Somewhere on Broadway

How appropriate that a rather science fictional technology used to monitor the second-by-second responses of live theater audiences is being pioneered in a Broadway-bound play based on Richard Matheson’s Somewhere in Time

Seven minutes into his new musical, “Somewhere in Time,” the Broadway producer Ken Davenport leapt off his stool at the back of the theater the other night, and began pointing. Not at the stage, but at a nearby laptop that showed — in a fever-chart line — the reactions of 60 audience members as they turned hand-held dials among three choices: “Love this part,” “Neutral about this part” and “Hate this part.”

The dials seemed to pinpoint a problem with the song “Tick Tick Tick”: the fever line slid as the main character, Richard, lamenting the rush of life, was interrupted by dry dialogue from his brother.

While other marketing tools like surveys and focus groups are already in common use, some moguls resist anything that might overtake the weight given their own opinions, rooted in instinct and experience.

“Did Michelangelo ask dial testers, ‘Do you like this part of David’s leg?’ ” said Emanuel Azenberg, a Tony Award winner and a producer for 45 years. “Did Beethoven ask, ‘Was the second movement too dull?’ This is scary. Do we want to test-market Broadway until it becomes a theme park?”  

[Thanks to James H Burns and Bjo Trimble for the story.]

Science Fiction on Sunday Morning

Three new clips of interest to fans have been posted on CBS’ Sunday Morning website.

The first minute of Passages pays tribute to the late Richard Matheson.

And there are two segments of Anthony Mason’s interview of Stephen King. In one, the horror writer and executive producer of Under the Dome takes Mason on a tour of the set.  In the other, King answers questions about his writing and career, and explains why he pulled his novel Rage out of circulation.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Burns: On Richard Matheson, R.I.P.

[A reposting of the author’s comment on the Classic Horror Film Board about the passing of Richard Matheson.]

By James H. Burns: What did I write, now, over three decades ago, in my intro to the Twilight Zone mag interview….

Something like, of fantasy and science fiction’s top ten ambassadors to the worlds of celluloid, Richard Matheson would be three of them.

I was referring, of course, to writers!

And Matheson, as has already been pointed out here, did oh so much more than that!

I think it’s safe to say, at the least, he’s one of the great American fantastists.

A couple of years ago, I took a look at that original manuscript, about twenty thousand words, to begin the process of refining it for republication —

I think perhaps as much as a fourth — or more — didn’t make it to the final article, although it ran as a two-parter.

I also began doing a bunch of research, reading much of the work Matheson had produced in the last three decades.

And, as some of you know, particularly in the ’80s, as I recall, there were a PLETHORA of scripts for films and mini-series, all well paid for, that never saw the light of day (or, for that matter, the spectrum of the old cathode tube).

I couldn’t help but recall Matheson’s comment that when a film or TV project didn’t turn out well, it wasn’t as though you could run down the street, script in hand, yelling, No, no, look at what it was supposed to be!


And I know there had to be some happiness for him, in seeing some such older projects, printed in some of the limited edition volumes that seemed to have had a Matheson vogue there, for a while.

It is the least of his accomplishments, perhaps — and one he may not have been pleased by, but I wonder how many people realize that he could be considered the father, or grandfather, anyway, of the zombie film phenomenon.

George Romero, in a statement that gets too often overlooked, stated that Night of the Living Dead was originally written as an adaption of I Am Legend.

(Matheson once told me he never thought of suing; that such things could be more bother than he felt, sometimes, anyway, they were ultimately worth.)

I sometimes forget that I first met Matheson (by phone, that is), when doing a different article, a preview of Somewhere in Time, for Steranko’s Prevue

In all of our conversations, Matheson was indeed the gentleman you’ve heard him described as.

And if he resented the hours it took to chat, he certainly never gave a hint of it.

I remember how thrilled Carol Serling was to learn that Matheson would be in the Twilight Zone magazine…

And how good an idea Matheson thought it was, to perhaps host his own anthology show!

