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Science Fiction and Fantasy Author Richard Matheson Dead At 87

timothy posted about a year ago | from the long-and-storied-career dept.

Books 57

New submitter no bloody nickname writes "The BBC reports that well-known U.S. author Richard Matheson has passed away. He was 87 years old. Mathesons prolific career lasted for more than 60 years and his works include the novels Hell House, The Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, and I am legend. Matheson also wrote for television and cinema. Among the screenplays he wrote were the Spielberg movie Duel as well as multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone. Several of his novels have also been adapted into movies. In the case of I Am Legend this was done not just once but three times. Matheson continued to write books until recently and his most recently published book Generations was released in 2012." Adds reader Dave Knott: "Richard Matheson was a recipient of lifetime achievement recognition in both fantasy (World Fantasy Awards, 1984) and horror (Bram Stoker Awards, 1991), and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010. Matheson passed away on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles."

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Why so unknown? (5, Insightful)

Sam_In_The_Hills (458570) | about a year ago | (#44100401)

I find in taking to non-scifi geeks that while everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, has seen a movie(s) or tv shows based on Richard Matheson's work no one seems to have heard of him. It's really odd.

Re:Why so unknown? (4, Interesting)

seven of five (578993) | about a year ago | (#44100471)

Unlike Stephen King, whose name is attached to everything, i.e. "Stephen King's The Tommyknockers" etc. Matheson was more low key. On the other hand, I am Legend must've set some record for the number of movie versions.

Re:Why so unknown? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44100739)

On the other hand, I am Legend must've set some record for the number of movie versions.

There were 3:-
"Last Man on Earth" starring Vincent Price
"The Omega Man" starring Charlton Heston
"I am Legend" starring Will Smith

(imdb is your friend)

Re:Why so unknown? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44102081)

Actually, there were four. You missed "I Am Omega."

Re:Why so unknown? (1)

BigZee (769371) | about a year ago | (#44100755)

You may be right for Science Fiction but I suspect the record will go to something written by Shakespeare, Jane Austin or Dickens.

Re:Why so unknown? (1)

Digital Vomit (891734) | about a year ago | (#44101431)

I think Richard Connel's The Most Dangerous Game [wikipedia.org] probably holds that record.

Sad news ... Stephen King dead at 65 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44114197)

I just heard some sad news on talk radio - Horror/Sci-Fi writer Stephen King was found dead in his Maine home this morning. There weren't any more details. I'm sure everyone in the Slashdot community will miss him - even if you didn't enjoy his work, there's no denying his contributions to popular culture. Truly an American icon.

Re:Why so unknown? (1)

mattack2 (1165421) | about a year ago | (#44117903)

Any famous Shakespeare play (is that redundant? Some are more well known than others) has it beat by a zillion.

Re:Why so unknown? (1)

SputnikPanic (927985) | about a year ago | (#44100597)

He was a master storyteller. He could craft a story in just about any genre, including fantasy romance (Somewhere In Time and, arguably, What Dreams May Come) and western (the novels Journal of the Gun Years and The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickock). The range of his body of work is impressive.

Re:Why so unknown? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44102287)

He was all over the map IMHO. I Am Legend and Nightmare at 20,000 Feet are terrific. Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come are utter tripe.

Re:Why so unknown? (1)

Nyder (754090) | about a year ago | (#44102257)

I find in taking to non-scifi geeks that while everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE, has seen a movie(s) or tv shows based on Richard Matheson's work no one seems to have heard of him. It's really odd.

I've seen some of his TV shows, but I didn't know of him till today. I don't think I've read any of his books, but since he did the I am Legend, which the movie left me with more questions then answers, maybe I should pick up the books.

Re:Why so unknown? (2)

Seth (2925311) | about a year ago | (#44102659)

He is Legend

Re:Why so unknown? (1)

Dusty101 (765661) | about a year ago | (#44102927)

Agreed. I'm actually kind of surprised and saddened that the death of someone as influential in the nerd/geek genres of horror and SF as Richard Matheson hasn't even merited 40 Slashdot posts yet.

