'I Am Legend' writer Richard Matheson dies at 87

Story highlights

  • Richard Matheson wrote more than 25 novels and nearly 100 short stories
  • His book, "I Am Legend," inspired three films, including one starring Will Smith
  • Matheson was to be honored by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films
  • He wrote episodes of "The Twilight Zone" and "Star Trek"

Richard Matheson, a prolific American science fiction author and screenwriter whose stories were made into movies and TV episodes, has died. He was 87.

He died at his home in Los Angeles on Sunday, according to his son.

"As monumental as he is as a writer, he was every bit that as a husband, father, grandfather and friend," Richard Christian Matheson said on his Facebook page. "He was my hero and my best friend and I loved him deeply. I will miss him forever. I know we all will."

During a career that spanned more than 60 years, the elder Matheson wrote more than 25 novels and nearly 100 short stories, plus screenplays for TV and film. Several of his novels were made into movies.

"I Am Legend," released in 1954, inspired three films, including 2007's movie of the same name that starred Will Smith.

His 1956 novel "The Shrinking Man" was adapted for the big screen, becoming "The Incredible Shrinking Man."

Matheson was a major contributor to Rod Serling's classic TV series "The Twilight Zone," penning more than a dozen scripts from 1959 to 1964, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." He also wrote for "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" and was the creative force behind the classic "Star Trek" episode "The Enemy Within."

Matheson's death comes as he was about to be honored by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films. He was to have received the organization's Visionary Award at Wednesday's annual Saturn Awards.

"Richard Matheson has been a singular voice in fiction, whose prolific written work is as unforgettable as the television and filmed entertainment it has inspired for more than half a century," a statement on the academy's website says.

Fellow writer John Shirley counted Matheson among the best at the craft.

"He was just so influential. He raised the bar for writing thrillers; he brought that high standard and sophistication to everything he did," Shirley said on Facebook. "And his works ... as books and movies, influenced me to have hope for meaning in life, and in the afterlife ... he affected my point of view on life."

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