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Notes on "Tommy and the Talking Dog"

By Lewis Shiner

I moved to Austin in 1979, though my job remained in Dallas. Every month to six weeks I would to to Dallas, stay at my parents' house, work 7 to 10 days, 12 hours a day, and then go back to Austin again.

By 1981 I had entered one of the most productive phases of my career. I was publishing in F&SF regularly, and I'd started selling to a brand new magazine that was absolutely perfect for my sensibility--The Twilight Zone. This was a "bedsheet" sized magazine (like Omni or Thrasher), but printed on pulp paper, like the digests. Under the editorial hand of the fine horror writer T.E.D. "Ted" Klein, the magazine published some really great stories--it was the only magazine I sold to that I read cover to cover every month. Ted liked my work, as he did that of my fellow Texan Joe Lansdale, and both of us got to be regulars--boosting both our careers.

Ted was the best editor I ever worked for. He always asked for changes, and I can't remember any of them I didn't agree with. And in the case of "Tommy and the Talking Dog," he actually wrote the best line in the story. Toward the end, the dog pees on an expensive car--this after much discussion of a treasure that Tommy can't seem to find--and Ted suggested that the drops spatter "like little gold coins." He not only completely understood the story, he give it a depth and richness it didn't have before.

After Ted left, the magazine held on for a while under Tappan King, also a fine editor (and a hell of dinner companion--his Bazooka Joe mythology had me stunned and fascinated), but eventually folded. I never had that perfect a market again.

One last Ted Klein item. I sent him a story around the time "Tommy" was published called "Cousin Billy." It was a nasty piece of horror about a goat creature, with a creepy East Texas locale. Ted turned it down because it upset him too much, but he never stopped talking about it. So I went looking for it to see if I wanted to put it up on FLF, and...I need to think about it. I'm not sure the world really needs to see "Cousin Billy."

Update from January 2009: I used several real names in this story from my 6th grade class in Globe, Arizona. Somebody told the real Bobby (now Robert) Cubitto about it, and he sent me an email. He caught me up on friends I hadn't seen in nearly 50 years, and even put me in touch with Dicky (now Richard) Benney, my best friend from those days. It's a payoff I never imagined when I started this website.


© 2007 by Lewis Shiner. Some rights reserved.

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