Monday, January 13, 2020

Reading Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 18

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

Volume 2, Number 6 (September, 1982)
Cover Art: James Nazz

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 Editor: Robert Sabat
Contributing Editors: Thomas M. Disch, Ron Goulart
Design Director: Michael Monte
Art Director: Wendy Mansfield
Art Production: Susan Lindeman, Carol Sun, Lori Hollander
Production Director: Stephen J. Fallon
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Assistant to the Publisher: Penny Layne
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Mgr.: Chris Grossman
Accounting Ass’t: Annemarie Pistilli
Office Ass’t: Katherine Lys
Circulation Director: William D. Smith
Circulation Manager: Marie Donlon
Northeastern Circ. Mgr: Jacqueline Doyle
Eastern Circ. Mgr: Hank Rosen
West Coast Circ. Mgr: Gary Judy
Advertising Manager: Rachel Britapaja
Adv. Production Manager: Marina Despotakis
Advertising Representatives: Barney O’Hara & Associates, Inc.

--In the Twilight Zone: “A letter from Machen . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Ron Goulart
--Other Dimensions: Etc.
--Other Dimensions: The ‘Unhappy Is He’ Quiz by William Fulwiler
--TZ Interview: Paul Schrader: Embracing the Beast by James Verniere
--“The Red-Eyed Thing” by Jere Cunningham
--“MTA Announces New Plan to Ease Subway Congestion” by Gordon Linzner
--“Cruising” by Donald Tyson
--“The Long Ride” by John Skipp
--“Behind the Doors” by Susan Johnson
--“The Jane Fonda Room” by Jonathan Carroll
--TZ Screen Preview: Creepshow by Robert Martin
--TZ on the Set: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ed Naha
--“The Reaper” by Jim Cort
--The Essential Writers: Arthur Machen by Mike Ashley
--Required Reading: A Machen Sampler by Arthur Machen
--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Eighteen by Marc Scott Zicree
--TZ Discovery: “A Machine to Answer the Question” by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: In October’s TZ

--In The Twilight Zone: “A letter from Machen . . .”
Arthur Machen
-T.E.D. Klein begins his column by recounting a letter Welsh author Arthur Machen (1863-1947) received from an American autograph collector in 1921. The collector stated that Machen’s autograph would be placed next to those of the great names in literature, to which Machen replied that he did not belong in such company. Such was Machen’s view of his writing career, which is highly regarded in certain circles but never achieved the commercial success nor the readership the work deserved. Klein laments the fact that Machen’s long writing career is essentially represented by a few anthology pieces and hopes that the space devoted to Machen in the issue can bring new readers to his work. Klein previously displayed his own debt to Machen’s work in his World Fantasy Award-nominated short story “The Events at Poroth Farm” (1972), which was influenced by Machen’s “The White People” (1904), an influence which can also be seen in Klein’s novel The Ceremonies (1984), an expansion of the earlier story.

-The remainder of the column is devoted to brief profiles of the issue’s contributors along with thumbnail images. There is an error in the case of the latter. The column includes a profile and picture of Al Sarrantonio who does not contribute to the issue. Klein clears up the error in next month’s issue when he explains that Sarrantonio’s story was initially slated to appear in the September issue but was pushed back. Klein mistakenly let the profile and image run in the September issue. There are some interesting new contributors to the magazine, including novelist Jonathan Carroll and “splatterpunk” writer John Skipp, as well as Jere Cunningham, an author then experiencing success in the horror paperback market.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
-Disch returns as books reviewer with a look at two novels, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer by Philip K. Dick and Friday by Robert E. Heinlein. Disch has written several times on the works of Philip K. Dick. He provided the introduction to The Little Black Box (1987), volume five of Dick’s collected stories (reprinted as We Can Remember It for You Wholesale and The Eye of the Sibyl) as well as an introduction to the Gregg Press edition (1976) of Dick’s 1955 novel Solar Lottery. Disch also wrote a poem, “Cantata ’82: An Ode to the Death of Philip K. Dick,” and reviews of Dick’s novels The Golden Man, Valis, The Divine Invasion, and The Man Whose Teeth Were All Exactly Alike.

