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Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson

American fiction writer
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American fiction writer
A.K.A. Richard Burton Matheson
Countries United States of America
Occupations Writer Screenwriter Novelist Science fiction writer
Gender male
Birth 20 February 1926 (Allendale, New Jersey, Bergen County, New Jersey, U.S.A.)
Death 23 June 2013 (Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California, U.S.A.)
Star sign Pisces
Family
Children: Richard Christian MathesonAli Marie Matheson
Education University of Missouri
The details
Biography

Richard Burton Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013) was an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He is best known as the author of I Am Legend, a 1954 science fiction horror vampire novel that has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Matheson also wrote 16 television episodes of The Twilight Zone, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" and "Steel". He adapted his 1971 short story "Duel" as a screenplay directed by Steven Spielberg for the television film Duel that year. Seven of his novels and short stories have been adapted as motion pictures: The Shrinking Man, Hell House, What Dreams May Come, Bid Time Return (filmed as Somewhere in Time), A Stir of Echoes, Steel (filmed as Real Steel), and Button, Button. The movie Cold Sweat was based on his novel Riding the Nightmare, and Les seins de glace (Icy Breasts) was based on his novel Someone is Bleeding.

Early life

Matheson was born in Allendale, New Jersey to Norwegian immigrants Bertolf and Fanny Matheson. They divorced when he was 8, and he was raised in Brooklyn, New York by his mother. His early writing influences were the film Dracula, novels by Kenneth Roberts, and a poem which he read in the newspaper Brooklyn Eagle, where he published his first short story at age 8. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and served with the Army in Europe during World War II; this formed the basis for his 1960 novel The Beardless Warriors. He attended the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, earning his BA in 1949, then moved to California.

Career

1950s and 1960s

His first-written novel, Hunger and Thirst, was ignored by publishers for several decades before eventually being published in 2010, but his short story "Born of Man and Woman" was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Summer 1950, the new quarterly's third issue and attracted attention. 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. His first anthology of work was published in 1954. 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 Sorcerers in the 1950s and 1960s, which included Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, William F. Nolan, Jerry Sohl, and others.

Several of his stories, including "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 20 or 30 pages. Some tales, such as "The Doll that Does Everything" (1954) and "The Funeral" (1955) incorporate satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and are written in an 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 "Mad 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 1971 TV movie of the same name.

Matheson's first novel to be published, Someone Is Bleeding, appeared from Lion Books in 1953. 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.

His other 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 in 1964, The Omega Man in 1971 and I Am Legend in 2007).

Matheson wrote screenplays for several television programs including the Westerns Cheyenne, Have Gun – Will Travel, and Lawman. He is most closely associated with the American TV series The Twilight Zone, for which he wrote more than a dozen episodes, including "Steel" (1963), "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1963), "Little Girl Lost" (1962), and "Death Ship" (1963). For all of his Twilight Zone scripts, Matheson wrote the introductory and closing statements spoken by creator Rod Serling. He adapted five works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman's Poe series, including House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), and The Raven (1963).

He wrote the Star Trek episode "The Enemy Within" (1966).

For Hammer Film Productions he wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (1965; US title: Die! Die! My Darling!) based on the novel Nightmare by Anne Blaisdell, starring Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers; he also adapted for Hammer Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out (1968).

1970s and 1980s

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 and directed by Dan Curtis (the other was The Night Strangler, which preceded the TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker). Matheson worked extensively with Curtis; the 1977 television movie Dead of Night features three stories written for the screen by Matheson — "Second Chance" (based on the story by Jack Finney); "No Such Thing as a Vampire" (based on Matheson's story of the same name); and "Bobby", an original script written for this omnibus movie by Matheson. "Bobby" was later refilmed with different actors as the second segment of Trilogy of Terror II.

Three of his short stories were filmed together as Trilogy of Terror (1975), including "Prey" (initially published in the April 1969 issue of Playboy magazine) with its famous Zuni warrior fetish doll. The Zuni fetish doll reappeared in the final segment of the belated sequel to the first movie, Trilogy of Terror II.

