Monday, May 18, 2020

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 22

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

Volume 2, Number 11 (January/February, 1983)
Christmas issue
Cover art: Walter Velez
Note: TZ Magazine moves to a bi-monthly publication schedule.

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: Eric Protter
Associate Publisher and Consulting Editor: Carol Serling
Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Managing Editor: Jane Bayer
Associate Editor: Robert Sabat
Contributing Editors: Thomas M. Disch, Gahan Wilson, Marc Scott Zicree
Design Director: Michael Monte
Art Director: Pat E. McQueen
Art Production: Susan Lindeman, Carol Sun
Typesetting: Marianna Turselli
Production Director: Stephen J. Fallon
Controller: Thomas Schiff
Ass’t to the Publisher: Judy Linden
Public Relations Manager: Jeffrey Nickora
Accounting Mgr.: Chris Grossman
Accounting Ass’t: Annemarie Pistilli
Office Ass’t: Miriam Wolf
Circulation Director: William D. Smith
Circulation Mgr.: Carole A. Harley
Circulation Ass’t: Karen Martorano
Newsstand Sales Manager: Karen Marks Goldberg
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

--In the Twilight Zone: “Dahl’s house . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
--Other Dimensions: Etc.
--Dice-Wielding Warriors by Lawrence Schick
--“Crossing Over” by Jack McDevitt
--Optoshock! (photomontage) by Christopher Hoffman
--“Personality Problem” by Joe R. Lansdale
--“Tommy’s Christmas” by John R. Little
--“Recollections of Annie” by Charles L. Grant
--“There’s a Man Goin’ Round Takin’ Names” by Robert S. Reiser
--Fantasy Films ’82: A Critical Guide by TZ Magazine Staff
--“Below Zero” by John Kessel
--“Echoes” by Lawrence C. Connolly
--“A Chance Affair” by Mignon Glass
--TZ Interview: Roald Dahl by Lisa Tuttle
--Required Reading: “Royal Jelly” by Roald Dahl
--Other Dimensions: The ‘So Saying, He Vanished’ Quiz Revisited by Chet Williamson
--Rod Serling’s Lost ‘Christmas Carol’ by Sam Frank
--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Twenty-Two by Marc Scott Zicree
--TZ Classic Teleplay: “One for the Angels” by Rod Serling
--Looking Ahead: In April’s Anniversary Issue

--In the Twilight Zone: “Dahl’s house . . .” by T.E.D. Klein
-Klein highlights the issue’s interview with and story by Roald Dahl by presenting an excerpt from an article Dahl wrote for Architectural Digest which illustrates the ways in which Dahl mines his own life and interests to create his stories. The column is rounded out in the usual way, with capsule biographical information on the issue’s contributors along with thumbnail portraits. Klein attaches an addendum to the column explaining the magazine’s move to a bi-monthly schedule while also announcing an aggressive, national subscription drive. Klein laments a further shrinking of the genre fiction market but concludes: “it’s good to look forward to the expanded circulation, and to know that we’re going to be around for years to come, doing what we do best: publishing a magazine that’s right out of the Twilight Zone.”  

Max Ernst
--Other Dimensions: Books by Thomas M. Disch
-Thomas M. Disch returns after a month off to suggest buying books for those on your Christmas list. Disch begins his column by defining the types of books which are acceptable to purchase as Christmas gifts and those which are not (such as bestsellers, remainders, and books which are part of a trilogy). He proceeds to provide a list of Disch-approved titles with commentary. On Disch’s list are the following titles:

-Poetry Comics: A Cartooniverse of Poems by Dave Morice (Disch earlier praised Morice’s works in the July, 1982 issue of TZ)
-A Visit from St. Alphabet by Dave Morice
-A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil by Max Ernst
-Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Barry Moser
-Collected Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer (Singer will later be featured in the February, 1984 issue of TZ Magazine with a profile, interview, and story)
-Sixty Stories by Donald Barthelme
-Collected Fantasies by Avram Davidson
-Science Fiction Writers edited by E.F. Bleiler
-World Folktales by Atelia Clarkson and Gilbert B. Cross

-Disch points out that someone has to get coal for Christmas so he recommends Writing Science Fiction that Sells by Harvey L. Bilker and Audrey L. Bilker as the perfect lump of coal for the deserving person on your list.

