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Rod Serling

Publicity photo of Serling, 1959

BornRodman Edward Serling
(1924-12-25)December 25, 1924
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
DiedJune 28, 1975(1975-06-28) (aged 50)
Rochester, New York
Resting placeLake View Cemetery in Interlaken, New York
OccupationScreenwriter, TV producer, narrator
EducationBachelor of Arts in Literature
Alma materAntioch College
Period1954–1975
GenreDrama, speculative fiction, science fiction, horror fiction
Notable worksPatterns, Requiem for a Heavyweight, The Twilight Zone, Seven Days in May, Night Gallery, Planet of the Apes
Notable awardsEmmy, Hugo, Peabody, Golden Globe,
SpouseCarolyn Kramer (m. 1948)
Children2
RelativesRobert J. Serling (brother)
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1943–1946
RankTechnician fourth grade[1]
Unit11th Airborne Division
511th Parachute Infantry Regiment
Battles/warsWorld War II
AwardsBronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Army of Occupation Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal[2]

Rodman Edward "Rod" Serling (December 25, 1924 – June 28, 1975) was an American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, and narrator known for his live television dramas of the 1950s and his science-fictionanthology TV series, The Twilight Zone. Serling was active in politics, both on and off the screen, and helped form television industry standards. He was known as the "angry young man" of Hollywood, clashing with television executives and sponsors over a wide range of issues including censorship, racism, and war.

Early life[edit]

Serling was born on December 25, 1924, in Syracuse, New York, to a Jewish family. He was the second of two sons born to Esther (née Cooper) and Samuel Lawrence Serling.[3] Serling's father had worked as a secretary and amateur inventor before having children, but took on his father-in-law's profession as a grocer to earn a steady income.[4] Sam Serling later became a butcher after the Great Depression forced the store to close. Rod had an older brother, Robert J. Serling.[5] Their mother was a homemaker.[6]

Serling spent most of his youth 70 miles south of Syracuse in the city of Binghamton after his family moved there in 1926.[3] His parents encouraged his talents as a performer. Sam Serling built a small stage in the basement, where Rod often put on plays (with or without neighborhood children).[7] His older brother, writer Robert, recalled that, at the age of six or seven, Rod entertained himself for hours by acting out dialogue from pulp magazines or movies he had seen. Rod often talked to people around him without waiting for their answers. On a two hour trip from Binghamton to Syracuse the rest of the family remained silent to see if Rod would notice their lack of participation. He did not, talking nonstop through the entire car ride.[3]

In elementary school, Serling was seen as the class clown and dismissed by many of his teachers as a lost cause.[8] However, his seventh-grade English teacher, Helen Foley, encouraged him to enter the school's public speaking extracurriculars.[9] He joined the debate team and was a speaker at his high school graduation. He began writing for the school newspaper, in which, according to the journalist Gordon Sander, he "established a reputation as a social activist".[9]

He was also interested in sports and excelled at tennis and table tennis. When he attempted to join the varsity football team, he was told he was too small at 5 ft 4 in (163 cm) tall.[10]

Serling was interested in radio and writing at an early age. He was an avid radio listener, especially interested in thrillers, fantasy, and horror shows. Arch Oboler and Norman Corwin were two of his favorite writers.[11] He also "did some staff work at a Binghamton radio station ... tried to write ... but never had anything published."[11] He was accepted into college during his senior year of high school. However, the United States was involved in World War II at the time, and Serling decided to enlist rather than start college immediately after he graduated from Binghamton Central High School in 1943.[6][12]

Military service[edit]

As editor of his high school newspaper, Serling encouraged his fellow students to support the war effort. He wanted to leave school before graduation to join the fight but his civics teacher talked him into graduating. "War is a temporary thing," Gus Youngstrom told him. "It ends. An education doesn't. Without your degree, where will you be after the war?"[13] Serling enlisted in the U.S. Army the morning after high school graduation, following his brother Robert.[14]

Serling began his military career in 1943 at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, under General Joseph May "Joe" Swing and Col. Orin D. "Hard Rock" Haugen[15] and served in the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division.[6] He eventually reached the rank of Technician Fourth Grade (T/4) .[16]

Over the next year of paratrooper training, Serling and others began boxing to vent aggression. He competed as a flyweight and had 17 bouts, rising to the second round of the division finals before being knocked out.[17] He was remembered for berserker style and for "getting his nose broken in his first bout and again in last bout."[18] He tried his hand at the Golden Gloves, with little success.[11]

On April 25, 1944, Serling received his orders and saw that he was being sent west to California. He knew that he would be fighting against the Japanese rather than the Nazis. This disappointed him, because he had hoped to help fight Hitler.[19] On May 5, his division headed to the Pacific, landing in New Guinea, where it would be held in reserve for a few months.[citation needed]

In November 1944, his division first saw combat, landing in the Philippines. The 11th Airborne Division would not be used as paratroopers, however, but as light infantry during the Battle of Leyte. It helped mop up after the five divisions that had gone ashore earlier.[20]

For a variety of reasons, Serling was transferred to the 511th's demolition platoon, nicknamed "The Death Squad" for its high casualty rate. According to Sergeant Frank Lewis, leader of the demolitions squad, "He screwed up somewhere along the line. Apparently he got on someone's nerves."[21] Lewis also judged that Serling was not suited to be a field soldier: "he didn't have the wits or aggressiveness required for combat."[21] At one point, Lewis, Serling, and others were in a firefight, trapped in a foxhole. As they waited for darkness, Lewis noticed that Serling had not reloaded any of his extra magazines. Serling sometimes went exploring on his own, against orders, and got lost.[21]

Serling's time in Leyte shaped his writing and political views for the rest of his life. He saw death every day while in the Philippines, at the hands of his enemies and his allies, and through freak accidents such as that which killed another extroverted Jewish private, Melvin Levy. Levy was delivering a comic monologue for the platoon as it rested under a palm tree when a food crate was dropped from a plane above, decapitating him. Serling led the funeral services for Levy and placed a Star of David over his grave.[21] Serling later set several of his scripts in the Philippines and used the unpredictability of death as a theme in much of his writing.[22]

Serling returned from the successful mission in Leyte with two wounds, including one to his kneecap,[23] but neither kept him from combat when General Douglas MacArthur deployed the paratroopers for their usual purpose on February 3, 1945. Colonel Haugen led the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment as it landed on Tagaytay Ridge, met the 188th Glider Infantry Regiment and marched into Manila. It met minimal resistance until it reached the city, where Vice Admiral Sanji Iwabuchi had arranged his 17,000 troops behind a maze of traps and guns and ordered them to fight to the death.[24] During the next month, Serling's unit battled block by block for control of Manila.[citation needed]

When portions of the city were taken from Japanese control, local civilians sometimes showed their gratitude by throwing parties and hosting banquets. During one of these parties, Serling and his comrades were fired upon, resulting in many soldier and civilian deaths. Serling, still a private after three years, caught the attention of Sergeant Lewis when he ran into the line of fire to rescue a performer who had been on stage when the artillery started firing.[25]

As it moved in on Iwabuchi's stronghold, Serling's regiment had a 50% casualty rate, with over 400 men killed. Serling was wounded and three comrades were killed by shrapnel from rounds fired at his roving demolition team by an antiaircraft gun.[26] He was sent to New Guinea to recover but soon returned to Manila to finish "cleaning up".[clarification needed]

Serling's final assignment was as part of the occupation force in Japan.[27] During his military service, Private Serling was awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star,[28] and the Philippine Liberation Medal.[6][29]

Serling's combat experience affected him deeply and influenced much of his writing. It left him with nightmares and flashbacks for the rest of his life.[6] He said, "I was bitter about everything and at loose ends when I got out of the service. I think I turned to writing to get it off my chest."[3]

Postwar life, education, and family[edit]

After being discharged from the Army in 1946, Serling worked at a rehabilitation hospital while recovering from his wounds. His knee troubled him for years. Later, his wife became accustomed to the sound of him falling down the stairs when it buckled under his weight.[12]

When he was fit enough, he used the federal G.I. bill's educational benefits[18] and disability payments[12] to enroll in the physical education program at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He had been accepted to Antioch (his brother's alma mater) while in high school.[30] His interests led him to the theater department and then to broadcasting.[12] He changed his major to Literature and earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1950.[3] "I was kind of mixed up and restless, and I kind of liked their work-for-a-term, go-to-school-for-a-term set-up," he recounted.[30]

