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Richard Matheson

Matheson in 2008
Born Richard Burton Matheson
February 20, 1926 (1926-02-20) (age 84)
Allendale, New Jersey, United States
Pen name Logan Swanson
Occupation Novelist, Short story writer
Nationality American
Period 1950–present
Genres Science fiction, Fantasy, Horror

Richard Burton Matheson (born February 20, 1926) is an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He is perhaps best known as the author of What Dreams May Come, Somewhere In Time and I Am Legend, all three of which have been adapted as major motion pictures.

Contents

Personal life

Matheson was born in Allendale, New Jersey, the son of Norwegian immigrants Fanny (née Mathieson) and Bertolf Matheson, a tile floor installer.[1] 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 in 1952 and has four children, three of whom (Chris, Richard Christian, and Ali Matheson) are writers of fiction and screenplays.

Career

His first short story, "Born of Man and Woman," appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950. The tale of a monstrous child chained in its parents' cellar, it was told in the first person as the creature's diary (in poignantly non-idiomatic English) and immediately made Matheson famous. Between 1950 and 1971, Matheson produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres, making important contributions to the further development of modern horror.

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 "Mad House" (1953), "The Curious Child" (1954) and perhaps most famously, "Duel" (1971) are tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening.

He wrote a number of 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; adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman and Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out for Hammer Films; and scripted Steven Spielberg's first feature, the TV movie Duel, from his own short story. He also contributed a number of scripts to the Warner Brothers western series Lawman between 1958 and 1962. He wrote the Star Trek episode "The Enemy Within", considered one of the best.[citation needed] 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 Talullah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers.

Matheson's first novel, Someone Is Bleeding, was published in 1953. His novels include The Shrinking Man (filmed as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson's own screenplay), and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend, (filmed as The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971), and I Am Legend (2007)). Other Matheson novels turned into notable films include What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes, Bid Time Return (as Somewhere in Time), and Hell House (as The Legend of Hell House) and the aforementioned Duel, the last three 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.

In 1960, Matheson published The Beardless Warriors, a nonfantastic, 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.[2]

Matheson cites 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. 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. Somewhere in Time 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 has 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."[3]

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.

In the August 7, 2009, issue of Entertainment Weekly devoted to vampires, Anne Rice stated that when she was a child, Matheson's short story "A Dress Of White Silk", was a prime early influence on her interest in vampires and fantasy fiction.

Tributes

In books

In Richard Christian Matheson's novel Created By, the hero's father is named Burt, a reference to Matheson senior's middle name.

Richard Christian Matheson re-wrote his father's short story "Dance of the Dead" for the TV series Masters of Horror. It was directed by Tobe Hooper and starred Robert Englund and Ryan McDonald.

In films

Richard's son, Richard Christian Matheson, penned the screenplay for "Battleground" for the first segment of Stephen King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes. He paid homage to his father by including the Zuni fetish doll from the last segment of Trilogy of Terror in a scene.

M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening, about inexplicable mass suicide, has a parallel with Matheson's short story Lemmings, which is also about inexplicable mass suicide.

In television

A character named "Senator Richard Matheson" appeared in several episodes of The X-Files. The series' creator, Chris Carter, was a fan of Matheson's work on two series that influenced The X-Files (The Twilight Zone and Kolchak: The Night Stalker). Also, the TV series adaptation of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids had the Szalinski family relocating to the town of Matheson, Colorado.

In the Babylon 5 TV series, the episode "A Spider in the Web" mentions a ship called the Matheson as one of many requesting permission to leave the station.

The telepath "John Matheson" in Crusade was named in honour of Matheson.

A villain of the week on Burn Notice was named after Matheson.

In games and rides

Matheson St. in the Konami game Silent Hill, was named in his honour.

Homage to Matheson is paid daily by Disney Imagineers who distinctly included the chalk markings (which marked the portal wall from The Twilight Zone episode "Little Girl Lost") in the boiler-room area of the famous Disney thrill-ride "The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror."

