Quotations by Serling, Rod


It seems war stories aren’t very well received at this point. I’m told they’re outdated, untimely and as might be expected — make some unpleasant reading. And, as you have no doubt already perceived, human beings don’t like to remember unpleasant things. They gird themselves with the armor of wishful thinking, protect themselves with a shield of impenetrable optimism, and, with a few exceptions, seem to accomplish their “forgetting” quite admirably. But you, my children, I don’t want you to be among those who choose to forget. I want you to read my stories and a lot of others like them. I want you to fill your heads with Remarque and Tolstoy and Ernie Pyle. I want you to know what shrapnel, and “88’s” and mortar shells and mustard gas mean. I want you to feel, no matter how vicariously, a semblance of the feeling of a torn limb, a burnt patch of flesh, the crippling, numbing sensation of fear, the hopeless emptiness of fatigue. All these things are complementary to the province of War and they should be taught and demonstrated in classrooms along with the more heroic aspects of uniforms, and flags, and honor and patriotism.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“First Squad, First Platoon,” Dedication (c. 1947)
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Dedication to his unborn children, in one of his first (unpublished) works of fiction, while at Antioch College under the GI Bill. In Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013)
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I have no idea what your generation will be like. In mine we were to enjoy “Peace in our time.” A very well meaning gentleman waved his umbrella and shouted those very words … less than a year before the whole world went to war. But this gentleman was suffering the worldly disease of insufferable optimism. He and his fellow humans kept polishing the rose colored glasses when actually they should have taken them off. They were sacrificing reason and reality for a brief and temporal peace of mind, the same peace of mind that many of my contemporaries derive by steadfastly refraining from remembering the War that came before. All this was in my time, youngster — I hope not in yours.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“First Squad, First Platoon,” Dedication (c. 1947)
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Dedication to his unborn children, in one of his first (unpublished) works of fiction, while at Antioch College under the GI Bill. In Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013).
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I suppose we think euphemistically that all writers write because they have something to say that is truthful and honest and pointed and important. And I suppose I subscribe to that, too. But God knows when I look back over thirty years of professional writing, I’m hard-pressed to come up with anything that’s important. Some things are literate, some things are interesting, some things are classy, but very damn little is important.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“Rod Serling: The Facts of Life,” Interview with Linda Brevelle (4 Mar 1975)
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There are millions of ways to not be writing.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“Rod Serling: The Facts of Life,” Interview with Linda Brevelle (4 Mar 1975)
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Why do I write? I guess that’s been asked of every writer. I don’t know. It isn’t any massive compulsion. I don’t feel, you know, God dictated that I should write. You know, thunder rends the sky and a bony finger comes down from the clouds and says, “You. You write. You’re the anointed.” I never felt that. I suppose it’s part compulsion, part a channel for what your brain is churning up.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“Rod Serling: The Facts of Life,” Interview with Linda Brevelle (4 Mar 1975)
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The writer’s role is to menace the public’s conscience. He must have a position, a point of view. He must see the arts as a vehicle of social criticism and he must focus on the issues of his time.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“The Challenge of the Mass Media to the 20th Century Writer,” Speech, Library of Congress (15 Jan 1968)
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Despite everything, despite our controversies and despite what is apparently and tragically a sense of divisiveness that permeates our land, and despite riots and rebellions that go hand-in-hand, mind you, with repression and brutality, one major and fundamental guarantee of protracted freedom is the unfettered right of the man to write as he sees fit, as his conscience indicates, as his mood dictates, as his cause cries out for. The moment you begin to censor the writer — and history bears this out in the ugliest of fashions — so begins a process of decay in the body politic that ultimately leads to disaster. What begins with a blue pencil — for whatever reason — very often ends in a concentration camp.

