Sunday, March 13, 2011

In The Outer Limits Tavern with David J. Schow

David J. Schow
To The Outer Limits... and Beyond!

JDS: Peter and I showed up at the Outer Limits Tavern for Wet Megasoid Night, and made it past the weird looking guy at the bar fondling a coat hanger to find David in his private booth in the back (you won't be surprised to hear there's a plaque with his initials on the edge of the table). It's hot in L.A., so he's jettisoned the usual black leather and is nattily attired in big khaki shorts, a red Gingham short-sleeve, and waffle-stompers. We invited ourselves to sit down and cornered him with an endless parade of questions, some of which he agreed to answer on the record.

DJS: This is the last time I let Pete dress me.  He forgot the novelty hat. To paraphrase Herzog, I loathe the feeling of air on my legs.

JS: According to the jacket flap copy on The Kill Riff, you were born in Marburg, Germany on July 13, 1955, and adopted by a US couple living in England.

DJS: See, that’s the fucking problem: When you’re starting in publishing and they ask for a bio and you don’t make it fascinating enough, they fill the gaps with statistics.  Too late, you learn to leave all the boring minutiae off the capsule-bio, but by then the original has multiplied like a biowar toxin, infecting everything that comes later.  Everyone has fantasized about what they’d say in an interview; how they’d answer those teen-magazine “likes and dislikes” lists, and now everybody is doing that via Facebook, and the drawback is that lists tend to “concretize” your personality into categories that come nowhere near expressing that personality.
(DJS drains a Long Island Iced Tea and sighs the sigh of the damned, eyeing the exits.  Pregnant silence.)

(John casually slips the teen magazine “likes and dislikes” questionnaire to the bottom of his stack of notes.)
(Pete begins to think this interview may turn out to be the equivalent of a Season Two episode)
JS: So what was home life like for little Davey Schow?

DJS:  Okay, biography:  I was a disgustingly happy kid until my mother died (age 7), which left me not sad so much as bewildered.  I had to roll with that, my father’s grief, and my even more bewildered little brother, John, who luckily was so young that Mom’s death didn’t dent him as hard.  Dad married a waitress (realizing a fantasy many people have had, I guess), and my life slid down into hell for the next ten formative years.
     Later I discovered how badly my Dad’s situation had imploded.  We went from having a huge house and lots of stuff to basically fleeing cross-country with a single carload of goods.  I had an army of every toy robot ever made — Robot Commando, King Zor, Big Loo.  All jettisoned.  We went from having a typical 1960s “TV room” to having no TV at all.  Even our pets got abandoned.

JS: At what point did your family return to the US?

Right after we hit California.
You have to guess which one is DJS.
DJS:  We moved to Fort Worth, Texas before I kindergartened.  Then Lexington and Paris, Kentucky for grades 1-3.  People say, oh, military brat, but we didn’t start really moving around until after my Dad retired from the Air Force.  Then it was off to Huntington Beach, California, where (because of the enrollment schedule) I stayed out of school for nearly a year prior to taking on the fourth grade.
     So the year after my Mom died was the year Outer Limits premiered, and I was glued to that pilot, sitting six inches from the screen.

JS: Was there anything that set the stage for your embracing The Outer Limits as a precocious 8 year old? And most importantly, did it precede your exposure to The Creature From the Black Lagoon, or did the Gillman come first? Inquiring minds want to know!

DJS: I actually met the Mummy (Kharis version) first.  I do remember sitting and watching TV when JFK’s assassination was announced.  Weekends brought late-night reruns of Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents back-to-back, usually followed by a couple of monster movies, which followed through on Saturday.   

Tim and Donna Lucas know that I was within reception range of Batty Hattie from Cincinatti, a witch-puppet monster host, and there was another local show I recall that did weekly horrors of the Shock Theatre package variety.  I remember the theme song but not the host, and no, I will not hum it for you.
      Upon arriving in Southern California, we eventually acquired an ancient, used TV in a cabinet the size of a refrigerator.  It had a round screen, “O.B.I.T.”-style (I wish I still had that TV!).  Turned it on and voila — the Million Dollar Movie, which that week was showing Gigantis: The Fire Monster a zillion times.
     Here’s some background that’s not particularly relevant:  We continued to move around constantly even within the same town, so that from the fifth grade through high school, I was never with the same group of people for more than a year.  I had to turn inward and become self-reliant.  “Family dinners” were an extremely rare occurrence in our house, and they never went well.  By age 13, I had basically been written off as a bad egg and potential career criminal, but the anticipated “big fall” never happened.  I had already started writing.  My Dad brought back a Hermes portable typewriter from his Arctic duties and I basically kidnapped it.  Stepmom even had me writing stern complaint letters to businesses and such because I worded them better.  Aha — a skill!
     We made it to Southern California just in time to collide headlong with the mid-Sixties culture-shift.  One house we had was right next door to a place full of, um, interesting-looking people who had tie-dyed curtains, a zebra-striped van, and colored lightbulbs on the back porch instead of ordinary, sensible white lightbulbs.  In the rental cottage behind them (parallel to our back yard) lived an older woman who made her own bizarre jewelry, read palms, wore outrageous, billowy, Wiccan-caftan kinda things, and drove a golf cart.
      I thought:  Hey, these people are doing what they want and they seem just fine.
      With the coming of Stepmom, we acquired an older stepbrother — Leo, who at sixteen became the de facto “male presence” in the house, since by then Dad was spending most of the year in the Arctic on the DEWLine.  Before he scored that gig, we were so broke we made our own toys out of cardboard — a much-maligned medium I still depend on today. 
     When I turned thirteen, the house filled up with women — the 22-year-old ex-wife of one of Stepmom’s other sons (who was doing prison time), her five-year-old daughter, and Stepmom’s final spawn, a 13-year-old teenage girl.  Gasp.  Such elaborate underwear had never been suspected!  The good news was that the 13-year-old girl was such a delinquent that it took heat and eyes off me.  Between age 17 and 18, I finally bailed.

JS: So would this be the point in time when you decided to let your hair down?

DJS: During all that time I became an ace shoplifter, got suspended for wearing an upside-down American flag on the back of my jacket, and nearly packed off to (1) Boys Town, (2) military school, and (3) a minimum-security prison.  Last official haircut: 1972.  I wanted to be a roadie for a rock band.

JS: Were your passions shared by any of your siblings? Or like so many of us were you the only one in the house bitten by the obsessive bug?

DJS: That brings me back to Leo.  I can’t credit the man enough for influence and encouragement.  He was into drawing and building things.  Wiring up a TV so you could turn it on from the other side of the room, before remotes.  Thanks to him I took a two-hour drafting lab in high school and got my first set of drafting tools — he bought me a T-square and a drawing board, and I swiped the compasses and such from the high school.  I got to observe as he lived through the purgatory of his own high school mating rituals.  He got me started building models.  Leo eventually became an electrical engineer, so the credit is his, too, for getting me interested in electronics.  My first application of this knowledge was to open up a TV set and figure out how to run wires from the speaker, splice them to a jack, and plug that into a tape recorder so I could make audio tapes of monster movies and yeah, Outer Limits episodes.  With two decks, you could edit.  But he was the perfect guy to ask, “If I wanted a thing to do this, how would you do it?”  He always had an answer.  But his interests were always practical, not fanciful — on the order of trade skills.
     Plus, he put up with a ton of shit from me.

JS: You can't tell me there's not a mimeographed DJS TOL fanzine from the early sixties somewhere in your files. Do you have some skeleton in your closet you're prepared to share with your newfound cadre of fellow TOL enthusiasts?

