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Richard Matheson ~ 20 February 1926 - 23 June 2013
Posted by: cathexis (IP Logged)
Date: 27 June, 2013 10:12PM
This was such a loss,...

Richard Matheson ~ 20 February 1926 - 23 June 2013


Biography: Richard Burton Matheson was an American author and screenwriter,
primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He may be known
best as the author of 'I Am Legend', a 1954 horror novel that has been adapted
for the screen three times, although five more of his novels have been adapted
as major motion pictures: 'The Shrinking Man', 'Hell House', 'What Dreams May
Come', 'Bid Time Return' (filmed as 'Somewhere in Time'), and 'A Stir of
Echoes'. Matheson also wrote numerous television episodes of 'The Twilight
Zone' for Rod Serling, including 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet' and 'Steel'. He
later adapted his 1971 short story 'Duel' as a screenplay which was promptly
directed by a young Steven Spielberg, for the TV movie of the same name.

Matheson was born in Allendale, New Jersey, the son of Norwegian immigrants
Fanny (née Mathieson) and Bertolf Matheson, a tile floor installer. Matheson
was raised in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in
1943. He then entered the military and spent World War II as an infantry
soldier. In 1949 he earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the
University of Missouri and moved to California in 1951. He married Ruth Ann
Woodson on 01 July 1952 and had four children, three of whom (Chris, Richard
Christian, and Ali Matheson) became writers of fiction and screenplays.

Matheson's first published short story was 'Born of Man and Woman' in The
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Summer 1950, the new quarterly's
third issue. It is the tale of a monstrous child chained by its parents in
the cellar, cast as the creature's diary in poignantly non-idiomatic English.
Later that year he placed stories in the first and third numbers of Galaxy
Science Fiction, a new monthly. Between 1950 and 1971, he produced dozens of
stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror, and
fantasy genres. He was a member of the Southern California School of Writers
in the 1950s-1960s, which included Charles Beaumont, William F Nolan, Ray
Bradbury, Jerry Sohl, George Clayton Johnson, and others. Matheson appears in
two documentaries related to this era: Jason V Brock's Charles Beaumont: The
Life of Twilight Zone's Magic Man, and The AckerMonster Chronicles!, which
details the life of agent and editor Forrest J Ackerman.

Several of his stories, like 'Third from the Sun' (1950), 'Deadline' (1959)
and 'Button, Button' (1970) are simple sketches with twist endings; others,
like 'Trespass' (1953), 'Being' (1954) and 'Mute' (1962) explore their
characters' dilemmas over twenty or thirty pages. Some tales, such as 'The
Funeral' (1955) and 'The Doll that Does Everything' (1954) incorporate zany
satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and are written in an
hysterically overblown prose very different from Matheson's usual pared-down
style. Others, like 'The Test' (1954) and 'Steel' (1956), portray the moral
and physical struggles of ordinary people, rather than the then nearly
ubiquitous scientists and superheroes, in situations which are at once
futuristic and everyday. Still others, such as 'Hell House' (1953), 'The
Curious Child' (1954) and perhaps most of all, 'Duel' (1971) are tales of
paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes
inexplicably alien or threatening. 'Duel' was adapted into the TV movie
of the same name.

He wrote 14 episodes for the American TV series 'The Twilight Zone', including
'Steel' (mentioned above), and the famous 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet', plus
'Little Girl Lost', a story about a young girl tumbling into the fourth
dimension. On all of Matheson's scripts for 'The Twilight Zone', he also wrote
the introductory and closing statements spoken by creator Rod Serling. He also
contributed a number of scripts to the Warner Bros western series 'Lawman'
between 1958 and 1962. He adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe for the Roger
Corman's Poe series including 'House of Usher' (1960), 'The Pit and the
Pendulum' (1961) and 'The Raven' (1963).

