My first experience of a Richard Matheson story is probably the same as most people, watching Captain Kirk being driven insane as a man in a woolly suit tormented him from the wing of an aeroplane. I was massive fan of The Twilight Zone as a kid; I still am I guess and along with Charles Beaumont and Rod Serling, Matheson brought some of the most fantastic monochrome tales into my living room. Tales I've never forgotten.
Matheson wasn't just a horror or sci-fi writer, he was a sci-if writer. What if a man was covered in a reflective mist that caused him to shrink to the size of a fly? What if a stranger offered a cash strapped couple a box that would bring them wealth but also cause somebody they know to die? Would you press the button?
That’s what the best writers do. They ask us the questions and let our imagination ride along with their own. Matheson did this throughout his career with great skill.
Of course his stories were never far from our televisions. Everything from Spielberg’s debut ‘Duel’ to the adaptation of Dennis Wheatley’s ‘The Devil Rides Out’. And who can forget Karen Black being hunted by a possessed Zuni fetish doll in Matheson’s ‘Trilogy of Terror’?
In later years I would discover Richard Matheson as a novelist and short story writer. In fact another of those horror films that played on my childhood TV set ‘The Omega Man’ was based on his superb novel ‘I, Am Legend’. That book along with, ‘A Stir of Echoes’ which was later released as a film starring Kevin Bacon and ‘Bid Time Return’, filmed as ‘Time and Again’ became some of my favourite novels of all time.
I won’t list all of Matheson’s credits here, I’m sure you all know them and they'll be elsewhere for you to discover if you don’t. But we have lost a great mind who gave so much to the genres of horror and sci-fi. He inspired my imagination along with some of the heavyweights like the aforementioned Spielberg and of course Stephen King. I know his films, TV episodes and books will always be there for us, yet I feel he left a different legacy behind. He left the romance of imagination for other writers to discover. That’s something I’m sure would make him proud.
Because like his friend Jack Finney, Richard Matheson was never about the here and now, he was always about the past and the future combined.
Richard MathesonFebruary 20, 1926 - June 23, 2013