DJS: Sure, just like Gene Simmons with CosmoStiletto, I wanted to replicate monster magazines … so I hand-drew them on notebook paper.  The title of this endeavor shall remain a lost mystery.  Having no access to or awareness of duplication resources, I figured if I wanted more than one copy, I’d have to draw it again — which I did.  Every issue was hand-made.  I made it to about five copies and then gave up.  It was invaluable prep for a lifetime of drafting and redrafting.  But I think, at the time, it was more a mirror of monster mags in general than The Outer Limits in particular.

JS: What did your Dad and siblings think of what you ended up doing for a career? Did they see it coming, or did you surprise them all?

DJS: Ultimately, yeah. At first, no. “Whatever I did” was not comprehensible to them as an actual “job.” That is, there was no proof that I didn’t just print stuff up myself or was otherwise faking it. There was no proof I actually earned money by making stuff up. It was too fanciful. Then I got to go to New York for the first-and-only Twilight Zone Magazine Dimension Awards.  The awards ceremony got covered in USA Today, which showed up in my Dad’s mailbox all by itself.  Independent verification!
     But I also purposefully dropped out of touch with most of my family for the next two decades.  I recently reconnected with Leo, after not seeing him for about thirty years.  It’s better now than it was then.

JS: We're fortunate that your biography continues to fill in (see “Bloodstock” for some history on the college years in Arizona, and your sit down with Frentzen for the CFQ-era).

DJS: Yeah, but that skips the pertinent fact that I’m a college dropout.  Long story.

JS: But going back further, did you know from your initial exposure that The Outer Limits was going to be a part of your life moving forward? Assuming there wasn't a long dormant period before you woke up one day and decided to take on the role of championing the series, when did you first start digging into your deeper research of the show? Or did you get clipped in the brain by a meteorite infused bullet that compelled you to search out Stefano and Stevens?

DJS: I think I ate the alien bullet because I can’t pinpoint when the “research gene” suddenly activated.  You start amassing data, and after awhile the urge strikes to do something with it. There were a few episode guides floating around, and I started typing up my own lists — with no resources whatsoever.  The list became a file, then several, then a drawer.
      Then KZAZ Channel 11 in Tucson started a syndication run of the series, once a week, at 1:00 AM.  I remember the clear sense of being presented with some kind of opportunity.
     Two things happened right away:
     Thanks to a buddy I got to go down to KZAZ and saw the actual film, on actual reels, unspooling on a telecine for broadcast.  Next week’s episode was sitting right there on a shelf.  Suddenly it wasn’t all just airwaves and antennae; this was tactile and present and real.
      And right outta the clear blue, I decided to call Joe Stefano on the phone.  It wasn’t even my phone; it was my landlady’s.  She raised show greyhounds and let them shit all over her house.  And Joe not only answered, but he talked to me for two hours, a complete stranger who had no idea I was sweating bullets amidst the eye-watering stench of dogshit, trying to figure out how to perpetuate this magical contact for another five minutes.
      Simultaneously to this, Ted Bohus started making internegative dupes available on 16mm, and two friends both acquired early Betamax machines.  A buddy at the University of Arizona campus theatre taught me to run projectors.  There turned out to be an enormous enclave of private collectors in Tucson and Phoenix — people who were just in love with movies, and collected 35mm prints of anything and everything.  They introduced me to the semi-private collectors market at about the same time I began to encounter people who actually worked on movies at film festivals and conventions.  The snowball was rolling.
      This all happened near the timeframe of “Bloodstock,” 1977-78.

PE: Approximately how many times have you seen these shows?

DJS: Hang on, Salome Jens is going to do her dance routine.
(Salome wiggles into the spotlight and gyrates around.  It does not distract Pete from the thrust of his inquiry.)

PE: Ahem.  Over here.  We repeat:  How many times have you seen these shows?

DJS: Dozens.  Hundreds.  Each.  Remember when I was first writing about the series, I had no videotapes, nothing.  I did have a complete library of audio tapes of the episodes, and I played them constantly as background.  When I finally did get video (apart from syndicated reruns), I watched the episodes repeatedly.  I’d watch for one “value” — music, say, or tracking a single actor — then watch again for a different value.  In a Fahrenheit 451 sense, I could probably recite a lot of them, pretty much verbatim.

PE: So which is your favorite? Yeah, I'm putting you on the spot. You've gotta answer.

DJS: Personal favorite, “Nightmare.”  Favorite for repeat watchability, “Fun and Games.”  Favorite in spite of all contrary evidence, “The Mutant.”

PE: Conversely, which is the worst? How do you force yourself to sit down and watch "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" for the 20th time?

DJS: It depends on your vomit threshold.  “Behold Eck!” is just a catastrophe, but its retarded awfulness is dissipated by some of the lame ducks surrounding it, like “Cold Hands.”  By contrast, some of the early first season shows are pretty hard to endure repeatedly in the name of research — in particular, “The Borderland,” and “Tourist Attraction.”  “Production and Decay of Strange Particles” is fascinating to watch, in the manner of a bullet train collision in slow-motion — everything is wrong with it, yet it still manages a creepy image or two.

PE: When you revisit them today, do you see the episodes in a new light or is just the same old thing?

DJS: In my position, you have to give every episode every chance.  In the case of the book, it was a major victory that there was very little perceived bias or tone shift when the second season came along.  At the same time, now even the people who made them are bitching about them more in the text, and their overall malaise speaks for itself.  None of this explains why “Keeper of the Purple Twilight” or “The Invisible Enemy” remain such downright watchable episodes — they’re popcorn trifles.  Plus, the more I heard the first season regime gripe about the second season, the more I wanted to give it every chance.  Then you slam into “Behold, Eck!” again; as Gertrude Stein said, “there is no there there.”

PE: Have you radically changed your mind about any of the episodes?

DJS:  The most dramatic sea change was “Don’t Open Till Doomsday.”  I hated it based on very little evidence, then I saw it and I hated it even more because, like a bad movie reviewer, I was not looking at it with a critical eye so much as waiting for it to fulfill my preconceptions — you know, like someone who invents critical zingers and can’t not use them even if the thing being critiqued defies them.  Then I got stuck writing about it at length for the book.  Snappy one-liners wouldn’t serve.  So I watched it repeatedly, looking for patterns or anything to grasp onto beyond easy, reactive snark.  You can see the result of this in the book — it won me over.  That’s a depth I don’t expect readers to attempt — why should they? — but maybe they’ll take my word for it.

PE: Picture an alternate reality. There is no Season One, just shows of the quality of Season Two. Are you still hooked?

DJS:  No.  Not enough foothold.  Too brief to make a lasting impression.  As I’ve said, if S1 followed S2, and I’d stuck with it … maybe.

PE: But then, do you still write that infernally out-of-print book? Do you still champion it in front of hundreds in a theater? Was it the "ambiance" of the show or was it the quality of certain episodes that led you down that path?

