Armagideon Time

Of all my cherished spooky season stand-bys, nothing comes remotely close to the November 1982 issue of Twilight Zone Magazine.

Despite the cover date, the issue was magazine’s second annual Halloween special, and special it certainly. It’s pages sport an embarrassment of riches to remind readers what a singular moment it truly was.

There’s Stephen King hyping an as-yet-undistributed indie flick titled The Evil Dead. John Carpenter shoots the shit with James Verniere. Tom Disch drags both John Gardner and Battlefield Earth. The great Gahan Wilson uses the rise of NHLs — “Non-Human Leads” — to frame his reviews of E.T (liked it), The Thing (enjoyed it), and Poltergeist (left him cold, though he could smell the creative politics involved).

On the fiction side, the issue includes three of my all-time TZM favorites. John Alfred Taylor’s “Hell Is Murky” is contemporary cosmic horror done right, ditching the mythos name-dropping for some paranoiac dread rooted in post-Manson Los Angeles. Jeffrey Goddin’s “The Smell of Cherries” pays grisly homage to classic ghost stories, while Katherine M. Turney’s “Night Cry” offers an efficiently compact jolt to the terror cortex.

There are also a trio of Halloween-themed tales which haven’t aged as well as the above, but still retain a good deal of sentimental charm.

I remember reading my original copy of the issue in the back of the family Cordoba during an afternoon dive to the Topsfield Fair, which is probably why I can’t leaf through the thing without hearing the Joan Jett cover of “Crimson and Clover” in the back of my skull. It, along with the rest of my TZM collection, fell victim to entropy or apathy over the years.

When I started to reassemble a fresh run of the magazine’s first few years during the mid-Aughts, the 1982 Halloween issue was at the top of my wishlist. Unfortunately, it was one of the more difficult ones to track down for a reasonable price, though I eventually lucked out and picked it up in a lot auction with a few other issues I was still looking for. While the rest of the collection has been relegated to a storage crate in the attic, I’ve kept the Halloween issue handy for periodic perusal.

Even though I’ve damn near memorized most of it by now, revisiting it always gives me a nostalgic thrill whenever spooky season rolls around.

Recommended listening: Magazine – Definitive Gaze (from Real Life, 1978)

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