“It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby
We start with a 1953 short story called “It’s a Good Life” by the author Jerome Bixby. The story was adapted for the television series The Twilight Zone and is considered by many, such as Time Magazine and TV Guide, to be one of the best episodes of the series. It originally aired on November 3, 1961.
Serling’s opening narration for the televised episode began thus, as he stood in front of a common map on a wall:
Tonight’s story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there’s a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village.
Young Anthony Fremont is a thirteen-year-old boy who initially appears to be like any other adolescent growing up in a small American town. Yet something is awry. He has an “odd shadow” and a “bright, wet, purple gaze” . . .the obstetrician at his birth was said to have “screamed and dropped him and tried to kill him”. As he grows, the town’s children are told that Anthony is a “nice goblin”, but they must never go near him.
Bixby’s story mostly takes place during a surprise birthday party for the Fremonts’ neighbor, Dan Hollis. The residents take turns passing around certain objects, like books, music, or furniture, since they cannot acquire anything new from the outside world.
Bixby’s story has been published many times, and was included in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964, an anthology of the greatest science fiction short stories prior to 1965, as judged by the Science Fiction Writers of America
Enjoy. And feel free to discuss other works on this week’s theme. You’ve got the power.
Read Bixby’s story here:
A bit about Jerome Bixby . . .
Jerome Bixby was a short story writer as well as editor and script writer. He also wrote four episodes for the Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which the classic sci-fi movie Fantastic Voyage (1966), television series, and novel by Isaac Asimov were based. Bixby’s final work was the screenplay for the 2007 cult sci-fi film The Man From Earth.
The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula K. Le Guin
Compare/contrast this short (4-page) story by the author Ursula K. Le Guin entitled: “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.” It’s a 1973 plotless, short, descriptive work of philosophical fiction, though popularly classified as a short story, by Ursula K. Le Guin. With deliberately both vague and vivid descriptions, the narrator briefly depicts a summer festival in the utopian city of Omelas, whose prosperity depends on the perpetual misery of a single child.
“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” was nominated for the Locus Award for Best Short Fiction in 1974 and won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1974″ (Wikipedia) . It is anthologized often and cited as a “top 100 story” by many critics. The story raises questions about the infrastructure of societies which thrive; about anarchy and Utopia.
You can read Le Guin’s short story here.
A bit about Le Guin . . .
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin was born in 1929 in Berkeley, and lives in Portland, Oregon. As of 2015, she has published twenty-one novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many honors and awards including Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, and the National Book Foundation Medal. Her most recent publications are The Unreal and the Real: Selected Stories of Ursula K. Le Guin, 2012, and Steering the Craft: A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story, 2015.