-Disch describes The Transmigration of Timothy Archer as “in essential respects another self-portrait, and one that succeeds better at capturing certain characteristics of its author than did Valis.” Disch also feels that the novel is perhaps Dick’s finest mainstream work but is being marketed as science fiction. Disch brackets the novel with two of Dick’s later works written near the end of the writer’s life, Valis and The Divine Invasion, which Disch views as “singularly difficult to consider apart from their author and his legend.” Disch describes Valis as “one of the most remarkable, not to say strangest, self-portraits in all literature,” and The Divine Invasion as “set in that grungy, starveling, astroturfed future common to many Dick novels, wherein a bumbling Unholy Alliance between the Papacy and the Kremlin acts the role of Messiah being smuggled by spaceship to the Bethlehem of Earth.”
-Disch describes Robert Heinlein’s Friday as “quite the best novel he’s written in years.” Disch explores the deceptive nature of the action novel genre which served as Friday’s model as well as the gender and sexual politics present in the work. Disch concludes by stating that “Heinlein has exercised all his novelistic wiles to embody his argument in a story as devious as an eel – so that even if one disagrees there can be great sport in doing so.”

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Ron Goulart
-Goulart returns to fill in for regular films reviewer Gahan Wilson with a look at three films: The Road Warrior, Garde à Vue, and Wrong Is Right. The only film in which Goulart is remotely positive in his critique is The Road Warrior which he enjoyed but afterwards felt guilty for enjoying (presumably due to its outlandish characteristics). Goulart singles out the performance of actor Bruce Spence in the film. Goulart is less forgiving of Garde à Vue, a French mystery film which Goulart felt was clichéd, predictable, and which ultimately forgot to present a mystery, and Wrong Is Right, a political thriller in which Sean Connery plays an American television journalist who stumbles upon a terrorist plot. Goulart states of the latter film, “what (director Richard) Brooks attempts to do here is blend international intrigue, social satire, and a little nuclear nightmare fantasy. Nothing works, mainly because he has violated a basic rule of all three of the above categories – the rule that can perhaps best be stated as, ‘There are only so many times you can kick a dead horse.’”

--Other Dimensions: Etc.
-This miscellany column is headlined by a reader’s letter to Carol Serling inquiring about her feelings on the unauthorized use of Rod Serling’s voice and likeness in respects to marketing, to which Mrs. Serling replied that it has become increasing irritating while also asking for reader assistance in ferreting out unauthorized use so that orders to cease and desist may be issued. As an illustration of the unauthorized use of Serling’s likeness, an advertisement for an unnamed Rhode Island deli is presented which features an image of Serling and advertising written in imitation of Serling’s Twilight Zone narrations. The column also presents quotes from Ambrose Bierce (The Devil’s Dictionary) and Clark Ashton Smith (The Black Book of Clark Ashton Smith), a news story about a policeman who was disciplined for a “joke” gone bad when he fashioned a mock voodoo doll and pasted pictures of his superiors upon it, a comic strip from Bloom County, a mistake in the New York Times in which writers L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter were stated to be married, and two items of little interest: another use of “Twilight Zone,” this time to describe lost luggage, and a notice of distinction for TZ Magazine being one of only a few American periodicals to not have printed a photo of American actress Pia Zadora in a string bikini. The column is capped off by the standard promise of a poster of TZ cat Maximillian for any reader who sends along useful material.

--Other Dimensions: The ‘Unhappy Is He’ Quiz by William Fulwiler
-The first in a semi-regular feature which presents quizzes on aspects of fantasy and science fiction. This first quiz is centered on the first lines of notable works of weird fiction, which encompasses horror, fantasy, and science fiction. The aim is to identify the story or novel by its first line. The quiz is posted below along with the answers beneath for readers who want to give it a try.

--TZ Interview: Paul Schrader: Embracing the Beast by James Verniere
“Cat People’s controversial director confronts the ‘beast of sexuality’ in a film he calls ‘about as nostalgic as a mugging.”

