Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Friday, December 05, 2008

Forrest J Ackerman, RIP

The legendary Ackermonster, Forrest J Ackerman, has passed away at age 92.

The pun-loving literary agent, author and professional fan of "imagi-movies," was the founding editor of the influential Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine in the 60's and 70's, coined the term "sci-fi," and discovered Ray Bradbury. His love for the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres was contagious, and through the pages of his magazine, he inspired countless young people to make their own careers in those fields, from Stephen King to Steven Spielberg.

I'm a little too young for Famous Monsters to have been a big part of my genre education – by the time I discovered it, it was no longer under his guiding hand; Starlog and Fangoria were my poisons – but I was well aware of "Uncle Forry" and his life-long passion for fantasy.

Here's an excerpt from his AP obituary:

Ackerman died Thursday of heart failure at his Los Angeles home, said Kevin Burns, head of Prometheus Entertainment and a trustee of Ackerman's estate.

Although only marginally known to readers of mainstream literature, Ackerman was legendary in science-fiction circles as the founding editor of the pulp magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. He was also the owner of a huge private collection of science-fiction movie and literary memorabilia that for years filled every nook and cranny of a hillside mansion overlooking Los Angeles.

"He became the Pied Piper, the spiritual leader, of everything science fiction, fantasy and horror," Burns said Friday.

Every Saturday morning that he was home, Ackerman would open up the house to anyone who wanted to view his treasures. He sold some pieces and gave others away when he moved to a smaller house in 2002, but he continued to let people visit him every Saturday for as long as his health permitted.

"My wife used to say, 'How can you let strangers into our home?' But what's the point of having a collection like this if you can't let people enjoy it?" an exuberant Ackerman told The Associated Press as he conducted a spirited tour of the mansion on his 85th birthday.

His collection once included more than 50,000 books, thousands of science-fiction magazines and such items as Bela Lugosi's cape from the 1931 film "Dracula."

Ackerman himself appeared in numerous films over the years, usually in bit parts. His credits include "Queen of Blood," "Dracula vs. Frankenstein," "Amazon Women on the Moon," "Vampirella," "Transylvania Twist," "The Howling" and the Michael Jackson "Thriller" video. More recently, he appeared in 2007's "The Dead Undead" and 2006's "The Boneyard Collection."

Ackerman returned briefly to Famous Monsters of Filmland in the 1990s, but he quickly fell out with the publisher over creative differences. He sued and was awarded a judgment of more than $375,000.

Forrest James Ackerman was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 24, 1916. He fell in love with science-fiction, he once said, when he was 9 years old and saw a magazine called Amazing Stories. He would hold onto that publication for the rest of his life.

Ackerman, who had no children, was preceded in death by his wife, Wendayne.

Rest In Peace, Forry.


Martin Powell said...

I was one of the lucky guys who grew up with Forrest J Ackerman and his Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. I began collecting the mag with issue # 34 and always sought it out to buy, cherishing it even higher than my comic books.

There's not the slightest doubt in my mind that I'd be a much different (i.e. miserable) person without the influence of Uncle Forry.

Fortunately, we finally got to meet in the early 90s where we both were guests of Dragon Con in Atlanta. It was a very great moment for me, and I made a point of telling Forry that.

We'll never know his like again. Long as the Universal monsters are watched, long as science fiction endures, Forrest J Ackerman--as he used to repeat regarding Lon Chaney--will never die.

Prof. Hex said...

Sad sad news.

Joe Blow said...

I too met him at the Dragon Con in Atlanta and had lunch with him. Heard great stories about the Dracula ring he wears and about Bela Lagosi. Yeah I grew up reading FMOF sigh...