Monday, December 10, 2018

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 11

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 11 (February, 1982) 

Cover art: John Oberdorf

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 and 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 Manager: Hank Rosen
Western Newsstand Consultant: Harry Sommer
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Adv. Production Manager: Marina Despotakis
Advertising Representatives: Barney O’Hara & Associates, Inc.


--In the Twilight Zone: “A word or two of explanation . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Books by Robert Sheckley
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan
--“Playing the Game” by Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann
--“Essence of Charlotte” by Charles L. Grant
--“Other” by Jor Jennings
--“My Old Man” by George Alec Effinger
--“The Other Train Phenomenon” by Richard Bowker
--TZ Interview: Wes Craven by Tom Seligson
--TZ Screen Preview: Swamp Thing by Jim Verniere
--The Gargoyles of Gotham by Don Hamerman and Stephen DiLauro
--“Holiday” by Richard Christian Matheson
--“Top of the Stairs” by Stephen Schlich
--“The Voices of the Dead” by Leslie Horvitz
--Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Eleven by Marc Scott Zicree
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “A Stop at Willoughby” by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: In the March TZ

--In the Twilight Zone: “A word or two of explanation . . .”

-Along with the usual capsule biographies of the issue’s contributors is a lengthy explanation by editor T.E.D. Klein for the inclusion of George Alec Effinger’s story “My Old Man,” which Klein apparently felt was difficult or unusual enough to warrant an explanation. After reading the story I found such a measure unnecessary but nevertheless if the reader finds the tale confusing he/she can consult this editorial space for enlightenment.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Robert Sheckley

-Robert Sheckley takes over book review duties following the departure of Theodore Sturgeon. Sheckley previously appeared in the magazine with short stories in the April, 1981, October, 1981, and January, 1982 issues. Sheckley’s introduction explaining how difficult a time he had getting the column written gives good indication of his comfort level with the job. Sheckley would appear as the magazine’s book reviewer only two additional times before giving way to Thomas M. Disch. Sheckley prefers to take a deeper look at a smaller number of titles. Here is a small taste of what he had to say about the four books he reviews.

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban:

“It’s a fine book and the best science fiction novel to come along since Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange.”

Program for a Puppet by Roland Perry

“I was two hundred pages into the thing before I decided I didn’t much like it, and by then it was too late, I was hooked, so I finished it.”

Lovers Living, Lovers Dead by Richard Lortz

“Lortz puts his characters through changes increasingly strange, but believable and compelling. The tone of the book is by turns dreamlike and businesslike as you are led into mounting horror, ending at last with the big splatola.”

Bugs by Theodore Roszak

“The novel attempts to marry science fiction and the occult – an important and fruitful union, but not too convincingly handled here.”

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson

-Wilson reviews Polyester (1981) directed by John Waters, and Strange Behavior (1981) directed by Michael Laughlin. Since both films are independent features made on very small budgets, Wilson takes a broader look at some successful independent horror films, examining what works in these films, what hampers these films, and what characteristics are shared by successful examples of the type. Wilson’s reviews of the two films are highly favorable. Typical of Wilson’s column there is a good amount of autobiography weaved into the reviews.

--Other Dimensions: Music by Jack Sullivan

-This new column provides the first part of a comprehensive look at classical music pieces which contains macabre or fantastic elements. The writer is Jack Sullivan, a freelance cultural critic well-known as the author of the 1978 volume Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from LeFanu to Blackwood. Sullivan also edited Lost Souls: A Collection of English Ghost Stories (1983) and The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural (1986). His music column runs through the August, 1982 issue with an additional column in the May/June, 1983 issue. Sullivan also provided the magazine with essays on L.P. Hartley, Shirley Jackson, and H.R. Wakefield as part of “The Essential Writers” series.

