Friday, October 30, 2009


This has nothing whatsoever to do with M-Brane. I should probably post this at the Region Between blog, but I'm too tired to screw around with the LJ method of dealing with pics tonight. We carved pumpkins tonight, in preparation for tomorrow. We live in Carey Place, the most haunted street in the city. Literally hundreds of children will be here tomorrow evening for trick-or-treat. Happy Halloween, y'all!

The upper one is the one that Jeff carved. The lower one is mine, and is another variation of the same tried-and-true design that I use every year. I'll try something new next year. Maybe.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


The fantastic tenth issue has entered the world. All the order options (including the year PDF subscription... ahem)  are available on Page 2 except for the Kindle and Mobi versions. Our good friend, writer D.D. Tannenbaum, who programs the ebook version for me is in the hospital. I have no details on his situation, though he was able to alert me via Twitter that he'd get to the ebook in a few days. He's been a great friend to M-Brane SF and we certainly wish him well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AETHER AGE guidelines posted!

I have posted the most current version of the Aether Age writers guidelines. Click here to visit our Issuu  page where the guidelines document can be downloaded or read online. We'll start looking at submissions on November 15, with the deadline being January 30.

Soon there will be a separate page dedicated to Aether Age affairs, and I will post notice of it here when it's online.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

M-Brane and Hadley Rille to join forces on AETHER AGE

I'm pleased to announce that we plan to partner with Hadley Rille Books as publisher of the proposed Aether Age anthology of short fiction based on the "shared world" plan that was elaborated on this blog during the summer. We plan to release the book in the summer of 2010.

Hadley Rille Books was founded in 2005 by Eric T. Reynolds to publish science fiction with an emphasis on space, archaeology, climate and other science-related topics. Recently, Hadley Rille has also published fantasy titles and started a series of archeologically correct historical fiction. Having Hadley Rille as a partner in the project will expand the reach of this book and put M-Brane and its writers in the company of a great group of creators.

Check back for further information over the next several days. I will shortly post new writers guidelines for the project with specific submissions dates. I will also add a dedicated page for Aether Age-related news and information, much as we have for  Things We Are Not. 

I should add that when I say "we" in relation to this plan, I am including Brandon Bell who devised much of the architecture of the Aether Age world and will be closely involved with it throughout.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Back home

We returned safely from our trip to St. Louis. I still have two days off from the day job, so I will attempt to finish M-Brane #10 and come out with some major Aether Age news shortly.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Possibly offline for a couple days, traveling

J and I are going to St. Louis Thursday afternoon and will be, for a time, in a place that will likely have no internet access. A post at the Region Between describes our itinerary. I mention it here in case anyone needs me for anything M-Brane-related.  I don't think there is any especially pressing business right now, and I will be able to catch up on anything that comes up later in the weekend.

When I get back to normal routine, I will finish M-Brane #10 (see previous post for TOC) and make some announcements regarding the Aether Age shared world project.

M-BRANE #10 preview

Here's the table of contents for M-Brane #10, due out on November 1. We have a couple fewer stories in this one than in recent issues, but the items by Jeffers and Kenning are both novelette-length stories that I hope everyone will have time to read because they are quite lovely.

Finley, Watts, Gifford and Kenning are new to the pages of M-Brane SF. This is Jeffers's first appearance in the zine, but he was also recently published in our anthology Things We Are Not. Novy and Griffiths have each appeared in these pages a number of times before. Novy's entry is part of a series of stand-alone stories with the same main characters, other installments of which have appeared in other zines. Griffiths' story continues his Skinjumper serial. Hartley and Keller have each had one previous appearance in M-Brane.

