Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The First Fan

Fellow fans I would like to introduce you to an old friend of yours...even if you didn't know he was your friend.

Lend an ear whilst (who even says "shilst" anymore?) I speak in hushed and awe struck tones of...

The Ackermonster!

If you were a kid growing up in the 1960’s, especially of the comic reading variety, chances are you read, collected and devoured the wonderful magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland (or FM to those of us in the know). When you opened this glossy covered magazine with newsprint pages, you were immediately immersed in the world of Karloff and Lugosi, of price and Lorre, and most of all the GREAT (in caps!) Lon Chaney Sr. In an era before instant access to, well everything, FM was a fan’s only regular helping of Horror and Sci-fi content that you could get on a regular basis. FM featured articles about all the great old films and stars from the Silent Era right up through the Hammer Horror films. In the magazine’s “filmbooks” the reader got to see rare, even unique photos. The writing was aimed and accessible to a younger audience. Famous Monsters never looked down at it’s audience. The magazine was great fun and a fond memory of early summer days that I spent reading on the “stoop” outside my house in Brooklyn.

The greatest treasure to be found within the pages of Famous Monsters was the presence on every page of one Forrest J Ackerman. Known to one and all as Forry or Uncle Forry, the reader immediately felt as though Ackerman was not only your guide through genre film history but also your personal friend. I have never come across a writer/editor who could welcome a reader in quite the way that Forry did.

But Forry was much more than just a magazine editor. He was the wellspring from which each and every one of us who ever read a comic, marveled at a sci-fi or horror film/TV show , and dressed up in costume at a convention sprang. Forrest J Ackerman was the world’s first fan.
For all of his success and fame, the first fan is what Forry. It was his profession and his passion. All you had to do to know that was to show up at his 18 room home on Glendower Road in L.A. (known to all and sundry as The AckerMansion), and this great bear of a man would personally give you a tour of his personal collection of Sci-Fi and Horror memorabilia in the appropriately named AckerMuseum. He never strayed far from his roots as a fan, and Forry’s greatest pleasure was the endless conversation he had with other fans for over seven decades. He was the chief barker for the new form of literature called “scientifiction” that was created by Hugo Gernsback in the pulp Amazing Stories. Forry was friend, contributor and confidant of such notables as Bradbury, Siegel and Shuster, Robert Heinlein and Frederick brown among others. Ackerman (also known to his legion of friends as the Ackermonster) through his work inspired generations of creators including Stephen king and Steve Spielberg.

Ackerman saw his first genre film in 1922 (One Glorious Day), purchased his first copy of 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 the Science Fiction Magazine Fanzine, published and edited by Siegel and Shuster , 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 first World Science fiction Convention in 1939, where he wore the first "futuristicostume" a direct descendent of fan costuming, and Cosplay.
Forry was the first of us and he was the best of us because he was always accessible to anyone who wanted to share time with him. It did not matter if you were a famous creator like Bradbury or a completely unknown 10 year old kid. Forry treated the entire world as if they were his house guests.

Forrest J Ackerman passed away at 94 years young in November of 2008. He left behind a gift that all of us here take great joy from...fandom.

That’s 30!


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