All this blogging about Twilight Zone Magazine reminded me of a funny story. Okay, it's actually not funny at all.
Anyone reading these words is likely familiar, at least on some surface level, with what TZ Magazine was all about. It featured reviews of (then) current books and films, articles and episode guides pertaining to genre TV shows (the classic Outer Limits, for example, not to mention copious amounts of coverage of the 80's revival Zone series), and occasional nostalgia pieces on the classic TZ series. But the bulk of the magazine was devoted to short stories. Science fiction, fantasy, horror... and sometimes humorous variations thereof. Big names wrote for this magazine: Stephen King, Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson (if Charles Beaumont hadn't died so young and so tragically, I imagine he would've been represented too, and not by the cadre of ghostwriters he used as his mind progressively failed him).
As I've previously mentioned, I discovered the magazine when I was about 14, right about the same time that I made the life-altering decision to become a writer (I didn't realize at the time that one doesn't "become" a writer; one either writes or... well, doesn't). And since I was reading predominantly short stories at the time (thanks to this wonderful new magazine I'd discovered), it made sense to write short stories. So I did; a few, anyway. They weren't very good. Well, maybe they weren't bad for a 14 year-old, I dunno. My favorite was a quick two-or-three-pager called, simply, "Recharge," written feverishly at a friend's house late one night (they had a computer; we didn't have one yet).
Twilight Zone Magazine, much to my surprise and delight, hosted an annual short story contest for unpublished writers. It was an easy decision: I'd submit "Recharge," win the $500.00 grand prize, and launch a long, illustrious career as a teller of tales.
Here's what I got back:
You know what? That rejection slip WAS a launching of sorts, just not the type I was dreaming of. It was the launching of a fruitless career that, twenty-five years later, finds me still unpublished, almost forty years old with lots of gray hair, stuck in a job I hate, buckling under a mortgage I can't afford, raising my kids to follow their hearts and dreams while providing them with a living example of dreams unfulfilled, of failures realized, of a life that never really went anywhere special at all.
Heh. I sound like a character in a Twilight Zone episode, at the end of his rope, just a few seconds away from some extraordinary journey. Martin Sloan. Gart Williams.
This is my life in the shadow of The Twilight Zone. I'm waiting for some supernatural opportunity to rewrite my own destiny, to fix my mistakes, to take roads less traveled.
I imagine I'll keep right on waiting.