Richard Matheson

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For the writer of "Scars and Other Distinguishing Marks", "Dystopia", and "Created By", see Richard Christian Matheson.
Richard Matheson
Richard Matheson.jpg
Matheson in 2008
Born Richard Burton Matheson
(1926-02-20)February 20, 1926
Allendale, New Jersey, USA
Died June 23, 2013(2013-06-23) (aged 87)
Los Angeles, California, USA
Resting place Cremation
Pen name Logan Swanson[1]
Occupation Novelist, Short story writer, screenwriter
Alma mater University of Missouri
Period 1950–2013
Genre Science fiction, fantasy, horror
Notable works
  • I Am Legend
  • The Shrinking Man
  • Bid Time Return
Notable awards World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement, Science Fiction Hall of Fame (2010)


Richard Burton Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013) was an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He may be known best as the author of I Am Legend, a 1954 horror novel that has been adapted for the screen four times. Matheson also wrote 16 television episodes of The Twilight Zone for Rod Serling, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" and "Steel".

He adapted his 1971 short story "Duel" as a screenplay directed by a young Steven Spielberg, for the television movie of the same name that year.

Six more of his novels or short stories have been adapted as major motion pictures: The Shrinking Man, Hell House, What Dreams May Come, Bid Time Return (filmed as Somewhere in Time), A Stir of Echoes and Button, Button. Lesser movies based on his work include two from his early noir novels — Cold Sweat, based on his novel Riding the Nightmare, and Les Seines de Glaces (Icy Breasts) based on his novel Someone is Bleeding .

Early life[edit]

Matheson was born in Allendale, New Jersey, to Norwegian immigrants Bertolf and Fanny Matheson, who divorced when he was 8. Matheson subsequently was raised in Brooklyn, New York by his mother. Early writing influences the film Dracula, novels by Kenneth Roberts, and a poem he saw in the newspaper The Brooklyn Eagle,[2] where at age 8 he would publish his first short story.[3] After graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School, he served with the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II, an experience that formed the basis for his 1960 novel The Beardless Warriors.[2] After returning home, he attended the University of Missouri School of Journalism, earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1949. Afterward, he moved to California.[2][3]


1950s and 1960s[edit]

His first-written novel, Hunger and Thirst, was ignored by publishers for several decades before eventually being published in 2010, but his short story "Born of Man and Woman" was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Summer 1950, the new quarterly's third issue[1] and attracted attention.[3] It is the tale of a monstrous child chained by its parents in the cellar, cast as the creature's diary in poignantly non-idiomatic English. Later that year he placed stories in the first and third numbers of Galaxy Science Fiction, a new monthly.[1] His first anthology of work was published in 1954.[3] Between 1950 and 1971, he produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres.

He was a member of the Southern California School of Writers in the 1950s and 1960s, which included Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, George Clayton Johnson, William F. Nolan, Jerry Sohl, and others.[4] Matheson appears in two documentaries related to this era: Jason V Brock's Charles Beaumont: The Life of Twilight Zone's Magic Man,[5] and The AckerMonster Chronicles!, which details the life of agent and editor Forrest J Ackerman.

Several of his stories, like "Third from the Sun" (1950), "Deadline" (1959), and "Button, Button" (1970)(filmed as a 1986 episode of The Twilight Zone and also as The Box (2009 film)) are simple sketches with twist endings; others, like "Trespass" (1953), "Being" (1954), and "Mute" (1962) explore their characters' dilemmas over 20 or 30 pages. Some tales, such as "The Doll that Does Everything" (1954) and "The Funeral" (1955) 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 of all, "Duel" (1971), are tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening. "Duel" was adapted into the 1971 TV movie of the same name.

Matheson's first novel to be published, Someone Is Bleeding, appeared from Lion Books in 1953.[1] In 1960, Matheson published The Beardless Warriors, a non-fantastic, 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.

His other early novels include The Shrinking Man (1956, filmed in 1957 as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson's own screenplay) and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend, (1954, filmed as The Last Man on Earth in 1964, The Omega Man in 1971, and I Am Legend in 2007).

