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.


NEXT: Lock 'Em Up and Throw Away the Key

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  1. My brothers & I grew up reading Famous Monsters of Filmland.

    I didn’t keep track of his many film cameos, but I do remember him in Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive.

    It’s sad that in this age of CGI, a lot of movie memorabilia can be stored on a hard drive…

  2. I, too, was a Famous Monsters of Filmland fan as a kid, having built and painted the various plastic models, e.g., Frankenstein, Wolfman, Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc., and nagged my mother into making me a Dracula cape. (That I was building model monsters while the other kids were building model cars no doubt says much about my childhood psyche.) I didn’t connect Ackerman to science fiction until much later.

    It is a pity his collection couldn’t be kept intact. Sic transit gloria mundi, and all that jazz.

  3. I met and interviewed Ackerman back in 2000 and probably heard most of the same stories he used to tell on his Ackermansion tours. My favorite story, although there’s not much to it, is the brief period he served as Edward D. Wood Jr.’s “illiterary agent.”

  4. My favorite Uncle Forry movie cameos are 1. playing the president of Earth in a segment of “Amazon Women on the Moon” and 2. getting eaten by a dinosaur while reading a copy of Famous Monsters of Filmland in “Future War” (which was riffed on MST3K).

  5. I got to meet and photograph Ackerman some years back when he was in Kansas City for a film festival. He had great stories to tell and gave everyone who wanted his ear a chance to talk. He autographed the inside of the lid of my homebuilt theramin. The Ackermonster lives!

  6. He had a bit part in the 80’s movie “Future War”, which Mystery Science Theater did towards the end of the series. He got killed by a dinosaur. Or, as the bots put it, “A man got snapped at by a forced perspective puppet today”. Before he is dispatched by the deadly puppet, he is shown reading “Famous Monsters of Filmland”.

  7. that’s strange…I JUST watched that episode of MST3K a few days ago on an old VHS tape I found in a friend’s movie collection.

  8. A tip of the propeller beanie to 4SJ, one of the last of the first generation of science fiction fans. He lived long enough to see science fiction and fantasy go from marginalized “Buck Rogers stuff” to big business and wide cultural acceptance.

  9. Don’t forget his cameo in “Innocent Blood,” watching as a vampire steals his car outside the Pittsburg morgue.

    He also had a major role in “The Vampire Affair” (a Man from U.N.C.L.E book).

    One of my greatest regrets is not having taken the opportunity to visit Robert Heinlein in 1980. Now I can add not having visited Forry in his last years.

    Papaya, I think you meant “4EJ” . . .

  10. My only recollection of Forrest, was in “Double-D Avenger”. I normally don’t watch such cheesy movie, even with wise-cracking robots in them. But it was a joke gift at a Christmas party. We managed to get twenty minutes into the movie before we had to take it outside and beat it to death with a ballpeen hammer. So no, I probably didn’t get far enough into it to see FJA. But I distinctly recall the gifter saying “You’ll love it! It has Forrest J. Ackerman in it!”

  11. J. Golden: No, 4SJ was one of his nicknames (from “Forrest J.”). He was also known as 4E, though.

  12. Wow, what an awesome man. He will be missed no doubt. Rest in Peace and God Speed.


  13. HOLY SHIT…12 posts and not 1 snide remark…never thought I’d live to see the day

  14. I, with my childhood friend Ken Decter, also grew up with Famous Monsters of Filmland and had quite a stack. While in our teens, we ended up trading them to Glen Danzig, who at that time was in the punk band the Misfits, for a stack of original Misfits singles (all of their singles up to that point, I think). We met Glen when our band F (Ken’s band, more accurately) opened up for the Misfits in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1983. The trade was a complicated transaction because Ken and I owned the magazines jointly, having pooled our allowances to buy them as kids in the 1970s. Maybe this experience is part of what led me to reject communal ownership of property as a proper basis for economic organization.

  15. DADIODADDY | December 6, 2008, 12:04pm you ruined it.

    “We live in a stupid world,”

    What a cool guy, I wish he was my dad.

  16. When I was a kid, my brothers and I devoured Famous Monsters of Filmland. I wanted to BE FJA. And I was privileged to meet him twice — once at a Denver SF convention, where he showed me Bela Lugosi’s Dracula ring and we conversed in Esperanto; and once at an Irish bar in LA on Bela’s birthday, where he was a special guest. I always wanted to visit the Ackermansion, but never did.

    Forrey was also a character in the semi-pornographic Philip Jose Farmer novel “Blown.” In one scene, FJA is naked and observing an orgy of horrid interdimensional creatures (which will generate energy to open a space-time portal or something). FJA told me that he regretted not being written as a PARTICIPANT in the orgy! He will be missed!

  17. When I was in high school Famous Monsters was, next to National Lampoon, the coolest periodical around. R.I.P.

  18. Forry was a regular guest at DragonCon and I had the pleasure of talking with him on a few occasions. He will be missed greatly.

  19. So, that fairly nasty Mummy plastic model I worked on in the 60’s…couldn’t do the cars.

    If it’s one thing I’ve learned, reach out to those who inspire you! I discovered P.G.Wodehouse’s books in the early 70’s, and noted the blurb saying he lived not far from me on Long Island, did some research and found out he’d died only a few months prior. What treasure these creatives hold within.

    Next time I found an author (an artist) whose book I liked, I wrote a note immediately, and ended up attending his first national workshop, a real character, a real great connection. Do it! let these folks know you appreciate them. The enrichment goes both ways.that’s all
    //It knows

  20. When I was a kid, I sat up late to watch Creature Features on WGN (Chicago) before it was a “super station.” I built Aurora model kits of the Universal monsters. And Famous Monsters was the one place I could retreat to where I felt understood. Not only was I encouraged by all the other readers out there, but by the mere presence of FJA himself. He will be sorely missed by those who knew him and those who were his fans. His was a life well-lived. We should all be so lucky.

  21. He will be missed. I am glad I got to meet him.

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