As well as "The Twilight Zone" and "I am Legend", he was responsible for (amongst many, many others):

* The Incredible Shrinking Man
* Five Roger Corman /Edgar Allan Poe screenplays
* Hammer's screenplay for "The Devil Rides Out"
* Being a *major* influence on Stephen King (he's credited repeatedly in King's "Danse Macabre").

I guess he was just one of those guys that quietly produced a bunch of iconic, influential work in the background (like Nigel Kneale, but more so). That, and I'm getting old...

Re:Why so unknown? (1)

Dusty101 (765661) | about a year ago | (#44103033)

And yes, I just reread the summary and saw that "The Shrinking Man" was already mentioned. Duh. Chalk it up to my enthusiasm for the man's work...

Re:Why so unknown? (1)

quantaman (517394) | about a year ago | (#44120003)

Well judging by the lack of comments here and my own lack of knowledge he wasn't that well known among scifi geeks either.

Looking at his work he might have simply been a outside the main part of the genre, he obviously had some very major successes but never won any Hugos or Nebulas which tend to be fairly common among the top SF authors. He did good work but ended up in a small niche.

Almost All of Us (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44100407)

Almost everyone who is alive has read or seen his work (either directly or indirectly). Many writers were inspired by him but I doubt any will match him.

For what it's worth (3, Interesting)

mmcxii (1707574) | about a year ago | (#44100421)

I think that I Am Legend is pretty weak from the science fiction aspect. Omega Man and I Am Legend (the movie) did a better version of the story. The idea that Neville coming up with a cure for the plague without any prior education is a bit far fetched.

But over all his short stories are a good read and he did write my favorite Twilight Zone episode (Night Call). I've never read the story that was to be made into Night Call, if one exists. Does anyone know?

Re:For what it's worth (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Codger (96717) | about a year ago | (#44100549)

I beg to differ on I Am Legend. I read the book many years ago and found it suspenseful, engrossing, moving, and, to one willing to suspend disbelief, reasonably plausible.

None of the movies lived up to the original. They went more for thrills and chills at the expense of the humanity of the story.

Re:For what it's worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44100627)

I concur. The biggest let down in the last movie adaptation was the need to change the ending. "I Am Legend" has a much more significant relevance in the book regarding man's inability accept change.

Re:For what it's worth (1)

JeanCroix (99825) | about a year ago | (#44104201)

I concur. And none of the movie adaptations have really even touched on what, for me, was the biggest theme of the original story: What does it mean to be a "monster?"

Re:For what it's worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44104277)

Especially "Omega Man." I remember loving that movie as a kid, then seeing it as an adult after reading the story and being disgusted that they so bluntly turned Neville into an action hero.

Re:For what it's worth (1)

Anonymous Codger (96717) | about a year ago | (#44112007)

Yes, exactly. The moral ambiguity at the end was an eyeopener for my inexperienced teenage mind.

Re:For what it's worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44149689)

I concur. And none of the movie adaptations have really even touched on what, for me, was the biggest theme of the original story: What does it mean to be a "monster?"

I think Will Smith's version had the original ending from the book but it was changed for commercial reasons.

 

Re:For what it's worth (1)

mmcxii (1707574) | about a year ago | (#44104517)

I'm fine with you having your opinion of it but it still doesn't address the idea that he just came up with not as much a cure but an understanding of the plague. An understanding that even after a fair amount of research most college freshmen with a biology major would have known without having to open a book.

In any case... to me the book just dwelled on Neville's being a drunk too much. While it's an honest approach it hardly makes for engrossing reading. The only part of the book that really moved me was the death of the dog. There was just too much tedium in some parts of it. Sometimes I don't mind it in my readings but Matheson just didn't strike a chord with me when he did it. Who knows.

Re:For what it's worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44101441)

Let's not forget "Homega Man", the Simpsons' Tree House of Horror vignette spoofing this story.

Re:For what it's worth (1)

tippe (1136385) | about a year ago | (#44102581)

I was going to say that my comment was off-topic but that my favourite Twilignt Zone episode was "Button, Button", but I just checked the Wikipedia page for "Button, Button" and it turns out that Richard Matheson wrote that as well. Holy crap! I had no idea! I guess my comment isn't off-topic after all.

Re:For what it's worth (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | about a year ago | (#44104715)

I think that I Am Legend is pretty weak from the science fiction aspect. Omega Man and I Am Legend (the movie) did a better version of the story. The idea that Neville coming up with a cure for the plague without any prior education is a bit far fetched.

