The Thunder Child

Science Fiction and Fantasy
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Vol 1, Issue #3
"Stand By For Mars!"
March 2006

Fiction Book Reviews
by Caroline Miniscule

Richard Matheson: The Collected Stories Vol 3
by Richard Matheson
Edited by Stanley Wiater
Edge Books

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Caroline Miniscule has traveled around the world. She now stays in one place and reads science fiction. She is a graduate of D'Illyria University (the university of the mind).

What horror, science fiction or fantasy buff does not know of the name or the works of Richard Matheson? His tales have provided the basis for hours and hours of chills and thrills, from the movies The Incredible Shrinking Man to the teleplays for The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler to The Twilight Zone classics such as "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," Matheson well deserves his title as science fiction grand master.

Richard Matheson, Collected Stories, is an expanded tradepaperback version of the 1989 Dream/Press hardcover limited edition. Gauntlet Press, under their Edge Imprint, has published Matheson's 86 short stories in three volumes. Volume 1 came out in 2003, Volumes 2 and 3 came out in 2005. Accompanying each story now are brief comments by Matheson himself.

Matheson's first short story published was "Born of Man and Woman" in 1950. After the publication of "Duel" in 1971 he'd decided he'd exhausted the form. So he 86-ed his short story work. (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun.)

Matheson's Introduction, which prefaces each book, is a must read for everyone who wants to know a writer's process: "A twenty-year period of creativity reduced to the psychological background of my output of fantasy and science-fiction stories. If this were a thesis, that would be my premise". Matheson actually come across much like Hitchcock - whose theme in his movies was always 'the wrong man under suspicion.' For Matheson, it was paranoia.

The stories were arranged by Matheson himself "roughly" in chronological order of original publication. At the end of each story Matheson comments, briefly, on the behind-the-scenes details, from how he got the idea for each story to where it was published...or not published.

For example, for "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" [first published in anthology Alone By Night, 1962], he revealed:

Table of Contents
Editor's Preface
Dream Press Introduction: 1989
Gauntlet Press Introduction: 2003
Big Surprise
The Creeping Terror
No Such Thing as a Vampire
From Harlan Ellison
Day of Reckoning
First Anniversary
From Shadowed Places
Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
Finger Prints
The Likeness of Julie
Deus Ex Machina
Girl of my Dreams
The Jazz Machine
From Stephen King
Shock Wave
Tis the Season To Be Jelly
A Drink of Water
Button, Button
From Dennis Etchison
By Appointment Only
The Finishing Touches
Till Death Do Us Part
The Near Departed
Buried Talents
From Richard Christian Matheson

"When I first wrote that I think the story was twenty pages longer at the beginning. I followed him going from his office, to taking a cab, to going to the airport?he was analyzing his marriage, his life?the whole thing. I don't recall if I decided or it was one of the editors who asked me if I could get into the story sooner, so I just?bang!?put him into the airplane and started from there. It was one of my first Twilight Zone scripts that I adapted from one of my stories instead of being an original script. I've always been glad that I kept writing prose, because if I had just gone into writing scripts entirely, by now I would have died from a broken heart."

This set also includes tributes to Richard Matheson from such admirers as Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, and William F. Nolan. Most of the stories collected in this volume are not science fiction, but rather horror or fantasy tinged with horror, plus the occasional crime story. There are only three science fiction stories here: "Mantage" (published in 1959 - The Truman Show might owe something to it), "The Creeping Terror" - a very funny spoof, and "Deus Es Machina" - a man cuts himself with his razor...and bleeds oil.

Many of the other tales in this volume will be known to watchers of television, from the classic Twilight Zone to the 1980s remake, to the Trilogy of Terror movies, to the 1990s The Outer Limits. And what movie fan will not know that "Duel" was made into a TV movie by Steven Spielberg and pretty much launched his career?

Matheson displays a mastery of the form, and if you love psychological horror you will love these stories. But what makes this set so special is those personal notes that he includes at the end of each story. By acquiring all three books in this set, the reader will literally see inside the mind of the author and the creative process at work.

Highly recommended.

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