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Richard Burton Matheson (20 February 1926 – 23 June 2013) was an American author and screenwriter, typically of fantasy, horror, or science fiction.
- See also:
- The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957 film based on his 1956 novel)
- The Last Man on Earth (1964 film based on his 1954 novel I Am Legend)
- The Omega Man (1971 film based on his 1954 novel I Am Legend)
- Somewhere in Time (1980 film based on his 1975 novel Bid Time Return)
- What Dreams May Come (1998 film based on his 1978 novel)
- I Am Legend (2007 film based on his 1954 novel)
- House of Usher (1960 film)
- Master of the World (1961 film)
- The Raven (1963 film)
- Duel (1971 film)
- You never know, he thought. You just never know. You drift along, year after year, presuming certain values to be fixed; like being able to drive on a public thoroughfare without somebody trying to murder you. You came to depend on that sort of thing. Then something occurs and all bets are off. One shocking incident and all the years of logic and acceptance are displaced and, suddenly, the jungle is in front of you again. Man, part animal, part angel. Where had he come across that phrase? He shivered.
It was entirely an animal in that truck out there.
- "Duel" (1971), a short story, which he later adapted into a screenplay for Duel (1971), Steven Spielberg's first feature-length film.
- Somewhere In Time is the story of a love which transcends time, What Dreams May Come is the story of a love which transcends death. … I feel that they represent the best writing I have done in the novel form.
- Introduction to an Omnibus edition of his work, as quoted in Somewhere in Time (1998), p. 318 - 319
- It is my conviction that basic Reality is not all that perplexing. What seems difficult to assimilate are the manifold details of Reality, not its fundamental elements.
- Introduction to The Path (1999), based on ideas presented in Thinking and Destiny (1946) by Harold W. Percival, p. 11
- Our world is in profound danger. Mankind must establish a set of positive values with which to secure its own survival.
This quest for enlightenment must begin now.
It is essential that all men and women become aware of what they are, why they are here on Earth and what they must do to preserve civilization before it is too late.
- Introduction to The Path (1999), based on ideas presented in Thinking and Destiny (1946) by Harold W. Percival, p. 12
- My wife and child and I were on a camping trip and we stopped in Virginia City. In the Opera House, I saw a photograph of Maude Adams, the famous American actress. It was such a great photograph that creatively I fell in love with her. What if some guy did the same thing and could go back in time?
- On his initial inspiration for the novel Bid Time Return (1975), as quoted in Behind the Scenes of Somewhere in Time (1980)"
- I think What Dreams May Come is the most important (read effective) book I’ve written. It has caused a number of readers to lose their fear of death — the finest tribute any writer could receive. … Somewhere In Time is my favorite novel.
- I hate it when something I’ve had published "inspires" some nut to imitate what I’ve written, or some teacher gets fired for having her students read one of my stories or novels.
- I hope people are reading my work in the future. I hope I have done more than frightened a couple of generations. I hope I’ve inspired a few people one way or another.
Actually, the highlight of my life — which, of course, had an enormous influence on my writing career — was meeting Ruth Woodson on the beach in Santa Monica in 1951, falling in love with her, marrying her, and creating with her a family of four children; two sons, two daughters. My love for them, and growth because of them, made my writing life what it was. It’s a process I advocate for any would-be writer.
- I think we’re yearning for something beyond the every day. And I will tell you that I don’t believe in the “supernatural,” I believe in the “supernormal.” To me there is nothing that goes against nature. If it seems incomprehensible, it’s because we haven’t been able to understand it yet.
- When asked, "In your estimation, what does the supernatural genre tell us about ourselves as human beings?" in "He Is Legend" interview at Cinemaspy (2007); also quoted in "Author Richard Matheson, 'I Am Legend' Writer, Dies At 87" at NPR (26 June 2013)
- I can get pissed off very easily.
- "He Is Legend" interview at Cinemaspy (2007)
Born of Man and Woman (1950)
- X — This day when it had light mother called me a retch. You retch she said. I saw in her eyes the anger. I wonder what it is a retch.
- It is a secret but I have pulled the chain out of the wall. I can see out the little window all I like.
- This day father hit in the chain again before it had light. I have to try to pull it out again. He said I was bad to come upstairs. He said never do that again or he would beat me hard. That hurts.
- I am not so glad. All day it is cold in here. The chain comes slow out of the wall. And I have a bad anger with mother and father. I will show them. I will do what I did that once.
