Monday, August 26, 2019

"I Dream of Genie"

Howard Morris as George P. Hanley, with magic lamp

“I Dream of Genie”
Season Four, Episode 114
Original Air Date: March 21, 1963

George P. Hanley: Howard Morris
Ann: Patricia Barry
Watson: Loring Smith
Roger: Mark Miller
Starlet: Joyce Jameson
Masters: James Millhollin
Sam: Bob Hastings
Clerk: Robert Ball
The Genie: Jack Albertson

Writer: John Furia, Jr.
Director: Robert Gist
Producer: Herbert Hirschman
Director of Photography: George T. Clemens
Production Manager: Ralph W. Nelson
Associate Producer: Murray Golden
Assistant to Producer: John Conwell
Art Direction: George W. Davis & John J. Thompson
Film Editor: Eda Warren
Set Decoration: Henry Grace & Don Greenwood, Jr.
Assistant Director: John Bloss
Sound: Franklin Milton & Joe Edmondson
Music: Fred Steiner
Mr. Serling’s Wardrobe: Eagle Clothes
Filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

And Now, Mr. Serling:
“A new author joins the ranks of The Twilight Zone crew when John Furia, Jr. gives us several stunningly new twists to a classic character in ‘I Dream of Genie.’ Join Howard Morris, Patricia Barry, and Loring Smith as they take their trip into The Twilight Zone.”

Rod Serling’s Opening Narration:
“Meet Mr. George P. Hanley, a man life treats without deference, honor, or success. Waiters serve his soup cold. Elevator operators close doors in his face. Mothers never bother to wait up for the daughters he dates. George is a creature of humble habits and tame dreams. He’s an ordinary man, Mr. Hanley, but at this moment the accidental possessor of a very special gift, the kind of gift that measures men against their dreams, the kind of gift most of us might ask for first and possibly regret to the last if we, like Mr. George P. Hanley, were about to plunge head-first and unaware into our own personal Twilight Zone.”
From L: Roger (Mark Miller), Ann (Patricia Barry)
and George P. Hanley (Howard Morris)


            George P. Hanley, a meek and mild bookkeeper, wishes to purchase a birthday gift for Ann, the pretty secretary who works in the same office. He chances upon a gift shop where the salesman pressures George into purchasing a tarnished lamp, the antique sort made famous in the tale of Aladdin.
            George’s opportunity to give Ann the birthday gift is spoiled by their coworker Roger, a boisterous and confident man who easily wins Ann’s attention with a present of lingerie. George takes Ann’s intended gift home instead. George’s dog Attila appears agitated by the giftwrapped box, prompting George to unwrap it and remove the lamp. Noticing the tarnished metal, George polishes the lamp with a cloth. In a flash of light and smoke a man appears in George’s apartment. He is a wisecracking man in modern dress who introduces himself as the Genie of the lamp. George is to be granted a single wish but is warned to carefully ponder the consequences of his desires.
            Not wanting to make a mistake, George considers the possible outcomes in a series of reveries. He imagines himself married to Ann if Ann were also a world famous actress. This fantasy comes apart when George realizes that he would hardly get a moment alone with Ann, who would likely fall into the arms of her handsome leading man, probably one with the appearance and disposition of Roger.
            George then pictures himself as a fabulously wealthy captain of industry. He imagines growing tired of living only to spend money and being rudely informed by an assistant that he could never stop spending money because too many people depend on it for their livelihoods.
            Finally, George imagines being the President of the United States but quickly discovers that his altruistic ideals would be crushed beneath the weight of responsibility which accompanies the office. The thought of navigating through a national crisis such as an alien invasion sends the fantasy tumbling down. George suddenly has an epiphany. He has thought of a wish which will give his life purpose while also removing the burdens of responsibility and the pressures of love and wealth.
Later, the magic lamp finds its way into a trash can in a back alley where it is discovered by a transient. The old man rubs the lamp and in a flash of light and smoke the Genie appears. It is George P. Hanley, who has finally found his purpose.

Rod Serling’s Closing Narration:
“Mr. George P. Hanley. Former vocation: jerk. Present vocation: genie. George P. Hanley, a most ordinary man whom life treated without deference, honor, or success, but a man wise enough to decide on a most extraordinary wish that makes him the contented, permanent master of his own altruistic Twilight Zone.” 

