Saturday, June 29, 2013

Richard Matheson (1926-2013)

Author, Screenwriter
Born February 20, 1926, Allendale, New Jersey
Died June 23, 2013, Calabasas, California

Richard Matheson died earlier this week and the Internet has started to notice. The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times printed obituaries four days ago. If the two Times are correct, then Wikipedia predictably has posted erroneous information on his place of death.

I'm not sure that I can offer more than what has already been written about Mr. Matheson. If you are from a certain generation or two, and if you watched television and movies in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, you have seen things sprung from his imagination: The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957); "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" from The Twilight Zone (1963); The Last Man on Earth (1964, remade as The Omega Man, 1971); Duel (1971); The Legend of Hell House (1971); The Night Stalker (1972, and its sequel, The Night Strangler, 1973); and Trilogy of Terror (1975). Wherever there was fear, terror, or dread of the most memorable kind, there was Richard Matheson.

I should have included Richard Matheson on my list of "More Authors of the Golden Age of Science Fiction," for his first published science fiction story came out in 1950. The story is called "Born of Man and Woman," and it originally appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in Summer 1950. I have not read "Born of Man and Woman" but a description of the plot makes me think of "The Outsider" and "The Dunwich Horror" by H.P. Lovecraft. Matheson's story was selected for inclusion in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 1971.

Richard Matheson had two stories printed in Weird Tales, "Wet Straw" and "The Slaughter House," both from 1953. He was friends with Ray Bradbury and Forrest J Ackerman, both of whom also contributed to Weird Tales. Another in his circle of friends was Charles Beaumont (1929-1967), who died on the day after Matheson's forty-first birthday of a weird and unknown affliction like something out of a science fiction story (or like The Incredible Shrinking Man). I have made a mental list of authors and artists who should have been in Weird Tales. Charles Beaumont is near the top of that list. (Others include Frank Frazetta and John Jakes.) In remembering Richard Matheson, we should also remember Charles Beaumont.

Richard Burton Matheson, son of Norwegian immigrants, died on June 23, 2013, at his home in Calabasas, California. He was eighty-seven years old.

For Weird Tales
"Wet Straw" (Jan. 1953)
"Slaughter House" (July 1953)

Richard Matheson adapted the screenplay for The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) from his own novel published the year before (with a less sensationalistic title). The cover artist was Mitchell Hooks.
Matheson also co-wrote the screenplay for The Last Man on Earth (1964), adapted from his novel I Am Legend (1954) with apocalyptic cover art by Stanley Meltzoff.
Matheson also wrote thrillers and Westerns. Here's the cover of a British edition of Ride the Nightmare from 1959, artist unknown. 
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

1 comment:

  1. Nice remembrance. I didn't know that he had contributed to WEIRD TALES.