I will screech and laugh loud. I will run on the walls. Last I will hang head down by all my legs and laugh and drip green all over until they are sorry they didn't be nice to me.
If they try to beat me again I'll hurt them. I will.
I Am Legend (1954)
- They were strange, the facts about them: their staying inside by day, their avoidance of garlic, their death by stake, their reputed fear of crosses, their supposed dread of mirrors.
Take that last, now. According to legend, they were invisible in mirrors, but he knew that was untrue. As untrue as the belief that they transformed themselves into bats. That was a superstition that logic, plus observation had easily disposed of. ‘It was equally foolish to believe that they could transform themselves into wolves. Without a doubt there were vampire dogs; he had seen and heard them outside his house at night. But they were only dogs.
- Ch. 2
- Something black and of the night had come crawling out of the Middle Ages. Something with no framework or credulity, something that had been consigned, fact and figure, to the pages of imaginative literature. Vampires were passé; Summers’ idylls or Stoker’s melodramatics or a brief inclusion in the Britannica or grist for the pulp writer’s mill or raw material for the B-film factories. A tenuous legend passed from century to century.
Well, it was true.
- Ch. 3
- True, he thought, but no one ever got the chance to know it. Oh, they knew it was something, but it couldn’t be that — not that. That was imagination, that was superstition, there was no such thing as that.
And, before science had caught up with the legend, the legend had swallowed science and everything.
- Ch. 3
- The world’s gone mad, he thought. The dead walk about and I think nothing of it.
The return of corpses has become trivial in import. How quickly one accepts the incredible if only one sees it.
- Ch. 8
- Despite everything he had or might have (except, of course, another human being), life gave no promise of improvement or even of change. The way things shaped up, he would live out his life with no more than he already had. And how many years was that? Thirty, maybe forty if he didn’t drink himself to death.
The thought of forty more years of living as he was made him shudder.
- Ch. 12
- To his complete astonishment, he later found himself offering up a stumbling prayer that the dog would be protected. It was a moment in which he felt a desperate need to believe in a God that shepherded his own creations. But, even praying, he felt a twinge of self-reproach, and knew he might start mocking his own prayer at any second.
Somehow, though, he managed to ignore his iconoclastic self and went on praying anyway. Because he wanted the dog, because he needed the dog.
- Ch. 12
- Sometimes he had indulged in daydreams about finding someone. More often, though, he had tried to adjust to what he sincerely believed was the inevitable — that he was actually the only one left in the world. At least in as much of the world as he could ever hope to know.
- Ch. 13
- A woman. Alive. In the daylight.
He stood, mouth partly open, gaping at the woman. She was young, he could see now as she came closer; probably in her twenties. She wore a wrinkled and dirty white dress. She was very tan, her hair was red. In the dead silence of the afternoon Neville thought he heard the crunch of her shoes in the long grass.
I’ve gone mad. The words presented themselves abruptly. He felt less shock at that possibility than he did at the notion that she was real. He had, in fact, been vaguely preparing himself for just such a delusion. It seemed feasible. The man who died of thirst saw mirages of lakes. Why shouldn’t a man who thirsted for companionship see a woman walking in the sun?
- Ch. 15
- All these years, he thought, dreaming about a companion. Now I meet one and the first thing I do is distrust her, treat her crudely and impatiently.
And yet there was really nothing else he could do. He had accepted too long the proposition that he was the only normal person left. It didn’t matter that she looked normal. He’d seen too many of them lying in their coma that looked as healthy as she. They weren’t, though, and he knew it. The simple fact that she had been walking in the sunlight wasn’t enough to tip the scales on the side of trusting acceptance. He had doubted too long. His concept of the society had become ironbound. It was almost impossible for him to believe that there were others like him. And, after the first shock had diminished, all the dogma of his long years alone had asserted itself.
- Ch. 16
- His sex drive had diminished, had virtually disappeared. Salvation of the monk, he thought. The drive had to go sooner or later, or no normal man could dedicate himself to any life that excluded sex.
Now, happily, he felt almost nothing; perhaps a hardly discernible stirring far beneath the rocky strata of abstinence. He was content to leave it at that. Especially since there was no certainty that Ruth was the companion he had waited for. Or even the certainty that he could allow her to live beyond tomorrow. Cure her?
Curing was unlikely.
- Ch. 17
- I’m writing this note, though, because I want to save you if I can.
When I was first given the job of spying on you, I had no feelings about your life. Because I did have a husband, Robert. You killed him.