            John Furia, Jr. first met Rod Serling while working for CBS during the glory days of Playhouse 90, the program where Serling made his reputation as an award-winning television writer. Furia took the opportunity of attending a rehearsal of one of Serling’s plays to introduce himself to the famous television writer, whom Furia found to be affable and encouraging. Furia later honed his own television writing skills through freelance work on several anthology programs where his path crossed with that of future Twilight Zone producer Herbert Hirschman. Hirschman later contacted Furia about contributing an hour-long script to the fourth season of The Twilight Zone. Though eager to work with Serling and on the series, Furia was initially reluctant due to the show’s reputation for science fiction, a genre which held little interest for him. With Hirschman’s assurance that he could write whatever he desired as long as it fit within the parameters of the strange and fantastic, Furia was inspired by the Aladdin legend to craft a script examining the repercussions of getting what one most desires. Although new to the series, Furia was not entirely unfamiliar with some of the other writers on the show. He had earlier lived near and worked in the same Studio City office building as Earl Hamner, Jr. and he also knew George Clayton Johnson from Writers Guild activities.
            The series had earlier brought in writers outside the show’s core stable to contribute a single script with some success in episodes such as “The Chaser” and “The Trouble with Templeton,” but as time wore on the show would come to rely more and more upon scripts not written by the writers who made the show so successful during the first three seasons. By the fifth season the show’s final producer, William Froug, was routinely shelving scripts from Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and Jerry Sohl in order to send into production such underwhelming material as “From Agnes – With Love,” “Caesar and Me,” and “Come Wander with Me.” The biggest problem with bringing in a new writer to a series like Twilight Zone is the lack of creative synchronization with the other writers on the show, often resulting in repetitive and redundant material, as is the case with “I Dream of Genie.” The series writers not only shared working relationships but were also close personal friends who often traded ideas and borrowed from one another’s works, gradually forming a recognizable creative identity for the series. The challenge for a writer new to the series was the ability to craft an effective script while also tapping into that creative unity established by that which came before.
            By this point in the series there had been numerous episodes dealing with wishes, genies, and the type of loser characters exemplified by George P. Hanley. Even the episodes which dealt with precognition and deals with the Devil rang familiar with the themes presented in “I Dream of Genie.” The show had approached the material directly in episodes such as “A World of His Own” and “The Man in the Bottle,” and with such largely unsuccessful comedic characters as James B.W. Bevis (“Mr. Bevis”), Luther Dingle (“Mr. Dingle, the Strong”), and Agnes Grep (“Cavender Is Coming”).
            In this way the odds were largely against John Furia, Jr. and his chosen subject. Despite an appealing narrative structure which highlighted the sketch comedy skills of Howard Morris and a talented cast, the script was simply too lacking in originality to be hoped for anything other than an entertaining diversion. Morris and company likely elevated the material from the way it read upon the page and the most engaging aspects of the episode are the moments in which the performers change characters between each of George P. Hanley’s daydreams. In one of these reveries Hanley dreams of being the first man on the moon while wearing the same helmet and uniform seen on actor Steve Forrest in the previous episode, “The Parallel.”

            Furia struggled with crafting a satisfactory ending to “I Dream of Genie,” exploring several different scenarios before ultimately settling upon an ironic twist ending, a familiar aspect of the series which had largely, and wisely, been abandoned when the show transitioned to an hour-long program. Unfortunately, the combination of an unoriginal script, overly familiar character types, and a rather ludicrous twist ending was not a recipe for success and “I Dream of Genie” could ultimately be filed if not among the worst episodes then certainly among the most forgettable. One cannot help but wonder why, particularly this late in the series, the show was still attempting this sort of broad comedy. Perhaps it was simply an effort to create variety but it must have been apparent to those involved that the show was at its strongest when presenting serious, introspective fantasy or potent topical dramas and that the low success rate for this type of humorous material did not warrant these continued efforts to forge a comedic identity on the series. 
            John Furia, Jr. (1929-2009) broke into television writing in 1960 with an episode of General Electric Theater. He contributed to several series during that decade, mostly westerns and anthology series, and continued writing into the 1980s for such series as Earl Hamner’s The Waltons and Aaron Spelling’s Hotel, the latter of which he co-developed based on Arthur Hailey’s 1965 novel. Furia, Jr. was also an instructor of screenwriting at the University of Southern California.

            Robert Gist (1917-1998) came to directing through acting. As an actor, he made his way to Broadway by way of Chicago radio and then on to film. He became interested in directing while performing in the film Operation Petticoat (1959). The film’s director, Blake Edwards, later hired Gist to direct episodes of Peter Gunn. Gist continued to act while directing dozens of television episodes for such series as Route 66, Naked City, and The Untouchables. Gist directed the first season Star Trek episode “The Galileo Seven.”

