The Cultural Gutter

taking the dumb out of fandom

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." -- Oscar Wilde

ONE TRILLION AND ONE LEANING TOWERS

Ian Driscoll
Posted December 17, 2008

Ack 80.jpg1. Overture Island
On December 4, 2008, the future ended. The event that marked its end was the death of a 92-year old man from the not uncommon cause of heart failure. It would not have been an epoch-ending event save for one detail: the man’s name was Forest J Ackerman.


2. Birth of Zenith
According to Ackerman’s own MySpace page (the maintenance of which is a feat in and of itself for a man in his 90s), Ackerman saw his first imagi-movie, One Glorious Day, in 1922, and read his first scientifiction magazine, an issue of Amazing Stories, in 1926.

3. The Twin Who United Himselves
Ackerman founded The Boys’ Scientifiction Club (the sexism of which was not typical of Ackerman; see below) in 1930; in 1938, as editor of a fan publication entitled Imagination!, he became the first to publish a story by a promising young author named Ray Bradbury.
Throughout his life and career – although the two are really inseparable – Ackerman straddled the line between curator and creator, amateur (in the truest sense of the word) and professional.

4. More Tongues Taste Babel
After WWII, Ackerman worked primarily as a literary agent, representing writers including Isaac Asimov, A.E. van Vogt, H.L. Gold, Ray Cummings and Hugo Gernsback. Stunningly enough, he also repped Ed Wood (the mind boggles), and L. Ron Hubbard. Those last two alone justify a Gutter screen article – because where would modern cinema be without Wood and Hubbard? (And more importantly, why did they never work together? Or did they?)
 
5. After Evolution
And at the same time as he was pimping the greatest generation of American science fiction authors, he was contributing regularly to lesbian romance magazines; he went so far as to write what is considered the first lesbian science-fiction story ever published, “World of Loneliness”.

6. The Radiant Brains
In 1954, Ackerman coined the term sci-fi; four years later he published the first issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland, perhaps the most influential magazine ever produced.

7. The Neo-Nexialists
Why the superlatives about Famous Monsters’ influence? The magazine was favourite, mind-warping childhood reading of the generation that would go on to entertain the world: Stephen King, Steven Spielberg, Joe Dante, John Landis, Peter Jackson, George Lucas, Tim Burton, Rick Baker, Danny Elfman and Gene Simmons all self-identify as Famous Monsters readers inspired by Ackerman’s dedication to the magic of the movies. Spielberg famously autographed a Close Encounters of the Third Kind poster for Ackerman with the words, “A generation of fantasy lovers thank you for raising us so well.” Peter Jackson described him as “The wise adult who whispered to us kids that it was ok to love Dracula and Frankenstein.” Is there a more important lesson?

8. Cryogenes For Dying Earth
Interesting side note one: Ackerman’s grandfather, George Herbert Wyman, was the architect of Los Angeles landmark the Bradbury Building.

9. The Luster
Ackerman appeared in some 100+ motion pictures throughout his life, and the list represents what I can only describe as a charming lack of pretension – appearances made out of pure fanboy enthusiasm and unadulterated celluloid love.

10. The Threnody Machine
Little wonder then, that when Ackerman died, The Threnody Machine kicked into high gear.

11. Beyond the Sevagram
Service – to the great cause of imagination, perhaps – seems to have been a life-long pursuit for Forest J Ackerman. He was well known for opening his home to the public. In its hedyday, the 5,800-square-foot, 18-room, “Ackermansion” housed a collection of (by some accounts) hundreds of thousands of books and pieces of sci-fi, fantasy and movie memorabilia.Ackermansion 250.jpg

12. The Catacomb Equation
And that may be, in a nutshell, why I think of the Gutter and its adherents as Ackerman’s Children – in the way that the Broken Social Scene generation describes itself as Trudeau’s Children. Everything that washes up here floated downstream from the Ackermansion. Case in point: the section titles in this article come from a list of titles Ackerman published as a challenge to writers (here are the titles – you supply the stories). They have an intriguingly translucent quality that seems right at home here.

