Thursday, August 31, 2017

The 20 Greatest Performances from The Twilight Zone, #15-#11

Although The Twilight Zone is celebrated for the talented group of writers who created such memorable stories for the series, the show excelled in every aspect of production, from direction and Emmy Award-winning cinematography, to unforgettable music, set design, and makeup. The series was also a showcase for some of the finest acting presented on television at the time. This list was created to celebrate what we think are the 20 finest performances from the series. Choosing only 20 performances from 156 episodes was extremely difficult. There were many standout performances which missed the list, especially from ensemble casts, such as in “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” “The Shelter,” and “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” as well as excellent turns from child actors in episodes such as “The Big Tall Wish,” “It’s a Good Life,” and “Mute.”  If I’ve missed your favorite performance I apologize. Let me know in the comments which are your favorite performances from the series.

Grateful acknowledgement to The Internet Movie Database ( for the use of images.


Continuing our countdown:

#15 – Joseph Schildkraut, “The Trade-Ins” (Season 3)

Schildkraut was a classically trained actor from a proud acting family who turned in two great performances for the series, first for the third season’s “Deaths-head Revisited” as the ghost of a concentration camp victim, and again later that season for “The Trade-Ins” as a man nearing death who is given the chance to be young again. It is in this second episode that Schildkraut presents his stand-out performance on the series. The empathy his performance elicits is due in part to a real life tragedy the actor was undergoing at the time of filming. His wife died after the first day of filming and Schildkraut proudly kept filming with the pain of the ordeal evident in his performance. It remains a powerful piece of acting captured forever in one of Rod Serling’s most moving scripts. 

#14 – Jack Warden, “The Lonely” (Season 1)

The versatile Warden was one of the bright spots in the otherwise disastrous first season episode, “The Mighty Casey,” but earlier that season presented one of the more moving performances of the series as a prisoner on an isolated planet who becomes emotionally attached to a beautiful female robot. It is a wonderful illustration of the human need for companionship and Warden brings Rod Serling’s story to life wonderfully. Read our full episode review here.

#13 – Earl Holliman, “Where is Everybody?” (Season 1)

Holliman’s performance in the pilot episode of the series set an acting standard for the entire show. It is easy to underestimate the enormous task set for Holliman, not only in terms of his episode-carrying performance as an amnesiac who finds himself alone in the world, but also in terms of selling the series to the network and potential sponsors. It is Holliman’s convincing and sympathetic performance which by-and-large sold the series and established the tone and content which was to follow. Find our episode review here.  

#12 – Inger Stevens, “The Hitch-Hiker” (Season 1)

Like Holliman, Stevens is largely given the task of carrying an entire episode alone, and one which features an adaptation of a famous and beloved radio play at that. Stevens carries it off brilliantly, as a sunny young woman drawn into the darkest depths of despair and realization. The final scene in which Stevens phones home and learns of her fate remains one of the most affecting and melancholy scenes form any episode. Stevens later appeared in the second season episode, “The Lateness of the Hour.” Read our full review of “The Hitch-Hiker” here.

#11 – Rod Taylor, “And When the Sky Was Opened” (Season 1)

The strongest aspect of Taylor’s excellent performance in this episode is his restraint. He could easily have taken the performance over-the-top but instead chose to play it as a man desperately trying to hold onto his sanity against all odds and the performance is all the better for it. Taylor was a criminally underrated actor in general and his sole contribution to the series was a gem. Read our review here.

Check back tomorrow for our picks for #s 10-6. 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The 20 Greatest Performances from The Twilight Zone, #20-#16

Although The Twilight Zone is celebrated for the talented group of writers who created such memorable stories for the series, the show excelled in every aspect of production, from direction and Emmy Award-winning cinematography, to unforgettable music, set design, and makeup. The series was also a showcase for some of the finest acting presented on television at the time. This list was created to celebrate what we think are the 20 finest performances from the series. Choosing only 20 performances from 156 episodes was extremely difficult. There were many standout performances which missed the list, especially from ensemble casts, such as in “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” “The Shelter,” and “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” as well as excellent turns from child actors in episodes such as “The Big Tall Wish,” “It’s a Good Life,” and “Mute.”  If I’ve missed your favorite performance I apologize. Let me know in the comments which are your favorite performances from the series.