-This is simply a fantastic column and something this reader has always been searching for. It provides a detailed history of macabre classical music and then moves into specific selections from an array of composers, uncovering well-known works as well as lesser-known selections. Sullivan also provides a listing of the best recordings of the pieces he discusses. Here are the selections from this first installment:

Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz
“Requiem” by Berlioz
Todtentanz for Piano and Orchestra by Franz Liszt
“Late Piano Music” by Liszt
“Mephisto Waltz” by Liszt
“Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky
Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky
“Songs and Dances of Death” by Mussorgsky
Prometheus: The Poem of Fire by Alexander Scriabin
Piano Sonatas by Scriabin
Le Sacre du Printemps by Igor Stravinsky

--“Playing the Game” by Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann 

Illustrated by E.T. Steadman
“The arena was inside his skull . . . and as wide as the world”

-A young boy sets in motion a series of reality altering events by playing a game of mental concentration. Now he struggles to return his environment back to the way it was before.

-Gardner Dozois (1947-2018) began collaborating with Jack Dann (b. 1945) on dozens of science fiction and fantasy anthologies beginning with Future Power in 1976. They began writing short stories together in 1981 and “Playing the Game” was their third story collaboration. The story is a nifty speculative thriller which leads the reader from ambiguity to shocking clarity in its closing lines. It is an effective work from two legendary figures in the field of SF, both of whom are best known as editors. Dozois edited Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine from 1986-2004, winning a shelfful of awards for his editorship. Beginning in 1984 Dozois began compiling The Year’s Best Science Fiction, a series which saw its thirty-fifth volume published in 2018; sadly, this will be the last such volume with Dozois’s selections. Dozois’s fiction has garnered multiple awards and been collected across half a dozen volumes. Dann’s career has likewise been very fruitful. Along with his work as editor he has published novels, short stories, essays, reviews, and poems. Awards for his work include the Nebula, World Fantasy, Ditmar, and Shirley Jackson Awards.

-“Playing the Game” was included in the only annual volume of the magazine, Great Stories from Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine (1982), as well as in The 1983 Annual World’s Best SF, edited by Donald A. Wollheim and Arthur W. Saha. Both authors included the story in individual collections, Dozois in Slow Dancing Through Time (1990) and Dann in The Fiction Factory (2005). 

--“Essence of Charlotte” by Charles L. Grant 

Illustrated by Gregory Cannone
“One by one the townspeople died, as silently and mysteriously as petals dropping from a rose.”

-A man murders his mean-spirited, elderly aunt. Though he successfully disposes of the body he discovers that Aunt Charlotte has returned from the grave in a unique, and deadly, way.

-“Essence of Charlotte” is an enjoyable tale of revenge from beyond the grave even if it does not fully display the considerable talents of Charles L. Grant (1942-2006). The stereotypical characters and surprising amount of humor in the story give indication of Grant’s seriousness of intent (or lack thereof). Still, for those who enjoy tales of ghostly vengeance it is a breezy and satisfying tale. The story was reprinted in the first issue of Night Cry (with an illustration by D.W. Miller) but has never appeared in one of Grant’s collections. The story plays on the theme of the deadly plant, in this case roses, and would seem a logical choice to include in a thematic anthology. Grant previously appeared in the magazine with an interview of Stephen King for the first issue and a story, “Silver,” which I enjoyed, from the July, 1981 issue. 

--“Other” by Jor Jennings 

Illustrated by Randy Jones
“Return with us now to the great American census of 1980 in a modern-day fairy tale about a literal-minded census taker and a household that’s definitely . . .”

-A harried wife and mother, who works as a census taker, finds herself in the home of fairies who provide her with a different perspective on her life.

-This story falls firmly in line with the sort of urban fantasy first popularized by John W. Campbell’s Unknown magazine, in which an ordinary person accidentally crosses over into Faery (or some equivalence). As such, it may be of interest to fans of this story type but otherwise it largely falls flat. The main character is the sort of hardworking wife/mother whose horrible husband and horrible children have stolen her dreams which feels like too easy of a cliché in modern fiction. The fairies only serve as grotesques with no real differential between characters. The story is ultimately about transition, from who you are to who you wish to be, yet the reader is not shown any of the transitional effects of the main character’s encounter with the fairies. Perhaps it is because Jennings’s own life is described in the issue’s editorial as possessing “an easy-care husband (a lawyer) and a self-sufficient son (a graduate student in physics)” that the fictional opposite presented in “Other” is not successful.

