Friday, January 27, 2012

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine

The first issue (April, 1981)
Cover art by Jim Warren
            Although Rod Serling sold his share of television syndication rights for The Twilight Zone to CBS at the end of the show's original run (a decision instantly regretted, as the series experienced a remarkably successful afterlife in syndication), Serling retained an equal share of marketing and merchandizing rights to the series, rights which passed on to Serling's widow upon his death in 1975. Early in 1980, Carol Serling was approached with an offer to participate in a publishing venture, a fiction and media magazine bearing her late husband's name as well as that of his most famous creation. At the editorial helm would be T.E.D. Klein, a native New Yorker and former high school English teacher and story editor for Paramount Pictures who was an authority on, as well as a noted writer of, horror and supernatural fiction. Klein completed his undergraduate work at Brown University in Lovecraft's Providence and wrote, as a graduate student at Columbia, the career-setting novella, "The Events at Poroth Farm." The story was published in a fanzine in 1972, reprinted a year later in Richard Davis's The Year's Best Horror Stories, and nearly nabbed Klein a World Fantasy Award at the first World Fantasy Convention held in Providence in 1975. Later, Klein expanded the tale for his only published novel-length work to date, The Ceremonies (1984). Impressed with the concept for the magazine, as well as the list of potential contributors, and eager to keep the flame of her late husband's creative legacy burning, Carol Serling agreed to terms allowing Rod Serling's name and The Twilight Zone to appear on the magazine, with the stipulation that Serling's name appear before The Twilight Zone on each issue. This was agreed to and, with The Twilight Zone licensed as necessary from Viacom, the parent company of CBS, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine was created. Carol Serling took an active role in the magazine, serving as Associate Publisher and Consulting Editor while also providing an essay, "A Personal Message: An Invitation to Re-enter The Twilight Zone," for the first issue, and an occasional essay, "A Note from the Publisher" (or "Publisher's Note"), for subsequent issues. Serling was also actively involved in the magazine's content, offering rare and unseen works from Rod Serling's files and guiding the magazine's annual short story contest, which paid cash prizes and published the winning stories of previously unpublished writers. 

            With Carol Serling's active involvement, and the accompanying use of Rod Serling's name and likeness, the publication arrived full circle from that which was originally envisioned during the initial stages of the magazine's conception. Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine was conceived by editor, anthologist, and literary agent Kirby McCauley (1941-2014), best-known for compiling quality horror fiction anthologies during a lean time for the field, as well as representing some of the most notable names in fantasy, science fiction, and horror, including Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, George R.R. Martin, and Karl Edward Wagner. McCauley envisioned a fantasy/horror magazine with the branding of a well-known figure in the field, in the manner that Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine served the fields of mystery and science fiction, respectively. McCauley shared the idea with his friend and client, T.E.D. Klein, who was immediately receptive to the notion of a quality, professional horror and fantasy magazine, something that had largely been absent from the field since the demise of Weird Tales in 1954. They developed a proposal for the potential magazine, without a notable figure yet attached, and shopped it around to gauge interest. This first stage in the magazine's development occurred while Rod Serling was still alive, although Serling was not directly approached. The effort ultimately proved fruitless and the venture was temporarily shelved. In the meantime, McCauley and Klein settled for collaborating on a paperback anthology of horror stories for Berkley Medallion, Beyond Midnight (pictured; cover art by Vincent Di Fate), released in November of 1976. McCauley selected the stories and Klein wrote the accompanying notes on the authors. McCauley was a busy anthologist in the finals years of the 1970s while also steadily building up an impressive roster of clients during the calm preceding an oncoming tidal wave of horror in publishing. McCauley compiled Night Chills in 1975 for Avon, the World Fantasy Award-winning Frights for St. Martin's Press in 1976, and the decade-defining Dark Forces for Viking in 1980, another World Fantasy Award winner. 

