Richard Matheson—Storyteller

He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson

In 2009, Gauntlet Press published He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson. More recently, Tor released a trade paperback version of the book.

Matheson’s impact on writers is immeasurable. From his incredible novels which include I Am Legend, Hell House, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and Somewhere in Time, to his amazing short fiction like “Duel” (made into a motion picture by Steven Spielberg), “Button Button” (made recently into the movie “The Box”), “Born of Man and Woman,” and “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” Matheson inspired nearly everyone from Stephen King and Anne Rice to Chris Carter and the writers of The Simpsons, who created their own take on many Matheson short pieces.

He Is Legend does not contain any work by Matheson*, rather it contains fiction by other authors inspired by Richard Matheson.

The book kicks off with a bang with “Throttle” a collaboration between Stephen King and Joe Hill (King’s son). The story takes the deadly unknown truck driver from Matheson’s “Duel” and sets him on a motorcycle gang. The gang includes a father and son, and I was curious which author wrote which parts (did King write the father or the son?). The story is taut and full of energy. I read the story at the edge of my seat and eagerly turned to the next story.

* The Gauntlet Press edition includes a screenplay that is co-written by Matheson and Charles Beaumont.

F. Paul Wilson’s “Recalled” is another continuation of a Matheson piece, this time “The Distributor.” A man moves into a nice neighborhood to create division and anger among its residents. It’s not the first time he’s done this, but this time around it seems like his efforts aren’t paying off the way he expects.

Mick Garris gives us a prequel to I Am Legend, John Shirley takes the premise of Somewhere in Time and puts another poor soul through similiar time-traveling steps, Thomas F. Monteleone writes out the thoughts of the wife from The Incredible Shrinking Man, and more. Other noteworthy contributors include Joe R. Lansdale’s high-action Zuni fetish doll tale, Nancy A. Collins has the guts to tell what happened at Hell House the first time around, and Whitley Strieber closes out the anthology with a massive tale wherein he channels Matheson’s voice and attitude and gives us something new.

But better than getting to read a bunch of great stories, He Is Legend has made me also go back and read all the Matheson originals again. Which now makes me want to dive back into He Is Legend to gawp at how well these authors capture Matheson. If you are a fan of any of the writers in this book, or a fan of Matheson, this is a must have for your collection. And if you just enjoy reading good fiction, you don’t want to pass this up.

John Klima is the editor of the Hugo Award-winning Electric Velocipede.


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