grew Young” serving as a transition piece from the older settings of the fantasy pieces to the contemporary settings of the horror tales. It is a short, clever, and affecting meditation on the failures of mankind. It is told from the point of view of an aged man who witnesses the world around him grow young (revert backwards) while he remains old. Leiber alludes to several notable events in human history and ends the story on a haunting, open-ended note. The story has been reprinted many times. It was first reprinted in Avon Fantasy Reader No. 9 (1949) and included in The Best of Fritz Leiber (1974), a collection which focuses on the best of Leiber’s science fiction. 

--“The New Man” by Barbara Owens
Illustrated by E.T. Steadman 

“In which madness takes the form of a smiling, freckle-faced twelve-year-old boy.”

-A recovering alcoholic is confronted by a young boy who claims to be his son. The young boy’s unwanted presence in the man’s life brings madness and ruin.

-Although Barbara Owens’ story is an effective horror tale, very much in the style of The Twilight Zone, it is even more effective as an examination of a recovering alcoholic. Owens perfectly captures the daily struggles of the recovering alcoholic, from having to say no to a drink with the boss to the inability to repair trust issues with a family that has been burned too often. Owens uses a rather simple setup to propel the story into a bleak, character-driven tragedy. The story was later adapted as the premier episode of Tales from the Darkside (after the pilot episode, “Trick or Treat,” which aired the previous year). The tale was adapted by writer Mark Durand and director Frank De Palma, starring Vic Tayback as recovering alcoholic Alan Coombs, Kelly Jean Peters as his long-suffering wife, and Chris Hebert as Jerry, the young boy who brings ruin to Coombs’ life. The television adaptation slightly alters the ending of the tale, somewhat muting its effectiveness, but the episode can be recommended on the strength of Tayback’s harrowing performance. T.E.D. Klein included the story in the premier issue of the TZ Magazine sister publication Night Cry.

-Barbara Owens (1934-2008) wrote a number of short horror, fantasy, and mystery stories in the ‘80s and ‘90s, with “The New Man” marking her first sale to an SF magazine. She published another story, “Something Evil,” in the August, 1982 issue of TZ Magazine as well as the story “Portrait: Edward Larabee” in the August, 1986 issue and a final story, “Sliding,” in the August, 1988 issue. She published a number of stories in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as well as in mystery digest magazines. Her story, “The Cloud Beneath the Eaves,” published in the January, 1978 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, won the Edgar Allan Poe Award, beating out the likes of Bill Pronzini and Donald E. Westlake.  

--“The Return of the Screw” by Kevin Cook
Illustrated by Randy Jones 

“When a 15X2 hex-head cap screw says he’s sending alligators after you, chances are he’s telling the truth.”

-A slovenly laborer is confronted by an alien intelligence housed inside a screw. The alien informs the man that everything humanity has ever experienced is fabricated by the alien and his fellow kind. An unfortunate accident proves the alien is telling the truth.

-This first in an overabundance of humorous stories in the issue is largely composed of a series of gags played on a hapless human by an unseen alien intelligence, including a liberal use of alligators to keep said human in line. The story builds to a punchline ending in which the screw which houses the alien intelligence is accidently knocked into a boiling vat of zinc, the only chemical element able to subvert the alien intelligence. After this occurrence, the world and everything in it falls away since the alien was creating all the narrator perceived. Kevin Cook placed another story with the magazine with “Omniscient Mitch & The Million-Dollar Pain & Gain Machine,” which appeared in the August, 1988 issue. He is also a frequent letter-writer to genre magazines. 

--“Crusoe in New York” by Ron Goulart
Illustrated by Bruce Waldman 

“Maybe it was lonely at the top; it was certainly desperate at the bottom. But what a destiny awaited him!”

-A struggling writer of throw-away paperbacks is brooding at the location of a very successful writer’s latest publicity stunt when he encounters a time traveler from the future. The time traveler is not only a fan of the writer’s works but informs the writer that he is admired as a major literary figure in the future after the success of his novel Crusoe in New York. Elated by this news, the writer returns to the scene of his rival’s publicity stunt only to suffer an accident and seal his fate.

-Goulart (b. 1933) makes another appearance in the magazine with this ironic and humorous fantasy. The most interesting aspect of the tale is a connection to writer Harlan Ellison. I have no idea what sort of relationship, if any, existed between Ellison and Goulart but Ellison is clearly the model for the successful writer envied by the narrator. In the story, the successful writer makes use of a specific type of publicity stunt which was also utilized by Harlan Ellison: writing in a bookstore window. For Ellison, this was a way to show the public that writing was work and that there was no magic formula to creating fiction other than sitting down and putting one word after another. Although this practice is disparaged in the story it was likely nothing more than a friendly dig at a colleague. “Crusoe in New York” was included in Goulart’s 1990 collection Skyrocket Steele Conquers the Universe and Other Media Tales.  

