In general I’m a fan of reading the book before seeing the movie. In some cases, however, the written version comes later. A few months back I started to have a hankering for stories written by Rod Serling. I’m aware that he mainly wrote scripts, but I also know he had a rare talent for doing so and most of the books I’d collected as a child were collections connected to Serling but not written by him. He had, during his lifetime, “novelized” three volumes of Twilight Zone scripts into books of short stories. The second of those books, More Stories from the Twilight Zone, is one I’d not read before. I remembered some of tales from episodes I’d watched while others were new to me. All that they have in common is that something isn’t as it “should be.”
This “oughtness” is an illusion, as we’ve learned over the past four years. Each day has an incredible sameness even as everything changes radically, almost daily. To me that’s one of the comforting aspects of the Twilight Zone in these days. Not only does it take me back to my childhood, but it also prepares me for the unexpected. Rod Serling was a great metaphorical writer. Quite often on this blog I try my hand at it, writing posts that are apparently about one thing but that are really about something else. I think most of us tend to be literalists when we read (thus the crisis literalism has wrought when it comes to the Good Book). Unless we know to shift our focus we take things at face value. These stories try to teach us otherwise.
Some of these stories anticipate Stephen King. Others reflect Ray Bradbury. They are eclectic but unified by a voice that was able to see that the world could actually stand some improvement. People could treat each other better. Without being preachy, they are often like morality plays. Of course that is my experience of reading them. Readers differ in their responses. The Twilight Zone was an influential series in a world open to new experiences. If the twentieth century has taught us nothing else it has shown us that we can take nothing for granted. To go deeper than the surface, that’s as it should be. What are the stories really about? A large part of it will depend upon what the reader takes away from them. All of this is very helpful, at least to this reader, in times like these.