THIS MAN WAS ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PEOPLE ON MY YOUNG LIFE & MOST OF THE WEIRDOS OF MY GENERATION. THERE WOULD BE NO FANDOM IF IT WEREN'T FOR HIM (AT LEAST NOT IN THE SAME WAY). HERE IS HIS OBITUARY FROM THE L.A. TIMES...
Forrest J Ackerman, writer-editor who coined 'sci-fi,' dies at 92
The Los Angeles native influenced young fans with his Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and spent a lifetime amassing a vast collection of science fiction and fantasy memorabilia.
By Dennis McLellan
1:37 PM PST, December 5, 2008
Forrest J Ackerman, who influenced a generation of young horror movie fans with Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and spent a lifetime amassing what has been called the world's largest personal collection of science fiction and fantasy memorabilia, has died. He was 92.
Ackerman, a writer, editor and literary agent who has been credited with coining the term "sci-fi" in the 1950s, died Thursday of heart failure at his home in Los Angeles, Kevin Burns, head of Prometheus Entertainment and a trustee of Ackerman's estate, told the Associated Press.
As editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Ackerman wrote most of the articles in the photo-laden magazine launched in 1958 as a forum for past and present horror films.
"It was the first movie monster magazine," Tony Timpone, editor of Fangoria, a horror movie magazine founded in 1979, told The Times in 2002.
Timpone, who began reading Famous Monsters as a young boy in the early '70s, remembers it as "a black-and-white magazine with cheap paper but great painted [color] covers. It really turned people onto the magic of horror movies."
Primarily targeted to late pre-adolescents and young teenagers, Famous Monsters of Filmland featured synopses of horror films, interviews with actors such as Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price, and articles on makeup and special effects.
Famous Monsters reflected Ackerman's penchant for puns, with features such as "The Printed Weird" and "Fang Mail." Ackerman referred to himself as Dr. Acula.
"He put a lot of his personality into the magazine," said Timpone, who later became friends with Ackerman. "It was a pretty juvenile approach to genre journalism, but as kids that's all we had."
Among those who reportedly grew up reading Famous Monsters of Filmland was author Stephen King. Other childhood readers included movie directors Joe Dante, John Landis and Steven Spielberg, who once autographed a poster of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" for Ackerman, saying, "A generation of fantasy lovers thank you for raising us so well."
Ackerman was a celebrity in his own right, once signing 10,000 autographs during a three-day monster movie convention in New York City.
This, after all, was the man who created and wrote the comic books "Vampirella" and "Jeanie of Questar" and was the ultimate fan's fan: a man who actually had known Lugosi and Karloff and whose priceless collection of science fiction, horror and fantasy artifacts ran to some 300,000 items.
For years, Ackerman housed his enormous cache of books, movie stills, posters, paintings, movie props, masks and assorted memorabilia in his 18-room home in Los Feliz.
He dubbed the house the Ackermansion.
The jam-packed repository included everything from a Dracula cape worn by Lugosi to Mr. Spock's pointy ears; and from Lon Chaney Sr.'s makeup kit to the paper plate flying saucer used by director Ed Wood in "Plan 9 From Outer Space."
For Ackerman, a native Angeleno born on Nov. 24, 1916, it all began at age 9 in 1926.
That's when he stopped at a drugstore on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Western Avenue in Hollywood and bought his first copy of the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories.
From then on, Ackerman was helplessly hooked.
By his late teens, he had mastered Esperanto, the invented international language. In 1929, he founded the Boys Scientifiction Club. In 1932, he joined a group of other young fans in launching the Time Traveler, which is considered the first fan magazine devoted exclusively to science fiction and for which Ackerman was "contributing editor."
Ackerman also joined with other local fans in starting a chapter of the Science Fiction Society -- meetings were held in Clifton's Cafeteria in downtown L.A. -- and as editor of the group's fan publication Imagination! he published in 1938 a young Ray Bradbury's first short story.
During World War II, Ackerman edited a military newspaper published at Ft. MacArthur in San Pedro. After the war, he worked as a literary agent. His agency represented scores of science fiction writers, including L. Ron Hubbard, Isaac Asimov, A.E. van Vogt, H.L. Gold, Ray Cummings and Hugo Gernsback.
