Friday, July 14, 2017

Reading Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine, Part 2

In which we take a closer look at each issue of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine. For our capsule history of the magazine, go here.

Volume 1, number 2 (May, 1981)

Editor: T.E.D. Klein
Cover illustration by René Magritte (“The Pleasure Principle”)

for Tanith Lee’s “Magritte’s Secret Agent”

TZ Publications, Inc.
President & Chairman: S. Edward Orenstein
Secretary/Treasurer: Sidney Z. Gellman
Executive Vice Presidents: Nils A. Shapiro & Eric Protter

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

Contents:


In the Twilight Zone, editorial by T.E.D. Klein
Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
Peter Straub Interview conducted by Jay Gregory
“In the Sunken Museum” by Gregory Frost
“Blood Relations” by Lewis Shiner
“And I Only Am Escaped to Tell Thee” by Roger Zelazny
“Chronic Offender” by Spider Robinson
“Seven and the Stars” by Joe Haldeman
TZ Screen Preview: The Hand
“Drum Dancer” by George Clayton Johnson
“Brief Encounter” by Michael Garrett
“How They Pass the Time in Pelpel” by Robert Silverberg
“Magritte’s Secret Agent” by Tanith Lee
Show by Show Guide: TV’s The Twilight Zone by Marc Scott Zicree
TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” by Rod Serling
Looking Ahead: “In the June TZ . . .”

--In the Twilight Zone by T.E.D. Klein
Subtitle: “Rewriting the Legends,” here Klein gives a rundown of the careers of the fiction contributors at the time of publication. It is interesting to see some writers, such as Lewis Shiner and Tanith Lee, at an early stage of their long and successful careers.

--Other Dimensions: Books by Theodore Sturgeon
After a perfunctory column in the premier issue, Sturgeon is back to provide his first in-depth book review column for the magazine. He reviews the following:

-Zelde M’Tana by F.M. Busby

-Wild Seed by Octavia Butler, which Sturgeon labels the best SF novel of 1980. Wild Seed is part of Butler’s Patternist series and received near universal acclaim from literary critics upon its release. Many critics still hold the opinion that it is Butler’s best book.

-Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstader. This nonfiction study of the art of the three subjects of the title won both the Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award upon its release in 1979.

-The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light by William Irwin Thompson, a book which Sturgeon claims will be running through is head for the rest of his life.

-Orbit 21 edited by Damon Knight. Sturgeon laments the final volume of Knight’s series of original sf. The Orbit series began in 1966. The Best from Orbit appeared in 1975 and covered the first 10 volumes of the series. The series is known for its literary quality.

-Shadows 3 edited by Charles L. Grant. Sturgeon suggest the Shadows series as a worthy replacement for the Orbit series. Though Shadows mainly featured horror fiction, Grant was open to science fiction and dark fantasy as well. The Shadows series ran to 11 volumes, with the last volume, Final Shadows, appearing in 1991. The Best of Shadows appeared in 1988.

-The Last Defender of Camelot by Roger Zelazny. The title story of this collection was adapted for the first revival Twilight Zone television series as episode 24 of season 1.

-Fundamental Disch, a collection of stories by Thomas M. Disch, who would later review books for Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine.

-If All Else Fails by Craig Strete

-Far from Home by Walter Tevis. This is a collection of Tevis’s speculative fiction. Sturgeon was a passionate admirer of Tevis and it is displayed in this review.

-King David’s Spaceships by Jerry Pournelle

-An Island Called Moreau by Brian W. Aldiss

-The Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe, part of Wolfe’s series The Book of the New Sun.

-A Fond Farewell to Dying by Syd Logsdon. Part of Pocket Books’s then-new science fiction line, Timescape, which ran from 1981-1984.

-Conan and the Spider God by L. Sprague de Camp

-Nightmares, edited by Charles L. Grant

-Jack Vance, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller. Literary essays on the writer. Part of a series which was edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander.

--Other Dimensions: Screen by Gahan Wilson
Wilson reviews two films: Flash Gordon (1980) and Altered States (1980). He urges filmgoers to approach Flash Gordon without taking it too seriously as it is clearly a throwback to the cartoonish science fiction comic strips of yesteryear. Wilson generally praises Altered States, especially the acting and special effects, but feels that the filmmakers completely dropped the ending. The special effects makeup artist on Altered States was Dick Smith. You can look back on our essay detailing the early television makeup work of the Academy Award-winning Smith here.