As part of his studies, Serling became active in the campus radio station, an experience which proved useful in his future career. He wrote, directed, and acted in many radio programs on campus, then around the state, as part of his work study.[31] Here he met Carolyn Louise "Carol" Kramer, a student, who later became his wife. At first, she refused to date him because of his campus reputation as a "ladies man", but she eventually changed her mind.[3] He converted from Judaism to Unitarianism in college,[6] which allowed him to marry Kramer on July 31, 1948.[3] They had two daughters, Jodi and Anne.[3][32]

Carol Serling's maternal grandmother, Louise Taft Orton Caldwell,[33] had a summer home on Cayuga Lake in Interlaken, New York, which was the newlyweds' honeymoon destination. The Serling family continued to use this house annually throughout Rod's life, missing only two summers in the years when his daughters were born.[12]

For extra money in his college years, Serling worked part-time testing parachutes for the United States Army Air Forces. According to his radio station coworkers, he received $50 for each successful jump and had once been paid $500 (half before and half if he survived) for a hazardous test.[34] His last test jump was a few weeks before his wedding. In one instance, he earned $1,000 for testing a jet ejection seat that had killed the previous three testers.[35][36]

Career[edit]

Radio[edit]

Serling volunteered at WNYC in New York as an actor and writer in the summer of 1946.[11] The next year, he worked at that station as a paid intern in his Antioch work-study program.[37] He then took odd jobs in other radio stations in New York and Ohio.[38] "I learned 'time', writing for a medium that is measured in seconds," Serling later said of his early experiences.[11]

While attending college, Serling worked at the Antioch Broadcasting System's radio workshop and was managing the station within a couple of years. He then took charge of full-scale radio productions at Antioch which were broadcast on WJEM, in Springfield. He wrote and directed the programs and acted in them when needed. He created the entire output for the 1948–1949 school year. With one exception (an adaptation), all the writing that year was his original work.[11]

While in college, Serling won his first accolade as a writer. The radio program Dr. Christian had started an annual scriptwriting contest eight years earlier. Thousands of scripts were sent in annually, but very few could be produced.[11] Serling won a trip to New York City and $500 for his radio script "To Live a Dream."[39] He and his new wife attended the awards broadcast on May 18, 1949, where he and the other winners were interviewed by the star of Dr. Christian, Jean Hersholt. One of the other winners that day was Earl Hamner, Jr., who had also earned prizes in previous years. Later, Hamner wrote scripts for Serling's The Twilight Zone.[11]

In addition to earning $45 to $50 a week at the college radio station, Serling attempted to make a living selling freelance scripts of radio programs, but the industry at that time was involved in many lawsuits, which affected willingness to take on new writers (some whose scripts were rejected would often hear a similar plot produced, claim their work had been stolen and sue for recompense).[11] Serling was rejected for reasons such as "heavy competition," "this script lacks professional quality," and "not what our audience prefers to listen to."[11]

In the autumn of 1949, Martin Horrell of Grand Central Station (a radio program known for romances and light dramas) rejected one of Serling's scripts about boxing, because his mostly female listeners "have told us in no uncertain terms that prize fight stories aren’t what they like most." Horrell advised that "the script would be far better for sight than for sound only, because in any radio presentation, the fights are not seen. Perhaps this is a baby you should try on some of the producers of television shows."[11]

Realizing the boxing story was not right for Grand Central Station, Serling submitted a lighter piece called Hop Off the Express and Grab a Local, which became his first nationally broadcast piece on September 10, 1949.[11] His Dr. Christian script aired on November 30 of that year.

Serling began his professional writing career in 1950, when he earned $75 a week as a network continuity writer for WLW radio in Cincinnati, Ohio.[11][12] While at WLW, he continued to freelance. He sold several radio and TV scripts to WLW's parent company, Crosley Broadcasting Corporation. After selling the scripts, Serling had no further involvement with them. They were sold by Crosley to local stations across the United States.[11]

Serling submitted an idea for a weekly radio show in which the ghosts of a young boy and girl killed in World War II would look through train windows and comment on day-to-day human life as it moved around the country. This idea was changed significantly, but was produced from October 1950 to February 1951 as Adventure Express, a drama about a girl and boy who travel by train with their uncle. Each week they found adventure in a new town and got involved with the local residents.[11]

Other radio programs for which Serling wrote scripts include Leave It to Kathy, Our America, and Builders of Destiny. During the production of these, he became acquainted with a voice actor, Jay Overholts, who later became a regular on The Twilight Zone.[11]

Serling said of his time as a staff writer for radio, "From a writing point of view, radio ate up ideas that might have put food on the table for weeks at a future freelancing date. The minute you tie yourself down to a radio or TV station, you write around the clock. You rip out ideas, many of them irreplaceable. They go on and consequently can never go on again. And you've sold them for $50 a week. You can't afford to give away ideas—they're too damn hard to come by. If I had it to do over, I wouldn't staff-write at all. I'd find some other way to support myself while getting a start as a writer."[11]

Serling believed radio was not living up to its potential, later saying, "Radio, in terms of ... drama, dug its own grave. It had aimed downward, had become cheap and unbelievable, and had willingly settled for second best."[40] He opined that there were very few radio writers who would be remembered for their literary contributions.[40]

Television[edit]

I think Rod would have been one of the first to say he hit the new industry, television, at exactly the right time. The first job he got out of school was as continuity writer at (radio station) WLW in Cincinnati. He worked there for over a year before he could free-lance. At that point, he was really working on television scripts. [I]n 1951 and 1952, the new industry was grabbing up a lot of material and needed it. It was a very propitious time to be graduating from school and getting ready to find a profession.

—Carol Serling, Los Angeles Times, 1990 interview[31]

Serling moved from radio to television, as a writer for WKRC-TV in Cincinnati. His duties included writing testimonial advertisements for dubious medical remedies and scripts for a comedy duo.[3] He continued at WKRC after graduation and, amidst the mostly dreary day-to-day work, also created a series of scripts for a live TV program, The Storm, as well as for other anthology dramas (a format which was in demand by networks based in New York).[6] Following a full day of classes (or, in later years, work), he spent evenings on his own, writing. He sent manuscripts to publishers and received forty rejection slips during these early years.[3]

In 1950, Serling hired Blanche Gaines as an agent. His radio scripts received more rejections, so he began rewriting them for television. Whenever a script was rejected by one program, he would resubmit it to another, eventually finding a home for many in either radio or television.[11]

As Serling's college years ended, his scripts began to sell. He continued to write for television[18] and eventually left WKRC to become a full-time freelance writer. He recalled, "Writing is a demanding profession and a selfish one. And because it is selfish and demanding, because it is compulsive and exacting, I didn't embrace it. I succumbed to it."[3]

According to his wife, Serling "just up and quit one day, during the winter of 1952, about six months before our first daughter Jody was born—though he was also doing some freelancing and working on a weekly dramatic show for another Cincinnati station."[12] He and his family moved to Connecticut in early 1953. Here he made a living by writing for the live dramatic anthology shows that were prevalent at the time, including Kraft Television Theatre, Appointment with Adventure and Hallmark Hall of Fame.[3] By the end of 1954, his agent convinced him he needed to move to New York, "where the action is."[12]

The writer Marc Scott Zicree, who spent years researching his book The Twilight Zone Companion, noted, "Sometimes the situations were clichéd, the characters two-dimensional, but always there was at least some search for an emotional truth, some attempt to make a statement on the human condition."[3]

Gaining fame[edit]

In 1955, the nationwide Kraft Television Theatre televised a program based on Serling's 72nd script. To Serling, it was just another script, and he missed the first live broadcast. He and his wife hired a babysitter for the night and told her "no one would call because we had just moved to town. And the phone just started ringing and didn't stop for years!"[12] The title of this episode was "Patterns", and it soon changed his life.