            Howard Morris (1919-2005) is perhaps best remembered as the rock-throwing, trouble-making mountain man Ernest T. Bass in The Andy Griffith Show. Morris first gained recognition a decade earlier alongside Sid Caesar and Carl Reiner on Your Show of Shows in now-classic comedy sketches. Morris was also a talented and prolific voice performer whose work can be heard across dozens of Hanna-Barbera productions beginning in the 1960s, including The Flintstones, The Jetsons, and Scooby-Doo. Morris contributed voice work to several additional animated productions, notably the series of cartoons related to Archie Comics and as Hamburglar in the McDonaldland series. Morris appeared in the 1998 film The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, based on Ray Bradbury’s 1958 short story, as well as episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, “The Lethal Ladies,” directed by Ida Lupino, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, “Most Likely to Succeed.”

Barry in a promotional
photo for the episode
            Patricia Barry (1922-2016), born, and sometimes billed as, Patricia White, was awarded a contract with Warner Brothers after winning a Rita Hayworth look-alike contest. A notable early genre appearance was in the 1946 film The Beast with Five Fingers, directed by Robert Florey. Barry moved into television during the earliest days of the medium with numerous appearances on anthology programs. She played the wife of Jack Klugman in the short-lived sitcom Harris Against the World (1964-1965) and was a familiar face on such soap operas as All My Children, Guiding Light, and Days of Our Lives. Barry appeared in episodes of Suspense and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, “Good-Bye George” and “Completely Foolproof,” as well as some of the better episodes of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, including “The Purple Room,” written and directed by Douglas Heyes, “A Good Imagination,” from writer Robert Bloch and director John Bram, and “A Wig for Miss Devore,” from the August Derleth story, again directed by Brahm. Later genre appearances included the television horror film Crowhaven Farm (1970) and a memorable turn in Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) in director Joe Dante’s reimagining of “It’s a Good Life.”

            The episode also features a brief appearance from Jack Albertson (1907-1981) as the Genie. Albertson is best known for the role of Ed Brown, the latter half of Chico and the Man, for which he was awarded an Emmy. Albertson received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for The Subject was Roses (1968), a role he recreated from his Tony Award-winning performance in the Broadway version. Albertson is also known as Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). A veteran of Vaudeville, Albertson appeared in a few uncredited film roles in the 1940s before moving into television in the 1950s, appearing on dozens of series including such anthology programs as The Clock, Inner Sanctum, and Climax! Albertson appeared in the Lon Chaney biopic The Man of a Thousand Faces (1957) and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). He can be seen in the third season Twilight Zone episode “The Shelter,” as well as “Dead Weight,” a segment from the second season of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. Interesting later work included providing the voice of the ornery Amos Slade in Disney’s animated feature The Fox and the Hound (1981) and an appearance in the cult horror film Dead & Buried the same year. Albertson’s brief appearance in “I Dream of Genie” caused some disagreement as Production Manager Ralph W. Nelson was unhappy with Albertson’s performance and expressed his desire to reshoot the entire sequence in a letter to Rod Serling. Time and budget constraints ultimately prevented the reshoots from happening. Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, also expressed the opinion that Albertson’s performance as the Genie was a troublesome spot in the episode, largely owing to the modern dress and wisecracking nature of Albertson’s take on the familiar character type. It is interesting to contrast Albertson’s fast-talking Genie with the various sinister Devils on the series or the dryly foreboding performance of Joseph Ruskin as “The Man in the Bottle,” as well as with George P. Hanley’s stereotypical look and manner as the Genie at the end of the episode.
Loring Smith with Howard Morris
            “I Dream of Genie” is rounded out with performances from Loring Smith, Mark Miller, Joyce Jameson, James Millhollin, and Bob Hastings. Smith (1890-1981), here playing Watson, is remembered for an early role in Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) as well as portraying “Honest” Luther Grimbley in Rod Serling’s farcical second season Twilight Zone episode “The Whole Truth.”

            Texas native Mark Miller (b. 1924) found steady work in film and television from the mid-1950s until the late 1970s. A versatile performer who appeared in everything from westerns to soap operas to science fiction programs, he can be seen in the seventh season Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “Apex,” as well as episodes of The Waltons and, ironically, I Dream of Jeannie.
Howard Morris with Joyce Jameson

            Joyce Jameson (1932-1987) appeared in episodes of Science Fiction Theatre, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Munsters, The Waltons, and Harris Against the World, the latter alongside Patricia Barry and Jack Klugman. Jameson’s film appearances include two films from writer Richard Matheson, Tales of Terror (1962), adapted from the stories of Poe and directed by Roger Corman, and The Comedy of Terrors (1963), directed by Jacques Tourneur.

