Friday, January 27, 2012

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine

Premier issue (April, 1981)
Cover art by Jim Warren
             Though Rod Serling sold syndication rights for The Twilight Zone to CBS for a lump sum at the end of the show's original run, the Serling estate retained a share of marketing and merchandising rights to the show's namesake. In early 1980 Carol Serling was approached with an offer to begin a magazine bearing the name of her late husband's most famous creation. At the editorial helm would be T.E.D. Klein, an authority on science fiction and horror as well as a noted writer of weird fiction. Impressed by Klein's vision for the publication, Carol Serling agreed to allow The Twilight Zone to appear on the magazine's cover with the stipulation that her husband's name precede the title. Thus, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine was created. Carol Serling remained Associate Publisher and Consulting Editor for the remainder of the magazine's run, providing an essay, "A Personal Message: An Invitation to Re-enter The Twilight Zone," for the premier issue and "A Note from the Publisher" (or "Publisher's Note") in occasional subsequent issues. Carol Serling also spearheaded the magazine's annual short story contest, which paid cash prizes for the best work of unpublished writers.

            The magazine was the brainchild of editor and literary agent Kirby McCauley (1941-2014), remembered today for editing award-winning horror anthologies such as Frights (1976) and Dark Forces (1980) as well as representing some of the biggest names in horror publishing, including Stephen King and Ramsey Campbell. McCauley envisioned a fantasy/horror magazine with the branding of a well-known figure in the field, much like Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine or Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. McCauley and T.E.D. Klein developed a proposal for the potential magazine and shopped it around while Rod Serling was still alive (Serling died in 1975). This ultimately proved unsuccessful and the venture was temporarily shelved. They tried again a few years later and secured financial backing from Montcalm Publishing, the publisher of the men's magazine Gallery. Published under the Montcalm Publishing banner and retaining copyright as TZ Publications, the first issue arrived mid-spring, cover dated April, 1981.

           The magazine lasted an additional sixty issues (59 regular plus 1 annual) over eight years, spawned a digest-sized sister publication (Night Cry), went through multiple schedule changes and three additional editors, and quietly closed out with the June 1989 issue. In the years between, Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine set a new standard for genre magazine publishing and offered the most dependable market 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 writers, many of whom went on to highly successful careers. The magazine also published classics of the genre by writers in danger of falling into obscurity, and featured editorials on virtually every subject encompassed by the classic and contemporary fields of horror and fantasy.

                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, David Morrell, Joe R. Lansdale, Roald Dahl, Joyce Carol Oates, Dan Simmons, Spider Robinson, Robert Sheckley, Charles L. Grant, Richard Christian Matheson, 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, Lewis Shiner, and Melissa Mia Hall. The fiction was illustrated by a talented array of artists. 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, and William Hope Hodgson.

The editorial work for the magazine was superb. Contributions included essays on literary history by Mike Ashley and T.E.D. Klein, film reviews and artwork by Gahan Wilson, film history by Bill Warren, book reviews by Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Silverberg, Thomas M. Disch, Ed Bryant, and E.F. Bleiler, interviews with genre writers conducted by Douglas Winter and Stanley Wiater, 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 success of the magazine was a strong factor when CBS decided to revive the show for television in 1985. The magazine offered the perfect platform for promoting the new incarnation of The Twilight Zone and inspired much of the feel of the revival series with its melding of eighties modernism with classic tastes. Each issue typically featured one or more interviews with leading writers and filmmakers including Richard Matheson, Peter Straub, Robert Bloch, Stephen King, John Saul, Oliver Stone, Dean Koontz, and Harlan Ellison, among many others. 
June, 1982 issue with Richard Matheson's "The Doll"
Cover art by Malcolm McNeill
A significant aspect of the magazine was the publication of lost or forgotten material from the original Twilight Zone series. Nearly every issue printed a complete teleplay from an original series episode (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 initially rejected or left unused. Among the most interesting items to first see print in the pages of the magazine is George Clayton Johnson's short story "Sea Change," 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 treatment to The Twilight Zone but the treatment was subsequently shelved on the grounds that its subject matter, especially the cutting off of the hand, was beyond acceptable for the show (the series sponsor, a food vendor, did not want its potential audience to be put off eating its products). Another interesting item was Richard Matheson's teleplay "The Doll." Initially rejected for production by William Froug (under the pretense that it made 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 which led to it later being dramatized on Steven Spielberg's anthology series Amazing Stories for May 4, 1986. Actor John Lithgow (who turned in a memorable performance in 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie) won an Emmy Award for his performance in the episode.

T.E.D. Klein relinquished editorial duties of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Magazine with the July/August, 1985 issue, leaving to pursue a career as a full-time fiction writer (and subsequently producing the highly regarded works The Ceremonies and Dark Gods). Michael Blaine stepped in as editor, concluding his run on the magazine with the August, 1986 issue. Robin Bromley edited a single issue, October, 1986, before Tappan King assumed the editorship for the remainder of the magazine's run. Alan Rodgers was associate editor of the magazine as well as editor of its sister publication Night Cry after the departure of Klein.

Each editor favored a slightly different style for the magazine. T.E.D. Klein tailored much of the magazine to feature coverage of the titan horror novelists of the era (King, Straub, Bloch, Saul, etc.) as well as explore the classic period of the genre (roughly the 1890's through the pulps) by including some fine essays on weird fiction authors as diverse as Arthur Machen and L.P. Hartley. 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), including teleplays from the series (a feature which would appear and disappear with irregularity under the other editors), and including essays such as George Clayton Johnson's "Writing for the Twilight Zone."

            Micheal Blaine maintained the show-by-show guides (Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, The Outer Limits, 'Way Out) which became a useful regular feature and continued to focus attention on editorial features such as original essays, reviews, etc., with added attention on current film and television programs. Blaine eschewed the painted covers which characterized Klein's editorship in exchange for images from films and television shows.

            Tappan King brought back painted covers but the space allotted to long-running feature articles and essays began to shrink, with focus sharpening upon original fiction (King's editorship saw perhaps the finest flowering of fiction in the magazine) and film coverage. King re-focused much of the magazine's content on the original series of The Twilight Zone, including the excellent final issue, which was a moving tribute to series writer Charles Beaumont.

             Original fiction and book and film reviews were the constant throughout the magazine's run.  
Cover art by Rosie Mackiewicz
In 1984, a new digest-sized magazine appeared on newsstands. 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 out an all-fiction special issue. Klein compiled Great Stories from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, a projected annual volume which only ran a single year (it was released in December, 1982 as a 1983 annual), although it did assume numbering with the magazine (volume 2, number 9) despite not being sent to subscribers. Klein's new fiction digest magazine shortened its title to simply Night Cry and continue as a quarterly periodical that published reprints from TZ 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 fiction. 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. Artist J.K. Potter provided memorable cover and interior art for several issues.

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine: 60 issues

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: 11 issues

1984- TZ Special #1: Night Cry

1985- Summer, Fall, Winter

1986- Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

1987- Spring, Summer, Fall

-We've begun a detailed read-through of the entire run of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, complete with story reviews, artwork, publication information, and trivia. Go here to follow along.

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. I used to subscribe to the magazine, and while it varied in quality, I often looked forward to the episode guides and original scripts. Later issues focused more on horror as opposed to dark fantasy & science fiction.

    Note: Full PDFs of every issue can be found here:

    1. 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.

  3. I have the Planet of the Apes magazines--even one that was published in Spanish in 1974, but I don't know HOW I missed the TZ magazines back then!!! Shame on me!!!