He wrote the popular Star Trek episode 'The Enemy Within'. For Hammer Films he
adapted Dennis Wheatley's 'The Devil Rides Out' (1968). In 1973, Matheson
earned an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his teleplay
for 'The Night Stalker', one of two TV movies written by Matheson that
preceded the series 'Kolchak: The Night Stalker'. Matheson also wrote the
screenplay for 'Fanatic' (US title: 'Die! Die! My Darling!'), starring
Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers.

Matheson's first novel, 'Someone Is Bleeding', was published by Lion Books in
1953. His early novels include 'The Shrinking Man' (1956, filmed in 1957 as
'The Incredible Shrinking Man', again from Matheson's own screenplay) and a
science fiction vampire novel, 'I Am Legend', (1954, filmed as 'The Last Man
on Earth' (1964) and 'The Omega Man' (1971), and 'I Am Legend' (2007). Other
Matheson novels turned into notable films include 'What Dreams May Come',
'A Stir of Echoes', 'Bid Time Return' (as 'Somewhere in Time'), and 'Hell
House' (as 'The Legend of Hell House'), the last two adapted and scripted
by Matheson himself. Three of his short stories were filmed together as
'Trilogy of Terror' (1975), including 'Prey' (initially published in the
April 1969 edition of Playboy magazine) with its famous Zuni warrior doll.
Matheson's short story 'Button, Button' was filmed as 'The Box' (2009) and
was previously adapted for a 1986 episode of The Twilight Zone.

In 1960, Matheson published 'The Beardless Warriors', a non-fantastic,
autobiographical novel about teenage American soldiers in World War II.
It was filmed in 1967 as 'The Young Warriors' though most of Matheson's
plot was jettisoned. During the 1950s he published a handful of Western
stories (later collected in By the Gun), and during the 1990s he published
Western novels such as 'Journal of the Gun Years', 'The Gunfight', 'The
Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok' and 'Shadow on the Sun'. He has also written
a blackly comic locked-room mystery novel, 'Now You See It...', aptly
dedicated to Robert Bloch, and the suspense novels '7 Steps to Midnight'
and 'Hunted Past Reason'.

Matheson cited specific inspirations for many of his works. 'Duel' derived
from an incident in which he and a friend, Jerry Sohl, were dangerously
tailgated by a large truck on the same day as the Kennedy assassination.
(However, there are similarities with William M Robson's script of the
15 July 1962 episode of the radio drama, 'Suspense', 'Snow on 66'.) A scene
from the 1953 movie 'Let's Do It Again' in which Aldo Ray and Ray Milland
put on each other's hats, one of which is far too big for the other,
sparked the thought "what if someone put on his own hat and that happened,"
which became 'The Shrinking Man'. 'Bid Time Return' began when Matheson saw
a movie poster featuring a beautiful picture of Maude Adams and wondered what
would happen if someone fell in love with such an old picture. In the
introduction to 'Noir: 3 Novels of Suspense' (1997), which collects three
of his early books, Matheson said that the first chapter of his suspense
novel 'Someone is Bleeding' (1953) describes exactly his meeting with his
wife Ruth, and that in the case of 'What Dreams May Come', "the whole novel
is filled with scenes from our past."

According to film critic Roger Ebert, Matheson's scientific approach to the
supernatural in 'I Am Legend' and other novels from the 1950s and early 1960s
"anticipated pseudorealistic fantasy novels like 'Rosemary's Baby' and
'The Exorcist'."

Matheson received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement 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.

At the annual World Fantasy Conventions he won two judged, annual literary
awards for particular works: World Fantasy Awards for 'Bid Time Return' as
the best novel of 1975 and 'Richard Matheson: Collected Stories' as the best
collection of 1989.

Stephen King has listed Matheson as a creative influence and his novel 'Cell'
is dedicated to Matheson, along with filmmaker George A Romero. Romero has
frequently acknowledged Matheson as an inspiration and listed the shambling
vampire creatures that appear in the first film version of 'I Am Legend' as
the inspiration for the zombie 'ghouls' he envisioned in 'Night of the Living

Anne Rice stated that when she was a child, Matheson's short story 'A Dress
of White Silk' was an early influence on her interest in vampires and fantasy

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