13. Optimation
Interesting side note two: Ackerman was a fluent speaker of, and a passionate advocate for, Esperanto. Kiam flugos porkoj.

14. The Oblivion Index
According to a 2003 LA Times story, Ackerman slowly sold most of his books and memorabilia – “all but about 100 of his favorite objects” – in 2002 to  make ends meet. The same year, he moved out of the Ackermansion and into a bungalow that he dubbed the “Acker Mini-Mansion”. Like its namesake, it was open to the public.

15. One-Way Pendulum
He lived there alone. His wife, Wendayne (“the only one in the world”) died in 1990, “the aftermath of a mugging in Italy, but not before translating 150 sci-fi novels from French & German.”
According to all official obituaries, he has no surviving family members. Which is true.

16. Final Blackout
Unless you count us.

Command+s.

Ian Driscoll wishes he’d had room to fit in the other titles (The Scintillants, The Regeneratives, Test of the Nocturnes and The Maelstrom Mutation). Yeah, that would have been nice.

Comments

One Response to “ONE TRILLION AND ONE LEANING TOWERS”

  1. Jim Munroe
    December 19th, 2008 @ 8:36 am

    I didn’t know about this guy — interesting!
    “The wise adult who whispered to us kids that it was ok to love Dracula and Frankenstein.”
    I can’t help it — any adult whispering to kids about it being OK to love something? Creeee-peeeee!

Leave a Reply





  • Support The Gutter

  • The Book!

  • Of Note Elsewhere

    Actor Richard Kiel has died. Kiel worked in both film and television, including performances in The Twilight Zone episode, “To Serve Man”; Eegah (1962); The Barbary Coast with William Shatner; Happy Gilmore (1996); Pale Rider (1985); as Vlad in Tangled (201); and as Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979).   The New York TimesThe Los Angeles Times and Variety have obituaries. Here he is interviewed with Britt Ekland. And David Letterman interviews Kiel here.

    ~

    Open Culture has a round-up of eight free and complete films by Dziga Vertov, including Man With A Movie Camera (1929) and the first Soviet animated feature, Soviet Toys (1924). (Thanks, Earl!)

    ~

    Matt Zoller Seitz has written a lovely meditation on Robin Williams at RogerEbert.com: “Williams wore the invisible garments of depression. He carried that burden. A lot of the time we didn’t see it, because he was a bright and enthusiastic comic performer and a great actor. But the weight was always there.

    Somehow he lived 63 years.

    What a warrior he was.”

    ~

    At Kaiju Shakedown, Hiroshi Fukazawa interviews director Ringo Lam. “Not as flashy as John Woo, never as hyperkinetic as Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam is one of Hong Kong’s most underappreciated directors. He made his name with sophisticated, downbeat crime dramas that came to define a certain style of urban Hong Kong cinema in the Eighties and early Nineties. After getting his start in television at CTV and TVB, he directed five features before finding his stride with 1987’s City on Fire, the movie that provided the blueprint for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.”

    ~

    “[Grace] Jones — who was famous not just for her music, but also for her acting and modeling — took Lundgren to New York, where they partied at the legendary Studio 54 and Andy Warhol took pictures of Lundgren. Jones introduced Lundgren to the world of show business. Meanwhile, Lundgren was still set to begin his Fulbright scholarship at MIT. ‘I started sort of thinking, “Wow, this is kind of cool,”‘ Lundgren remembers: ‘”I don’t know if I want to go back to engineering after this.”‘ More at NPR.

    ~

    “A mid-20th century collaboration between artists, poets and printers gave rise to a unique book of surrealistic creatures accompanied by complementary typographic art poems.” See more at BibliOdyssey. (Thanks, Andrezo!)

    ~

  • Spilling into Twitter

  • Obsessive?

    Then you might be interested in knowing you can subscribe to our RSS feed, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter or Tumblr.

    -------

  • Weekly Notifications

  • What We’re Talking About

  • Thanks To

    No Media Kings hosts this site, and Wordpress autoconstructs it.

  • %d bloggers like this: