Author Richard Matheson Has Passed

One of the most influential genre writers has passed away this weekend. Richard Matheson, whose work included The Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, and numerous other movie and TV scripts, including episodes of The Twilight Zone. Stephen King (who dedicated his novel Cell to him) and Anne Rice have cited Matheson as an influence on their work. NPR has written one of the better summaries of this major writer from which I am sharing.

“Matheson was 87. His death Sunday was announced online after his daughter, Ali, wrote of his passing. The genre website Shock Till You Drop quotes her, citing author John Shirley, who posted her statement on Facebook:

‘My beloved father passed away yesterday at home surrounded by the people and things he loved…he was funny, brilliant, loving, generous, kind, creative, and the most wonderful father ever…I miss you and love you forever Pop and I know you are now happy and healthy in a beautiful place full of love and joy you always knew was there…’

“Many of Matheson’s stories placed otherwise normal people in extreme or fantastic circumstances — a hallmark of The Twilight Zone, for which he wrote more than a dozen episodes. He also wrote a short story about a trucker tailgating a driver, which he then used to create a screenplay for the 1971 Steven Spielberg film Duel, starring Dennis Weaver.

“Along with I Am Legend, Matheson wrote What Dreams May Come, A Stir of Echoes, and The Shrinking Man, all of which became Hollywood movies (in the case of I Am Legend, more than a few times). He was also one of the original Twilight Zone’s greatest screenwriters, penned the classic William Shatner-starring episode ‘Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.’ His Twilight Zone episode ‘Steel’ became the basis for Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman.” He also wrote “Little Girl Lost” which was lampooned in a Simpsons Halloween episode and is a part of Disney Theme Parks’ Tower of Terror ride; while in line you come across the doorway her father scrawled in chalk and her voice is heard behind it.

Matheson also wrote three stories which were turned into the made for television movie Trilogy of Terror, which is infamous for its last segment featuring the Zuni Warrior Doll, whose razor teeth terrified a generation. He even wrote a first season episode of the original Star Trek series, “The Enemy Within.” Legendary low budget director/producer Roger Corman came calling in the 1960′s and Matheson wrote three Edgar Allan Poe inspired films: House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Raven. His short story “Button, Button” was made into the film The Box.

“As for how Matheson viewed his work (here is) a quote from a 2007 interview with CinemaSpy:

‘I think we’re yearning for something beyond the every day. And I will tell you I don’t believe in the supernatural, I believe in the supernormal. To me there is nothing that goes against nature. If it seems incomprehensible, it’s only because we haven’t been able to understand it yet.’”

Wikipedia lists that Matheson received the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime in Fiction in 1984 and the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Horror Writers Association in 1991. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2010.

 

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comics Buyers Guide for a few years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” He had to give that up to teach 8th graders English for 19 years, and only recently has been teaching 9th graders English. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars or Indiana Jones items online.

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