Richard Matheson passed yesterday at the age of 87, after a long illness. Best known for his seminal work I Am Legend, he leaves not just a legacy of great science fiction, but an indelible mark on American pop culture.
Along with I Am Legend, Matheson wrote What Dreams May Come, A Stir of Echoes, and The Shrinking Man, all of which became Hollywood movies (in the case of I Am Legend, more than a few times). He was also one of the original Twilight Zone's greatest screenwriters, penned the classic William Shatner-starring episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." His Twilight Zone episode "Steel" became the basis for Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman.
But Matheson was hardly just a Hollywood idea factory. Matheson's dark, existentialist style influenced science fiction in every medium. His prose was humanist, but it was also bleak and ambiguous in a way that science fiction hadn't been before, revealing the way the ambiguities of human nature play into stories of the fantastic.
Ray Bradbury called him "one of the most important writers of the 20th century," and Stephen King credited Matheson as "the author who influenced me most as a writer."