Richard Matheson, celebrated novelist and scriptwriter, passed away earlier this week at the age of 87 in Los Angeles. At this time, no confirmed information is available as to how or why he died. He is survived by his wife and four children (three of whom are authors, as well). He was scheduled to receive the Visionary Award from the Academy of Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Films this Wednesday. The 39th annual Saturn Awards ceremony will be dedicated to him and he will receive the award posthumously.
Best known as an author, Matheson wrote stories that inspired artists from all walks of life. His best known novel, I Am Legend, has been adapted for film three credited times and has been an obvious influence for quite a few others. And while that is always the first book that leaps to mind, there are many others that have also been given life on the silver screen. His book What Dreams May Come is a favorite of mine, both in prose form and the film adaptation from 1998. Other adapted works include A Stir Of Echoes, Hell House and The Shrinking Man. Probably the most interesting adaptation was Duel, directed by a young Steven Spielberg, that was produced by Universal Studios as a made for TV movie.
So versatile was Matheson’s writing that he was able to produce scripts for the original Star Trek series and the western series Lawman. He penned fourteen episodes for Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone (including the famous Nightmare at 20,000 feet starring William Shatner) and he is even credited with having written the beginning and ending statements spoken by Sterling on each episode. So when I say legendary author, I mean it. He wrote more scripts and stories than I can even begin to cite properly. Amazingly enough, he still found the time to continue to create all original work that has inspired millions. Best selling authors Stephen King and Anne Rice both claim his works as inspiration. Stephen King even went so far as to dedicate his novel Cell to Matheson and George A Romero (who also credits Matheson for inspiring some of his work).
In 1984, Matheson received the World Fantasy Award For Lifetime Achievement. Seven years later in 1991 he received the Bram Stoker Award For Lifetime Achievement from the Horror Writers Association. And just three years ago he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. There were numerous other awards over the decades but those are the ones that stand out the most.
He continued writing even in his final days, demonstrating his love of the written word. When Generations was released last September, no one had any idea this would would be the last book published in his lifetime. Hardworking and dedicated to his craft, Matheson was one of a kind. As he was thought of in life, may he be remembered always: a true literary genius who was beyond compare. I will miss him but will treasure his works forever.