"Patterns" dramatized the power struggle between a veteran corporate boss running out of ideas and energy and the bright, young executive being groomed to take his place. Instead of firing the loyal employee and risk tarnishing his own reputation, the boss enlists him into a campaign to push aside his competition.[41] Serling modeled the main[clarification needed] character on his former commander, Colonel Orin Haugen.[42]

The New York Times critic Jack Gould called the show "one of the high points in the TV medium's evolution" and said, "[f]or sheer power of narrative, forcefulness of characterization and brilliant climax, Mr. Serling's work is a creative triumph."[41]Robert Lewis Shayon stated in the Saturday Review, "in the years I have been watching television I do not recall being so engaged by a drama, nor so stimulated to challenge the haunting conclusions of an hour's entertainment."[3] The episode was a hit with the audience as well, and a second live show was staged by popular demand one month later.[43] During the time between the two shows, Kraft executives negotiated with people from Hollywood over the rights to "Patterns". Newspapers announced that "Patterns" would be rebroadcast but then stated the show might be unavailable if the rights were sold before then.[44]

Immediately following the original broadcast of "Patterns", Serling was inundated with offers of permanent jobs, congratulations and requests for novels, plays and television or radio scripts.[43] He quickly sold many of his earlier, lower-quality works and watched in dismay as they were published. Critics expressed concern that he was not living up to his promise and began to doubt he was able to recreate the quality of writing that "Patterns" had shown.[3]

Serling then wrote "Requiem for a Heavyweight" for the TV series Playhouse 90 in 1956, again gaining praise from critics.[45]

In the autumn of 1957, the Serling family moved to California. When television was new, shows aired live, but as studios began to tape their shows, the business moved from the East Coast to the West Coast.[12] Serling would live in California for much of his life but kept property in Binghamton and Cayuga Lake as retreats for when he needed time alone.[12]

Corporate censorship[edit]

The early years of television often saw sponsors working as editors and censors. Serling was often forced to change his scripts after corporate sponsors read them and found something they felt was too controversial. They were wary of anything they thought might make them look bad to consumers, so references to many contemporary social issues were omitted, as were references to anything that might compete commercially with a sponsor. For instance, the line "Got a match?" was deleted because one of the sponsors of "Requiem for a Heavyweight" was Ronsonlighters.[3]

A New York Times television reviewer added this editorial note at the end of a glowing review for A Town Has Turned to Dust, a show about racism and bigotry in a small Southwestern town: "'Playhouse 90' and Mr. Serling had to fight executive interference ... before getting their play on the air last night. The theater people of Hollywood have reason to be proud of their stand in the viewers' behalf."[46]

Frustrated by seeing his scripts divested of political statements and ethnic identities (and having a reference to the Chrysler Building removed from a script sponsored by Ford), Serling decided the only way to avoid such artistic interference was to create his own show. In an interview with Mike Wallace, he said, "I don't want to fight anymore. I don't want to have to battle sponsors and agencies. I don't want to have to push for something that I want and have to settle for second best. I don't want to have to compromise all the time, which in essence is what a television writer does if he wants to put on controversial themes."[3]

Serling submitted "The Time Element" to CBS, intending it to be a pilot for his new weekly show, The Twilight Zone. Instead, CBS used the science fiction script for a new show produced by Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, The Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, in 1958. The story concerns a man who has vivid nightmares of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The man goes to a psychiatrist and, after the session, the twist ending (a device which Serling became known for) reveals the "patient" had died at Pearl Harbor, and the psychiatrist was the one actually having the vivid dreams.[3] The episode received so much positive fan response that CBS agreed to let Serling go ahead with his pilot for The Twilight Zone.[3]

The Storm[edit]

Before The Twilight Zone, Serling created a local television show in Cincinnati on WKRC-TV, The Storm, in the early 1950s. Several of these scripts were rewritten for later use on national network TV.[47] A copy of an episode is located in the Cincinnati Museum Center Historical Cincinnati Library on videotape.[48]

The Twilight Zone[edit]

Main articles: The Twilight Zone and The Twilight Zone (1959 TV series)

On October 2, 1959, the classic Twilight Zone series, created by Serling, premiered on CBS.[6]

For this series, Serling fought hard to get and maintain creative control. He hired scriptwriters whom he respected (such as Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont). In an interview, Serling said the show's science fiction format would not be controversial[49] with sponsors, network executives or the general public and would escape censorship, unlike the earlier script for Playhouse 90.

Serling drew on his own experience for many episodes, frequently about boxing, military life, and airplane pilots. The Twilight Zone incorporated his social views on racial relations, somewhat veiled in the science fiction and fantasy elements of the shows. Occasionally, the point was quite blunt, such as in the episode "I Am the Night—Color Me Black", in which racism and hatred causes a dark cloud to form in the American South and spread across the world. Many Twilight Zone stories reflected his views on gender roles, featuring quick-thinking, resilient women as well as shrewish, nagging wives.

The Twilight Zone aired for five seasons (the first three presented half-hour episodes, the fourth hour-long episodes, and the fifth returned to the half-hour format). It won many TV and drama awards and drew critical acclaim for Serling and his co-workers. Though it had loyal fans, The Twilight Zone had only moderate ratings and was twice canceled and revived. After five years and 156 episodes (92 written by Serling), he grew weary of the series. In 1964, he decided to not oppose its third and final cancellation.

Serling sold the rights to The Twilight Zone to CBS. His wife later claimed he did this partly because he believed his own studio would never recoup the production costs of the programs, which frequently went over budget.

The Twilight Zone eventually resurfaced in the form of a 1983 film by Warner Bros. Former Twilight Zone actor Burgess Meredith was cast as the film's narrator but does not appear on screen. There have been two attempts to revive the TV series with mostly new scripts. In 1985, CBS used Charles Aidman (and later Robin Ward) as the narrator. In 2002, UPN featured Forest Whitaker in the role of narrator.[50]

A Carol for Another Christmas[edit]

A Carol for Another Christmas was a 1964 American television movie, scripted by Rod Serling as a modernization of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and a plea for global cooperation between nations. It was telecast only once, on December 28, 1964.[51] The only TV movie directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, this was the film in which Peter Sellers gave his first performance after a series of near-fatal heart attacks in the wake of his marriage to Britt Ekland. Sellers portrayed a demagogue in an apocalyptic Christmas. Sterling Hayden, who costarred with Sellers in Dr. Strangelove earlier that year, was also featured. The cast included Percy Rodriguez, Eva Marie Saint, Ben Gazzara, Barbara Ann Teer, James Shigeta and Britt Ekland. Henry Mancini wrote the theme music, which was recorded for his 1966 holiday LP, A Merry Mancini Christmas. The film is not commercially available, but it can be seen at the Paley Center for Media in New York and Los Angeles and the Film and Television Archive at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Turner Classic Movies telecast A Carol for Another Christmas for the first time in 48 years, on December 16 and 22, 2012.[52] TCM aired it again on December 19 and 20, 2013.

Night Gallery[edit]

Main article: Night Gallery

In 1969, NBC aired a television film pilot for a new series, Night Gallery, written by Serling. Set in a dimly lit museum after hours, the pilot film featured Serling (as on-camera host) playing the curator, who introduced three tales of the macabre, unveiling canvases that would appear in the subsequent story segments. Its brief first season (consisting of only six episodes) was rotated with three other shows (called Four in One) airing in the same time slot. The series generally focused more on horror and suspense than The Twilight Zone did. On the insistence of the producer Jack Laird, Night Gallery also began including brief comedic "blackout" sketches during its second season, which Serling greatly disdained.[53]

No longer wanting the burden of an executive position, Serling sidestepped an offer to retain creative control of content, a decision he would come to regret.[53] Although discontented with some of the scripts and creative choices of Jack Laird, Serling continued to submit his work and ultimately wrote over a third of the series' scripts. By season three, however, many of his contributions were being rejected or heavily altered.[citation needed]Night Gallery was cancelled in 1973. NBC later combined episodes of the short-lived paranormal series The Sixth Sense with Night Gallery, in order to increase the amount of episodes available in syndication. Serling was reportedly paid $100,000 to film introductions for these repackaged episodes.[54][55]

Other television[edit]

After The Twilight Zone was canceled, Serling wrote an unsuccessful western television series called The Loner, which ran from the fall of 1965 to April 1966. CBS asked Serling to have more action and less character interaction. He refused to comply, even though the show had received poor reviews and low ratings.[6]

In a stylistic departure from his earlier work, Serling briefly hosted the first version of the game show Liar's Club in 1969.[56]

In the 1970s, Serling appeared in television commercials for Ford, Ziebart[57] and the Japanese automaker Mazda, during the time they were promoting vehicles for the U.S. market powered with a rotary engine. He also made very occasional minor acting appearances, all in material he didn't write. Serling appeared more-or-less as a version of himself (but named "Mr. Zone") in a comedic bit on The Jack Benny Program; he appears in a 1962 episode of the sort-lived sitcom Ichabod and Me in the role of Eugene Hollinfield; and in a 1972 episode of the crime drama Ironside titled "Bubble, Bubble, Toil, and Murder" (which also featured a young Jodie Foster), in which he plays a small role as the proprietor of an occult magic shop.

