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Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine

Entry updated 17 January 2020. Tagged: Publication.


US letter-size print magazine published by Montcalm Publishing, New York, under licence to Viacom Enterprises and Carolyn Serling, widow of Rod Serling. It was a companion to the men's magazine Gallery. It ran for sixty issues from April 1981 to June 1989; monthly until December 1982, thereafter bi-monthly. It was edited by T E D Klein until August 1985, Michael Blaine October 1985-October 1986, and finally Tappan King. Although the October 1986 issue was filled with material selected by Blaine, he had already left office by that time and the issue was compiled by Associate Editor Alan Rodgers and Managing Editor Robin Bromley. The magazine incorporated some Slick pages for centre spreads and movie illustrative features, but the majority of pages were high quality book paper, allowing it to be liberally illustrated.

The magazine was inspired by the television series The Twilight Zone (1959-1964), to which agent Kirby McCauley had licensed rights several years before, and sought to emulate the series' dissociative weirdness. Each issue contained a cumulative episode guide to The Twilight Zone by Marc Scott Zicree and a script for one of the episodes, illustrated with stills. With regard to the magazine's fiction, Carol Serling specified that "the ordinary laws of the universe do not apply here". The emphasis was thus on the strange and unusual – a policy that rather ruled out most science fiction, even though the original TV series had featured a high quota. Science fiction nevertheless did appear, notably "The Jaunt" (June 1981) by Stephen King, a haunting description of the perils of Matter Transmission, but under Klein the emphasis was on more traditional supernatural fiction – there were features on and reprints of stories by Algernon Blackwood, William Hope Hodgson, M R James, Arthur Machen and H R Wakefield as well as material (new and reprint) by Weird Tales writers H P Lovecraft, Frank Belknap Long, Richard Matheson and Fritz Leiber amongst others. Klein did not ignore the current stream of writers, notably Stephen King, Peter Straub with his first short fiction The General's Wife (May 1982; 1982), Ramsey Campbell, Charles L Grant, Connie Willis and Pamela Sargent. Other contributors included Robert Sheckley, George R R Martin, Lewis Shiner, Joan Aiken, Stanley Schmidt and Harlan Ellison – whose demonic quest for true love, "Grail" (April 1981), in the first issue, set a challenging standard. Klein had a good record for discovering new writers, amongst them Lois McMaster Bujold, Melissa Mia Hall, Jack McDevitt, John Skipp and Chet Williamson; debuts under later editors included Elizabeth Hand and Maureen F McHugh (writing as Michael Galloglach). The magazine also ran an annual short story contest for previously unpublished writers, few of whose winners subsequently established themselves: the outstanding star was undoubtedly Dan Simmons, who was co-winner of the initial contest with "The River Styx Runs Upstream" (April 1982). Poppy Z Brite received an honourable mention in the 1985/1986 contest.

The magazine ran many movie and TV related features and from October 1983 sought to boost circulation by running film stills on the cover, forming a link to the media sf magazines. Sales had risen promisingly during the first year and a subscription drive in 1983 increased the total paid circulation to over 125,000, exceeding the sales of Analog, Asimov's and F&SF, though it was a peak it was unable to sustain.

Under Klein Twilight Zone could be seen as a blend of Weird Tales and Unknown, with the emphasis on the Weird Tales school. Michael Blaine sought to take the magazine into what he regarded as more "literary" territory, running more surreal material and stories by such internationally renowned authors as Dino Buzzati and Julio Cortázar, but this did not resonate with the publisher and Blaine was dismissed. His successor, Tappan King, nevertheless continued Blaine's literary standards, including material by John Updike, but broadened them to include more fantasy, especially new age imagery, urban legends and some science fiction. The October 1987 issue was slanted towards science fiction and science fact, with stories and essays by Greg Bear, Alan Brennert, Barry Malzberg and Frederik Pohl. This contrasted sharply with the previous issue which had focused on American Indian Magic, and the subsequent issue which looked at Vampires and Werewolves. Regardless of the quality of the material, which was always high, the magazine seemed to have lost its primary focus and weakened its market. Even though circulation remained higher than in its first year, the magazine was suddenly dropped without ceremony after its June 1989 issue.

Several stories from Twilight Zone won awards, although the best known, "Paladin of the Lost Hour" (December 1985) by Harlan Ellison, which won the Hugo and the Locus Award for Best Novelette, had actually been commissioned by Terry Carr and had appeared the previous August in Universe 15 (anth 1985). Likewise George Clayton Johnson's "All of Us Are Dying" (May 1982), which won the Balrog Award, had first appeared in Rogue (October 1961). Ellison's "Djinn, No Chaser" (April 1982) won a Locus Award and David J Schow's "Red Light" (December 1986), where a model believes she is being deconstructed through her photographs, won a World Fantasy Award.

At the end of the second year a retrospective 1983 Annual was compiled as Great Stories from Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, issued in perfect-bound letter-size format. It proved sufficiently successful that it was continued as a series, but digest-size under the title Night Cry (which see), edited initially by Klein. [MA]


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