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Author Richard Matheson, 'I Am Legend' Writer, Dies At 87

Author Richard Matheson, whose injection of humanity into science-fiction tales engaged audience for more than five decades, has died. Matheson's work included The Shrinking Man, I Am Legend, and numerous other movie and TV scripts, including episodes of The Twilight Zone.

Matheson was 87. His death Sunday was announced online after his daughter, Ali, wrote of his passing. The genre website Shock Till You Drop quotes her, citing author John Shirley, who posted her statement on Facebook:

"My beloved father passed away yesterday at home surrounded by the people and things he loved...he was funny, brilliant, loving, generous, kind, creative, and the most wonderful father ever...I miss you and love you forever Pop and I know you are now happy and healthy in a beautiful place full of love and joy you always knew was there..."

Many of Matheson's stories placed otherwise normal people in extreme or fantastic circumstances — a hallmark of The Twilight Zone, for which he wrote more than a dozen episodes. He also wrote a short story about a trucker tailgating a driver, which he then used to create a screenplay for the 1971 Steven Spielberg film Duel, starring Dennis Weaver.

At io9, Rob Bricken summarizes some of Matheson's other career highlights:

"Along with I Am Legend, Matheson wrote What Dreams May Come, A Stir of Echoes, and The Shrinking Man, all of which became Hollywood movies (in the case of I Am Legend, more than a few times). He was also one of the original Twilight Zone's greatest screenwriters, penned the classic William Shatner-starring episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." His Twilight Zone episode "Steel" became the basis for Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman."

Another film adaptation of I Am Legend was 1971's The Omega Man, with Charlton Heston in the lead role. In 2011, NPR readers voted the novel No. 65 on a list of the Top 100 science fiction books.

Matheson also took up the essential questions of the human condition in his 1993 non-fiction book The Path, based on the concepts of Harold W. Percival.

Member station KPCC reports, "Writers from Stephen King to Anne Rice cited Matheson as an influence. In 1984, Matheson received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. In 2010, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame."

As for how Matheson viewed his work, Io9 pulled this quote from a 2007 interview with CinemaSpy:

"I think we're yearning for something beyond the every day. And I will tell you I don't believe in the supernatural, I believe in the supernormal. To me there is nothing that goes against nature. If it seems incomprehensible, it's only because we haven't been able to understand it yet."

Update at 8:10 p.m. ET: Matheson Interviews Online:

The Archive of American Television tells us they have posted interviews with Matheson, in which he discusses his stories, the craft of writing, and other topics, on YouTube.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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