            Three things subsequently occurred that ultimately pushed the magazine to fruition. First, the initial rumblings of the oncoming boom in horror publishing arrived in the forms of Stephen King, Peter Straub, John Saul, Anne Rice, and V.C. Andrews in America, and James Herbert, Graham Masterton, and Ramsey Campbell in the UK, widening the market for publications specializing in dark fiction. Each of these authors, among dozens more, later appeared in the pages of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine. The second thing that occurred was the recognition of Rod Serling as a figure around which the magazine could be marketed. Unfortunately, Serling passed away in June of 1975, which meant that the venture would now require the cooperation of Serling's widow, Carol Serling, to form the partnership necessary to structure the magazine around Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone. Both McCauley and Klein were fans of The Twilight Zone, particularly its talented stable of writers, and understood the viability of Serling's name and image when considering the vast amount of material, ranging from books to comics to commercials to documentaries, that made Serling, even after his death, a figure whom many Americans readily associated with the strange and the supernatural. An immediate example arrived in the form of a paperback anthology from Bantam Books, Rod Serling's Other Worlds, published in March of 1978, three years after Serling's death, and containing an impressive list of contributors representing the cream of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror fields. As T.E.D. Klein later wrote in his introduction to a 1986 omnibus edition of Rod Serling's Stories from The Twilight Zone: "Rod Serling-who died, age fifty, in 1975-is surely one of the most familiar figures in the annals of broadcasting, and was the possessor of one of the screen's most distinctive voices: a sometimes wry, sometimes somber voice that, even today, is instantly recognizable." 

           The final occurrence was that a receptive publisher to approach with the idea for the magazine was recognized in Montcalm Publishing, the company that issued, among other publications, the men's magazine Gallery, which, beginning around 1975, became a fertile market for horror and fantasy fiction, featuring stories by George R.R. Martin, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, and Orson Scott Card. Kirby McCauley was able to place several stories in the pages of Gallery for his most notable client, Stephen King, with "The Man Who Loved Flowers" (1977), "The Crate" (1979), adapted by King for Creepshow (1982), and "The Monkey," which received the deluxe treatment as a bound, removable insert for the November, 1980 issue (pictured; artist unknown). With the promise of McCauley's impressive roster of clients and T.E.D. Klein's knowledge and confidence in the concept, the magazine secured the financial backing from Montcalm Publishing necessary to begin the path to publication. Retaining copyright under TZ Publications, Inc., the first issue arrived mid-spring, cover dated April, 1981 and boasted an incredible list of contributors along with a talented staff who ensured that the magazine was among the most attractively designed, inside and out, on the newsstand. The first issue, which featured a cover by Jim Warren, a profile of Rod Serling, an interview with Stephen King by Charles L. Grant, the first installment in Marc Scott Zicree's guide to the original series, and fiction from Harlan Ellison, Joyce Carol Oates, George R.R. Martin, Ramsey Campbell, and Robert Sheckley, set a remarkably high standard for the magazine. The duties of a fulltime literary agent did not allow for Kirby McCauley to take a position on the magazine's staff, but his influence was felt nonetheless, as the magazine consistently featured contributions from McCauley's clients. McCauley's influence and Klein's editorship resulted in the magazine's ascendant position on the rising tide of the largest horror boom ever experienced in American publishing. Although the magazine, like its television inspiration, was most often considered in terms of science fiction, which it occasionally featured, it dabbled primarily in fantasy, ranging from light and humorous to darkest dread. 

                The magazine continued for an additional sixty issues across eight years, spawned a digest-sized companion publication (Night Cry), went through multiple schedule changes and three additional editors, and quietly closed out with a June, 1989 issue that displayed the same high standards as that established during the magazine's earliest issues. In the years between, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine set a new standard for genre magazine publishing and offered one of the most dependable markets for established and aspiring writers of horror and dark fantasy fiction, publishing new work by the giants of the field as well as work by up-and-coming and unknown writers, many of whom went on to highly successful careers. The magazine also published stories by classic writers in danger of falling into obscurity, and featured editorials on virtually every subject encompassed by the classic and contemporary fields of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. 

                Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine published virtually every important speculative fiction writer of its era. Some (but not nearly all) of the writers to see their fiction published in the magazine include: Stephen King, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, David Morrell, Joe R. Lansdale, Roald Dahl, Joyce Carol Oates, Dan Simmons, Graham Masterton, Spider Robinson, Robert Sheckley, Charles L. Grant, Richard Christian Matheson, Anne Rice, Fritz Leiber, Peter Straub, Steve Rasnic Tem, Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, Joe Haldeman, Tanith Lee, George R.R. Martin, David J. Schow, Dean Koontz, Lisa Tuttle, John Skipp, Lewis Shiner, and Melissa Mia Hall. The fiction and articles were illustrated by a talented array of artists, making the publication as visually appealing as it was imaginatively engaging. The magazine also published several teleplays, treatments, and short stories by Rod Serling, as well as the work of past masters such as M.R. James, J. Sheridan LeFanu, Arthur Machen, L.P. Hartley, William Hope Hodgson, and Shirley Jackson. Each issue also typically featured one or more interviews with leading writers and filmmakers. 

The editorial work for the magazine was superb, as well. Contributions included essays on literary history by Mike Ashley, Jack Sullivan, and T.E.D. Klein, film reviews by Gahan Wilson, Robert Martin, and James Verniere, film and cultural history by Bill Warren and Ron Goulart, book reviews by Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg, Thomas M. Disch, Ed Bryant, and E.F. Bleiler, interviews conducted by Charles L. Grant, Douglas Winter, Stanley Wiater, and Lisa Tuttle, and television episode guides written by Marc Scott Zicree (The Twilight Zone), David J. Schow (The Outer Limits), and J. Michael Straczynski (Rod Serling's Night Gallery). The magazine was an excellent showcase for documenting the production of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), and the success of the magazine was a strong factor when CBS decided to revive The Twilight Zone for television in 1985. The magazine offered an ideal platform for promoting the new incarnation of The Twilight Zone, shared the work of many of the show's writers in its pages, and inspired much of the feel of the revival series with its melding of the boundary pushing excesses of the eighties and the existential nightmares of the original series. Stories published in the magazine served as source material for other anthology television series, as well, such as Tales from the Darkside and Amazing Stories.
June, 1982 issue with Richard Matheson's "The Doll"
Cover art by Malcolm McNeill
A significant aspect of the magazine was the publication of little-seen, forgotten, or lost material related to the original Twilight Zone series. Nearly every issue printed a complete teleplay for an original series episode, with the first two years being devoted almost exclusively to the teleplays of Rod Serling. In later issues, the magazine printed story treatments and teleplays that were rejected or unproduced. This included George Clayton Johnson's short story "Sea Change," published in the October, 1981 issue, about a sailor whose hand is cut off in an accident and from whose disembodied hand grows a malevolent doppelganger intent on destroying its counterpart. Johnson originally sold the story to The Twilight Zone but was subsequently asked to buy the story back on the grounds that its subject matter, especially the cutting off of the hand, was beyond the acceptable limits of the show (the series sponsor, a food manufacturer, did not want the audience to be put off from consuming its products). Another interesting item was Richard Matheson's teleplay, "The Doll." Shelved by the show's final producer, due to a perception that it made one too many "doll" episodes between Charles Beaumont's fourth season episode "Miniature" and Jerry Sohl's fifth season episode "Living Doll," Matheson's teleplay was published in the June, 1982 issue of the magazine, directly leading to its appearance on Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories for May 4, 1986. John Lithgow (who turned in a memorable performance in Twilight Zone: The Movie) won an Emmy Award for his performance in the episode.

T.E.D. Klein relinquished editorial duties on Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine with the July/August, 1985 issue, in order to pursue the life of a full-time fiction writer. Michael Blaine stepped in as editor, concluding his run with the August, 1986 issue. Managing editor and frequent contributor Robin Bromley edited a transitional issue, October, 1986, before Tappan King assumed the editorship for the remainder of the magazine's run. Alan Rodgers was an associate editor on the magazine who later assumed the editorship of the magazine's sister publication Night Cry after T.E.D. Klein departed the position in 1985.

Each editor, and their accompanying staffs, favored a slightly different style for the magazine, though, in truth, the magazine noticeably varied little from the structure established in the earliest issues. T.E.D. Klein tailored much of the contents to feature the titan horror novelists of the era (King, Straub, Koontz, Saul, etc.) as well as to explore the classic period of supernatural fiction (roughly the 1890s through the pulps) by featuring authors such as Arthur Machen, L.P. Hartley, H.P. Lovecraft, and Shirley Jackson. Klein also kept an eye firmly on the magazine's namesake, giving author Marc Scott Zicree space to compile his episode guide (later expanded into The Twilight Zone Companion (1982), featuring teleplays from the series, and including retrospective essays from original series writers, such as George Clayton Johnson's "Writing for the Twilight Zone."

