The strange thing about The Twilight Zone is its ability to endure in the minds of those exposed to it at an early age. Often it’s more the image of it, that feeling of awe and wonder, that remains with me. Rod Serling cut a sophisticated figure with what, for the time, was an unbounded imagination. New Stories from the Twilight Zone was the last of the three standard collections of his tales. Another book of stories published the same year, From the Twilight Zone, is a little difficult to pin down from online descriptions. It’ll probably be the subject of a future nostalgia-laden post. Reading the current collection is like déjà vu; some of the stories I remember from seeing on television, and others I’d probably read before.
In some ways these stories are time machines. A slice of the early sixties. The cover of my edition emphasizes that dramatically with Serling’s head hinged open and colorful ideas (“weirdies” in the copy) flying out. Over half a century later the Zone continues to fascinate, despite the obvious context in which Serling originally wrote. The enduring nature of his contribution somehow validates me, and probably many other kids of the sixties too. The stories all suggest that the world isn’t quite what it seems. It relates to what I posted on a couple days back, the weird, the eerie. In other words, these are good stories. Timeless in their own way. Reaching back toward childhood, they help with the aging process.
Weird tales have become a popular genre, and I suspect the popularity is due largely to the internet. Those of us who liked stories such as these were an earlier generation of nerds (of the non-technical variety), those who didn’t find sports or girls or controlled substances—the more mainstream forms of diversion—to our liking. We were perhaps misfits, but we knew we could well find a place in The Twilight Zone. This may have been its great, subliminal draw; anyone could find her or himself in the Zone. Some of the narratives were scary, some were funny. Others were just odd (“weirdies”). But they could sell books and Serling was able to make himself a household name through his imagination. The internet has, in turn, made it more difficult to get noticed in its democracy of expression. Indeed, it has become a twilight zone of its own. At least it’s one where it’s a simple matter to still find the books that made us who we are.