Forrest J. Ackerman died last Thursday, at the age of 92. For anyone who knew his name when they were 12 or 13 or 14, the news comes like the news of Queen Victoria's passing to residents of the British Empire in 1901. Ackerman presided over an empire of the imagination every bit as grand as Victoria's realm, and far more benign. He was the editor of Famous Monsters Of Filmland, the sci-fi and horror movie fan magazine around which a generation of buffs rallied during their formative years. It was a half-silly, half-serious publication devoted to the whole range and the whole history of fantasy on film. It helped to create and validate the community of kids who loved film of this sort, and gave them permission to take it seriously.
Famous Monsters was single-handedly responsible for focusing my own love of movies. It opened my eyes to silent film, because there were, after all, silent monster movies, and to other kinds of film. When I was 12 I started buying books about the history of movies just for their monster movie content and ended up enthralled by every kind of movie.
In seventh grade I met two fellow students who were secret fans of the magazine and introduced me to it — within months we were making our own 8mm monster movies. The three of us attended a science fiction convention in Washington, D. C. in the early Sixties where we actually met Forrest J. Ackerman (seen above, on the left, with Ray Harryhausen and Ray Bradbury.) He took us out to lunch. He took us and our interest in monster movies seriously. All of us, now in our fifties, are still fanatics of the kind of movies “Forry” loved.
Such stories could be repeated endlessly. Joe Dante, John Landis and Steven Spielberg were all fans of the magazine when they were kids. In later life, Spielberg autographed a
poster of Close Encounters of the Third Kind for Ackerman, writing, “A
generation of fantasy lovers thank you for raising us so well.”
And so we all do — now and forever.