(Matheson remained very grateful to Rod Serling. Whenever there was a script opportunity that Serling didn’t have the time or inclination to do, he would think of recommending Matheson, or one of his compadres.)

I also remember reading What Dreams May Come, in preparation for the interview, and saying to Matheson that it almost seemed like a primer, a gentle one, at that, for those getting ready to near the end.

(In the years to come, Matheson would write more about such realms of possibility.)

Matheson said that that was indeed his intention with the novel.

I know that Matheson’s legacy will be immense, one of the most basic being that at any time, anywhere, someone will be able to pick up a Matheson short story, and read those most often good words.

And it may be impossible to describe accurately the writer’s influence.

But late this afternoon, on this oh so humid day in New York, just about thirty miles from the Brooklyn where Matheson grew up, as the electricity raises in the local atmosphere, the thunder indeed just beyond the range of doubt: I can’t help but hope, simply, that Matheson’s final curtain was a kind one.

Memories From Matheson’s Publisher

Gauntlet Press publisher Barry Hoffman has penned a highly interesting, story-filled tribute to the late Richard Matheson

Lastly (I could relate dozens of anecdotes), there was his aversion (early on) to dustjackets for his books. The first book of Richard’s we published was I Am Legend. He wanted just a red cover with his signature stamped on the front cover along with a blue slipcase. When I prepared to publish Hell House I asked him what color cover did he desire. He said to make it just like Legend, red with a blue slipcase. I mentioned this to his son, Richard Christian Matheson, whom I had become friendly with. R.C. almost screamed through the phone, “Hell House can’t be red!!! It has to be black with a black slipcase.” I persuaded R.C. to talk it over with his father. Richard called me and agreed to the black book/black slipcase. He then paused a few seconds. “What is the next book going to be … pink?”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Richard Matheson (1926-2013)

Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson, author of many iconic works of sf and horror, died June 23 at age 87. His death came just three weeks after he announced his health was not good enough to permit him to attend the 2013 WFC where he is a GoH.

Matheson’s famous novel I Am Legend was made into three movies – but he wondered in an interview why it kept being optioned when no one ever made a movie that actually followed the book. The films What Dreams May Come, Somewhere in Time and The Shrinking Man also were based on his stories,

Once asked how he identified with his characters, Matheson frankly admitted:

RM: Pretty much the main character is always me. The man in I Am Legend is me. The man in The Shrinking Man, that’s me. Stir Of Echoes, that’s me. What Dreams May Come, me.

He wrote 14 episodes of The Twilight Zone, including the classic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” For Star Trek he wrote “The Enemy Within” where a transporter malfunction divides the Captain into Good Kirk and Evil Kirk. And he adapted his 1971 short story “Duel” into a TV movie for young director Steven Spielberg.

He won World Fantasy Awards for Richard Matheson: Collected Stories (1990) and his novel Bid Time Return (1976). Matheson received an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his teleplay for The Night Stalker (1973).

Matheson was the 1958 Worldcon guest of honor. He was inducted to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010, and was the recipient of World Fantasy Award, Bram Stoker Award, and International Horror Guild Award lifetime achievement honors, as well as being named a World Horror Grandmaster.

He served in the infantry during World War II. In 1949 he earned a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. He moved to California in 1951 and married Ruth Ann Woodson the following year. They had four children.

Here is a short commentary by Matheson about his Twilight Zone story “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Update 06/24/2013: Corrected date of death per comment.

Nightmare Bobble Heads

Bob-Wilson-Bobble-Head_1024x1024Gremlin-Thing-on-Wing_1024x1024 may be long gone but others have stepped in to serve “fervent consumers” with the “willingness and discretionary income to indulge their passions” for merchandise like this.

Richard Matheson’s classic 1959 Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” now is immortalized in a pair of commemorative bobbleheads.

There’s the Gremlin:

This ultra-creepy bobble head is authentically designed and exactly painted in a black-and-white motif and measures 6-inches tall x 5-inches wide x 3-inches long. Inspired by one of the most memorable scenes from the show, the remarkable airplane-wing base has Gremlin sitting on the engine housing, tearing pieces from the wing!

