Sunday, November 7, 2010

Richard Matheson - The Original Stories: The Science Fiction Digests Part 2

by John Scoleri

In the first six parts of this ongoing series, I looked at Richard Matheson's short fiction appearances in Playboy, the Sci-Fi Pulps, the Mystery Digests, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Gauntlet Chapbooks and the first batch of Science Fiction Digests. We return with the second part of the Science Fiction digests Matheson contributed to, which will make up the next four installments of this ongoing series.

The Original Stories - Part 7: Gamma and Fantastic

The bulk of Matheson's short stories originally appeared in science fiction digests like those featured in this installment.

1963, Vol. 1 No. 1

Subsequent appearances (as "Shock Wave"): Collected Stories HC, Shock III, Button, Button, Collected Stories TP v3

Editorial Comment: At 37, with 11 books to his credit, Richard Matheson has achieved an enviable position as one of the nation's finest writers. The Beardless Warriors, his savage, compelling novel of teen-agers in World War II (based on his own experiences as a young replacement with the 87th Division) drew high praise—and his 75 short stories and novelettes (most of them in the sf field) have been hailed as outstanding by readers and critics alike. As an example of this, his Playboy novelette, "The Distributor," won the magazine's annual $1,000 fiction award in 1958. Matheson grew up in Brooklyn, planning to become an engineer, but after graduation from the University of Missouri (where he earned a Bachelor of Journalism degree) he changed plans when his first short story (the classic "Born of Man and Woman") sold to the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in the summer of 1950. He began to write professionally, finally moving into the motion picture field in Hollywood (based on the very favorable reception of a screen adaptation of his own novel, The Shrinking Man). Dick has written most of the Poe-based series for American-International, as well as numerous TV stories. Although Matheson ably supports his wife and four children by film and television work, his heart remains in his prose fiction, and he i at work on several new novels. Gamma 1 is fortunate in having acquired his latest short story, a carefully-crafted study in mounting tension which never lets down from first word to last.

Notes: Gamma's managing editor was Matheson's friend and fan, William F. Nolan. It is no surprise that the line-up of the magazine's run was often made up of the Southern California School of Writers. This issue contains an interview with Rod Serling, reprints from Ray Russell and Ray Bradbury, as well as new stories from Charles Beaumont ("Mourning Song"), George Clayton Johnson ("The Freeway"), John Tomerlin ("Shade of Day"), and go figure—a William F. Nolan story ("To Serve the Ship")! There are no less than three mentions in this issue of the contents of the next, which would also include a Matheson story.

"Deus Ex Machina"
1963, Vol. 1 No. 2

Subsequent appearances: Collected Stories HC, Shock Waves, Collected Stories TP v3

Editorial Comment: When American-International released The Raven, with script by Richard Matheson, fantasy film fans were happy to discover that three of the screen's Favorite Monsters, Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre and Vincent Price, were all turned loose in the same picture. This was Matheson's idea. As a veteran fan of horror movies, dating back to the days of Frankenstein and Dracula, Matheson took special delight in scripting a vehicle in which three of his old favorites could star. Now, in Comedy of Terrors, his latest effort for A-I, Matheson has added a part for Basil Rathbone, another past master of fantasy—which should provide first rate screen entertainment in the popular Matheson manner. When he isn't scripting for A-I or Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, Dick continues to fashion his unusual fiction for book and magazine markets. A new collection of his stories (his first since he best-selling Shock! in 1961) is due any month now from Dell, and while we're all waiting, here's a grim, thought-provoking sample of the "monstrous mind of Matheson."

Notes: Contributors in this issue also included Beaumont ("Something in the Earth"), Bradbury ("Sombra y Sol"), Nolan! ("I'm Only Lonesome When I'm Lonely"). There are also two 'coming soon' references (not advertisements) to 1) a forthcoming anthology of humorous fantasy and science fiction stories (A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Moon) featuring Matheson, Bloch, Beaumont, Bradbury and Anthony Boucher and 2) a suspenseful paperback anthology (A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Morgue) featuring Matheson, Bloch, Beaumont, Bradbury and Anthony Boucher and others. I could find no reference to either anthology actually having been published.