-Interviewer James Verniere begins by providing a rundown of Paul Schrader’s career in which trends in Schrader’s screenplays and films as a director are examined as well as early critical responses to his remake of Cat People. The film was the subject of a TZ Screen Preview in the April, 1982 issue and was reviewed by Ron Goulart last issue.
The interview begins with Schrader’s reaction to reviews of the film. Schrader, once a films reviewer himself, speaks on the nature of roles in the exchange between critics and the filmmaker and the ways in which those roles are disturbed and lead to bad reviews or misunderstood films. Cat People is discussed in detail, from the heightened use of violence and sexuality to the use of live animals, the lack of nostalgia despite scenes of homage, challenges in writing the script, and aspects of the production design, special makeup effects, and editing. Schrader speaks on not having seen the original Cat People until after he read the script for the remake. He also speaks on changes he made in the script, his reluctance to label Cat People a horror film, and explains the use of surrealism and humor in the film. The interview’s final section concerns the ways in which Schrader has changed as a writer and director, focusing on his violent early work (Taxi Driver, etc.) and the transition to more optimistic work. A selection of critical responses to Cat People is also provided.

--“The Red-Eyed Thing” by Jere Cunningham
Illustrated by D.W. Miller
“It lay in wait for him among the liquor bottles. But maybe if he stayed drunk, he’d be able to forget . . .”

-A vicious drunkard who abuses his daughter and infant grandchild gets his comeuppance when he is left alone with a shadowy creature who lives in his liquor cabinet.

-This stark supernatural horror is a particularly grim illustration of the internal becoming the external in the form of the monstrous. The story succeeds mostly in demonstrating a level of utter wretchedness in both character and setting. Jere Cunningham (b. 1943) is new to the magazine fresh off the success of two horror novels, The Visitor (1979) and The Abyss (1981), that are finding new readers these days on the wave of resurgent interest in 1970s and 1980s horror novels. Cunningham published few short horror stories, placing a story in Modern Masters of Horror (1981) and another in the seventh volume of Charles L. Grant’s Shadows (1984). “The Red-Eyed Thing” was reprinted in the first issue of Night Cry.

3 Rides into Terror:

--“MTA Announces New Plan to Ease Subway Congestion” by Gordon Linzner
Illustrated by Randy Jones
“Leave it to those ingenious New Yorkers. No halfway measures for them!”

-An unlucky businessman, along with his fellow passengers, discovers that the city’s solution to congestion on the New York subway is to bring passengers to the end of the line and gas them.

-This was an enjoyable story with a heart of pitch-black humor and an excellent evocation of the claustrophobia-inducing congestion of crowds stuffed into tight places. T.E.D. Klein informs us that, at the time of this issue, Linzner “lives in modern-day Manhattan near the 72nd Street IRT Station.” Gordon Linzner previously appeared with stories in the June, 1981 and November, 1981 issues but those stories were concerned with Linzner’s interest in feudal Japan whereas this story is a tale of urban terror with the perfect blend of humor and horror. Linzner would return to the pages of TZ with a story, “The Peddler’s Bowl,” in the July/August, 1983 issue and another, “The Magistrate’s Pillow,” in the March/April, 1985 issue.

--“Cruising” by Donald Tyson
Illustrated by Frances Jetter
“The girls in the Chevy were a pair of sultry sirens . . . and he wasn’t one to resist.”

-A tough guy in a muscle car is baited by two young women in a pursuit along the city streets but pays dearly for playing their game when the women reveal that they play for keeps.

-This conte cruel is a sharp shocker with a nasty ending. T.E.D. Klein described the reaction of TZ Magazine staffers as “hair raising to stomach churning.” It is the type of non-supernatural horror story which gained in popularity as the 1980s drew on and is sometimes labeled “dark suspense.” The story was selected by Karl Edward Wagner for The Year’s Best Horror Stories XI (1983) and reprinted in the Summer, 1985 issue of Night Cry. Tyson (b. 1954) has written a book-length study of H.P. Lovecraft as well as several Lovecraftian stories, many of them published in S.T. Joshi’s Black Wings anthologies.

--“The Long Ride” by John Skipp
Illustrations by Bruce Waldman & J.K. Potter
“It was a matter of life and death – and throughout it all, his meter was running.”

-A taxi driver works the dangerous night shift in the city, even after his death.

