When I watch Black Mirror, particularly the newest Netflix season, I don’t think it’s primarily classic science fiction or about our relationship to technology.1 What I’m reminded of most strongly is The Twilight Zone and Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected, both of which appear on the list of movies, books, and TV shows that influenced Charlie Brooker while making Black Mirror.
I read Tales of the Unexpected when I was a kid, having exhausted all of the other Roald Dahl books in our small town library and one day randomly discovering that he’d written this book of short stories for adults. His use of horror and black comedy are evident in the most celebrated story, Lamb to the Slaughter, in which a woman murders her husband by whacking him in the head with a frozen leg of lamb and then serves the lamb to the police detectives who come round to investigate the death.
Anyway, what I didn’t know was that Tales of the Unexpected was also adapted into a TV show hosted by Dahl himself. I’ve embedded the Lamb to the Slaughter episode above and there are many more of the full episodes available on YouTube.
Sometimes children’s author Roald Dahl was not a very nice man. This Recording explains.
His early writing in the short story form was impacted by the political situation on the world stage. He believed in a world government and he was extremely sympathetic to Hitler, Mussolini, and the entire Nazi cause. His stories were filled with caricatures of greedy Jews. One suggests “a little pawnbroker in Housditch called Meatbein who, when the wailing started, would rush downstairs to the large safe in which he kept his money, open it and wriggle inside on to the lowest shelf where he lay like a hibernating hedgehog until the all-clear had gone.” In 1951 he visited Germany with Charles Marsh and luxured in Hitler’s former retreat at Berchtesgaden. His dislike of Jews and especially of Zionists was egged on by Marsh’s Israel hatred, later encapsulated in a revolting letter to Marsh where he mocked the head of East London’s B’Nai B’rith Club.
Dahl’s dark side is on display in his short story collection, Tales of the Unexpected, which I read as a teen (twice!) and loved. A more charitable take on Dahl is available at Wikipedia.