James Millhollin and Morris
            James Millhollin (1915-1933) is a familiar face to Twilight Zone viewers from his earlier appearances in “The After Hours,” where the actor memorably broke the fourth wall, and “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.” The prolific film and television performer can be seen in episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (“Insomnia”), One Step Beyond (“Moment of Hate”), Batman, and Lost in Space, among many others.

            Like Howard Morris, Bob Hastings (1925-2014) is perhaps best remembered as a voice actor, providing voices for several animated features based on DC Comics characters, notably the voice of Commissioner Gordon in numerous Batman animated productions. Hastings was a versatile and prolific television performer with appearances on The Munsters, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, The Incredible Hulk, I Dream of Jeannie, and Earl Hamner’s The Waltons and Falcon Crest.

            “I Dream of Genie” possesses some moments of successful comedy from an engaging cast but largely suffers from the banality of its narrative, stock characters, and a silly twist ending. On top of this it covers the same ground as the series presented a dozen times beforehand, going back to the earliest episodes. Although the episode is not a complete failure, it is certainly nowhere near the fore of great episodes, or even successful hour-long episodes, and strikes one as the type of episode which has given the fourth season as a whole a poor reputation among viewers.

Grade: D

Grateful acknowledgement to:
-The Internet Movie Database (
-The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree
-The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic by Martin Grams, Jr.
-Interview with John Furia, Jr. conducted by Dennis Etchison and Marc Scott Zicree (The Twilight Zone 5th Dimension DVD collection).

--Patricia Barry also appeared in the first season episode “The Chaser,” as well as the “It’s a Good Life” segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
--Loring Smith also appeared in second season episode “The Whole Truth.”
--James Millhollin also appeared in the first season episode “The After Hours” and the second season episode “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.”
--Jack Albertson also appeared in the third season episode “The Shelter” as well as the second season Night Gallery segment “Dead Weight.”
--“I Dream of Genie” was adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama starring Hal Sparks.


Monday, August 12, 2019

GAMMA: A Showcase for the Writers of The Twilight Zone

Cover art by Morris Scott Dollens
for Gamma 2 (1963)
    A guide to the short-lived fiction magazine based in Hollywood which published many of the science fiction film and television writers of the day.     

          Gamma was a digest-sized fiction magazine which appeared on newsstands in the spring of 1963, around the time the fourth season of The Twilight Zone was coming to a close. Reluctant to label itself science fiction, the magazine was instead subtitled “New Frontiers in Fiction” and featured an eclectic and sometimes experimental (poetry, drama, etc.) assortment of science fiction, fantasy, and horror fiction, along with interviews and original art. It lasted two years, with five issues irregularly appearing between 1963 and September, 1965. A sixth issue was advertised and anticipated but never appeared. An irregular publishing schedule and distribution problems plagued the magazine from the beginning and ultimately caused its demise as a dedicated readership was difficult to cultivate under those conditions.
Gamma was published by Star Press, Inc., a venture out of North Hollywood created by Jack Matcha (1919-2003), a journalist and playwright turned novelist who assumed the roles of Publisher and Executive Editor on Gamma as well as the short-lived crime fiction magazine Chase published by Health Knowledge, Inc. As a novelist Matcha wrote a hardboiled paperback for Fawcett Gold Medal (Prowler in the Night, 1959), several Brady Bunch mysteries for the Tiger Beat (from the teen magazine) imprint of New American Library, and novels of erotic pulp sleaze, the latter a service he also provided under the pseudonyms John Barclay and John (or James) Tanner. The Star Press team also included Publisher/Editor Charles E. Fritch and Managing Editor William F. Nolan, who departed his position after three issues.