Alex Jeffers: Jannicke's Cat
Liam R. Watts: The End of the Beginning
Toiya Kristen Finley: A Mix of Electricities
Rick Novy: How to Eat a Cobalt Bomb
Michael D. Griffiths: Take That
Robert E. Keller: The Mouth of God
Jennifer Gifford: From Embers to Ashes
James Hartley: The Spacebum
A.J. Kenning: Earners

I am continuing the offer of free M-Brane subscriptions (PDF edition) for people who purchase Things We Are Not either directly from me (print or electronic) or by way of the CreateSpace store (print). Visit the TWAN page for all the purchase options and details. Also, while it should be obvious, I'll add that one does not need to be "queer" to enjoy that anthology.  It is a collection of fine sf that can be appreciated by nearly anyone (It does contain some erotica, but not in every story, and it's not all about that).

Note to people who buy ebooks from Amazon (Kindle) or from Mobipocket: Things We Are Not as well as all issues of M-Brane SF from issue #4 onward may be purchased in in MOBI (.prc) format directly from M-Brane SF. The option is already there on the TWAN page for the anthology, and I will add it later today to Page 2 for ordering the zine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rant: Rage against Walmart

This is a tough issue, and I don’t have a good answer. But I know where I stand on it.

Check out this article about this ridiculous pricing war among of the giant discounters on their on-line sale price for new bestseller-category books. I was alerted to this situation this afternoon by a good friend, known perhaps to some of you as “The Little Fluffy Cat,” and @littlefluffycat on Twitter. She was calling on the Twitterati to stand against this rapaciousness and douchebaggery and instead buy their copies of Stephen King’s new book Under the Dome from an independent bookseller instead of Walmart, Target or Amazon.

Yeah, I get it that it can be more expensive to buy stuff that way. I understand that many people (like me, for example) live in the hinterlands and there simply aren’t any other options if you want a brick-and-mortar store (but we do get the internet here). Well, part of the reason for that lack of options is that the big box operators are so huge that it’s nothing to them to literally lose several dollars per copy on a book just so that they can have the best price. An independent operator can’t afford to lose money like that. So they go out of business or never go into business in the first place. And for what? So Walmart can win?  Walmart and its ilk don’t give a fuck about offering the best price on a Stephen King novel. Walmart doesn’t make its money selling books at all. Walmart makes its money by being the only goddamned store in town for groceries, toiletries, paper products, automotive supplies, clothing, pharmaceuticals and everything else that people need to buy whether they want to or not. How do they get to be the only store in town? By suckering all of us into their stores for the “best price” (and poorest selection, and worst service, and shoddiest merchandise, but so what?). Every time one of these eyesores sets up shop, it’s like a nuke explosion: everything dies within a wide radius around it. This dumb price war among the store’s online operations is just another manifestation of it. What, do they want the whole world wide web to also turn into suburban commercial blight? Disgusting.

Perhaps this is one of those things that I am getting too exercised about. After all, what does it have to do with me? I can’t afford to buy new hardcover books anyway, even at the discounters’ prices. Part of the reason for that is that I lost everything I ever had financially, in part as a casualty of the big box economy, and I have yet to recover (those years I spent in business for myself are nothing but failure on my resume, in the estimation of most employers). But if I wanted Stephen King’s new book and had the money to spend on it, I’d try like hell to buy it from someone whose real business is selling books.

Because if the day comes that there are no dedicated booksellers left (online or in meatspace), and it’s all in the hands of the mega-retail monsters, then where will you get those special treasures, those beloved book that are not Stephen King or Dan Brown novels, those books that really matter to you after the bestseller lists are forgotten?

Monday, October 19, 2009


[Brandon Bell has had stories published in M-Brane SF, Byzarium, Everyday Weirdness and elsewhere. His story "Things We Are Not..." is newly available in a certain anthology of the same name. Also, if you're needing an Oz fix while waiting for your copy of Shadows of the Emerald City from Northern Frights Publishing to arrive, you may be interested in this episode of Studio 360.--CF]

Stephen King (I believe in Danse Macabre) noted that the cinematic version of The Wizard of Oz represents an oddity of sorts.  It is one of the few films that outperforms its literary source material.  I'm sure the comment was in connection with the quality of many of the adaptations of his own work.