DJS: As with a lot of things, it depends on what flies through your “kid window” when it’s open at a certain age.  Some cherished things from childhood are indefensible — we all have ‘em — and some are the sort of thing that make the so-called “grownups” around us shake their heads sadly, prescribe medication, and glibly state that we’ll never face adult responsibilities.  Those people I pity (the few times I think about them) because they’ve never been touched or moved by something magical, nor are they likely to be as they ossify in their beliefs.  They’ve lost the sense of wonder.  Their recreation becomes complaining about everything, and how their life is a living hell, and oh-if-only.  I hope never to become one of them.  When the law doesn’t vindicate them, when the cops don’t save them, when God-or-whomever doesn’t straighten everything out for them, they spend their lives perpetually disappointed, and a lot of times you discover these are the people who peaked in high school and remember those days with misty yearning.  I hated school — all school.  I was completely anti-social.  I couldn’t wait to get back to my room, my books, my cave.  I suspect this happened to a lot of monster-magazine generation kids, which is one way monster mythology “became” our substitute for religion:  Fixed times for worship (per TV Guide); knowledge of chapter-and-verse (our gospel); secret language (“melodrama” meant “monster movie”); vampire rules and werewolf rules you dutifully memorized whether they made any sense or not.  Add outsider status, loner status, and a dash of Neitzsche.
     All of which is a long-winded way of addressing the question.  I don’t seek converts.  What I want to do is present the reasons why I find something enriching, and hope the virus infects others on its own.  The book is a tool for doing that, as are all the satellite concerns.  Yes — ultimately it was the show’s overall ambience that nailed me.  It was a “world” I would have preferred to live in,  or at least next to.  Others might find it darkly appealing, too.  That’s why I keep sending back dispatches.
     I don’t think anyone could have conceived, then, of the kind of give-and-take forum amply demonstrated by WACT.

PE: You mentioned reverting to your books—I assume you were an avid genre reader.

DJS: Nearly anything in paperback.  I think I caught that disease thanks to horror anthologies I first obtained through Scholastic Press (a breach point, I suspect, for a lot of fans of that generation).

PE: Are there any missed opportunities for OL in terms of 1950s science fiction that it could have drawn stories from (Galaxy, F&SF, etc.). Have there been stories you've read (from the "old days") that immediately made you think "This would have been a great OL episode!"

DJS: Campbellian science fiction left me cold; still does.  I was more taken by Bradbury and Sturgeon.  Rocket jockeys and blaster fights and ships loaded with dull-ass military dorks — all male — was snooze-inducing.  Give me Golden Apples of the Sun  or “A Saucer of Loneliness.”  By college-time, Harlan Ellison was on fire, and even at his most strident, he always urged that we be aware of the past; know the precedents, and I found that enormously heartening.  The mid-60s/early-70s “New Wave” would have made great Outer Limits fodder.  My high watermark for that would be Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside.  I was also smitten by Fredric Brown’s The Lights in the Sky are Stars, because it was atypical of most of the rocket-jockey stuff, yet it was about a rocket jockey. I’m breaking character and re-reading a lot of A.E. Van Vogt now, because his widow, Lydia, lives two doors down the street from me, and she keeps giving me books.
     Pete, while we’ve got you here all liquored up and pliable, do you remember how you and I first met?
(Pete rustles uncomfortably, mumbling.)
DJS: Pete, either come clean or you get a Wet Megasoid lap dance.

PE: If I recall correctly, I was carting you and (Oh jesus, which one of the Skippet brothers was it, the big guy with a beard) (That would be Craig Spector – JS) around some L.A. book stores. John and I were down from Redondo Beach, where we had just sewn up Dick Laymon to a big fat book contract (Yow, that was scary — the contract, not Dick). John and I had stopped at a comic convention the day before and I’d bought my (then-five-year-old) daughter a Rocketeer doll. You and Spector were having a gay old time in the back seat with the doll. I couldn’t give it to my innocent daughter after what you bozos had done to it. We popped by your little place down in Hollywood and I remember being very impressed that you had a copy of Universal Horrors by Tom Weaver.

JS: Don’t forget Dave’s impression of ‘Tarantula’ Bill Nolan!

DJS: Hey — Bill Nolan just friended my Facebook page.  That was actually my impression of Richard Christian Matheson’s impression, but I’m not sure ole Bill isn’t still trying to knife me.  “I’ll cut you, Schow!

JS: What I remember from that apartment was that he had a framed cover flat from the Ace/Berkley Outer Limits Companion hanging on the wall. That trip was also the first time we ate at what for years became our default DJS meet-up spot — the Hamburger Hamlet across from the Chinese Theater. My wife Vonna still has the signed Napkin we brought back for her from that trip!

DJS: I used to meet Bob Bloch there.  He’d drive down in his fire-engine-red GTO convertible with the sheepskin seat covers — true story.  I did the Jim Danforth interview for the Companion there.  (Jim ate scrambled eggs swimming in tomato juice, with a diet root beer, which thought still binds my colon.)  “Progress” finally killed that Hamlet dead.  There’s only one of the chain left now, right on the cusp of Beverly Hills.
     I’m pretty sure our first conversation had virtually nothing to do with The Outer Limits.  Any thoughts about the blog forum becoming the next-generation version of what used-to-be DVD supplements?

PE: Judging by the results from both A-Thriller-A-Day and WACT, I’d say that you’ve got a good point. I am old school though and I’d much prefer to have it all down between covers. A third edition would look good on my shelf. Hell, a second edition would look good on my shelf right now!

DJS: A total word-count on WACT would be instructive.  I bet it’s book-length.

JS: You're probably right. This is our 131st post, and to date there have been more than 2000 comments posted.

PE: Our WACT clubhouse members are so knowledgeable and, above all, giving and friendly. I’d like to see similar blogs out there. Anyone know of any? I’d like to think ours was the friendliest and most welcoming (even to those who would mock the mockers).

DJS: I’m sure there’s an earlier precedent on the internet somewhere, but not one that clicked the way this one did — it had focus, a clear mission, and a limited time in which to do it.  It almost seems to me that A-Thriller-A-Day, cool as it was, was just a dry run for WACT — in the way that Friday the 13th documentary (done by Andrew Kasch & Dan Farrands), His Name Was Jason, was just a preamble to their mega-blowout epic followup, Never Sleep Again (the 4-hour Nightmare on Elm Street doco), which by comparison was totally immersive.
      Okay, John, your turn … except I know you know how you and I first met.

JS:  Ah, but do you remember when we first spoke? That would have been sometime in 1989. I was working for B.Dalton in Northern California, and in touch with the manager of the Hollywood store, Sheldon McArthur. He actually put you on the phone with me one day — you must have been a fixture in that store — and I assume I blabbered on about being a huge fan.

DJS: Shelly, who most recently presided over the death of The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood (I miss it) was boundless in his enthusiasm for a writer that would actually talk to the staff at a store.  He gave The Kill Riff and The Outer Limits Companion wall display space right behind the cash registers.  Good man; stout champion.

JS: It was still a while before our paths crossed physically, although through connections I had made through publishing an in-store horror newsletter, an editor at Signet/NAL/Onyx asked if they could send me a few manuscripts to get my feedback. One of those was The Shaft. Despite my unreserved recommendation, they didn’t publish it. I think you told me years later that they had made a mass market offer as opposed to a hard/soft deal, which put my mind at ease as I was so concerned that I hadn’t sung its praises loudly enough.
     We finally did meet on February 16, 1990, through complete dumb luck. I was flipping through TV Guide the day before, and I came across a listing for a local talk show on the next day, with a listed guest line-up of Clive Barker, Richard Christian Matheson, and I do believe David J. Schow (I need to dig up a copy of that TV Guide). I called the station, assuming that the shows were taped live before a studio audience ahead of time, and they confirmed that in fact that show was being taped the next day. They couldn’t guarantee us tickets, but said we could just show up and probably get in. Needless to say, I blew off my college classes that Friday to head up to the city with my wife-to-be for the chance to meet some of my favorite writers.
Barker, Schow, Matheson, Stanley, and Berger.
     Clive was doing a signing for The Great and Secret Show right after the taping, but the rest of you guys (including the young “B” in KNB, Howard Berger) had some time before your return flight to LA so we met you and our Bay Area horror host, John Stanley, for lunch at your hotel. Since I had you all cornered I was able to get you to sign a bunch of books, including my copy of The Shaft manuscript. A pretty cool day for this 20-year old.