-Arthur W. Saha thought enough of “Other” to include it in The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories: 9 (1983). Jennings published only four SF stories in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the last of which was “Tiger Hunt,” featured in the inaugural volume of L. Ron Hubbard Presents: Writers of the Future (1985). Jennings died in 2015.

--“My Old Man” by George Alec Effinger 

Illustrated by José Reyes
“Seen through the eyes of memory, love and hate have a way of being curiously interchangeable.”

-An electronic game of chess magnifies a trouble man’s unpleasant memories of his late father.

-As stated before, this story apparently struck editor T.E.D. Klein as unusual or difficult enough to warrant a lengthy explanation in the editorial column of the issue. Although the story is heavily cloaked in figurative language, I doubt it will cause any real problems for the mature reader. It is ultimately about memory and childhood trauma centered on an abusive parent. Effinger (1947-2002) uses an electronic game of chess to present a man forced to come to terms with his dead father, terms which include the fact that the man still loves his father despite his father’s abusive nature. It is a well-written and moving piece which will appeal to fans of introspective fiction.

-The story was reprinted in the Winter, 1985 issue of Night Cry with an illustration by J.K. Potter (see end of post). It was collected in Effinger’s George Alan Effinger Live! From Planet Earth (2005). 

--“The Other Train Phenomenon” by Richard Bowker 

Illustrated by Robert Ray
“In which a lone researcher stumbles upon the horrifying truth behind urban America’s version of the jelly-side-down theory”

-A subway rider on a broken-down train gets into a conversation with an eccentric fellow passenger who has formulated a theory about the systematic ruination of some people’s lives.

-“What are the odds?” is the question this story humorously, and darkly, attempts to answer. It seeks to find a solution to the reason why the misfortune heaped upon some people defies the odds of probability. The story ultimately applies a light touch with a humorous final scene in which the Men in Black come to remove the man who knows too much. The story was reprinted in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories (1984), edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Terry Carr, and Isaac Asimov. Richard Bowker (b. 1950) is best-known for his The Last P.I. series of novels, the first of which, Dover Beach (1987), was nominated for the Locus and Philip K. Dick Awards. After a lengthy break from writing SF, Bowker returned in 2012 using e-publishing platforms to create new works.  

--TZ Interview: Wes Craven by Tom Seligson 

“Who’s made nightmares come true.”

-Despite the subtitle of this interview with the well-known horror film director, it was conducted before the film generally regarded as Craven’s masterwork, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Even so, Craven speaks at length on the ways in which dreams and nightmares inform his early films. These early films, The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and Deadly Blessing, are discussed in detail as Craven reveals the genesis, inspiration, and challenges in bringing each work to the screen. Craven gives a detailed account of his improbable rise to the director’s chair in the early portion of the interview. He discusses his repressive upbringing in a staunchly religious household, his years as a teacher, and his slow ascent up the filmmaking ranks performing technical jobs on independent features. The final portion of the interview is dedicated to Craven’s then-current production, Swamp Thing (1982), a feature adaptation of the DC Comics character.

-Craven's direct connection with The Twilight Zone is as a director of some of the best episodes of the Twilight Zone revival television series. Craven directed the premier episode, "Shatterday," based on the story by Harlan Ellison and starring Bruce Willis, as well as such well-regarded segments as Alan Brennert's "Her Pilgrim Soul" and George R.R. Martin's "The Road Less Travelled." Craven also directed the segments "Chameleon," "Word Play," and "Dealer's Choice." 

