Author Elayne Zalis has published two books which answer the question, How did Rod Serling affect your life? It’s an intriguing query that many readers have answered on our page SPEAK YOUR MIND. Zalis’s books offer her own detailed and intensly personal response.

In Reimagining the Twilight Zone: A Young Fan’s Stories (2021), she combines fact, fiction, and fantasy to explore how The Twilight Zone sparked her imagination when she was a child in Miami in the late 1950s and early ’60s. The stories in this “speculative memoir” address more than twenty episodes of the TV series and introduce a range of characters.

A Child’s Personal Twilight Zone: Imagining New Possibilities (2023), an abridged edition of the first publication, brings together three intersecting stories that feature children and young adults in leading roles. While including autobiographical elements, these examples of creative storytelling shift the focus from speculative memoir to speculative fiction. Both Reimagining the Twilight Zone and A Child’s Personal Twilight Zone are available as ebooks and paperbacks.

Zalis revived interest in her Twilight Zone collection earlier this year when she produced an audiobook version of A Child’s Personal Twilight, narrated by Gabrielle de Cuir. It is available on Audible, Amazon, Apple Books, Spotify, and other platforms.

Reimagining the Twilight Zone

For the young TV fan, the host of the series plays a key role: “Guide and fellow traveler, Serling pushes the boundaries of creative thought and invites me along for the ride,” the adult narrator reflects.

In Reimagining the Twilight Zone, the author collaborates with her younger self across space and time. Together, the girl and the woman she becomes imagine new possibilities. Their remixes and mashups sometimes resemble fan fiction. Other times, the episodes prompt personal reflections or timely discussions.

Although the adult narrator re-views the shows with the eyes of a child, Zalis didn’t write the book for children. She describes various Twilight Zone episodes that she enjoyed as a child, and then relates the elaborate flights of imagination that her own mind took after viewing the shows again decades later. Zalis writes:

“When I watch The Twilight Zone as an adult, I often experience the sense of wonder that my younger self felt when she watched the TV series in the early 1960s. Our imaginations fuse, and we explore new domains together. Some episodes, such as ‘Little Girl Lost’ . . . even inspire us to become storytellers ourselves.”

The book retells “Little Girl Lost” from the perspective of nine-year-old Abbey, a dimension-hopping storyteller whom Zalis invented. Unlike the original lost girl who flees a scary place on the other side of her bedroom wall, Abbey lands in a magical place called Parallel Wonders after falling through a portal in her own bedroom wall. She meets characters from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There; The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; and some of her other favorite stories. Abbey’s adventures in Parallel Wonders were inspired by the authors youth in sunny Florida and popular tourist attractions there, such as the Parrot Jungle and Miami Seaquarium.

I think Serling would be delighted to see where Zalis’s imagination went after turning the key that he offers to each of us at the beginning of every show.

Reimagining the Twilight Zone revisits such well-known episodes as “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street” and “Eye of the Beholder” as well as more obscure episodes such as “The Big Tall Wish” and “The Gift.”

In collaboration with the adult narrator, Zalis-the-child does surprising things with Twilight Zone episodes. She continues the stories in intriguing ways, often inserting herself into new narratives that flow from the shows she watched, as in her personalized approach to “The Bewitchin’ Pool.” Inspired by that episode, the eleven-year-old Elayne discovers an underwater portal in a swimming pool at a hotel in Miami Beach. She swims her way to an enchanted island populated by characters from A Wrinkle in Time, the Pippi Longstocking books, and other fictional characters she liked. Serling and characters from The Twilight Zone make brief appearances.

As a young girl, the author also draws characters from Twilight Zone episodes into her everyday life. For example, on a bus headed to the Miami Public Library downtown in 1962, Elayne evokes Pedott, the prescient older man in “What You Need.” To her surprise, this humble peddler predicts—and provides—what she later learns she needs.

With help from Leah, a stand-in for the author’s younger self, Zalis and her collaborator even alter the fate of Henry Bemis, the bespectacled bookworm whom Burgess Meredith plays in “Time Enough at Last.” Presumably the only survivor of a nuclear war, Bemis feels hopeful when he discovers a public library filled with all the books he could ever want. He prepares to spend the rest of his life reading, and then his glasses shatter, leaving him virtually blind—and alone. Zalis envisions an alternative scenario:

Bemis breaks down and cries himself to sleep at the bottom of the stairs to a paradise that remains beyond his reach.

But wait. The TV episode may end there, but the young dreamer of this tale, also a reader, continues to dream, and thanks to her imagination, the story continues.

From the background, a band of free spirits emerges—about twenty men, women, and children who wear handmade clothes and project a natural, down-to-earth look.

Leah, a young girl who resembles the dreamer, points to Bemis and shouts, “Look, there’s a man here!”

These survivors not only rescue Bemis but also introduce him to another book lover from The Twilight Zone—Romney Wordsworth, the librarian Burgess Meredith plays in “The Obsolete Man.” He escaped from a society that banned books and persecuted librarians. Bemis bonds with his look-alike and joins the band of free spirits.

