The Key of Imagination: Pulp Television

Jun 3, 2019 by

 

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.

 

Sixty Years of THE TWILIGHT ZONE

 

Rod Serling’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE ran on CBS from 1959 to 1964. It remains in syndication to this very day. A new version of the series — narrated by filmmaker Jordan Peele — premiered on CBS All Access on April 1, 2019. Sixty years after its original debut, Rod Serling’s remarkable creation is still very much embedded in the public consciousness.

The creator of THE TWILIGHT ZONE was born on December 25, 1924 in Syracuse, New York. His brother, the late novelist and aviation writer Robert Serling, said: “We were fairly close as kids and we played together a hell of a lot, despite the seven-year difference. The two of us used to read AMAZING STORIES, ASTOUNDING STORIES, WEIRD TALES — all of the pulps. If we saw a movie together, we’d come home and act it out, just for the two of us.”

After serving in World War II as an army paratrooper, Rod Serling entered Antioch College in Ohio. He majored in language and literature and became involved in the college’s radio programming. While still in college, he began to sell his radio and television scripts. Long an admirer of Norman Corwin — a writer and producer who used entertainment to explore social issues — Serling complained that he was “. . . bitter about everything and at loose ends.” He began writing “. . . to get it off my chest.”

Rod Serling’s big break came in 1955 when KRAFT TELEVISION THEATER produced his drama, “Patterns.” It won the writer the first of his six Emmy awards. Serling’s “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” written for PLAYHOUSE 90, won him another Emmy in 1956. “The Comedian,” starring Mickey Rooney, won Serling a third Emmy  in 1958.

At the top of the entertainment world, but still dissatisfied, Rod Serling began to search for a new way to get things off his chest. He had previously written science fiction and fantasy while working for THE STORM, a television series that aired live in the Cincinnati area. He had also attempted to sell a few science fiction scripts to the ABC series, TALES OF TOMORROW. However, having written no published science fiction or fantasy and — according to author Ray Bradbury — knowing little about the field, Serling turned these genres for his first television series. In a 1963 interview published in the first issue of GAMMA, Rod Serling explained:

“Because I loved this area of imaginative storytelling — and because there had never been a TV series like it. The strength of TWILIGHT ZONE is that through parables, through placing a social problem or controversial theme against a fantasy background you can make a point which, if more blatantly stated in a realistic frame, wouldn’t be acceptable. Because of this from time to time, we’ve been able to make some pertinent social comments on conformity, on prejudice, on political ideologies, without sponsor interference. It offered a whole new outlet, a new approach.”

Although he wrote or adapted nearly sixty percent of the series’ 156 total episodes, Rod Serling also employed writers Ray Bradbury, Earl Hamner, Jr., Jerry Sohl, and his “three writing gremlins,” Charles Beaumont, George Clayton Johnson, and Richard Matheson, for the series. Most were actively writing science fiction or fantasy for the magazines of the day.

Join PulpFest 2019 on Friday, August 16, as we welcome Nicholas Parisi for “The Key of Imagination: THE TWILIGHT ZONE and the Pulps.” He will be discussing the creation and history of Rod Serling’s fantastic program and its relationship to the science fiction and fantasy pulps and digests. A former staff writer and editor for GOOD TIMES magazine, Nicholas is the author of ROD SERLING: HIS LIFE, WORK, AND IMAGINATION.

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh in Mars, PA.

To become a member of PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension — a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone.

(Rod Serling was interviewed for the first issue of GAMMA, a short-lived science fiction magazine that debuted in 1963. In addition to the Serling interview, five authors who wrote for THE TWILIGHT ZONE also had stories in the issue — Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, Richard Matheson, and John Tomerlin. The cover painting for GAMMA #1 was by Morris Scott Dollens, an artist who got his start in the science fiction fanzines of the late 1930s.)

THE TWILIGHT ZONE’S Magic Man — Charles Beaumont

May 13, 2019 by

A prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction, Charles Beaumont was born on January 2, 1929. According to award-winning writer and editor Roger Anker, “In a career which spanned a brief thirteen years,” Beaumont wrote and sold “ten books, seventy-four short stories, thirteen screenplays (nine of which were produced), two dozen articles and profiles, forty comic stories, fourteen columns, and over seventy teleplays.”

Beaumont grew up with the pulps. He wrote for PLAYBOY in 1962:

“Were they any good? No. They were great. DOC SAVAGE, THE SHADOW, THE SPIDER, G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES, THE PHANTOM, ADVENTURE, ARGOSY, BLUE BOOK, BLACK MASK, THRILLING WONDER STORIES, MARVEL TALES — and all the hundred-and-one other titles that bedizened the newsstands of America in the halcyon days — provided ecstasy and euphoria of a type unknown to this gloomy generation. They made to crawl deliciously young scalps. They inspired, excited, captivated, hypnotized — and, unexpectedly, instructed — the reckless young . . .”