You are confusing me. You say you prefer the film I Am Legend to the novella, but go onto say that the idea of him finding a cure was pretty weak. In the movie he finds a cure (and is a professional virologist); in the book he does not (and is not). The movie has a tacked on happy ending; the book is easily one of the most crushingly depressing pieces of sci-fi I've ever read (and I mean that as a compliment).

The Will Smith movie does a good job building the tension and atmosphere in the first half, but squanders it with a mediocre second half and preposterous ending. The novella, on the other hand, takes great pleasure in crushing your spirit into the ground, only to give you the occasional brief glimpse of respite, only to crush you down again. Again, in a good way.

Re:For what it's worth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44104947)

But over all his short stories are a good read and he did write my favorite Twilight Zone episode (Night Call). I've never read the story that was to be made into Night Call, if one exists. Does anyone know?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_Call

Written by Richard Matheson
(From his story "Long Distance Call" originally published in Alone by Night 1961.)

Your last source for all the latest! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44100483)

We're in behind everyone on this one

Someday they'll film it right? (5, Informative)

LNO (180595) | about a year ago | (#44100519)

If you haven't read I Am Legend, you're doing yourself a disservice. The three adaptations mentioned in the summary are The Last Man On Earth [imdb.com] in 1964 starring Vincent Price, The Omega Man [imdb.com] in 1971 starring Charleton Heston, and I Am Legend [imdb.com] in 2007 starring Will Smith. Of all of these, the oldest is the closest to the actual novella and takes the fewest liberties.

When the 2007 version was in preproduction, I was geeking out as I could not wait to see this done with modern technology and techniques. Of course, as I should have known (and we should all have known with, say, Ender's Game or World War Z) that what made the book excellent is not what would be shown on the screen.

Even though the story is 59 years old, I'm still loathe to spoil it. Go read it. Do Richard Matheson one last tribute.

Re:Someday they'll film it right? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#44101039)

If you haven't read I Am Legend, you're doing yourself a disservice. The three adaptations mentioned in the summary are The Last Man On Earth in 1964 starring Vincent Price, The Omega Man in 1971 starring Charleton Heston, and I Am Legend in 2007 starring Will Smith. Of all of these, the oldest is the closest to the actual novella and takes the fewest liberties.

Americans could still read in the 1960s. Now they just assume that all books are books of a movie.

Re:Someday they'll film it right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44102285)

I always find it annoying when people say stuff like this, considering literacy rates have done nothing but rise since the 1960s. Just because people haven't read a specific old book that you think is good does not make them an idiot.

Re:Someday they'll film it right? (1)

darnkitten (1533263) | about a year ago | (#44103935)

I always find it annoying when people say stuff like this, considering literacy rates have done nothing but rise since the 1960s. Just because people haven't read a specific old book that you think is good does not make them an idiot.

I don't know. I collect book-to-film adaptations for the public library I run and I put the film on the shelf next to the book with tags on each referring to the other. Patrons will walk down the aisles and take stacks of the videos and not touch the books. I've managed to persuade someone to read the original book only twice in the last year, once for Princess Bride and once for To Kill a Mockingbird. No, make that three--there is a 9-year-old boy reading Lord of the Rings, though that was his idea, not mine.

Re:Someday they'll film it right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44104313)

It's not about illiteracy, it's about aliteracy. As Twain pointed out, someone who doesn't read has no advantage over someone can't read. The last figure I saw said that something like 3% of Americans read a book last year, and that's entirely believable when you come to slashdot and can't read for two minutes without seeing some aliterate moron saying "they will loose there mind's." People who read seldom make those kind of incredibly stupid errors.

Oh, and they didn't read any more back in the 1960s than they do now. "Bookworms" like me were looked down on just for enjoying reading and learning.

Re:Someday they'll film it right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44104625)

someone who doesn't read has no advantage over someone can't read

...and people who often read can even make simple mistakes such as leaving out words.

Re:Someday they'll film it right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44102155)

You missed http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_Omega/ [wikipedia.org]

Re:Someday they'll film it right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44102955)

That's not really an adaptation; it's a rip-off.

