Saturday, January 27, 2007
The other day one of my kids was listening to an older song, "Killing Me Softly" by the Fugees. I asked if he had ever heard the original. He replied, "What original?"
"The one by performed by Roberta Flack," I said. He shook his head and said: "The Fugees wrote that, man." Another kid disagreed, "No, it was Lauryn Hill."
Kids do that, they take and adopt that which is part of their culture, tagging it as something new and original, regardless of its source. However, in the process, it is easy to lose sight of the giants who truly influenced the movements of the present.
Some names need to be recited over and over again, otherwise there is a danger that they will be overlooked in a culture driven by derivative entertainments based strictly on market share and demographics. Bradbury, Asimov, Bloch, Heinlein... keep saying them, don't let their accomplishments be obscured by their literary descendants.
Consider Richard Matheson. Mention some of the books and films with which he has been involved as a writer and people will instantly nod recognition. Yet, the name is hardly pounded out there to remain in our short memoried culture.
I've mentioned his works to people, and they nod, but the man? It seems only a true fan of the genre knows his name. Consider these titles: "The Incredible Shrinking Man" (made into a film of the same name), "I Am Legend" (one of the novels that paved the way for a new take on the vampire myth; also made into two films, with a third remake planned, the first two being "Last Man On Earth" and "Omega Man"), "What Dreams May Come" (made into a film of the same name starring Robin Williams),"Hell House" (made into the film "The Legend of Hell House"), and "Bid Time Return" (made into "Somewhere In Time" with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymore). Not that Matheson has stopped writing. This last year he just published a new novel: "Woman", a story about a literal battle between the sexes.
And his work in film and television? Matheson helped launch the career of Steven Spielberg. "Duel", which first appeared as a made for TV movie starring Dennis Weaver, was based on his teleplay and his short story. Other television credits? One of the ultimate episodes of Rod Serling's "Twilight Zone", "The Beast At 30,000", a classic starring a young William Shatner. He also worked with Roger Cormon, helping to craft that director's best features with Vincent Price, based on the work of Poe. "House of Usher", "Pit and the Pendulum","The Raven", and "Tales of Terror" were all Matheson, drawing from Poe for inspiration.
One last tip of the hat. Matheson wrote the teleplay for one of my favorites: The Night Stalker.
So while we may laud the work of George R.R. Martin, give saluatory nods to the likes of the undeserving Jim Butcher, and crown the wunderkind of the fifteen year old author of "Eregon", let's not forget those who should continue to be nudged into our consciousness. Let's read their work if we haven't read them, let's and let's speak their names, a litany of giants who have helped create the texture of our genre. Bradbury, Heinlein, Herbert, Matheson, Bloch, Asimov, Tenn, Simak, etc...