     Of course, that was the first of many encounters through the years. Another particularly special memory was attending the first public preview screening of The Crow (at which time I officially forgave Jeff Conner of all outstanding debts when he escorted us past the line deep into the parking lot and right into the theater). The fact that the screening was documented in the first chapter of Conner's book on The Crow: City of Angels is the only reason you'll find that in my library. I recall you were sitting in the very back row, and had to be pleased with the reception the film got that night.

DJS: That screening was arranged for a World Horror Convention in Phoenix, and it was quite late at night.  I remember (producer) Ed Pressman flew in for it.  You couldn’t have asked for a better audience.  (There was one prior screening, in New York, where Bai Ling was my “date,” but that was mostly an “industry” screening.)  The back row was made up of me, Skipp, Spector, Ed Bryant, Richard Christian Matheson, Kathe Koja, and (I think) Doug Winter.

JS: Now that I’ve got my Japanese Blu Ray of the film, are we any closer to seeing a release of The Crow Chronicle? I’ve been waiting quite a few years to see that …

DJS: As long as (producer) Jeff Most is in the mix, no time soon.  He went to war with Alex Proyas in 2000 over disc content, with the result that Alex and I were even deleted from the EPK footage!  In addition to Crow Chronicle (behind the scenes footage I shot all through production), we had an audio commentary (me, Proyas, cinematographer Derek Wolski, production designer Alex McDowell, and art director Simon Murton) and a gallery of about 250 photos I also shot myself.  All jettisoned, thanks to Jeff Most.  Thanks again, Jeff!  See ya!

JS:  It must have been in the early days of eBay that I saw something online, for sale, “from the collection of the late David J. Schow.” I recall asking you about it, and heard the horror story of your storage locker in Arizona being sold out from under you. Do you recall what it was?

DJS:  It had to have been sometime in the mid-1990s.  My storage locker place in Tucson had a lot of management turnover.  What happened was they got a new guy, a real buccaneer, who looked up the accounts, picked the six oldest ones, wrote up paperwork claiming the owners were dead, and sold off the contents.  Shortly thereafter he fled (to be eaten, I hope, by desert predators).  My whole earlier life was in that locker, which I had been cherry-picking, trip-by-trip, ever since I moved to Los Angeles.  Apart from useless junk furniture, old clothes and outmoded kitchen stuff, I lost about 900 record albums, eight reels of 35mm trailers, several typewriters, tons of backstocked books, and the files of my earliest writing, which I’m sure was the first thing to go in the dumpster, along with scrapbooks of photos, personal letters from Whit Bissell and Bob Bloch and Robert Wise and every-damned-body … and my James Bond attaché case.
     Plus old girlfriends, of course, stacked up like cordwood.
     The item in question was a script I’d gotten from Ellis St. Joseph — “The Day the Zeroes Came,” for Time Tunnel, produced as “The Day the Sky Fell In.”  You, John Scoleri, bought it and mailed it back to me.  And that’s the only recovery from that lost locker I’ve ever been able to make.
      But you know, it’s all just “stuff.”  On one hand, yes — archive the past, and reconsider it from time to time to assess its personal value to you.  The lasting stuff will persist or offer new revelations.  On the other hand, don’t wallow hopelessly in the bygone, or run into the past to escape the here-and-now.  I was thinking this as I was just reading David Holcomb’s piece on the Outer Limits comic books, where he expressed the misgivings of nostalgia becoming mistaken for “culture” over time.  That’s a potential hazard of shallow recollect, and one reason I maintain a fairly eidetic memory which might seem overtly focused on the trivial.  I am detail-oriented by nature, which accounts for my sprawling verbosity.  I love words, their shapes and functions and eccentricities, and the thought of making a career out of them still has the power to thrill me.  So Tweeting, or texting, for example, doesn’t hold much allure for me, yet I dare not ignore its influence on the evolution of language, because I don’t want to become some quaint antique when it comes to communicating.
(DJS gulps another LIIT as the room begins to skew and gravity begins to stutter.  John and Pete examine their drinking vessels — have they been drugged?)
DJS: While we’re on the topic of chronic, depressing downers, are we inebriated enough to talk about the “new” Outer Limits now?  I mean, if you were going to ask anyway …

JS: You seem to have few kind words for 90s Outer Limits revival, oft-referred to as The NOTer Limits. The prosecution would like to enter into evidence Exhibit A, Season One Episode "Corner of the Eye," written by one David (no J.) Schow. 

     One might reasonably assume your having a chance to write an Outer Limits episode would be a dream job. What can you tell us about that experience, and your thoughts on the episode itself?

DJS: This is potentially a very long and ugly answer.
      I was basically pissed off from the pilot (“Sandkings”) onward.  The producers cozened up to Joe Stefano and yammered long and loud about Joe’s legacy and all this passing-of-the-baton shit, when it was clear from the git they didn’t have the foggiest notion of what made The Outer Limits work, nor did they care.  The new boss was not the same as the old boss.  They way they flocked around Leslie Stevens for photo ops, and then deleted his name from the credits of his own show as soon as he died, sickens me.
      But do you ignore the opportunity, just because you’re not in charge?  No.  Undaunted, I stormed them and, luckily, spun a one-liner that sounded credible.  I didn’t have to audition; I’d been writing feature scripts for six years.
      You know how The Outer Limits breaks down?  Season One is all about “the awe and mystery of the universe.”  Season Two fell back on “Man’s Endless Thirst for Knowledge.”  And it quickly became apparent that the new guys in charge of the new iteration of the show were all about “He tampered in God’s domain” — and punishing seekers who risk big, which to me was the complete opposite of what Leslie and Joe had been talking about.
      Then the new opening titles rolled, full of clocks and mannequins, and it became horrifyingly evident that what the new guard really wanted was “Twilight Zone with bears.”
      That’s an oversimplification of a much more subtle decay.  Right out of the gate there were some episodes with promise, because guys like Alan Brennert were writing them.  That soon ended.
      I wanted to write a show about a cop, a man who depends on visual evidence, who begins to “see” ordinary people as monsters — aliens — but only in his peripheral vision.  He’s “defective,” like Paul Cameron in “Corpus Earthling.”  And possibly crazy, until the monsters he sees begin to notice him noticing them.
      The word came down:  Change the cop to a priest.
      Well, that brings “faith” into the equation and kind of undermines the whole idea, doesn’t it?
      I did the “priest” rewrite anyway, per contract.  It was a challenge to take that angle, dumb as it was, and try to make it work anyway.  No matter.  The script got manhandled by everybody with a producer credit and started coming back with all this other weird religious shit in it.
      I submitted further ideas but the door had already slammed shut.  The production company had these little breakdown sheets one was supposed to fill out for each episode; one of the last blanks was “What is the moral of this story?”  These were actually shortform cheat sheets, so someone who didn’t have the time to actually read a script could nonetheless converse about it.  Writers had to fill these things out for the (free) benefit of production know-nothings who couldn’t be bothered to find out for themselves.
      Flash forward, and staff-written shows have become pandemic.  There’s good to be had from a brain trust overseeing long, soap-operatic arcs … but the downside is you’d better like vanilla a whole lot, because no script is allowed individuality.  Hence the genesis of the “showrunner,” and when the showrunner is not the person who created the show, watch out.
      I’ve seen “Corner of the Eye” maybe one-and-a-half times.  They didn’t even pay enough attention to the paperwork to include my middle initial in my screen credit — which is my professional credit.  Thanks to fuckups like this one, databases now count me as two different people.  And I get the blame for a mediocre episode because the TV hacks who ass-raped it remain secure in their invisibility as “team players.”
      So what do we have?  Yet another writer whining about his poor, bungholed script, boo-fucking-hoo.  As they say, if you can’t live with it, don’t cash the check.  The residuals being what they are, I should have kept my trap shut and written ten of them.  The series probably wouldn’t suck any less, but it’s been packaged all over the world.
      In my pique I publicly maligned a few people I shouldn’t have.  The joke’s on me — one of them runs SyFy now.
      My short story, “Seeing Things,” has absolutely nothing to do with any of the events just discussed.
      And ultimately, I did get a decent script out of the deal, because the frustration factor caused me to write up a spec script that was my honest expression of what a “good, modern-day Outer Limits story” would look like.  It promptly impressed no one.  It needs The Outer Limits to validate it contextually.
      Meanwhile, I watched the proposed Outer Limits feature chew up something like thirteen writers at Sony — just an enormous expenditure, hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of half-assed fails.  And it all goes on the head of the bill for the next try — another script has just been written for MGM.  If they ever do shoot it, they’ll be a couple million in the hole before a single frame of film is exposed.
      This is depressing, still.  Only one thing can dispel this black cloud …
(DJS shouts toward the back:  “Hey, Limboid!  Get your ass out here for your big number!”)
(The Limbo Being from “The Premonition” waltzes into the spotlight, singing reggae-style)
Limbo, Limbo, de money’s all gone.
De Outer Limitz is no longer on.
Limbo, Jimbo, dey don’t give a shit;
De Limbo Bean will show his armpit.
Do de Limbo, and light up a match
De Limbo Bean run away like a bitch.
Spotty de Monster, he laff his ass off.
Dis Negative Bean only good for a larf.
Dewey Martin, he furrow his brow.
Dis show’s in de dumper, by-golly and-how.
Do de Limbo and drink up de rum.
De Asian hooker’s off shining her bum.
Continental, de Lincoln drove off;
De crew’s all bailing; nobody is left.
Mistah Oswald, he light up a smoke.
De Limbo Bean, he starts to a-choke.
“De Probe” be coming, you like it or not.
De blog-o-people, dey gone like a shot.
De show is dead and de money all gone.
Shot in the head like-a most of dis song.
Limbo, Limbo, and drink up de rum.
De Second Season is mostly damned dumb.
(A big vaudeville hook yanks the Limbo Being offstage.)

