Richard Matheson’s Other Kingdoms

Other Kingdoms by Richard MathesonBy Greg Cox, Consulting Editor

Richard Matheson recently celebrated his 85th birthday. For an author whose first novel (Someone is Bleeding) was published nearly sixty years ago, Matheson has more going on today than many authors half his age. His story, “Steel,” which was previously filmed as a classic episode of the original Twilight Zone television series (you know, the one with Lee Marvin fighting the robot boxer), is now being made into a major motion picture, Real Steel, due out in October. Matheson is currently working with a composer to turn his World Fantasy Award-winning novel Somewhere in Time (memorably filmed with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour) into a Broadway musical, which I’m hoping will be the next Wicked. A new short story just appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, where Matheson’s career began way back in 1950. Matheson has been the subject of such recent books as He Is Legend, The Richard Matheson Companion, and Richard Matheson on Screen, and has also been inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.  He’s even inspired an episode of The Family Guy. And, last but not least, there is Other Kingdoms, his first major novel since 2002.

I only hope I’m that productive at eighty-five!

Matheson seldom repeats himself and Other Kingdoms is very different from his last book, Hunted Past Reason. That novel was a brutal, contemporary thriller with no fantasy elements, but Other Kingdoms, as its title suggests, is much more otherworldly, set in bygone realms both mortal and otherwise. While closer to Somewhere in Time or What Dreams May Come than, say, I Am Legend or Hell House, it’s arguably Matheson’s most fantastical novel, complete with witchcraft, faeries, magic and myth. There’s even a gryphon.

It’s also probably his sexiest book since Earthbound.

Set in 1918, Other Kingdoms is the story of a young American soldier, wounded in the Great War, who winds up in a remote English village, where he falls under the spell of a beautiful local widow, who is also reputed to be a witch. Alex soon discovers that Magda Variel’s occult gifts are more than just village gossip, but that’s not all. The nearby woods lie on the border of a magical kingdom that is home to capricious, possibly dangerous, spirits. Magda warns Alex to stay clear of the forest, but he can’t resist the call of an enchanting faery princess–and finds himself in the middle of a very tricky (and supernatural) romantic triangle!

Talk about a dangerous decision. Who do you choose: the witch or the faery? And do you really want to make either of them angry?

Richard plays his cards close to his vest sometimes, so I didn’t even know he was working on a new novel until it landed on my desk. But once I read it, I knew Other Kingdoms was a great new addition to his legendary body of work. I couldn’t wait to publish it.

And I can’t help casting the inevitable movie version in my head, although I still haven’t decided who should play Alex, Magda, or the faery yet!

Maybe Susan Sarandon as the witch?


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