--TZ Interview: Peter Straub, conducted by Jay Gregory
The interviews with the leading proponents of horror and suspense are the gems of these early issues. This excellent interview with Straub details how he first became interested in reading and writing, how he made his way into writing supernatural fiction, and details the writing of each of his books to that point, including Ghost Story and Shadowland. Straub was in the process of writing Floating Dragon at the time of the interview and an adaptation of Ghost Story was currently being filmed. I highly recommend reading this interview for fans of Straub or of horror fiction in general. If you have never read Straub, he was one of the giants of the horror boom of the late 1970’s and 1980’s but unlike so many who capitalized on the public’s sudden taste for horror, Straub stayed relevant and carved out a very nice career for himself. He collaborated with Stephen King on two novels, The Talisman (1983) and Black House (2001) and his association with the popular writer has perhaps overshadowed Straub’s own notable achievements. Like T.E.D. Klein and a few others of the period, Straub was strongly influenced by the classical form of supernatural fiction, notably the works of Henry James and Arthur Machen, and, as such, his work is marked by a fine literary style rather than the more debased cinematic style adopted by many other horror writers of the same period. All of his work comes highly recommended. 

--“In the Sunken Museum” by Gregory Frost

Illustration by Frances Jetter
“Surely this was hell – or a fever-ridden nightmare. But then he learned the truth: that he was trapped”

-Edgar Allan Poe awakens in an impossibly vast and concealed domain which contains exhibits dedicated to his macabre literary masterpieces. Grade: A

-On September 27, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe intended to leave Richmond, Virginia by train for New York. He never made it. Last seen by his friend Dr. John F. Carter, Poe vanished for five days. He was found in Richmond on October 3, 1849 in a state of delirium. He died on October 7 having never recovered state of mind enough to tell what had become of him during the missing days. One of his last words spoken was “Reynolds.” This set of circumstances has baffled historians in the succeeding years. Where had Poe been? Who was Reynolds? What was the true cause of Poe’s death? From these elements Gregory Frost weaves a startling, surprising, suspenseful, and affectionate look at Poe’s whereabouts during his missing five days. The story is a treat for fans of Poe as it references Poe’s well-known works and is written in a pleasingly brisk style. By the climax the story does get very far-out but it does not diminish the charms of the tale. Highly recommended. Gregory Frost has worked in virtually every aspect of science fiction and fantasy, from novelist and short story writer to writing instructor and film actor. He has been nominated for every major award in the field and continues to occasionally produce short fiction.

-T.E.D. Klein reprinted “In the Sunken Museum” in the Fall, 1985 issue of Night Cry.

--“Blood Relations” by Lewis Shiner
Illustration by Arthur Somerfield
“There was a monster on the farm – and perhaps it was a member of the family”

-Someone or something is brutally killing the livestock on a struggling farm and soon sets its sights on to humans. Grade: C

-Shiner employs a lot of misdirection and plenty of bloody set-pieces in his story but it doesn’t add up to a satisfying tale and the rather juvenile ending just solidifies the overall underwhelming effect. Shiner went on to much better things. He is well-regarded as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, being closely identified with the Cyberpunk movement and winning a World Fantasy Award for his 1993 novel Glimpses.

-T.E.D. Klein reprinted “Blood Relations” in the first issue of Night Cry. 

--“And I Only Am Escaped to Tell Thee” by Roger Zelazny

Illustrated by Bob Gale
“All men pray for rescue – but who will save the rescuers?”

-A seaman on a cursed ship dives into the sea upon sighting another vessel. He is rescued but is revealed to be a portent of doom. Grade: B

-This short, enjoyable, if not terribly original, tale by Zelazny bears a strong resemblance to two Rod Serling stories, “Judgment Night” from the first season of The Twilight Zone and “Lone Survivor” from the first season of Night Gallery, as well as dozens of other such tales. Zelazny, of course, was one of the titans of mid-century science fiction and fantasy, with a shelf full of Hugo and Nebula Awards to show for it. His most famous work is the series of novels known as The Chronicles of Amber.

-Despite its brevity and derivative nature, Zelazny’s story has been reprinted a number of times, including in Terry Carr’s Fantasy Annual V, Carr’s, Greenberg’s, and Asimov’s 100 Great Fantasy Short Short Stories, and Peter Haining’s The Ghost Ship: Stories of the Phantom Flying Dutchman. 

--“Chronic Offender” by Spider Robinson

Illustrated by Steven Guarnaccia
“In which Harry the Horse takes a gander at the present – and almost gets caught in a pair of ducks”

-A time traveling gangster from the Depression finds himself in the 1980’s and devises a scheme to get rich with the help of an old friend. Grade: C

-Robinson’s story is written in a mock-Damon Runyon style which immediately sets it apart from the other offerings in the issue. While the story is quite funny in places, it runs entirely too long and the Runyon style grows tiresome by the end. Robinson is a prolific science fiction writer and a Hugo and Nebular Award winner. Health issues forced him to greatly slow down on writing in 2008. Robinson was a frequent guest on the Canadian science fiction show Prisoners of Gravity and can be seen there speaking on a wide array of topics related to speculative fiction. “Chronic Offender” is included in Robinson’s short story collection Melancholy Elephants (1984). 

