Thursday, December 18, 2008

Aaron's Book of the Week :: Boris Karloff: The Frankenscience Monster by Forrest J. Ackerman

Boris Karloff: The Frankenscience MonsterThe Book of the Week is Boris Karloff: The Frankenscience Monster by Forrest J. Ackerman. This book was done as a tribute to Boris Karloff, but now it is our Book of the Week to honor Forrest Ackerman, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 92.

Forrest Ackerman was the greatest sci-fi fan of all, "Mr. Science Fiction" from the early days of the genre. Indeed, Forry was the one who coined the term "sci-fi," for which writers and other fans still love him, even if they don't always love the word. (For years, the term "sci-fi" was verboten among serious readers because of its association with monster movies and other Hollywood crapola. In recent years the word has become acceptable again, perhaps because Hollywood has lately managed to produce some decent SF/F like the Lord of the Rings films and Battlestar Galactica.)

Forry Ackerman edited and translated many books and magazines, notably the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. He appeared, usually briefly, in many movies. (Perhaps his most notorious film work was for the horror movie Incubus. For some bewildering reason that film was made in Esperanto, and when star William Shatner declined to learn the language, Forry did the voice-over. So if you get the DVD of Incubus -- just the kind of dreadful film Ackerman loved -- and watch it in Esperanto, you will see William Shatner speaking with Forry Ackerman's voice.) Forry also served as agent to many writers and filmmakers, both great (Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov) and not-so-great (Ed Wood).

Most importantly, Forrest Ackerman accumulated the world's greatest collection of science fiction books, magazines, and memorabilia. His home, the fabled "Ackermansion," was legendary among fans, containing some 300,000 collected pieces. This includes one of the best collections anywhere of SF books and magazines, for example a first edition of Dracula signed not only by the author Bram Stoker but also by the greatest actors to ever play the role including Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, and certainly the greatest collection of sci-fi movie props in the world. What happened to the famous robot from the classic silent film Metropolis? It's in the Ackermansion. The monster masks from The Creature from the Black Lagoon and This Island Earth? They're in the Ackermansion. The rings worn by Bela Lugosi in Dracula and Boris Karloff in The Mummy? In the Ackermansion. The gold idol Indiana Jones finds at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark? You get the idea.

The award given annually at the World Science Fiction Convention to honor an influential sci-fi fan is officially called the "Forrest J. Ackerman Big Heart Award." Forry will be dearly missed.


Bill Chapman said...

I'm glad that Forry's use of Esperanto was mentioned here. He was a pioneer of this planned international language.

Aaron Hughes said...

Yes, I've heard he was an advocate for that language. I wonder why he never translated Perry Rhodan into Esperanto . . .