Forrest Ackerman, R.I.P.


A great resource and treasure to Los Angeles and the wider world of popular culture promotion and archiving has died at age 92. For them that don't know of him, from the AP obit:

Forrest J Ackerman, the sometime actor, literary agent, magazine editor and full-time bon vivant who discovered author Ray Bradbury and was widely credited with coining the term "sci-fi"……

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.

Ackerman has certain notorieties the obit doesn't get into, including his agent/friend relationship with fellow sci-fi guy and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard; Ackerman was the kind of guy who had so many interesting connections and links in many fascinating worlds that one wishes one had taped dozens of hours of his reminiscences. (When he held court during the tours of his old Ackermansion, which I participated in a handful of times, the flirty, courtly Ackerman tended to tell the same tales and puns about things like having his first issue of Amazing Stories leap off an L.A. newsstand at him and anecdotes about Karloff and the like. I never had the heart to go visit him in his diminished circumstances in the "mini-Ackermansion" written of in the AP obit, where he retreated after having to sell the big house. The last time I saw him was when, and I felt no small pride at this, he came to Skylight Books to attend a reading by me and fellow contributors to the Science Fiction Film Reader.)

It's a damn shame that Ackerman had to sell off his stunning collection of SF literary and movie memorabilia off piecemeal; it would have made for a fabulous historical artifact kept intact as a museum. Ray Bradbury, who credits Ackerman with launching his career, told the L.A. Times back in 2003:

"We live in a stupid world," said Bradbury, who at one time or another has begged executives at a variety of companies, including Rocketdyne, to help preserve the collection. "I said, 'A special room with all of that will be more fascinating than all that junk you have.' They didn't believe in the future. I believe in the future. Forrest Ackerman believes in the future. No one else cared."

It has been quite a future, and quite a past, and Ackerman knew and kept track of it all. As an amateur accumulator of the beloved and meaning-soaked detritus of our pop pasts and futures, I admired and envied Ackerman and am sad that all those haunted, thrilling, amazing, startling, astounding memories he held are as scattered to the akashic record as his physical collection.