-I have been very impressed with the quality of the interviews featured in these early issues. They benefit from being conducted by knowledgeable writers and critics who are clearly genre fans. This interview with Craven is no exception. It contains a wealth of information and inspiration for film fans and aspiring filmmakers. Craven went on to direct such horror films as The Serpent and the Rainbow (1988), The People Under the Stairs (1991), and Scream (1996). He died in 2015 at the age of 76. 

--TZ Screen Preview: Swamp Thing by Jim Verniere 

-The magazine’s customary full-color film preview section is dedicated to looking at the 1982 film Swamp Thing, written and directed by Wes Craven and released by Embassy Pictures. It is an adaptation of the DC Comics character created by writer Len Wein and artist Bernie Wrightson which first appeared in the July, 1971 issue of DC’s horror anthology comic, The House of Secrets, before getting its own series for a short run in the early 1970s. Craven’s film adaptation stars Adrienne Barbeau, Louis Jourdan, and Ray Wise. Jim Verniere’s article gives a full account of the making of the film, including perspectives from the director, producers, principal performers, and technicians. The article takes a particular look at the difficulties of filming on location in a South Carolina swamp and the challenges endured by the crew, including special makeup artist Bill Munn, who created the film’s practical effects.

-Although Swamp Thing is not considered among Craven’s finest efforts, it continues to possess the charming feel of a comic book come to life, with campy special effects, extreme lighting, and over-the-top performances. The film was only a moderate financial success but still managed to spawn a sequel, The Return of the Swamp Thing (1989), directed by Jim Wynorski, which eschewed the serious tone of Craven’s film. A more notable byproduct of Craven’s film is The Saga of the Swamp Thing, DC’s second attempt at a Swamp Thing title. This second volume of the story included a celebrated run by British writer Alan Moore and American artists Stephen R. Bissette and John Totleben. This series, edited by Karen Berger, is widely regarded as the beginning of DC’s celebrated Vertigo line of mature comics. 

--The Gargoyles of Gotham by Stephen DiLauro (text) and Don Hamerman (photography) 

“Hidden like endangered species amid the steel-and-glass skyline, a menagerie of grand and grotesque creatures stare inscrutably at modern-day New York”

-This interesting photography feature, the magazine’s first, takes the reader on a tour of New York City from the perspective of the jutting gargoyles which adorn the city’s most renowned buildings. Stephen DiLauro approaches theories of the origin of the gargoyle, their installation in the New World, and their relevance to modern-day culture. The photography is the real draw here, of course, and the grotesque gargoyles are a marvel to behold despite the limitations of a black-and-white magazine. 

--“Holiday” by Richard Christian Matheson
Illustrated by Anna Rich
“One of the nicest things about vacationing alone is that you meet the most unexpected people!”

-A man vacationing alone meets an eccentric older gentlemen who turns out to be Santa Claus.

-This is on the lighter end of Matheson’s (b. 1953) fictional output. The son of Twilight Zone writer Richard Matheson, and a highly successful television writer in his own right, Matheson’s prose fiction tends toward the concision of the short-short: dark, shocking, often experimental, tales written in terse, forceful language. Although “Holiday” was collected in Matheson’s 1987 volume Scars, it differs markedly from the other stories in that collection. It is a rather straight forward, humorous piece about a man who meets Santa Claus on vacation. It has been reprinted in such themed anthologies as The Magic of Christmas (1992) and A Yuletide Universe (2003). 

--“Top of the Stairs” by Stephen Schlich 

Illustrated by Frances Jetter
“It was just an old wooden staircase, twenty-eight steps high – but it led to the upper reaches of Hell.”

-A newly-disabled man is forced to reckon with a crime for which he was never punished, until that punishment comes from beyond the grave.

-This enjoyable horror story is thematically related to such better-known tales of the type as Henry Slesar’s “The Jam” (1958) and William F. Nolan’s “The Party” (1967). These stories center on a character who has hidden some essential knowledge away from themselves only to discover too late the dire straits they find themselves in. The final sequence of the story is effectively unnerving, if a bit predictable. The story has not been reprinted since its appearance in this issue.