Grateful acknowledgement to The Internet Movie Database ( for the use of images.


First, a few Honorable Mentions that just missed the Top 20:

Nehemiah Persoff, “Judgment Night”
Vera Miles, “Mirror Image”
Robert Cummings, “King Nine Will Not Return”
Art Carney, “The Night of the Meek”
Dennis Weaver, “Shadow Play”
Elizabeth Montgomery, “Two”
Jonathan Winters, “A Game of Pool”
Martin Balsam, "The New Exhibit"

Now, on to the countdown:

#20 – George Grizzard, “In His Image” (Season 4)

Grizzard earlier appeared in the entertaining first season episode, “The Chaser,” but here is given room to stretch his acting muscles as he takes on the dual role of an inventor and the automaton he creates in his image. Grizzard largely carries the episode through his emotional performance, bolstered by an excellent Charles Beaumont script. 

#19 – Ross Martin, “Death Ship” (Season 4)

In one of the more emotional, and emotionally affecting, performances from the entire series, Martin portrays an astronaut who is denied an idyllic afterlife with his family due to his Captain’s stubborn refusal to accept their fate. Though it is only a supporting role, Martin walks away with the episode and lends the story its intrinsic tragedy. Martin earlier appeared in the excellent ensemble cast episode from the first season, “The Four of Us Are Dying.” 

#18 – Donald Pleasence, “The Changing of the Guard” (Season 3)

Aged by makeup and affecting a tired, melancholy performance style, Pleasence hits all the right notes in this rather grim tale of an aging teacher who contemplates suicide because he believes he has not made a difference in the lives of his students. It is one of the many episodes which approaches aging and dying from a compassionate and sympathetic angle. 

#17 – Anne Francis, “The After Hours” (Season 1)

In one of the scariest episodes of the series, Francis runs the gamut from angry and confused to terrified and ultimately understanding of her position of existence. Though Francis’s performance is somewhat overshadowed by the more theatrical aspects of the episode, it remains one of the more understated yet complex performances from the series. Francis would later appear in another excellent performance in the fourth season episode, “Jess-Belle.” Read our review of “The After Hours” here.

#16 – Lee Marvin, “Steel” (Season 5)

Marvin excelled at playing tough-guy sorts who are ultimately more than outward appearances indicate. Although he was fine in the spooky third season episode, “The Grave,” for his second appearance on the series Marvin presented a run-down former boxer who remains incredibly proud and defiant in the face of impossible odds. It is a powerful performance that is painful to watch due to the sympathy elicited by the character Marvin creates. Although Marvin had his share of problems off-camera, he was always professional on-screen and here delivers one of his finest performances. 

Check back tomorrow for our picks for #s 15-11. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, part 3

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

Volume 1, Number 3 (June, 1981)

Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Cover Illustration: Darrelyn Wood (for Stephen King's "The Jaunt")

TZ Publications, Inc.
President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice Presidents: Nils A. Shapiro & Eric Protter
Executive Publisher: S. Edward Orenstein
Publisher: Nils A. Shapiro
Associate Publisher/Consulting Editor: Carol Serling
Editorial Director: Eric Protter
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Contributing Editors: Gahan Wilson & Theodore Sturgeon
Design Director: Derek Burton
Art and Studio Production: Georg the Design Group
Production Director: Edward Ernest
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Administrative Assistant: Eve Grammatas
Public Relations Manager: Melissa Blanck-Grammatas
Public Relations Asst: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Manager: Chris Grossman
Circulation Director: Denise Kelly
Circulation Assistant: Karen Wiss
Circulation Marketing: Jerry Alexander
Western Newstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
V.P. Advertising Director: Martin Lassman
N.Y. Advertising Manager: Louis J. Scott
Advertising Production Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Advertising Assistant: Marina Despotakis


--“In the Twilight Zone” (editorial) by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--Interview: Robert Bloch, conducted by Tom Collins
--“The Jaunt” by Stephen King
--Boucher Back-to-Back, “Summer’s Cloud” & “The Way I Heard It” by Anthony Boucher
--100 Years of Fantasy Illustration by Stephen DiLauro
--“The Assignment” by Mitch Potter
--“The Dreamshattering” by Mary Kittredge
--TZ Screen Preview: “Outland” by Robert Martin
--“The Fireman’s Daughter” by Phyllis Eisenstein
--“Waiting for the Papers” by Alan Ryan
--“The Inn of the Dove” by Gordon Linzner
--“Deadline” by Mel Gilden
--“Scenicruiser and the Silver Lady” by Peter S. Alterman
--Show by Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Three by Marc Scott Zicree
--“The After Hours” (teleplay) by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: “In July’s TZ . . .” 

