|Forrest J Ackerman|
Ackerman at the Ackermansion
|Born||November 24, 1916
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||December 4, 2008 (aged 92)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Pen name||Incomplete list: Weaver Wright, Spencer Strong, Walter Chinwell, Allis Villette, Alus Kerlay, Laurajean Ermayne, Alden Lorraine, J. Forrester Eckman, Fisher Trentworth, SF Balboa, Hubert G. Wells, Jacues De Forest Erman, Jone Lee Heard, Sgt. Ack-Ack, and Dr. Acula.
In collaboration with others: Jacques de Forrest Erman (with Wilfred Owen Morley), Geoffrey Giles (with Walter Gillings)
Forrest J Ackerman (November 24, 1916 – December 4, 2008) was an American collector of science fiction books and movie memorabilia and a science fiction fan. He was, for over seven decades, one of science fiction's staunchest spokesmen and promoters.
Ackerman was a Los Angeles, California-based magazine editor, science fiction writer and literary agent, a founder of science fiction fandom and possibly the world's most avid collector of genre books and movie memorabilia. He was the editor and principal writer of the American magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, as well as an actor and producer (Vampirella).
Also called "Forry," "The Ackermonster," "4e" and "4SJ," Ackerman was central to the formation, organization, and spread of science fiction fandom, and a key figure in the wider cultural perception of science fiction as a literary, art and film genre. Famous for his word play and neologisms, he coined the genre nickname "sci-fi". In 1953, he was voted "#1 Fan Personality" by the members of the World Science Fiction Society, a unique Hugo Award never granted to anyone else.
Born Forrest James Ackerman (though he would refer to himself from the early 1930s on as "Forrest J Ackerman" with no period after the middle initial) on November 24, 1916 in Los Angeles, to Carroll Cridland Wyman (1883–1977) and William Schilling Ackerman (1892–1951). His father was from New York and his mother was from Ohio, and she was nine years older than William. He attended the University of California at Berkeley for a year (1934–1935), worked as a movie projectionist, and spent three years in the U.S. Army after enlisting on August 15, 1942.
He was married to teacher and translator Wendayne (Wendy) Wahrman (1912–1990) until her death.
Ackerman saw his first "imagi-movie" in 1922 (One Glorious Day), purchased his first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926, created The Boys' Scientifiction Club in 1930 ("girl-fans were as rare as unicorn's horns in those days"). He contributed to both of the first science fiction fanzines, The Time Traveller, and the Science Fiction Magazine, published and edited by Shuster & Siegel of Superman fame, in 1932, and by 1933 had 127 correspondents around the world. He was one of the early members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, and remained active in it for many decades.
He attended the 1st World Science Fiction Convention in 1939, where he wore the first "futuristicostume" (designed and created by Myrtle R. Douglas) and sparked fan costuming, the latest incarnation of which is cosplay. He attended every Worldcon but two thereafter during his lifetime. Ackerman invited Ray Bradbury to attend the now legendary Clifton’s Cafeteria Science Fiction Club, where Ray met the writers Robert A. Heinlein, Emil Petaja, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, Leigh Brackett, and Jack Williamson. With $90 from Ackerman, Bradbury launched a fanzine, Futuria Fantasia, in 1939.
Ackerman amassed an extremely large and complete collection of science fiction, fantasy and horror film memorabilia, which, until 2002, he maintained in a remarkable 18-room home and museum known as the "Ackermansion." The house, in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, contained some 300,000 books and pieces of movie and science-fiction memorabilia. From 1951 to 2002, Ackerman entertained some 50,000 fans at open houses, on one night a group of 186 fans and professionals including astronaut Buzz Aldrin. Ackerman was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, where many items of his collection are now displayed.
He knew most of the writers of science fiction in the first half of the twentieth-century. As a literary agent, he represented some 200 writers, and he served as agent of record for many long lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted in anthologies. He was Ed Wood's "illiterary" agent. Ackerman was credited with nurturing and even inspiring the careers of several early contemporaries like Ray Bradbury, Ray Harryhausen, Charles Beaumont, Marion Zimmer Bradley and L. Ron Hubbard.
