Richard Matheson was born 1926 on this date, February 20, in Allendale, New Jersey. He was one of the greatest short story writers of the 20th Century. Best known to the general public as the author of The Incredible Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, Somewhere in Time, and numerous Twilight Zone episodes, he also adapted a number of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories to the big screen for Roger Corman.
Matheson is a writer whose work I return to time and again, and a reread is long overdue. I’ll try to work in some of his stories over the next few months. I’ll honor his memory this evening by working on a short story.
I’d like to thank Bret McCormick for sending me a review copy of Road Kill. Most anthologies have two or three (or more) stories that aren’t my flagon of ale. There was only one story in this one that fits that description. All of the others I liked, some a lot. And not just because of the Texas theme.
The variety in Road Kill is impressive. The type of horror ranges from quiet to grisly to Lovecraftian to science fictional. Here were a few of my favorites. Continue reading →
Richard Matheson, one of the greatest fantasists of the 20th Century, entered the world 90 years ago (February 20, 1926) in Allendale, New Jersey. When we lost him (June 23, 2013), I paid tribute to him, as did many others.
Matheson is best known for scripting some of the best Twilight Zone episodes, horror movies for Roger Coran, and his novels The Shrinking Man and most especially I Am Legend. I read that book about 35 years ago, give or take a year. I really need to revisit it.
But it was Matheson’s short stories that really caught my attention. He was a master of the short form, and it broke my heart that he quite writing them later in his life. He could take an idea, usually a one with a dark twist, and punch you in the gut with it. And you would enjoy it and want another.
There’s a tendency, which seems especially prevalent these days, for writers to drop out of print shortly after their deaths. This is true even of writers who were considered giants in their fields while they were alive. A number of writers come to mind: Asimov, Heinlein, MacDonald (John D. and Ross). These guys all have some titles in print, but good luck finding the bulk of their work in new additions.
I sincerely hope that Matheson (who is still in print) doesn’t suffer such a fate.
Charles Beaumont was born this day in 1929. He passed away in 1967. Beaumont was a protege of Ray Bradbury and a central figure in what’s come to be called the California School. Other members were Richard Matheson, William F. Nolan, Chad Oliver, and the late George Clayton Johnson. Johnson’s story “Your Three Minutes Are Up” is a tribute to his friend.
Beaumont is best remembered today for penning a number of scripts for Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. He also wrote the novel The Intruder which was filmed by Roger Corman and starred William Shatner.
Beaumont’s strengths lay in short stories. I came across a slim volume when I was a sophomore in high school; I bought it on the strength of Ray Bradbury’s introduction and read it during a move across the state. Not all of the stories worked for me. Some of them were aimed for a more mature reader. I don’t mean “mature” in terms of sexual content (although that was part of it) but that the themes weren’t something a young teen could relate to.
On the other hand, the stories that did resonate with me blew me away. I was hooked and spent years haunting used book stores trying to find all of his collections. In addition to being the epitome of a professional working writer, Beaumont was an avid race fan. He and Nolan often raced.
Beaumont’s death is usually attributed to some type of early-onset Alzheimer’s. He began to age swifty at the age of 34. His loss was deeply felt.
Centipede Press recently published The Intruder, crime thriller Run From the Hunter (written collaboratively with John Tomerlin), and a massive collection of short fiction, Mass for Mixed Voices (which sold out almost immediately, and no, I won’t loan you my copy.) This past year penguin published Perchance to Dream: Selected Stories. Also available is the collection A Touch of the Creature, which contains all the stories in the limited edition published by Subterranean Press (2000) along with three more. These stories weren’t collected during Beaumont’s lifetime.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going reread some Beaumont short stories. Please turn out the light when you leave…on second thought, better not.
George Clayton Johnson passed away yesterday, Christmas Day, of cancer at the age of 86. While Mr. Johnson’s name may not be familiar to some of you, his work almost certainly is. He wrote eight episodes of The Twilight Zone (plus one unproduced episode) and the first episode of the original Star Trek series to air, “The Man Trap”. He also coauthored Logan’s Run with William F. Nolan. His other credits include scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Honey West, and Kung Fu.
Johnson was a member of the group of writers known as the California school which included (in addition to Nolan) such writers as Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, and Charles Beaumont. He was known for his openness and willingness to assist authors trying to break into the field.
This is still breaking news, and I don’t have a lot of details. Renowned fantasy and horror author Richard Matheson has passed away at age 87. According to Matheson’s daughter Ali, from a statement on John Shirley’s Facebook page: “My beloved father passed away yesterday at home surrounded by the people and things he loved…he was funny, brilliant, loving, generous, kind, creative, and the most wonderful father ever…I miss you and love you forever Pop and I know you are now happy and healthy in a beautiful place full of love and joy you always knew was there…”
Matheson had been ill for some time. His most famous work was the novel I am Legend.He also wrote The Shrinking Man, screenplays for many of the best horror films of the 1960s, and a number of Twilight Zone episodes, including the classic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, starring William Shatner. I’m working on a deadline tonight and will post a longer tribute in the next day or so. I’ll just say for now that Matheson was one of the major fantasy authors to come out of what became known as the California School in the 1950s, which included such authors as Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, William F. Nolan, and George Clayton Johnson. I devoured his stories when I was a teenager.