(Inspirational for generations...)The literary world lost a giant this past week. Richard Matheson, horror writer extraordinaire, died at the age of 87. Matheson wrote a number of novels that have been influential, but the biggest of them was I Am Legend. First published in 1954, I came across this work about a decade ago while browsing through a bookstore and nearly read the whole thing that afternoon. I Am Legend is about a man trapped in a world populated by nothing but vampires, and he(Robert Neville) is trying to find a cure while killing as many vamps as possible. Yes, this book is about vampires, even though it helped inspire the zombie craze.
There have been several adaptations of this work, and the most recent was an abomination that trashed what Matheson had in mind. In the novel, Neville didn't know that there were two classes of vampires - one that was mindless, and one who'd regained sentience and was trying to rebuild society. By killing all of them and not making any distinctions, Neville had become the monster of the vampires' legends. So, basically, the Will Smith version shit all over the meaning of the novel.
This was one of the most influential novels of the last century and established Matheson as one of the greatest horror writers of all time. Stephen King has even pointed to Matheson as a major influence on his life and work, no small compliment. However, horror wasn't his only talent.
Matheson also wrote What Dreams May Come, which later became another movie(this one not nearly as bastardized), during which Matheson had done considerable research into the afterlife. He's also responsible for one of the most famous Star Trek episodes of all time - "The Enemy Within," where Kirk splits into two parts(a good Kirk and an evil Kirk). These writings made a tremendous impact on what we've read and watched, and they're still referenced today. Without Matheson, who knows what the landscape of horror and sci-fi would look like.
Not many writers of Matheson's caliber come along, and I hope that we can all pay him the tribute he deserves. I'm sure he's somewhere telling the angels stories for them to weave into our history, and his spirit will continue to inspire us. Rest in peace, Mr. Matheson - you've earned it.