Jeff’s book review of The Golem (a novel by Edward Lee) has been reprinted in Cemetery Dance #64.
Jeff’s book review of Horrors Beyond (an anthology edited by William Jones) has been reprinted online at Elder Signs Press.
Jeff’s interview with Australian writer/editor David Conyers is available in Shroud Magazine #8.
Jeff’s latest book review (The Golem by Edward Lee) is available online at Horror World.
Jeff’s latest book review (Windwalker’s Mate by Margaret L. Carter) is available online at Innsmouth Free Press.
Jeff has received a galley proof of his story for the forthcoming anthology Tales Out of Miskatonic University.
Jeff’s latest book review (30 Days of Night: Rumors of the Undead by Steve Niles & Jeff Mariotte) is available online at SFReader.
As Timeless As Infinity: Vol 2
Tony Albarella, editor
Gauntlet Press continues its ambitious undertaking to present the complete Twilight Zone scripts of Rod Serling in As Timeless As Infinity: Vol 2. In addition to teleplays from all five seasons, the book contains tributes, photographs, music cue sheets, and insightful commentaries from editor Tony Albarella.
Rod Serling once said, “My major hang-up is nostalgia,” and that yearning to return to a simpler world is evident within the collection. Exhausted by the demands of producing a weekly television show and plagued by disagreements with sponsors and the network, Serling must have identified completely with Martin Sloan, the tense advertising executive who retreats to his hometown in “Walking Distance.” Sloan is delighted to find that everything is exactly the way he left it a quarter-century before, until he realizes that you truly “can’t go home again.” A heartless industrialist named William Feathersmith takes a far darker trip in “Of Late I Think of Cliffordville.” Feathersmith – a “predatory, grasping, covetous, acquisitive animal of a man” – has reached a career pinnacle, and he’s bored. But when he strikes a Faustian bargain to go back fifty years and start all over again, things don’t turn out the way he had planned.
Not all of Serling’s characters want to relive the past: Some want to prolong their future. In “The Trade-Ins,” an elderly couple visits a corporation that promises a second chance at life via new, artificial bodies. But the husband and wife – both in their seventies – face a difficult decision after discovering that they can only afford one new body. In “A Short Drink from a Certain Fountain,” a man in a troubled May-December marriage injects himself with an experimental youth serum to please his younger wife, and the results are unexpected.
The “unexpected” quickly became stock-in-trade for The Twilight Zone, and Serling rightfully earned a reputation for his twist endings. In “The Silence,” an exasperated member of a gentlemen’s club wagers that a fast-talking boor can’t keep quiet for an entire year, and each man takes drastic steps to win the bet. In “Judgment Night,” a ship inches through a “phantom-like” fog while one of its passengers is lost in a fog of his own: Struggling with partial amnesia, the man is gripped with an impending sense of doom and the fear that he has done all of this before. Here, Serling remakes the myth of the Flying Dutchman into a wartime story pitting a German submarine against a British freighter, just as H.P. Lovecraft did decades earlier in “The Temple.”
A character in “Walking Distance” offers this piece of advice: “You’ve been looking behind you…Try looking ahead.” But Gauntlet Press understands the importance of preserving and celebrating past achievements in speculative fiction: Each script in the book has been painstakingly reproduced, complete with handwritten notes, from Serling’s personal collection. As Timeless As Infinity: Vol 2 is like a time capsule for Twilight Zone fans, transporting them back to the halcyon days of Rod Serling’s remarkable television series.
—Review by Jeff Edwards
[Originally published in Dark Wisdom, May 2006 / Reprinted online at SFReader, November 2006]
The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont: Vol 1
Roger Anker, editor
The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont: Vol 1 opens with an apt quote from Beaumont himself – “All the fantasy writers I know have a way of dwelling on their own fears and phobias. A writer spends his life being his own psychiatrist.” These words echo quietly throughout the collection.
Writers – and others with strong imaginations – often terrify themselves with demons of their own design. Beaumont takes this idea and amplifies it: His trademark scenario is a claustrophobic, nightmarish situation from which his characters cannot escape. In “Perchance to Dream,” Edward Hall stays awake for eighty-seven hours, convinced that his dreams will kill him. “The mind is everything,” he says. Edward is certain that if he dies in a dream, his heart won’t withstand the shock in real life. In “The Jungle,” Alan Richards and his wife are terrorized by a curse laid upon them by angry African shamans. Alan has seen voodoo work – has seen healthy people sicken and die – because the victims believed in the dark magic, “and their belief made it real.”