In 1954, Ackerman coined the term that would become part of the popular lexicon -- a term said to make some fans cringe.
"My wife and I were listening to the radio, and when someone said 'hi-fi' the word 'sci-fi' suddenly hit me," Ackerman explained to The Times in 1982. "If my interest had been soap operas, I guess it would have been 'cry-fi,' or James Bond, 'spy-fi.' "
At the time, Ackerman already was well-known among science fiction and horror aficionados for his massive collection.
After a couple from Texas showed up on his doorstep in 1951 asking to view the collection, Ackerman began opening his home up for regular, informal tours on Saturdays.
Over the years, thousands of people made the pilgrimage to the Ackermansion.
The Dracula/Frankenstein room featured a casket as a "coffin table" and the cape Lugosi wore in the stage version of "Dracula." A case displayed one of the horror film legend's bow ties, which, Ackerman would gleefully note, contained a drop of blood.
Among the collection's other highlights: the ring worn by Lugosi in "Dracula," the giant-winged pterodactyl that swooped down for Fay Wray in "King Kong," Lon Chaney's cape from "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Metropolis" director Fritz Lang's monocle.
The affable Ackerman would escort his visitors through the priceless warren of books, posters and memorabilia, settling into a chair in each room and answering questions.
"He was always just a big kid," said Fangoria's Timpone. "I really cherished all the times I've been with him."
Ackerman wrote more than 2,000 articles and short stories for magazines and anthologies, sometimes under his pseudonyms Dr. Acula, Weaver Wright and Claire Voyant.
He also wrote what has been reported to have been the first lesbian science-fiction story ever published, "World of Loneliness." And under the pen name Laurajean Ermayne, he wrote lesbian romances in the late 1940s for the lesbian magazine Vice Versa.
As an editor, Ackerman edited or co-edited numerous books, including "A Book of Weird Tales," "365 Science Fiction Short Stories" and "The Great Science Fiction."
Over the years, he made numerous cameo appearances in films, including Dante's "The Howling" and Landis' "Innocent Blood." Landis also had Ackerman eating popcorn behind Michael Jackson in the movie theater scene in his "Thriller" video.
Famous Monsters of Filmland ceased publication in 1983. But the magazine returned a decade later with Ray Ferry as publisher and Ackerman as editor. Ackerman, however, reportedly had a falling out with Ferry and left the magazine. Years of litigation followed. In 2000, after a civil trial, Ackerman won a trademark infringement and breach-of-contract lawsuit against Ferry, though he said a year later that he not yet collected a penny of the judgment.
In recent decades, according to a 2003 Times story, Ackerman slowly sold pieces of his massive collection in order to survive. Because of health problems and his still-unresolved legal battle, he put up all but about 100 of his favorite objects for sale in 2002.
The same year, he moved out of the Ackermansion and into a bungalow in the flats of Los Feliz. But he continued to make what was left of his collection available for viewing by fans on Saturday mornings.
"I call it the Acker Mini-Mansion," he said.
A list of surviving family members was not immediately available.
McLellan is a Times staff writer.
LOS ANGELES – 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," has died. He was 92.
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."
His greatest achievement, however, was likely discovering Bradbury, author of the literary classics "Fahrenheit 451" and "The Martian Chronicles." Ackerman had placed a flyer in a Los Angeles bookstore for a science-fiction club he was founding and a teenage Bradbury showed up.
Later, Ackerman gave Bradbury the money to start his own science-fiction magazine, Futuria Fantasia, and paid the author's way to New York for an authors meeting that Bradbury said helped launch his career.
"I hadn't published yet, and I met a lot of these people who encouraged me and helped me get my career started, and that was all because of Forry Ackerman," the author told the AP in 2005.
Later, as a literary agent, Ackerman represented Bradbury, Isaac Asimov and numerous other science-fiction writers.
He said the term "sci-fi" came to him in 1954 when he was listening to a car radio and heard an announcer mention the word "hi-fi."
"My dear wife said, 'Forget it, Forry, it will never catch on,'" he recalled.
Soon he was using it in Famous Monsters of Filmland, the magazine he helped found in 1958 and edited for 25 years.
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."