For those of you who don't know, Richard Matheson recently passed away. That makes two of the most profound literary influences in my life in one year. And this was, by far, the most affecting to me.
Matheson's work dealt with the changing roles of both white America and the American male in modern society as well as the fears associated with those changes. He did so with a sly wit and a giant heart. He wrote a very modern, completely gothic ghost story that shined a light on our obsession with the past and how it works so hard to destroy our future. He tried to show us hope in death. One of his later novels, Hunted Past Reason, placed a couple well past the realms of the normal suburban life into a place of human savagery that would have justified a slip into similar savagery themselves. But, where so many authors would have had them tap into their inner animal as a survival technique, Matheson showed them desperately hold onto their humanity and the experience was beautiful. He dealt with hard subjects in a difficult manner while keeping the story fundamentally entertaining and never coming across as preachy. That's a damn hard thing to do.
When I heard of his death, I picked up my copy of I Am Legend and I'm not ashamed to admit that more than a few tears have leaked in the reading. The story is so often simultaneously horrifying and heartbreaking, especially once you know the key kick at the end. It's structured brilliantly and it packs a hell of a punch.
I'm not being hyperbolic when I say that this man has had a huge effect on me as a reader and writer and most importantly as a human being and I am incredibly sad that he is no longer with us.