Matheson wrote screenplays for several television programs including the Westerns Cheyenne, Have Gun – Will Travel, and Lawman.[6] He is, however, most closely associated with the American TV series The Twilight Zone, for which he wrote more than a dozen episodes;[6] including "Steel" (mentioned above), and the famous "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1963), plus "Little Girl Lost" (1962), a story about a young girl tumbling into the fourth dimension. For all of Matheson's Twilight Zone scripts, he also wrote the introductory and closing statements spoken by creator Rod Serling.[7] He adapted five works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman's Poe series, including House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), and The Raven (1963).[3]

He wrote the popular Star Trek episode "The Enemy Within" (1966).

For Hammer Films he wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (1965; US title: Die! Die! My Darling!)(based on the novel Nightmare by Anne Blaisdell, starring Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers; and for Hammer he also adapted Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out (1968).[3]

1970s and 1980s[edit]

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 and directed by Dan Curtis (the other was The Night Strangler that preceded the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Matheson worked extensively with Curtis; the 1977 telemovie Dead of Night features three stories written for the screen by Matheson - "Second Chance" (based on the story by Jack Finney); "No Such Thing as a Vampire" (based on Matheson's storey of the same name); and "Bobby", an original script written for this omnibus movie by Matheson.

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.

Other Matheson novels turned into notable films in the seventies include Bid Time Return (as Somewhere in Time), and Hell House (as The Legend of Hell House), both adapted and scripted by Matheson himself.

In the 1980s Matheson published the novel Earthbound, wrote several screenplays for the TV series Amazing Stories, and continued to publish short fiction.


Matheson published four western novels in this decade, plus the suspense novel Seven Steps to Midnight (1993) and the blackly comic locked-room mystery novel, Now You See It ..., aptly dedicated to Robert Bloch(1995).

He also wrote several movies - the offbeat comedy Loose Cannons, the biopic The Dreamer of Oz (about L. Frank Baum), a segment of Rod Serling's Lost Classics, and Trilogy of Terror II. Short stories continued to flow from his pen, and he saw the adaptation by other hands of two more of his novels for the big screen -What Dreams May Come, and A Stir of Echoes (as Stir of Echoes). In 1999, Matheson published a non-fiction work The Path, inspired by his interest in psychic phenomena.[3]

21st century[edit]

Many previously unpublished novels by Matheson appeared late in his career, as did various collections of his work and previously unpublished screenplays. He also wrote new works, such as the suspense novel Hunted Past Reason (2002).[8] and the children's illustrated fantasy Abu and the Seven Marvels.

Sources of Inspiration[edit]

Matheson cited specific inspirations for many of his works. Duel was 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.[3]

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."[9]

Personal life[edit]

In 1952, Matheson married Ruth Ann Woodson, whom he met in California. They had four children.[2] Two, Chris and Richard Christian, became writers of fiction and screenplays.

Matheson died June 23, 2013 at his home in Los Angeles, California, aged 87.[10][11][12]


Matheson received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984 and the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Horror Writers Association in 1991. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2010.[13][14]

At the annual World Fantasy Conventions he won two judged, annual literary awards for particular works: World Fantasy Awards for Bid Time Return as the best novel of 1975 and Richard Matheson: Collected Stories as the best collection of 1989.[13][15]

Matheson died just days before he was due to receive the Visionary award at the 39th Saturn Award's ceremony. As a tribute the ceremony was dedicated to him and the award was presented posthumously. Academy President Robert Holguin said "Richard's accomplishments will live on forever in the imaginations of everyone who read or saw his inspired and inimitable work."[16]

The tribute anthology He is Legend was published by Gauntlet Press in 2009.


