Monday, December 08, 2008

Sentential Links #151 (The Dr. Acula edition)

In honor of the passing the other day of Forrest J. Ackerman, the following links:

:: Where do I start with Forrest J. Ackerman? The man is basically attributed with being the father of modern fandom, an institution that has been both the source of great fun and great annoyance in my life. Really, I hate to stick anyone with that label, since modern fandom is kind of a sham.

:: Some people, maybe even most people who had a collection like that would treat it as a mere investment, keep it to themselves, and worry constantly about its worth and safety. Forry, however, and to his great credit, was always happy to share it with whomever was interested. (If I had ever won the lottery, one of my fantasies was to buy the entire Ackerman collection, all of it, books and memorabilia and the whole shebang, and keep it together. Probably in Buffalo, of course, but it would have been together. Alas, I never won the lottery. Probably because I never play the lottery.)

:: Uncle Forry as many Ackermaniacs referred to him, was for me, my ghoulish Santa Claus. He didn't live at the North Pole or even the South Pole, but at a magical place called the Ackermansion - and it was my visit there in 1993 changed the direction of my life. (Not a blog, but how could I ignore Harry Knowles, who may be the Forry of the Internet age?)

:: Forry was a product of his time - a unique blend of the individual and world in which he lived. It could never happen again quite like that, and all of us who grew up with him share a very special experience that's hard to describe. (Same site, different essay, this by Peter Jackson.)

:: You become very conscious of the air you walk through after such an encounter. He gave me proof of the possibility and ability of Human Grace firsthand. That's the kind of good man he is. (Wil Wheaton reproduces a comment from someplace else in his own post.)

:: The first horrific dreams I ever had which were inspired by a book or magazine as opposed to arising from the depths of my own depraved brain came about when I was nine due to the image on the cover of this July 1964 issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland, edited by Forrest J Ackerman.

:: "Then you must come back to the house!"

:: Forrest also was a writer, editor and literary agent who was one of the first to see the untapped potential of sci-fi (a term he coined) for the motion picture industry in the early 1950’s and helped, almost single-handedly, revive the horror movie in that same era.

:: Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Fan.
He is trampling out the places with Amazing on the stand.
His fantasy collection is the greatest in the land.
Forrest J goes marching on.

I myself never once met Ackerman, nor did I attend any conventions where he was present, and I certainly was never anywhere near the Ackermansion. But it was hard not to be aware of him and his effect on fandom. The first time I heard of him was when I was nine and watching the old NBC show Real People, which profiled offbeat souls throughout America. One night they visited a guy who was apparently a huge science fiction fan and who had filled his home with all manner of collectible stuff. For a kid who counted himself lucky to own a handful of Star Wars action figures, this was enormously impressive. It was like learning that Disney World exists.

Anyway, I still remember the person doing the profile saying something like, "Who made up the term 'sci-fi'?" Ackerman responded, "I did." Of course, many SF fans don't much like that term (pronouncing it "skiffy", to denote SF that isn't to be taken seriously, like Lost In Space or the like), but it's hard to deny that the term is a contribution to the lexicon of modern America.

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