I mention this because, for many fans of the world of Oz, their knowledge of it is confined to that 1939 film, with possibly a dollop of the 'not nearly as good, but strangely compelling' sequel from the '8os, Return to Oz.

Until a trip to New Mexico, I was—mostly—one of these fans.  I once read a book of American fairy tales (the title long since forgotten) that included several entries from Baum.  But that was it.  My wife and I took our girls to Sante Fe for Thanksgiving last year and on the trip we listened to some public domain audio recordings I downloaded, including a nice collection of Oz tales.

Those tales, bearing some resemblance to Lewis Carroll's matter-of-fact morbidity, address death and physical harm in direct but fairy tale terms.  In one of the tales the lion and tiger discussed devouring someone but they talked themselves out of it in lackadaisical tones. They were... American fairytales.  The label fits.  Fairy tale logic and story structures merge with American imagery in those Baum stories to create something unique and endearing.  A mixture of the carnival and Vaudeville, old locomotives and circus animals, infused into the classic fairy tale mold.

Though the Baum stories that I have experienced are children's stories, there is a component darkness due, if nothing else, to their fairy tale form.

And then there is our cinematic Oz, with its flying monkeys, witches, and urban legends of midgets hanging themselves in the background of certain frames.  There is that rumor that if you play Dark Side of the Moon along with the movie, they match.

Into this history a book of short stories stumbles, seeking to gaze deep into the darker corners of our American Faery Land.  In this pursuit it excels, though some of the spirit of the original Oz tales must be left behind to make room for a more modern, adult, and nuanced flirtation with death and darkness.

Shadows of the Emerald City has rewards for both its cinematic and literary fans.  Some of these stories are dark love stories written to fans of the original movie alone.  Some seem aware of the sequel.  And then there are stories that venture into corners of Oz not seen or hinted at in the movies.

In the opening tale, Mark Onspaugh's “Dr Will Price and the Curious Case of Dorothy Gale,” we start, aptly enough, in Kansas.  I liked this story quite a bit.  It undertakes the considerably difficult role of delivering the reader, for the first time, back to Oz.  Worth noting is the familiar trope of the skeptical narrator, which works well as an entree into the milieu but is used to greater benefit as the existence of such a person is extrapolated upon and serves as the mechanism for the story's conclusion.  I found the actual transition from Kansas to Oz a bit herky-jerky, but that may have been intended.

Onspaugh's story lands ultimately in the horror zone, as does Barry Napier's “Tin.” Napier's tale expands upon the history of the Yellow Brick Road and takes our original cinematic tale in an alternate direction.  Think Poe meets Baum and you'll have a feel for the sort of story Napier delivers.  A nice story that allows for interpretation in purely psychological or supernatural terms.

I wanted to address to “Pumpkinhead” by Rajan Khanna and “Fly, Fly Pretty Monkey” by Camille Alexa together as they approach the milieu as one of dark fantasy. “Pumpkinhead” in particular captured the original fairy tale roots of Baum's stories while bringing a brooding horror rooted in decay and long-hidden secrets.  I am one of those readers who reads stories in order in an anthology, believing that the editor arranged them in sequence for a reason.  By the time I reached “Fly, Fly Pretty Monkey,” I wanted something a bit more understated and subtle, and this one delivered on that desire.

Which is to say, Mr. Schnarr has done a good job of arranging the stories.  The entries represent various approaches to the subject material such as the excellent “Emerald City Confidential” by Jack Bates and Jason Rubis' “A Chopper's Tale” which (at least to my delicate sensibilities) ventures into splatterpunk territory.  It also offers an alternative to Napier's history of the tin woodsman, demonstrating that Mr. Schnarr sought out the most effective stories for his anthology, as opposed to stories that jive together to offer an alternate view of Oz.

Depending on one's perspective, this could be a critique or a compliment to the anthology.  Regardless, there is great variety here for readers, though it is certainly aimed at an older audience.  Though there are some that would rate a PG if made into a movie, others, such as Rubis' tale, venture into NC-17 territory.