-This was my favorite story in the issue, a nice combination of urban decay and traditional ghost story which moves effortlessly from horrifying to heartbreaking. The story is the professional debut of John Skipp (b. 1957) who soon became known for a series of novels written with Craig Spector which came to define the short-lived but influential Splatterpunk trend in horror fiction. Those novels were The Light at the End (1986), The Cleanup (1987), The Scream (1988), Dead Lines (1989), The Bridge (1991), and Animals (1993). Skipp, described by T.E.D. Klein as “a guitarist, singer, and rock-opera composer who recently moved to New York to pursue a career in music,” published a lot of fiction in the pages of TZ and Night Cry, much of it written in collaboration with Spector, with stories in the September/October, 1983, December, 1986, and February, 1988 issues of TZ as well as fiction in the Spring, 1986, Fall, 1986, and Summer, 1987 issues of Night Cry. “The Long Ride” was reprinted in the Winter, 1985 issue of Night Cry.
TZ Magazine became an important showcase for a more daring and confrontational style of horror fiction, jestingly coined at the Twelfth World Fantasy Convention (Providence, 1986) by David J. Schow as “Splatterpunk,” after the Cyberpunk movement in science fiction. TZ published leading authors of the movement including Skipp and Spector, David J. Schow, Joe R. Lansdale, and Richard Christian Matheson. TZ’s companion magazine, Night Cry, was created in part to showcase this new style of horror fiction. Although “The Long Ride” is not a Splatterpunk story, the more confrontational nature of the illustration by J.K. Potter (Artist Guest of Honor at the ’86 World Fantasy Convention) for its reprint in Night Cry three years later is indicative of the type of horror fiction gaining favor by the middle part of the decade.

--“Behind the Doors” by Susan Johnson
Illustrated by Harry Pincus
“Her world was beautiful and serene, but something in it terrified her – something locked away.”

-A young girl’s idyllic summer is interrupted by the constant presence of muted voices behind doors, in closets and other concealed places. The girl comes to realize the horror of her situation and the meaning of the voices in a moment of terrible awareness.

-This story read like a subtle and affecting dream and reminded me of an older style of supernatural tale in which atmosphere and ambiguity were used in place of violence and overt supernatural effects. The story is described by T.E.D. Klein as a departure for Johnson, who to this point mostly wrote about animals for specialized periodicals. Johnson did write a series of essays, “Running It Back,” for American Fantasy Magazine in the late 1980s and placed a story, “Painted Lady,” with Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine for the Summer, 1990 issue.

--“The Jane Fonda Room” by Jonathan Carroll
Illustrated by Peter de Seve
“Even the star’s most fervent fans learned something shocking when they entered . . .”

-Hell seems like a pretty nice place to Paul Domenica. He even gets to choose his room, the Jane Fonda Room. What’s not so nice is now Paul will get to spend eternity in the room watching Jane Fonda’s films in an endless cycle.

-Jonathan Carroll (b. 1949) is an American writer born in New York who has lived in Austria since 1974. Much of his work is difficult to neatly describe as his novels and stories contain elements of magical realism, horror, slipstream, fantasy, and the mainstream. His first novel, The Land of Laughs appeared in 1980. His highly sought-after collection of short fiction, The Panic Hand, which includes “The Jane Fonda Room,” appeared in 1995 but did not receive a U.S. edition. His collected stories, The Woman Who Married a Cloud, was brought out in 2012 by Subterranean Press.

--TZ Screen Preview: Creepshow by Robert Martin
“George Romero and Stephen King pay homage to the horror comics with a two-hour shockfest of Grand Guignol and gore. TZ’s Robert Martin tours the set.”