But now it’s different. I know now that you were just as much forced into your situation as we were forced into ours. We are infected. But you already know that. What you don’t understand yet is that we’re going to stay alive. We’ve found a way to do that and we’re going to set up society again slowly but surely. We’re going to do away with all those wretched creatures whom death has cheated. And, even though I pray otherwise, we may decide to kill you and those like you.
- Ruth in her letter to Robert
- Ch. 19
- Robert Neville looked out over the new people of the earth. He knew he did not belong to them; he knew that, like the vampires, he was anathema and black terror to be destroyed. And, abruptly, the concept came, amusing to him even in his pain. … Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever.
I am legend.
- Ch. 21
The New York Times interview (1994)
- Quotes of Matheson from "New Jersey Q & A: Richard Matheson; An Influential Writer Returns to Fantasy" by Albert J. Parisi, in The New York Times (10 April 1994)
- I've been very fortunate throughout my career. And I've been lucky enough to have worked with some great and talented people, like Price and Serling. I was just a part of the whole phenomenon coming together. They were exciting times that bubbled over with energy for all those involved.
- When I first joined my local library, I read endlessly. I immediately headed for the fantasy section, fairy tales, you name it. As a teen-ager, I read every novel by Kenneth Roberts, who wrote historical novels about the Revolutionary War period. My mother used to read to me. Heidi was one of my childhood favorites.
- I've always considered myself an offbeat writer. Out here in California they like to categorize, so I'm a science fiction writer. I wrote science fiction to break into the writing business. My love is fantasy. I wrote one of my early novels in four days sitting in a closet which I'd converted into an office, using an old Smith-Corona that my parents had given me for Christmas when I was 12.
- George Romero filmed an homage to the book, and he called it Night of the Living Dead. Homage means I can make the picture and I don't have to pay you for your book. As a teen-ager I saw the movie "Dracula," and it occurred to me that if one vampire was scary, a whole world populated by vampires would be really scary.
- On his novel I Am Legend, and the inspiration for it.
- All through the years, I've had many interests. I always wanted to write a swashbuckler; I still do. I love Westerns. I wrote a western called "Journal of the Gun Years," which won the Golden Spur Award from the Western Writers of America. It had been written some time ago and rejected by every publisher, perhaps because I had been cast in the science fiction mold. I finished writing a combination western and horror story indigenous to the period. And horror takes many forms: Indians had their own superstitions based on things that they didn't understand. In a way, I like to be confusing by combining genres.
I've always been fascinated by parapsychology, and I think that we've all lived before. In "The Path" I've explored that and a few other age-old questions like why are we here and what's our purpose in life.
- To me, I don't even think of life after death. To me, life after death and reincarnation are just slices of the pie. Life is a huge wheel and it goes around and around, and life after death is just a segment of that. It comes down to spiritual growth. I think that we keep coming back until we learn what we need to learn, until we get it right.
I think we've all lived hundreds, maybe thousands of times. That which you think becomes your world. It's only when we're alive and in this world that we have the chance to progress. From the state of the world today, we haven't made much progress.
- Life is a risk; so is writing. You have to love it.
Quotes about Matheson
- Sorted alphabetically by author or source
- Matheson gets closer to his characters than anyone else in the field of fantasy today. … You don’t read a Matheson story — you experience it.
- Robert Bloch, as quoted in an address by Anthony Boucher (29 August 1958), at the "Solacon", the 1958 Worldcon
- He has many … virtues, notably an unusual agility in trick prose and trick construction and a too-little-recognized (or exercised) skill on offtrail humor; but his great strength is his power to take a reader inside a character or a situation.
- Anthony Boucher in an address at the "Solacon", the1958 Worldcon (29 August 1958)
- I think the author who influenced me the most as a writer was Richard Matheson. Books like I Am Legend were an inspiration to me.
- Stephen King, as quoted in a 1995 edition of I Am Legend
- While Mr. Matheson's name is not as recognizable as that of Mr. King, perhaps no author living is as responsible for chilling a generation with tantalizing nightmare visions born of Golden Age television. Together with Rod Serling, Mr. Matheson wrote many of the classic Twilight Zone episodes for the original CBS series, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "Little Girl Lost" and "Third From the Sun."
- I had written a short story, which I basically had ripped off from a Richard Matheson novel called I Am Legend.
- George A. Romero, explaining the initial inspiration of his famous Zombie film Night of the Living Dead (1968), in "One for the Fire: The Legacy of Night of the Living Dead" on a 2008 DVD edition of the film.