Gamma can be counted among the many genre fiction magazines which folded as financial problems or a crowded newsstand brushed them away after a few issues. What separated Gamma, however, were the contributors to the magazine. Modeling itself on the high literary standards set by Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and, especially, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Gamma served as a showcase for the Southern California Group of writers and their associates, many of whom were also writing for film and television at the time. The Southern California Group (so-named by The Los Angeles Times literary critic Robert Kirsch) was a collective of close friends who formed creatively under the mentorship of Ray Bradbury (and later Charles Beaumont) and were those writers Rod Serling gathered around him to bring The Twilight Zone to life on television.
Nearly every major contributing writer to The Twilight Zone can be found in the pages of Gamma. Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, and John Tomerlin all appear in the first issue and most would appear again later. Other names, such as Robert Bloch, Ray Russell, Fritz Leiber, Robert Sheckley, Dennis Etchison, Patricia Highsmith, and Forrest J. Ackerman, will certainly ring familiar. Gamma also distinguished itself by including work from writers not known for speculative fiction, such as William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Bernard Malamud.
Gamma crowded a lot of material into its five issues, including dense but concise contributor biographies and insightful interviews. For a brief time in the early 1960s the magazine was the perfect vehicle of expression for a group of writers who would exert a wide-ranging influence upon American popular culture.

Below is a cover gallery, contents list, and notes for the five issues of Gamma. A gallery of the magazine’s interior art follows.


Gamma 1 (vol. 1, no. 1, 1963)
Cover art: Morris Scott Dollens
Editor & Publisher: Charles E. Fritch
Executive Editor: Jack Matcha
Managing Editor: William F. Nolan


-“About Our Cover Artist” – Biographical essay on Morris Scott Dollens (1920-1994) who was also a successful commercial photographer with many of Ray Bradbury’s book jacket author photos to his credit.

-“Gamma” – Mission statement editorial.

-“Mourning Song” by Charles Beaumont. Beaumont (1929-1967) was struggling with the ill-effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s at this time and “Mourning Song” was one of the last pieces of fiction he would write. It is also one of his finest, an ironic and meditative dark fantasy about fate and consequence. Judith Merril included the story in The 9th Annual of the Year’s Best SF (1964) and it was collected in the career retrospective Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories, ed. Roger Anker (1988).

-“Crimes Against Passion” by Fritz Leiber. A short play.

-“Time in Thy Flight” by Ray Bradbury. This story originally appeared in the June-July, 1953 issue of Fantastic Universe. It was collected in the second of Bradbury’s two collections for younger readers, S Is for Space (1966).

-“The Vengeance of Nitocris” by Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams. The first reprinting of an early story from the American playwright which originally appeared in the August, 1928 issue of Weird Tales.

-“Itself!” by A.E. van Vogt. This is reprinted from the January, 1963 issue of Scientific American. It was collected in The Far-Out Worlds of A.E. van Vogt (1968).

-“Venus Plus Three” by Charles E. Fritch. Fritch (1927-2012) was a prolific novelist and short story writer equally adept at science fiction and suspense. He was a core member of the Southern California Group and memorialized the group in perhaps his best-known story, “Big, Wide, Wonderful World,” from the March, 1958 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. “Venus Plus Three” was collected in Horses’ Asteroid (1970).

-“A Message from Morj” by Ray Russell. Russell (1924-1999) was the fiction editor for Playboy until he moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in the early 1960s to begin a screenwriting career working with directors Roger Corman and William Castle. Russell collaborated with Charles Beaumont on the script for Corman’s The Premature Burial (1962).

-“To Serve the Ship” by William F. Nolan. This story was reprinted a few months later in Nolan’s Impact-20 (1963). Some time back we interviewed Nolan about his long career. You can read that here.

-The Gamma Interview: Rod Serling. This interview is relatively brief but insightful and much of the discussion centers on The Twilight Zone.

-“The Freeway” by George Clayton Johnson. Johnson (1929-2015) remains well known for his television scripts, including such The Twilight Zone episodes as “A Game of Pool,” “Nothing in the Dark,” and “Kick the Can.” “The Freeway” was reprinted by William F. Nolan in the anthology Man Against Tomorrow (1965) and collected in the career retrospective All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (1999).

-“One Night Stand” by Herbert A. Simmons. A science fiction story from the reclusive African American writer. William F. Nolan reprinted the story in the 1970 anthology A Sea of Space.

-Advertisement for the sale of copies of The Ray Bradbury Review. The Ray Bradbury Review, a 1952 booklet featuring essays from Anthony Boucher, Chad Oliver, and Henry Kuttner, among others, was the first of William F. Nolan’s biographical and bibliographical works on Bradbury, which also includes The Ray Bradbury Companion (1975) and Nolan on Bradbury (2013).

-“As Holy and Enchanted” by Kris Neville. Neville (1925-1980) was a highly-regarded specialist in the SF short story who had largely abandoned SF writing by the time this tale appeared, reprinted from the April, 1953 issue of Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader.

