"It's a Good Life" Review
I had to read this story for a science-fiction course I took last year. I was one of those people who’d seen the Twilight Zone episode first. And after finishing the short story, I wished I could somehow go back in time and reverse the order I experienced it. The Twilight Zone episode is forever stuck in my mind, but I genuinely believe that the short story is better (as is so often the case).
Now, I love The Twilight Zone - I think it’s one of the best shows of all time, maybe even the best. But putting that aside, I believe Bixby’s story is stronger and more terrifying than what can be shown on television. There’s a lot of inner thought and hidden emotion that can only be portrayed through literature. If you’ve read the story, it’s more unnerving and relatable. Those last few paragraphs still give me chills, no matter how often I read them. Much of that - for whatever reason - is lost in the transition to screen.
I think the biggest difference between the short story and television episode involves Anthony’s age. In Bixby’s story, Anthony is only three. Because of that, it seems impossible to ever reason with him. He’s simply too young to understand his powers. There’s a great scene at the beginning of the story where he pretty much plays God with some animals - he likes to reward and punish them, not really knowing difference, or the consequences of his actions.
In The Twilight Zone episode, Anthony is older (I’m thinking around six). Because of that, he just seems like a nasty kid. That’s a big difference between the two, and I prefer the setup of the original story. It puts a lot more on the line because you can’t really blame Anthony so much if he’s only three. What would a three-year-old do with the powers of God?
If you’ve never seen the episode nor read the short story, go read it (didn’t I already ask you to?). You owe it to yourself. And if you don’t like reading off the computer, it’s in this great science-fiction anthology.
If you’ve seen The Twilight Zone episode, I still recommend you read the story. I think you’ll find it a lot scarier than the show - the last couple lines are so well written, believe me.
I hope you get to experience this story, either through television or literature, but I’d personally recommend the short story. Let me know what you think, and which version you’d recommend.