Richard Matheson, who died June 23 at age 87, was one of the giants among science fiction and horror writers. He wrote for both Star Trek (“The Enemy Within” and Twilight Zone (as well as various other TV series); and many of this novels have been adapted to films.
Matheson was born Feb. 20, 1926 and sold his first short story, “Born of Man and Woman”, in 1950. He wrote the screenplay for the 1957 film The Incredible Shrinking Man (which I first saw at summer camp the year I turned 12 and which remains one of my favorite films), based on his 1956 novel, The Shrinking Man.
He also wrote the screenplays for the 1973 Roddy McDowall film Legend of Hell House (based on his 1971 novel Hell House); and the 1980 film Somewhere in Time (based on his 1974 novel Bid Time Return), starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, and which was filmed on Mackinac Island.
Matheson’s 1977 novel What Dreams May Come was made into a 1998 movie starring Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Matheson’s 1954 novel I am Legend has been filmed three times: as Last Man on Earth (1964), starring Vincent Price; The Omega Man (1971), starring Charlton Heston; and I Am Legend (2007), starring Will Smith.
His 1958 novel A Stir of Echoes was filmed in 1999, starring Kevin Bacon.
For The Twilight Zone, Matheson wrote 16 episodes, including “Steel”, based on his 1956 short story of the same name. That story was also the basis of the 2011 film Real Steel, which was filmed in Detroit.
Other Twilight Zone episodes he wrote include “Death Ship”, “Long Distance Call” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, all of which are among his stories included in the anthology Twilight Zone The Original Stories.
His 1956 short story “The Splendid Source” was the basis of the 2010 Family Guy episode of the same name.
Matheson’s 1971 short story “Duel” was filmed that same year as a TV movie starring Dennis Weaver and directed by a young Steven Spielberg.
Matheson’s 1970 story “Button, Button” was filmed under that title as an episode of the 1980s revival of The Twilight Zone and also as the 2009 film The Box.
Blastr.com reports that as a tribute to Matheson, his Twilight Zone episodes are streaming free on Hulu. You can find more information here:
Matheson was honored with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984 and a Bram Stoker Lifetime achievement Award in 1991. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010 and was to have received the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films’ Visionary Award at the June 26 presentation of the 39th annual Saturn Awards. The ceremony will now be held in his honor.
Stephen King wrote on his website, Stephenking.com, that Matheson fired his imagination by placing his horrors in American scenes King could relate to.
For myself, not only is The Incredible Shrinking Man one of my favorite movies, but Matheson’s contributions to both The Twilight Zone and Star Trek are among my favorite episodes of both series.
And I Am Legend remains a great read.
Richard Matheson’s influence will be felt for decades to come.
Copyright 2013 Patrick Keating
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