Issue: Spring 2018

The Birthplace of Sci-Fi

A  house is not necessarily a home. Any structure goes through various incarnations. Some last for generations, some only briefly or until they take on a new façade, interior, purpose and identity.   Many at some point of their existence are known only as a “listing.”

In a place steeped in such historical significance as the greater Hollywood area, there are countless homes and businesses that reflect the history or the celebrity of this special corner of the world. In the Los Feliz area in particular, homes of the early film pioneers and business moguls dot its hillsides. The goings on of early inhabitants give an area its cache or its notoriety. From Los Feliz to Beverly Hills and beyond, there’s no shortage of stories about who lived or lives somewhere.

The Ackerman Home in Los Feliz

No less significant is the mark that some of these personages have made on our culture. Max Factor coining the term “make-up” for instance. The story of the irrepressible Forrest J. Ackerman is a case in point.

“One of a kind,” may be cliché, but is true in Hollywood where talent and personality often result in the unique and incomparable. Such is the story of Forrest J. Ackerman.

A native Angeleno, schooled at University of California Berkeley, first and foremost Ackerman was a fan—a fan of science fiction and monster movies who would become a leading expert on science fiction, horror and fantasy films—and be acknowledged as the world's most avid collector of genre books and movie memorabilia.

Ackerman saw his first "imagi-movie" in 1922 (One Glorious Day), purchased his first science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, in 1926 at ten and created the Boys' Scientifiction Club in 1930. He contributed to both of the first science fiction fanzines, The Time Traveler and the Science Fiction Magazine, published and edited by Shuster and Siegel of Superman fame, in 1932, and his name was used for the character of the reporter in the original Superman story, The Reign of the Superman, issue 3 of Science Fiction magazine. At 15, after writing 62 times to Carl Laemmle, president of Universal Studios, the mogul directed his staff to “give this kid anything he wants.” He chose the sound discs of early great films like Murders in the Rue Morgue and Frankenstein. His collection began and grew and grew. All because fortunately he was in an area—Hollywood—where the fantastic filmmaking, in which he was so interested, gave him the opportunity to collect these things.

Forrest Ackerman with Vincent Price

He was one of the early members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and remained active in it for many decades.

During his career as a literary agent, Ackerman represented such science fiction authors as Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, A.E. Van Vogt, Curt Siodmak and L. Ron Hubbard. For more than seven decades, he was one of science fiction's staunchest spokesmen and promoters influencing such writers and filmmakers through the years as Ed Wood, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, to name a few.

Ackerman was the editor and principal writer of the American magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, as well as an actor, from the 1950s into the 21st century. He appears in several documentaries related to this period in popular culture.

Ackerman was central to the formation, organization and spread of science fiction fandom and a key figure in the wider cultural perception of science fiction as a literary, art and film genre and credited with coining the term “sci-fi.” In 1953, he was voted "#1 Fan Personality" by the members of the World Science Fiction Society, a unique Hugo Award never granted to anyone else.

Forrest J Ackerman amassed an extremely large and complete collection of science fiction, fantasy and horror film memorabilia, which, until 2002, he maintained in a remarkable 18-room home and museum containing some 300,000 books and pieces of movie and science-fiction memorabilia. From 1951 to 2002, Ackerman entertained some 50,000 fans at open houses—on one such evening, a group of 186 fans and professionals included astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

The years and health concerns added up and Ackerman had to sell pieces of his collection ultimately moving into a small bungalow in the flats of Los Feliz where he continued to hold court and open his house to those who wished to see what remained of his collection. Ackerman was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, where many items of his collection are now displayed.

Forrest Ackerman with Stephen King

Except for the exterior, Ackerman’s hillside home is unrecognizable today. No longer stacked to the rafters with books, magazines and assorted movie memorabilia. When this house became a “listing,” realtor Lyonel Katz wanted help keep this piece of Hollywood history alive in his marketing. He displayed photos of the Ackermansion and letters to this remarkable man whose collection and magazine influenced the art of countless writers and filmmakers.

Since his passing in 2008, it would not be an exaggeration to say that today science fiction, fantasy, monsters, horror and the supernatural are definitely a “force” within the industry that spawned it.  DH