Re:Someday they'll film it right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44104479)

Um, that's just weasel-wording. Adaptation, rip-off, whatever. The fact that you don't like it, doesn't negative the fact it what based on the same book as the others.

Re:Someday they'll film it right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44111017)

It's not just weasel words. Copyright covers derivative works, so they have to be licensed. Battlestar Galactica was seen by George Lucas, rightly or wrongly, as a rip-off of Star Wars. As Glen Larson responded when Richard Hatch undertook his own Battlestar Galactica reboot called Second Coming, "Imagine what George Lucas would have said if I had told him, 'George, I'm going to make my own version of Star Wars.'"

Re:Someday they'll film it right? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44111269)

Oh, fine. In that case, there are 5 adaptations including I Am Lego. [youtube.com]

Trilogy of Terror (2)

invid (163714) | about a year ago | (#44100783)

I remember discovering that a number of movies that had major impacts on me growing up were written by the same person, ( Trilogy of Terror, Duel, The Omega Man) and wondering why I hadn't heard his name before. I had nightmares about that little idol doll for weeks.

Re:Trilogy of Terror (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#44102117)

I'm just curious.. how much work would there have to be on the *screenplay* for Duel? I mean, there were, what, 25 spoken words in the whole film? Disclaimer: I am not in "The Industry" at all, and have no idea what a screenplay consists of.

Granted, it's a brilliant film.

Re:Trilogy of Terror (1)

invid (163714) | about a year ago | (#44102283)

I have actually written 2 teleplays (for a very failed TV series, it never got off the ground). The general rule is one page per minute. Now, depending on the writer, you could have someone go into every shot type, camera angle, facial expressions, and so on. Even so it would be hard to get a page per minute on Duel. I have to look and see if the script is on line now, you got me curious.

Re:Trilogy of Terror (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44102495)

"The general rule is one page per minute"
you know, a book on screenwriting that is nothing but a list of 'general rules' would be pretty damn handy.

Re:Trilogy of Terror (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#44103537)

"The general rule is one page per minute"

Would that be elite (12 char/inch) or pica (10 char/inch) spacing...

Re:Trilogy of Terror (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#44102715)

Here ya go: http://www.awesomefilm.com/script/Duel.pdf [awesomefilm.com]

Re:Trilogy of Terror (1)

invid (163714) | about a year ago | (#44103203)

thanks!

Re:Trilogy of Terror (2)

invid (163714) | about a year ago | (#44103173)

Camera shooting from the left and at a shallow downward angle. Now the camera starts to pull ahead, drawing around so that Mann's car remains in sight. After a while, the truck is revealed foot by foot; a gigantic gasoline tanker truck pulling a tank trailer, each of them having six wheels. It is not a new rig but dented and in need of renovation, its tanks painted a cheap looking silver color. We hear the grinding strain of the truck's motor. The vertical pipe to the left of the cab is spewing dark smoke which clouds back across the trailer.

This is fairly detailed. 92 pages. The movie is 90 minutes.

"Last Man on Earth" available at archive.org (1)

RocketJeff (46275) | about a year ago | (#44101109)

"Last Man on Earth", the Vincent Price movie version of "I am Legend" is available at the Internet Archive: http://archive.org/details/TheLastManOnEarth_72 [archive.org]

Although I prefer Mathewson's original story to any of the movie adaptations, I think that this is the best movie of the three based on it.

Another story of his. (1)

wayne1932 (678829) | about a year ago | (#44101455)

He also wrote a story which was made into the movie "Somewhere in time" starring "superman" and Jane Seymore. I loved the movie and then looked up the book.

Stir of Echoes The Sixth Sense (1)

JoshDM (741866) | about a year ago | (#44102421)

The Kevin Bacon film was an adaptation, but it was so similar to The Sixth Sense and came out around the same time... it's like how Equilibrium was better than The Matrix.

Re:Stir of Echoes The Sixth Sense (1)

JoshDM (741866) | about a year ago | (#44102431)

Thanks, Slashdot for parsing out > Stir of Echoes GREATER THAN(x3) Sixth Sense.

Re:Stir of Echoes The Sixth Sense (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#44102509)

" Equilibrium was better than The Matrix."
BWAHAHAHAHAhahhahaha..

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