Thursday, June 25, 2009
It's A Good Life: Jerome Bixby & the Twilight Zone
"It's a Good Life" is a short story by Jerome Bixby, written in 1953. In 1970 it was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America as one of the 20 finest science fiction stories ever written. The story was first published in Star Science Fiction Stories No.2.
This is among the most popular Twilight Zone episodes. It Contains the longest opening narration of the series.
"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. Just by using his mind, he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines - because they displeased him - and he moved an entire community back into the dark ages - just by using his mind. Now I'd like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It's in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud. Now, the monster doesn't like singing, so his mind snapped at her, turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you're looking at now. She sings no more. And you'll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio, have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things because once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque, walking horror. This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought, he can feel every emotion. Oh yes, I did forget something, didn't I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He's six years old, with a cute little-boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you'd better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is the Twilight Zone."
Six-year-old Anthony Fremont looks like any other little boy, but looks are deceiving. He is a monster, a mutant with godlike mental powers. Early on, he isolated the small hamlet of Peaksville, Ohio. In fact, the handful of inhabitants do not even know if he destroyed the rest of the world or if it still exists. Anthony has also eliminated electricity, automobiles, and television signals. He controls the weather and what supplies can be found in the grocery store. Anthony creates and destroys as he pleases, and controls when the residents can watch the TV and what they can watch on it.
The adults tiptoe nervously around him, constantly telling him how everything he does is "good", since displeasing him can get them wished away "to the cornfield", where they are presumably met by a less-than-happy ending. Finally, at Dan Hollis' birthday party, Dan, slightly drunk, can no longer stand the strain and confronts the boy, calling him a monster and a murderer; while Anthony's anger grows, Dan begs the other adults to kill Anthony from behind - "Somebody end this, now!" - but everyone else is too afraid to act. Before Dan is killed, he is shown, indirectly by his shadow, transformed into a jack-in-the-box, causing his widow to break down.
Because he is angry at what has happened, Anthony causes snow to begin falling outside. His father observes that the snow will kill off at least half the crops and that they may not have enough food to make it through the winter and people may starve to death. But as the adults look on, worried smiles on their faces, his father smiles and tells Anthony "...but it's a real good thing you did. A real good thing."
Here is the story in its entirety. "It's a Good Life" by Jerome Bixby
You can also view the episode in three segments through Youtube. (at least for now)