Prose[edit]

Writing prose was difficult for Serling. Several of his short stories were rewrites of scripts which had already been produced, but he also wrote original stories.

In his book The Evolution of the Weird Tale, S. T. Joshi titled his chapter on Serling "The Moral Supernatural" and wrote of how difficult it is to categorize Serling's writings. He looked to the three dozen prose pieces Serling had published as a basis for literary analysis.[58] In his overview of Serling's writing, Joshi said, "If there is anything that unites the whole of Serling's works—whether it be short stories or film scripts, whether it be fantastic or mainstream—it is an abiding concern with human feeling."[59]

Joshi compared an original script version of "Walking Distance" to a short story version of the same work and to the final script. The scripts utilize visual images to show the locations, what the characters look like and emotions they are experiencing; in the short story, Serling fleshed these out with strong nuances, inner dialogue and elaborate memories that are not easily translated to the screen. Each is successful in its medium, and each includes pieces that are not found in the others. Joshi commented that Serling used pacing well, each correct for its medium, and that "in spite of Serling's own doubts on the matter—he mastered the short story technique in every way."[60]

Other radio[edit]

The Zero Hour[edit]

Serling returned to radio late in his career with The Zero Hour (also known as Hollywood Radio Theater) in 1973. The drama anthology series featured tales of mystery, adventure and suspense, airing in stereo for two seasons. Serling hosted the program and wrote some of the scripts.

Originally placed into syndication on September 3, 1973, the series was picked up by the Mutual Broadcasting System in December of that year. The original format featured five-part dramas broadcast Monday through Friday, with the story coming to a conclusion on Friday. Including commercials, each part was approximately 30 minutes long. Mutual affiliates could broadcast the series in any time slot that they wished.

In 1974, still airing five days a week, the program changed to a full story in a single 30-minute installment with the same actor starring throughout the week in all five programs. That format was employed from late April 1974 to the end of the series on July 26, 1974.

Fantasy Park[edit]

Serling's final radio performance, which he recorded just a few weeks before his death, was even more unusual: Fantasy Park was a 48-hour-long rock concert aired by nearly 200 stations over Labor Day weekend in 1975.[61] The program, produced by KNUS in Dallas, featured performances by dozens of rock stars of the day, and even reunited the Beatles. It was also completely imaginary, a "theatre-of-the-mind for the 70s", as producer Beau Weaver put it, using record albums recorded live in concert, plus crowd noise and other sound effects. (Stations who aired the special were reportedly inundated by callers demanding to know how to get to the nonexistent concert.) KNUS general manager Bart McLendon recruited Serling (his old teacher) to record the host segments, bumpers and custom promos and television spots.

Serling himself wrote the disclaimers, which aired each hour: "Hello, this is Rod Serling and welcome back to Fantasy Park—the crowds here today are unreal." "This is Fantasy Park—the greatest live concert—never held."

Teaching[edit]

Serling kept his schedule full. When he was not writing, promoting, or producing his work, he often spoke on college campuses around the country.[12] He taught week-long seminars in which students would watch and critique films. In the political climate of the 1960s, he often felt a stronger connection to the older students in his evening classes.[12]

By the fourth season of Twilight Zone, Serling was exhausted and turned much of the writing over to a trusted stable of screenwriters, authoring only seven episodes himself. Desiring to take a break and clear his mind, he took a one-year teaching job as writer in residence at Antioch College in Ohio. He taught classes in the 1962–63 school year on writing and drama and a survey course covering the "social and historical implications of the media."[3][6] He used this time to teach as well as work on a new screenplay, Seven Days in May.[6]

Later he taught at Ithaca College, from the late 1960s until his death in 1975.[3][62] He was one of the first guest teachers at the Sherwood Oaks Experimental College in Hollywood, California. Audio recordings of his lectures there are included as bonus features on some Twilight Zone home video editions.

Themes[edit]

No one could know Serling, or view or read his work, without recognizing his deep affection for humanity ... and his determination to enlarge our horizons by giving us a better understanding of ourselves.

— Gene Roddenberry

According to his wife, Serling often said that "the ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in, becoming narcissistic."[12] This philosophy can be seen in his writing. Some themes appear again and again in his writing, many of which are concerned with war and politics. Another common theme is equality among all people.

Antiwar activism[edit]

Serling's experiences as a soldier left him with strong opinions about the use of military force. He was an outspoken antiwar activist, especially during the Vietnam War.[6] He supported antiwar politicians, notably Eugene McCarthy in his presidential campaign in 1968.[6]

"The Rack" is an example of Serling's use of television to speak his mind on political issues. It tells the story of an army captain charged with collaborating with the North Koreans. The New York Times reviewer J. P. Shanley called it "controversial and compelling".[63] Serling tackled a question that was much in the media at the time: should veterans be charged with a crime if they cooperated with the enemy while under duress? In this courtroom drama the accused is put on trial for helping the enemy by urging fellow prisoners of war to cooperate with their captors. Serling offers many valid arguments on behalf of both the defense and the prosecution. Each has a strong case, but in the end, the captain is found guilty. There is no Serling narration to conclude the drama, as he had become famous for in The Twilight Zone—instead, the audience is left to make their own conclusions after the verdict has been rendered.[63]

"No Christmas This Year" was a script written early in Serling's career, around 1950, but was never produced. It told of a place that no longer celebrated Christmas, although none of the residents know why it has been canceled. Meanwhile, at the North Pole, the audience sees Santa Claus dealing with striking elves. Rather than creating toys and candy, the North Pole manufactures a diversity of bombs and offensive gases. Santa has been shot at on his route, and an elf was hit by shrapnel.[11]

"24 Men to a Plane" recounts Serling's first combat airdrop into the area around Manila in 1945. The drop became a fiasco after the jumpmaster in the first plane dropped his men too early, causing every subsequent plane to drop in synchronization with the mistake.[64]

Racial equality[edit]

A Town Has Turned to Dust received a positive review from the critic Jack Gould, who was known for being straightforward to the point of being harsh in his reviews. He called A Town Has Turned to Dust, "a raw, tough and at the same time deeply moving outcry against prejudice."[46] Set in a Southwestern town in a deep drought, it sees poverty and despair turn racial tensions deadly when the ineffectual sheriff is unable to stand against the town. A young Mexican boy is lynched, and the town as a whole is to blame. A second lynching is in the works after a series of events leads again to the town turning against the Mexicans. This time, the sheriff stands strong, and the first boy's brother is saved, even as the town is not. "Mr. Serling incorporated his protest against prejudice in vivid dialogue and sound situations. He made his point that hate for a fellow being leads only to the ultimate destruction of the bigoted."[46]

Serling took his 1972 screenplay for the film The Man from the Irving Wallace novel of the same title. The black senator from New Hampshire and president pro tempore of the Senate, played by James Earl Jones, assumes the U.S. presidency by succession.

Death[edit]

On May 3, 1975, Serling had a minor heart attack and was hospitalized. He spent two weeks at Tompkins County Community Hospital before being released.[65] A second heart attack two weeks later forced doctors to agree that open-heart surgery, though considered risky at the time, was in order.[66][67] The ten-hour-long procedure was carried out on June 26, but Serling had a third heart attack on the operating table and died two days later at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York.[68] He was 50 years old.[62] His funeral took place on July 2.

A memorial was held in Cornell University's Sage Chapel on July 7, 1975.[62] Speakers at the Memorial included his daughter Anne and the Reverend John F. Hayward.[66]

Legacy[edit]

Television[edit]

Serling began his career when television was a new medium. The first public viewing of an all-electric television was presented by inventor Philo Farnsworth at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia on August 25, 1934, when Serling was nine years old. Commercial television officially started on July 1, 1941. At the time, there were fewer than seven thousand TV sets in the United States, and very few of those were in private homes.[69] Only five months later the U.S. entered World War II, and the television business was put on hold until the war's end,[70] as many of the sets were confiscated by the government and repurposed to train air-raid wardens.[37] After World War II ended, money began flowing toward the new medium of television, coinciding with the beginning of Serling's writing career. Early programming consisted of newsreels, sporting events and what would be called public-access television today. It was not until 1948 that filmed dramas were first shown, beginning with a show called Public Prosecutor.[71] Serling began having serious dramas produced in 1950 and is given credit as one of the first to write scripts specifically for television. As such, he is said to have helped legitimize television drama.[72]

Serling worried that television was on the verge of suffering the same decline as radio. He encouraged sponsors to see television as a platform for the kind of dramatic entertainment which could address important social matters through subtle meanings, instead of being "an animated billboard."[73]

The format of writing for television was changing rapidly in the early years, but eventually it settled into a pattern of commercial breaks on each quarter-hour. Writers were forced to work these breaks into their scripts. Serling's response to this convention was, "How can you put out a meaningful drama when every fifteen minutes proceedings are interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits with toilet paper? No dramatic art form should be dictated and controlled by men whose training and instincts are cut of an entirely different cloth. The fact remains that these gentlemen sell consumer goods, not an art form."[49] Throughout his career Serling helped to mold the future of television.