It has forever been thus: So long as men write what they think, then all of the other freedoms — all of them — may remain intact. And it is then that writing becomes a weapon of truth, an article of faith, an act of courage.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“The Challenge of the Mass Media to the 20th Century Writer,” Speech, Library of Congress (15 Jan 1968)
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Quoted in Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013).
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Coming up with ideas is the easiest thing on earth. Putting them down is the hardest.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“Writing for Television – Conversations with Rod Serling,” Ithaca College (1972)
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The writer … when he’s rejected, that paper is rejected, in a sense, a sizable fragment of the writer is rejected as well. It’s a piece of himself that’s being turned down. And how often can this happen before suddenly you begin to question your own worth and your own value? And even worse, fundamentally, your own talent?

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
“Rod Serling: The Facts of Life,” Interview with Linda Brevelle (4 Mar 1975)
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It is difficult to produce a television documentary that is both incisive and probing when every twelve minutes one is interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits singing about toilet paper.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
(Attributed)

Unsourced. An alternate (parallel?) quote from the documentary Rod Serling: Submitted for Your Approval: "How can you put out a meaningful drama when every fifteen minutes proceedings are interrupted by twelve dancing rabbits with toilet paper? No dramatic art form should be dictated and controlled by men whose training and instincts are cut of an entirely different cloth. The fact remains that these gentlemen sell consumer goods, not an art form."
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Whenever you write, whatever you write, never make the mistake of assuming the audience is any less intelligent than you are.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
(Attributed)
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Being like everybody is like being nobody.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
(Attributed)
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Frequently attributed, but never cited. In the Twilight Zone episode, "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" (ep 05x17), the protagonist comments, "But is that good, being like everybody? I mean, isn't that the same as being nobody?" That episode is credited to Charles Beaumont and John Tomerlin.
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The righteous and continuing wrath of the Northern press opened no eyes and touched no consciences in the little town in Mississippi where the two men were tried. It was like a cold wind that made them huddle together for protection against an outside force which they could equate with an adversary. It struck me at the time that the trial and its aftermath was simply, “They’re bastards, but they’re our bastards.”

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Patterns, Introduction (1957)
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Speaking of the acquittal of the killers of Emmett Till. The murder inspired Serling's teleplay, Noon on Doomsday, shown on The United States Steel Hour (Apr 1956).
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NARRATOR: No moral. No message. No prophetic tract. Just a simple statement of fact: for civilization to survive, the human race has to remain civilized. Tonight’s very small exercise in logic from the Twilight Zone.

Serling - civlization to survive - wist_info quote

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
The Twilight Zone, 3×03 “The Shelter” (29 Sep 1961)
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All the Dachaus must remain standing. The Dachaus, the Belsens, the Buchenwalds, the Auschwitzes — all of them. They must remain standing because they are a monument to a moment in time when some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard. Into it they shoveled all of their reason, their logic, their knowledge, but worst of all, their conscience. And the moment we forget this, the moment we cease to be haunted by its remembrance, then we become the gravediggers.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
The Twilight Zone, 3×09 “Deaths-Head Revisited,” Epilogue (10 Nov 1961)
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NARRATOR: The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices — to be found in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own — for the children and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is that these things cannot be confined to … the Twilight Zone.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Twilight Zone, 1×02 “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” (4 Mar 1960)
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There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man — a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call … the Twilight Zone.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Twilight Zone, Introduction (1959)
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You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension: a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into — the Twilight Zone.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Twilight Zone, Introduction, Seasons 4-5 (1963-1964)
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Every writer is a frustrated actor who recites his lines in the hidden auditorium of his skull.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Vogue (1 Apr 1957)
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Too many wars are fought almost as if by rote. Too many wars are fought out of sloganry, out of battle hymns, out of aged, musty appeals to patriotism that went out with knighthood and moats. Love your country because it is eminently worthy of your affection. Respect it because it deserves your respect. Be loyal to it because it cannot survive without your loyalty. But do not accept the shedding of blood as a natural function or a prescribed way of history, even if history points this up by its repetition. That men die for causes does not necessarily sanctify that cause. And that men are maimed and torn to pieces every fifteen and twenty years does not immortalize or deify the act of war.