And there’s ”Bob Wilson”:

Based on the character played by William Shatner in the terrifying “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” episode, it sports an authentic black-and-white color scheme and a cool airplane-themed base.


[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

Matheson Senior Will Miss WFC 2013

Although World Fantasy Con 2013 counted on hosting both Richard Matheson (Twilight Zone’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” The Legend of Hell House) and his son Richard Christian Matheson as guests of honor, it’s not going to work out. The elder Matheson’s health isn’t good enough to allow for a trip overseas.

Richard Christian Matheson’s message explaining his father’s decision was recently released by the comittee:

I have disappointing news. My father recently informed me that after much thought, he won’t be able to attend World Fantasy Convention 2013 because of ongoing health concerns. We are, of course, heavy-hearted, as I know you must be reading this. He wants you to know how much he appreciates the organiser’s dedication to making WFC 2013 the best yet, and how they’ve tried every means available to assure his safety and presence. Still, I’m afraid it’s just not in the cards and, while his challenges aren’t life threatening, travel for him is extremely taxing. I know he’s wise in this decision. He’ll be in Brighton, in spirit, and on our mutual behalf, I’ll still be attending and look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Thank you for your understanding.

Richard Senior also wrote a note:

I certainly appreciate the organisers of World Fantasy Convention 2013 choosing me and my son RC as Guests of Honour. I am very pleased and honoured. I am regretful I cannot respond to it and be there in person, due to health. I wish everyone a marvellous time.

WFC 2013 says Richard Matheson will remain an Honorary Guest of Honour and his career will be celebrated throughout the con’s program.

[Via Andrew Porter.]

WFC 2013 Names Mathesons as GoHs

Richard Matheson (Twilight Zone’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet,” The Legend of Hell House) and his son Richard Christian Matheson (TV, movie and short story writer) are the first authors to be announced as Guests of Honor at World Fantasy Con 2013.

The con takes place in Brighton, England over Halloween Weekend 2013.

The full press release follows the jump.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

Continue reading

Matheson Interviewed by Cinefantastique

Richard Matheson is interviewed in Cinefantastique about Charles Beaumont, subject of a forthcoming DVD documentary: 

LAWRENCE FRENCH: You and Charles Beaumont each did four scripts for Roger Corman, mostly for his Edgar Allan Poe films. The big exception was when Charles Beaumont did the rather daring script for The Intruder in 1961, which was about racial tensions in the south. Did either Beaumont or Corman ask you to appear in that picture?

RICHARD MATHESON: Yes, they did but I just didn’t feel like going out to Missouri while they were shooting it. The Intruder may actually be Roger’s best picture, yet it was the only time he made a film that didn’t make any money. I thought William Shatner was superb in it.

Trivial Pursuit Postscript: Richard Matheson was Westercon’s first repeat guest of honor — Westercon 9 in 1956, and also GoH of the merged Worldcon/Westercon of  1958. Eyeballing the Westercon long list, it looks like the next repeat didn’t happen until the Portland Westercon of 1984 which reprised three past GoH’s, Harlan Ellison (previously a 1966 GoH) and F.M. & Elinor Busby (1963 GoHs); artist Alex Schomburg was the only first-timer at Portland.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the link.]

Bradbury Coming to Egyptian Theater

Ray Bradbury will speak before a showing of the Charles Beaumont documentary at the Egyptian Theater on Saturday, March 27 (the theater’s March calendar has yet to be posted online, so no direct link.) 

The new Beaumont documentary features a long interview with Harlan Ellison, as well as Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, S.T. Joshi, John Shirley, the late Forry Ackerman, George Clayton Johnson, Bill Nolan and Marc Scott Zicree.

Johnson, Nolan and Zicree will answer questions after the March 27 screening.

That same weekend the Egyptian will show Logan’s Run (March 26). The novel’s author’s Bill Nolan and George Clayton Johnson will be there, and they will be back for the showing of The Intruder on March 28.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]