(DJS removes a black capsule —suicide pill — from his traycase and puts it in the center of the table, so everybody can think about it.  As he does this, John notices the matte-black Sig Sauer P226 snugged into quick-draw combat scabbard.  How he concealed this in the ensemble Pete gave him is anybody’s guess.)
JS: Your first published fiction was “In the Idiom of the Old School” (Galileo Magazine, July 1978). Clearly TOL has inspired your fiction work as well. Notably :
Reese in The Kill Riff...

“Stephen Grave's” Miami Vice novels...

NORCO in Internecine...
 … and I'm sure that's just the tip of the iceberg (and bet there's enough for Pete Farris to build a drinking game around). While I know it's not your style to hand out an answer key, are there any other notable references throughout your career that you're willing to share with your fellow drinkers in the OL Tavern? Do you try to sneak in said references to your screenplays?

DJS: Right off the top of my head, the fake Navy guys, Brookman and Willowmore, in Bullets of Rain are named after the characters in “Nightmare.”  Nine times out of nine, if characters are watching something on a TV set in most of my fiction, it’s an Outer Limits episode – although they’re often not specified as such; you have to know.
     Screenplays, not so much, because producers go apoplectic if you stick them with something they have to license.  A lot of tyro screenplays writers often add “specific songs to use” in their text.  Almost never comes to pass; they quickly learn to skip that little indulgence.

JS: By way of TOL, you've written CD liner notes, text on toy boxes, nearly been called as an expert witness in a plagiarism trial, (and albeit unattributed) capsule summaries for DVD releases... Is this all part of your plans for world domination by way of TOL? Am I missing any key categories? You're not hawking Outer Limits Sake in Japan, are you?

DJS: I missed out on a consultancy for the Helene Curtis line of hair care products in 1989.  Damn.
      I spent a lot of time working on the Rittenhouse Archives trading card set, and another set in concert with our man, Gary Gerani. (Ask him about those!)
      Showtime did a short Outer Limits doco in 1995 to pump the new series; of necessity, about 15 minutes of it dwelt on the original, and I appeared in that bit, thanks mostly to Steve Rubin.  The following year I also helped some other producers launch an infomercial called The Outer Limits Phenomenon, which was basically a come-on to sell the videotapes, but featured interviews with Sally Kellerman, Cliff Robertson, Ed Asner and others, who “appeared” on-set by walking out of a big wall of static, in a nifty green-screen effect.
      The crown jewel was getting to host the Outer Limits tribute at the Paley Museum in 2000.  Me onstage with Joe Stefano, Connie Hall, Martin Landau, Bob Justman and Lou Morheim.  Joe and Connie and Bob are all gone, now, but for one moment in time, there we were, together.

JS: Turning to your other obsess— um, interests. I personally think the Creature From the Black Lagoon is the single-best monster costume to come out of the 50s. What is it about him that clicked with you, and why have we not seen a similar level of output (ie a book-length work) on that topic from DJS?

DJS: Here’s the supreme irony:  Back when I was doing tie-ins for Universal Licensing, I asked if I could use the Creature for a novel.  They said: “Hell, if you can sell such a book, we’ll give you permission.”  (Thereby demonstrating how little they thought of its potential as revenue stream, then.)
     The book never came to pass, but it did allow me to set the bones for the first Creature remake I proposed, if ever I needed one.
     Just during the past year, I have been asked to write an introduction for a reprint of the 1954 John Russell Fearn novelization, and to participate in a big book about Creature collectibles.
     Why the Gill Man?  Like many kids, I read Roy Chapman Andrews’ book All About Dinosaurs and wanted to be a paleontologist.  I was already a monster kid.  Dinosaurs were like monsters, but real.  The Creature was like a dinosaur and monster combined.  How could I resist?

JS: Robert Bloch was another writer you clearly had great admiration for, and that you got to know quite well. When did you initially cross paths with his work, and how did come to meet him?

DJS: I had corresponded with Bob and we met at a convention in 1982.  Of course, Bob was present in nearly every anthology I’d read for the previous decade.  And he was just so generous with his time and attention.  Then I met Elly Bloch.  Rarely had I seen two people so much in love, for so long.

JS: I'm sure you're tired of the questions about being caught in the middle as friends and fans of both of these men's work — but as someone who knew Joe Stefano AND Robert Bloch, can you lay to rest the claims of bad blood between the two men regarding Psycho?

