I Had That! #20: The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree

I’ve said before that I was something of a coward when I was a kid. I was scared of everything, especially the supernatural. Fear of demons bedeviled my nights, and I didn’t sleep with a light off until well past the age I should have started. But I was still fascinated by such things, which is why I kept reading the ghost and “true exorcism” stories in the National Enquirer. It’s also why I stayed up late on Friday nights to watch reruns of “The Twilight Zone” (followed by cool-down reruns of “I Married Joan” and “My Little Margie”.)

I loved “The Twilight Zone”. Even the boring ones that didn’t have aliens or monsters or robots in them. The ones that terrified me were “Night Call”, “Little Girl Lost”, “Living Doll”, and “The Howling Man”. Others I just thought were a lot of fun.

Around this time (10th grade or so) I was taking computer programming classes at Tulane through a special program there (later, this would be my first experience in flunking out of a college class due to depression, but that’s another story.) It was Summer, and ‘d spend entire days in the computer lab. Every now and then I’d take the streetcar over to the Little Professor Book Shop (on Magazine Street?) and browse there. That’s where I saw The Twilight Zone Companion, by Marc Scott Zicree, a book that not only talked about the show, with behind-the-scenes information, but also had a complete episode guide. I had to have it, even though it was crazy expensive by my standards.

Somehow I eventually got it, and I pored over the thing. It was, essentially, a cereal book, one where I could randomly open it to anywhere and start reading. I learned all about the show and, more importantly, about the episodes I hadn’t seen. I marked off the ones I had seen with a pencil in the margins. It wasn’t my first stab at compulsive fandom (one of the projects I did in the Tulane computer labs was a similar checklist for Doctor Who episodes and Target novelizations), but it was a significant one.

Later, my dad saw my interest in the show and remarked that when he was younger he enjoyed reading the short stories of Charles Beaumont, one of the three main writers for the show. It had somehow never occurred to me to grab books by the TZ authors, even though I knew they wrote them. In a Serlingesque bit of synchronicity, I shortly thereafter discovered a newly published collection of Beaumont’s work, Best of Beaumont, and bought and devoured it as well.

This was around the time of the Twilight Zone movie, which I eagerly saw, but was completely unmoved by. I knew these stories, but this just wasn’t the same thing, not by a long shot. In fact, the “It’s a Good Life” segment baffled me. Why would you do that to such a great story?

Similarly, by the time that horror anthologies were getting another heyday on TV, including a new Twilight Zone series, I just wasn’t interested. I still considered myself a fan of the original series, but for some reason I didn’t care about any of the new stuff. I can’t tell if that made me a good fanboy or a bad one.

The Twilight Zone is now available on Netflix and I’ve thought about running through the series again, on demand, the way younger me would have dreamed of doing. I re-watched “It’s a Good Life” recently and it still holds up.

When did I get it? The Twilight Zone Companion was published in 1982 and Best of Beaumont in November of that year, so that seems to be about right on target.

Do I still have it? Still have them both, though the Companion is beat to hell and falling apart.

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