Other writers[edit]

Stephen King has listed Matheson as a creative influence and his novel Cell is dedicated to Matheson, along with filmmaker George A. Romero. Romero has frequently acknowledged Matheson as an inspiration and listed the shambling vampire creatures that appear in the first film version of "I Am Legend" as the inspiration for the zombie "ghouls" he envisioned in Night of the Living Dead[17]

Anne Rice stated that when she was a child, Matheson's short story "A Dress of White Silk" was an early influence on her interest in vampires and fantasy fiction.[18]


After his death, several figures offered tributes to his life and work. Director Steven Spielberg said:

Richard Matheson's ironic and iconic imagination created seminal science-fiction stories and gave me my first break when he wrote the short story and screenplay for Duel. His Twilight Zones were among my favorites, and he recently worked with us on Real Steel. For me, he is in the same category as Bradbury and Asimov.[19]

Another frequent collaborator, Roger Corman said ""Richard Matheson was a close friend and the best screenwriter I ever worked with. I always shot his first draft. I will miss him."[20]

On Twitter, director Edgar Wright wrote "If it's true that the great Richard Matheson has passed away, 140 characters can't begin to cover what he has given the sci fi & horror genre.", while director Richard Kelly added "I loved Richard Matheson's writing and it was a huge honor getting to adapt his story 'Button, Button' into a film. RIP."[21]



Short stories[edit]

  • "Born of Man and Woman" (1950)
  • "Third from the Sun" (1950); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1960)
  • "The Waker Dreams" (a.k.a. "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---" (a.k.a. "The Foodlegger") (1952)
  • "Shipshape Home" (1952)
  • "SRL Ad" (1952)
  • "Advance Notice" (a.k.a. "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" (a.k.a. "Sorry, Right Number") (1953)
  • "Slaughter House" (1953)
  • "Mad House" (1953)
  • "The Last Day" (1953)
  • "Lazarus II" (1953)
  • "Legion of Plotters" (1953)
  • "Death Ship" (1953); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1963)
  • "Disappearing Act" (1953); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1959)
  • "The Disinheritors" (1953)
  • "Dying Room Only" (1953)
  • "Full Circle" (1953)
  • "Mother by Protest" (a.k.a. "Trespass") (1953)
  • "Little Girl Lost" (1953); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1962)
  • "Being" (1954)
  • "The Curious Child" (1954)
  • "When Day Is Dun" (1954)
  • "Dance of the Dead" (1954); adapted as a Masters of Horror episode (2005)
  • "The Man Who Made the World" (1954)
  • "The Traveller" (1954)
  • "The Test" (1954)
  • "The Conqueror" (19)
  • "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); the basis of the Family Guy episode "The Splendid Source".[22]
  • "Steel" (1956); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1963); loosely filmed as Real Steel (2011)
  • "The Children of Noah" (1957)
  • "A Visit to Santa Claus" (a.k.a. "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)
  • "Now Die in It" (1958)
  • "Mantage" (1959)
  • "Deadline" (1959)
  • "The Creeping Terror" (a.k.a. "A Touch of Grapefruit") (1959)
  • "No Such Thing as a Vampire" (1959)
  • "Big Surprise" (a.k.a. "What Was in the Box") (1959) Adapted as a Night Gallery short
  • "Crickets" (1960)
  • "Day of Reckoning" (a.k.a. "The Faces," "Graveyard Shift") (1960)
  • "First Anniversary" (1960); adapted as an Outer Limits episode (1996)
  • "From Shadowed Places" (1960)
  • "Finger Prints" (1962)
  • "Mute" (1962); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1963)
  • "The Likeness of Julie" (as Logan Swanson) (1962); adapted into "Julie" in the 1975 TV film Trilogy of Terror
  • "The Jazz Machine" (1963)
  • "Crescendo" (a.k.a. "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" (a.k.a. "Therese") (1969); adapted into "Millicent and Therese" in the 1975 TV film Trilogy of Terror
  • "Prey" (1969); adapted into "Ameilia" in the 1975 TV film Trilogy of Terror
  • "Button, Button" (1970); filmed as a 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
  • "Leo Rising" (1972)
  • "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)
  • "CU: Mannix" (1991)
  • "Two O'Clock Session" (1991)
  • "The Doll" (as Amazing Stories in 1986)
  • "Go West, Young Man" (1993)
  • "Gunsight" (1993)
  • "Little Jack Cornered" (1993)
  • "Of Death and Thirty Minutes" (1993)
  • "Purge Among Peanuts" (2001)
  • "He Wanted to Live" (2002)
  • "Professor Fritz and the Runaway House" (2002)
  • "Man With a Club" (2003)
  • "Haircut" (2006)
  • "Life Size" (2008)
  • "An Element Never Forgets" (2010)
  • "Backteria" (2011)