Bibliography

Novels

Short stories

  • "Born of Man and Woman" (1950)
  • "Third from the Sun" (1950); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1960)
  • "The Waker Dreams" (AKA "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---" (AKA "The Foodlegger") (1952)
  • "Shipshape Home" (1952)
  • "SRL Ad" (1952)
  • "Advance Notice" (AKA "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" (AKA "Sorry, Right Number") (1953)
  • "Slaughter House" (1953)
  • "Mad House" (1953)
  • "The Last Day" (1953)
  • "Lazarus II" (1953)
  • "Legion of Plotters" (1953)
  • "Death Ship" (1953)
  • "Disappearing Act" (1953)
  • "The Disinheritors" (1953)
  • "Dying Room Only" (1953)
  • "Full Circle" (1953)
  • "Mother by Protest" (AKA "Trespass") (1953)
  • "Little Girl Lost" (1953); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode.
  • "Being" (1954)
  • "The Curious Child" (1954)
  • "When Day Is Dun" (1954)
  • "Dance of the Dead" (1954)
  • "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)
  • "Steel" (1956)
  • "The Children of Noah" (1957)
  • "A Visit to Santa Claus" (AKA "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)
  • "Mantage" (1959)
  • "Deadline" (1959)
  • "The Creeping Terror" (AKA "A Touch of Grapefruit") (1959)
  • "No Such Thing as a Vampire" (1959)
  • "Big Surprise" (AKA "What Was In The Box") (1959)
  • "Crickets" (1960)
  • "Day of Reckoning" (AKA "The Faces," "Graveyard Shift") (1960)
  • "First Anniversary" (1960)
  • "From Shadowed Places" (1960)
  • "Finger Prints" (1962)
  • "Mute" (1962)
  • "The Likeness of Julie" (as Logan Swanson) (1962)
  • "The Jazz Machine" (1963)
  • "Crescendo" (AKA "Shock Wave") (1963)
  • "Girl of My Dreams" (1963)
  • "'Tis the Season to Be Jelly" (1963)
  • "Deus Ex Machina" (1963)
  • "Interest" (1965)
  • "A Drink of Water" (1967)
  • "Needle in the Heart" (AKA "Therese") (1969)
  • "Prey" (1969) (Later adapted to the Zuni Fetish Doll, in the Trilogy of Terror)
  • "Button, Button" (1970); (as 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
  • "Where There's a Will" (with Richard Christian Matheson) (1980)
  • "And Now I'm Waiting" (1983)
  • "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)
  • "Two O'Clock Session" (1991)
  • "The Doll" (as Twilight Zone episode in 1982, published as story in 1993)
  • "Go West, Young Man" (1993)
  • "Gunsight" (1993)
  • "Little Jack Cornered" (1993)
  • "Of Death and Thirty Minutes" (1993)

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) adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1986), filmed as 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)
  • Button, Button: Uncanny Stories (2008) (Tor Books)

Television

  • Star Trek: The Original Series: "The Enemy Within" (1966)
  • The Martian Chronicles Mini-Series: (1979, 1980)

Nonfiction

  • The Path: Metaphysics for the 90s (1993)

Additional reading

References

  1. ^ http://www.filmreference.com/film/63/Richard-Matheson.html
  2. ^ What Screams May Come: A Look at the Legendary Richard Matheson
  3. ^ Roger Ebert. Roger Ebert's Movie Home Companion, 1990 Edition. Andrews and McMeel, 1990, p. 419.

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Richard Burton Matheson (born 20 February 1926) is an American author and screenwriter, typically of fantasy, horror, or science fiction.