--“Seven and the Stars” by Joe Haldeman

Illustrated by José Reyes
“It had no mouth to speak of, or with. It was scaly blue and smelled like an orange grove in heat.”

-A disillusioned science fiction writer meets a beautiful woman at a party who brings him back to her place to meet an alien that crash landed in her garage. Grade: C

-Haldeman’s story couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a send-up of science fiction, a commentary on being a serious science fiction writer in a society that doesn’t take science fiction seriously, or an exploration of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. As such, it doesn’t possess a consistent tone and feels too cobbled together to be effective, despite Haldeman’s usual graceful style and effective characterizations. The story is certainly not indicative of Haldeman’s talent. He is the author of such notable and award-winning novels as The Forever War and Forever Peace as well as a score of short stories, many of them award winners. Haldeman wrote the episode “I of Newton” for the first season of The Twilight Zone revival series. It aired on December 13, 1985. “Seven and the Stars” is included in Haldeman’s short story collection Dealing in Futures (1985). 

--TZ Screen Preview: The Hand

-Director Oliver Stone’s major film debut in the director’s chair is this psychological horror film about a cartoonist (played by Michael Caine) who loses his hand in a car accident and, while struggling to get his crumbling life back in order, is tormented by the idea that his hand is still out there carrying out the acts of rage which he holds within himself. The movie is based on the novel The Lizard’s Tail by Marc Brandel and falls within a small but distinguished subgenre of horror literature and film, that of the dismembered hand which develops a murderous life of its own. Other notable examples include William Fryer Harvey’s 1928 short story The Beast With Five Fingers, later made into a 1946 Warner Bros film starring Robert Alda and Peter Lorre, Maurice Renard’s 1920 novel Les mains d’Orlac, made into the highly regarded 1924 German silent film The Hands of Orlac, starring Conrad Veidt and later remade in the U.S. in 1935 as Mad Love starring Colin Clive and Peter Lorre, the “Terror in Teakwood” episode of Boris Karloff’s Thriller, the 1964 film The Crawling Hand, and a segment of the 1965 film Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors starring Christopher Lee and Michael Gogh. Writer George Clayton Johnson’s story “Sea Change,” which will appear in a future issue of the magazine, falls in this subgenre and was nearly filmed as an episode of the second season of The Twilight Zone. Although The Hand is an enjoyably deranged film, it is sadly almost totally forgotten, even among dedicated horror film fans. Oliver Stone went on to direct such films as Platoon, J.F.K., and The Doors. 

--“Drum Dancer” by George Clayton Johnson

Illustrated by A.G. Metcalf
“The Indian girl was lithe and beautiful – and she could dance up a storm. So what was the agent afraid of?”

-A talent agent discovers a beautiful American Indian woman who channels ancient and dangerous magic when she dances. Grade: B

-Johnson’s story of an innocent and oblivious young woman’s dark and deadly power is refreshingly original in nature and stylishly executed. Johnson always had a knack for original ideas, think of his Twilight Zone episodes “A Penny for Your Thoughts” or “Kick the Can,” and “Drum Dancer” proves no exception. It is a short, enjoyable piece of dark fantasy from a master of the short story. In his preview to the story, T.E.D. Klein states that “Drum Dancer” was originally published in a limited edition book but I have been unable to verify this prior publication. “Drum Dancer” was reprinted in Johnson’s career retrospective volume, All of Us Are Dying and Other Stories (Subterranean Press, 1999). Johnson, of course, was one of the chief creative forces behind the original Twilight Zone television series, crafting such enduring episodes as “A Game of Pool” and “Kick the Can.” 

--“Brief Encounter” by Michael Garrett
Illustration by José Reyes
“His time machine brought him knowledge, fame, and a shattering glimpse of the past.”

-A time traveler goes into his own past to see the mother he lost as a child. Grade: C

-This very brief time travel story is a simple character and mood piece. Garrett doesn’t offer much in the way of innovation or contemplation, instead showing a brief, tragic moment in a time traveler’s life. Garrett is notable for co-editing (with Jeff Gelb) several volumes of the Hot Blood series of erotic horror stories, beginning with Hotter Blood in 1991 and concluding with the final (to date) volume Dark Passions in 2007. Garrett provided a story to each volume he co-edited in the series.

--“How They Pass the Time in Pelpel” by Robert Silverberg
Illustrator unknown
“In search of rare plants, he discovered the strangest breed of all was human.”

