'I Am Legend' creator Richard Matheson dies at 87
05:00 AM, Jun 24, 2013
Whether it was by a creature on an airplane wing, post-apocalyptic vampires or a killer tanker truck, writer Richard Matheson found entertaining ways to freak out generations of sci-fi and horror fans.
Matheson, the author of several books that were adapted into movies, including I Am Legend, What Dreams May Come and A Stir of Echoes, died Sunday at age 87, according to his publisher.
Born in New Jersey and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Matheson was a World War II veteran whose first short story, Born of Man and Woman, was published in 1950. For the next 20 years, he released an impressive bibliography, and Hollywood took notice.
Perhaps none saw as much attention as Matheson’s 1954 classic I Am Legend, a novel about a man living alone in a world ravaged by disease and trying to stay alive with vampires on the hunt. The book was adapted four times, most notably for the 1971 Charlton Heston film The Omega Man and the 2007 movie I Am Legend starring Will Smith.
A 2010 inductee into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Matheson also worked as a screenwriter. He adapted his own short story Duel into a 1971 movie that was notable for being directed by a young Steven Spielberg, and Matheson was also a prolific scribe for Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone TV series in the 1960s. Among his 16 episodes were “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” in which William Shatner discovers a gremlin on the wing of his passenger plane and “Steel,” an adaptation of his short story about robot boxers that inspired the 2011 Hugh Jackman film Real Steel.
His 1956 novel The Shrinking Man became the movie The Incredible Shrinking Man the next year. A Stir of Echoes (1958), Hell House (1971), Bid Time Return (1975), which was adapted into the Christopher Reeve movie Somewhere in Time, and What Dreams May Come (1978) all made their way onto the big screen.
Matheson inspired several writers over the years, including Anne Rice, X-Files creator Chris Carter and Stephen King, who once said that Matheson was the author who influenced him the most.
Others took to the Internet and social media Monday to pay their respects.
On his website, Harlan Ellison spoke about Matheson’s “singular top-of-the-mountain talent” and wrote that he called Matheson’s family “and was barely able to gasp out the usual irrelevancies. Frankly, I am downsmashed.”
Joe Hill, King’s novelist son, said on Twitter: “Never met Richard Matheson, but his stories have been life companions. Books are human souls, in analog form. Go read his.”
“I never knew Richard Matheson, so have no personal anecdotes,” tweeted sci-fi novelist Neil Gaiman. “But he was a giant, and YOU KNOW HIS STORIES, even if you think you don’t.”