In a 2014 interview, an adult Billy Mumy expounded on his performance as 7-year old mutant Anthony Fremont in the Twilight Zone adaptation of “It’s a Good Life” by Jerome Bixby. He confessed to riding home from shooting his scenes with his mom and pretending that he could change the traffic lights with the power of his mind. All of us science fiction nerds wanted to be Billy Mumy in those days back in the 1960’s, myself included, but it seems that, for a moment anyway, Billy Mumy wanted to be Anthony Fremont.
In consideration of Halloween, the Dalenberg Library of Antique Popular Literature recalls one of the great American science fiction/horror short stories. Jerome Bixby’s 1953 masterpiece about a super-child with god-like powers is nothing short of creepy. It was adapted by Rod Serling into the memorable Twilight Zone episode starring a pre-Lost in Space Billy Mumy in 1961. Bixby paints a picture in a few short pages of a small town unmoored in time and space and held in thrall by a temperamentally infantile god-child. Is it an allegory of the paranoia of living in a totalitarian dystopia replete with thought-police? Or is it a mirror of everyday life under an Old Testament-style wrathful Judeo-Christian God? Or is it just a story? Much analysis has been heaped on these, the best 16 pages Bixby ever wrote.
“It’s a Good Life” has been much anthologized, and I think it shows up in 3 or 4 books in The Dalenberg Library. I re-read it this time in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, Edited by Robert Silverberg (Doubleday, 1970).
–Dale D. Dalenberg MD