Some short stories outgrow their original confines and enter the public consciousness, often due to being adapted into movies (think The Birds or The Shawshank Redemption) or television shows. One such is Jerome Bixby’s tale “It’s a Good Life,” featuring a “monster” who also just happens to be a little boy named Anthony.
Already recognized as a superior short story, first published in Frederick Pohl’s “Star Science Fiction Stories” magazine in 1953, it took on a new life when it was adapted into a teleplay for Rod Serling’s “Twilight Zone” series in 1959, starring Billy Mumy (later of “Lost in Space” ‘Danger, Will Robinson!’ Fame). The episode has made many of the lists of top all-time episode lists, etc., and deservedly so. It, like the story, is deliciously creepy.
Anthony, who in the story – unlike the Twilight Zone episode – we are introduced to immediately, has supernatural mental powers, including the ability to wish things in and out of existence (like the rest of the world except for his small town of Peaksville; where did it go?) and the power to read people’s thoughts, of which certainly no good comes. At his age, Anthony’s attempts to both help and harm usually lead to disaster and horror, so the other 45 inhabitants of Peaksville have settled into an eggshell-walking existence of constantly thinking “it’s a good day” or “it’s good that Anthony did (whatever terrible thing he did)” What must such an existence be like for those living there?
Some might consider Star Trek’s “Charlie X” an adolescent version of Anthony. Maybe William Shatner should have starred in this episode of the Twilight Zone as well…