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Twilight Zone Magazine Remembered: Then & Now @ WFC 2012

November 9th, 2012

Last Thursday I returned to the Twilight Zone.

But I didn’t go alone.

Also along for the journey were Scott Edelman, Nancy Baker, Darrell Schweitzer, and Elizabeth Hand – fellow contributors to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine, the legendary publication that dominated the fantasy landscape in the 1980s

Christopher Roden of Ash-Tree Press introduced our panel at World Fantasy 2012 (November 1 @ 9:00 p.m.), treating the audience to a PowerPoint presentation that featured a string of youthful photos of the panelists, all taken from the pages of the magazine. It was great seeing those kids again, looking back from the high ground of 2012.

After the introductions, Chris let the PowerPoint run on its own, displaying a string of vintage Twilight Zone covers. Thus, while the panelists reminisced, the screen became a window to the past: a simple but effective touch.

Afterward, we got together for a couple of photo ops, one in which we all lined up with issues containing our stories, and a second that featured each of us standing beside photographs from the magazine’s contributor pages — making for some interesting then-and-now comparisons.

For me, that second op made for a real Twilight Zone moment, standing beside the image of a kid who at the time had sold barely a half-dozen stories. It’s nice to be still in the game.

The same can certainly be said for Elizabeth Hand, this year’s WFC author guest of honor, who has gone on to win three World Fantasy Awards, two Nebula Awards, two International Horror Guild Awards, and others. Recently, Publishers Weekly named her novel Available Dark one of the Top 10 Mystery/Thrillers of the season.

Nancy Baker’s first sale to the magazine was “The Party Over There,” which appeared in the June 1988 issue. (In my previous post, “Remembering The Twilight Zone @ World Fantasy 2012,” I erroneously identified that story as “Exodus 22:18,” which was her second TZ story, appearing in June 1989.) Nancy has gone on to write three well-receive vampire novels: The Night InsideBlood and Chrysanthemums, and A Terrible Beauty.  She is currently working on a fourth book, which she tells us has nothing to do with vampires.

Scott Edelman was already active in fantasy publishing by the time he made his first TZ sale in 1983. In the 70s he wrote for both Marvel and DC Comics, creating The Scarecrow (a.k.a. Straw Man) for the Marvel universe. He has edited Science Fiction Weekly (the online magazine of the Sci Fi Channel) since 2000.

During our panel, Scott reminisced about the lobby of the Twilight Zone offices, which TZ shared with Gallery (a magazine that catered to a decidedly different kind of fantasy).

One side of the lobby displayed Gallery covers featuring scantily-clad women, while the other side was dominated by the much more sublime and surreal covers of Twilight Zone. Teasy vs. TZ? Ah, gotta love the 80s!

Our fifth panelist was writer, editor, and critic Derrell Schweitzer, who spoke insightfully about the role that Publishers Clearing House played in the magazine’s demise. According to Derrell, PCH oversold underpriced subscriptions, resulting in cash-flow problems.

And so today we are left with fond memories, not to mention careers that began with Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine.

What do you think? Do you remember the magazine? Thoughts, comments, and corrections are always welcome. Use the comment box below or the Facebook tab at the top of the page.

Rock on!

Remembering Twilight Zone Magazine @ World Fantasy 2012

October 30th, 2012

The big news today might be Frankenstorm, but once that monster blows through, I’m hoping to head north for something bigger.

This year, Toronto will be playing host to The World Fantasy Convention, an international gathering of writers, editors, scholars, readers, and others associated with all aspects of fantastic literature.

This year, my first big convention event takes place on Thursday night at 9:00, when I’ll be moderating a panel titled “Remembering The Twilight Zone,” featuring fantasy writers who got their starts writing for the magazine during its decade-long run as one of our most influential magazines.

Known officially as Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone Magazine, the publication carried on the tradition of the popular CBS television series by delivering an eclectic mix of fantasy, science fiction, and horror.

Joining me on the panel will be the convention’s author guest of honor Elizabeth Hand, whose first short story sale “Prince of Flowers” appeared in the magazine’s February 1988 issue. I did a reading with Elizabeth at The International Conference of the Fantastic in Florida in 2009, and I’m looking forward to joining her again in Toronto.

Also on the panel will be Scott Edelman, whose story “Fifth Dimension” appeared in March-April 1983. At his blog, Scott writes about how although he worked a block away from the Twilight Zone offices in the ‘80s, he did not want to meet editor T. E. D. Klein for lunch until after the magazine had purchased one of his stories.  “I didn’t want him to buy a story because he was biased to like me; I wanted him to buy a story because he liked the story.” Fortunately for me, after “Fifth Dimension” sold, Scott showed up at Ted’s office on a day that I was in town, and the three of us headed out to Costello’s Restaurant for lunch. The restaurant’s walls were covered with original doodles by James Thurber, and I remember Ted and Scott sitting with their backs to a droopy eared dachshund who seemed captivated by our discussion. For good reason. At the time, Scott was editing the magazine Last Wave, and both he and Ted had a lot of good advice about writing.

Other panelists will include Nancy Baker, whose first story “Exodus 22:18” appeared in June 1989; and the prolific Darrell Schweitzer, whose story “The Man Who Wasn’t Nice to Pumpkin Head Dolls” appeared in December 1988. Darrell had been selling fiction elsewhere before placing a story in TZ. I first discovered him in the pages of Fantastic Science Fiction and Amazing Stories – where my stories were also appearing in the early ‘80s.

My first Twilight Zone story, “Mrs. Halfbooger’s Basement,” appeared in June 1982. The following year, “Echoes” appeared in February 1983. The stories each reappeared in separate editions of Karl Edward Wagner’s Year’s Best Horror Stories, and both remain in print today. Their success, in large part, can be attributed to Ted, who guided me through the rewrites and made sure each story became what it needed to be.

After the Twilight Zone panel, I’m set to take part in the autograph session on Friday at 8:00 PM, where Ash-Tree Press tells me there will be plenty of copies of my collection This Way to Egress, which contains both of my Twilight Zone stories. The book also features some recollections about writing for the magazine.

Beyond that, I’m scheduled to do a reading on Saturday, 1:00 PM, where I plan to share some excerpts from my forthcoming novel Vortex: Book Three of the Veins Cycle. I may also share a bit of my new story “Mercenary,” from Rock On: The Greatest Hits of Science Fiction & Fantasy, the music-themed anthology that came out earlier this month. The publisher Prime Books will have a table in the dealers room.

After my reading I get to relax and attend some of the other panels, presentations, and readings before heading back home early Sunday morning. The weather report shows Frankenstorm will be burning itself out somewhere to the north by then.

It should be clear sailing for the return trip.