During the summer of 1946, Beaumont met author Ray Bradbury in Los Angeles. Through a mutual interest in comic strips, the two became friends. Bradbury also became Beaumont’s writing mentor, reading and critiquing the budding author’s work. “When I read the first one, I said: ‘Yes. Very definitely. You are a writer,’ recalls Bradbury. ‘It showed immediately. . . . Chuck’s talent was obvious from that very first story.’”

Charles Beaumont’s professional writing career began with the novella, “The Devil, You Say?” published in the January 1951 issue of AMAZING STORIES. He was soon appearing in the pulps of his day — primarily digest magazines — IF, IMAGINATION, INFINITY SCIENCE FICTION, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, MANHUNT, ORBIT SCIENCE FICTION and others. In September 1954, Beaumont’s “Black Country” appeared in PLAYBOY. Before long, his stories were appearing in prestigious magazines such as COLLIER’S, ESQUIRE, and THE SATURDAY EVENING POST.

Beaumont also began to write for television, authoring episodes for programs including ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, THE D. A.’S MANFOUR STAR PLAYHOUSE, HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL, NAKED CITY, ONE STEP BEYOND, ROUTE 66, THRILLER, WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, and, most importantly, THE TWILIGHT ZONEBeaumont wrote twenty-two episodes for Rod Serling’s classic series including “The Howling Man,” “Living Doll,” and “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” He also authored a number of screenplays including THE HAUNTED PALACE, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, and THE CIRCUS OF DR. LAO.

At the height of his writing career, Beaumont began to suffer from a mysterious ailment. “By 1964, he could no longer write. Meetings with producers turned disastrous. His speech became slower, more deliberate. His concentration worsened. . . . after a battery of tests at UCLA, Beaumont was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s Disease; he faced premature senility, aging, and an early death.” He died on February 21, 1967 at the age of thirty-eight.

Join PulpFest 2019 on Friday, August 16, for an authorized screening of Jason and Sunni Brock’s documentary, CHARLES BEAUMONT: THE SHORT LIFE OF TWILIGHT ZONE’S MAGIC MAN. “The story of a man whose life was in many ways more incredible than any of his stories,” the film features Forrest J Ackerman, Christopher Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, Roger Corman, Harlan Ellison, George Clayton Johnson, S. T. Joshi, Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, William Shatner, John Shirley, John Tomerlin, and others.

PulpFest 2019 will begin on Thursday, August 15, and run through Sunday, August 18.  Join PulpFest at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City” of Pittsburgh. To join PulpFest 2019, click the Register button below our homepage banner. To book a room at the DoubleTree by Hilton — our host hotel — click the Book a Room button, also found on our homepage.

(Although Charles Beaumont is highly regarded for the teleplays that he wrote for Rod Serling’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE, he started as a pulp writer. Following his initial appearance in AMAZING STORIES, his second published story — “The Beautiful People” — appeared in the September 1952 issue of IF: WORLDS OF SCIENCE FICTION. The author was prominently listed on the magazine’s cover, which featured a painting by Ralph Joiner. In 1963, the story was adapted by John Tomerlin for THE TWILIGHT ZONE. It was first broadcast on January 24, 1964 as “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.”

If you can’t wait for our special viewing of CHARLES BEAUMONT: THE SHORT LIFE OF TWILIGHT ZONE’S MAGIC MAN, you can pick up a copy via Amazon or by clicking here.)

 

Charles Beaumont — A Child of the Pulps

Jan 2, 2019 by

What were the pulps?

Cheaply printed, luridly illustrated, sensationally written magazines of fiction aimed at the lower- and lower-middle-classes.

Were they any good? No. They were great.

DOC SAVAGE, THE SHADOW, THE SPIDER, G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES, THE PHANTOM, ADVENTURE, ARGOSY, BLUE BOOK, BLACK MASK, THRILLING WONDER STORIES, MARVEL TALES — and all the hundred-and-one other titles that bedizened the newsstands of America in the halcyon days — provided ecstasy and euphoria of a type unknown to this gloomy generation. They made to crawl deliciously young scalps. They inspired, excited, captivated, hypnotized — and, unexpectedly, instructed — the reckless young . . .

We gave ourselves over wholly to the habit and pursuit of the most potent literary drug known to boy, and all of us suffer withdrawal symptoms to this day.