-A man in search of a rare breed of cactus traces the plant to a strange, secluded village in Chile whose residents practice a highly unusual form of entertainment. Grade: D

-Science Fiction Grand Master Robert Silverberg is unquestionably one of the most erudite, engaging, stylish, literate, and fecund writers of science fiction and fantasy in the 20th century. That said, “How They Pass the Time in Pelpel” is a bafflingly poor short story from Silverberg. The set-up is a familiar one to readers of horror and fantasy. A person arrives in an unfriendly town whose inhabitants may be concealing a secret, perhaps a deadly one. Some notable examples of this type of story include “The Shadow over Innsmouth” by H.P. Lovecraft, “The Summer People” by Shirley Jackson, and “The Children of Noah” by Richard Matheson, among many, many other examples. Here, Silverberg seems to play against the expectations of such a story but has no viable alternative to offer other than an underwhelming and perplexing climax that I won’t reveal here. The story feels about twice as long as it really is due to a combination of excessive exposition and the let-down of the ending. The story was included in Silverberg’s 1984 short story collection The Conglomeroid Cocktail Party. 

--“Magritte’s Secret Agent” by Tanith Lee

Illustration by José Reyes
“His eyes were clear, large, utterly contained. Rather than an unseeing look, it was a seeing through – to something somewhere else.”

-A young woman working in a women’s store becomes obsessed with a beautiful young man bound to a wheelchair and under the chair of his seemingly cold-hearted mother. Grade: A

-Lee’s story combines tropes of the classical fantasy story with a modern character study of obsession and personal tragedy. When a young woman becomes obsessed with an impossibly beautiful young man bound to a wheelchair, she takes it upon herself to save him from what she perceives to be a repressive existence under the thumb of his uncaring mother. The truth she discovers about both of them will alter her life forever. It is a highly affecting piece which reminds me of Robert Aickman’s strange stories, but with a style that is completely Lee’s own. Tanith Lee was a highly prolific and idiosyncratic science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer who came to prominence in the early 1980’s with her Gothic influenced tales of dark fantasy. She’s won the British Fantasy Award, multiple World Fantasy Awards, and the Lifetime Achievement Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writer’s Association. “Magritte’s Secret Agent” was reprinted in Lee’s 1985 collection The Gorgon and Other Beastly Tales, as well as in editor Paula Guran’s Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep (Prime Books, 2015).

--Show by Show Guide: TV’s The Twilight Zone, Part Two by Marc Scott Zicree
-Zicree, author of The Twilight Zone Companion, continues his tour through the original series of The Twilight Zone, reviewing each episode in order. For each episode, Zicree offers information on the cast and crew, Rod Serling’s Opening and Closing Narrations, and a detailed summary. A photo accompanies each episode. The episodes he covers in this issue are: “I Shot an Arrow Into the Air,” “The Hitch-Hiker,” “The Fever,” “The Last Flight,” “The Purple Testament,” “Elegy,” “Mirror Image,” “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” “A World of Difference,” “Long Live Walter Jameson,” and “People Are Alike All Over.

--TZ Classic Teleplay: “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” by Rod Serling
-Presents the shooting script of Serling’s classic episode of paranoia and alien menace. Although “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” may not be the most popular episode of the series, it is arguably the one from which Serling got the most use and one which has endured to a remarkable degree. Serling adapted the teleplay into a short story for his 1960 volume Stories from the Twilight Zone (Bantam Books) and it is the one story from the series which regularly makes its way into school textbooks and into amateur stage productions across the country. The story has twice been adapted into comic book form, first with the 1979 volume Stories from the Twilight Zone with adaptations by writer Horace J. Elias and artist Carl Pfeufer and later in 2008 by writer Marc Kneece and artist Rich Ellis. The story was adapted to audio in 1993 for Harper Audio and read by actor Theodore Bikel, who appears in the original series episode “Four O’Clock.” It was also adapted as a Twilight Zone Radio Drama. Another interesting aspect of the short story is that Serling added an epilogue which sees the alien menace take over the entire world. This section is missing from the filmed episode and the original teleplay. 

--Looking Ahead: In the June TZ . . .

-Preview feature of the contents of next month’s issue.

Join us next month when we look at the June, 1981 issue, which includes the usual features and Rod Serling’s teleplay for “The After Hours,” as well as stories from Stephen King, Anthony Boucher, Alan Ryan, and others.

-JP 

2 comments:

  1. I love this series! I hope you keep going through the whole run.

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    Replies
    1. Glad to hear it, Jack. It's a fun series to put together and we think it shines a light on an underrated magazine. We definitely plan on getting through the whole run as well as Night Cry.

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