-“In the Twilight Zone” by T.E.D. Klein
Subtitled: “An Exceedingly Wide Range . . .”
-Here Klein gives brief biographical details about the contributors. Some contributors are featured in thumbnail images.

-Other Dimension: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
Sturgeon comments on the following:

-The Trouble With You Earth People by Katherine Maclean
“. . . a brilliant and highly original writer who writes only when she has something important to say. . .”
-Transfigurations by Michael Bishop
“as complex, as carefully thought-out, and as compelling an sf novel as you’ll find anywhere, ever.”
-Songs from the Stars by Norman Spinrad
“. . . marvelous melding of plot and real feeling. . . “
-The Beginning Place by Ursula K. LeGuin
“. . . the kind of fantasy, I’m sure, that lived so urgently in Rod Serling’s heart.”-Fiction of the Absurd: Pratfalls in the Void edited by Dick Penner
“. . . zooms into sardonic and hilarious and provocative fantasies that most pure fantasist wouldn’t – couldn’t – dream of.” -Shallows of Night by Eric van Lustbader
-The Wall of Years by Andrew M. Stephenson
“. . . he’s done a lot of homework.” 
-The Demu Trilogy by F.M. Busby
-Find the Changeling by Gregory Benford and Gordon Eklund
“I found the premise incredible but enjoyed the chase.”
-Birth of Fire by Jerry Pournelle
“. . . complete with insurrection, revolution, social commentary, and battle.”
-Time Out of Mind by Richard Cowper
-Firebird by Charles L. Harness
“. . . to pile wonder upon wonder can cause the collapse of wonder.”
-Re-entry by Paul Preuss
“. . . swift and ingenious.”
-Optiman by Brian Stableford
“I like the scholarly, subtle Stableford rather better than this kind of intellectualized mayhem.”
-The Golden Barge by Michael Moorcock
“I recommend it.”
-Cosmic Crusaders by Pierre Barbet
“. . . wonderful, wild patchworks of sf and historical drama. . .”
-Project Pope by Clifford Simak
“. . . it’s a lovely book.”
-The Devil’s Game by Poul Anderson
“. . . an engaging book; Anderson doesn’t know how to tell a story badly.”
-Wheelworld by Harry Harrison
“. . . a hard-driving adventure tale with some highly inventive and believable off-Earth effects.”
-Came a Spider by Edward Levy
“Don’t bother.”
-Yellow Peril by Richard Jaccoma
“. . . don’t buy it.”
-A Different Light by Elizabeth A. Lynn
“. . . it has the strength and tenderness and yearning that a true love story needs.”
-Chronolysis by Michel Jeury
“The writing is beautiful, with a wondrous sensuality to the images. . .”
-Sturgeon wrote the introduction to this edition of the book
-The Berkeley Showcase, Volume 3 edited by John Silbersack and Victoria Schochet (Contains an interview with Sturgeon)
-The Great SF Stories #4 edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
“The entire set will be a landmark when it’s done.”
-The Best of John Sladek by John Sladek
“. . . outrageous, hilarious sf fantasies . . .”
-Valis by Philip K. Dick
“There is no way to describe or even to review this book with any accuracy; all one can do is to turn you loose on it with the injunction that it will give itself to you to the exact degree that you are able to give to it.”

-Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
Wilson reviews two films: The Formula (1980) and Scanners (1981).

-Wilson generally dismisses both films. The Formula stars Marlon Brando and George C. Scott and concerns the mining of coal to produce oil and its secret formula being kept from the public by an evil corporation. Wilson disparages Brando’s appearance and performance as well as George C. Scott’s uninspired turn as a police investigator. The Formula is now almost totally forgotten expect by those who enjoy poor filmmaking.