DJS: It’s even stranger because they both struck me on exactly the same frequency:  Joe and Marilyn Stefano, together, reminded me a lot of Bob and Elly Bloch, yet I could rarely mention one to the other because of the old battles.
      It instantly reminded me of another old battle:  The fan-generated “conflict” over who “really” played the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Ricou Browning or Ben Chapman.  And when you looked into it, it turned out that most of the volatile nit-pickery was the result of know-nothing publicists getting the facts wrong back in the 1950s.
      Similarly, picture the following scenario:  A know-nothing newspaper interviewer asks Bob if he wrote Psycho.  The answer is yes.  Another know-nothing video interviewer asks Joe if he wrote Psycho, and again the answer is yes.  And in all the ensuing time, none of the know-nothings bother to specify the difference between the work of the two men, and they could have done it very concisely:
      Robert Bloch wrote the novel on which the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho is based.  Joseph Stefano wrote the screenplay for the Alfred Hitchcock movie Psycho, based on the novel by Robert Bloch.
      Seems simple, right?
      But for the lack of specificity, both men are now continually seeing articles and interviews where it appears each is claiming sole credit for the other’s work, and credit is a very big deal in Hollywood.  Whammo — conflict.  The cumulative effect pushed the two men away from each other, over time, which was a shame, because I keep thinking they might have hooked up to do a TV show together.  Stefano’s fever-dreams leavened by Bloch’s gallows levity.  It would have been something to behold.
      And it’s the kind of wild hair that never went away.  Just when each guy thought, oh, let it die, already, here came another interview, another article, perpetuating a disparity that was the fault of neither man.
      Yet when Stefano won the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for Psycho in 1960, it was Bob Bloch who presented it to him.  In a 1990 interview with Steve Biodrowski, Stefano said, “I wish Bloch still had the rights to Psycho, because (Psycho) II and III wouldn’t have turned out so badly.”

JS: Your infatuation with Dr. Pepper (and the many would be imitators) also extends back to at least 1978. Is that a fair way to describe it? Would fascination, or fetish, be more appropriate? And do you know of anyone with a larger collection of Dr. Pepper imitation cans than you?

DJS: See, that’s more bullshit from old lists, old bios.  It never dies.  Thank you for perpetuating it, you unfeeling beast.
     I was never not a Dr Pepper kid.  (No period, purists take note.)
     High-fructose corn syrup simultaneously saved and ruined the soft drink industry in the 1970s.  Remember the “new Coke?”  It was all a dodge to mask the transition to HFCS.  Now I can get “real” Dr Pepper from the Dublin plant in Texas, made with real cane sugar.  I wondered why the taste went “off,” years ago.  I opened a Dublin DP and noticed the difference right away.
     Here’s the largest collection of fake DP containers I know of:

JS: Those who haven't nosed around your website may not be aware that your Dad was a tail-gunner on a B-24 Liberator that got shot down over Germany during WWII. The pilot, Keith Schuyler, wrote a book about it — Elusive Horizons — which you were involved in getting reissued in the early 90s. How did that come about?

DJS: In the early 1990s, publishers were making noise about doing books to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of WWII, and I called an editor I knew at Avon to make him aware of Keith’s book.  Done deal.  Keith had also written a followup volume about his years in the POW camp and afterward, called Horizons Limited, but it was never published.  We tried, but no.
      The notable thing (to me) about Keith’s crew was that all of them survived into the 1990s. They’re all gone now, and Keith was the last to go — he died about two years ago.  A nice man, a friend-never-met, who always sent holiday cards warmly inscribed.  Tragically, he saw all three of his sons die before him; by suicide, murder, and a terminal illness.

JS: The Outer Limits Companion is clearly the ultimate resource when it comes to documenting the history of the series, to the point that I'm not aware of another volume on the subject (not also written by you). Considering how many books have followed Marc Zicree's indispensable Twilight Zone Companion, you have to take some pride in kowing that you have written the (evolving if not) final word on The Outer Limits.

DJS: Yeah, until another book comes along to nitpick mine to death.  Marc can tell you that seems to be exactly the charter of subsequent volumes on The Twilight Zone, which is a much bigger target in the cultural zeitgeist than The Outer Limits.  To establish their own foothold, they denigrate Marc’s achievement, when in fact those subsequent books would not have been possible at all without the precedent of Marc’s.  Tim Lucas has said he’d welcome a book that dealt with The Outer Limits more critically.  So would I, but that next step has partially been achieved, I think, by many of the thoughtful commentaries on WACT.

JS: And to have done the book in time so that many of the principles were still around to see and appreciate it must have been nice. Are you able to step back and appreciate the achievement?

DJS: I love my Outer Limits book.  I got to go back to the well and “fix” the original edition an inch at a time.  It’s not perfect — what really is? — but is exactly what I envisioned the first time around; even Harlan Ellison called to say how much he admired the sheer achievement.  You know how fans say they’ll go to the book to look up some small datum and wind up re-reading entire sections?  That still happens to me, too.  It happened a lot during the course of WACT.  And remember — every note, every correction, every splinter of addenda, all goes into the Big Binder Version I maintain, just in case we get a shot at a third edition.

JS: You've been involved in other projects that have spawned their own huge cult followings (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Freddy, and most notably, The Crow). How does it feel to know that there are kids out there just as excited about stuff you’re doing as you probably were about The Outer Limits, etc.?

DJS:  Latter Day Horror Icon Alert:  I never got to write a classic Universal monster rally, but I did get to write for most of the Eighties lions of horror — Freddy Krueger, Jason, Leatherface.  Many of the studio executives I meet with now saw The Crow when they were eleven — perfect timing!  Guys like Brian Keene generously credit me and others for pushing him down the slippery slope of a writing career by impressing his young self with our splatterpunk selves.  As Doug Winter told me, it’s surpassingly weird to be considered some kind of “elder statesman” when, as far as we’re concerned, we’re nowhere near “done” yet.
     During the Writers Guild strike in 2007-08 I found myself shoulder-to-shoulder with the new blood, people like Scott Kosar, Steve Susco, Adam Gierasch, Jace Anderson, E.L. Katz, Adam Green, James Wan, Joe Lynch, Hans Rodionoff … and Dave Parker and I had just done Hills Run Red, to compete with all of them.  They were uniformly welcoming and open; no “camps.”
DJS with Father Adam and Monsignor Scott during the "exorcism" of Warner Brothers.
A gang of horror writers picketing the home office of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers all on our own, before the Guild even did (the graybeard second from right is David Seltzer, who wrote THE OMEN)
     Simultaneously, I had gotten to work with two genre legends, Larry Cohen and Tom Holland, on Masters of Horror.  Same attitude.
      One arm reaches into the past, the other into the future.  It’s a nice balance.

JS: For a number of years, the call was repeatedly "when will we get another novel?" Now that you've inundated your readers with several in comparatively rapid succession (Bullets of Rain, Rock Breaks, Scissors Cut, Gun Work, Gabriel Hunt Among the Killers of Men), have you been getting a lot of "when do we get a new short story" questions? Which is a roundabout way of asking what's next from DJS?