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
-Wilson discusses what he views as the growing trend toward pessimism in science fiction films, tracing the trend from classic films such as Metropolis and Things to Come through Planet of the Apes, Alien, Outland, Escape from New York, Blade Runner, and The Road Warrior, the latter four of which were reviewed in the pages of TZ. Although Wilson acknowledges that science fiction films are generally highly moralistic and tend to view mankind’s folly through dark lenses, he finds that modern films are uniformly bleak in their view of the future of the human race. Still, he admits that this pessimistic view has likely not been taken as far as it could, predicting that the “Grapes of Wrath of absolute despair is still to come.”

--Other Dimensions: Etc.
-The miscellany column this issue provides a meaty update on Twilight Zone: The Movie, detailing the film’s format, directors, and stories, plus the spate of TZ cameos slated for director Joe Dante’s version of “It’s a Good Life.”  The column also looks at the rousing reception for Steven Spielberg’s E.T. when the film was shown at a special U.N. event.

--Dice-Wielding Warriors by Lawrence Schick
-Lawrence Schick, a game designer, provides a thorough look at the newly-burgeoning industry of tabletop role-playing games, focusing primarily on Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu but also listing, and examining, several additional titles. Schick begins by providing a detailed, in-game scenario based on Call of Cthulhu before moving on to further detailed information about the history of role-playing games, the functional aspects of various game elements, and the place of role-playing games in the larger culture. Schick provides a list of suggested titles based on genre, game-play, and player experience. Schick also briefly comments on the “Satanic Panic” movement in the culture, which pulled some role-playing games, particularly Dungeons & Dragons, into its sphere and attempted to depict role-playing games and its players as unhealthy, dangerous, or outright evil. Schick concludes his article this way: “Will role-playing games fade, and be remembered only as a college fad of the early ‘80s? I don’t think so; for those of us who’ve grown adept at them, they’re just too much fun. Their exact future is anybody’s guess, but my bet is that they’re going to be with us for a long time.” Schick was correct in his prediction. The popularity of role-playing games exploded in the years after he wrote this article, successfully moving into video games, LARPing (live action role-playing), and streaming movies. The influence of role-playing games can be seen in films, music, art, and literature. Numerous books have been written on the subject, ranging from player’s guides to comic books to sociological texts to history to art books to memoirs.

--“Crossing Over” by Jack McDevitt
Illustrated by Harry Pincus
“She was going to remain with him till the end . . . and beyond. But what if there was nothing on the other side?”

-A woman with a gift (curse) for connecting with the minds of others is paid a large amount of money by a spiritual association to connect with a dying man and definitively discover whether or not there is life after death. The woman is left emotionally damaged by the experience but is later allowed to heal when a tragic accident grants her the opportunity to comfort a close friend at the point of dying.

-McDevitt returns to the pages of TZ after he appeared with his first published story, “The Emerson Effect,” in the December, 1981 issue. “Crossing Over” is a moody and emotionally resonant take on a familiar theme which, like McDevitt’s earlier contribution to the magazine, is rich in character and incident.

--Optoschock! by Christopher Hoffman
“Some have transformed the world with a sword, some with a pen, one New Yorker has transformed it with scissors, a jar of glue, and a bunch of photos rescued from the trash can. Some might call the resulting vision ‘twisted’ or ‘surreal.’ He calls it simply . . .”

-Hoffman curates a personal journey through his particular art form: grotesque collage photography. Hoffman gives some personal background on how he came to first create his unique photographs and provides humorous captions for several selected images.

--“Personality Problem” by Joe R. Lansdale
Illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan
“Just ‘cause a guy’s got bolts in his neck, don’t mean he ain’t got feelings.”

-Frankenstein’s Monster lies on the psychiatrist’s couch for a session in which he explains his never-ending battle with being misunderstood and attacked by people. The doctor listens quietly until he interrupts the session to try and light the Monster on fire.

-This humorous short-short marks Lansdale’s fourth appearance in the pages of TZ, preceded by the similarly humorous shorts “The Dump” in the July, 1981 issue, “The Pasture” in the December, 1981 issue, and “Chompers” in the July, 1982 issue. “Personality Problem” was collected in Bumper Crop (2004).

--“Tommy’s Christmas” by John R. Little
Illustrated by Randy Jones
“The stranger wasn’t very jolly – and he stuffed things in his bad instead of taking them out.”

-Santa Claus is interrupted while robbing a home on Christmas Eve by little Tommy, who wants to know why Santa is taking things rather than leaving gifts. When Tommy’s older brother also awakens and enters the room, Santa decides to kidnap Tommy as an apprentice (he’s getting too old for this job, anyway). He only hopes Prancer and Vixen get used to the boy.

-This humorous short Christmas tale was reprinted in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories (1984), which reprinted several tales from the pages of TZ Magazine, including Joe Lansdale’s “Personality Problem” and Lawrence C. Connolly’s “Echoes” from this issue. “Tommy’s Christmas” was collected in Little Things (2010).

--“Recollections of Annie” by Charles L. Grant
Illustrated by David Klein
“There were two strong women in his life – and one of them was dead.”

-A talented carpenter and family man finds himself falling under the spell of his dead sister, Annie, who was a dominating influence over him when alive. On the suggestion of his son, he decides to build a snow sculpture of Annie rather than something more traditional. The closer he comes to finishing the snow sculpture, the more Annie’s negative influence takes over his life, altering his behavior and alienating his family.

-Charles L. Grant, a master of the suggestive horror story, returns to the pages of TZ with this stark, haunting meditation on the influence of the dead. The story is told in Grant’s typically economical style with a pleasantly downbeat ending. The story was reprinted in the limited-edition anthology Black Wine, edited by Douglas E. Winter (Dark Harvest, 1986) and posthumously collected in Scream Quietly: The Best of Charles L. Grant (2012).

-Grant previously appeared in the pages of TZ with “Silver” in the July, 1981 issue, and “Essence of Charlotte” in the February, 1982 issue. Grant also interviewed Stephen King for the April, 1981 issue.

--“There’s a Man Goin’ Round Takin’ Names” by Robert S. Reiser
Illustrated by Richard Basil Mock
“In what was left of Los Angeles, a census wasn’t quite the same as a head-count.”

-A census taker in the far future travels to a sparsely populated Los Angeles to try and record an accurate account of the city’s inhabitants. In this post-nuclear world mutants are the norm and the census taker must also record all the various mutations in each household.

-This was a light, enjoyable story with a neat twist in the tale. Reiser is described by T.E.D. Klein as the “writer of the off-Broadway comedy hit El Grande de Coca-Cola and a contributor to Fridays and other tv shows.”

--Fantasy Films ’82: A Critical Guide
-The TZ Magazine staff looks back at the major fantasy films of 1982. Accompanied by several color photographs from various movies, the feature is presented in two-column form, with the first column including what the TZ Magazine staff liked about the film and the accompanying column displaying what they did not like about the film. The films examined include: E.T., Star Trek II, Tron, The Thing, Cat People, Blade Runner, The Road Warrior, Quest for Fire, The Beast Within, Swamp Thing, Conan, and Poltergeist. Additional films, such as The Dark Crystal, Creepshow, and Halloween III are given snippet reviews in the color section. Although the TZ Magazine staff is particularly hard on many of the films, they were surprisingly down on John Carpenter’s The Thing and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, two films which were not particularly successful upon initial release but have since come to be considered classics. Several of the reviews contradict one another, as well. For instance, The Thing is criticized for its downbeat ending while Poltergeist is criticized for its happy ending. 

--“Below Zero” by John Kessel
Illustrated by D.W. Miller
“The chill was growing worse – and winter had nothing to do with it.”

-In an undisclosed time in the future, the world is extremely cold. Jennifer is a poor office worker whose life is a constant battle against the cold and the bureaucracy of her job. Her troubled coworker, Eleanor, arrives uninvited to Jennifer’s small apartment and complains that the cold she, Eleanor, constantly feels is not a result of the weather outside but something that follows her like a shadow. Jennifer gives Eleanor a place to sleep but in the morning finds that Eleanor has left the apartment and frozen to death in her car. Jennifer then begins to feel cold all the time, no matter how much she covers herself.

-This was an enjoyably bleak, downbeat story which reminded me a bit of the ending sequence in Rod Serling’s “The Midnight Sun.” Kessel does a great job creating the necessary atmosphere, which begins to creep up on the reader as the story moves towards its disturbing climax.

