Monday, March 25, 2013

NASA Month: Twilight Zone

All this month, I'm NASA! This means every weekday in March will feature a new post about NASA, and I'm hosting a giant giveaway in order to encourage people to spread the NASA love. For more information on the giveaway, check out this post.

Today we have a special guest post by author and fellow League member E.C. Myers! She's posting about NASA in film.

NASA & The Twilight Zone
by E.C. Myers

Television is one of the best reflections of the time in which it’s made. Case in point: the original Star Trek series was set in the far future, but its episodes often dealt with topics that concerned Americans in the late 1960s, when it was broadcast, such as war and racism. By exploring serious issues in a science fictional setting, the producers and writers could disguise moral messages as mere entertainment, allowing them to sneak controversial stories past network censors and conservative television stations.

The program that defined the way science fiction would be used for provocative social commentary in television was The Twilight Zone. It’s one of my favorite series and a formative one for me, and it remains a classic today. War and prejudice were also common themes on the show, but it also often featured astronauts and spaceships, with stories about trips to other worlds and alien visitors, which interrogated our ideas of what it truly means to be human. It’s no wonder that the writers were so preoccupied with speculating about the effects of space travel and the possibility of extraterrestrial contact: The Twilight Zone (TZ) debuted on October 2, 1959, only a little more than a year after NASA was formed on July 29, 1958. Space was on everyone’s minds.

In fact, the first episode of TZ raised the very question of whether we were ready to be among the stars. (Warning: Spoilers follow. Even though twist endings are a staple of TZ, the show was broadcast more than 55 years ago, so…) In the striking debut, “Where is Everybody?”, a man wanders a seemingly abandoned town. As he slowly suffers a mental breakdown, it’s revealed that it’s actually all in his mind; the man is an astronaut in an isolation chamber undergoing an experiment that simulates the loneliness of space travel—and he isn’t handling it very well at all.

There are many terrific episodes focused on astronauts and a space program that is strangely similar to NASA. Here are just a few of my favorites, and I’ll hope you check them out and the rest of the series if you haven’t seen it before. Episodes are streaming free on Hulu and Netflix, and most of them really do hold up well five decades letter.

“And When the Sky Was Opened” by Rod Serling, based on a short story by Richard Matheson: A spaceship disappears on its first space flight then reappears. When it crash lands on Earth, one of its three astronauts, Harrington, feels strangely out of place and discovers that his parents don’t remember him—just before he disappears. His co-astronaut Forbes is the only one who realizes he’s missing, or has ever even existed, and even the newspaper now refers to only two astronauts. He tries to convince the third astronaut, Gart, that one of them is gone, but Gart doesn’t believe him—until Forbes disappears too! Gart, reportedly the only astronaut to return to Earth, who is beginning to freak out, soon disappears too, along with the ship. Eerie!

“Third from the Sun” by Rod Serling, also based on a short story by Richard Matheson: Faced with the threat of a nuclear attack that will destroy the planet, a scientist plans to escape with his family aboard a spacecraft. Their destination: a planet 11 million miles away, third from the sun. A place called Earth. (No way!)

“I Shot an Arrow into the Air” by Rod Serling, based on a story by Madelon Champion: Four astronauts crash on what they believe to be a barren asteroid. With limited supplies, one of them kills the others to survive. He sets out on his own and eventually encounters evidence of civilization: telephone poles and a sign for a place called “Reno.” It turns out they had never left Earth at all! Oops! (See also: Planet of the Apes.)

“People Are Alike All Over” by Rod Serling, based on a short story by Paul Fairman: Two astronauts crash on Mars and one of them ends up as the new exhibit in a zoo! (Sounds like people were really worried about spaceships crashing, huh?)

“The Little People” by Rod Serling: Two astronauts land on a planet to make some repairs to their ship and discover a race of tiny people, which one of them, Craig, terrorizes and forces to worship him as a god. His companion leaves him there and soon another ship lands. It bears two astronauts who are giants, one of which accidentally kills Craig, to the delight of the tiny beings he abused.

“The Parallel” by Rod Serling: Gaines blacks out in his space capsule and wakes up on Earth to find things are not exactly the way he left them. He has a different rank, Major instead of Colonel; his wife is practically a stranger to him; and his daughter insists that he isn’t her father. He becomes convinced that he has somehow slipped into a parallel universe and attempts to return to the world he remembers. Gaines blacks out and finds himself back in his orbiting space capsule, which he safely returns to Earth. Just as he begins to think he imagined the whole thing, they receive a transmission… from Colonel Gaines.

“The Long Morrow” by Rod Serling: An astronaut falls in love with a woman before departing on a mission that will keep him away from Earth for 40 years. Wanting to stay the same age as his beloved, he voluntarily opts out of the suspended animation that would keep him young. But when he returns to Earth, now an old man, he learns that the woman had placed herself in suspended animation until he came back to her. Alas, he is now too old for her! (If only they had talked to each other before he left! This episode also has the distinction of being referenced on another of my favorite shows, Gilmore Girls, when Logan gives Rory a toy rocket in a romantic gesture that baffles and upsets her because she didn’t remember watching this episode with him.)


E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and a public library in Yonkers, New York. His young adult science fiction novels, Fair Coin and Quantum Coin, were published by Pyr Books in 2012. You can find him all over the internet, but especially at and on Twitter@ecmyers, as well as blogging about Star Trek at

He currently lives in Philadelphia with his wife, two doofy cats, and a mild-mannered dog.


This post is a part of the month-long celebration of NASA I'm hosting on my blog. In order to encourage people to celebrate NASA, I'm also hosting a giveaway!

One grand prize winner will receive all the books in the recent Breathless Reads tour, as well as ARCs of two anthologies and a signed Breathless Reads poster:

As well as swag from NASA, courtesy of Kate @ Ex Libris:

To celebrate NASA creatively: you could blog about why you like NASA, you could reach out to an astronaut for an interview, you could make space fan art, you could sing a song about NASA, you do a vlog, you make a list of all the ways NASA rocks...any of this counts! Just celebrate NASA in some awesome way, post it online, and include the link in the Rafflecopter. I even set that part of the entry open for multiple entries, so you could blog and vlog and Facebook and tumblr and Pinterest about NASA and they all count. The only requirements: post a link back to this contest, and put the full URL of the site in the Rafflecopter. Full details here.

To enter: be sure to read the full rules and terms of the contest here. Then fill out the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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