An Appreciation of Forry Ackerman
Printed in Locus Magazine
 
forrycrossWho can argue over the last 80 years, Forry Ackerman has stirred the gray matter of millions of fans the world over?  Some to wonder, some to create, share, get involved, and more importantly, to think.  The fact you are reading this is testament to Forry’s tenacity and love of life.  And certainly, the legacy of the man will live beyond the pages, the movies, the collections, the bad puns, the monsters, the conventions and all the people who will never know they’ve been touched by “Mr. Monster”, Forrest J (no period) Ackerman.
 
We are now at that point, that parting we all know must surely come, not surprised, but saddened still.  
 
Whether you met Forry through the pages of some dusty tome or monster magazine, over a box of popcorn at a double horror matinee, a legendary Open House at the Ackermansion or shaking his hand at a convention, you are now charged with taking what you have and doing what you will to pass along the joy and enthusiasm we all share to those less fortunate.  For if we don’t, then what does that say about ourselves?
 
He was the Lord High Minister of all Things Sinister and his home was the vortex of known fandom around and through which all must pass to achieve the spiritual Goshwowboyohboy you'd only read about.   And thus it was back in the magical '60s, both the profound and the profane of fandom gathered and made what they would, with envious eyes that created an entire generation of "Monster Kids" that left no one unaffected as films like Paul Davids' "The Sci-Fi Boys", illustrates so well.
 
Forry was known for his enthusiastic generosity.  When I put on my first convention in 1963, at his own expense, Forry sent flyers to his entire mailing list and showed up at the con in a limo bringing Bert I. Gordon, Ib Melchior and Marcel Delgado along with him.  I'll wager, the mega-thousands of fans attending San Diego Comic-Cons were never aware back in 1970 again from his own pocket, Forry mailed hundreds of postcards enticing us all to the new event on the horizon ensuring its success.  And surely, if you polled the legions of fans who have shook the hand bearing that ever-present Dracula ring, all were left with a tale to tell and few would have but the kindest words for the man.
This isn’t to say Forry didn’t have his detractors; not everyone can go, and do and be and have and aspire without discovering those who may not share the same aspirations.  And who, after all, can be right all the time?
 
Cineaste, author, Esperantist, altruist, futurist; but foremost, a dreamer who spent his entire lifetime dreaming of a future he would never get to live in, best summed up in something he wrote 30 years ago:
 
My hope for humanity - and I think sensible science fiction has a beneficial influence in this direction - is that one day everyone born will be whole in body and brain, will live a long life free from physical and emotional pain, will participate in a fulfilling way in their contribution to existence, will enjoy true love and friendship, will pity us 20th century barbarians who lived and died in an atrocious, anachronistic atmosphere of arson, rape, robbery, kidnapping, child abuse, insanity, murder, terrorism, war, smog, pollution, starvation and the other negative “norms” of our current civil(?)ization.  I have devoted my life to amassing over a quarter million pieces of sf and fantasy as a present to posterity and I hope to be remembered as an altruist who would have been an accepted citizen of Utopia.
 
Forry wasn't the first fan, but certainly he who launched and nurtured fandom through the decades and held the position of fandom's most outspoken proponent. He was there at the beginning, and in my opinion, outlived fandom as we'd like to know it as he told me a few years ago:
 
I’ve no hope whatsoever in fandom, none whatsoever. I’m a member of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society. I was at the first meeting; I have been the director, the secretary, the treasurer, the publisher, the editor, the garbage man, everything you can think of. I’ve poured thousands of dollars into that club. I’ve been to over 1500 meetings of it. I have never once heard any suggestion that they pay a dime to help me out. I understand that over a hundred fans a week go to the club and I’ve put on the bulletin board that I have Open House here. I’d be hoping for members of LASFS to come and see the place, but you know I just don’t seem to exist and the unkindest cut of all… finally 50 years rolled around and I went to the 50th anniversary meeting; there I was the sole survivor of the very first meeting and I thought they’d like me to get up and tell how it began, the highlights the lowlights and so on. Well, the speaker of the evening was Harlan Ellison who continually claims he doesn’t write Science Fiction and he began by saying something like, "I don’t know why you invited me because in 26 years I’ve only been to three meetings."  I sat there through the entire meeting as though I was the Invisible Man, nobody ever said, "Oh Forry Ackerman…he was our first member." So I drove back with my wife and I said, "You know, have I lived too long or what?" She says, "Well, young people, they don’t care about history, the world began when they were born and that is all they are interested in - themselves.
 
As I think back one last time, it was 1960 when this 13 year old kid walked into the drug store and smack into the 10th issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland.  It called to me from the rack, crying “Take me home little boy and I’ll change your life forever.”  (with apologies to 4E).  I was smitten.  Months later, I returned for my next dose, in the form of the Gorgo clad issue #11 and found it fresh from the delivery truck, still baled and pulsating on the floor.  Inquiring to the time of Gorgo’s freedom, I was told “Those magazines are going back to the distributor because they're bad for kids’ minds.”
 
The rest is history and a gift from Forry.