--“Echoes” by Lawrence C. Connolly
Illustrated by E.T. Steadman
“Billy’s mother understood exactly how he felt: when you missed someone, you conjured up a ghost and called it real.”

-A mother attempts to cope with her young son’s struggle to accept the death of his brother. Her husband’s return home from work reveals a larger picture of life in the house where both sons are revealed to be gone.

-This twisty short-short was reprinted in 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories (1984) as well as in Karl Edward Wagner’s The Year’s Best Horror Stories: Series XII (1984). It was collected in Visions: Short Fantasy & SF (2009). Connolly previously appeared in the pages of TZ with “Mrs. Halfbooger’s Basement” in the June, 1982 issue.

--“A Chance Affair” by Mignon Glass
Illustrated by Peter Kuper
“There were only a few things you could say about him: he was fat, overfriendly . . . and oddly forgettable.”

-A woman is forced to listen to a fat man’s babble in a cafĂ© in which he subtly reveals his growing appetite for living things. The man exerts a strange effect on the woman’s mind, making her forget certain things about their encounter. Later that night, the woman looks out of her apartment window and sees the fat man standing in the street looking up at her.

-This strange, atmospheric story was reprinted in the first issue of Night Cry. Oddly, no biographical information on Mignon Glass is offered in T.E.D. Klein’s editorial at the front of the issue.

--TZ Interview: Roald Dahl: ‘It’s got to be bloody good!’ by Lisa Tuttle
His style is witty, his imagination’s nasty . . . and he also writes for children.”

-Lisa Tuttle, who previously appeared in the pages of TZ with the excellent story “A Friend in Need” (August, 1981 issue) conducts this interview with the celebrated short story writer and children’s author Roald Dahl. Tuttle begins with a concise essay on Dahl’s writing career and the ways in which his personal life has intersected with his writing. Tuttle focuses much of the interview on Dahl’s short stories for adults, written over the course of twenty-five years and mainly published in The New Yorker. These humorous and macabre stories, such as “The Landlady,” “Lamb to the Slaughter,” “William and Mary,” and “Man from the South,” were collected in Someone Like You (1953) and Kiss Kiss (1960) and have been adapted on such television programs as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the Dahl-hosted ‘Way Out and Tales of the Unexpected.

-Dahl discusses his early writing career selling stories about his experiences as an RAF pilot as well as what prompted him to write short fiction and why he stuck to short stories for so long. He spends time on some of his favorite writers while lamenting the current state of the short story in English. Dahl reveals his level of participation in the television series Tales of the Unexpected (almost none) and his generally unpleasant experiences working on films, with the exception of the James Bond thriller You Only Live Twice. Dahl reveals the challenges he faced when moving from adult fiction to children’s fiction and discusses the challenges he currently faces putting together a collection of ghost stories, which appeared as Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories in October, 1983.  

--Required Reading: “Royal Jelly” by Roald Dahl
Illustrated by Frances Jetter
“A classic horror tale about the care and feeding of infants”

-A mother worries that her baby is not eating enough. She expresses her fears to the father, who assures her that he has the solution. He is an avid amateur entomologist and begins mixing royal jelly from bees in with the baby’s milk. Soon, the baby and the father, who has been ingesting royal jelly himself, begin to strangely resemble insects.

-“Royal Jelly” is one of Dahl’s most oft-reprinted tales and is one of the author’s few tales which uses strong elements of fantasy. Dahl’s stories for adults typically feature human cruelty or ironic twists of fate. He seldom used so bold an element as a father and child transforming into insects. “Royal Jelly” is taken from Dahl’s 1960 collection Kiss Kiss. The story has been reprinted in several anthologies, beginning with Edmund Crispin’s Best Tales of Terror (1962). It was adapted for television on Tales of the Unexpected by writer Robin Chapman and director Herbert Wise, broadcast March 1, 1980.

--Other Dimensions: The ‘So Saying, He Vanished’ Quiz Revisited by Chet Williamson
-This is a new collection of final lines from notable works of weird fiction, with the reader challenged to match the final lines with the story title and author. The quiz and answers are below. 

