Serling, Rod

Tagged: TV | Author

Working name of US screenwriter and Television producer Rodman Edward Serling (1924-1975), best known for the television series The Twilight Zone, for which he won three Hugos (1960-1961-1962). After active paratrooper service in World War Two, for which he was decorated, he went to New York in 1948 as a freelance writer, first for radio and then for television. During the 1950s he became one of the most highly regarded television writers, winning many awards including six Emmies for such television plays as Patterns (1955), Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956) and The Comedian (1957). In 1959 he created, wrote and produced the first of his The Twilight Zone anthology series, on which he also appeared as host; his dark figure and gravelly tones became very familiar to viewers. The series, mainly fantasy dramas with some sf, lasted five years. In 1970 he tried to repeat this success with a similar series, Rod Serling's Night Gallery, but it lasted only until 1972. In addition to his television work, which included writing many episodes for both The Twilight Zone and Night Gallery, Serling wrote a number of filmscripts such as those for Requiem for a Heavyweight (1963; based on his television script), John Frankenheimer's Seven Days in May (1964) and the original version (later rewritten) of Planet of the Apes (1968) (see Statue of Liberty).

Serling could hardly be described as an original writer, but he was certainly clever at adapting existing ideas and was a capable craftsman. He had the knack of producing work that, in the context of most television material, seemed more daring and profound than it really was; his major flaw was slickness. Whatever his limitations, The Twilight Zone came as a breath of fresh air to fans of fantasy and sf, who had previously had little television material available.

Serling wrote some of his teleplays into short-story form and published several collections: Stories from The Twilight Zone (coll 1960), More Stories from The Twilight Zone (coll 1961), New Stories from The Twilight Zone (coll 1962) – these two almost certainly ghostwritten, possibly by Walter B GibsonThe Season to Be Wary (coll 1967), Night Gallery (coll 1971) and Night Gallery 2 (coll 1972). Selections from the first three of these appeared in From The Twilight Zone (coll 1962) and all the contents of the first three in an omnibus, again titled Stories from The Twilight Zone (omni 1986). Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone (coll 1963) and Rod Serling's Twilight Zone Revisited (coll 1964), ghostwritten by Walter B Gibson, were collected as the omnibus Rod Serling's Twilight Zone (omni 1984). The Twilight Zone Complete Scripts, reprinting the scripts themselves, is a valuable corrective to a sense that the various collections represented something of a drift from the original series.

Of three further anthologies, Rod Serling's Triple W: Witches, Warlocks and Werewolves (anth 1963), Rod Serling's Devils and Demons (anth 1967) and Rod Serling's Other Worlds (coll 1978), the first two at least were ghost-edited by Gordon R Dickson, and Serling had been dead for three years by the time the third appeared.

Serling's name has continued to be used as a marketing device. His widow, Carol Serling, who retains Serling's television rights, edited Rod Serling's Night Gallery Reader (anth 1987) with Martin H Greenberg and Charles G Waugh. More importantly, she also played a prominent role as editorial consultant in setting up Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine (1981-1989), initially monthly, which achieved prominence in the fantasy/horror field. He was posthumously inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008. [JB/PN]

see also: The New People.

Rodman Edward Serling

born Syracuse, New York: 25 December 1924

died Rochester, New York: 28 June 1975

works

series

Twilight Zone

Twilight Zone Complete Scripts

Night Gallery

individual titles

works as editor

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