Sci-fi, fantasy and horror novelist and screenwriter Richard Matheson, who paved the way for the likes of Stephen King, has died. Tor.com—a site associated with Matheson publisher MacMillan—explained that Matheson’s death was announced on Facebook in a protected posted from his daughter. The news was confirmed to the Associated Press by A spokesman for the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. He was 87 years old.
Matheson was perhaps best known for his novels I Am Legend and The Shrinking Man and the films they spawned. The Hollywood Reporter‘s Borys Kit reported back in February that MGM had acquired the rights to the latter novel, and that Matheson and his son would write an updated screenplay. He had also written the screenplay for another film derived from that novel, 1957’s The Incredible Shrinking Man. While he wrote a number of screenplays himself, his novels and short stories were also often adapted for the screen. Recently, Will Smith starred in an adaptation (one of a couple) of I Am Legend. Matheson was also, per Kit, set to be honored at the Saturn Awards Wednesday, the show will now be dedicated to him.
Matheson wrote a number of Twilight Zone episodes in the late 1950s and early 1960s. One of the most famous of those episodes was “Nightmare at 20,000,” which starred William Shatner as a man who sees a gremlin on the wing of an airplane. Watch a clip here:
Tributes have come in from the likes of Steven Spielberg. Matheson wrote Duel, a television movie Spielberg directed in his pre-Jaws era. “Richard Matheson’s ironic and iconic imagination created seminal science-fiction stories and gave me my first break,” Spielberg said in a statement according to the Los Angeles Times. “For me, he is in the same category as Bradbury and Asimov.”” Chris Alexander, the editor of horror publication Fangoria explained that Matheson “defined the parameters of dark fantasy fiction, working in all mediums and developing a style and evolving thematic arc that carried into his final writings.”
Others memorialized him in on Twitter:
Richard Matheson had the genius to turn a vampire-hunter into a monster. The best sci-fi changes your perspective, & he did it again & again
— Anthony Breznican (@Breznican) June 24, 2013
If it’s true that the great Richard Matheson has passed away, 140 characters can’t begin cover what he has given the sci fi & horror genre.
— edgarwright (@edgarwright) June 24, 2013
Damon Lindelof on Richard Matheson: Every time I fly, I look out at the wing, just in case. He will be profoundly missed.
— Borys Kit (@Borys_Kit) June 25, 2013