Charles Beaumont wrote these words for the September 1962 issue of PLAYBOY. He later expanded “The Bloody Pulps” into a chapter for his last book — REMEMBER? REMEMBER? — published by MacMillan in 1963.

A prolific writer of both fiction and nonfiction, Beaumont was born Charles Leroy Nutt on this very day in 1929. According to award-winning writer and editor Roger Anker, “In a career which spanned a brief thirteen years,” Beaumont wrote and sold “ten books, seventy-four short stories, thirteen screenplays (nine of which were produced), two dozen articles and profiles, forty comic stories, fourteen columns, and over seventy teleplays.”

As a teenager, Charles Beaumont published his own fanzine, UTOPIA, and began writing letters to the science fiction pulps. He also began to draw. Collaborating with Ronald Clyne, Beaumont broke into print with a cartoon, published in the October 1943 number of FANTASTIC ADVENTURES. Although he “worked hard, managed to crack most of the pulp magazines with illustrations, graduated to book jackets and slick magazine cartoons,” Beaumont decided he was not an artist. Instead, he turned to writing.

During the summer of 1946, Beaumont met author Ray Bradbury in Los Angeles. Through a mutual interest in comic strips, the two became friends. Bradbury also became Beaumont’s writing mentor, reading and critiquing the budding author’s work. “When I read the first one, I said: ‘Yes. Very definitely. You are a writer,’ recalls Bradbury. ‘It showed immediately. . . . Chuck’s talent was obvious from that very first story.'”

Charles Beaumont’s professional writing career began with the novella, “The Devil, You Say?” published in the January 1951 issue of AMAZING STORIES. Before long, he was appearing in the pulps of his day — primarily digest magazines — IF, IMAGINATION, INFINITY SCIENCE FICTION, THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, MANHUNT, ORBIT SCIENCE FICTION and others. In September 1954, Beaumont’s “Black Country” appeared in PLAYBOY. Before long, his stories were appearing in prestigious magazines such as COLLIER’S, ESQUIRE, and THE SATURDAY EVENING POST.

Beaumont also began to write for television, authoring episodes for programs including ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, THE D. A.’S MAN, FOUR STAR PLAYHOUSE, HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL, NAKED CITY, ONE STEP BEYOND, ROUTE 66, THRILLER, WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, and, most importantly, THE TWILIGHT ZONEBeaumont wrote twenty-two episodes for Rod Serling’s classic series. He also penned a number of screenplays including THE HAUNTED PALACE, THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, and THE CIRCUS OF DR. LAO.

At the height of his writing career, Beaumont began to suffer from a mysterious ailment. “By 1964, he could no longer write. Meetings with producers turned disastrous. His speech became slower, more deliberate. His concentration worsened. . . . after a battery of tests at UCLA, Beaumont was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s Disease; he faced premature senility, aging, and an early death.” Charles Beaumont died on February 21, 1967 at the age of thirty-eight.

Today, we honor the ninetieth anniversary of the birth of Charles Beaumont. From August 15 – 18, PulpFest 2019 will celebrate this fine author and other “Children of the Pulps.” You can click here to download the convention’s 2019 member registration form. You can also book a room directly through the PulpFest website. Just below the PulpFest banner at the top of the convention’s home page,  you’ll find a link that reads “Book a Room.” Click the link and you’ll be redirected to a secure site where you can place your reservation.

We hope to see you this August at the beautiful DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry in Mars, PA.

(Charles Beaumont was about ten years old when the first issue of PLANET STORIES — dated Winter 1939 and featuring front cover art by Frank R. Paul — appeared on American newsstands. He was the perfect age to become “A Child of the Pulps.” Again, we quote from Beaumont’s “The Bloody Pulps,” first published in the September 1962 PLAYBOY:

“If you were a prepubescent American male in the Twenties, the Thirties or the Forties, chances are you performed the ritual. If you were a little too tall, a little too short, a little too fat, skinny, pimply, an only child, painfully shy, awkward, scared of girls, terrified of bullies, poor at your schoolwork (not because you weren’t bright but because you wouldn’t apply yourself), uncomfortable in large crowds, given to brooding, and totally and overwhelmingly convinced of your personal inadequacy in any situation, then you certainly performed it.

Which is to say, you worshiped at the shrine of the pulps.”

Although Beaumont would break into the pulps proper with a story in the January 1951 issue of AMAZING STORIES, most of his early fiction would appear in the science fiction digests. One of these — ORBIT SCIENCE FICTION — featured three Beaumont tales, including “Hair of the Dog” in its July-August 1954 number. Leading pulp artist, Rudolph Belarski, would contribute the front cover art for the issue.)