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Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Commencement Address, Binghamton Central High School, Binghamton, New York (28 Jan 1968)
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Are you tough enough to face one of the uglier stains upon the fabric of our democracy, prejudice? It’s the basic root of most evil. It’s a part of the sickness of man. And it’s a part of man’s admission, his constant sick admission, that to exist he must find a scapegoat. To explain away his own deficiencies, he must try to find someone who he believes more deficient. If you find yourself thinking words like “Nigger”, or “Kike”, or “Pollock”, or “Wop”, or “Bohunk”, or “Sheenie”, or “Dago”, consign them to the lexicon of race-haters who aren’t fit to breathe the same air as you are. Make your judgment of your fellow-man on what he says and what he believes and the way he acts. Be tough enough

, please, to live with prejudice and give battle to it. It warps, it poisons, it distorts and it is self-destructive. It has fallout worse than a bomb … and worst of all it cheapens and demeans anyone who permits himself the luxury of hating.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Commencement Address, Binghamton Central High School, Binghamton, New York (28 Jan 1968)
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But if survival calls for the bearing of arms, bear them, you must. As we all have. Keep in mind only this, that province of combat is not the end, it is simply the means. And the most essential part of the challenge is for you to find another means that does not come with the killing of your fellow-man.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Commencement Speech, Binghamton Central High School, Binghamton, New York (28 Jan 1968)
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Sometimes paraphrased:

If survival calls for the bearing of arms, bear them you must. But the most important part of the challenge is for you to find another means that does not come with the killing of your fellow man.
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Wish they’d let us write about the Little Rock situation. Funny, there were about seven or eight dramatic treatments of the Hungarian uprising but the spectacle of adult whites taunting a couple of defenseless little Negro girls is considered controversial. Wrong? That’s not controversy. If anybody takes the pro side in that particular battle, they’d better change flags.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Comment (1957), in Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013)
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Serling frequently complained of TV commercial sponsors (and the networks that depended on them) refusing to allow any TV dramas that might offend viewers, especially Southerners -- in this instance, referring to the controversy over Arkansas school integration.
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Shrapnel wounds and mangled, bullet ridden bodies are not the only casualties of war. There are casualties of the mind. Every war produces a backwash, a residue of pain and grief.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Comment, Antioch College (c. 1965)
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As quoted in Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013).
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I happen to think that the singular evil of our time is prejudice. It is from this evil that all other evils grow and multiply. In almost everything I’ve written there is a thread of this: a man’s seemingly palpable need to dislike someone other than himself

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Interview, Los Angeles Times (1967)
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There is a breed of lay and social scientist who will forever cling to a concept of “defeating by ignoring.” Hence, when out of the muck of their own neuroses rise these self-proclaimed Fuhrers, there is this well-meaning body who tell us that if we turn both eyes and cheeks, the nutsies will disappear simply by lack of exposure.

My guess is that, in this case, exposure is tantamount to education; and education here, is a most salutary instruction into the mentalities, the motives and the modus operandi of an animal pack that is discounted by the aged maxim that “it can’t happen here.” So might have said the Goethes and the Einsteins of a pre-war Germany, who thought then, as we do now, that civilization by itself protects against a public acceptance of the uncivilized.

What is desperately needed to combat any ism is precisely what “Playboy” has given us — an interview in-depth that shows us the facets of the enemy. Yes, gentlemen, you may be knocked for supposedly lending some kind of credence to a brand of lunacy. But my guess is that you should be given a commendation for a public service of infinite value.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Letter to Playboy Magazine (Jun 1966)
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Addressing criticism of the magazine for running in April 1966 an Alex Haley interview of American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell. Quoted in Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013).
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Dear Ald,

Been an odd day … It’s all quite incredible — not that twenty years have gone by nor even that I survived … it is just to walk over the same ground after so much has happened and to remember it all with such infinite clarity.