The artwork on the front and back covers is workable, and from a distance perhaps perfect.  On closer inspection, I'd like to see more whimsy in the imagery to contrast with the bloodstains on the yellow roadway.  I'm all about packaging: I think it matters.  I also realize that an artist is behind that work and I always want to offer, not negativity, but constructive suggestions for “next time.”  Based on the quality here, we will all be enriched by that “next time.”

Mr. Schnarr, his writers, and the artist, are in the early days of a new era of publishing.  These efforts count.

My final assessment of the anthology is that it can be a bit dark, reading all these stories in one go.  But, that is probably the point. This is, first and foremost, an anthology of horror stories.  And readers looking for something different in a horror collection, a collection that achieves this not only through the unique background of Oz but through a variety of tales and story modes, will find a sinister pleasure in these excursions over the rainbow.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Published! Things We Are Not

I should have mentioned yesterday that it was the formal publication date of Things We Are Not, and that the TWAN page has all the order options available now. Readers who pre-ordered print copies during the pre-order period should have them soon, since they shipped out yesterday. Readers who pre-ordered e-copies should have received them already.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Doc Savage redux

Take a minute to visit this site where Keith "Kez" Wilson presents his makeovers of cover art from Kenneth Robeson's Doc Savage series. Each one is a piece of art in the style of the original covers by James Bama, placing the "Man of Bronze" in adventures with other famous characters and creatures from genre films, as in the one pictured here with the Martian invaders from the 1950s War of the Worlds film.

There's a whole bunch of them to look at, even ones featuring Dracula (Lugosi) and the Doctor (Baker). Fun stuff.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Priming the mental pump for NaNoWriMo

I decided to indulge in a trip to the library this morning. I have not been scheduling myself efficiently in recent weeks, and I have not been making enough time in the day to just sit and read away from the computer and its projects. I have plenty of stuff in the house already that I could be reading, but none of it has been grabbing me (though I have been re-reading some Sherlock Holmes stories lately and enjoying them; hadn’t read any of that since I was a young kid).

I decided to go somewhat literary in my library selections this time. My planned novel for NaNoWriMo seems to be a “literary” story as opposed to a genre story. There does, however, seem to be some speculative elements creeping in as I contemplate its outline in my mind. Since I am headed in this direction for the November project—“Literature,” with maybe a dash of genre—I thought I’d pick up some items from the lit shelves. I picked two books by Michael Chabon. He seems to be a guest on public radio shows all the time. Just in the past week, I’ve heard him on at least three different programs. I enjoy listening to him talk, but I have never read any of his stuff. But I know he is a very well-regarded Literature dude who also has a lot of affection for the speculative genres. So I selected his short fiction collection, A Model World and his novel (a longish novella really) The Final Solution.  These books will introduce me to the sort of writer that I think I want to emulate with my NaNoWriMo project. Or so I think right now.

Next, the fiftieth anniversary of Naked Lunch, got me in the mood to take another look at some William Burroughs. I know Naked Lunch quite well and have a copy in the permanent collection, so I decided instead to go for The Soft Machine, one that I tried to tackle as a teenager but I don’t really remember it and don’t know if I actually finished it. Not being familiar with that one seems like a gap in my education, so here it sits waiting for me.

Last, I chose Brian Aldiss’ short fiction collection Supertoys Last All Summer Long (the title story inspired the film AI, planned by Kubrick and finished by Spielberg, and of which I am evidently the only living fan). I expect I will find that I have read at least some of the stories in that one before. But that’s all right. I think this group of books, with its mix of “mainstream” and the weird, will be a good mental fortification for my NaNoWriMo project. And they are all quite short, so I should be able to get them read in a reasonable amount of time. That whole stack in my hand is less than 800 pages.

I am known as "mbranesf" at the NaNoWriMo site, and am available to be buddied there.

How girls and gays are ruining teh sci-fi!

