The name Richard Matheson may not be readily familiar to most people, but his work certainly is. For the last fifty years or so, his work has entered bedrock status in popular culture, especially current science-fiction/fantasy/horror.
A good portion of his most well-known stories were adapted into memorable TWILIGHT ZONE episodes; in the early 60′s, Roger Corman chose him to write some of the Edgar Allen Poe adaptations – HOUSE OF USHER, THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, THE RAVEN; in the ’70′s, Steven Spielberg kicked off a promising career by directing a tv-movie called DUEL written by Matheson, and Dan Curtis (DARK SHADOWS, THE WINDS OF WAR) had a fruitful alliance with Matheson with the tv-movies, THE NIGHT STALKER and THE NIGHT STRANGLER, DRACULA, and TRILOGY OF TERROR.
A substantial amount of Matheson’s novels have been turned into beloved films – THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, THE OMEGA MAN, SOMEWHERE IN TIME, A STIR OF ECHOES, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, I AM LEGEND…
With an impressive CV like the one above, it’ll take a solid effort to pay proper respect to the man and his work in literary form. HE IS LEGEND, a collection edited by Christopher Conlon, declares itself to be an ‘anthology celebrating Richard Matheson’; and it does fit the bill. All of the stories present are Matheson-related; either inspired by his work, or sequels/prequels to his work.
It can also be said that all of the contributors chosen owe quite a debt to Matheson and his efforts, and that debt is worked-off by some heavyweights in the genre. The main attraction is pretty major – a collaboration by father/son Stephen King and Joe Hill; but also on the bill are William F. Nolan, Ed Gorman, Joe Lansdale, Ramsey Campbell (providing an introduction rather than a story), F. Paul Wilson, John Shirley, Nancy Collins, Whitley Strieber, Richard Christian Matheson (his son), and several others.
It’s a pretty strong tribute anthology – though the thing with tributes is, it usually only means something if you know of the original work. With adaptations of Matheson’s work still being done (such as the recent THE BOX), most of it is still in print and quite easy to find.
Tributes of this nature are usually given once the recipient is either near death, or has passed on over. Neither is true in Matheson’s case, with the release of his new novel OTHER KINGDOMS. After writing in almost every genre, Matheson finally attempts a work in the fantasy genre – fantasy in the realm of faeries, enchantments, witches — that type of fantasy.
Written as the memoir of Alex White, a successful author, the book’s main setting is the early 1900′s, at the start of World War I and Alex’s enlistment to escape his home life. Wounded in battle, he ends up relocating to a remote English village whose surrounding woods, are reputed to be the realm of ‘the wee folk’.
Even in straight fantasy, Matheson doesn’t go where you expect him to, which is a huge plus for those who roll their eyes whenever the Faerie card is played. Matheson keeps the reader grounded with his main character, through whose eyes and viewpoint the events are experienced, from disbelief to grudging acceptance.
Matheson also incorporates a great deal of research in Wicca and folklore which adds a veneer of believability to the story’s more mystical aspects.
OTHER KINGDOMS is closer in tone to SOMEWHERE IN TIME and WHAT DREAMS MAY COME than some of his more horrific work, Fantasy fans will immediately flock to this and it should win over those who normally squirm when faced with ‘fantasy’ literature.