-Robert Martin reports from the set (Penn Hall Academy in Mooreville, PA) of the 1982 horror anthology film Creepshow. Creepshow was written by Stephen King, directed by George Romero, with makeup effects by Tom Savini. It was widely released by Warner Brothers on November 12, 1982. The cast included Twilight Zone veterans Fritz Weaver, Jon Lormer, and Don Keefer, alongside Hal Holbrook, Adrienne Barbeau, Leslie Nielsen, Ed Harris, E.G. Marshall, Ted Danson, Tom Atkins, Stephen King, Joe (Hill) King, and Carrie Nye. The film was adapted into a graphic novel by artist Bernie Wrightson (who also collaborated with King on such projects as Cycle of the Werewolf, The Stand: Complete and Uncut, From a Buick 8 (limited edition), and The Wolves of the Calla) published by Plume in 1982. A sequel, Creepshow 2, followed in 1987, directed by Michael Gornick (who served as Director of Photography on Creepshow), written by George Romero based on stories by Stephen King. Creepshow was the subject of the 2007 documentary Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow and served as the model and inspiration for the 2019 Shudder series of the same name.
Creepshow was the result of a meeting between Stephen King, George Romero, and producer Richard Rubinstein in which they discovered a shared love of the EC Comics of the early 1950s, particularly the horror comics Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, and The Haunt of Fear. King, Romero, and Rubinstein initially set out to adapt King’s novel The Stand (a project which never came to fruition though King’s novel was eventually filmed for a television miniseries) and thought a good way to secure funding for that project was to mount a lower-budgeted movie to show the profitability of their collaboration. Though King wanted to make something budgeted in the Night of the Living Dead range, Creepshow was picked up by Warner Brothers who put money behind it to the tune of eight million dollars.
The film consists of five stories and a connecting narrative centered on a young boy whose forbidden horror comic comes to life to tell the stories. Three of the stories and the bridging narrative were original to the screenplay with King adapting two of his previously published stories to round out the film. “Father’s Day” is a tell of revenge from beyond the grave, “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” adapted from King’s 1976 story “Weeds,” is about a simpleton whose rural property is overrun with alien vegetation, “Something to Tide You Over” finds murdered lovers returning from a watery grave, “The Crate,” adapted from King’s 1979 tale, concerns a strange creature discovered beneath the stairwell of a university hall, and “They’re Creeping Up On You” is about a vicious germophobe battling an army of cockroaches in a high rise apartment.
Robert Martin’s interview with King centers the piece and various aspects of the production are discussed, from the development of the script to the special effects (with particular attention paid to the roaches used in the final segment) to the influence of EC horror comics. Martin ends the article by suggesting that if Creepshow proved a financial success (it did) then it would help the cause of a Twilight Zone movie, which appeared the following year.

--TZ on the Set: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ed Naha
“Ray Bradbury’s supernatural classic is at last before the cameras, and the carnival is in full swing. Ed Naha reports from the set.”

-The article begins with a rundown of the complicated history of bringing Ray Bradbury’s 1962 dark fantasy novel to the screen. Through interviews with Bradbury and producer Peter Douglas (son of Kirk Douglas), Naha reveals the long road which finally brought the project to Walt Disney Studios and director Jack Clayton (director of The Innocents).
The genesis of Bradbury’s novel is a childhood love of carnivals and the films of Lon Chaney. Years later Bradbury was invited by Gene Kelly to a screening of Kelly’s film Invitation to the Dance, which contained a carnival scene that fired Bradbury’s imagination. When Kelly expressed a desire to work with Bradbury, the author scrambled to find a suitable story to adapt for the screen. He lighted upon an unfinished story titled “The Black Ferris,” which Bradbury originally planned to title “Dark Carnival” and use as the title story of his first book. Bradbury published a story titled “The Black Ferris” in the May, 1948 issue of Weird Tales, elements of which made it into the novel, but this apparently is not the same story as that which Bradbury referred to as “Dark Carnival.” From an afterword Bradbury wrote to a 1998 edition of the novel: “I found a story, ‘The Black Ferris,’ that I had planned to use under the name ‘Dark Carnival’ in my first book. The story was never finished, and the book Dark Carnival was published minus its title fantasy.” Bradbury wrote an eighty-page film treatment of the unpublished story and gave it to Kelly who was ultimately unable to secure financing for the project. Bradbury decided to turn his film treatment into a novel and spent the next five years working to that end.
Several directors were at one time or another connected with a proposed film adaptation, including Sam Peckinpah and Stephen Spielberg. One director to whom Bradbury showed the novel in its early stages was Jack Clayton, who Bradbury met on the set of John Huston’s Moby Dick. Clayton was interested in the project but the time never seemed right until years later when it was picked up by young producer Peter Douglas. Douglas first shopped the project to Paramount but the deal ultimately fell through. Two years later Walt Disney Studios called and expressed interest leading to production of the project at Disney.
Naha gives a rundown of the cast and their roles in the film as well as the logistics of building the Green Town set which is the centerpiece of the film. Bradbury speaks on the difficulty of trimming the screenplay down to a reasonable length as well as the emotional effect of seeing his work come alive on set.
            Something Wicked This Way Comes arrived in theaters on April 29, 1983. Although the film was favorably reviewed it was not a financial success, returning only $8.4 million domestically against a budget of $19 million.

--“The Reaper” by Jim Cort
Illustrated by Gregory Cannone
“How can you ignore a visitor who looks so much like death?”

