Richard Matheson Turns 87 Today
Happy Birthday, Richard Matheson! Today, the prolific author turns 87.
Matheson wrote over 25 novels and nearly 100 short stories. Some of his better-known work includes The Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, and A Stir of Echoes (all adapted for film). Additionally, the 2011 film Real Steel was partly based on Matheson’s short story, “Steel.”
He was also a screenwriter for both film and television. He wrote 14 episodes of The Twilight Zone, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” In this classic episode, William Shatner plays an airline passenger who sees a humanoid monster on the wing, but whenever he gets others to peer out the window, they see nothing. For me, this ranks in my top 5 favorite Twilight Zone episodes.
Matheson began his professional writing career with the publication of his short story “Born of Man and Woman” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950. Later that year, Galaxy Science Fiction published two of his short stories; “Third From the Sun” appeared in Galaxy’s premiere issue.
Later this year, Matheson will be one of the Guests of Honor at the World Fantasy Convention in London. To those attending, I hope you’ll take a moment to wait in the long line at his table during the autograph session. I doubt you’ll regret spending the time in exchange for a few words with the author.
Even if you haven’t read his stories, Matheson’s writing has undoubtedly influenced something you’ve read or watched. His work will leave a noticeable impact for many years to come. Perhaps he should reuse his novel’s title I Am Legend for an autobiography.
I never knew that Matheson wrote “Nightmare at 20,000 feet”, my favorite TZ episode since I was a kid. I’ve got one more reason to like this great author now.
Trivia: It was also remade for the movie back in the 80’s, but I prefer the Shatner one.
CMR – He used several of his short stories as a basis for Twilight Zone episodes. The one that inspired Real Steel (“Steel”) was used in a TZ episode of the same name. You probably recall that one – boxing was banned in the future, so people had robot boxing matches (the robots closely resembled humans). Lee Marvin plays a former boxer who owns (or manages – I can’t remember) one of the older models, and it’s in such disrepair that it can’t fight the next match. So he decides to enter the ring himself, disguising himself as a robot.
Let’s not forget his great novella, “Duel”, which he adapted to TV for a very young Steven Spielberg. I still have clear memories of watching that on TV for the first time and actually holding my breath during certain sequences. Since then I’ve watched it again several times and it still holds up. To top it off years later I was finally able to track down that story and it’s even scarier in prose form.
“I am Legend” was probably the first thing that I ever read by him. I was 11 or 12 and I was so caught up in it that I actually read it in under three hours. And then I read it again the next day. Thankfully, my local library had a ton of his books on hand and I was able to check out such classics as “The Incredible Shrinking Man”, “Stir of Echoes”, and Shock I, II, III. Good books all around.
Wow, “Duel” is one of his stories too? This man is everywhere.
He’s also one of, if not the last living writer who contributed to “Weird Tales” during it’s orignal run.
And don’t forget all of the screenplays for the Roger/Corman/vincent Price/Poe films,and Hell House, Shrinking Man, Last Man on Earth ect. The man is a treasure!
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