Short story collections[edit]

  • 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)
  • 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)
  • Duel and The Distributor (2005) Previously unpublished screenplays of these two stories
  • Button, Button: Uncanny Stories (2008) (Tor Books)
  • Uncollected Matheson: Volume 1 (2008)
  • Uncollected Matheson: Volume 2 (2010)
  • Steel: And Other Stories (2011)
  • Bakteria and Other Improbable Tales (2011) (e-book exclusive)

Films (for TV movies see Television below)[edit]



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

Additional reading[edit]

  • California Sorcery, edited by William F. Nolan and William Schafer
  • Jad Hatem, Charité de l'infinitésimal, Paris, L'Harmattan, 2007

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Richard Matheson at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved April 13, 2013. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  2. ^ a b c d "Richard Matheson Biography: Author, Screenwriter (1926–2013)". (FYI / A&E Networks). Archived from the original on September 13, 2015. Retrieved September 29, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Hawtree, Christopher (June 25, 2013). "Richard Matheson obituary". London: Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ Conlon, Christopher "Southern California Sorcerers", [1], October 1999. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  5. ^ French, Lawrence "Richard Matheson remembers his good friend Charles Beaumont", [2], March 24, 2010. Retrieved October 31, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Weber, Bruce (June 25, 2013). "Richard matheson, Writer of Haunted Science Fictionand Horror, Dies at 87". New York Times. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ Alexander, Chris (March 2011). "The Legend of Richard Matheson". Fangoria (New York City: The Brooklyn Company, Inc.) (301): 47. ... the things Serling said at the beginning and the end, in the wraparounds, which I wrote. I wrote all the wraparounds to my Twilight Zone episodes. 
  8. ^ What Screams May Come: A Look at the Legendary Richard Matheson.[full citation needed]
  9. ^ Roger Ebert. Roger Ebert's Movie Home Companion, 1990 Edition. Andrews and McMeel, 1990, p. 419.
  10. ^ "Richard Matheson (1926–2013". Locus Publications. June 24, 2013. Retrieved June 25, 2013. 
  11. ^ Kellogg, Carolyn (June 24, 2013). "'I Am Legend' Author Richard Matheson Has Died at 87". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 24, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Richard Matheson: Sci-Fi Author Dies Aged 87". Sky News. June 25, 2013. Retrieved June 25, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b "The Locus Index to SF Awards: Index of Literary Nominees". Locus Publications. Retrieved April 13, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Science Fiction Hall of Fame" at the Wayback Machine (archived March 25, 2010). [Quote: "EMP|SFM is proud to announce the 2010 Hall of Fame inductees: ..."]. Experience Music Project and Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame ( Archived March 25, 2010. Retrieved March 19, 2013.
  15. ^ "Award Winners and Nominees". World Fantasy Convention. Retrieved February 4, 2011. 
  16. ^ "39th annual Saturn Awards to be dedicated to the memory of author Richard Matheson". Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  17. ^ Deborah Christie, Sarah Juliet Lauro, ed. (2011). Better Off Dead: The Evolution of the Zombie as Post-Human. Fordham Univ Press. p. 169. ISBN 0-8232-3447-9, 9780823234479.
  18. ^ Entertainment Weekly. August 7, 2009.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[full citation needed]
  19. ^ "I am Legend writer Richard Matheson dies aged 87". LondonEvening Standard. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  20. ^ Olsen, Mark (June 24, 2013). "'I Am Legend' writer Richard Matheson's legacy of smart sci-fi". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Richard Matheson dies:Tributes paid to I am Legend, Twilight Zone Icon". Digital Spy. Retrieved June 26, 2013. 
  22. ^ Steel: And Other Stories. Product Description.[full citation needed]

External links[edit]