DJS: My buddy F. Paul Wilson announced several years back that he was “retiring” from the biz of writing short stories, and I can see why.
     Short stories at their best are a perfect, gemlike distillation of writing; highly-polished, potent, concentrated, and impactful.  But you can’t get any traction writing them, no matter how good they are.  Gone are the days when Playboy would champion a modern fantasist, or when the Saturday Evening Post would ballyhoo a new short story by Ray Bradbury.
     Once you’ve written a certain amount of them — and I’ve written and published about a hundred — every request that comes for a new story is basically asking for an old story; that you repeat some trick you’ve already done.  Another one like that.  When you’ve already done “that.”
     On the other hand, I sell a lot of reprints — particularly to those many, recent, phone-book-sized zombie anthologies.  I’ve re-sold and continue to re-sell about 4/5ths of my total story output.  But at its best, it still doesn’t keep the lights on.
     Plus the short story market, as once idealized, is gone now.  You’d think the short attention span of modern readers would permit a sort of sputtering resurgence of the form, and indeed this is being attempted across various digital platforms.
     But they require a lot of work, in return for scant visibility and minimal return.  People seem to want their fiction by the pound, and think you’re not really a writer unless you’ve written real, solid, self-contained books — that is, novels.
     Novels cumulate into a row of spines.  Amass enough spines, and you’ve got a “body of work.”  Short stories have a much harder time accomplishing that.  And I’ve seen far too many writers bloat short story ideas out into top-heavy, padded novels, usually out of simple fiscal necessity.  They just waste everybody’s time, and make you feel vaguely mugged after you’ve plowed through them.
     Irony, again:  Short story writers dream about that “first novel.”  Novelists really want to sell movie rights.  Moviemakers, when you nail them down, see “writing a novel” as a form of artistic legitimacy somehow “purer” than films.  Yet expanded short stories make better movies than most condensed novels.  Nobody is happy!
     The only solution is to become proficient in all the forms.
     I clicked back into novel mode about ten years ago, with Bullets of Rain.  The deal for the followup book fell apart (at HarperCollins) and I was left with an “orphaned” manuscript.  I spent the next few years bellyaching about the publishing industry — now they put you through the same abuse as a movie studio, with the exception they don’t pay you as well for the stress.  Charles Ardai came along with Hard Case Crime and I wrote Gun Work for him strictly as a pulpy lark, and shazam — writing was suddenly fun again.  Charles sneaked the manuscript of Gun Work to some editors, who got all hot and bothered, and called: “Do you have anything ELSE like this?!”  Abracadabra — a two-book deal at St. Martins/Thomas Dunne, with (I must say) astonishing speed, for the publishing industry.  The first book was already done; it was my “orphan” from 2004, and it became Internecine.  The next book is in copyedit right now — Upgunned.  Beyond that, there’s another multi-book deal I can’t talk about yet.
     And I still manage a few short stories, mostly to keep that knife sharp, and load the gun for another collection of them despite a massive slowdown of short fiction production.  Occasionally I can be enticed.  I had two come out last year:  “A Gunfight,” in Joe Lansdale’s Retro Pulp 2, and “Denker’s Book,” in S.T. Joshi’s Lovecraftian throwdown, Black Wings.  I’ve got another commitment to Lansdale in the wings, plus one to an original anthology my British champion Stephen Jones is putting together.
(The bartender, who looks a lot like Larry Pennel, calls out last-call.)
JS:  We had better wrap up before we get tossed out. Any final words as we end our 49-episode tour of duty with WACT?

DJS: I hope interested parties will delve into WACT front-to-back, because we double-stuffed a lot of content into two months and change.  I can’t see Batman becoming nearly this all-consuming.

JS: I don’t expect Batman will be a repository for scholarly commentary in the way TOL has been. We hope to rise above snarkiness once and awhile, and are also looking forward to taking on something much lighter—think of it as a junk food blog. Of course there is the risk we'll overdose and become violently ill before we're through.

DJS: Kinda like Morgan Spurlock?

JS: Right. As for WACT, at the outset I was truly concerned (as we dragged you in kicking and screaming) about besmirching your reputation in the annals of TOL history. You certainly gave the endeavor legitimacy, and so I'm beyond thrilled that the community rose to the occasion, and that we're leaving behind a legacy we can all be proud of.

DJS: Rondo Award fodder, definitely.

PE: Yeah, I'm gonna miss this ride but I'm also not. That second season (albeit we were warned) was a drag and I'd find myself wandering mentally (and I think it showed in a few of the last batch of blog posts), and physically, in some cases. When it's all said and done, it was fun but what was more fun was the camaraderie. I'd seen some of these folks on the CHFB but hadn't really gotten to know them. I feel like we all made quick friends. There was none of that shit that I thought would happen when we got really snarky and offended someone's memories.

DJS: Just for completeness’ sake, I wish Jeff Frentzen could have written at least one Spotlight, or that Steve Streeter (progenitor of the The Outer Limits Newsletter) had checked in more.  Or Loren Heisey, who’s quietly been maintaining an Outer Limits new-and-old site since the 1990s.  Or Brendan Dawes, who founded the first such site I’d ever seen.
      That said, I am immeasurably glad to see the Holcomb Brothers here, and Ted Rypel, contributing so massively.  None of us are in touch this much under normal circumstances, and that goes for the two Larrys (Blamire and Rapchak) as well.  I guess the time was right.  There are blogs, and rarely there are salons of inquiry and intellect, good humor and bad taste, a greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts synergy.
      Plus, I got to meet the astounding “Lisa,” who provided a wealth of contacts and data that could someday lead to actual Outer Limits supplements, as well as many of-like-mind followers whose existence proves I wasn’t just making some of this stuff up all along.
      You don’t often get such a win-win, all ‘round.

PE: I'll second John's emotion that without you, David, this thing would have been 10% the fun it ended up being.
     Batman may not be in the same league as Outer Limits and Thriller but it may just be the "vacation" I need before we tackle something "serious" again (dream blogs: Combat!, Homicide, and Naked City). I hope you'll check in now and then.

DJS: All right, troops — let’s blow this popsicle stand before Pennell-boy flexes at us again.


  1. Excellent and entertaining interview, and a fine wrapup of sorts to this blog that has been so rewarding from day one (and that I imagine most of us are sorry to see come to an end, aside from Peter). DJS, your comments about the "kid window" especially hit home--you could have easily been describing my youthful self, right down to the "melodrama means monster movies" weird categorizing style of the old TV Guide that we all learned quickly enough how to interpret! Very interesting also to get a view into the world of a writer toiling in Hollywood and elsewhere, although why you weren't discouraged a long time ago by all the ego and bullcrap that you have to put up with is hard to fathom.

    I've said before that I was a fan of the Companion from the beginning, and I also have had seemingly forever a copy of Gary G.'s book, from back in the day when it was the ONLY book on the subject of TV science fiction. It's been an honor and a pleasure to be able to participate in this blog with you two, as well as with Ted R. and the Holcombs, as well as all the others on board. I have imagined it as sort of sitting around an electronic campfire, sharing information and opinions and stories, as people have done all down the ages. I didn't get a chance to say so before, but thanks also to everyone who had kind words when I had to drop out for a couple of weeks--it was really appreciated, and being able to come back and check out the blog from time to time was a welcome relief from everything else that was going on.

    Special thanks to John and Peter for all the hard work they did on this, and for making it available to begin with. It was indeed always "welcoming," and I too have been surprised (and inspired) by the level of commentary and acceptance of opposing ideas that has taken place here--such a contrast to the sort of lowbrow insults and automatic, snarky dismissals that pass for "conversation" on many other sites. I'm proud to have been a part of it, and hope that it will stay up here for a long time as a resource and a testimony to this show that meant so much to so many of us.

    P.S. As we noted earlier, The Duplicate Man mentioned in its script the year the Companion first appeared, 1986, and of course displayed the plaque with the year of this blog, 2011. But the episode took place in 2025 according to DJS's account--does that mean we should all get back together again during that year and take another look at the series from the point of view of our by then old selves? (I can hear you all gasping and groaning already--never mind!)

  2. Worth hanging around for. That interview was the perfect finale before "The Probe" drives a stake in TOL.

    I don't know if "Batman" is the sorbet for this feast, though. How do you mock a series that mocks itself? And when did Fox ever license any DVDs? I thought Adam West was still stranded on a rock waiting for those royalties.

    I don't read much science fiction any more. I wonder if it's dead. Replaced for overactive minds by pure fantasy. We know we won't be reaching the stars any more any time soon, so why not just invent completely different worlds instead of imagining how we will ever get off this one?

