Grainy, black and white images flickered across a small TV screen in a dark family room with my parents. I was perhaps eight or nine years old and I was sucked into the story of man who shrank so small that his basement became his Pellucidar, an inner world filled with horrors and dangers including an ordinary spider made large by his fantastic reduction in stature. I had trouble sleeping that night, imagining what it would be like to shrink smaller and smaller until I ceased to exist.
There was talk of not letting me watch any more horror or Sci-fi until I was older.
The movie was The Incredible Shrinking Man, and it horrified me. I would grow up to be frightened and inspired again and again by books and movies that came from the mind of Richard Matheson.
I would later be thrilled by The Omega Man and The Night Stalker would become my favorite TV series (which inspired the creation of The X-Files years later, another one of my favorite shows). I remember being on a school bus and talking to the other kids about Bram Stoker’s Dracula with the great Jack Palance and discussing every detail. Then I’d be blown away by Somewhere in Time, moved to tears by What Dreams May Come, and chilled to the bone by A Stir of Echoes (Kevin Bacon’s best performance in my opinion and a truly outstanding motion picture).
To be as prolific, influential, successful — as truly excellent — as Matheson is every writer’s dream. I know it’s mine. I have no idea what kind of man he was, if he was kind or gentle, if he was caring and loving, none of that. But I think he must have been. Because at the heart of his work there is always a kernel of redemption, of humanity, of possibility. As frightening and horrific as his stories are, there is always perseverance and hope.
I hope you rest easy. You earned a nap you hard-working son-of-a-gun, and you did as well as any man could hope to do in his chosen avocation. You kicked ass, and your amazing talents will be missed.