Writing for multiple media[edit]

As early as 1955, Jack Gould, of the New York Times, commented on the close ties that were then being created between television and movies. Serling was among the first to use both forms, turning his early television successes, "Patterns" and "The Rack", into full-length movies.[74] Up to that time, many established writers were unwilling to write for television because the programs were viewed only once and then stored in a vault, never to be seen again.[75]

Beginning of the rerun[edit]

Serling as a senior in high school, 1943
Troops of the 511th Parachute Infantry Regiment evacuate a wounded soldier to an aid station at Manarawat on the island of Leyte, December 1944.

Serling with his wife, Carol, and with his daughters, 1959

Serling at his home in 1959, with three of his Emmys on the cabinet behind him
Serling working on a script with a dictating machine, 1959
A memorial in honor of Serling in his home town of Binghamton, N.Y.
Sam Jaffe and Jack Albertson in Serling's 1976 posthumous television special "The Sad and Lonely Sundays", an episode of the abandoned series The Oath
Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman, April 2013

BornNeil Richard Gaiman
(1960-11-10) 10 November 1960 (age 57)
Portchester, Hampshire, England
OccupationAuthor, comic book creator, screenwriter, voice actor
NationalityBritish
GenreFantasy, horror, science fiction, dark fantasy, comedy
Notable worksThe Sandman, Neverwhere, American Gods, Stardust, Coraline, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens, The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Years active1984–present
Spouse
Children4
Website
neilgaiman.com

Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman[4] (;[5] born Neil Richard Gaiman,[4] 10 November 1960)[6] is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre, and films. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. He has won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, as well as the Newbery and Carnegie medals. He is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work, The Graveyard Book (2008).[7][8] In 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards.[9]

Early life

Neil Gaiman's family is of Polish-Jewish and other Eastern European-Jewish origins;[10] his great-grandfather emigrated from Antwerp, Belgium, to the UK before 1914[11] and his grandfather eventually settled in the south of England in the Hampshire city of Portsmouth and established a chain of grocery stores. His father, David Bernard Gaiman, worked in the same chain of stores;[12] his mother, Sheila Gaiman (née Goldman), was a pharmacist. He has two younger sisters, Claire and Lizzy.[13] After living for a period in the nearby town of Portchester, Hampshire, where Neil was born in 1960, the Gaimans moved in 1965 to the West Sussex town of East Grinstead where his parents studied Dianetics at the Scientology centre in the town; one of Gaiman's sisters works for the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles. His other sister, Lizzy Calcioli, has said, "Most of our social activities were involved with Scientology or our Jewish family. It would get very confusing when people would ask my religion as a kid. I’d say, 'I’m a Jewish Scientologist.'" Gaiman says that he is not a Scientologist, and that like Judaism, Scientology is his family's religion.[14] About his personal views, Gaiman has stated, "I think we can say that God exists in the DC Universe. I would not stand up and beat the drum for the existence of God in this universe. I don't know, I think there's probably a 50/50 chance. It doesn't really matter to me."[15]

Gaiman was able to read at the age of four. He said, "I was a reader. I loved reading. Reading things gave me pleasure. I was very good at most subjects in school, not because I had any particular aptitude in them, but because normally on the first day of school they'd hand out schoolbooks, and I'd read them—which would mean that I'd know what was coming up, because I'd read it."[16] When he was about ten years old, he read his way through the works of Dennis Wheatley, where especially The Ka of Gifford Hillary and The Haunting of Toby Jugg made an impact on him.[17] One work that made a particular impression on him was J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings from his school library, although it only had the first two volumes of the novel. He consistently took them out and read them. He would later win the school English prize and the school reading prize, enabling him to finally acquire the third volume.[18]

For his seventh birthday, Gaiman received C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia series. He later recalled that "I admired his use of parenthetical statements to the reader, where he would just talk to you ... I'd think, 'Oh, my gosh, that is so cool! I want to do that! When I become an author, I want to be able to do things in parentheses.' I liked the power of putting things in brackets."[18]Narnia also introduced him to literary awards, specifically the 1956 Carnegie Medal won by the concluding volume. When Gaiman won the 2010 Medal himself, the press reported him recalling, "it had to be the most important literary award there ever was"[8] and observing, "if you can make yourself aged seven happy, you're really doing well – it's like writing a letter to yourself aged seven."[7]

Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was another childhood favourite, and "a favourite forever. Alice was default reading to the point where I knew it by heart."[18] He also enjoyed Batman comics as a child.[18]

Gaiman was educated at several Church of England schools, including Fonthill School in East Grinstead,[19]Ardingly College (1970–74), and Whitgift School in Croydon (1974–77).[20] His father's position as a public relations official of the Church of Scientology was the cause of the seven-year-old Gaiman being blocked from entering a boys' school, forcing him to remain at the school that he had previously been attending.[14][21] He lived in East Grinstead for many years, from 1965 to 1980 and again from 1984 to 1987.[19] He met his first wife, Mary McGrath, while she was studying Scientology and living in a house in East Grinstead that was owned by his father. The couple were married in 1985 after having their first child, Michael.[14]

Career

Journalism, early writings, and literary influences

As a child and a teenager, Gaiman read the works of C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, Mary Shelley, Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Allan Poe, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Ursula K. Le Guin, Harlan Ellison, Lord Dunsany and G. K. Chesterton.[18][22][23] When he was 19–20 years old, he contacted his favourite science fiction writer, R. A. Lafferty, whom he discovered when he was nine, and asked for advice on becoming an author along with a Lafferty pastiche he had written. The writer sent Gaiman an encouraging and informative letter back, along with literary advice.[24][25]

Gaiman has said Roger Zelazny was the author who influenced him the most,[26] with this influence particularly seen in Gaiman's literary style and the topics he writes about.[27] Other authors Gaiman says "furnished the inside of my mind and set me to writing" include Moorcock, Ellison, Samuel R. Delany, Angela Carter, Lafferty and Le Guin.[26]

In the early 1980s, Gaiman pursued journalism, conducting interviews and writing book reviews, as a means to learn about the world and to make connections that he hoped would later assist him in getting published.[18] He wrote and reviewed extensively for the British Fantasy Society.[28] His first professional short story publication was "Featherquest", a fantasy story, in Imagine Magazine in May 1984.[28]

When waiting for a train at London's Victoria Station in 1984, Gaiman noticed a copy of Swamp Thing written by Alan Moore, and carefully read it. Moore's fresh and vigorous approach to comics had such an impact on Gaiman that he would later write "that was the final straw, what was left of my resistance crumbled. I proceeded to make regular and frequent visits to London's Forbidden Planet shop to buy comics".[23]

In 1984, he wrote his first book, a biography of the band Duran Duran, as well as Ghastly Beyond Belief, a book of quotations, with Kim Newman.[18] Even though Gaiman thought he had done a terrible job, the book's first edition sold out very quickly. When he went to relinquish his rights to the book, he discovered the publisher had gone bankrupt.[18][29] After this, he was offered a job by Penthouse. He refused the offer.[18]

He also wrote interviews and articles for many British magazines, including Knave. During this he sometimes wrote under pseudonyms, including Gerry Musgrave, Richard Grey, and "a couple of house names".[30] Gaiman has said he ended his journalism career in 1987 because British newspapers regularly publish untruths as fact.[31][32] In the late 1980s, he wrote Don't Panic: The Official Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Companion in what he calls a "classic English humour" style.[33] Following this he wrote the opening of what would become his collaboration with fellow English author Terry Pratchett on the comic novelGood Omens, about the impending apocalypse.[34]