Other Matheson novels turned into notable films in the seventies include Bid Time Return (as Somewhere in Time), and Hell House (as The Legend of Hell House), both adapted and scripted by Matheson himself.

In the 1980s Matheson published the novel Earthbound, wrote several screenplays for the TV series Amazing Stories, and continued to publish short fiction.

1990s

Matheson published four western novels in this decade, plus the suspense novel Seven Steps to Midnight (1993) and the blackly comic locked-room mystery novel, Now You See It ..., aptly dedicated to Robert Bloch (1995).

He also wrote several movies—the offbeat comedy and box-office flop Loose Cannons, the biopic The Dreamer of Oz (about L. Frank Baum), a segment of Rod Serling's Lost Classics, and segments of Trilogy of Terror II. Short stories continued to flow from his pen, and he saw the adaptations by other hands of two more of his novels for the big screen—What Dreams May Come and A Stir of Echoes (as Stir of Echoes). In 1999, Matheson published a non-fiction work The Path, inspired by his interest in psychic phenomena.

21st century

Many previously unpublished novels by Matheson appeared late in his career, as did various collections of his work and previously unpublished screenplays. He also wrote new works, such as the suspense novel Hunted Past Reason (2002). and the children's illustrated fantasy Abu and the Seven Marvels.

Sources of inspiration

Matheson cited specific inspirations for many of his works. Duel was 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 assassination of John F. Kennedy.

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."

Personal life

In 1952, Matheson married Ruth Ann Woodson, whom he met in California. They had four children. Bettina Mayberry, Richard Christian Matheson, Chris Matheson and Ali Matheson.

Richard Christian, Chris and Ali became writers of fiction and screenplays.

Matheson died on June 23, 2013 at his home in Los Angeles, California, aged 87.

Awards

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.

Matheson died just days before he was due to receive the Visionary award at the 39th Saturn Awards ceremony. As a tribute, the ceremony was dedicated to him and the award was presented posthumously. Academy President Robert Holguin said "Richard's accomplishments will live on forever in the imaginations of everyone who read or saw his inspired and inimitable work."

The tribute anthology He is Legend was published by Gauntlet Press in 2009.

Influence

Other writers

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

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 fiction.

Directors

After his death, several figures offered tributes to his life and work. Director Steven Spielberg said:

Another frequent collaborator, Roger Corman said:

On Twitter, director Edgar Wright wrote "If it's true that the great Richard Matheson has passed away, 140 characters can't begin to cover what he has given the sci fi & horror genre." Director Richard Kelly added "I loved Richard Matheson's writing and it was a huge honor getting to adapt his story 'Button, Button' into a film. RIP."

Works

Novels

  • Someone Is Bleeding (1953) filmed as Icy Breasts
  • Fury on Sunday (1953)
  • I Am Legend (1954) filmed as The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, I Am Omega and I Am Legend
  • The Shrinking Man (1956); filmed as The Incredible Shrinking Man and subsequently reprinted under that title; also the basis of the film The Incredible Shrinking Woman
  • A Stir of Echoes (1958); filmed as Stir of Echoes
  • Ride the Nightmare (1959); adapted as an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and later filmed as Cold Sweat (1970 film)
  • The Beardless Warriors (1960); filmed as The Young Warriors
  • The Comedy of Terrors (1964), with Elsie Lee; filmed as The Comedy of Terrors
  • Hell House (1971); filmed as The Legend of Hell House
  • Bid Time Return (1975); filmed as Somewhere in Time and subsequently reprinted under that title
  • What Dreams May Come (1978); filmed as What Dreams May Come
  • Earthbound (Playboy Publications, 1982), as by Logan Swanson – editorially abridged version; restored text published as by Richard Matheson, UK: Robinson Books, 1989
  • Journal of the Gun Years (1992)
  • The Gunfight (1993)
  • 7 Steps to Midnight (1993)
  • Shadow on the Sun (1994)
  • Now You See It ... (1995)
  • The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickock (1996)
  • Passion Play (2000)
  • Hunger and Thirst (2000)
  • Camp Pleasant (2001)
  • Abu and the Seven Marvels (2002)
  • Hunted Past Reason (2002)
  • Come Fygures, Come Shadowes (2003)
  • Woman (2006)
  • Other Kingdoms (2011)
  • Generations (2012)

