Perhaps the most fun anthology published last year was Twilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary, edited by Carol Serling, wife of the late creator of the seminal television series. Like the TV version, which featured established actors as well as obscure talents and stars of the future, the 50th anniversary edition showcased a few well-known authors and quite a few lesser-known names and an unpublished story from Rod Serling, himself.
Now, less than a year later, Mrs. Serling follows up with More Stories from the Twilight Zone. This time fewer of the writers will be familiar to most readers, but that doesn’t take away the fun or the nostalgia of traveling to “…a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man… It is an area we call the Twilight Zone.” And again readers are gifted with a “new” story from Rod Serling, this one a real treat.
As might be expected with a collection this large, the stories are uneven both in their quality and in their ability to hold the theme, but none is a real disappointment. To really play to the Twilight Zone tradition, one would expect a uniform length; however, this is not the case at all. The stories range from 16 to 46 pages, and Serling’s tale comes in at only nine.
Here are a few highlights to whet your appetite:
- In Loren Estlemen’s “Curve,” Herb Tarnower is snoozing in his chair watching the History Channel. He comes awake when he sees what he thinks is a replay of John Kennedy’s funeral. Suddenly, he realizes that the funeral is live, and JFK has died at the age of 92. That is not the only thing that is different in this version of the Twilight Zone.
- In “Dead Post Bumper,” Dean Wesley Smith allows successful businessman Elliot Leiferman to drive his Jaguar way over the speed limit in Death Valley. Elliot should have filled his gas tank if he planned to make it back from the Twilight Zone.
- David Gerrold’s title, “Sales of a Deathman,” is a great play on words. Justin Moody discovers that one can make a good living working as the grim reaper, but the position has its downsides.
- In “Stanley’s Statistics,” Jean Rabe offers some poetic justice to a conman and serial killer who swipes antiquities from his Meals on Wheels clients.
- M. Tara Crowl proves that you should always be careful what you wish for in “The Bloodthirstiness of Great Beauty.” Aspiring actress Livia Mendlessohn, after a demeaning experience at an audition, says she will do anything to be beautiful. She gets her wish and ends up in the Twilight Zone.
- Rod Serling’s “An Odyssey, or Whatever You Call It Concerning Baseball” is a just plain terrific Walter Middy-type tale.
In all this sequel may not be quite as good as last year’s tribute, but for good nostalgic fun, fans will be hard pressed to find anything better this year, short of watching reruns on cable.
Those of us who waited eagerly each week to be transported through our 21” or 17” black and white screens to that other dimension a half-century ago still can’t get enough. Here is another chance to find ourselves in “…a middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition… between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge… an area we call the Twilight Zone.”
Mark Graham reviewed books for the Rocky Mountain News from 1977 until the paper closed its doors in February 2009. His “Unreal Worlds” column on science fiction and fantasy appeared regularly for over two decades. He has reviewed well over 1,000 genre books. If you see a Rocky Mountain News blurb on a book, it is likely from a review or interview he wrote. Graham also created and taught Unreal Literature, a high school science fiction class, for nearly 30 years in the Jefferson County Colorado public schools