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Thursday! Between the 'Zines: This is the Dimension of Imagination...
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
”Who do you want to be like?”
Remember those questions? I bet you heard them more than a couple times when you were younger. Heck, you may hear them from time to time now that you’re an adult1. Did you have an answer? Did you have five or six answers?
I did, at least for the first question. I wanted to be a baseball play-by-play announcer, a writer, an archaeologist, a member of G.I. Joe, and a voice actor2. Of course, the answer you got depended entirely on how old I was when you asked me. My tastes and dreams changed as I got older. Some fell away as reality, or what I accepted as reality, set in3. Some of my dreams sharpened as I considered what I might have to do to grab them. For instance, I spent a couple years in my early 20s looking into how I might get voice acting gigs. Turns out, I didn’t want to live in California, which is where all the gigs for newbie actors were. My answer to the first question now is different from when I was ten, but…is it really4?
Let’s place that aside for a moment, despite how excitedly it is vibrating with potential, and consider the second question. That’s more heavily loaded, don’t you think? After all, if you wanted to be a writer, to choose a professional entirely out of thin air to which we shall not return anytime soon5, which writer would you most want to emulate? Of course you want to be you, all special and lovely, but you are made up of a lot of influences, especially the influences of those artist who have come before you, whose work you devoured when you were younger. So who are they? Who did you want to be?
I’ll tell you, I didn’t cast my net very wide. I wanted to be like my Dad, who wasn’t a professional artist, but was in every way I could imagine the finest person I’ve ever known. Oh, he was an artist in his way — a professional draftsman and engineer who did nifty illustrations for Sunday School lessons he gave and who whittled and carved wood6. He was, and still is, my hero. But most times when someone asks you that question and you give one of your parents as the answer, you’ll get a replay back of the “Well, now, of course that’s your answer, but how about someone else. Someone not related to you. Someone in the field you want? You know?” I did know. The question wasn’t really “Who do you want to be like?” but “Who do you want to work like?”, that is, which person out there doing the thing you want has a career and a work ethic you want to emulate? I’d usually cough up the name of one of my favorite authors because, hey why not? Ray Bradbury or Richard Matheson7 had great careers and did interesting work. Their stories were great and they didn’t hold themselves to just one thing.
Honestly, though, I didn’t give it a ton of thought. To be sure, the writers I’d name were all very good. Anyone would do well to emulate their careers, their work habits, their productivity, the care and skill they put into their craft. I didn’t have just one answer though. I didn’t put that much thought into it.
Until recently. Now, I have a name. Want to know?
Serling was a conflicted man, a man frustrated that his ability didn’t always match his dreams, confounded by the commercialism that dominated television and radio, burning against hatred and injustice. He was also a visionary, a dreamer, and astonishingly versatile writer, a shrewd judge of storytelling talent, and fiercely protective of his creative freedom and his “voice”. He also did a fair bit of acting, though he gets little credit for it8.
He created a show in The Twilight Zone that still amazes me for a bunch of reasons, full of stories that delight me even though I’ve seen them more times than I can recall. That wasn’t his only show either, though it is by far the most famous and most durable. He brought in formidable writers like Matheson, Beaumont, Bradbury, and Earl Hamner, Jr (who created The Waltons). He dove head-first into contentious social and moral issues while not sacrificing one inch of story. He delved into the weird and the beautiful, sometimes in the same episode. He made me shiver and made me cry.
I want to do that for other people. I will do that for other people.
So, is there a point here aside from my self-revelatory fluffery? There is!
I have a plan. Remember the story in last week’s Thursday! about the monster in the supermarket? I have a few more of those planned for future Thursday! e-zines. They might be creepy and they might not, but hey should all feel very much at home in Serling’s show, because he’s the guy I most want to be, creatively. Of course, I’m not going to mimic him, but …well, that word “emulate” is awfully handy, isn’t it? The stories will be all mine, but there will be a certain black and white television show lurking deep in the heart of each of them.
And when I get a certain number of them written — an amount suitable for collection, let’s say — why, who knows what could happen? Who knows how they could be adapted? Just any old thing is possible then, don’t you think?
“Final comment: you take this with a grain of salt or a shovelful of earth, as shadow or substance, we leave it up to you.”
— Rod Serling, “The Twilight Zone” Season 3 Episode 7, “The Grave”
One poem from last week and one from earlier in the newsletter. Enjoy!
The Pink Bracelet
I hesitate to use the term “grown-up” because…well, am I really a grown-up? No. No I am not. I don’t think many artists are. There’s too much play in art for grown-upism to take firm root.
Not all at the same time, though! Holy cow. How busy do you think I wanted to be?!
Sadly, I learned that G.I. Joe wasn’t hiring. Or real.
Dun dun DUNNNNN!
Dun DUN DUNNNNNNN!
Every time we had a camping weekend in the Scouts — and of course he was involved in our activities — he’d find a good stick to serve as a walking stick pretty early on in the weekend and spend the next day and a half idly carving interesting shapes and contours into the handle end of the stick. I don’t know how many of those he had over the years, but it had to be a bunch.
Or Shirley Jackson or Stephen King in his early years or Charles Beaumont or Ursula LeGuin…
He actually did some radio acting work early in his career, in upstate New York.