In his own life, Beaumont fell victim to the typical Hollywood syndrome: “The more money he made, the more he spent,” says a friend. Too much was never enough. Beaumont’s scripts reflect the same type of excess. In “A Nice Place to Visit,” a small-time criminal dies and goes to heaven (he thinks) where everything he wants is just a wish away. In “The Prime Mover,” Ace Larsen is ecstatic to learn that a friend possesses the power of telekinesis, and that this talent can be exploited for profit in the casinos of Las Vegas. Despite winning enough money to last a lifetime, Ace continues to gamble with bigger and bigger stakes, his behavior turning uglier with every dollar he wins.
In addition to tales of greed and overactive imagination, Beaumont (whose real name was Nutt until he had it legally changed) often wrote about losing one’s identity. In “Person or Persons Unknown,” David Gurney is puzzled – then horrified – when no one seems to recognize him. His wife and co-workers all regard him as a stranger, as though David’s existence has been wiped out. At the start of “In His Image,” Alan Talbot finds himself in a similar situation: When he returns to his hometown after only a few days’ absence, Alan discovers someone else living in his house. His neighbors are gone, the town has changed, and even the buildings are different: “Either I’ve got the worst memory in the world…or…” Sadly, Beaumont would soon struggle with his own memory: He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of thirty-five. He died just a few years later.
Beaumont’s premature death at the age of thirty-eight was tragic, but he left behind a body of work that continues to inspire writers and filmmakers. The Twilight Zone Scripts of Charles Beaumont: Vol 1 does a superb job of preserving that legacy for a new generation of readers to discover.
—Review by Jeff Edwards
[Originally published online at SFReader, April 2005]
Twilight Zone: The Movie
Robert Bloch lends his name to the impressive roster of creative forces behind Twilight Zone: The Movie. Perhaps acknowledging that genre giants don’t normally write motion picture novelizations, the publisher euphemistically describes the book as “a four-part fantasy novel.” With such impressive pedigree – the author of Psycho adapting stories by the likes of Richard Matheson from a concept created by Rod Serling – Twilight Zone: The Movie ought to be a treasure trove for speculative fiction fans. And yet, most of the book feels oddly flat and empty. The main shortcoming is that only half of the four stories offer anything resembling character development.
The first two tales are one-note from beginning to end. It’s not Bloch’s fault; in fact, a tragic accident during the movie’s production forced a dramatic change to the first segment: What was intended to be a story of redemption instead takes the darkest turn possible at its conclusion. In that story, “Bill,” an intensely prejudiced man gets to experience what it’s like to be on the receiving end of such hatred. And in “Valentine,” an airplane passenger with an overwhelming fear of flying watches in horror as a creature destroys his plane’s engines mid-flight. Here, Bloch effectively adds brush strokes to a psychological portrait, creating far more ambiguity in print than existed onscreen: When Valentine tries to photograph the monster through the plane’s window, it turns out that he has “taken a photo of his own reflection.”
The final two stories barely seem original now – a child with god-like powers, and a group of elderly people magically transformed into children – but Bloch includes character arcs to compensate for the clichés. In “Helen,” a disillusioned schoolteacher finds herself energized by the prospect of helping a young boy understand his “terrible, wonderful gift.” At the beginning of the story, Helen thinks, “What was the sense of trying to teach when nobody listened?” But by the end, she is ready to start over: “The thought of teaching again filled her with joyful anticipation.” And in “Bloom,” a new arrival at the Sunneyvale Retirement Home brings a breath of fresh air and the promise of a second childhood. When he first checks in, Mr. Bloom finds a roomful of people who have given up on life: some bitter, some merely resigned to their fate. But Bloom teaches them the importance of staying young at heart: “The day we stopped playing is the day we started getting old.”
Twilight Zone: The Movie is hardly ground-breaking – three of the four segments are nothing more than remakes of early 1960s episodes from the iconic television series. Having Robert Bloch write the novelization was an inspired move, but it would have been more refreshing to go back to the original source material: the work of Jerome Bixby, George Clayton Johnson, and Richard Matheson.
—Review by Jeff Edwards
[Originally published online at Lost in the Dark, April 2005 / Reprinted online at SFReader, July 2005]