Short stories

  • "Born of Man and Woman" (1950)
  • "Third from the Sun" (1950); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1960)
  • "The Waker Dreams" (a.k.a. "When the Waker Sleeps") (1950)
  • "Blood Son" (1951)
  • "Through Channels" (1951)
  • "Clothes Make the Man" (1951)
  • "Return" (1951)
  • "The Thing" (1951)
  • "Witch War" (1951)
  • "Dress of White Silk" (1951)
  • "F---" (a.k.a. "The Foodlegger") (1952)
  • "Shipshape Home" (1952)
  • "SRL Ad" (1952)
  • "Advance Notice" (a.k.a. "Letter to the Editor") (1952)
  • "Lover, When You're Near Me" (1952)
  • "Brother to the Machine" (1952)
  • "To Fit the Crime" (1952)
  • "The Wedding" (1953)
  • "Wet Straw" (1953)
  • "Long Distance Call" (a.k.a. "Sorry, Right Number") (1953)
  • "Slaughter House" (1953)
  • "Mad House" (1953)
  • "The Last Day" (1953)
  • "Lazarus II" (1953)
  • "Legion of Plotters" (1953)
  • "Death Ship" (1953); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1963)
  • "Disappearing Act" (1953); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1959)
  • "The Disinheritors" (1953)
  • "Dying Room Only" (1953)
  • "Full Circle" (1953)
  • "Mother by Protest" (a.k.a. "Trespass") (1953)
  • "Little Girl Lost" (1953); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1962)
  • "Being" (1954)
  • "The Curious Child" (1954)
  • "When Day Is Dun" (1954)
  • "Dance of the Dead" (1954); adapted as a Masters of Horror episode (2005)
  • "The Man Who Made the World" (1954)
  • "The Traveller" (1954)
  • "The Test" (1954)
  • "The Conqueror" (1954)
  • "Dear Diary" (1954)
  • "The Doll That Does Everything" (1954)
  • "Descent" (1954)
  • "Miss Stardust" (1955)
  • "The Funeral" (1955); adapted as story segment for Rod Serling's Night Gallery
  • "Too Proud to Lose" (1955)
  • "One for the Books" (1955)
  • "Pattern for Survival" (1955)
  • "A Flourish of Strumpets" (1956)
  • "The Splendid Source" (1956); the basis of the Family Guy episode "The Splendid Source".
  • "Steel" (1956); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1963); loosely filmed as Real Steel (2011)
  • "The Children of Noah" (1957)
  • "A Visit to Santa Claus" (a.k.a. "I'll Make It Look Good," as Logan Swanson) (1957)
  • "The Holiday Man" (1957)
  • "Old Haunts" (1957)
  • "The Distributor" (1958)
  • "The Edge" (1958)
  • "Lemmings" (1958)
  • "Now Die in It" (1958)
  • "Mantage" (1959)
  • "Deadline" (1959)
  • "The Creeping Terror" (a.k.a. "A Touch of Grapefruit") (1959)
  • "No Such Thing as a Vampire" (1959)
  • "Big Surprise" (a.k.a. "What Was in the Box") (1959) Adapted as a Night Gallery short
