Monday, August 17, 2015

Shaper of Worlds

He is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson (2009), edited by Christopher Conlon with an Introduction by Ramsey Campbell, containing the following stories:

Throttle by Joe Hill and Stephen King
Recalled by F. Paul Wilson
I Am Legend, Too by Mick Garris
Two Shots from Fly's Photo Gallery by John Shirley
The Diary of Louise Carey by Thomas F. Monteleone
She Screech Like Me by Michael A. Arnzen
Everything of Beauty Taken from You in This Life Remains Forever by Gary A. Braunbeck
The Case of Peggy Ann Lister by John Maclay
Zachry Revisited by William F. Nolan
Comeback by Ed Gorman
An Island Unto Himself by Barry Hoffman
Venturi by Richard Christian Matheson
Quarry by Joe R. Lansdale
Return to Hell House by Nancy A. Collins
Cloud Rider by Whitley Strieber 

Award-winning, enjoyable anthology celebrating the late, great Richard Matheson, whose horror and suspense work in print, in movies, and on TV helped define horror and suspense for two generations of readers and viewers.  Duel; The Shrinking Man; Hell House; I Am Legend; What Dreams May Come; Stir of Echoes; Somewhere in Time; episodes of The Twilight Zone, including the William Shatner-on-a-plane "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" remade with John Lithgow in The Twilight Zone movie; adaptations of Poe for Roger Corman's film studio: these are just some of Matheson's contributions to pop culture. 

The stories include homages, sequels, revisionist takes, and riffs on Mathesonian ideas. "Cloud Rider" by Whitley Strieber is the wildest riff in the anthology, inspired as it is by Matheson's entire Collected Stories. The other stories are a bit more specific.

Standouts include Nancy Collins' novella-length prequel to Hell House, that inspired haunted-house story of the 1960's. Collins shows us the events that preceded those in Matheson's novel, to good effect. Mick Garris also offers a prequel in "I Am Legend, Too," and it also offers a revisionist take on the original Matheson novel's vampire-fighting protagonist from the POV of his vampiric next-door neighbour. "She Screech Like Me" by Michael A. Arnzen effectively extends Matheson's stunning debut story, "Born of Man and Woman," while "The Diary of Louise Carey" by Thomas F. Monteleone retells The Shrinking Man from the viewpoint of his increasingly beleaguered, non-shrinking wife.

The venerable William F. Nolan offers a short, brutal sequel to another Matheson horror story, while Joe Lansdale presents a sequel/sidequel to Matheson's "Prey" -- a.k.a. the Matheson story adapted for the TV movie Trilogy of Terror, in which Karen Black does battle with a tiny, violent, highly animated African fetish doll in her own apartment. And Stephen King and son Joe Hill (King) collaborate on a story for the first time, a riff on "Duel" that involves a motorcycle gang and a transport truck instead of the original's station-wagon-driving salesman and a monster of a truck.

Overall, this is a fittingly strong anthology to honour such a major figure in the modern history of fantasy. As Ramsey Campbell notes in his introduction, Matheson helped move horror out of Gothic castles and into suburban bedrooms and America's endless blacktop highways. And because Matheson worked in television and movies so much after 1960, his works reached much larger audiences than those generally afforded writers of prose. Recommended.

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