I couldn't stay for it all, but I had a blast at the Rod Serling conference. Really good insights re: the man and his work, the majority of these provided by my friend Marc Scott Zicree, who (literally) wrote the book on The Twilight Zone. Now I've seen nearly every Zone episode and many Night Gallery episodes, but Marc brought out clips I'd never seen before--some from Serling's early television career, including one starring a young James Dean. Perhaps most interesting to me was a clip of Rod Serling pitching The Twilight Zone to sponsors, laying out what kinds of stories they could expect, whetting their appetites for what the show would become. Lots to learn there. I've pitched my fair share of stories, and I'm not half bad, but man oh man was Serling a master.
Marc makes an interesting case for Rod Serling being the man who best shifted the balance of power in television toward writers. That "showrunner" position--the writer/producer at the top of the writing staff--that's a position that Serling largely carved out. So despite how synonymous he is with genre fiction, even TV writers who don't write science fiction and fantasy may owe the man a great debt.
And I got to meet Carol Serling. We only talked briefly, but she remembered conversations between Rod and my dad. I also met one of Rod and Carol's daughters, who apparently taught my brother back when he went to nursery school. Small world, no?