Joe Hill vs. Richard Matheson

Peter sent me Joe Hill’s 2oth Century Ghosts a couple of days ago, and, I must say, the man is a God.  Some of what he does is so absolutely brilliant, so clearly and deftly capable, that the words get completely out of the way and make way for other truths.  This is the answer to a lot of my questions.  There isn’t a story in there that’s written just for its own sake.  Each and every one of them brings something new and memorable to the world, something that didn’t exist in the same way before I started reading.

I’m also reading Richard Matheson’s short stories (at least I was, before Peter sent me Hill’s short stories…) and I must say, I’m not getting the same vibe.  There’s certainly a great deal I can learn from them, but they aren’t the direction I see myself going.  I mean, seriously, how many stories must one write that revolve around a frustrated writer hating everything around them because the world gets in the way of his life’s work.  I GET IT.

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4 responses to “Joe Hill vs. Richard Matheson

  • Lee Battersby

    20th Century Ghosts is a beautiful book, an absolute diamond. I also have the collected Matheson Vol 1, and I absolutely agree with your sentiment. However, the Collected Matheson is exactly that– like the 10 (?) volume Collected Sturgeon, it’s an attempt to put the entirety of the man’s input between covers, rather than collect the absolute pinnacle of his works. I’d suggest that, were you to collect only Matheson’s best 10 or 12 stories, it would blow your synapses.

    Similarly, works like I Am Legend and The Incredible Shrinking Man are utter tours de force, whereas Heart Shaped Box was, for me, very much a first-novel novel (albeit a reasonably good one). Hill is an oustanding proponent of the short story, as was Matheson (who also had to make his living from them, hence the sheer number of colour-by-number pulp efforts amongst his early stuff). The jury is out on whether Hill can be as good a novelist, whereas Matheson’s reputation would seem to be assured.

  • Jason Fischer

    I think I read the same book of Matheson’s short stories as you (can’t remember the name of the collection) and the first thing I thought was that the stories felt quite dated. A quick check of the credits page listed all the stories as being from the 50s-70s. And yes, some of them felt like colour-by-numbers bits, and overall the collection was a little lacking. So really the collection was a snapshot of his early career and not a “best-of” by any stretch of the imagination. It was an interesting read, just to see how a short-story writer of that time earnt his bucks.

  • Jason Fischer

    PS The name of the Matheson collection I just read was “Button Button”

  • christophergreen

    Agreed, to all of the above. I love I am Legend (the book), and Stir of Echoes (movie) and like a lot of what I’m reading from him, but I guess that’s why “career snapshot” anthologies frustrate me. Nobody is awesome all the time.

    Jason, the volume I’m reading right now is called Nightmare at 20,000 feet. The didn’t have Button Button at Borders when I splurged.

    Congrats on the new 1/2 clone, by the way!

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