-Wilson is even harsher on the now-classic film Scanners from director David Cronenberg. Wilson’s judgment is chiefly founded on his view that Scanners lacks convincing characterizations and is too similar to Brian de Palma’s earlier film, The Fury (1978), based on the 1976 novel by John Farris. Posterity has proven that Wilson is off the mark on this critique as Scanners is now considered a classic of the horror/sf film, remembered chiefly for its impressive special effects from legendary makeup artist Dick Smith and the villainous performance from actor Michael Ironside. Wilson is correct that Scanners is very similar to The Fury and was likely inspired by the earlier film but the film has since surpassed The Fury (a film which I am personally very fond of) in both critical esteem and cultural longevity.

-Interview: Robert Bloch, conducted by Tom Collins

-Robert Bloch, born 1917, was the prolific author of many works of horror, mystery, and science fiction, far too numerous to list here, and should be familiar to most readers of this blog. He was a professionally published author while still in his teens whose career spanned from the late pulp era to the early 1990s, encompassing radio, film, television, short stories, novels, and even stand-up comedy. He was a noted correspondent of H.P. Lovecraft, was a recipient of Grand Master awards from the World Fantasy and World Horror conventions, and was a favorite raconteur on the convention circuit. Bloch is renowned as the author of the novel Psycho, the basis for Alfred Hitchcock’s film. He also wrote many film and television scripts, including several of the great Amicus anthology films (adapted from his short stories) and films for William Castle, as well as teleplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Star Trek, Thriller, and many more. He died in 1994. Bloch never wrote for The Twilight Zone in any of its television incarnations but did write the novelization of the 1983 film, Twilight Zone: The Movie. You can read our history and review of that publication here.

-Tom Collins, interviewer, is described by editor T.E.D. Klein as “a writer and researcher based in Manhattan” who is Klein’s choice to play Mycroft Holmes based on Collins's appearance. Collins is a very occasional short story writer but whose chief contribution to the genre is as an essayist on subjects of fantasy and science fiction.

-The interview with Bloch begins on solid ground but ultimately ends up mired in an examination of Bloch’s pseudo-psychological views on modern society. In the early 1950s, Bloch began to write what is now labeled the psychological thriller and his interest in related subjects endured throughout his life and colored much of his work. At the time of the interview Bloch had recently finished his long-awaited novel Psycho II. It was released in September, 1982. A rather enjoyable film, Psycho II, was released in 1983 but was not connected in any way to Bloch’s novel other than the shared title. Bloch discusses the genesis of his 1959 novel Psycho, his move to Hollywood to work in films, and his brief encounter with Alfred Hitchcock at a preview screening of Psycho (1960). The interview concludes with Bloch addressing his admittedly antiquated views on violence and sociological subjects. Overall, the interview is rather underwhelming, particularly in relation to the two previous interviews in the magazine with Stephen King and Peter Straub. Whereas those interviews focused on creativity and the writing process, interviewer Tom Collins seemed to be primarily interested in challenging the ideas on human psychology found in Bloch’s work. For a much more edifying encounter with Bloch, see the collected edition of Bloch’s interviews, The Robert Bloch Companion: Collected Interviews, 1969-1989, compiled and edited by Randall D. Larson for Starmont House in 1989.

-“The Jaunt” by Stephen King

Illustrations by José Reyes
“It was a journey only sleepers survived.”

-In the far future, a family of four prepares to take a teleportation journey to Mars as the father recounts the invention of teleportation in the 20th century. 

-“The Jaunt” is Stephen King in a relatively rare science fiction mode. Though I am not in a position to critique his use of science I found the story to be engaging despite the unusual narrative structure. King's gift for propulsive narration is evident in nearly everything he writes, particularly from this period. King can’t help turning his subject toward the grisly and horrifying, however, and the ending of “The Jaunt,” though predictable, remains effective. According to T.E.D. Klein’s editorial, King was inspired to write the story after reading William F. Temple’s 1949 novel The Four Sided Triangle, which was expanded from Temple's 1939 novelette for Amazing Stories and filmed in 1953 by Hammer Films and director Terence Fisher. “The Jaunt” was included in King’s 1985 collection Skeleton Crew (in my view, his strongest collection of stories), as well as in the first, and only, annual issue of the magazine, Great Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine (1982). King was a frequent contributor to and supporter of the magazine throughout its run, which roughly corresponded to the most fertile and productive period of his career. He is cover featured on several issues and contributed a handful of stories and interviews.