    I mostly read non-fiction and biographies now, which is why I so enjoyed this interview. I guess I read biographies to gleen some life experience, some out-of-this-body account that fills in the the places, emotions or actions of the roads not taken. I also look for points of intersection to solidify my thoughts on some universal consciousness we all share.

    My early life experiences in a hermetically-sealed nuclear family right out of "Leave it to Beaver" couldn't more dramatically contrast with the details DJS reveals here of harsh, nomadic beginnings. And yet we played with the same toys; Robot Commando; Zor; James Bond Attache Cases, and were attracted to the same, often melancholy leaps of escapism such as TOL, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Richard Matheson and Fredric Brown. And I lived in the basement and often felt alone in my eccentric interests.

    In another post I speculated that we all took leaps into dangerous visions because our early lives were actually so safe; we felt secure enough to poke our heads out of the bubble. But DJS' experiences here blows that theory to shit.

    But at some point, I put alway all that dark stuff, sold the complete Marvel Comics Collection (Spiderman 1-50! X-Men 1-50!), bought a pair of 150 pound speakers and embraced the bright light and partying of Sun Tan U and never really looked back. Much. Until now.

    I'm back in a dark room embracing the fever dreams of busy brains practicing the lonely art of imagination, and changing history realizing we were never alone ... ever.

  3. Fantastic way to endcap the WACT blog, gentlemen. I loved learning all these bio-details of DJS that had never emerged over decades of spotty correspondence. All quite fascinating. I never tire of poring over the always unique chemistry that fashions a brilliant creative artist in the fire of the crucible.

    Some hugely interesting recollections amassed here, David. (I had the Mattel Tommy Burst! And someone in the neighborhood owned each of the others, except for Big Loo---always a pricey Holy Grail, I guess.)

    Thank you, John and Peter, for finally placing DJS in the Tavern's spotlight. His relentless gathering and assemblage of hard-won TOL knowledge is the foundation the WACT blog was built on.

    It's been an honor and a pleasure to be associated with you all in this remarkable forum. Some may be glad it's ending, so that they can move on to other interests. For my part, I'm a little melancholy, the way you get when that nearly perfect party has wrapped.

    Hang onto the "dream part"!

  4. Well said about us "never being alone," AWC. Ted, I feel the same way about this wonderful blog coming to an end. And David, you've clearly earned your hippie ponytail. A truly fascinating bio, my friend. Best "obvious" explanation of Gill Man-ia I've ever heard... we all loved dinosaurs, we all loved monsters; the Creech was both, so it was total infatuation from Day One. As for OL researching and reviewing, at some point you must have said to yourself, "I am the one!" Not that everyone else's efforts to rekindle interest in the show weren't significant; but really David, who could ever hope to match such a thorough (and thoroughly obsessed) professional chronicler, especially one with your smarts, wit and unholy dedication? Personally, I was delighted that OL's legacy was in such amazingly capable hands. And I still am. When you emailed me a couple of months ago about THE HAUNTED screening at UCLA, I thought to myself, "Thank God David's still on the job!" Congrats, bro. The show's importance as a unique classic has now been fully accepted, and you are legitimately embedded in that notable success story.

  5. With a moniker like "The Astounding Lisa" I'm definitely going to start up a cheap magic act or even better become a carnival mentalist! Hope we can get all that footage you referred to into safe hands!

    It's kind of amazing how "The Outer Limits" meant so much to me and that I was ultimately able in some small way to keep its memory alive while I was at TNT and we got the series as part of a huge MGM/UA deal. Believe me, TOL was the throwaway part but clearly the most interesting for all of us!

    I've loved this blog and can't wait for the "Batman" opus!

    You guys -- and that means everybody around WACT -- are a terrific bunch! xoxoxo

  6. >>For my part, I'm a little melancholy, the way you get when that nearly perfect party has wrapped.

    Having just taken "The Probe" as far as I possibly could, I agree. In the end, I'm melancholy as well. A lot of people here have bent over backwards for us and our endeavor. I know I've been a pain in the ass at times but I hope we all can put that behind us and head down that dark alley known as Bat-Mania.

    Oh, and Lisa! Please e-mail me at We want you to be a big part of To the Batpoles.

  7. Helluva' wrap-up for this thing.


  8. Considering how wretched the episodes have been during this drab 2nd season (give or take a couple of 'better-than-mediocre' ones) I thought the only thing that could keep me sitting at the computer screen would be another John Williams and stranger in paradise link... This interview makes up for a lot of headscratching. I just wish i was able to get 1/10th of Mr. Schow's enthusiasm for OL...

  9. The WACT blog started as a nice surprise, and turned into something that has never happened before in regards to TOL. That is, an opportunity to see something I loved through the eyes of other, amazingly knowledgable people, whose enthusiasm is boundless, and to chat with them in the comments. Thanks, John and Peter for being brave enough to tackle such an intimidating topic as TOL, and for giving fans like myself the opportunity to participate. To Ted Rypel, it's been so fascinating hearing the rest of your views on the episodes you didn't get to cover before. And DJS, it was great to meet you (and the lovely Marilyn Stefano) in L.A. You really are the champion among all of us for TOL. 2011- a great year for OL.

  10. And you think you know a guy...

    Nice to glean some interesting new DJS stuff about DJS from DJS. Very very cool.

  11. Cool Creature Suit David is posed with. Anyone know who built it?

  12. That's the suit from Greg Nicotero's Rondo nominated short, United Monster Talent Agency. Check it out (and vote for it) if you haven't already:

    I'm not sure if Greg sculpted the Creature on his own or if it was a KNB team effort. DJS can confirm.

  13. That's my pal Cary Jones in the Creature suit (Cary was the lead Predator in PREDATORS), built by Greg & Co. factory-fresh at KNB for UNITED MONSTER TALENT AGENCY, which you can also see at:

  14. Guys--- Did I miss something" Where are the Salome's Dance shots from? Also, lacking a caption, I'm assuming that the youngster in the TV audience asking the question is none other than our pal-host Johnnie Scoleri..yes?


  15. Larry R---

    Those are from the 1961 film ANGEL BABY (Burt Reynolds' film debut), where she plays a "healer" on the evangelistic tent-revival circuit, with George Hamilton as the fire-breathing minister. She looks like she could cure a few ills, no?

    Haven't seen it in many years, but her provocative appearance there and the nice role in SECONDS are the two things that immediately come to mind with regard to Jens, besides the "Corpus Earthling" role of "listener's" wife, of course.

  16. What a great interview, thank you. And here I am over a year late to the party. Better late than never.

  17. "Stefano said, “I wish Bloch still had the rights to Psycho, because (Psycho) II and III wouldn’t have turned out so badly.”"

    If he said that's HE'S FULL OF SHIT. "II" is a brilliantly-constructed mystery-tragedy, and "III" a wonderful (if tacky) follow-up, as well as a tribute to the story structure of "VERTIGO"-- if you watch BOTH films back-to-back.

    The "what you thought was true ISN'T" was also used in Ian Fleming's "CASINO ROYALE" and Brian DePalma's "BODY DOUBLE".

    And in the long run, all 4 "PSYCHO" films together form one "big story"... with a happy ending. Who saw THAT coming?


Apologies for having to switch to moderated comments. This joker ( has been spamming our site for weeks, and we're hoping this will finally get him/her/it to crawl back into the hole from whence it came. Sadly the site isn't smart enough to detect that every single comment they make is spam. We'll be sure to review and post legitimate comments quickly. As for you, "Blogger" (trust me, we've got far more imaginative and appropriate names for you) on behalf of all of us at WACT, don't let the door hit you on the way out!