Comics

See also: Neil Gaiman bibliography § Comics

After forming a friendship with comic-book writer Alan Moore,[23] Gaiman started writing comic-books, picking up Miracleman after Moore finished his run on the series. Gaiman and artist Mark Buckingham collaborated on several issues of the series before its publisher, Eclipse Comics, collapsed, leaving the series unfinished. His first published comic strips were four short Future Shocks for 2000 AD in 1986–87. He wrote three graphic novels with his favourite collaborator and long-time friend Dave McKean: Violent Cases, Signal to Noise, and The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch. Impressed with his work, DC Comics hired him in February 1987,[35] and he wrote the limited series Black Orchid.[36][37]Karen Berger, who later became head of DC Comics's Vertigo, read Black Orchid and offered Gaiman a job: to re-write an old character, The Sandman, but to put his own spin on him.[18]

The Sandman tells the tale of the ageless, anthropomorphic personification of Dream that is known by many names, including Morpheus. The series began in January 1989 and concluded in March 1996.[38] In the eighth issue of The Sandman, Gaiman and artist Mike Dringenberg introduced Death, the older sister of Dream, who would become as popular as the series' title character.[39] The limited series Death: The High Cost of Living launched DC's Vertigo line in 1993.[40] The 75 issues of the regular series, along with an illustrated prose text and a special containing seven short stories, have been collected into 12 volumes that remain in print, 14 if the Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life spin-offs are included. Artists include Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Jill Thompson, Shawn McManus, Marc Hempel and Michael Zulli, lettering by Todd Klein, colours by Daniel Vozzo, and covers by Dave McKean.[18] The series became one of DC's top selling titles, eclipsing even Batman and Superman.[41] Comics historian Les Daniels called Gaiman's work "astonishing" and noted that The Sandman was "a mixture of fantasy, horror, and ironic humor such as comic books had never seen before".[42][43] DC Comics writer and executive Paul Levitz observed that "The Sandman became the first extraordinary success as a series of graphic novel collections, reaching out and converting new readers to the medium, particularly young women on college campuses, and making Gaiman himself into an iconic cultural figure."[44]

Gaiman and Jamie Delano were to become co-writers of the Swamp Thing series following Rick Veitch. An editorial decision by DC to censor Veitch's final storyline caused both Gaiman and Delano to withdraw from the title.[45]

Gaiman produced two stories for DC's Secret Origins series in 1989. A Poison Ivy[46] tale drawn by Mark Buckingham and a Riddler[47] story illustrated by Bernie Mireault and Matt Wagner. A story which Gaiman originally wrote for Action Comics Weekly in 1989 was shelved due to editorial concerns but it was finally published in 2000 as Green Lantern/Superman: Legend of the Green Flame.[48]

In 1990, Gaiman wrote The Books of Magic, a four-part mini-series that provided a tour of the mythological and magical parts of the DC Universe through a frame story about an English teenager who discovers that he is destined to be the world's greatest wizard.[49] The miniseries was popular, and sired an ongoing series written by John Ney Rieber.[50]

Gaiman's adaptation of Sweeney Todd, illustrated by Michael Zulli for Stephen R. Bissette's publication Taboo, was stopped when the anthology itself was discontinued.[51]

In the mid-1990s, he also created a number of new characters and a setting that was to be featured in a title published by Tekno Comix. The concepts were then altered and split between three titles set in the same continuity: Lady Justice, Mr. Hero the Newmatic Man, and Teknophage.[52] They were later featured in Phage: Shadow Death and Wheel of Worlds. Although Gaiman's name appeared prominently on all titles, he was not involved in writing any of the above-mentioned books.[citation needed]

Gaiman wrote a semi-autobiographical story about a boy's fascination with Michael Moorcock's anti-hero Elric of Melniboné for Ed Kramer's anthology Tales of the White Wolf. In 1996, Gaiman and Ed Kramer co-edited The Sandman: Book of Dreams. Nominated for the British Fantasy Award, the original fiction anthology featured stories and contributions by Tori Amos, Clive Barker, Gene Wolfe, Tad Williams, and others.

Asked why he likes comics more than other forms of storytelling, Gaiman said: "One of the joys of comics has always been the knowledge that it was, in many ways, untouched ground. It was virgin territory. When I was working on Sandman, I felt a lot of the time that I was actually picking up a machete and heading out into the jungle. I got to write in places and do things that nobody had ever done before. When I’m writing novels I’m painfully aware that I’m working in a medium that people have been writing absolutely jaw-droppingly brilliant things for, you know, three-four thousand years now. You know, you can go back. We have things like The Golden Ass. And you go, well, I don’t know that I’m as good as that and that's two and a half thousand years old. But with comics I felt like – I can do stuff nobody has ever done. I can do stuff nobody has ever thought of. And I could and it was enormously fun."[53]

Gaiman wrote two series for Marvel Comics. Marvel 1602 was an eight-issue limited series published from November 2003 to June 2004 with art by Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove.[54]The Eternals was a seven-issue limited series drawn by John Romita Jr. which was published from August 2006 to March 2007.[55][56]

In 2009, Gaiman wrote a two-part Batman story for DC Comics to follow Batman R.I.P. titled "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?"[57] a play-off of the classic Superman story "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" by Alan Moore.[58][59] He contributed a twelve-part Metamorpho serial drawn by Mike Allred for Wednesday Comics, a weekly newspaper-style series.[60][61] Gaiman and Paul Cornell co-wrote Action Comics #894 (Dec. 2010) which featured an appearance by Death.[62] In October 2013, DC Comics releasedThe Sandman: Overture with art by J. H. Williams III.[63][64] Gaiman's Angela character was introduced into the Marvel Universe in the last issue of the Age of Ultron miniseries in 2013.[65]

Novels

See also: Neil Gaiman bibliography § Prose fiction

In a collaboration with author Terry Pratchett, best known for his series of Discworld novels, Gaiman's first novel Good Omens was published in 1990. In 2011 Pratchett said that while the entire novel was a collaborative effort and most of the ideas could be credited to both of them, Pratchett did a larger portion of writing and editing if for no other reason than Gaiman's scheduled involvement with Sandman.[66]

The 1996 novelisation of Gaiman's teleplay for the BBC mini-series Neverwhere was his first solo novel. The novel was released in tandem with the television series though it presents some notable differences from the television series. Gaiman has since revised the novel twice, the first time for an American audience unfamiliar with the London Underground, the second time because he felt unsatisfied with the original.[citation needed]

In 1999, first printings of his fantasy novel Stardust were released. The novel has been released both as a standard novel and in an illustrated text edition.[citation needed] This novel was highly influenced by Victorian fairytales and culture.[67]

American Gods became one of Gaiman's best-selling and multi-award-winning novels upon its release in 2001.[68] A special 10th Anniversary edition was released, with the "author's preferred text" 12,000 words longer than the original mass-market editions.[citation needed]

Gaiman has not written a direct sequel to American Gods but he has revisited the characters. A glimpse at Shadow's travels in Europe is found in a short story which finds him in Scotland, applying the same concepts developed in American Gods to the story of Beowulf. The 2005 novel Anansi Boys deals with Anansi ('Mr. Nancy'), tracing the relationship of his two sons, one semi-divine and the other an unassuming Englishman, as they explore their common heritage. It debuted at number one on The New York Times Best Seller list.[69]

In late 2008, Gaiman released a new children's book, The Graveyard Book. It follows the adventures of a boy named Bod after his family is murdered and he is left to be brought up by a graveyard. It is heavily influenced by Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. As of late January 2009[update], it had been on The New York Times Bestseller children's list for fifteen weeks.[70]

In 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards.[9] The novel follows an unnamed man who returns to his hometown for a funeral and remembers events that began forty years earlier.[71] Themes include the search for self-identity and the "disconnect between childhood and adulthood".[72]

In September 2016, Neil Gaiman announced that he had been working for some years on a retellings of Norse mythology.[73] The book is entitled Norse Mythology and was released in February 2017.[74]

Film and screenwriting

See also: Neil Gaiman bibliography § Film

Gaiman wrote the 1996 BBC dark fantasy television series Neverwhere. He cowrote the screenplay for the movie MirrorMask with his old friend Dave McKean for McKean to direct. In addition, he wrote the localised English language script to the anime movie Princess Mononoke, based on a translation of the Japanese script.[75]

He cowrote the script for Robert Zemeckis's Beowulf with Roger Avary, a collaboration that has proved productive for both writers.[76] Gaiman has expressed interest in collaborating on a film adaptation of the Epic of Gilgamesh.[77]

He was the only person other than J. Michael Straczynski to write a Babylon 5 script in the last three seasons, contributing the season five episode "Day of the Dead".[75]

Gaiman has also written at least three drafts of a screenplay adaptation of Nicholson Baker's novel The Fermata for director Robert Zemeckis,[78][79] although the project was stalled while Zemeckis made The Polar Express and the Gaiman-Roger Avary written Beowulf film.

