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Christmas gift ideas for your Twilight Zone-loving friend

One of the most entertaining anthology television series in history is The Twilight Zone, hosted by Rod Serling, which first aired in 1959. The fantastical stories, many written by Serling himself, took the viewer on a suspenseful ride through science fiction and horror. There has never been another anthology series that has reached the same heights, but fans of The Twilight Zone are always hungry for more. With that in mind, I offer some lesser-known series that may appeal to fans of Serling’s finest work:

Night Gallery Twilight Zone

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone by Mark Dawidziak (2016)

Twilight Zone

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone
by Mark Dawidziak
Thomas Dunne Books, 2017

There are a handful of television programs I keep in my Netflix queue, even after I have watched every episode, because I can go back and watch them again and see something different. Many shows are disposable, but then there are series like The Twilight Zone that endure despite repeated viewings. The reason is quite simple: there are lessons that can be learned, and in many cases must be learned. Rod Serling was a masterful storyteller, and his work on The Twilight Zone will be revered as long as the series is available for new generations. Author Mark Dawidziak writes, “The Twilight Zone not only was a series with a strong social conscience, it was television that believed there was intelligent life on the other side of the television screen.”

Dawidziak offers up fifty lessons gleaned from The Twilight Zone in Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone, including simplistic yet important lessons like “follow your passion” and “nobody said life was fair,” to it’s-better-to-learn-from-others-mistakes lessons such as “read every contract…carefully” and “the grass is always greener…or so you think.” Dawidziak writes, “Lurking in almost every episode of The Twilight Zone is at least one guiding rule, one life lessons, one stirring reminder of a basic right or wrong taught to us as children. There are lessons for individuals. There are lessons for our society. There are lessons for our planet.”

It would be impossible to pick out the best lessons presented by Dawidziak, just as it is a daunting task to rank episodes of The Twilight Zone itself. But consider, if you will, lesson twenty: “If life gives you another chance, make the most of it,” utilizing the episodes, “Third from the Sun” and “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank.” A new venture may be just what you need to turn your rut of a life into a joyous existence.

In addition to Dawidziak’s fifty lessons, which are gleaned from about one hundred episodes, the author also concedes the page to guest lessons. These guest lessons come from such esteemed individuals as Jack Klugman and James Best, who both appeared in multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone, Mel Brooks, Robert Redford, Mick Garris, Carol Burnett, and Dick Van Dyke.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone is a fun way to revisit the timeless works of Serling and other Twilight Zone writers, highly recommended for fans of the iconic television series.

Learn more about Thomas Dunne Books.

Purchase Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Twilight Zone by Mark Dawidziak.

Field of Fantasies: Baseball Stories of the Strange and Supernatural edited by Rick Wilber (2014)

Field of Fantasies Rick Wilber

Field of Fantasies: Baseball Stories of the Strange and Supernatural
edited by Rick Wilber
Night Shade Books, 2014
320 pages

Baseball is an important part of America’s imagination. Some of the most popular baseball tales weave fact with fiction, presenting historical figures in a fictitious settings, and vice versa. Field of Fantasies, an anthology edited by Rick Wilber, presents twenty-three supernatural baseball stories culled from the past seven decades and includes a handful that appear for the first time in print.

A number of literary heavyweights are included in this collection, from Jack Kerouac to W.P. Kinsella to Ray Bradbury. The modern-day master of horror himself, Stephen King, co-wrote a story with Stewart O’Nan called “A Face in the Crowd” that was previously only available digitally. Bradbury’s “Ahab At The Helm” marries Moby Dick with the classic poem “Casey At The Bat” in a brilliant mash-up. Casey also appears in Robert Coover’s “McDuff on the Mound,” a re-telling of Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s poem from the pitcher’s perspective.

Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling also wrote a story entitled “The Mighty Casey,” but it has nothing to do with the Mudville legend. The story originally aired on the program in 1960, and was re-written for Serling’s Stories From The Twilight Zone anthology prior to its inclusion here.

Most baseball fans are familiar with W.P. Kinsella as the inspiration for the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams. The short story here, “How I Got My Nickname,” follows the exploits of a teenager who plays for the New York Giants during the pennant stretch of 1951, and his debates with teammates and opponents about whether The Great Gatsby is an allegory.

The editor, Rick Wilber, is a journalism professor at the University of South Florida, and his father Del Wilber played for the Cardinals, Phillies, and Red Sox in the 1940s and 1950s. This book is a great tribute to the game and provides some comfort to those who just can’t wait for the season to begin in April.

Learn more about Night Shade Books.

Purchase Field of Fantasies edited by Rick Wilber.

Day 8 of the 30 Day Horror Challenge

Day 08 – Your favorite anthology…

I went through several anthologies in my mind before coming to a conclusion on this one. There is of course Twilight Zone: The Movie, with segments directed by icons John Landis and Steven Spielberg, and Creepshow, which involved two other icons, George Romero and Stephen King. When all is said and done, though, TRICK ‘r TREAT comes out as the winner in this category. If you haven’t treated yourself to this movie yet, you owe it to yourself to watch one of the best Halloween movies ever made. Yes, it’s that good.

(see the 30 Day Horror Challenge here.)

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