[UPDATE: I added below the post a bunch more icky gay pics, from the Star Trek: Phase II episode "Blood and Fire" from David Gerrold and Carlos Pedraza. Just to stick it to the haters a little more. The boy in red is Captain Kirk's nephew Peter.]

If you have somehow not heard about this yet, either from Outer Alliance discussion, or me tweeting about it, or the hundreds of other people tweeting about it after I did, or from Facebook or from Scalzi's blog, there exists a moronic online magazine of neo-misogyny (called The Spearhead, no less) on which someone identifies science fiction as being the proper domain of men and boys, and decries Skiffy Tube for "feminizing" the genre with such supposedly dickless and "politically correct" shows as the recent Battlestar Galactica. Oh, and the gays are fucking up the Doctor Who/Torchwood universe, too. The icing on the cake is that the post's author (don't know his name, he just goes by the ridiculous monicker "Pro-Male/Anti-Feminist Tech") provides a link to a raving piece of douchebaggery so douchey it's almost sublime in its douchiness, that being actor Dirk Benedict's screed about how the new Galactica castrated his Starbuck character. That article appears to be the original source material for Dumb-Male/Anti-Woman's post. Seriously, new-style female Starbuck could kick old-style male Starbuck's cheesy ass after chugging down a couple bottles of whatever that liquor is that they're always drinking on that show.

What a bunch of horseshit.  And I am sick of the idea that anything that isn't all about white straight male douchebags and their toys is automatically a manifestation of "political correctness." It's really quite funny in a way, but also maddening.

I almost feel bad about picking on these people. It sort of feels like beating up on Moon-landing conspiracy theorists. It's too easy a target. They're so isolated and pitiful and fringey that I almost feel like a bully for drawing attention to it. But with all the talk that goes in the blogosphere about what science fiction is, what it should be, what it will be in the future, how it stacks up against other literature, and so on, I think it's worth shining some light on this particular dank hole so that we realize these attitudes still exist and that so people who are less familiar with the genre understand that not all sf-loving boys are this dumb.

[Like Scalzi, I decided not to taint my own blog by driving traffic directly from here to the page in discussion with a link, but if you don't know where it is and want to read it, you'd probably hit on it eventually by Googling things like "spearhead" and "war on science ficton."]

[Oh, and I selected that Torchwood image just to do my part in further ruining sci-fi with male/male love].

Issue #12 update

The January issue, guest-edited by Rick Novy, will conclude our first full year of publication. I think I wish to mark this event in high style and release a special trade paperback edition of the issue, formatted like a short fiction anthology. Before proceeding with this plan, it would be nice to have some kind of sense of whether anyone would buy it (probably priced in the ten-ish dollar range). I can recoup cost without sales being huge, but there needs to be at least some sales of it. No one needs to commit now, obviously, but I wouldn't mind seeing some comments that indicate interest (or not) in this. It's going to be quite a good selection of stories with some new people that we haven't seen in M-Brane yet.

Aether Age update

I have fallen so far behind in recent days on business that I have been wanting to discuss on this blog, that I will need to dispense with some of it as outdated already and then deal with the rest of it in what will probably be a flurry of short posts over today and tomorrow.

I've officially decided that the first Aether Age shared world project will be a stand-alone anthology, produced under a model similar to Things We Are Not, with the biggest emphasis on trying to sell a print book, rather than as a special issue of M-Brane. I was waiting to get a sense of whether Things We Are Not was going to work out at all from a money standpoint. The pre-order period has gone well enough (not great,  but well enough) that I feel good that we won't lose money on it. I think such can be achieved with Aether Age as well.  Soon, probably within a week, I will have a couple of announcements regarding this project, including a revision of the guidelines, dates for a reading period, and some clarification of what we are doing copyright-wise.  This is going to be released under a Creative Commons license, which means that the universe itself will be available for anyone to use with due acknowledgement. It also means that the "furniture" that writers add to the universe with their own stories will be become part of that shared property. I'll explain this in more detail in the next iteration of the guidelines. It's quite different than a traditional copyright situation, but I think the end result will be terrific for everyone.

