Another great writer passes from this world, another force of inspiration steps away from mortality and becomes more. If he hadn’t already.
Richard Matheson, while not the most prolific of writers, has had more impact than most writers who rose to prominence in the 20th Century. Without him and his magnificent novel I Am Legend, we wouldn’t have the sci-fi thriller approach to horror, nor would we have Stephen King or Anne Rice. An A-List of talent has starred in works based on his stories–or written by Matheson directly; this includes people from Vincent Price to Robin Williams, Charlton Heston to William Shatner.
I could go on for a while.
I spent a while with my copy of I Am Legend, since it has more of his short fiction in it as well. I remember annoying my friend Chris on a long car trip by, “introducing him to Mr. Matheson”–which was a coy way to say I kept bopping him in the head with the book. Looking back, doing that wasn’t fair to Richard Matheson or to Chris. The tales Matheson laid out were always intriguing, mixing the everyman with the hero, showing us what we can be capable of in the darkest of situations.
Another of Matheson’s novels, What Dreams May Come, inspired one of the most fascinating movies I’ve ever seen that involves the afterlife. I hope Matheson finds himself in that sort of place now, a realm of color, joy, and absolute wonder.
From myths and legends to tales of tempered terror, Matheson did it all. Any writer would be lucky to walk in his footsteps or even follow part of the path Matheson tread.
I’m sure, if Matheson wanted to, he could look in the mirror and accurately say, “I am legend.”
For those wanting a quick taste of his screenwriting work, here’s a two-minute version of his classic Twilight Zone episode, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”