-“Shade of Day” by John Tomerlin. Tomerlin (1930-2014) was a novelist, short story writer, and scriptwriter for such television programs as Thriller and Wanted: Dead or Alive. He collaborated with Charles Beaumont on the 1957 suspense novel Run from the Hunter, published under the joint pseudonym Keith Grantland, and adapted Beaumont’s 1952 story “The Beautiful People” for the fifth season Twilight Zone episode, “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.”

-“The Girl Who Wasn’t There” by Forrest J. Ackerman. This story was originally written by Tigrina (1921-2015) (Edythe Eyde), a secretary at RKO Studios and fanzine editor now remembered for creating the first lesbian periodical in the U.S., Vice Versa in 1947. Ackerman supplied the ending to the story for its first appearance in the fanzine Inside. For its appearance in Gamma, the story was rewritten by Charles E. Fritch and William F. Nolan. It was reprinted, with credit to all four authors, in Science Fiction Worlds of Forrest J. Ackerman & Friends (1969).

-“Death in Mexico” by Ray Bradbury. A second appearance by Bradbury in the issue with this poem, collected in When Elephants Last in the Dooryard Bloomed (1973).

-An Editorial – More or Less. Brief essay explaining the type of fiction a reader can expect from the magazine and the reason the magazine is reluctant to label itself a science fiction magazine.

-“Crescendo” by Richard Matheson. Matheson (1926-2013), Grandmaster of fantasy and writer of such Twilight Zone classics as “Nick of Time,” “The Invaders,” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” appears with a lesser-known tale. It was collected in Shock III (1966).

Gamma 2 (vol. 1, no. 2, 1963)
Cover art: Morris Scott Dollens
Interior art: Burt Shonberg, Luan Meatheringham
Editor/Publisher: Charles E. Fritch
Executive Editor/Publisher: Jack Matcha
Managing Editor: William F. Nolan


-Not Really an Editorial, But. Essay detailing the response to the first issue of the magazine. Lists a number of writers expected to appear in a future issue, most of whom do not.

-“The Granny Woman” by Dorothy B. Hughes. A tale of witchcraft from the noted mystery writer Hughes (1904-1993). The tale was reprinted in the 1970 MWA anthology Crime Without Murder.

-“The Old College Try” by Robert Bloch. Forever to be known as the author of Psycho (1950), Bloch (1917-1994) was the prolific author of scores of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and mystery novels and stories, many of which were adapted for film and television, often by Bloch himself. Bloch wrote the novelization of Twilight Zone: The Movie (Warner Books, 1983), which we reviewed. “The Old College Try” was reprinted by William F. Nolan in A Sea of Space (1970) and collected in Fear Today, Gone Tomorrow (1971).

-“Michael” by Francesca Marques. A debut story.

-“Deus Ex Machina” by Richard Matheson. Collected in Shock Waves (1970).

-“The Kid Learns” by William Faulkner. An early story from the American Nobel Laureate. The story originally appeared in the New Orleans Time Picayune during Faulkner’s time living in the city.

-“King’s Jester” by Jack Matcha. A story from the Publisher and Executive Editor.

-“Here’s Sport Indeed!” by William Shakespeare, assisted by Ib Melchior. Melchior (1917-2015) was the Danish-American son of the opera singer Lauritz Melchior. Ib is best-remembered for his scriptwriting work on such films as Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) and Planet of the Vampires (1965). Here he selects passages from Shakespeare’s works which reflect a tour through our solar system.

-Portfolio by Burt Shonberg. Shonberg (1933-1977) was an American artist and fixture on the Southern California art scene. He co-owned the controversial Laguna Beach coffee house CafĂ© Frankenstein with George Clayton Johnson and provided paintings for Roger Corman’s films House of Usher (1960) and The Premature Burial (1962). Shonberg also provided the cover for George Clayton Johnson’s career retrospective, All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (1999).

-Everybody Out There Likes Us . . . Quoted praise for Gamma from an impressive roster of talents, including Rod Serling, Robert Kirsch, Ray Bradbury, Anthony Boucher, and August Derleth.

-“The Undiscovered Country” by William F. Temple. A reprint of the British SF author’s 1958 story, first published in Nebula Science Fiction, number 35. William F. Nolan reprinted the tale in A Sea of Space (1970) and it was collected in A Niche in Time and Other Stories (2011).

-Chase. An advertisement for the crime fiction magazine. Chase lasted only three issues, with the first issue dated January, 1964 and ending with issues in May and September of that year.

-The Gamma Interview: Robert Sheckley. An interview with the prolific SF writer. Sheckley (1928-2005) frequently contributed to the early issues of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, including a brief tenure as books reviewer.