Friday, October 9, 2009


At The Region Between, there is a post tied in with the Twitter tradition of #followfriday with Twitter links to the book's writers and benefactors.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Some interesting items about our genre

I recommend that everyone read this article at SFF Media by John Howell titled "Why science fiction authors just can't win." It's a good encapsulation of recent events that have drawn people out on the topic of whether sf can be "good" literature or if it's just a disreputable genre...unless Cormac McCarthy or Margaret Atwood write it...and then it's not sf after all. Also covered is the recent broadside fired at the Booker Award by Kim Stan Robinson for ignoring all the fine recent British sf.

Then, as a sort of follow-up to this, try to make time to listen to this installment of Wisconsin Public Radio's show To The Best of Our Knowledge, on the topic of "The Future of Science Fiction." The portion of the show with Ursula LeGuin covers much of the same territory as the article above, and there are also interesting interviews with George R.R. Martin and S.T. Joshi, who discusses Lovecraft's cosmic vision and legacy.

All this kind of makes me want to kick some ass. I think the idea that sf just plain isn't "literature" by definition is totally silly as is the notion that it's somehow going to go away as a genre. If you have time for another item, here's another installment of TTBOOK in which Michael Chabon (a lit dude, but one of the good ones) gives an excellent defense of genre fiction.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

GUEST POST by SUE LANGE-- Michael Moore: The Conscience of America

[Welcome Sue Lange to the M-Brane blog with this interesting and timely item.--CF]

October 3, 2009: I was all set to do a shill post on my latest release (Uncategorized,; $1.99) which is obliquely related to M-Brane SF because the collection contains my story “Zara Gets Laid,” first published here in the June issue. I was all set to promote myself, but then I realized the world has bigger fish to fry. There are more important things to do than try to wrench a buck out of the unsuspecting science fiction reading public. And I discovered that because last evening I attended the opening of Michael Moore’s latest film, Capitalism: A Love Story.

Moore has a tendency to do that: make you rethink your priorities. With him, trouble’s always brewing somewhere and you and your irrelevant ass need to check it out. The trouble in the case of this latest movie happens to be the foundation of everything we know and love: our economic system.

This is not new for Moore. He started out knocking the biggest of the capitalists, GM. Since Roger and Me, his movies have portrayed formidable cracks in the American armor in the form of racism, gun affinity, selfishness, indifference to the poor and weak, and they all seem to come in some way from our undying belief in capitalism.

This movie, while not presenting anything overly new, does a good job of wrapping up Moore’s philosophy and illustrating why he feels the way he does. He makes a good case, especially since he hasn’t changed his spots over the years. Ever since GM pulled the rug out from under Flint, he’s been singing this song.

There are often moments in Moore’s movies when you have a tendency to say, “C’mon Mike, you can do better. Really now, how can someone lose a home they’ve had in their family for generations? If that guy hadn’t taken out a mortgage just to buy a new big screen TV and pair of Nikes, he wouldn’t have found himself subjected to the cataclysmically rising interest rates. And why do people go for those variable rate loans in the first place? Could Mike’s subjects just be dumb?”

And by the way, why does doesn’t his cameraman speak English? Are their chinks in Moore’s armor as well as in America’s? Lots of people think so. I don’t know. He doesn’t seem to hide his faults. He shows us everything about everything himself included. His best exposé, though, is when he shows us something creepy and dirty in the powerful. In this movie he showed us multinationals taking out life insurance policies on their employees, naming themselves as beneficiaries. It’s such an incredible idea, you almost have to laugh. Like a bad Monty Python routine: twisted, marginally funny, and in a language Americans have a hard time understanding. (Don’t get me wrong, I love my Monty, but that twit sketch was just this side of offensive.)

