Forrest J Ackerman, who launched the first movie monster magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland in 1958, amassed one of the greatest collections of horror movie memorabilia of all time, and influenced a generation of fans and movie directors, has died of heart failure at the age of 92 at his home in Los Angeles late Thursday night. Ackerman also created the Vampirella character for Warren Publishing and coined the phrase “sci-fi” in the 1950s inspired by the newly popular compacted-hyphenate “hi-fi.”
Science fiction literature and horror movies were Ackerman’s twin passions. His journey to fandom began when he purchased his first copy of Amazing Stories at the age of 9 in 1926. He helped found the first science fiction society in L.A. and Time Traveller, the first science fiction fanzine. In 1939 he attended the first World Science Fiction Convention in New York City, and after World War II he made his living as a literary agent representing Isaac Asimov, L. Ron Hubbard, A.E. Van Vogt, H. L. Gold, Ray Cummings, and Hugo Gernsback. Ackerman even wrote what is perhaps the first published lesbian science fiction story, “World of Loneliness,” under the pen name of Laurajean Ermayne.
But it was Ackerman’s love of horror movies filtered through his Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine that had the biggest effect on American pop culture. Famous Monsters was heavy on pictures and light on substantive articles, but it was the perfect venue for Forrie’s love of groan-inducing puns such as “Fang Mail” and “The Printed Weird.” Ackerman managed to imprint his personality on nearly every page of Famous Monsters, with features on the fabulous memorabilia collection he displayed in the 18-room “Ackermansion” and the lost silent horror films like Lon Chaney and Tod Browning’s London After Midnight and Paul Leni’s The Last Warning that he had seen and fallen in love with during his youth. Forrie’s imprinted his fascination with classic Hollywood horror films on several generations of Americans readers of Famous Monsters, a readership that included author Stephen King and movie directors such as Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, and John Landis.
Famous Monsters ended its 25-year original run in 1983, but was revived in the 1990s with Forrie as editor and Ray Ferry as publisher. Unfortunately the partnership ended bitterly with Ackerman winning a Pyrrhic victory in a lawsuit from which he claims he was never able to collect a cent. By 2002 Ackerman was forced to begin selling all but 100 of his favorite items from his massive memorabilia collection, and to move from the “Ackermansion” to a bungalow that he promptly and characteristically dubbed the “Acker Mini-Mansion.”