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Etchison Through Film, Screen, and Radio

As a professional writer for fifty years, not only was Dennis Etchison successful with his short stories, novels, and editorial work, he also had a prolific career with film, screen and radio work. This of course simply works as an overview of what he was most known for in these fields—in respect to him as our honored Dead Author Dedication of the month of May, we felt it was fair to mention how he contributed to the field of film, screen, and radio.

Screenplays

In his time writing screenplays, Etchison wrote a fair few that he could be proud of, although his own humility would not allow it later in life. Whether it be a screenplay based on the works of others, or his own—sadly his screenplays were not as widely received as his short stories and novels. In 1998, Etchison’s story, The Late Shift was adapted to film by Patrick Aumont and Damian Harris into the film Killing Time.

Ray Bradbury

One author that Etchison greatly respected was Ray Bradbury and he displayed this in many ways during his career, by paying homage to the classic American author. One screenplay that he was said to have created, but has thus far not been produced, was The Fox and the Forest.

Teaming Up With the Greats

John Carpenter

1986 brought in the opportunity for Etchison to team up with director John Carpenter to write the script for Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers; unfortunately, when Etchison finalized the script, producer Moustapha Akkad rejected it, saying that it was “too cerebral,” and that it would not have been right for the direction of the franchise.

Halloween was banned in Haddonfield and I think that the basic idea was that if you tried to suppress something, it would only rear its head more strongly. By the very [attempt] of trying to erase the memory of Michael Myers, [the teenagers] were going to ironically bring him back into existence.

Dennis Etchison on his idea for Halloween 4

He was informed via telephone with an explanation that his script would not become part of the deal during the sale of the pitch for Halloween 4; that is not to say that the fourth installment of the Halloween franchise was unsuccessful, but once Akkad had gained ownership of the franchise, he returned it to a more original idea that brought the fan-base back.

Stephen King

In 1983, Etchison first worked with King to be the film consultant and historian for King’s Danse Macabre. His work with Stephen King, perhaps is the most impressive, having teamed up with the prolific writer to create the screenplay for The Mist which was adapted in 1984 fir a ZBS Media production as a 90-minute radio rendition.

Television

Etchison was a staff writer during the year of 1985, when he contributed to the television series The Hitchhiker.

The Ogre originally written by Colin Wilson, was rewritten by Etchison—he also co-wrote one of the stories for the television series Logan’s Run, entitled “The Thunder Gods,” which was later printed.

Radio Work

As an author who could seamlessly cross platforms, Etchison adapted almost one hundred episodes of the original The Twilight Zone television series for a CBS radio series which was hosted by Stacy Keach in 2002. Later on this radio series was released commercially on audio CDs. This was definitely not the only time that Etchison did writing for radio work, as he also worked as one of the writers on the audio series for Fangoria’s Deadtime Stories which was hosted by Malcom McDowell—also something that was later released on CDs and digital downloads.

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Featured Horror Books

The Life and Death of Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson has been aptly described as, “the most famous horror writer that you’ve never heard of,” meaning that you know his body of work, you just never knew the face behind it. So here’s your chance to learn about one of the most prolific writers of the genre, with a career that spanned nearly seven decades.

The Early Years

Born in Allendale, New Jersey on February 20, 1926, Richard Matheson was the child of Norwegian parents and was raised in Brooklyn, New York. As a child he had his heart set on a musical career, but he stumbled upon his love of fantasy that sparked his creativity and imagination—by the time he was eight years old his stories had already appeared in a local newspaper called The Brooklyn Eagle. Transfixed by the earliest examples of Dracula on the big screen, he already had his idea for the vampire story I Am Legend (1954).

Introduction to Adulthood: His Time in World War II

Matheson graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1943, during the late years of World War II, he was a hardworking student who planned to continue on his education in the field of engineering. Due to the timing of his graduation, he enlisted in Army Specialized Training at Cornell in order to go into the military as an engineer instead of being enlisted as an infantry soldier—as luck would have it, the program was canceled and he ended up in the infantry anyway. According to biographical sources, Matheson served in the Eight-Seventh Division of the U.S. Infantry—known as The Golden Acorn Division—in France and Germany until nearly the end of the war when he was medically discharged due to trench foot. In 1960 he published The Beardless Warriors which described his experiences through the eyes of a common soldier and was the first known instance where his style was captured—first-person narratives from male characters who were confused in ambiguous situations.

A Formal Education

Following his return from the war, Matheson lived with his mother while he sought advice on how to proceed with his career in life—a guidance counselor suggested the journalism program at the University of Missouri. By 1949, Matheson had earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and also published his first story, “Born of Man and Woman,” in the third issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from which he earned $25. Matheson often sent stories into this publication after reading the first issue and feeling as if it were one-of-a-kind, something that appealed to his eclectic writing style. After graduating from the University of Missouri in 1949, he moved to the west coast where he met his future wife, Ruth Ann Woodson on a beach in Santa Monica. They were married by 1952.

When his first story appeared in the summer of 1950, he was immediately contacted by an agent. In Richard Matheson’s Monsters: Gender in the Stories, Scripts, Novels, and Twilight Zone Episodes it was said that Matheson would regularly submit his stories to newer publications, to maximize his exposure, since he knew the importance of working with them. Later, when Matheson was ready to publish his first story collection, he dedicated it to William Peden at the University of Missouri, a man who had been his professor and someone who Matheson had considered his mentor.

A Literary Career

There are very few authors who, when truly recognized for their work in the horror and fantasy genre of the twentieth century, would be considered greater than Richard Matheson—while he’s known for many of his novels, such as I Am Legend as well as his work in television with sixteen of the original Twilight Zone episodes, and made-for-TV movie The Night Stalker, it’s only usually his work that is recognized and not his name. It’s truly a shame though, as he was a major influence on nearly every major writer of science fiction, horror, and fantasy—including the greats like Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Peter Straub, Joe Hill as well as filmmakers such as Stephen Spielberg and J.J. Abrams.

With the type of legacy that Richard Matheson has left behind, it’s wonderful to know that he was around long enough for people to take notice of his talent–and this particular video was made for aspiring writers who would appreciate any advice from someone they might look up to.

His Final Years

Matheson passed away in June 2013 at the age of eighty-seven. As of this posting, it has been seven full years since Richard Burton Matheson passed away, but this prolific American writer of fantasy, horror, science fiction left behind a legacy of work that helped to shape the horror culture that we have today.