Neil Gaiman was featured in the History Channel documentary Comic Book Superheroes Unmasked.[citation needed]

Several of Gaiman's original works have been optioned or greenlighted for film adaptation, most notably Stardust, which premiered in August 2007 and stars Charlie Cox, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Claire Danes, directed by Matthew Vaughn. A stop-motion version of Coraline was released on 6 February 2009, with Henry Selick directing and Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher in the leading voice-actor roles.[14]

In 2007, Gaiman it was announced that after ten years in development, the feature film of Death: The High Cost of Living would finally begin production with a screenplay by Gaiman that he would direct for Warner Independent. Don Murphy and Susan Montford are the producers, and Guillermo del Toro is the film's executive producer.[80][81] By 2010 it had been reported that it was no longer in production.[82]

Seeing Ear Theatre performed two of Gaiman's audio theatre plays, "Snow, Glass, Apples", Gaiman's retelling of Snow White and "Murder Mysteries", a story of heaven before the Fall in which the first crime is committed. Both audio plays were published in the collection Smoke and Mirrors in 1998.[83]

Gaiman's 2009 Newbery Medal winning book The Graveyard Book will be made into a movie, with Ron Howard as the director.[84]

Gaiman wrote an episode of the long-running BBC science fiction series Doctor Who, broadcast in 2011 during Matt Smith's second series as the Doctor.[85] Shooting began in August 2010 for this episode, the original title of which was "The House of Nothing"[86] but which was eventually transmitted as "The Doctor's Wife".[87] The episode won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form).[88][89] Gaiman made his return to Doctor Who with an episode titled "Nightmare in Silver", broadcast on 11 May 2013.[90][91]

In 2011, it was announced that Gaiman would be writing the script to a new film version of Journey to the West.[92][93]

Gaiman appeared as himself on The Simpsons episode "The Book Job" broadcast on 20 November 2011.[94][95][96]

In 2015, Starz greenlighted a series adaptation of Gaiman's novel American Gods. Bryan Fuller and Michael Green will write and showrun the series.[97]

Radio

A six-part radio play of Neverwhere was broadcast in March 2013, adapted by Dirk Maggs for BBC Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra. Featured stars include James McAvoy as Richard, Natalie Dormer, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Bernard Cribbens and Johnny Vegas.[98]

In September 2014, Gaiman and Terry Pratchett joined forces with BBC Radio 4 to make the first ever dramatisation of their co-penned novel Good Omens, which was broadcast in December in five half-hour episodes and culminated in an hour-long final apocalyptic showdown.[34]

Public performances

Gaiman frequently performs public readings from his stories and poetry, and has toured with his wife, musician Amanda Palmer. In some of these performances he has also sung songs, in "a novelist's version of singing",[99] despite having "no kind of singing voice".[100]

In 2015, Gaiman delivered a 100-minute lecture for the Long Now Foundation entitled How Stories Last about the nature of storytelling and how stories persist in human culture.[101]

Blog and Twitter

In February 2001, when Gaiman had completed writing American Gods, his publishers set up a promotional website featuring a weblog in which Gaiman described the day-to-day process of revising, publishing, and promoting the novel. After the novel was published, the website evolved into a more general Official Neil Gaiman Website.[102]

Gaiman generally posts to the blog describing the day-to-day process of being Neil Gaiman and writing, revising, publishing, or promoting whatever the current project is. He also posts reader emails and answers questions, which gives him unusually direct and immediate interaction with fans. One of his answers on why he writes the blog is "because writing is, like death, a lonely business."[103]

The original American Gods blog was extracted for publication in the NESFA Press collection of Gaiman miscellany, Adventures in the Dream Trade.[104]

To celebrate the seventh anniversary of the blog, the novel American Gods was provided free of charge online for a month.[105]

Gaiman is an active user of the social networking site Twitter with over 2.2 million followers as of June 2015[update], using the username @neilhimself.[106] In 2013, Gaiman was named by IGN as one of "The Best Tweeters in Comics", describing his posts as "sublime."[107] Gaiman also runs a Tumblr account on which he primarily answers fan questions.[108]

Filmography

YearTitleRoleNotes
2010ArthurHimself (Voice)"Falafelosophy/The Great Lint Rush"
2011The GuildHimself"Downturn"
2011The SimpsonsHimself (Voice)"The Book Job"
2013Jay and Silent Bob's Super Groovy Cartoon MovieAlbert the Manservant (Voice)
2015The Making of a Superhero MusicalMelvin Morel
2016Neil Gaiman Dream DangerouslyHimself

Personal life

Home and family

Gaiman lives near Menomonie, Wisconsin, United States and has lived there since 1992. Gaiman moved there to be close to the family of his then-wife, Mary McGrath, with whom he has three children: Michael, Holly, and Madeleine.[18][109][110][111][112][113] As of 2013[update], Gaiman also resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[114] In 2014, he took up a five-year appointment as professor in the arts at Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.[115]

Gaiman is married to songwriter and performer Amanda Palmer, with whom he has an open marriage.[116] The couple publicly announced that they were dating in June 2009,[117][118] and announced their engagement on Twitter on 1 January 2010.[119] On 16 November 2010, Amanda Palmer hosted a non-legally binding flash mob wedding for Gaiman's birthday in New Orleans.[120] They were legally married on 2 January 2011.[121] The wedding took place in the parlour of writers Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon.[4][122] On marrying Palmer, he took her middle name, MacKinnon, as one of his names.[4] On 18 March 2015, they announced through their Facebook and Twitter accounts that Palmer was pregnant with their first child.[123] Their son Anthony was born 16 September 2015.[124]

Advocacy

In 2016, Gaiman, as well as Cate Blanchett, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Peter Capaldi, Douglas Booth, Jesse Eisenberg, Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Kit Harington, and Stanley Tucci, appear in the video "What They Took With Them", from the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR, to help raise awareness of the issue of global refugees.[125][126]

Gaiman is a supporter and board member of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.[127]

Friendship with Tori Amos

One of Gaiman's most commented-upon friendships is with the musician Tori Amos, a Sandman fan who became friends with Gaiman after making a reference to "Neil and the Dream King" on her 1991 demo tape. He included her in turn as a character (a talking tree) in his novel Stardust.[128] Amos also mentions Gaiman in her songs, "Tear in Your Hand" ("If you need me, me and Neil'll be hangin' out with the dream king. Neil says hi by the way"),[129] "Space Dog" ("Where's Neil when you need him?"),[130] "Horses" ("But will you find me if Neil makes me a tree?"),[131] "Carbon" ("Get me Neil on the line, no I can't hold. Have him read, 'Snow, Glass, Apples' where nothing is what it seems"),[132] "Sweet Dreams" ("You're forgetting to fly, darling, when you sleep"),[133] and "Not Dying Today" ("Neil is thrilled he can claim he's mammalian, 'but the bad news,' he said, 'girl you're a dandelion'").[132] He also wrote stories for the tour book of Boys for Pele and Scarlet's Walk, a letter for the tour book of American Doll Posse, and the stories behind each girl in her album Strange Little Girls. Amos penned the introduction for his novel Death: the High Cost of Living, and posed for the cover. She also wrote a song called "Sister Named Desire" based on his Sandman character, which was included on his anthology, Where's Neil When You Need Him?.

Gaiman is godfather to Tori Amos's daughter Tash,[134] and wrote a poem called "Blueberry Girl" for Tori and Tash.[135] The poem has been turned into a book by the illustrator Charles Vess.[136] Gaiman read the poem aloud to an audience at the Sundance Kabuki Theater in San Francisco on 5 October 2008 during his book reading tour for The Graveyard Book.[137] It was published in March 2009 with the title, Blueberry Girl.

Litigation

In 1993, Gaiman was contracted by Todd McFarlane to write a single issue of Spawn, a popular title at the newly created Image Comics company. McFarlane was promoting his new title by having guest authors Gaiman, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Dave Sim each write a single issue.

In issue No. 9 of the series, Gaiman introduced the characters Angela, Cogliostro, and Medieval Spawn. Prior to this issue, Spawn was an assassin who worked for the government and came back as a reluctant agent of Hell but had no direction. In Angela, a cruel and malicious angel, Gaiman introduced a character who threatened Spawn's existence, as well as providing a moral opposite. Cogliostro was introduced as a mentor character for exposition and instruction, providing guidance. Medieval Spawn introduced a history and precedent that not all Spawns were self-serving or evil, giving additional character development to Malebolgia, the demon that creates Hellspawn.

