Richard Burton Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013) was an influential American sci-fi/fantasy/horror novelist and screenwriter.
His works include
- "Born of Man and Woman": His first published short story, told from a point of view of a deformed child locked in the basement by its parents.
- Bid Time Return, which was made into the movie Somewhere in Time.
- The Incredible Shrinking Man: The Trope Namer, Matheson wrote the original novel and the screenplay adaptation.
- I Am Legend: 1954 novel, adapted to film three times - The Last Man on Earth (1964, with Vincent Price), The Omega Man (1971, with Charlton Heston), and I Am Legend (2007, with Will Smith).
- Hell House: 1971 novel, source for the 1973 film The Legend of Hell House.
- The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Enemy Within".
- What Dreams May Come: 1978 novel, adapted to film in 1998.
- A Stir of Echoes: 1958 novel, adapted to film in 1999.
- The Night Stalker, a Made-for-TV Movie adaptation of a (then unpublished) novel by Jeffrey Grant Rice, and its sequel TV movie, The Night Strangler. Both movies were huge ratings hits, which led to the development of the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker (which Matheson was not involved with).
- The short stories "Prey" and "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" ("There's...something on the wing!"). "Prey" was adapted into one of the stories in the TV movie Trilogy of Terror, "Nightmare" into a The Twilight Zone (1959) episode. Both adaptations have been critically acclaimed.
- The short story "Button, Button," which was also adapted into a The Twilight Zone (1985) episode and then the movie The Box.
- "Duel", a short story that was made into the first film directed by Steven Spielberg.
- "The Splendid Source", a 1956 short story adapted into an episode of Family Guy in 2010.
- All three of the stories featured in Trilogy Of Terror.
- The short story "Steel," the basis for a Twilight Zone episode that was in turn the basis for Real Steel.
- The short story "Little Girl Lost" was the basis for a Twilight Zone episode as well and a partial inspiration for Poltergeist.
- The screenplay for Master of the World, adapting both Master of the World and Robur the Conqueror.
Works by Matheson with their own pages include:
- "The Enemy Within"
- Hell House
- I Am Legend
- The Incredible Shrinking Man
- "Little Girl Lost"
- Master of the World
Tropes appearing in Matheson's other works:
- Ancient Tradition: In "The Splendid Source", the hero discovers that an ancient fellowship makes up and spreads most or all of the world's risque jokes. (Ernest Hemingway, alive at the time the story was written, is shown to be a modern-day member.)"That is history's secret," rejoined the Dean, "veiled behind time's opacity. Our venture does have its honored past, however. Great men have graced its cause — Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, Dickens.... Shakespeare, of course.... Horace and Seneca.... Yea, in the palaces of Tutankhamen was our work done.... Scraped on rock, in many a primordial cave, are certain drawings. And there are those among us who believe that these were left by the earliest members of the Brotherhood. But this is only legend..."
- Better to Die than Be Killed: Appears on a massive scale in "The Creeping Terror". The city of Los Angeles is revealed to be sentient, and, as the title implies, slowly grows to take over the entire United States. As it does, it brainwashes everyone it comes into contact with, making them lose their past identities and become shallow, Hollywood-obsessed bimbos. When Los Angeles reaches Boston, the entire population of the city decides to commit mass suicide rather than surrender their free will.
- Creepy Child:
- The protagonist of "Drink My Red Blood".
- The little girls in "Witch War" are disturbingly calm about the fact they regularly murder enemy soldiers in various gruesome ways.
- Creepy Doll: In "Prey", a young woman is terrorized by an African Zuni warrior doll that she brings home as a gift for her boyfriend, and which subsequently comes to life.
- The Dead Can Dance: "Dance of the Dead" has a group of young people in a post-World War III future visiting a nightclub where corpses are made to "dance" through the use of a nerve-gas spray.
- Genius Loci: Done to horrifying effect in "The Creeping Terror", which was originally published as "A Touch of Grapefruit". The story, which is presented as a thesis for a Master's degree, describes strange occurrences throughout the Midwestern United States, including citrus trees growing in corn fields, increasingly balmy weather, and people looking for the ocean and talking about driving to different locations in California. As it turns out, the city of Los Angeles is alive... and it's spreading. At first, the populace at large takes this as a joke, but soon, people across the whole nation begin to completely lose their minds, destroying their homes and property, as the city moves from the Midwest to the rest of the nation. By the end, Los Angeles has taken over the whole country, with the entire population now brainwashed by it... and the final lines of the story imply that "Ellie" is beginning to spread to the countries surrounding the United States as well.
- Griping About Gremlins: In "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", a man sees a gremlin sabotaging the plane he's a passenger in.
- The Gunfighter Wannabe: "The Conqueror".
- Haunted House:
- "Slaughter House".
- Earthbound features one.
- Have a Gay Old Time: In "SRL Ad", a personal ad describes the person as "tender and gay altogether." The person who replies describes himself as "gay altogether," as well. Matheson adds in a note after the story, "the word 'gay' did not mean what it does today."
- Hell of a Heaven: In What Dreams May Come, the protagonist dies in an accident and goes to heaven, but is unhappy there because his wife, who committed suicide in grief over his death, has been sent to hell.
- I Am A Humanitarian: The entire town in "The Children of Noah" is made up of cannibals.
- Literary Allusion Title: What Dreams May Come takes its title from the famous soliloquy in Hamlet:To die, to sleep—
To sleep—perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.
- A Love to Dismember: Last two sentences of "Someone Is Bleeding" read as follows:And when they took away the thing that Peggy was fondling in her lap she said they mustn't. She said they had to let her keep his head because she loved the man.
- Madwoman in the Attic: In "Born of Man and Woman", a deformed child is kept chained in the basement by its parents. From the fragmentary descriptions we get, "deformed" is a severe understatement: "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 [from earlier context, this appears to mean "bleed"] all over until they are sorry they didn't be nice to me."
- Mind-Control Conspiracy: "Legion of Plotters" takes this to its logical—and tragic—conclusion.
- Most Writers Are Writers:
- "Mad House" focuses on a writer with a nasty case of writer's block, among other problems.
- The protagonist in What Dreams May Come was a writer for television.
- Off with His Head!: The fate of the last victim in "Someone Is Bleeding".
- Our Vampires Are Different:
- "Drink My Red Blood".
- "Dr. Morton's Folly".
- "No Such Thing as a Vampire".
- Perverse Puppet: The fetish doll in "Prey".
- Public-Domain Character: Dracula himself makes an appearance in "Drink My Red Blood".
- Random Species Offspring: In "Born of Man and Woman", the protagonist is some sort of horrid abomination of a spider-mutant with multiple limbs, wall-climbing and a burning saliva. He was born to normal human parents who are disgusted by him and keep him locked in a basement.
- Reality Warper: The little girls in "Witch War".
- Robot Athlete: In "Steel", robots have replaced humans in the sport of boxing.
- Title of the Dead: "Dance of the Dead".
- Town with a Dark Secret: The town in "The Children of Noah" regularly thins its own population and removes visitors through cannibalism.
- Undead Child: "Little Girl Knocking at My Door".
- Vampire Vannabe: The protagonist of "Drink My Red Blood".