Richard Matheson (1926-2013) was a prolific speculative fiction author and screenwriter who wrote novels, short stories, movie screenplays, and scripts for television. He is perhaps best known for I Am Legend, a novel that was translated to the silver screen twice-once starring Charlton Heston, and once starring Will Smith. His screenplay The Incredible Shrinking Man, based on a prior novel, won the Hugo Award in 1958. Several other novels of Matheson's have been adapted to film, including What Dreams May Come, A Stir of Echoes, Duel, and Hell House. The movie version of Duel, based on a Matheson short story of the same name, was directed by Steven Spielberg. He is also known for writing dozens of episodes for The Twilight Zone, including the iconic "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," and several popular Star Trek episodes, including "The Enemy Within."
In addition to the Hugo Award, Richard Matheson was the recipient of the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement (1984) and an Edgar Award for a teleplay written for The Night Stalker. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2010.
Robert Neville has witnessed the end of the world. The entire population has been obliterated by a vampire virus. Somehow, Neville survived. He must now struggle to make sense of everything that has happened and learn to protect himself against the vampires who hunt him constantly. He must, because perhaps there is nothing else human left.
I Am Legend was a major influence in horror and brought a whole new thematic concept to apocalyptic literature. Several humanistic and emotional themes in this book blend the horror genre with traditional fiction: we see Neville as an emotional person, and observe as he suffers bouts of depression, dips into alcoholism and picks up his strength again to fight the vampiric bacteria that has infected (and killed off) most of humankind. Neville soon meets a woman, Ruth, (after three years alone), who seems to be uninfected and a lone survivor. The two become close and he learns from Ruth that the infected have learned to fight the disease and can spend short amounts of time in the daylight, slowly rebuilding strength and society as it was.
The novel was adapted to film in 1964 as The Last Man on Earth, as Omega Man in 1971 and finally as I am Legend in 2007, starring Will Smith.
In 1982, before Matheson had fully achieved the cult-and-grandmaster status that he enjoys today, Playboy Press published a version of his erotic ghost story that was so severely edited that Matheson took his name off the book and instead published it under the name Logan Swanson.
In this restored version of the original manuscript, David and Ellen Cooper’s 21-year-old marriage is nearing the rocks, so they decide to leave Los Angeles for a honeymoon and go to Long Island. Soon after they arrive at their beach cottage, a strange woman, Marianna, appears to David, and he is immediately entranced.
Matheson adeptly explores David’s growing fear and guilt, which becomes intensified after he and Marianna make love in a secret room in the house. Although Marianna is portrayed as an "earthbound spirit" (a ghost who rejects the afterlife, appears real to all senses, believes she is alive, and through psychic attack, sucks life from the living) she’s really more or less a succubus, gussied up in Casper the friendly ghost clothing. With each graphically detailed sexual rendezvous, Marianna pushes David to deeper levels of obsession, loss of will and irrationality. The story reaches an even higher pitch as the evil ghost begins to threaten Ellen, injecting some excellent suspense into unabashed pathos and outright titillation.
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