-King is a stated fan of the original series Twilight Zone (though he all but calls the show overrated in his 1981 survey of horror in the mass media, Danse Macabre) and contributed a story to the first revival Twilight Zone series, “Gramma,” taken from the aforementioned Skeleton Crew after its appearance in 1984 in Weirdbook 19. “Gramma” concerns a young boy who is left alone to care for his bedridden grandmother who happens to practice black magic and needs a fresh young body into which she can project her consciousness. The story contains elements of H.P. Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu Mythos” and was adapted for television by Harlan Ellison.

-For King's constant readers, there is one bit of trivia which may have gone unnoticed. In the story, during the experimental phase of teleportation, the United States government selects a convicted murderer to take the jaunt while awake in order to study the results. The mass murderer they select is named Randall Foggia, who comes through the jaunt horribly aged and muttering, “It’s eternity in there.” Foggia is likely an avatar of King’s the Man in Black, a villainous character who features in many of King’s works, such as The Stand and The Dark Tower series. The character and his many avatars are typically identified by the initials RF.

-King's then-upcoming novel, Cujo, is promoted in T.E.D. Klein's editorial. That novel was released in September, 1981. On a final note, the film rights to “The Jaunt” are currently held by writer/director Andrés Muschietti, the director of the current adaptation of Stephen King’s 1986 novel IT. Time will tell whether we get a film of “The Jaunt” but it would have made an intriguing episode of the Zone revival series.

-Boucher Back-to-Back; “Summer’s Cloud” and “The Way I Heard It” by Anthony Boucher
Illustrations by Thomas Angell

-Two short-shorts. “Summer’s Cloud” concerns a tourist who falls victim to a vampire. “The Way I Heard It” concerns a ghost story and the differing versions of it heard by a group of people. It is revealed that one of the party is the subject of the story. 

-Anthony Boucher, born 1911, was the pen name of polymath William Anthony Parker White, remembered for his fantasy and science fiction stories, his mystery novels, and his reviews of mystery fiction under the name H.H. Holmes (a name taken from an infamous 19th century American serial killer). He was co-founder of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, where he served as editor and published many of the writers who would later write for The Twilight Zone. Boucher provided editorial work for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, in which he provided translations of such writers as Jorge Luis Borges, as well as for Judith Merril's annual The Year's Best SF. Boucher was also a prolific writer for radio, particularly in the mystery genre and such programs as The Adventures of Ellery Queen. An annual mystery convention, Bouchercon, or The Anthony Boucher Memorial World Mystery Convention, is held in his honor. He died in 1968.

-The two short-shorts presented here were originally published in The Acolyte, a semi-professional magazine remembered chiefly for its dedication to the works of the circle of writers who gathered around H.P. Lovecraft. Both stories can be found in The Compleat Boucher from NESFA Press (1999).

-100 Years of Fantasy Illustration by Stephen DiLauro

-DiLauro is described by T.E.D. Klein as “. . . a New York-based writer specializing in art history.” DiLauro would provide two additional essays for the magazine, both written in collaboration with Don Hamerman, “The Gargoyles of Gotham” and “A Glimpse of Ghostly Britain.” Here DiLauro provides images and capsule comments on a wide-array of fantasy artist ranging in time from Gustav Doré to Edward Gorey. The artists include: Gustav Doré, Aubrey Beardsley, Sidney Sime, Arthur Rackham, Heath Robinson, Frank R. Paul, Max Ernst, Stephen Lawrence, Virgil Finlay, Rick Griffin, Lee Brown Coye, and Edward Gorey. Presumably due to space limitations DiLauro leaves out a number of important artists, particularly Maxfield Parrish, Edmund Dulac, J. Allen St. John, and Hannes Bok. It is nevertheless an enjoyable look at this rich field and it is the type of edifying article which would separate the publication from similar magazines in the field.

-“The Assignment” by Mitch Potter

Illustration by Charles Waller
“Why was the old lady so interested in odd ways to die?”

-A junior college student believes his substitute teacher is one of the Fates, women of Greek myth who control the lives and destinies of all humankind through threads which are woven into existence and cut at the time of death. 

-This appears to be Potter’s sole short story contribution to the fields of science fiction and fantasy. Unfortunately, the story does not utilize its unique plot in any original or innovative way and is further hampered by an entirely predictable ending.