--Rod Serling’s Lost ‘Christmas Carol’ by Sam Frank
“Written by Serling for the United Nations, Carol for Another Christmas aired in 1964 amid controversy and outrage, then vanished forever. Now, at last, the program has been rescued from oblivion – and so has the story behind it.”

-Sam Frank definitively documents the genesis, production, and reception of Rod Serling’s television play, “Carol for Another Christmas,” which aired on ABC on December 28, 1964. The play was a modern take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with the characters and events updated for the Cold War era. It concerns a militant, right-wing millionaire played by Sterling Hayden who is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve, played by Steve Lawrence, Pat Hingle, and Robert Shaw, who show the stone-hearted millionaire the devastation wrought by unchecked military aggression.

-Sam Frank details the events which led a newly-created production company, in partnership with the U.N., to develop television programs aimed at illustrating the U.N.’s peacekeeping goals. Frank details Rod Serling’s involvement with the program near the end of The Twilight Zone, the struggle to find a network willing to air the plays, the continuous effort to get approval from the U.N., the trouble caused by far-right groups who wrote thousands of letters in an attempt to get the network to back out, and describes the production troubles association with the ambitious project. Frank provides details on the all-star cast and crews who participated in the project, discusses the other plays created for the project, examines the critical reception of the play, and gives an honest and balanced assessment of Serling’s script. Lastly, Frank reports on the recent finding of a print of “Carol for Another Christmas,” which had not been seen since its original broadcast.

-This article is a highly detailed account of the creation and reception of “Carol for Another Christmas” and a brief summation here does not do justice to the amount of information Sam Frank includes in his article. The article contains quotes from the play and from interviews with Serling as well as several photographs. Although it was difficult to view the play for many years, “Carol for Another Christmas” is now widely available to own on DVD and occasionally appears on television. It remains a hidden gem in Rod Serling’s career and a testament to the type of positive social change Serling was constantly striving to create with his writings.

--Show-By-Show Guide: TV’s Twilight Zone, Part Twenty-Two by Marc Scott Zicree
-Marc Scott Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion (now in a 3rd edition), continues his guide to the original series by including cast and crew information, a summary, and Rod Serling’s opening and closing narrations for the fifth season episodes “Black Leather Jackets,” “Night Call,” and “From Agnes – with Love.”

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “One for the Angels” by Rod Serling
-Presented here is Rod Serling’s script for the second episode of The Twilight Zone, which featured Ed Wynn as Lew Bookman, a genial sidewalk salesman who must outwit Mr. Death (Murray Hamilton) to save the life of a young girl. This heartwarming fan favorite first aired on October 9, 1959 as the second episode of the first season. It was directed by Robert Parrish. For more information on the episode, see our review here.

--Looking Ahead: In April’s Anniversary Issue
-Next issue marks the second anniversary of the magazine. Behind a Rod Serling cover lies an issue full of interesting stories and articles. Highlights include Rod Serling’s notes for a Twilight Zone movie, an update on Twilight Zone: The Movie, the winning stories from the magazine’s annual story contest, an interview with Colin Wilson, Richard Matheson’s story which inspired his first season episode “A World of His Own” (also included), and much more. See you next month!



  1. Looks like a good issue! 1982 appears to have been quite a year for movies. I didn't like The Thing at the time and have not seen it since. I also thought A Carol for Another Christmas did not age well, though I'm certainly in agreement with its message. This issue looks like it was chock full of goodies, what with the Dahl interview! Thanks for summarizing it.

  2. 1982 was certainly a banner year for fantasy, horror, and sf films. Mostly what I got out of the review feature is that the TZ Magazine staff really, really enjoyed E.T. I think they took umbrage with how radically different Carpenter's The Thing was from Howard Hawks' The Thing, apparently without realizing that Carpenter wasn't remaking the Hawks film but creating a new adaptation of John W. Campbell's story. I love Carpenter's The Thing but this is probably in part because it's the version I grew up with.

    I agree about Carol for Another Christmas. It is an oddity, a curiosity of Serling's career. After reading the production history it's not surprising that a less than stellar film emerged. I thought the Dahl interview was too short, honestly. He wasn't able to speak on working on Alfred Hitchcock Presents or 'Way Out during the fifties and sixties. Getting a chance to reread "Royal Jelly" was fun, though.

    Thanks for reading!