--Some THING Wicked This Way Comes! by Ed Naha 
“Hollywood – and a piece of Alaska – are doubling for Antarctica in John Carpenter’s remake of ‘The Thing.’ Ed Naha reports from the set.” 


-Although it was generally not well-received during its initial release, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) has become a defining horror film of the 1980s. As much as this writer enjoys Halloween (1978), The Thing will remain Carpenter’s best film to my mind. An adaptation of John W. Campbell, Jr’s 1938 story “Who Goes There?” it is the tale of a team of scientific explorers besieged at a research station by a malevolent, shape-shifting alien lifeform. Carpenter’s film is a more faithful adaptation of Campbell’s story which eschews the love interest of the first film adaptation, 1951’s The Thing from Another World, and focuses more on the shape-changing abilities of the alien. The highlights of the film include the cast and makeup artist Rob Bottin’s stunning creature effects.

-Naha (b. 1950) is a prolific and accomplished genre journalist and occasional fiction writer with notable work including a long tenure with Starlog magazine and several movie novelizations. Naha also wrote two novels during the horror paperback boom of the 1980s that have become collectible: Breakdown (1988) and Orphans (1989). Naha structures his set visit with interviews with star Kurt Russell and director John Carpenter. Since the special effects for the film were kept highly secretive during production, Naha can only hint at what was in store for audiences in 1982. The interview segments with Kurt Russell and John Carpenter are rather in-depth and give insight into the process of remaking a beloved SF film as well as the challenges of shooting the film on a claustrophobic set. Highly recommended for fans of the film.

--TZ Screen Preview: Stab by James Verniere

“Scheider and Streep join Benton and Newman in a hush-hush modern-day ‘Jack the Ripper’ tale. James Verniere tracks down a few important clues. 


-This is a full-color preview of the 1982 psychological thriller film Still of the Night, working under the production title Stab. It is a film largely forgotten today which is surprising considering the star power in front of and behind the camera. It stars Meryl Streep, Roy Scheider, and Jessica Tandy and was directed by Academy Award winner Robert Benton. The film largely functions as an homage to Alfred Hitchcock with several overt sequences recreating memorable moments from Hitchcock’s films. Contemporary reviews praised the acting and direction but faulted the script for the film’s lack of success. 1982 was also a very strong year in film and this film likely suffered from the fact that Streep’s performance in Sophie’s Choice was on its way to winning an Academy Award.

-As Still of the Night is ostensibly a Jack-the-Ripper tale, an inset article explores Jack the Ripper in cinema. Naha gives a brief overview of Red Jack on film, beginning with Hitchcock’s The Lodger (1927) and continuing with the 1944 remake starring Laird Cregar and directed by John Brahm. Other films covered include A Study in Terror (1965), Hands of the Ripper (1971), Murder by Decree (1979), and Time After Time (1979).  

--“The Bite” by Elizabeth Morton
Illustrated by Frances Jetter 

“Beware of dogs that bite . . . and also those that keep their teeth clenched.”

-A woman comes home to her apartment to find her dog in a corner clenching its teeth and refusing to open its mouth. She brings it to the vet who has an office in the building and returns to her apartment. The vet soon calls the woman and urges her to quickly get out of the apartment. He has found two human fingers in the dog’s mouth.

-This story has the feel of a dark urban legend or one of Fredric Brown’s shocking short-shorts. Sharp and effective. Morton was a pen name for Rosalind Greenberg (b. 1951) an anthologist and occasional short fiction writer who was married to prolific anthologist Martin H. Greenberg (1941-2011). “The Bite” was reprinted in the Fall, 1985 issue of Night Cry.

--“Incident on Park Bench 37” by Robert E. Vardeman

Illustrated by Marty Blake 

“It was fun to sit and watch the world go by . . . and some things not of this world!”

-An old man who sits on the same park bench to feed pigeons each day is suddenly witness to a form of futuristic punishment as criminals from the future are sent into the past and appear on his park bench. The old man decides to steal the time travel mechanism from the next time traveler to appear in order to escape his dull existence.

-Another humorous story about time travel. This one runs overlong but is crowned with a nice ending. Vardeman (b. 1947) is a hugely prolific author of SF and fantasy, creator of many novel series and prolific writer of media tie-in books. Interested readers can check Vardeman’s entry on the Internet Speculative Fiction Database for a listing of his work in SF. 

--“Three Bananas” by Larry Tritten
Illustrated by Larry Blizard 

“It was a tough case, but the private eye knew he’d crack it. All he had to do was comb 21st-century San Francisco in search of . . .”

-In the future, a private eye is hired by a wealthy man to track down the only three known bananas in the world. Fruit has become scare after the attrition of wars and ecological disaster. The private eye dives into the grimy world of pornographic video to track down the fate of the bananas.