September 1965, Vol. 2 No.5

Subsequent appearances: Collected Stories HC, Collected Stories TP v3

Editorial Comment: The prolific Richard Matheson is currently hard at work on a new feature film for Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier, is creating the pilot film for a science-fiction series based on one of his own ideas, and is writing another novel which threatens to become a best seller.

Dick's ability to capture a mood and sustain it was obvious from his first published story many years ago, the chilling "Born of Man and Woman." He has since lived up to that promise, in his many screenplays adapting the Edgar Allan Poe classics. "Interest," which follows, carries on that tradition.

Notes: I could find no information on the Sidney Poitier film referenced (not even in Matthew Bradley's exhaustive and indispensable Richard Matheson On Screen). In an unrelated bit of trivia, the two men share the same birthday (Februrary 20), with Matheson a year Poitier's senior. This issue also features stories from Beaumont ("Auto Suggestion"), Johnson ("Lullabye and Goodnight"), and Dennis Etchison ("Wet Season").

"To Fit The Crime"
November-December 1952, Vol. 1 No. 3

Subsequent appearances: Collected Stories HC, Born of Man and Woman, Third From the Sun, Collected Stories TP v1

Editorial Comment: Do you suffer from cliché-itis? Does "Hot enough for you!" chill your blood? When your neighbor tells you "That's the way it goes!" do you ache to tear him loose from his tired tongue?

In that case you'll feel a real pang of sympathy for old Iverson Lord, who died from a combination of hardening of the arteries and semantic seizures. Not because of his death; for death comes to us all. It is what lay beyond the grave for ancient Iverson that will move you to tears. For the fires of hell are reserved for those who are most allergic to hear; and the Devil gives unto sinners tortures attuned to the most exacting taste.

Illustration: David Stone
Notes: Matheson was featured on the inside cover of this issue with an illustrated portrait and biography.

"I sold my first story to my mother for 8¢. My fictional outbursts were thoroughly activated when my sister gave me a typewriter for my thirteenth birthday. But for the grace of Smith-Corona, I'd probably be a plumber today. In addition to writing, I make fancy airplane parts out in Los Angeles where I live, and where I plan to write more and better science-fiction-fantasy."
This issue also contains "The Veiled Woman" by Mickey Spillane and "The Moon of Montezuma" by Cornell Woolrich. "To Fit the Crime" was reprinted in the August 1969 issue (Vol. 18 No. 6) of Fantastic Stories alongside Robert Bloch ("Let's Do It For Love").

"Mad House"
January-February 1953, Vol. 2 No. 1

Subsequent appearances: Collected Stories HC, Born of Man and Woman, Third From the Sun, I Am Legend and Others, Nightmare at 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories, Collected Stories TP v1

Editorial Comment: Do petty annoyances upset you? Do you find yourself slapping the desk top when your eraser slips out of sight under loose papers? Do you give your pen a savage shake when it jams?

If so, you want to watch it, brother! Anger is acid, and it can get into more than your blood. The desk might start slapping back, the shaken pen may try spraying you with ink?

...We met Dick Matheson recently, for the first time. He wasn't what we expected—especially after reading "Mad House." Our sigh of relief rattled the roof...

Illustration uncredited
Illustration: Bill Ashman
Notes: This issue also contains "Close Behind Him" by John Wyndham, and "The Lighthouse," an unfinished Edgar Allan Poe tale completed by Robert Bloch. "Mad House" was reprinted in the January 1967 issue (Vol. 16 No. 3) of Fantastic Stories alongside Robert E. Howard's novel The People of the Black Circle. That subsequent appearance had a different editorial introduction:
Although it may be a bit hard to believe—especially for some of us near-oldtimers—it's now more than fifteen years since Richard Matheson jolted the field with "Born of Man and Woman"—a first story only a few pages long but each of them fraught with enough horror to keep us from rereading it all these years. But that's not at all how we feel about later Matheson, some of which we've reread many times, particularly "Mad House"—just so we could get back to that terrifying moment when Professor Neal's straight razor decides to open up all by itself!