-“The Dreamshattering” by Mary Kittredge
Illustration by Frances Jetter
“How do you cure an epidemic of nightmares?”

-A woman discovers that her husband is working on a classified project at a nearby military installation that is adversely affecting the lives of the residents in  a nearby town.

-Mary Kittredge published a single fantasy novel, The Shelter, in 1987, written in collaboration with Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. She has also produced a handful of short stories and an essay of interest, “The Other Side of Magic: A Few Remarks About Shirley Jackson” for Discovering Modern Horror Fiction, edited by Darrell Schweitzer (Starmont House, 1985). “The Dreamshattering” was her first professionally published work of fiction. It possesses a very interesting premise in which the government is developing “bombs” which can cause nightmares and insanity in its victims. However, the idea struggles to the find the depth of exploration it deserves in the short story form.

-TZ Screen Preview: “Outland” by Robert Martin

-The color portion of the issue takes a look at the 1981 science fiction thriller film Outland starring Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, and Frances Sternhagen. The bulk of the article is an interview with director Peter Hyams. The article is accompanied by several color stills from the film. Robert Martin, author of the film profile, was the editor of Fangoria magazine at the time. 

-“The Fireman’s Daughter” by Phyllis Eisenstein

Illustration by Arthur Somefield

“The power was there for the asking. You just had to want it enough.”

-A young woman discovers that her best friend possesses the ability to put out fires using only her mind. This girl uses her ability to assist her firefighter father. 

-I enjoyed this story from Eisenstein, who has been nominated for nearly every award the field of professional science fiction has to offer, including multiple Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award nominations. She won the now-defunct Balrog Award for her 1979 short story collection, Born to Exile. Eisenstein is also a prolific novelist and a frequent essayist. She uses the very clever concept of reverse Pyrokinesis, which is the ability to mentally create fire, made very popular by Stephen King in his 1980 novel Firestarter, itself inspired by the writings of Charles Fort, to craft a tale of friendship, trust, and, ultimately, tragedy. There is also a satisfying, if easily foreseen, twist ending. It is one of the stronger stories in the issue.

-Eisenstein's 1978 short story, "Lost and Found," was adapted by George R.R. Martin for the second season of the Twilight Zone revival series.  

-“Waiting for the Papers” by Alan Ryan

Illustrated by Bon Neubecker
“Some men face the end with a struggle, some with a cry . . .”

-A young man faces the end of the world with a group of old men in an old fashioned candy store. 

-This tale about a young man relating his experiences with a group of old men in a candy store while the fallout from a nuclear attack moves toward them is little more than a mood and character piece, largely draped in ambiguity. As such, it feels like a scene out of a longer work instead of a self-contained piece of short fiction. Ryan is a highly accomplished writer of horror and this story does not display his considerable talents. “Waiting for the Papers” is included in Ryan’s 1988 collection, The Bones Wizard. The phrase, “waiting for the papers,” refers to the way in which the old men at the candy store wait for the early edition of the next day’s paper to be delivered. When the delivery truck does not arrive it is a symbol that the end is truly near.

-Alan Ryan was a horror and dark fantasy writer who came to prominence during the horror boom in publishing in the late 1970s. During the 1980s he produced a substantial body of work including novels, short stories, poems, essays, and editorial work. His novels include Dead White (1983) and the highly regarded Cast a Cold Eye (1984). His short fiction has been featured in all the major magazines and anthologies of the period and he won the World Fantasy Award for his 1984 short story “The Bones Wizard.” It is perhaps by his editorial work that Ryan has left the most lasting mark upon the field. He compiled the first volume of the Night Visions anthology series (1984) along with the anthologies Halloween Horrors (1986), The Penguin Book of Vampire Stories (1988), and Haunting Women (1988), all of uniformly excellent quality. Ryan died in 2011. In 2016, Cemetery Dance published his final novel The Slave Tree. 

-“The Inn of the Dove” by Gordon Lizner
Illustrated by José Reyes
“The Innkeeper’s story had no ending – until two strangers entered.”

-In feudal Japan, an innkeeper who has suffered a personal tragedy is given an opportunity for revenge by a fortuitous course of circumstanc

-This story, though obviously an attempt to write in the style of a Japanese fable, comes off as flat and uninvolving. It features only the barest glimpse of a speculative element (concerning the dove of the title) and presents a rather predictable tale of revenge with a ponderous and unconvincing climactic fight scene. Only the interest of period detail saves the story from total disappointment.