As intended,[138] all three characters were used repeatedly throughout the next decade by Todd McFarlane within the wider Spawn universe. In papers filed by Gaiman in early 2002, however, he claimed that the characters were jointly owned by their scripter (himself) and artist (McFarlane), not merely by McFarlane in his role as the creator of the series.[139][140] Disagreement over who owned the rights to a character was the primary motivation for McFarlane and other artists to form Image Comics (although that argument related more towards disagreements between writers and artists as character creators).[141] As McFarlane used the characters without Gaiman's permission or royalty payments, Gaiman believed his copyrighted work was being infringed upon, which violated their original, oral, agreement. McFarlane initially agreed that Gaiman had not signed away any rights to the characters, and negotiated with Gaiman to effectively 'swap' McFarlane's interest in the character Marvelman[142] (McFarlane believes he purchased interest in the character when Eclipse Comics was liquidated; Gaiman is interested in being able to continue his aborted run of that title) but later claimed that Gaiman's work had been work-for-hire and that McFarlane owned all of Gaiman's creations entirely. The presiding judge, however, ruled against their agreement being work for hire, based in large part on the legal requirement that "copyright assignments must be in writing."[143]

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court ruling in February 2004[144] granting joint ownership of the characters to Gaiman and McFarlane. On the specific issue of Cogliostro, presiding Judge John C. Shabaz proclaimed, "The expressive work that is the comic-book character Count Nicholas Cogliostro was the joint work of Gaiman and McFarlane—their contributions strike us as quite equal—and both are entitled to ownership of the copyright".[145] Similar analysis led to similar results for the other two characters, Angela and Medieval Spawn.

This legal battle was brought by Gaiman and the specifically formed Marvels and Miracles, LLC, which Gaiman created to help sort out the legal rights surrounding Marvelman. Gaiman wrote Marvel 1602 in 2003 to help fund this project.[146] All of Marvel Comics' profits for the original issues of the series went to Marvels and Miracles.[146] In 2009, Marvel Comics purchased Marvelman.[147]

Gaiman returned to court over three more Spawn characters, Dark Ages Spawn, Domina and Tiffany, that are claimed to be "derivative of the three he co-created with McFarlane."[148] The judge ruled that Gaiman was right in his claims and gave McFarlane until the start of September 2010 to settle matters.[149]

Literary allusions

Gaiman's work is known for a high degree of allusiveness.[150] Meredith Collins, for instance, has commented upon the degree to which his novel Stardust depends on allusions to Victorian fairy tales and culture.[151] Particularly in The Sandman, literary figures and characters appear often; the character of Fiddler's Green is modelled visually on G. K. Chesterton, both William Shakespeare and Geoffrey Chaucer appear as characters, as do several characters from within A Midsummer Night's Dream[152] and The Tempest. The comic also draws from numerous mythologies and historical periods.

Analyzing Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, bibliographer and librarian Richard Bleiler detects patterns of and allusions to the Gothic novel, from Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. He concludes that Gaiman is "utilizing works, characters, themes, and settings that generations of scholars have identified and classified as Gothic, ... [yet] subverts them and develops the novel by focusing on the positive aspects of maturation, concentrating on the values of learning, friendship, and sacrifice."[153] Regarding another work's assumed connection and allusions to this form, Gaiman himself quipped: "I've never been able to figure out whether Sandman is a gothic."[154]

Clay Smith has argued that this sort of allusiveness serves to situate Gaiman as a strong authorial presence in his own works, often to the exclusion of his collaborators.[155] However, Smith's viewpoint is in the minority: to many, if there is a problem with Gaiman scholarship and intertextuality it is that "... his literary merit and vast popularity have propelled him into the nascent comics canon so quickly that there is not yet a basis of critical scholarship about his work."[156]

David Rudd takes a more generous view in his study of the novel Coraline, where he argues that the work plays and riffs productively on Sigmund Freud's notion of the Uncanny, or the Unheimlich.[157]

Though Gaiman's work is frequently seen as exemplifying the monomyth structure laid out in Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces,[158] Gaiman says that he started reading The Hero with a Thousand Faces but refused to finish it: "I think I got about half way through The Hero with a Thousand Faces and found myself thinking if this is true – I don’t want to know. I really would rather not know this stuff. I’d rather do it because it’s true and because I accidentally wind up creating something that falls into this pattern than be told what the pattern is."[159]

Selected awards and honours

  • From 1991 to 1993, Gaiman won Harvey Awards in the following categories:
    • 1991 Best Writer for The Sandman[160]
    • 1992 Best Writer for The Sandman[161]
    • 1993 Best Continuing or Limited Series for The Sandman[162]
  • From 1991 to 2014, Gaiman won Locus Awards in the following categories:
    • 1991 Best Fantasy Novel (runner-up) for Good Omens by Gaiman and Terry Pratchett[163][164]
    • 1999 Best Fantasy Novel (runner-up) for Stardust[163][165]
    • 2002 Best Fantasy Novel for American Gods[163][166]
    • 2003 Best Young Adult Book for Coraline[163][167]
    • 2004 Best Novelette for "A Study in Emerald"[163]
    • 2005 Best Short Story for "Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Nameless House of the Night of Dread Desire"[163]
    • 2006 Best Fantasy novel for Anansi Boys.[163] The book was also nominated for a Hugo Award, but Gaiman asked for it to be withdrawn from the list, stating that he wanted to give other writers a chance and that it was really more fantasy than science fiction.[168]
    • 2006 Best Short Story for "Sunbird"[163]
    • 2007 Best Short Story for "How to Talk to Girls at Parties"[163]
    • 2007 Best Collection for Fragile Things[163]
    • 2009 Best Young Adult novel for The Graveyard Book[163]
    • 2010 Best Short Story for An Invocation of Incuriosity,[163] published in Songs of the Dying Earth[169]
    • 2011 Best Short Story for The Thing About Cassandra, published in Songs of Love and Death[163][170]
    • 2011 Best Novelette for The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains,[163] published in Stories[170]
    • 2014 Best Fantasy Novel for The Ocean at the End of the Lane
  • From 1991 to 2009, Gaiman won Eisner Awards in the following categories:
    • 1991 Best Continuing Series: Sandman, by Neil Gaiman and various artists (DC)[171]
    • 1991 Best Graphic Album–Reprint: Sandman: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman and various artists (DC)[171]
    • 1991 Best Writer: Neil Gaiman, Sandman (DC)[171]
    • 1992 Best Single Issue or Story: Sandman #22-#28: "Season of Mists," by Neil Gaiman and various artists (DC)[171]
    • 1992 Best Continuing Series: Sandman, by Neil Gaiman and various artists (DC)[171]
    • 1992 Best Writer: Neil Gaiman, Sandman, Books of Magic (DC), Miracleman (Eclipse)[171]
    • 1993 Best Continuing Series: Sandman by Neil Gaiman and various artists (DC)[171]
    • 1993 Best Graphic Album–New: Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean (VG Graphics/Dark Horse)[171]
    • 1993 Best Writer: Neil Gaiman, Miracleman (Eclipse); Sandman (DC)[171]
    • 1994 Best Writer: Neil Gaiman, Sandman (DC/Vertigo); Death: The High Cost of Living (DC/Vertigo)[171]
    • 2000 Best Comics-Related Book: The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, by Neil Gaiman and Yoshitaka Amano (DC/Vertigo)[172]
    • 2004 Best Short Story: "Death," by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell, in The Sandman: Endless Nights (Vertigo/DC)[172]
    • 2004 Best Anthology: The Sandman: Endless Nights, by Neil Gaiman and others, edited by Karen Berger and Shelly Bond (Vertigo/DC)[172]
    • 2007 Best Archival Collection/Project–Comic Books: Absolute Sandman, vol. 1, by Neil Gaiman and various (Vertigo/DC)[172]
    • 2009 Best Publication for Teens/Tweens: Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, adapted by P. Craig Russell (HarperCollins Children’s Books)[172]
  • In 1991, Gaiman received an Inkpot Award at the San Diego Comic-Con International[173]
  • From 2000 to 2004, Gaiman won Bram Stoker Awards in the following categories:
  • From 2002 to 2016, Gaiman won Hugo Awards in the following categories:

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