(originally posted November 11, 2008)
Sometimes we're forcefully reminded of what a short and tenuous thing living memory is. There's no one alive who heard Charles Dickens read from his works, or who saw Edwin Booth act. Not one witness to twenty-three presidential administrations.
I met Jack Speer at my first meeting of the Albuquerque Science Fiction Society, in June. He toted an oxygen bottle and had to be lifted into a chair, but he was sharp and happy and in his element. The thought crossed my mind of what we'd lose when these last bastions of First Fandom had left us. I tamped the thought down as morbid. Less than three weeks later, I learned he had died.
So excuse me if the thought comes up again as Forrest J Ackerman, the "Super-Fan," "Mr. Science Fiction," coiner of the word "sci-fi," rests at the Acker-Mini-Mansion, having declined treatment for congestive heart failure and pneumonia. Here is a man who has made science fiction his life longer than it's even had the name. It was called "scientifiction" when an early issue of Amazing Stories assured nine-year old Forry from the newsstand ("Back then, magazines spoke," he would always say later), "Take me home, little boy—you will love me."
I interviewed Forry for the first volume of the new Thrilling Wonder Stories, and I've signed contracts with him, in his capacity as one of the foremost agents of early science fiction authors, for works that have appeared or are forthcoming. I've enjoyed talking with him in the front room of his home, surrounded by his collection—a Metalunan mutant head here, Bela Lugosi's Dracula cape there, originals and reproductions of Frank R. Paul artwork everywhere—and he, too, was sharp and happy and in his element.
Please, Forry, flummox and flabbergast the physicians and stay with us. Tell us about Hugo Gernsback and David H. Keller and Aladra Septama. Become the George Burns of science fiction, as you've promised. There's a lot more future yet to see.
* * *
Here's a 1986 tour of the famous Ackermansion. One of my regrets is that although I moved to Los Angeles while he still lived there and gave tours, I never managed to get out there.
A shorter view of the Ackermansion from the same year:
And finally, a trailer for a documentary project, The AckerMonster Chronicles.
UPDATE 2011: Forry died a little over three weeks after I originally posted this. Originally, this post featured a fourth video which has since gone dark. But as a replacement, here's a video posted in his memory, three days after his death, with Forry talking about a couple of his prize possessions: the Dracula cape, mentioned above, and the Dracula ring. It amazes me the ring stood up to use the way it did. I guess they really knew how to make props way back when. They knew how to make science fiction fans way back when, too.
Incidentally, as for the comment above about flummoxing and flabbergasting the physicians... I sent him an appropriately punny card for his birthday a few days after originally writing this post, and added this medical-care reminder for him (based on one of his pseudonyms):
I should have drawn Dracula holding up the other hand, with the ring. It strikes me now that if Dracula had gotten him, Forry would still be around... albeit just in the same way the rest of the undead get to "still be around." I can't help but think Forry would have found being a vampire a kick. You can bet he would have used the cape.