-Attention SF Fans! Advertisement for William F. Nolan’s first collection of SF stories, Impact-20, published by Paperback Library in November, 1963. There is brief quoted praise from Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock, and Anthony Boucher. The book included an introduction from Ray Bradbury.

-“Castaway” by Charles E. Fritch. Reprinted by William F. Nolan in the 1969 anthology A Wilderness of Stars.

-“Something in the Earth” by Charles Beaumont. Reprinted in The Bradbury Chronicles: Stories in Honor of Ray Bradbury, ed. William F. Nolan and Martin H. Greenberg (1991). I reviewed that volume here.

-Soon to Be Released – An advertisement for the imminent release of “a suspenseful paperback anthology,” A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Morgue, which I could not verify ever appeared, at least under that title. Contributing authors included Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, and Anthony Boucher.

-“I’m Only Lonesome When I’m Lonely” by William F. Nolan. Reprinted in the German horror anthology Horror Expert (1972).

-A Note on Ernest Hemingway. A short essay explaining that the editors originally planned to reprint a fantasy story from the American Nobel Laureate, “The Good Lion,” first published in the March, 1951 issue of Holiday magazine, before being denied by the late author’s publishers, Scribner’s. The essay also directs the reader to another Hemingway work, Today Is Friday.

-“Sombra Y Sol” by Ray Bradbury. Collected, as “El Dia de Muerte,” in The Machineries of Joy (1964).

Gamma 3 (vol. 2, no. 1, 1964)
Cover art: Morris Scott Dollens
Interior art: Luan Meatheringham
Editor/Publisher: Charles E. Fritch
Executive Editor/Publisher: Jack Matcha
Managing Editor: William F. Nolan


-“The Girl of Paradise Planet” by Robert Turner. The brief biography which accompanies this tale states that Turner (1915-1980) sold over one thousand stories to magazines. Turner also wrote for television, notably two episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His collection Shroud 9 (1970) collects 18 of his short crime and horror stories.  

-“The Feather Bed” by Shelly Lowenkopf. Lowenkof (b. 1931) is a retired UCLA writing professor and prolific novelist who at this time was also the Associate Editor of the short-lived crime fiction magazine Chase.

-About Our Interior Artist. A biographical essay on Luan Meatheringham.

-“Angel Levine” by Bernard Malamud. Reprinted from the author’s 1959 debut collection The Magic Barrel, winner of a National Book Award.  

-“The (In)visible Man” by Edward W. Ludwig. Collected, as “The Visible Invisible Man,” in The 7 Shapes of Solomon Bean (1983).

-“Inside Story” by Miriam Allen deFord. deFord’s (1888-1975) 1961 story, “A Death in the Family,” was adapted by Rod Serling for the second season of Night Gallery, directed by Jeannot Szwarc, starring E.G. Marshall and Desi Arnaz, Jr., broadcast September 22, 1971.

-“The Birth” by George Clayton Johnson. Collected in All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (1999).

-The Gamma Interview: Soviet Science Fiction. An interview with a Russian magazine editor going under the pseudonym Ivan Kirov. The interview was conducted at the Frankfort Book Fair.

-“Buttons” by Raymond E. Banks. The prolific Banks (1918-1996) was a fixture of the science fiction magazines in the 1950s and 1960s, writing under a number of pseudonyms.

-“Society for the Prevention” by Ron Goulart. Goulart (b. 1933) is a prolific and versatile writer best known for his humorous short stories and his works on the history of American comic books. Goulart was a member of the Southern California Group who later contributed often to the early issues of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. “Society for the Prevention” was reprinted by William F. Nolan in the 1970 anthology A Sea of Space.

-“The Snail Watcher” by Patricia Highsmith. The first appearance of one of Highsmith’s (1921-1995) most oft-reprinted tales, a modern horror classic. The American expatriate writer was best known for her novels which have been made into films, including Strangers on a Train (1950) and The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955).

Gamma 4 (vol. 2, no. 2, February, 1965)
Cover art: John Healey
Editor/Publishers: Charles E. Fritch, Jack Matcha
Special Outer Space Issue

-Changes this issue. Gone is Managing Editor William F. Nolan and cover artist Morris Scott Dollens.


-Remember . . . Brief editorial describing the Special Outer Space Issue, a nostalgic issue in tribute to the older style of pulp science fiction when “you didn’t need a slide-rule and a couple years of calculus to figure out what was going on.”

-“The Clutches of Ruin” by H.B. Fyfe. Horace Browne Fyfe, Jr. (1918-1997) was a prolific writer of short stories during the Golden Age of science fiction, his career as an SF author fading out with the 1960s.

