Writing is a necessarily solitary occupation in virtually all of its stages: studying craft, breaking stories, producing drafts, editing manuscripts—each of these tasks consigns us to endless hours in the privacy of our own imaginations. Opportunities to bond with colleagues, a given in nearly any other profession, are often few and far between for us.
Likewise, reading is a conscious act of seclusion, as well—one in which we submit to the imagination of an author. We often (usually) have no relationship with these artists outside the forum of their fiction itself, despite the profound sense of intimacy engendered through their creations, which have the capacity—and we’ve all experienced this, regardless of the extent of our own personal creative inclinations—to shape our very apprehension of reality.
In our many discussions of storytelling craft here on this blog, and our ongoing appreciation of some of the masters of the discipline, I haven’t yet addressed the subject of relationships—either direct working associations, or the kind of indirect (yet no less meaningful) familiarity fostered with the artists we revere through their stories. Today I’d like to share a special instance in which those two roads intersected, and from it developed the rarest of all affiliations: friendship.
After featuring my first interview here last month, I am pleased to host the blog’s first guest post. Barry Hoffman works with Gauntlet Press, a specialty press devoted to publishing signed limited-edition collectibles and trade paperbacks; in the essay that follows, he discusses the influential fiction of legendary horror/science-fiction author Richard Matheson, and shares personal insights from his experiences as Matheson’s admirer, publisher, and friend:
Richard Matheson passed away June 23, 2013. Many might not recall his name, but you know his work. Matheson wrote twenty-two scripts for Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone, including what many consider the most famous, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” which starred William Shatner as a crazed airplane passenger who sees a monster on the wing of the plane. He wrote scripts for the two acclaimed Kolchak movies of the week (he was not involved with the inferior series). His most famous novel was I Am Legend, which most recently was a film starring Will Smith (the movie, though, doesn’t adhere to Matheson’s original script or novel).
Richard Matheson’s seminal vampire novel has inspired no fewer than three very successful feature-film adaptations, starring legends-in-their-own-right Vincent Price, Charlton Heston, and Will Smith in the title role
He penned What Dreams May Come, which was also turned into a film. Both the film and the novel were of great comfort to the families of victims of the Columbine school massacre in 1999. He also wrote The Shrinking Man and penned the script for what became The Incredible Shrinking Man. Matheson didn’t achieve the name recognition of Stephen King because he jumped from genre to genre. He wrote two acclaimed horror novels (I Am Legend and Hell House), five westerns, a war novel (Beardless Warriors), science fiction (Earthbound), several thrillers, and novels like What Dreams May Come that defy categorization. He wrote well over a hundred short stories but abandoned the form as his short fiction couldn’t feed his family. He was a true Renaissance man who also wrote music (unpublished).