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A Fan of a Fan of…

I think of myself as a fan of science fiction and fantasy. First and foremost. But nowhere near as big a fan as the late Forrest Ackerman. Not familiar with the name? He was a founding member of the Los Angeles Science Fiction Society.

Ackermann inspired generations of writers and film-makers. As editor of its fanzine, Imagination, in 1938 he published the first story by a young fan named Ray Bradbury. Stephen King submitted a story to Ackerman’s magazine Famous Monsters when he was 14. Steven Spielberg called his kid over and said, ‘Son, this man and grandpa are the reason I make movies.’

He and fellow superfan Myrtle R. Douglas were the parents of Cosplay, wearing the very first costumes to WorldCon waaay back in 1939.

There are some good Ackerman bits and bobs about ‘Forrie’ in ‘Sci-Fi Boys‘. Much, much better is Jason Brock’s 2012 offering, “The AckerMonster Chronicles!”.

Or you can skip the media and go for the good stuff – a book. Forrest J Ackerman’s own World of Science Fiction

Fast forward to 1980 something. A convention in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Ackermann is there along with four wide-eyed youth from Huntsville, Alabama. We see him. He smiles at us. We smile back. Grin, actually. Big grins. We scatter, lured by the sights and sounds of our first big science fiction convention.

The ‘I ran into him and…’ one-upmanship game began almost immediately.

  • “Forrest J. Ackermann stepped on my foot in the elevator, then stomped on it, and yelled ‘move the clown foot, bozo!'”
  • “Forrest shoved me to the ground in the Hukster Room, grabbed the Ming the Merciless bobblehead I was about to buy and shouted ‘Cleanup in Aisle Four!'”
  • “When I asked him to sign my ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’, he wrote ‘Library Copy – Do Not Remove’ on it instead–and called security!”

The convention was over far too quickly, and we were left with just the memories. For me, those have lasted a lifetime. Except for the memory of the hotel rollaway that tried to devour me. That I have completely erased.


But 4SJ‘s smile? Not a chance.

I don’t know who the next Science Fiction/Fantasy superfan is. I probably should. But I’m still to busy enjoying the books, movies, games, and activities of a fan. And that’s just fine by me. 4E said it best “Scf-Fi is my high”

UPDATE: Roger Luckhurst has done a wonderful job of examining the genre in his 2018 release, Science Fiction: A Literary History. Grab a copy!

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