On this day, one hundred yeasrs ago, Forrest J. Ackerman was born, in Los Angeles, California.
Although he was, throughout a long life dedicated to science fiction, an author, editor and agent, ‘Forry’ Ackerman is sadly little known to modern fans – which is a great shame because he led the way for all of us. An active member of fandom from his early teens, Ackerman had his first fan letter published in Science Wonder Quarterly in 1929 and served as an editor of The Time Traveller, often cited as the first Fanzine.
He was probably the first ‘fan as celebrity’ – or Big Name Fan – and was recognised with a unique Hugo Award in 1953 for Number One Fan Personality, and was awarded a World Fantasy Award for life achievement in 2002. He is credited with coining the term ‘Sci-Fi’ for his beloved genre, and attended the first Worldcon in New York in 1939, where he wore the first ‘futuristic costume’ and, in effect, inventing Cosplay.
An enthusiastic collector of books and paraphernalia, his Hollywood home became a museum of sorts for SF fans, whom he generously welcomed into his house to explore his collection of over 300,000 items. It is estimated that some 50,000 fans attended his open house events over the second half of the twentieth century. His 1997 illustrated book Forrest J. Ackerman’s World of Science Fiction features hundreds of colour photos of his collection, and is an entertaining informal history if the field.
In 2003, Ackerman spoke of ‘hitting 100 and becoming the George Burns of science fiction’ but it was not to be. His health failed and, in December 2008, he passed away at the age of 92.
Happy 100th Birthday, Forry. And thanks for sharing your passion.