-Gordon Lizner is best known as the longtime editor of Space and Time magazine, an American speculative fiction magazine. Lizner edited the magazine from its inception in 1966 until the end of 2005. The magazine resumed publication in 2007 under new editorship and continues to be published biannually today. Lizner’s editorship of Space and Time culled two Balrog Award nominations in the early 1980s.

-“Deadline” by Mel Gilden

Illustrated by Randy Jones
“Any old writer has a muse. John Blakesly Hardin had a demon!”

-A dying novelist attempts to ward off a troublesome demon so that he can complete his final novel. 

-This was a slight yet amusing short-short featuring a different spin on the deal-with-the-Devil story, a story type which The Twilight Zone traded in repeatedly to differing levels of success. “Deadline” was reprinted a few years later in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories, edited by Isaac Asimov, Terry Carr, and Martin H. Greenberg (Doubleday, 1984). A native of Chicago, Gilden applied his talent in combining humor and horror on the children’s book market in the late 1980s and early 1990s, most notably on the Fifth Grade Monsters series. He has continued to write books for younger readers into the new century with his most recent book, The Coincidence Couch, appearing in 2017 from Wildside Press.

-“Scenicruiser and the Silver Lady” by Peter S. Alterman
Illustrated by Bob Gale
“A fatally erotic encounter just off the highway to eternity”

-A washed-up former baseball player takes to cruising the New York highways at night to ease the pain of his crumbling life when he encounters an avatar of Death who travels the same roads and possesses an insatiable appetite for destruction. 

-Despite the terrible title, this long story by Peter S. Alterman is a bleak little gem written in an engaging hard-boiled style. It was my favorite story in the issue and moved twice as fast as the shorter stories in the issue. It is the type of story which would come to symbolize the “dark suspense” movement which saw its greatest flourishing in the pages of Cemetery Dance magazine later in the decade. The story was reprinted only once, again by T.E.D. Klein, in the Summer, 1985 issue of Night Cry, with artwork by Frances Jetter. Alterman appears to have been active in the science fiction and fantasy community in the late 1970s and early 1980s, writing several essays, introductions, and reviews for books and magazines. He published only one other speculative story and seems to have left the field behind entirely. It’s a pity this story isn’t better known as I think it has strong appeal to fans of William F. Nolan, Joe R. Lansdale, and Norman Partridge.

-Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s The Twilight Zone, Part Three by Marc Scott Zicree
-Zicree closes out the first season of the series with this third part of his ongoing guide to the series. The episodes he covers are: “Execution,” “The Big Tall Wish,” “A Nice Place to Visit,” “Nightmare as a Child,” “A Stop at Willoughby,” “The Chaser,” “A Passage for Trumpet,” “Mr. Bevis,” “The After Hours,” “The Mighty Casey,” and “A World of His Own,” all of which we have covered here on the blog. You can find links to those episodes by finding the title in the Directory section on the sidebar.  

-TZ Classic Teleplay: “The After Hours” by Rod Serling
-Includes the shooting script for Serling’s masterful first season episode, including an unusual variant of Serling’s opening narration. “The After Hours” was directed by Douglas Heyes and starred Anne Francis as a young woman who experiences a unique kind of haunting at a New York department store. It contains what I feel is the single scariest sequence of the entire series when Marsha White (Anne Francis) awakens after a fainting spell to find herself alone after closing hours in the darkened department store. We rated the episode an “A,” very near our highest rating. You can read my review of the episode here.

-This was a very up-and-down issue in terms of fiction. The stories by Phyllis Eisenstein and Peter Salterman were the strongest, despite appearances by such notable writers of the period as Stephen King and Alan Ryan. Though I enjoyed the King story it is not generally considered among his stronger efforts, even by his most ardent admirers, and it has rarely been reprinted. The article on fantasy illustration was nice and having one of Rod Serling’s finest teleplays is always a pleasure. Marc Scott Zicree is cruising through his coverage of the series, needing only three issues to get through the first season. As the magazine continued its run it would look to retain the “Show by Show” guides by covering other series such as Night Gallery, The Outer Limits, and ‘Way Out. Keep an eye out for our coverage of the July, 1981 ssue in a few weeks.