-A man whose life is spiraling into misfortune finds himself shadowed by the presence of a grim reaper.

-This story’s greatest effect is the touch of melancholy attendant to a character undergoing a series of unfortunate rounds in the turnstile of life. Jim Cort is described by T.E.D. Klein as someone who “works for a Newark insurance firm and keeps his rejection slips in a peanut butter jar.” Cort placed another story with the magazine, “Pookas,” in the May/June, 1984 issue.

--The Essential Writers: Arthur Machen by Mike Ashley
“From the forest of his native Wales to the slums of Victorian London, he looked beyond the everyday to a world of dread and wonder.”

-The return of this semi-regular feature highlighting important writers in the fields of horror and the supernatural means another excellent essay from literary historian and editor Mike Ashley. Ashley’s focus this month is the Welsh writer Arthur Machen (1863-1947), a novelist, essayist, and story writer best known for a handful of tales of supernatural horror which have served anthologists well down through the years. Ashley gives a thorough account of Machen’s life and career beginning with his childhood in Wales, his early work as a humorist and translator, his move to London and the period when Machen created most of his best-known works, and on to Machen’s later life and career. The famous episode of “The Bowmen” is recounted in which Machen’s tale of spectral archers at the Battle of Mons was taken to be a true account. Machen’s marriages are briefly discussed as are his years as a journalist. The profile concludes with a look at Machen’s eightieth birthday celebration where the always impoverished Machen was presented with a fund of money raised by his literary friends, including T.S. Eliot, Algernon Blackwood, Walter de la Mare, W.W. Jacobs, and others. A portion of Machen’s appreciative speech is reprinted.
            Machen is a hugely important figure in the history of supernatural fiction but one who has never attained the sort of literary stature of which he is deserving. Machen’s oft-reprinted tales, such as “The Great God Pan,” “Novel of the White Powder,” “Novel of the Black Seal,” and “The White People,” are widely celebrated but Machen’s writing career was a long one and contained many gems for the attentive and patient reader, including the novel The Hill of Dreams, three volumes of autobiography, and much quality work from later in his career. Machen’s importance can perhaps best be seen in his influence upon subsequent writers, particularly on the two American writers H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. Lovecraft stated of Machen: “Of living creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch, few if any can hope to equal the versatile Arthur Machen, author of some dozen tales long and short in which the elements of hidden horror and brooding fright attain an almost incomparable substance and realistic acuteness” (Supernatural Horror in Literature, 1927). King has rated Machen highly throughout his career. His 2008 story “N.” was influenced by Machen’s own story titled “N” (1936) and King also dedicated his 2014 novel Revival in part to Machen, writing: “And to Arthur Machen, whose short novel ‘The Great God Pan’ has haunted me all my life.”
The recent Oxford collection The Great God Pan and Other Horror Stories edited by Aaron Worth (2018) is an excellent primer of Machen’s fiction. The fellowship organization, The Friends of Arthur Machen, is an excellent place for information and news on Machen.

Illustration by Gary Harkins
for Machen's "The White People"
--Required Reading: A Machen Sampler by Arthur Machen
“Scenes of beauty, mystery, and madness by one of fantasy’s premier stylists.”

-Unlike previous entries in this series, T.E.D. Klein elected not to reprint a single story but to present excerpts from a number of Machen’s works. The idea was to give a sense of Machen’s variegated prose stylings but I feel that reprinting in full one of Machen’s quality but lesser-reprinted tales, such as “The Red Hand,” “The Inmost Light,” or “The Shining Pyramid,” would have been a better choice as none of the excerpts are designed to be self-contained episodes and thus may feel incomplete to a reader. The sampler presents excerpts from the following works:

-“The Great God Pan,” the first part of which was published in 1890, the completed work of which was published in 1894. The story tells of an experiment conducted by a scientist on a feeble-minded young woman in an effort to open her “inner eye” to the world which lay hidden beyond the ordinary. The result is that the girl experiences the forest deity Pan, goes insane and dies. The result of her brief coupling with Pan, however, is the creation of a supernatural femme fatale who matures to terrorize London’s male population. The story was denounced in some circles upon its initial appearance as it was accused of representing the excesses of the decadent movement in literature. The excerpts of the story are from the opening section, “The Experiment.”

-“The Inmost Light” is the story of a scientist who extracts the soul of his wife and places it into a gem. The wife, no longer human without a soul, must be killed and the scientist dies a broken man. The story first appeared in 1894.