Ackerman had 50 stories published, including collaborations with A. E. van Vogt, Francis Flagg, Robert A. W. Lowndes, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Donald Wollheim and Catherine Moore and the world's shortest – one letter of the alphabet. His stories have been translated into six languages. Ackerman named the sexy comic-book character Vampirella and wrote the origin story for the comic.
He also authored several lesbian stories under the name "Laurajean Ermayne" for Vice Versa and provided publishing assistance in the early days of the Daughters of Bilitis. He was dubbed an "honorary lesbian" at a DOB party.
Through his magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland (1958–1983), Ackerman introduced the history of the science fiction, fantasy and horror film genres to a generation of young readers. At a time when most movie-related publications glorified the stars in front of the camera, "Uncle Forry", as he was referred to by many of his fans, promoted the behind-the-scenes artists involved in the magic of movies. In this way, Ackerman provided inspiration to many who would later become successful artists, including Peter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, Penn & Teller, Billy Bob Thornton, Gene Simmons (of the band Kiss), Rick Baker, George Lucas, Danny Elfman, Frank Darabont, John Landis and countless other writers, directors, artists and craftsmen.
He also contributed to film magazines from all around the world, including Spanish speaking La Cosa: Cine Fantástico magazine, from Argentina, where he had a monthly column for over four years.
In the 1960s, Ackerman organized the publication of an English translation in the U.S. of the German science fiction series Perry Rhodan, the longest science fiction series in history. These were published by Ace Books from 1969 through 1977. Ackerman's German-speaking wife Wendayne ("Wendy") did most of the translation. The American books were issued with varying frequency from one to as many as four per month. Ackerman also used the paperback series to promote science fiction short stories, including his own on occasion. These "magabooks" or "bookazines" also included a film review section, known as "Scientifilm World", and letters from readers. The American series came to an end when the management of Ace changed, and the new management decided that the series was too juvenile for their taste. The last Ace issue was #118, which corresponded to German issue #126 as some of the Ace editions contained two of the German issues, and three of the German issues had been skipped. Forry later published translations of German issues #127 through #145 on his own under the Master Publications imprint. (The original German series continues today and passed issue #2400 in 2007.)
A life-long fan of science fiction "B-movies", Ackerman had cameos in over 210 films, including bit parts in many monster movies and science fiction films (The Howling, Innocent Blood, Return of the Living Dead Part II), more traditional "imagi-movies" The Time Travelers, Future War), spoofs and comedies (Amazon Women on the Moon, Attack of the 60 Foot Centerfold, The Wizard of Speed and Time), and at least one major music video (Michael Jackson's Thriller. His Bacon number is 2.
In 1961, Ackerman narrated the record "Music for Robots" created by Frank Allison Coe. The cover featured Forrest Ackerman's face superimposed on the movie robot Tobor the Great. The record was reissued on CD in 2005.
Ackerman himself appeared as a character in The Vampire Affair by David McDaniel (a novel in the Man from U.N.C.L.E. series), and Philip José Farmer's novel Blown. A character based on Ackerman, and his "Ackermansion", appears in the Niven/Pournelle collaboration Fallen Angels.
In 2007, Roadhouse Films of Canada released a documentary, Famous Monster: Forrest J Ackerman. The documentary, available on DVD only in the UK, airs regularly on the BRAVO channel.
Ackerman said, "I aim at hitting 100 and becoming the George Burns of science fiction". His health, however, had been failing, and he last logged in to his Myspace page on March 19, 2008. Friends and fans were encouraged to send messages of farewell by mail. There were several premature reports of his death beginning November 6, 2008. John Landis recalled that "Although he was extremely ill he told me he could not die until he voted for Obama for President and he did."
He died on December 4, 2008, at the age of 92. From his "Acker-mini-mansion" in Hollywood, he had entertained and inspired fans weekly with his collection of memorabilia and his stories.