Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson

Infobox Writer

name = Richard Burton Matheson
caption =
pseudonym =
birthdate = birth date and age|1926|2|20
birthplace = Allendale, New Jersey, United States
deathdate =
deathplace =
occupation = Novelist, Short story writer,
nationality = American
period = 1950 - Present
genre = Science fiction, Fantasy, Horror

Richard Matheson (born February 20, 1926) is an American author and screenwriter, typically of fantasy, horror, or science fiction.

Born in Allendale, New Jersey to Norwegian immigrant parents, Matheson was raised in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1943. He then entered the military and spent World War II as an infantry soldier. In 1949 he earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and moved to California in 1951. He married in 1952 and has four children, three of whom (Chris, Richard Christian, and Ali Matheson) are writers of fiction and screenplays.


His first short story, "Born of Man and Woman," appeared in the "Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" in 1950. The tale of a monstrous child chained in its parents' cellar, it was told in the first person as the creature's diary (in poignantly non-idiomatic English) and immediately made Matheson famous. Between 1950 and 1971, Matheson produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres, making important contributions to the further development of modern horror.

Several of his stories, like "Third from the Sun" (1950), "Deadline" (1959) and "Button, Button" (1970) are simple sketches with twist endings; others, like "Trespass" (1953), "Being" (1954) and "Mute" (1962) explore their characters' dilemmas over twenty or thirty pages. Some tales, such as "The Funeral" (1955) and "The Doll that Does Everything" (1954) 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 famously, "Duel" (1971) are tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening.

He wrote a number of episodes for the American TV series "The Twilight Zone", including "Steel," mentioned above and the famous "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", plus "Little Girl Lost", a story about a young girl tumbling into the fourthdimension; adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman and Dennis Wheatley's "The Devil Rides Out" for Hammer Films; and scripted Steven Spielberg's first feature, the TV movie "Duel", from his own short story. He also contributed a number of scripts to the Warner Brothers western series "The Lawman" between 1958 and 1962. He wrote the Star Trek episode "The Enemy Within", considered one of the bestFact|date=June 2008. 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 that preceded the series "". Matheson also wrote the screenplay for "Fanatic" (US title: "Die! Die! My Darling!") starring Talullah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers.

Novels include "The Shrinking Man" (filmed as "The Incredible Shrinking Man", again from Matheson's own screenplay), and a science fiction vampire novel, "I Am Legend", (filmed as "The Last Man on Earth", "The Omega Man" and "I Am Legend"). Other Matheson novels turned into notable films include "What Dreams May Come", "Stir of Echoes", "Bid Time Return" (as "Somewhere in Time"), and "Hell House" (as "The Legend of Hell House") and the aforementioned "Duel", the last three adapted and scripted by Matheson himself. Three of his short stories were filmed together as "Trilogy of Terror", including "Prey" with its famous Zuni warrior doll.

In 1960, Matheson published "The Beardless Warriors", a nonfantastic, 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". He has also written a blackly comic locked-room mystery novel, "Now You See It...", aptly dedicated to Robert Bloch, and the suspense novels "7 Steps to Midnight" and "Hunted Past Reason".

Matheson cites specific inspirations for many of his works. "Duel" 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. A scene from the 1953 movie "Let's Do It Again" in which Aldo Ray and Ray Milland put on each other's hats, one of which is far too big for the other, sparked the thought "what if someone put on his own hat and that happened," which became "The Shrinking Man". "Somewhere in Time" began when Matheson saw a movie poster featuring a beautiful picture of Maude Adams and wondered what would happen if someone fell in love with such an old picture. In the introduction to "Noir: 3 Novels of Suspense" (1997), which collects three of his early books, Matheson has said that the first chapter of his suspense novel "Someone is Bleeding" (1953) describes exactly his meeting with his wife Ruth, and that in the case of "What Dreams May Come", "the whole novel is filled with scenes from our past".

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"." [Roger Ebert. "Roger Ebert's Movie Home Companion, 1990 Edition". Andrews and McMeel, 1990, p. 419.]


A character named "Senator Richard Matheson" appeared in several episodes of "The X-Files". The series' creator, Chris Carter, was a fan of Matheson's work on two series that influenced "The X-Files" ("The Twilight Zone" and ""). Also, the TV series adaptation of "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" had the Szalinski family relocating to the town of Matheson, Colorado.

The telepath "John Matheson" in "Crusade" was named in honor of Matheson.

Stephen King has listed Richard Matheson as a creative influence and his novel "Cell" is dedicated to Matheson, along with filmmaker George A. Romero.

Matheson St. in the Konami game "Silent Hill", was named in his honor.

Richard's son, Richard Christian Matheson, penned the screenplay for "Battleground" for the first segment of Stephen King's "Nightmares & Dreamscapes". He paid homage to his father by including the Zuni fetish doll from the last segment of "Trilogy of Terror" in a scene.

In Richard Christian Matheson's novel "Created By", the hero's father is named Burt, a reference to Matheson senior's middle name.

Richard Christian Matheson re-wrote his father's short story "Dance of the Dead" for the TV series "Masters of Horror". It was directed by Tobe Hooper and starred Robert Englund and Ryan McDonald.