  • "Crickets" (1960)
  • "Day of Reckoning" (a.k.a. "The Faces," "Graveyard Shift") (1960)
  • "First Anniversary" (1960); adapted as an Outer Limits episode (1996)
  • "From Shadowed Places" (1960)
  • "Finger Prints" (1962)
  • "Mute" (1962); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1963)
  • "The Likeness of Julie" (as Logan Swanson) (1962); adapted into "Julie" in the 1975 TV film Trilogy of Terror
  • "The Jazz Machine" (1963)
  • "Crescendo" (a.k.a. "Shock Wave") (1963)
  • "Girl of My Dreams" (1963); adapted by Robert Bloch and Michael J. Bird as an episode of the 1968 Hammer TV series Journey to the Unknown
  • "'Tis the Season to Be Jelly" (1963)
  • "Deus Ex Machina" (1963)
  • "Interest" (1965)
  • "A Drink of Water" (1967)
  • "Needle in the Heart" (a.k.a. "Therese") (1969); adapted into "Millicent and Therese" in the 1975 TV film Trilogy of Terror
  • "Prey" (1969); adapted into "Ameilia" in the 1975 TV film Trilogy of Terror
  • "Button, Button" (1970); filmed as a The Twilight Zone episode in 1986; filmed as The Box (2009)
  • "'Til Death Do Us Part" (1970)
  • "By Appointment Only" (1970)
  • "The Finishing Touches" (1970)
  • "Duel" (1971); filmed as Duel (1971)
  • "Big Surprise" (1971); adapted as story segment for Rod Serling's Night Gallery
  • "Leo Rising" (1972)
  • "Where There's a Will" (with Richard Christian Matheson) (1980)
  • "And Now I'm Waiting" (1983)
  • "Blunder Buss" (1984)
  • "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (as The Twilight Zone episode in 1963; as segment four of Twilight Zone: The Movie, 1983; first published in 1984)
  • "Getting Together" (1986)
  • "Buried Talents" (1987)
  • "The Near Departed" (1987)
  • "Shoo Fly" (1988)
  • "Person to Person" (1989)
  • "CU: Mannix" (1991)
  • "Two O'Clock Session" (1991)
  • "The Doll" (as Amazing Stories in 1986)
  • "Go West, Young Man" (1993)
  • "Gunsight" (1993)
  • "Little Jack Cornered" (1993)
  • "Of Death and Thirty Minutes" (1993)
  • "Always Before Your Voice" (1999)
  • "Relics" (1999)
  • "And in Sorrow" (2000)
  • "The Prisoner" (2001)
  • "Purge Among Peanuts" (2001)
  • "He Wanted to Live" (2002)
  • "The Last Blah in the Etc." (a.k.a. "All and Only Silence") (2002)
  • "Life Size" (2002)
  • "Maybe You Remember Him" (2002)
  • "Mirror, Mirror..." (2002)
  • "Phone Call From Across The Street" (2002)
  • "Professor Fritz and the Runaway House" (2002)
  • "That Was Yesterday" (2002)
  • "Man With a Club" (2003)
  • "Haircut" (2006)
  • "Life Size" (2008)
  • "An Element Never Forgets" (2010)
  • "Backteria" (2011)

