Koren Shadmi’s latest graphic novel The Twilight Man takes readers on Rod Serling’s journey from writer to the beloved host of The Twilight Zone. To celebrate the book’s release, Shadmi rounded up five novels that he thinks all fans of the show should read. Some of the books are written by authors who penned iconic Twilight Zone episodes, other titles inspired Twilight Zone storylines, and all are sure to have you itching for a marathon of this classic show or the exciting new reboot!
Perchance To Dream: Selected Stories by Charles Beaumont
Charles Beaumont lived a short life but managed to be very prolific as a writer. He contributed 22 scripts to The Twilight Zone, some of which were based on his short stories, including “The Howling Man” which is included in this collection. It tells the tale of a lost traveller who reaches a castle with a mysterious order of monks. Deep within the bowels of the castle, the Howling Man is imprisoned. The monks claim that he is the devil himself. This might be Beaumont’s thinly veiled allegory to the rise of Nazism before World War II, but it can also be read as a story about man facing his own repressed id.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
After Serling and Beaumont, Matheson was the third most important writer on The Twilight Zone. He wrote the iconic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” as well as many other great episodes. I Am Legend was released in 1954 and is a major precursor to the zombie apocalypse comics, movies, and TV shows that have dominated the screens in recent years. In the book, Robert Neville is the lone survivor of a pandemic which has wiped out most of humanity and turned the rest into night-walking vampires. This novel was so ahead of its time, and is a testament to Matheson’s brilliant imagination.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Before beginning work on The Twilight Zone, Serling consulted Ray Bradbury on who to hire as writers for the show. Bradbury recommended Beaumont, Matheson, and George Clayton Johnson, who, like him, were members of the Southern California Sorcerers authors club. Bradbury even contributed an episode to The Twilight Zone: “I Sing the Body Electric,” which he was supposedly very unhappy with. Fahrenheit 451 describes a dystopian America where books have been outlawed and the ones that are found must be burned by firemen. Bradbury was inspired by book burnings during the McCarthy era but the message of the book–eradicating knowledge and information to protect the state–is especially resonant in our age of disinformation.
Store of The Worlds: The Stories of Robert Sheckley by Robert Sheckley
I am almost certain that Robert Sheckley’s mid century sci-fi stories helped inspire some of the The Twilight Zone plots. The stories in this collection range from campy to terrifying. “Watchbird” is a disturbing short tale about a breed of robotic birds which are designed to protect humanity but end up doing the exact opposite. With the rise of AI in recent years, this short story from the 1950s is increasingly ominous.
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
This is an incredible speculative fiction story which first ran in Galaxy magazine in 1956–a few years before The Twilight Zone debuted. Gully Foyle, the novel’s protagonist and anti-hero, discovers he is skilled in the art of Jaunting, which is a form of teleportation. He uses his newfound power as he seeks revenge on the ship which left him to die in space. There are very few moments of calm in this adrenaline-fueled novel.
Koren Shadmi is an award-winning illustrator and cartoonist. He studied illustration at The School of Visual Arts in New York where he now teaches. Koren’s graphic novels have been published in the US, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, Korea, and Israel. Koren has contributed illustrations and comics to: The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Business Week, Playboy, Mother Jones, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Wired, and others. He lives in New York.