            Micheal Blaine maintained and expanded the show-by-show guides (Night Gallery, The Outer Limits, 'Way Out), spearheaded coverage of the revival Twilight Zone series, maintained an active letter column, and continued to focus attention on essays, commentaries, and reviews. Added attention was placed on current film and television programs, resulting in a move away from painted covers in favor of photographic images, a less-than-pleasing characteristic that first cropped up under Klein's watch, largely stemming from the magazine's coverage of Twilight Zone: The Movie. The photographic covers were wisely never extended beyond a few consecutive issues. 
The final issue (June, 1989);
cover art by Gottfried Helnwein

            Tappan King's editorship saw the return of painted covers (the magazine never looked better than it did in its final three years) and offered a pleasingly off-beat style characterized by pithy yet fascinating communications on an array of outré topics. Focus sharpened on original fiction (King's editorship saw perhaps the finest flowering of fiction in the magazine) and community, with more space allotted to the letter column and frequent communications from an active and chatty editor. King re-focused much of the magazine's content on the original series of The Twilight Zone, as well, including the excellent final issue, which was a moving tribute to series writer Charles Beaumont, the group of writers that coalesced around him, and to the lost and nostalgic era in which the original series was created. 
Cover art by Rosie Mackiewicz
In 1984, a new digest-sized magazine appeared on newsstands, announcing itself with a startling image of a screaming face breaking free from a doll's head. TZ Special #1 appeared as a heading, below that: Night Cry: 20 Tales of Heartstopping Terror from Rod Serling's the Twilight Zone Magazine. This special publication consisted of editor T.E.D. Klein's selection of the best short stories to appear in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine over the previous three years. It wasn't the first time Klein put together an all-fiction special issue. Klein compiled Great Stories from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, a projected annual volume which ran only a single year (it was released in December, 1982 as a 1983 annual). Klein's new fiction digest magazine soon shortened its title to simply Night Cry and continued as a quarterly periodical that published reprints from Twilight Zone Magazine as well as new fiction from some of the brightest talents in dark fantasy. Whereas the fiction in Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine encompassed a broad spectrum of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, Night Cry devoted itself exclusively to horror and dark fantasy. Beginning with the Summer, 1985 issue, Night Cry saw an additional ten issues published, concluding with the Fall, 1987 issue. The magazine was edited by T.E.D. Klein until the Winter, 1985 issue when Alan Rodgers took over editorial duties until the magazine's end. "From the editors of Rod Serling's the Twilight Zone Magazine" appeared as a heading on every issue of Night Cry. Artists J.K. Potter and Harry O. Morris, along with a handful of others, provided memorable covers and interior art for the magazine.

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine: 

1981- April, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec

1982- Jan, Feb, March, Apr, May, June, July, Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, Dec

1983- Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec (+ Annual)

1984- Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec

1985- Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun, July/Aug, Sept/Oct, Nov/Dec

1986- Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Oct, Dec

1987- Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Oct, Dec

1988- Feb, Apr, June, Aug, Oct, Dec

1989- Feb, Apr, Jun

Night Cry: 

1984- TZ Special #1: Night Cry

1985- Summer, Fall, Winter

1986- Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

1987- Spring, Summer, Fall

-We've begun an annotated guide to Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, complete with story reviews, artwork, publication information, and trivia. Go here to follow along.

-Also visit our post detailing the history and displaying a cover gallery of Night Cry.

Grateful acknowledgement to:

-The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (

-Eating the Fantastic podcast episode 65 by Scott Edelman (an interview with T.E.D. Klein)



  1. Anyone have any idea of the current value of the premier issue of Night Cry might be worth?

  2. Thanks for stopping by and linking to the issues of the mag. I agree that the early days were more devoted to SF and the later days to horror. I think in the early issues they were just trying to figure out what works and as the 80s drew on and became the decade of horror they adjusted accordingly. I think the quality remained pretty high compared to some the magazine's competitors.