Short story collections

  • Born of Man and Woman (1954)
  • The Shores of Space (1957)
  • Shock! (1961)
  • Shock 2 (1964)
  • Shock 3 (1966)
  • Shock Waves (1970) Published as Shock 4 in the UK (1980)
  • Button, Button (1970) basis for the movie, "The Box" (2009)
  • Richard Matheson: Collected Stories (1989)
  • By the Gun (1993)
  • Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (2000)
  • Pride with Richard Christian Matheson (2002)
  • Duel (2002)
  • Offbeat: Uncollected Stories (2002)
  • Darker Places (2004)
  • Unrealized Dreams (2004)
  • Duel and The Distributor (2005) Previously unpublished screenplays of these two stories
  • Button, Button: Uncanny Stories (2008) (Tor Books)
  • Uncollected Matheson: Volume 1 (2008)
  • Uncollected Matheson: Volume 2 (2010)
  • Steel: And Other Stories (2011)
  • Bakteria and Other Improbable Tales (2011) (e-book exclusive)
  • The Best of Richard Matheson (2017) (Penguin Classics)

Films (for TV movies see Television below)

  • The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
  • The Beat Generation (1959)
  • House of Usher (1960)
  • Master of the World (1961)
  • The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
  • Burn Witch Burn (1962); a.k.a. Night of the Eagle (screenplay co-written with Charles Beaumont and George Baxt) based on the novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber
  • Tales of Terror (1962)
  • The Raven (1963)
  • The Comedy of Terrors (1963)
  • The Last Man on Earth (as "Logan Swanson", based on Matheson's novel I Am Legend) (1964)
  • Fanatic (1965)
  • The Young Warriors (based on Matheson's novel The Beardless Warriors) (1967)
  • The Devil Rides Out (based on the novel by Dennis Wheatley) (1968)
  • De Sade (1969)
  • Cold Sweat (based on Matheson's novel Ride the Nightmare) (1970)
  • The Omega Man (based on Matheson's novel I Am Legend) (1971)
  • The Legend of Hell House (based on Matheson's novel Hell House) (1973)
  • Icy Breasts (based on his novel Someone Is Bleeding) (1974)
  • Somewhere in Time (based on his novel Bid Time Return) (1980)
  • Twilight Zone: The Movie: Fourth segment "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1983)
  • Jaws 3-D (1983)
  • Loose Cannons (1990)
  • What Dreams May Come (based on Matheson's novel) (1998)
  • Stir of Echoes (1999)
  • I Am Legend (based on Matheson's novel) (2007)
  • The Box (2009)
  • Real Steel (2011)

Television

  • Buckskin: "Act of Faith" (1959)
  • Wanted Dead or Alive :"The Healing Woman" (1959)
  • Twilight Zone: (16 episodes) (1959–1964)
  • Have Gun Will Travel: "The Lady on The Wall" (1960)
  • Bourbon Street Beat: "Target of Hate" (1960)
  • Cheyenne: "Home Is The Brave" (1960)
  • Lawman (Six episodes) (1960–1962)
  • Thriller: "The Return of Andrew Bentley" (1961)
  • Combat!: "Forgotten Front" (as Logan Swanson) (1962)
  • The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "Ride the Nightmare" (1962)
  • The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "The Thirty-First of February" (1963)
  • The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.: "The Atlantis Affair" (1966)
  • Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theater : "Time of Flight" (1966)
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: "The Enemy Within" (1966)
  • Duel (1971)
  • The Night Stalker (1972)
  • Night Gallery (1972): " The Funeral" (1972)
  • The Night Strangler (1973)
  • Dying Room Only (1973)
  • Circle of Fear (originally titled Ghost Story (1973))
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula (1974)
  • Scream of the Wolf (1974)
  • The Morning After (1974)
  • Trilogy of Terror (1975) TV omnibus movie directed by Dan Curtis.
  • Dead of Night (1977). TV omnibus movie directed by Dan Curtis.
  • The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver (1977)
  • The Martian Chronicles mini-series (1979, 1980)
  • Twilight Zone: "Button, Button" (as Logan Swanson) (1986)
  • Amazing Stories: "The Doll" (1986)
  • Amazing Stories: "One for the Books" (1987)
  • Dreamer of Oz (1990). About L. Frank Baum.
  • Rod Serling's Lost Classics (1994)
  • Trilogy of Terror II (1996) TV omnibus movie directed by Dan Curtis.

Nonfiction

  • The Path: Metaphysics for the 90s (1993)
  • The Path: A New Look at Reality (1999)

Further reading

  • California Sorcery, edited by William F. Nolan and William Schafer
  • Jad Hatem, Charité de l'infinitésimal, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2007
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References
http://blogs.amctv.com/scifiscanner/2007/12/scifi-dept-i-am.html
http://www.biography.com/people/richard-matheson-21265767
http://www.bloody-disgusting.com/news/17958
http://www.hitfix.com/in-contention/39th-annual-saturn-awards-to-be-dedicated-to-the-memory-of-author-richard-matheson
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/moviesnow/la-et-mn-i-am-legend-writer-richard-matheson-scifi-20130624,0,1934802.story
http://www.latimes.com/features/books/jacketcopy/la-et-jc-author-richard-matheson-has-died-20130624,0,2361027.story
http://www.locusmag.com/News/2013/06/richard-matheson-1926-2013/
http://www.locusmag.com/SFAwards/Db/NomLit86.html#3402
http://www.rodserling.com
http://www.rodserling.com/csorcerers.htm
http://news.sky.com/story/1107720/richard-matheson-sci-fi-author-dies-aged-87
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