Last week, I went back to a little village outside of Manila called Paranaque. My last visit there was February 4, 1945, and I spent one day and one night getting shelled. So I took the nostalgic walk one early morning and drank it all in and began to feel sad because nobody came up to me as they did twenty years ago and grin and say, “Victory, Joe!” So three hours later I went through a tiny alley and wound up on a dirty beach overlooking the ocean, and this little grimy 8-year-old kid comes up to me and says, “What are you looking for, Joe?” And I cup this dirty little brown face in my hand and I answer, “My youth, Joe.”

Hey, Ald! You can’t go back. At least you can’t go back and experience. You return as a tourist just to observe. Like visiting a cemetery. Nobody’s around to talk to you and reminisce, even though deep in your gut you have this urge to tap some ghost on a shoulder and say, “Hey, buddy, remember that afternoon ….”

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Letter to Alden Schwimmer (1965)

In Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling, ch. 7 (2013).
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There is a bitter sadness and special irony that attends the passing of Martin Luther King. Quickly and with ease, we offer up a chorus of posthumous praise — the ritual dirge so time-honored and comfortable and undemanding of anything but rhetoric. In death, we offer the acknowledgement of the man and his dream that we denied him in life.

In his grave, we praise him for his decency — but when he walked amongst us, we responded with no decency of our own. When he suggested that all men should have a place in the sun — we put a special sanctity on the right of ownership and the privilege of prejudice by maintaining that to deny homes to Negroes was a democratic right.

Now we acknowledge his compassion — but we exercised no compassion of our own. When he asked us to understand that men take to the streets out of anguish and hopelessness and a vision of that dream dying, we bought guns and speculated about roving agitators and subversive conspiracies and demanded law and order.

We felt anger at the effects, but did little to acknowledge the causes. We extol all the virtues of the man — but we chose not to call them virtues before his death. And now

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, belatedly, we talk of this man’s worth — but the judgment comes late in the day as part of a eulogy when it should have been made a matter of record while he existed as a living force.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Letter to the Editor, Los Angeles Times (8 Apr 1968)
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Quoted in Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013).
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If we are to lend credence to our mourning, there are acknowledgements that must be made now, albeit belatedly. We must act on the altogether proper assumption that Martin Luther King asked for nothing but that which was his due. He demanded no special concessions, no favored leg up the ladder for his people

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, despite our impatience with his lifelong prodding of our collective conscience. He asked only for equality, and it is that which we denied him.

We must look beyond riots in the streets to the essential righteousness of what he asked of us. To do less would make his dying as senseless as our own living would be inconsequential.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Letter to the Editor, Los Angeles Times (8 Apr 1968)
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Reprinted in Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013).
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I note in a letter forwarded to me by the Famous Writers School that I have “aided the Communist conspiracy.” If this is indeed true, and I mean this with sincerity and respect, I should turn myself in to any local F.B.I. office. It was not my intention to aid and conspire, when I wrote the TV script, “Carol for Another Christmas,” nor was I remotely interested in propagandizing for the United Nations or for any organization. I was deeply interested in conveying what is a deeply felt conviction of my own. This is simply to suggest that human beings must involve themselves in the anguish of other human beings. This, I submit to you, is not a political thesis at all. It is simply an expression of what I would hope might be ultimately a simple humanity for humanity’s sake.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Letter to viewer who complained about the TV movie “Carol for Another Christmas” (1964)
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Quoted in Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013).
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A Martian can say things that a Republican or a Democrat can’t.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Quoted in Anne Serling, As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling (2013)
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On being able to slip more controversial television script ideas past networks and sponsors if done in a science fiction or fantasy setting.
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I ask for your indulgence when I march out quotations. This is the double syndrome of men who write for a living and men who are over forty. The young smoke pot — we inhale from our Bartlett’s.

Rod Serling (1924-1975) American screenwriter, playwright, television producer, narrator
Speech at Moorpark College, California (3 Dec 1968)
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