It’s being reported that renowned author Richard Matheson has died at the age of 87.
To say that this man has been a writing influence would be a criminal understatement. Even if his name doesn’t sound familiar to you, chances are that you have read or seen something from his vast body of work. His writing career spanned more than sixty years, including novels, short stories, teleplays and film scripts. He is among my very favorite writers; someone whose work I’ve read and enjoyed since childhood.
The whole “shuffling zombie” genre going all the way back to George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead owes something to Matheson’s seminal novel I Am Legend, which just happens to be one of my all-time favorite stories. I read it for the first time as a teenager when I stumbled across a copy of the book at a library, and since then scarcely a year goes by that I don’t revisit the novel.
If your only memory of The Twilight Zone besides Rod Serling is William Shatner staring through the airplane window at the monster? That was “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” and you can thank Matheson for that, one of 14 scripts he wrote for the show.
Remember the Star Trek episode where Kirk gets split into his “good” and “evil” halves? That was “The Enemy Within,” also by Matheson. One of my favorite Matheson books is a novel which has nothing at all to do with science fiction: The Beardless Warriors, which he wrote based on his own experiences as a soldier during World War II.
Be sure to visit his entry on Wikipedia. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “fan,” chances are good that you’re going to find something you recognize or already like.
Rest in peace, Mr. Matheson, and thank you. You are and always will be legend.