Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Matheson Passes

Richard Matheson passed away today (well, yesterday as I write this, since it's now after midnight) at the age of 87, and I felt like the loss of such a masterful writer needed to be noted in some way. Matheson was one of the first authors I read when I discovered science fiction and fantasy back in the mid-1960s, starting with I Am Legend.

Matheson doesn't get the attention of a Lovecraft or a King, but he's every bit as skilled as a storyteller. He comes from that school of writing that emphasized storytelling over literary style; one of the strengths of Matheson's work is that you could be so drawn into the tale he was telling that you never really noticed his style at all. "Transparent writing," someone once called it, and I think that's a remarkable talent to possess. That's why so many of Matheson's works have been made into such strong films, while the works of HP Lovecraft generally make poor films. Lovecraft's works need his words to be most effective, whereas Matheson's words and ideas are so carefully blended that even without the words, the strengths of the story come through. That's also why it was so easy for him to make the move into television and film, I suspect--his storytelling always demonstrated a cinematic eye.

I think that's why many people love Matheson's stories, but few people name him as a favorite author. He's one of those writers that other writers tend to like tremendously, and with good reason; they recognize how skilled he is at making something so difficult seem so effortless.


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