As the group heads home, Leah offers to guide Bemis through the wilderness. “Together,” she says, “we’ll read many fantastic books and share our grand dreams.” He takes her hand and she leads the way.

“The Old Man in the Cave” and “From Agnes—With Love” inspire Zalis to investigate computers. This is the early 60s, mind you, some fifteen years before personal computers were offered to the public.

Humanlike robots make appearances too. Readers of Reimagining The Twilight Zone discover the endearing robotic “Grandma” who fascinates the nine-year-old Elayne when she watches “I Sing the Body Electric” in 1962. Looking backward, Zalis writes, “I witness a love story unfold between humans and one special electronic machine who dreams of someday—maybe three hundred years or so in the future—receiving the gift of life, provided she is ‘very wise and very good.’” “The Lateness of the Hour” introduces the young TV fan to a more troubling view of robots and their roles in family life.

The Cold War and the space race of the early 1960s provide a context for the adult narrator’s discussions of the extraterrestrial visitors portrayed in “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” and “To Serve Man.” Zalis writes:

As the space race gains momentum, boundaries blur between science fiction and “reality.” The improbable becomes possible. Dreams of interplanetary space travel fuel the popular imagination, igniting new visions of life on other planets—and prompting age-old narratives about “us” and “them.”
. . .
The Twilight Zone helps to shape the perceptions of extraterrestrials that many young boomers share. Several episodes stage encounters with alien beings either on their turf or on ours. Suspicion of the unknown always looms, wherever the meetings take place.

The Twilight Zone reminds the young Zalis that she lives in scary times.

She also considers what Serling’s Twilight Zone has to say about conformity, by examining what happens in the episodes “Eye of the Beholder” and “Number 12 Looks Just Like You.” These examinations lead to more of her younger self’s imaginative and detailed stories.

Some of the most encouraging sections of Reimagining The Twilight Zone continue stories that did not resolve well in the TV episodes, casting them in a more positive light—and in the process reveal the heart of a hopeful child who rejects the adult irony of nasty twist endings in favor of helping people succeed and be happy. I’ve mentioned several examples already.

In addition, consider the creative retelling of “Black Leather Jackets,” a fifth-season episode that Zalis feels is complementary to “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” from season one. Instead of accepting the tragic ending that “Black Leather Jackets” foreshadows, fifth grader Zalis develops her own plan to thwart the space invaders’ mission to contaminate the planet’s water supply:

The young Elayne considers alternative scenarios and in so doing discovers the power—and joy—of telling stories her way. Decades later, I collaborate with her to imagine the possibilities anew. Her ideas from 1964 and mine from more than fifty-five years later intermingle as we work together to save the world. Characters from various episodes of The Twilight Zone morph into the superheroes who bring our remix of “Black Leather Jackets” to life.

Truth be told, Zalis’s approach to hopeful endings is straight out of the second chances that Serling loved to grant to struggling characters. We could all use some of that.

Zalis concludes her creative journey through The Twilight Zone on a positive note:

“I turn within for comfort so that I can emerge recharged. My childhood self and all the other selves I’ve been through the years join me in a timeless space that allows us to look backward and ahead. We feel at home.”

A Child’s Personal Twilight Zone

Zalis’s “encore act” sets the stage for future storytelling. Two years after publishing Reimagining The Twilight Zone, she published A Child’s Personal Twilight Zone: Imagining New Possibilities.

A Child’s Personal Twilight Zone zeroes in on three stories from the original publication that focus on children and young adults. By juxtaposing creative retellings of “Little Girl Lost,” “Black Leather Jackets,” and “The Bewitchin’ Pool,” this volume illustrates how The Twilight Zone sparks the imagination of a young girl in Miami and inspires her to celebrate the adventures of other youths.

The volume also speaks to adults. A Child’s Personal Twilight Zone, like its predecessor, celebrates creativity across the life span. Looking backward empowers the adult narrator to imagine new possibilities of her own in art and life. “Once again,” she writes, “The Twilight Zone serves as a springboard to creative thought.”

Zalis extended the reach of A Child’s Personal Twilight Zone in 2024 when she produced an audiobook version. The versatile narrator, Gabrielle de Cuir, captivates listeners with her impressive repertoire of voices. She plays all the parts herself, adding an exciting new dimension to Zalis’s storytelling.

About the author: Elayne Zalis, PhD, MA, draws on an interdisciplinary background in writing, communications, and the media arts. Her work explores personal and cultural memory across a range of media, including film, TV, video, print, digital platforms, and the web. A native of Miami, Florida, she now calls Southern California her home. For additional background, see

Zalis’s books are available on Amazon:
Reimagining the Twilight Zone: A Young Fan’s Stories (2021): Kindle Edition | paperback
A Child’s Personal Twilight Zone: Imagining New Possibilities (2023): audiobook | Kindle edition | paperback

Ebooks are also available at selected libraries through the Indie Author project:
Reimagining The Twilight Zone: A Young Fan’s Stories
A Child’s Personal Twilight Zone: Imagining New Possibilities