-This humorous ode to Raymond Chandler is a bit too self-aware and the intentionally cartoonish writing style grows tired. It is also the longest story in the issue. Most of the story functions as humorous imaginings of the foibles of future society. Tritten (1938-2011) was a prolific short story writer who placed stories with TZ magazine while also appearing in most of the major SF magazines of the 1980s and 1990s. His TZ Magazine stories include: “The Grey Lawns Cold” in the Nov/Dec, 1984 issue and “Televisionaries” in the Feb, 1986 issue. He also placed a story, “Bugs,” in the second issue (Summer, 1985) of Night Cry.

--“Sleep” by Steve Rasnic Tem

Illustrated by D.W. Miller 

“The lucky ones, they say, die in bed. The unlucky simply lose their way.”

-A woman who experiences particularly vivid dreams has a premonition of her husband struggling against a mass wandering people inside a tunnel. She awakens her husband only to find that he has become lost in the dream world and another person has taken residence in his body.

-Another effective short-short with a shock ending. I really enjoyed this story due to the fact that Tem subverts the reader’s expectations by not playing the drama for horror but for sadness. The trope which Tem is playing with is astral projection, the idea that the essence of a person can leave the physical body during unconsciousness. Tem (b. 1950) is a prolific author known for his idiosyncratic horror fiction, mostly short stories. He collaborated often with his wife Melanie Tem (1949-2015). Steve Rasnic Tem has won many awards for his fiction, including the British Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the International Horror Guild Award. “Sleep” was reprinted in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories (1984). Valancourt Books recently released a career retrospective of Tem’s fiction titled Figures Unseen: Selected Stories. 

--“Breakthrough” by Richard Stooker
Illustrated by Gregory Cannone 

“Is he a madman . . . or a messiah? Perhaps the answer lies in this case history.”

-The tale of a violent and mentally deranged young man whose life may hold the key to a larger aspect of existence and the universe.

-This story is structured like the case history of a mental patient. There are intimations that the subject, a violent psychotic, is also capable of impossible intellectual feats, including writing, reading, and speaking dead and ancient languages. The hints to the subject’s abilities are layered throughout the case history until the revelation that the subject has engineered an escape from the mental hospital and is perhaps set to end or take over the world. It is a story which is intentionally ambiguous and as such will not be to every reader’s taste. Richard Stooker wrote a few SF stories in the 1970s, including appearances in Fantastic and Amazing Stories. “Breakthrough” has not been reprinted.

--Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Twelve by Marc Scott Zicree
-Marc Scott Zicree continues his episode guide to the original series. This issue begins his coverage of the fourth season and he includes an essay on the troubles the show underwent after getting abruptly canceled following the third season before being picked up as a replacement series in an hour-long format. Zicree gives credits for cast and crew along with Rod Serling’s opening and closing narrations and a summary for the following episodes: “In His Image,” “The Thirty-Fathom Grave,” “Valley of the Shadow,” and “He’s Alive,” all of which we have covered here in the Vortex.

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “A Passage for Trumpet” by Rod Serling 


-Rod Serling’s classic episode is presented in script form accompanied by stills. “A Passage for Trumpet” was Serling’s It’s a Wonderful Life inspired tale about a suicidal trumpet player who comes to realize the value of life. The episode is notable for being the first appearance of TZ regulars Jack Klugman and John Anderson. It originally aired on May 20, 1960 and was directed by Don Medford. You can read our full review here.

--Looking Ahead: In April’s TZ
-Next month’s issue looks to be a good one. We have Dan Simmons’ award-winning first story, “The River Styx Runs Upstream,” as well as stories from Joan Aiken, Ramsey Campbell, and Harlan Ellison. The interview subject next time is the man himself, Rod Serling. Mike Ashley returns to educate us on another classic horror writer. This time it’s William Hope Hodgson. Ashley includes Hodgson’s classic tale of nautical horror, “The Voice in the Night,” and I’ll share some bonus illustrations of the story. The issue also includes a special section detailing a party celebrating the publication of Marc Scott Zicree’s The Twilight Zone Companion, the guest list of which included many of the writers, actors, and technicians that Zicree interviewed for his book. See you next time when we’ll take a closer look.

-JP

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this great review of this issue! I think you mean "It's a Wonderful Life," not "It's a Good Life," though, in regard to "A Passage for Trumpet," unless Jack Klugman wished somebody into the cornfield! I can't believe that negative review of Cornell Woolrich. I think he was a terrific writer.

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    1. Little Anthony made me do it, Jack! Ha! Thanks for catching that. I corrected it. You know I thought the same thing about that dismissal of Woolrich. I enjoy his work as well. I suppose Sheckley just doesn't like that pulp style, which can be pretty dense due to the payment by word.

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