See also:

Somewhere in Time (1978 film based on his 1975 novel Bid Time Return)
What Dreams May Come (1998 film based on his 1978 novel)
The Last Man on Earth (1964 film based on his 1954 novel I Am Legend)
The Omega Man (1971 film based on his 1954 novel I Am Legend)
I Am Legend (2007 film based on his 1954 novel)

Contents

Sourced

  • You never know, he thought. You just never know. You drift along, year after year, presuming certain values to be fixed; like being able to drive on a public thoroughfare without somebody trying to murder you. You came to depend on that sort of thing. Then something occurs and all bets are off. One shocking incident and all the years of logic and acceptance are displaced and, suddenly, the jungle is in front of you again. Man, part animal, part angel. Where had he come across that phrase? He shivered.
    It was entirely an animal in that truck out there.
    • "Duel" (1971), a short story, which he later adapted into a screenplay for Duel (1971), Steven Spielberg's first feature-length film.
  • Somewhere In Time is the story of a love which transcends time, What Dreams May Come is the story of a love which transcends death. ... I feel that they represent the best writing I have done in the novel form.
    • Introduction to an Omnibus edition of his work, as quoted in Somewhere in Time (1998), p. 318 - 319
  • It is my conviction that basic Reality is not all that perplexing. What seems difficult to assimilate are the manifold details of Reality, not its fundamental elements.
    • Introduction to The Path (1999), p. 11
  • Our world is in profound danger. Mankind must establish a set of positive values with which to secure its own survival.
    This quest for enlightenment must begin now.
    It is essential that all men and women become aware of what they are, why they are here on Earth and what they must do to preserve civilization before it is too late.
    • Introduction to The Path (1999), p. 12
  • I hate it when something I’ve had published "inspires" some nut to imitate what I’ve written, or some teacher gets fired for having her students read one of my stories or novels.
  • I hope people are reading my work in the future. I hope I have done more than frightened a couple of generations. I hope I’ve inspired a few people one way or another.
    Actually, the highlight of my life — which, of course, had an enormous influence on my writing career — was meeting Ruth Woodson on the beach in Santa Monica in 1951, falling in love with her, marrying her, and creating with her a family of four children; two sons, two daughters. My love for them, and growth because of them, made my writing life what it was. It’s a process I advocate for any would-be writer.
  • I think we’re yearning for something beyond the every day. And I will tell you that 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 because we haven’t been able to understand it yet.
    • When asked, "In your estimation, what does the supernatural genre tell us about ourselves as human beings?"
    • "He Is Legend" (interview, 2007)

"Born of Man and Woman" (1950)

  • This day when it had light mother called me a retch. You retch she said. I saw in her eyes the anger. I wonder what it is a retch.
  • It is a secret but I have pulled the chain out of the wall. I can see out the little window all I like.
  • I thought what father said. Oh god he said. And only eight.
  • This day father hit in the chain again before it had light. I have to try to pull it out again. He said I was bad to come upstairs. He said never do that again or he would beat me hard. That hurts.
  • I am not so glad. All day it is cold in here. The chain comes slow out of the wall. And I have a bad anger with mother and father. I will show them. I will do what I did that once.
    I will screech and laugh loud. I will run on the walls. Last I will hang head down by all my legs and laugh and drip green all over until they are sorry they didn't be nice to me.
    If they try to beat me again I'll hurt them. I will.

I Am Legend (1954)