*"Someone is Bleeding" (1953)
*"Fury on Sunday" (1953)
*"I Am Legend" (1954) filmed as "The Last Man on Earth", "The Omega Man" & "I Am Legend"
*"The Shrinking Man" (1956); filmed as "The Incredible Shrinking Man" and subsequently reprinted under that title; also the basis of the film "The Incredible Shrinking Woman"
*"A Stir of Echoes" (1958); filmed as "Stir of Echoes"
*"Ride the Nightmare" (1959)
*"The Beardless Warriors" (1960)
*"Comedy of Terrors" with Elsie Lee (1964); filmed as "The Comedy of Terrors"
*"Hell House" (1971); filmed as "The Legend of Hell House"
*"The Night Stalker" with Jeff Rice (1972)
*"The Night Strangler" (1973)
*"Bid Time Return" (1975); filmed as "Somewhere in Time" and subsequently reprinted under that title
*"What Dreams May Come" (1978); filmed as "What Dreams May Come"
*"Earthbound" (editorially abridged version published under the pseudonym "Logan Swanson" 1982; restored text published under Matheson's own name 1989)
*"Journal of the Gun Years" (1992)
*"The Gunfight" (1993)
*"7 Steps to Midnight" (1993)
*"Shadow on the Sun" (1994)
*"Now You See It..." (1995)
*"The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickock" (1996)
*"Passion Play" (2000)
*"Hunger and Thirst" (2000)
*"Camp Pleasant" (2001)
*"Abu and the 7 Marvels" (2002)
*"Hunted Past Reason" (2002)
*"Come Fygures, Come Shadowes" (2003)
*"Woman" (2006)

hort stories

*"Born of Man and Woman" (1950)
*"Third from the Sun" (1950); adapted as a "Twilight Zone" episode (1960)
*"The Waker Dreams" (AKA "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---" (AKA "The Foodlegger") (1952)
*"Shipshape Home" (1952)
*"SRL Ad" (1952)
*"Advance Notice" (AKA "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" (AKA "Sorry, Right Number") (1953)
*"Slaughter House" (1953)
*"Mad House" (1953)
*"The Last Day" (1953)
*"Lazarus II" (1953)
*"Legion of Plotters" (1953)
*"Death Ship" (1953)
*"Disappearing Act" (1953)
*"The Disinheritors" (1953)
*"Dying Room Only" (1953)
*"Full Circle" (1953)
*"Mother by Protest" (AKA "Trespass") (1953)
*"Little Girl Lost" (1953)
*"Being" (1954)
*"The Curious Child" (1954)
*"When Day Is Dun" (1954)
*"Dance of the Dead" (1954)
*"The Traveller" (1954)
*"The Test" (1954)
*"The Conqueror" (1954)
*"Dear Diary" (1954)
*"The Doll That Does Everything" (1954)
*"Descent" (1954)
*"Miss Stardust" (1955)
*"The Funeral" (1955)
*"Too Proud to Lose" (1955)
*"One for the Books" (1955)
*"Pattern for Survival" (1955)
*"A Flourish of Strumpets (1956)
*"The Splendid Source" (1956)
*"Steel" (1956)
*"The Children of Noah" (1957)
*"A Visit to Santa Claus" (AKA "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)
*"Mantage" (1959)
*"Deadline" (1959)
*"The Creeping Terror" (AKA "A Touch of Grapefruit") (1959)
*"No Such Thing as a Vampire" (1959)
*"Crickets" (1960)
*"Day of Reckoning" (AKA "The Faces," "Graveyard Shift") (1960)
*"First Anniversary" (1960)
*"From Shadowed Places" (1960)
*"Finger Prints" (1962)
*"Mute" (1962)
*"The Likeness of Julie" (as Logan Swanson) (1962)
*"The Jazz Machine" (1963)
*"Crescendo" (AKA "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" (AKA "Therese") (1969)
*"Prey" (1969) (Later adapted to the Zuni Fetish Doll, in the Trilogy of Terror)
*"Button, Button" (1970); filmed as " The Box" (2008)
*"'Til Death Do Us Part" (1970)
*"By Appointment Only" (1970)
*"The Finishing Touches" (1970)
*"Duel" (1971); filmed as "Duel" (1971)
*"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 "", 1983; first published in 1984)
*"Getting Together" (1986)
*"Buried Talents" (1987)
*"The Near Departed" (1987)
*"Shoo Fly" (1988)
*"Person to Person" (1989)
*"Two O'Clock Session" (1991)
*"The Doll" (as "Twilight Zone" episode in 1982, published as story in 1993)
*"Go West, Young Man" (1993)
*"Gunsight" (1993)
*"Little Jack Cornered" (1993)
*"Of Death and Thirty Minutes" (1993)

hort story collections

*"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) being filmed as "The Box"
*"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)


*"The Path: Metaphysics for the 90s" (1993)

Additional reading

*"California Sorcery", edited by William F. Nolan and William Schafer


External links

* [ Six Degrees of Inspiration: Richard Matheson by MR Hunter]
* [ Interview of Matheson by MR Hunter]
*isfdb name|id=Richard_Matheson|name=Richard Matheson
* [ Offical "Somewhere In Time" Website (INSITE)]
* [ Review of "I Am Legend"]
* [ Interview] in (in French)
* [ Matheson biography] at
* [ Richard Matheson] featured on AMC-TV's Sci-Fi Department webshow
* [ The "I Am Legend" Book Archive]
*imdb name|0558577

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