-Stephen Schlich published the occasional horror story in the genre magazines and anthologies of the 1980s and 1990s. “Top of the Stairs” was the first of these stories. The most recent, “Inside the Iron Maiden,” appeared in 2006 in editor Christopher Conlon’s Poe’s Lighthouse: New Collaborations with Edgar Allan Poe. The issue’s editorial column indicates that Schlich also published mystery stories and worked for a time as a newspaper journalist.  

--“The Voices of the Dead” by Leslie Horvitz 

Illustrated by Earl Killeen
“How could she have known, on that night in the cemetery, that a message from beyond the grave would bring so strange an answer from the living?”

-A young actress becomes enamored with attempting to record the voices of the dead until she learns the lengths to which the living were willing to go to connect with a dead loved one.

-The longest story in the issue, “The Voices of the Dead” is a character piece, with the supernatural angle of the tale used as a tool to examine the interpersonal relationships between the main character, the aloof and complicated man she loves, and the dead woman who comes between them. It is a well-written story with excellent characterization and a pleasantly creepy ending. Horvitz placed a handful of stories in Charles L. Grant’s horror anthologies of the 1980s, most notably in the Shadows series. He also published two horror novels, The Dying and Blood Moon (both 1987), at the height of the horror boom in paperback publishing.

--Show-by-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Eleven by Marc Scott Zicree

-Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion (now in its 3rd edition), continues his early examination of the series by providing the credits, narrations, and summaries of these third season episodes: “The Little People,” “Four O’Clock,” “The Trade-Ins,” “Hocus-Pocus and Frisby,” “The Dummy,” “The Changing of the Guard,” “Young Man’s Fancy,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” and “Cavender Is Coming.” We have reviewed these episodes as part of our third season coverage and you can find our reviews under the episode titles in the sidebar section titled Directory. 

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “A Stop at Willoughby” by Rod Serling 

-The complete shooting script of this fan-favorite episode is presented here accompanied by production stills. “A Stop at Willoughby” was a first season episode written by Rod Serling and directed by Robert Parrish. It starred James Daly as a stressed-out advertising agent who longs to escape to the idealized town of Willoughby. It originally aired on May 6, 1960. As frequent readers of the blog may already be aware, our opinion of this episode diverges from the prevailing opinion among viewers. Many TZ fans put this one near the top of the series. We put it closer to the middle. If you are interested in our take on the episode, you can find it here.

--Looking Ahead: In March’s TZ

-Next month looks like a great issue. Robert Sheckley reviews books by Peter Straub, Cornell Woolrich, and Gahan Wilson, the latter of whom reviews the movie Time Bandits. Jack Sullivan returns to continue his music column about macabre and fantastic classical music. SF legend Fritz Leiber, one of this writer’s personal favorites, is interviewed and Leiber’s 1947 tale, “The Man Who Never Grew Young,” is reprinted with a new illustration by José Reyes. We have a story by Barbara Owens, “The New Man,” which was later adapted for Tales from the Darkside. We also look at stories by Kevin Cook, Ron Goulart, Elizabeth Morton, Robert E. Vardeman, Larry Tritten, Steve Rasnic Tem, and Richard Stooker. On the film front we have Ed Naha’s set visit to John Carpenter’s The Thing and a full-color preview of a Jack-the-Ripper thriller, Still of the Night. Finally, Marc Scott Zicree jumps into the fourth season of his episode guide and Rod Serling’s teleplay for his moving first season episode, “A Passage for Trumpet,” is presented. We will get to all of that in our next installment. See you then!

J.K. Potter's illustration for George Alec Effinger's "My Old Man"
from Night Cry, Winter, 1985

D.W. Miller's illustration for Charles L. Grant's "Essence of Charlotte"
TZ Magazine Special: Night Cry (1984)


  1. I really enjoy these magazine reviews. Thanks for posting them!

    1. You bet, Jack. I enjoy reading the issues and writing down my thoughts. It was a great time for SF and horror fiction and the magazine was a prime showcase.