-“The Towers of Kagasi” by William P. Miller. A well-known mystery writer of the time contributing a science fiction story.

-“Food” by Ray Nelson. An early story from Nelson (b. 1931) who’s had a dual career as an SF author and cartoonist.

-“Hans Off in Free Pfall to the Moon” by E. A. Poe. An abridged version of Edgar Allan Poe’s Hans Phall – a Tale, first published in the June, 1835 issue of Southern Literary Messenger.

-The Gamma Interview: Forrest J. Ackerman

-“Open Season” by John Tanner. Tanner was a pseudonym of Publisher and Editor Jack Matcha.

-“The Woman Astronaut” by Robert Katz. A short play.

-“Happily Ever After” by William F. Nolan. Reprinted in the 1969 anthology A Wilderness of Stars and collected in Alien Horizons (1974).

-“Don’t Touch Me I’m Sensitive” by James Stamers. Stamers was a pseudonym for a California based CPA and Doctor of Law. He published a number of SF stories in the periodicals of the time under the name.

-“The Hand of Mr. Insidious” by Ron Goulart. A satirical story of the mysteries of the orient.

Gamma 5 (vol. 2, no. 5, September, 1965)
Cover art: John Healey
Interior art: William F. Nolan, Luan Meatheringham, Bernard Zuber, Burt Shonberg
Editor/Publishers: Charles E. Fritch, Jack Matcha
Note the irregularity in numbering.


-Across the Editor’s Desk – Editorial on the wildly different types of mail being sent into the Gamma offices. The editorial also includes a brief biographical sketch from the cover artist John Healey.

-“Nesbit” by Ron Goulart. A short novel. John Healey’s cover illustration depicts a scene from the narrative.

-“Policy Conference” by Sylvia Dees and Ted White. Dees is described as a professional photographer, an award-winning artist, and an amateur musician. Ted White (b. 1938) made his mark primarily as a longtime editor in the SF field, lifting the literary quality of such magazines as Fantastic, Amazing Stories, and Heavy Metal. White was also a notable SF fan in his early years and enjoyed a long career as a fiction writer.

-“Auto Suggestion” by Charles Beaumont. This story about a car which begins to communicate with its owner is one of Beaumont’s fugitive pieces, not appearing in any collection under the author’s name. It was reprinted by editor William Pattrick (Peter Haining) in Mysterious Motoring Stories (1987), reprinted in paperback the same year as Duel: Horror Stories of the Road.

-“Welcome to Procyon IV” by Chester H. Carlfi. A pseudonymous work by Charles E. Fritch. The story was collected in Crazy Mixed-Up Planet (1969).

-“Interest” by Richard Matheson. A lesser-known story from Matheson. It was reprinted in Matheson’s Collected Stories, issued by Dream Press in 1989.

-“Lullaby and Goodnight” by George Clayton Johnson. Collected in All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (1999).

-“A Careful Man Dies” by Ray Bradbury. Reprinted from the November, 1946 issue of New Detective. It was collected in A Memory of Murder (1984).

-“The Late Mr. Adams” by Steve Allen. Allen (1921-2000) was a popular and influential television personality and comedian who co-created The Tonight Show. “The Late Mr. Adams” is reprinted from Allen’s 1955 collection of short stories Fourteen for Tonight.

-“Wet Season” by Dennis Etchison. Etchison (1943-2019), who recently passed away on May 29, is now regarded as one of the finest short stories writers of horror and dark fantasy in the latter half of the twentieth century. At the time of this story Etchison was still in college, having sold a handful of stories to science fiction magazines. Etchison was a student in a UCLA writing course taught by Charles Beaumont and recounts the experience in his introduction to Beaumont’s “Free Dirt” in Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories (1988). “Wet Season” was collected in Red Dreams (1984).

Interior Art:

Gamma 2:

Burt Shonberg portfolio:

Illustration by Luan Meatheringham:

Gamma 3:

Illustrations by Luan Meatheringham:

Gamma 5:

Illustration by Luan Meatheringham:

Illustration by Bernard Zuber:

Illustration by Burt Shonberg:

Cover gallery for Chase, the short-lived crime fiction magazine which shared many of the contributors to Gamma:

Grateful acknowledgement for information contained in the text and cover images:

Transformations: The Story of the Science-fiction Magazines from 1950-1970 by Mike Ashley (Liverpool University Press, 2005)

Galactic Central (

The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (

The Internet Archive (