Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Uncle Forry

It seems only right and proper that I actually follow through in blogging about Forrest J. Ackerman today. It is, after all, his birthday. 93 years ago today, on 11/24/16, he came into the world and changed it for the better.

To really understand his importance to me, you have to know a bit about his history. Now, I could talk about his importance as a literary agent, representing over 200 science fiction authors and providing publishing assistance to scores of writers over the years. I could talk about his importance in the world of fandom, his appearance at Ground Zero of practically every major science fiction convention established in the Western world, his creation of the idea of fans costuming *at* conventions, and his unwavering support of fandom in general. But this blog being devoted to what it's devoted to, I must talk about what is probably his greatest achievement: the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland.

FM started publishing in 1958 to capitalize on the emergence of the "Monster Kid." The previous year, a package of classic Universal horror films sold under the banner "Shock!" was distributed to TV stations across the country, and the success was phenomenal.

Kids tuned in like crazy, and it only made sense for Forry to team up with Warren Publications to put out a magazine devoted to the genre. After all, he was among the biggest horror fans around, and maintained an 18-room estate (the "Ackermansion") where he displayed wall-to-wall artifacts from across the history of horror and sci-fi filmdom. So the magazine went to press, and immediately sold out. What was meant, at first, to be a one-shot special issue tapped into something that neither Forry nor Warren expected. And why not? Kids couldn't get enough of the movies, and they were only on once a week, so they'd want something they could carry around with 'em to feed that obsessive need for monster action. So FM started on a 25-year path, spreading the pun-filled gospels of Bela, Lon and Boris to all who'd pick up an issue.

I think I started getting in in 1976. At the time, I was buying everything I could about King Kong. The Dino DeLaurentiis remake was making news all over the place, and I was rabid to learn as much as possible about it. So I'm fairly certain that issue #125 was my first. If not that, then #126 because of the great Basil Gogos cover painting of Mr. Sardonicus from the William Castle flick of the same name.

And once you started reading FM, it was almost impossible to stop. Sure, features would get reprinted with more than a little frequency. Sure, the same photos would pop up from time to time. And sure, Forry's puns might wear on you after a while, but he and his magazine served a vital role nonetheless. It was my constant companion. The next best thing to getting a new Gifford book every month. I read it faithfully 'til it stopped being published in '83. I bought a few issues of the revival line which started in '93, but it wasn't the same anymore, which I think was largely due to the behind-the-scenes conflict between new publisher Ray Ferry and FJA.

I moved to the Los Angeles area in 1998. At the time, I didn't know whether or not Forry was still welcoming all who made the trek to the Ackermansion inside. And in the two years I lived there, I never visited. I only realized that he was still giving eager visitors tours of his grand collection after I'd left and moved back to the East Coast. I always wanted to get back out there and make my pilgrimage to the Mecca of Monsters.

Forry died last year. I never made it. It's one of my biggest regrets.

Sleep well, dear Uncle.

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