"Mother By Protest"
September-October 1953, Vol. 2 No.5

Subsequent appearances (as "Trespass"): Collected Stories HC, The Shores of Space, Duel: Terror Stories, Collected Stories TP v2

Editorial Comment: This is a delicate story about a delicate subject, or possibly we should say a daring story about a daring subject. but then again, maybe not. In this dat and age it's hard to judge what's daring and what isn't. Anyhow, the period of gestation in all biological entities—including homo sapiens—is definitely established. So, when David got home from his trip and found things the way they were, all he had to do was make a few fast mathematical calculations and—well, go straight through the roof! On the basis of every known law on the subject, Ann was lying like a trooper. But with everything moving so fast nowadays, what can a man believe? There are laws and there are—possibilities.

Illustration: Ray Houlihan
Notes: Matheson adapted "Trespass" ("Mother by Protest" was applied by the editors of Fantastic) for the TV movie The Stranger Within starring Barbara Eden, now available on DVD through the Warner Brothers Archives.

"The Curious Child"
June 1954, Vol. 3 No. 3

Subsequent appearances: Collected Stories HC, The Shores of Space, Collected Stories TP v2

Editorial Comment: First, he forgot where he parked his car. Then his memory really started playing tricks—until he said: "Who am I—I never heard of a man named Robert Graham!"

Illustration: Tom O'Sullivan
Notes: This issue features excerpts of letters to the editor, including two concerning Matheson under the heading Best Story of the Year (1953):
If nominations are open for the best story in '53, I want to place "Mother By Protest" by Richard Matheson, on the ballot.
Paul French - Phoenix, Arzona

...Richard Matheson as the best author, and "Mad House" as the best story...
Lewis Doyle - Oak Park, IL

There's more to come! Stay tuned for future installments of Richard Matheson - The Original Stories.


Todd Mason said...

GAMMA's editor, Charles Fritch, was also very much of that Cali group of writers, hence the prevalence of "little Bradburys" in the contents of the magazine (along with some surprises, such as Patricia Highsmith's deservedly ubiquitous "The Snail Watcher" the hell did PLAYBOY or EQMM let that get away?). GAMMA was full of expectations that didn't pan'll see house ads for a companion cf magazine called CHASE, that actually was published by the less-well but more-reliably funded Health Knowledge as GAMMA was folding, with Robert Lowndes as editor rather than Fritch (who bought most of the inventory, dunno). Fritch would later be the final editor of MIKE SHAYNE MYSTERY MAGAZINE, in its Cali years after Leo Margulies's widow Cylvia Kleinman sold the magazine (Sam Merwin had been editing for the Margulies Renown Pulications)...Fritch liked the gorilla disrobing a woman cover so much (or at least found it so handy) that he used it again on MSMM.

John Scoleri said...

Thanks for all the fascinating behind the scenes details, Todd!

Matthew Bradley said...

Sorry to admit that the Poitier film (obviously never made) is as much news to me as it was to you. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure what those other two works-in-progress were supposed to be, either, although the pilot may have been among the Green Hand projects that didn't pan out, and the novel may have been the long-gestating HELL HOUSE. I do know that Richard's son and namesake, Richard Christian (R.C.) Matheson, wrote an adaptation of "Mad House" (one of his Fort College stories) for a never-to-be third season of MASTERS OF HORROR.

Todd Mason said...

Given the love for Matheson and co, I figure you might be interested in Jeff Segal's take, today, on Charles Beaumont's THE FIEND IN YOU, the original source of two Matheson stories, among other items of interest: or hit the link on my name...