Moore has a way of distilling what seems to be a mass of convoluted and insurmountable problems down to a simple fact or idea. In this case the bad idea is each American’s belief that he or she will one day be a member of the 1% club. This group contains the 1% of Americans that hold 95% of the money. Yes, most of us believe that we will one day party with Bill and Sergey. Apparently we live in Lake Woebegone, Minnesota where all the children are above average.

This belief that we are special promotes a personal greed in each of us. From every guy that mortgages his children’s birthright to Roger Smith who pulled the rug out from under an unsuspecting city in the rust belt, we are all too greedy because we think we’re special.

I like Mike. I think he’s the conscience of America. He’s abrasive. He bugs us all at one time or another. Even Ray Bradbury, the conscientious icon of science fiction, is pissed off at him. And for what? For stealing the title of his own political statement: Fahrenheit 451. Seems he would have been on board with Mike, but Mike can do that to you. When he was filming down on Wall Street at quitting time, he was calling out to the traders as they were leaving the building. He wanted someone to explain derivatives. Most ignored him, but when he asked one guy for some advice, the stock broker said “Stop making movies.”

Good thing Mike has a thick crust. He’s going to need it, because this time he’s pulling out all the stops. He’s going to lose sympathy for this one. Pay attention to the song at the end. I don’t want to spoil it, but I’ll just say it’s not sung in French or with a Liverpool accent. Americans will understand the words. And recognize the tune.

And if there’s one thing Americans won’t tolerate it’s Satanism. Did I say Satanism? I’m sorry, Mike did not once mention Satanism in his movie. Doesn’t matter. Americans equate the actual word he used with Satanism. And that, folks, may be why we have a problem.

Sue Lange’s story, "Kangaroo Wars," is in M-Brane SF #9, out on newsstands now. Well, maybe not newsstands. M-Brane has not capitulated to the military-industrial complex and so does not have national distribution at all the Hudson newsstands across the continent. Get it: here. [Editor's note: Now is possibly the best time ever to start subscribing to M-Brane, and you can do it for free by pre-ordering Things We Are Not! New subscriptions will start with issue #9, containing Sue's fine story.]

Friday, October 2, 2009


It’s the fiftieth anniversary of the first broadcast of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. I was happy that Morning Edition (NPR) made mention of it this morning, in a short segment which pointed out—accurately, I think—that the show was a timely and even prophetic thing during the transition from the 1950s into the next decade when so many assumptions and norms were challenged and toppled. Serling was in some ways a renegade and a writer of deep convictions who used his show subversively to make statements and observations about society and current affairs, couching them in speculative fiction so as to slip his messages past clueless TV censors in much the same way that Gene Roddenberry would with Star Trek a few years later.

Serling personally wrote the teleplays of most of the Twilight Zone’s episodes. On camera as the show’s host, usually with a smoldering cigarette in hand, he was the first writer who also a TV star and the creative master of a whole show. The result of this total creative control, and of Serling’s singular vision for television, was one of the most remarkable bodies of work in the history of the medium.

As a kid, I loved Twilight Zone. I will still turn it on when it shows up in re-runs. When Syfy has its occasional marathons of it, I will turn it on even if I have no plan of really watching it. It soothes me as ambient noise. I have to admit, objectively, that many of the episodes really don’t seem as great anymore as they did when I was kid. But there were a lot of episodes of this show, and any TV series has its weaker entries. When the show is at its best, however, it is really good. Twilight Zone’s best episodes are and always will be among the all-time classics of TV drama. The first episode, “Where is Everybody?” is indelibly imprinted in my memory. Everyone remembers Agnes Moorehead in the strange, dialogue-free “The Invaders,” battling a diminutive alien invasion. Unforgettable are the revelations at the end of “A Stop at Willoughby” and “To Serve Man.”  I was very young when I first saw “Time Enough at Last.” I cried when Burgess Meredith’s bookworm character broke his glasses at the end of the story.

The CBS website has a lot of episodes available to watch online, so take a few minutes to return to The Twilight Zone.


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