In the class of science fiction’s most influential and original writers, Richard Matheson stands up there with the likes of Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury. So it is with sorrow that we report he has died in California at the age of 87.
Though his name might not immediately spark recognition, there is a good chance that if you enjoy the genre, you’ve read his work or seen something adapted from it, including I Am Legend, published in 1954 and filmed as The Last Man On Earth, The Omega Man and the eponymous 2007 Will Smith version; The Shrinking Man, which he adapted into 1957’s The Incredible Shrinking Man; A Stir Of Echoes and several episodes of The Twilight Zone, including the classic Nightmare At 20,000 Feet.
He was born in New Jersey in 1926 to Norwegian immigrants and lived with his mother after his father abandoned the family. After serving in World War II, he earned a journalism degree from the University of Missouri in 1949, but by 1950 had already sold his first story, Born Of Man And Woman, to The Magazine Of Fantasy And Science Fiction, which solidified his writing career.
After moving to Santa Monica in 1951, he married Ruth Ann Woodson and the couple had four children. To support both his growing family and his writing, he worked as a postal clerk and in an airplane factory, honing his stories in his spare time. The Incredible Shrinking Man saw him launched into a fresh career writing for movies and TV and he even wrote an earlier treatment for I Am Legend that was intended for Hammer in London but was never made because of the concerns of the censor.
Other work included episodes of Star Trek and his short story Duel, which famously helped kick off Steven Spielberg’s professional career. In 2010 he was rightfully inducted into the Science Fiction Gall Of Fame. He died in Calabasas. The world has lost a true talent, and our thoughts are with his family.