Rod Serling Conference 2011

Sorry for the unimaginative title, but it was taking me too long to come up with something other than “Submitted For Your Approval.”  Tell me that’s not the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the name Rod Serling.  But aside from being lame, my presentation at the 2011 Rod Serling Conference last month** wasn’t about The Twilight Zone, but about Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.  Specifically, H.P. Lovecraft Adapted for Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.

I pulled the presentation off, despite massive tech fail (thanks to help from the conference’s tech crew), but here’s the play by play of the shindig…

I feel I could’ve done better.  More rehearsal, certainly, but maybe not having fully recovered from a 4-day party + a 13 hour trip that should’ve taken 4 hours might’ve had something to do with my performance.

So I’m going to do a quick run-through of my plans and back-up plans, which totally and utterly failed:

Plan A – Run the OpenOffice Presentation on Ubuntu from my netbook.  First of all, I don’t know what possessed me to deviate from my original plan of using my laptop.  I plugged the netbook into the room’s AV system, and it utterly failed, probably because of the video drivers.  The tech crew figured that Ubuntu just wouldn’t have the necessary drivers.

Plan B – Run the OpenOffice Presentation on WinXP from my netbook.  Yeah, I thought I was covered.  Wrong.  The tech crew figured it was the netbook’s processor which just wasn’t powerful enough.

Plan C – Borrow a computer on which to run my OpenOffice presentation.  Previous experiences with the Conference showed me that they did possess computers with OpenOffice on them, as well as the VLC video player.  And the conference tech crew indeed had a computer at the ready and they could’ve sworn OpenOffice was loaded onto it.  It wasn’t.

Plan D – I wasn’t entirely flustered at this point, because I had my portableapps USB drive with dated versions of OpenOffice and VLC on it.  But I guess their WinXP computer wasn’t that fast.  Now, I’m flustered because at this point, I’m out of backup plans.

Luckily, I was able to work Plan E which was to use the tech manager’s Mac, install OpenOffice onto it, and run my presentation and videos from there.  Not ideal since the iPod Touch is the only Mac product I knew my way around.  But, it worked.


The keynote speaker, producer and screenwriter Bill D’Elia (Boston Legal, Ally McBeal, Judging Amy, &c.) didn’t give as flamboyant a speech as George Clayton Johnson’s from the last conference.  But it was no less fascinating.  He was a student of Serling’s at Ithaca College (that’s him in the picture on the screen in the striped jacket standing behind Serling).

It turned out that my presentation wasn’t the only one I’d give at the conference.  I won a lottery where the winner got to present his or her favorite Twilight Zone episode at the mini-marathon that’s held at the end of every Serling Conference.  I was as excited to talk about “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” as I was about my formal presentation.  Heck, just watching the episode from the remastered Blu-Ray on an $80,000 projection system would’ve been worth its weight in gold.

I whipped out this speech in an hour, though I deviated from it quite a bit…

I could be constructing this memory, but this could be the very first Twilight Zone episode I’d ever seen.  I was 10 or 12 years old, which was actually a few years after I’d heard of The Twilight Zone.  It’d been out of syndication for a few years, at least where I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio.  And this was before you could get a videotape of it at Blockbuster, nevermind downloading from Hulu or Netflix.

This story had a huge impact on me as a writer, even though it’s not exactly the best Twilight Zone story.  It’s not “The Obsolete Man,” or “Death’s Head Revisited,” or “Time Enough at Last,” or “To Serve Man,” or “The Shelter,” or “Walking Distance,” or any of the other episodes considered the “greatest” and the topics for discussion at this conference.  It even makes the classic mistake of having an alien, who is able to pass himself off as human, but who still asks, “What’s… wet?”

But at age 12, it was magical.

Here’s the thing.  You know how Serling says “You’re entering another dimension?”  Well, I didn’t just enter it.  When I first saw this episode, Serling TOOK me on a 22-minute ride of suspicion, and suspense, and finally of being freaked out when the real Martian finally stood up.  And then to throw in another twist behind that one!

I didn’t know a writer could do that.  And that’s the sort of experience I’ve always looked for ever since, whether I’m reading a book or watching a good film or TV show.  More importantly, I want to be a writer who gives that experience to other people when I grow up.

So… Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?

I know I should probably put my presentation slides up.  I still haven’t finished composing the formal paper for the conference proceedings.  I should get on that (assuming it isn’t already too late).

And lastly, a few pics of some cool stuff, including local writer Nick Sagan (yes, Carl‘s boy) presenting the Conference’s screenwriting awards, and Serling’s 1961 Hugo Award which was on display.

**Yeah, I’ve given up on the notion of posting these in a timely manner, just as I’m sure most of you have given up expecting to see them in a timely manner.

2 thoughts on “Rod Serling Conference 2011”

  1. Just caught up with this and intense flashbacks have been brought about as a result. Sounds just about the same as when I was there, although I think I would have missed George.

    We don't know how to do conferences like this in England.

  2. Bill D'Elia had a lot of great things to say but he was no George Clayton Johnson, that's true.

    I'm sure you could get something like this going in England. If nothing else, you've actually been to the Serling Conference, so that should give you some rough ideas. And, you do have the academic background.

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