  • They were strange, the facts about them: their staying inside by day, their avoidance of garlic, their death by stake, their reputed fear of crosses, their supposed dread of mirrors.
    Take that last, now. According to legend, they were invisible in mirrors, but he knew that was untrue. As untrue as the belief that they transformed themselves into bats. That was a superstition that logic, plus observation had easily disposed of. ‘It was equally foolish to believe that they could transform themselves into wolves. Without a doubt there were vampire dogs; he had seen and heard them outside his house at night. But they were only dogs.
    • Ch. 2
  • Something black and of the night had come crawling out of the Middle Ages. Something with no framework or credulity, something that had been consigned, fact and figure, to the pages of imaginative literature. Vampires were passé; Summers’ idylls or Stoker’s melodramatics or a brief inclusion in the Britannica or grist for the pulp writer’s mill or raw material for the B-film factories. A tenuous legend passed from century to century.
    Well, it was true.
    • Ch. 3
  • True, he thought, but no one ever got the chance to know it. Oh, they knew it was something, but it couldn’t be that — not that. That was imagination, that was superstition, there was no such thing as that.
    And, before science had caught up with the legend, the legend had swallowed science and everything.
    • Ch. 3
  • The world’s gone mad, he thought. The dead walk about and I think nothing of it.
    The return of corpses has become trivial in import. How quickly one accepts the incredible if only one sees it.
    • Ch. 8
  • Despite everything he had or might have (except, of course, another human being), life gave no promise of improvement or even of change. The way things shaped up, he would live out his life with no more than he already had. And how many years was that? Thirty, maybe forty if he didn’t drink himself to death.
    The thought of forty more years of living as he was made him shudder.
    • Ch. 12
  • To his complete astonishment, he later found himself offering up a stumbling prayer that the dog would be protected. It was a moment in which he felt a desperate need to believe in a God that shepherded his own creations. But, even praying, he felt a twinge of self-reproach, and knew he might start mocking his own prayer at any second.
    Somehow, though, he managed to ignore his iconoclastic self and went on praying anyway. Because he wanted the dog, because he needed the dog.
    • Ch. 12
  • Sometimes he had indulged in daydreams about finding someone. More often, though, he had tried to adjust to what he sincerely believed was the inevitable — that he was actually the only one left in the world. At least in as much of the world as he could ever hope to know.
    • Ch. 13
  • A woman. Alive. In the daylight.
    He stood, mouth partly open, gaping at the woman. She was young, he could see now as she came closer; probably in her twenties. She wore a wrinkled and dirty white dress. She was very tan, her hair was red. In the dead silence of the afternoon Neville thought he heard the crunch of her shoes in the long grass.
    I’ve gone mad. The words presented themselves abruptly. He felt less shock at that possibility than he did at the notion that she was real. He had, in fact, been vaguely preparing himself for just such a delusion. It seemed feasible. The man who died of thirst saw mirages of lakes. Why shouldn’t a man who thirsted for companionship see a woman walking in the sun?
    • Ch. 15
  • All these years, he thought, dreaming about a companion. Now I meet one and the first thing I do is distrust her, treat her crudely and impatiently.
    And yet there was really nothing else he could do. He had accepted too long the proposition that he was the only normal person left. It didn’t matter that she looked normal. He’d seen too many of them lying in their coma that looked as healthy as she. They weren’t, though, and he knew it. The simple fact that she had been walking in the sunlight wasn’t enough to tip the scales on the side of trusting acceptance. He had doubted too long. His concept of the society had become ironbound. It was almost impossible for him to believe that there were others like him. And, after the first shock had diminished, all the dogma of his long years alone had asserted itself.
    • Ch. 16
  • His sex drive had diminished, had virtually disappeared. Salvation of the monk, he thought. The drive had to go sooner or later, or no normal man could dedicate himself to any life that excluded sex.
    Now, happily, he felt almost nothing; perhaps a hardly discernible stirring far beneath the rocky strata of abstinence. He was content to leave it at that. Especially since there was no certainty that Ruth was the companion he had waited for. Or even the certainty that he could allow her to live beyond tomorrow. Cure her?
    Curing was unlikely.
    • Ch. 17
  • I’m writing this note, though, because I want to save you if I can.
    When I was first given the job of spying on you, I had no feelings about your life. Because I did have a husband, Robert. You killed him.
    But now it’s different. I know now that you were just as much forced into your situation as we were forced into ours. We are infected. But you already know that. What you don’t understand yet is that we’re going to stay alive. We’ve found a way to do that and we’re going to set up society again slowly but surely. We’re going to do away with all those wretched creatures whom death has cheated. And, even though I pray otherwise, we may decide to kill you and those like you.
    • Ruth in her letter to Robert
    • Ch. 19
  • Robert Neville looked out over the new people of the earth. He knew he did not belong to them; he knew that, like the vampires, he was anathema and black terror to be destroyed. And, abruptly, the concept came, amusing to him even in his pain. ... Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever.
    I am legend.
    • Ch. 21

Quotes about Matheson

  • Matheson gets closer to his characters than anyone else in the field of fantasy today. ... You don’t read a Matheson story — you experience it.

External links

Wikipedia
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