Richard Matheson – author and screenwriter

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Richard Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013) was an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He may be known best as the author of I Am Legend, a 1954 horror novel that has been adapted for the screen three times, although five more of his novels have been adapted as major motion pictures: The Shrinking ManHell HouseWhat Dreams May ComeBid Time Return (filmed as Somewhere in Time), and A Stir of Echoes.

He adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe for the Roger Corman’s Poe series including House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961) and The Raven (1963).

Matheson also wrote numerous television episodes of The Twilight Zone for Rod Serling, including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. He later adapted his 1971 short story “Duel” as a screenplay which was promptly directed by a young Steven Spielberg, for the TV movie of the same name.

Matheson’s first published short story was “Born of Man and Woman” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Summer 1950, the new quarterly’s third issue. It is the tale of a monstrous child chained by its parents in the cellar, cast as the creature’s diary in poignantly non-idiomatic English. Later that year he placed stories in the first and third numbers of Galaxy Science Fiction, a new monthly. Between 1950 and 1971, he produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres. He was a member of the Southern California School of Writers in the 1950s-1960s, which included Charles Beaumont, William F. Nolan, Ray Bradbury, Jerry Sohl, and George Clayton Johnson.

For Hammer Films wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (US title: Die! Die! My Darling!) and adapted Dennis Wheatley’s The Devil Rides Out (1968). 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 Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

Matheson’s first novel, Someone Is Bleeding, was published in 1953. His early novels include The Shrinking Man (1956, filmed in 1957 as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson’s own screenplay) and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend, (1954, filmed as The Last Man on Earth in 1964, The Omega Man in 1971, and I Am Legend in 2007).

Other Matheson novels turned into notable films include What Dreams May ComeA Stir of Echoes (as Stir of Echoes), Bid Time Return (as Somewhere in Time), and Hell House (as The Legend of Hell House), the last two adapted and scripted by Matheson himself.


Three of his short stories were filmed together as Trilogy of Terror (1975), including “Prey” (initially published in the April 1969 edition of Playboy magazine) with its famous Zuni warrior doll. Matheson’s short story “Button, Button”, was filmed as The Box in 2009, and was previously adapted for a 1986 episode of The Twilight Zone.


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