Friday, December 5, 2008

Sci-Fi and Horror Fan Forrest Ackerman R.I.P.

I have some very sad new for my fellow geeks. Our leader has passed on. Forrest Ackerman, who was one of the earliest fans of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres, a leader in sci-fi, fantasy, and horror fandom, and the founder and publisher of Famous Monsters of Filmland, passed yesterday at the age of 92. The cause was heart failure.

Forrest J. Ackerman, "Uncle Forry" to the many younger fans he inspired, was born November 24, 1916 in Los Angeles, California. His obsession with science fiction began when he was only nine years old and bought a copy of the magazine Amazing Stories at a drug store in Los Angeles. In 1930 he founded the Boys' Scientifiction Club (female fans being exceedingly rare in those days before Star Trek and Star Wars). He was contributor to the two pf the first science fiction fanzine, The Time Traveller and Science Fiction (published by Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster, who would go on to create Superman). By 1933 he had 127 pen pals, among them such individuals as soon to be legendary fantasist Ray Bradbury. At the first World Science Fiction Convention Forrest Ackerman he wore the first science fiction costume designed by a fan. In 1939 he founded the fanzine Futuria Fantasia. He co-founded both the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and the National Fantasy Fan Federation.

During World War II Ackerman edited the military newspaper at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro, California. Following the war Ackerman served as a literary agent for writers ranging from Isaac Asimov to A. E. Van Vogt to Ray Cummings. By 1951 Forrest Ackerman was already well know for his massive collection of science fiction, fantasy, and horror memorabilia, housed in what he called the "Ackermansion." It was that year that a Texas couple stopped by his house to see the collection. Thereafter Ackerman held informal tours of his collection every Saturday. Three years later in 1954, while listening to the radio and hearing the word "hi fi" mentioned, that he coined the term "sci-fi" as short for "science fiction." Although not the favourite term of every fan, it has stuck to the genre ever since.

It was in 1958 that Forrest Ackerman founded Famous Monsters of Filmland, the premiere magazine dedicated to horror movies. It was published by James Warren of Warren Publishing. It was initially conceived as a one shot publication, but was such a hit that it would be published until 1983. The magazine would be a major influence on such artists as Alice Cooper, Stephen King, Joe Dante, and Rick Baker, among others. In the Sixties, Ackerman was responsible for the publication of English translations of the German Perry Rhodan series. He also created the superheroine Vampirella for Warren Publishing in 1969.

Forrest Ackerman wrote over 2000 short stories and articles, sometimes using pseudonyms such as Claire Voyant and, perhaps most famously, Dr. Acula. He edited or co-edited a large number of books, including including 365 Science Fiction Short Stories and A Book of Weird Tales. He wrote what is believed to be the first lesbian science fiction story ("World of Loneliness") and as Laurajean Ermayne wrote lesbian romances for Vice Versa magazine in the Forties. He also aided the Daughters of Bilitis, the first lesbian rights organisation in the United States, in their early publishing efforts. The Daughters of Bilitis even named him an "honorary lesbian" for his help. He also made cameos in numerous movies, including Equinox, Schlock, The Howling, and Brain Dead (AKA Dead Alive. He was a producer on the telefilm based on the character he created, Vampirella.

Forrest Ackerman was perhaps the most legendary fan of all time, a fan who was famous not for being a writer, an artist, director, or musician, but simply famous for being a fan. He perhaps did more than any one person to ever live to promote the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. His magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland would influence multiple generations of fans, some of who would become famous in their own rights. He gathered together the largest known collection of science fiction, fantasy, and horror memorabilia, preserving the history of these three related genres. He was also one of the kindest and most gracious gentlemen in fandom. At a horror movie convention in New York City, over a three day period, he once signed more than 10,000 autographs. He always had time for younger fans and became close friends with many of them. Although Forry Ackerman and his wife had no children, he left behind an exceedingly large number of young fans on whom he left his indelible imprint. The genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror are much poorer now for his passing.

1 comment:

Jim Marquis said...

That's too bad. I loved Famous Monsters when I was a kid.