-“The White People” is perhaps Machen’s most highly-regarded story. It is the tale of a young innocent girl’s indoctrination into the wonders and horrors of the occult. The story is told in the girl’s voice in the form of a notebook. The story first appeared in 1904 though it was written in 1899. This is the longest excerpt in the sampler.

-“The Happy Children” was first published in 1925 and tells of a man who’s witness to a procession of ghostly children who bear the stigmata on Childermas Eve.

-Far Off Things is the first volume of Machen’s autobiography, published in 1922. The excerpt presents a passage in which Machen recalls his life in London as a young man of twenty.

-The Hill of Dreams (1907) is a somewhat autobiographical novel about a young artist who indoctrinates himself into the occult in his native Wales before moving to London and dying after a night of debauchery. The novel is celebrated for its prose and the power of its narrative.

-“A Fragment of Life” (1904) concerns a suburban London couple’s transition to a life open to the ecstasies of transcendental experience.

--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone: Part Eighteen by Marc Scott Zicree
-Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, now in its third edition, continues his early guide to the series with listings for the cast and crew, summaries, and Rod Serling’s narrations for the following fifth season episodes: “A Kind of Stopwatch,” “The Last Night of a Jockey,” “Living Doll,” “The Old Man in the Cave,” and “Uncle Simon.”

--TZ Discovery: “A Machine to Answer the Question” by Rod Serling
Illustrated by Julie Hechtlinger
“Broadcast live three decades ago, this doomsday play demonstrates that, even at the start of his career, Serling’s imagination was turned toward The Twilight Zone.”

-This radio script (from an earlier television script) by Rod Serling is prefaced by “A word from the publisher about the following script . . .” in which Carol Serling describes going through Rod Serling’s old scripts in an effort to find interesting early work, especially early work which reflected Serling’s interest in the type of subject matter which later became the focus of The Twilight Zone. Carol Serling also calls for entries in the magazine’s Second Annual Short Story contest.

-“A Machine to Answer the Question” begins with the discovery of a dead scientist, his head bashed in, with his assistant dead beside him from an apparent suicide. A machine nearby is repeating a statement: “The answer is tonight. . .”
-A flashback tells the story. It concerns a scientist, Dr. Bukoff, who creates a machine which can solve any equation. His impetuous assistant, Dr. Chesney, is prepared to ask the machine very difficult questions against the wishes of Bukoff, who fears the machine is not ready for complex equations. When Chesney asks the machine the nature of the unidentified flying objects seen in the sky, the machine answers that these are alien spaceships. When asked from where, the machine answers from Mars. When asked for what purpose, the machine states to destroy Earth. The next inevitable question is when this attack from Mars will happen. Bukoff attempts to stop Chesney from asking this question and Chesney responds with violence, bashing Bukoff’s head in. Then he gets his answer: “The answer is tonight . . .” A detective and a coroner are left to puzzle why Chesney would kill Bukoff and take his own life.

-According to Rod Serling: His Life, Work, and Imagination by Nick Parisi (2018), “A Machine to Answer the Question” was first dramatized in 1952 for Cincinnati television station WKRC-TV’s dramatic anthology series The Storm, which was a showcase for Rod Serling’s early scripts. The play was later dramatized on the radio series It Happens to You, which added an evocative opening narration hinting at things to come with its use of “the twilight land of the unknown.”  

--Looking Ahead: In October’s TZ
-Next time we’ll take a look at an issue which includes a new “Other Dimensions” feature on spoken records by Ronald Smith, a new quiz, “The ‘So saying, he vanished’ Quiz” by Chet Williamson focused on final lines from famous works of fantasy, an interview with novelist and director Nicholas Meyer, features on Star Trek and ruined Irish mansions, Rod Serling’s script for “In Praise of Pip,” and a clutch of tales from such notable names as Avram Davidson, Robert Sheckley, Al Sarrantonio, Melissa Mia Hall, and Gary Brandner. See you next time!



  1. This seems like a jam-packed issue, though it definitely could've used Pia Zadora in a string bikini. By the way, are you guys going to resume reviewing episodes?

    1. Hey Jack, we are going to resume reviewing episodes. Very sorry about the long delay between reviews. Should be getting "The New Exhibit" finished up soon and posted.