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Damian Dovarganes/AP
Science-fiction writer Forrest J. Ackerman gestures during a 2005 interview at his Los
Angeles home.

Science Fiction Evangelist Forrest J. Ackerman Dies at 92

December 08, 2008 04:15 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The eccentric writer, editor, and literary agent popularized the term “sci-fi,” and helped bring popular interest and respectability to the genre.

Ackerman Dies of Heart Failure

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Forrest J. Ackerman died of heart failure on Thursday at his home in Los Angeles.

Ackerman’s mark on science fiction was wide-ranging and dated back to the genre’s early development.

“He was really considered the godfather, or what I call the Pied Piper of science fiction and horror,” said Kevin Burns, president of Prometheus Entertainment and a trustee of his estate, to Reuters.

He is widely credited with coining the word “sci-fi,” and was a literary agent to prominent science fiction authors including Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, A.E. van Vogt, Curt Siodmak and L. Ron Hubbard. He edited Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, created the Vampirella comic book franchise, and wrote more than 2,000 articles and short stories for magazines and anthologies, including the first lesbian science-fiction story ever published. He edited and co-edited several books, including “A Book of Weird Tales” and “365 Science Fiction Short Stories,” and appeared in more than 50 films, including Dante’s “The Howling” and Landis’ “Innocent Blood.”
But perhaps most important to fans of science fiction, Ackerman “did for the genre of SF and Horror what no one else could have done. He made it respectable. He inspired today’s film makers to recreate some of the best ‘B’ movies and make them ‘A’ list blockbusters,” says Joan Marie Knappenberger, the president of First Fandom.

About his own death, Ackerman once said in a note to Ain’t It Cool News’ Harry Knowles that he had no belief in the soul or the afterlife, and that no one would remember him in a thousand years. “Maybe I’ll get lucky and imagine my mother calling, as she did when I was a child, ‘Forry boy, come and take your nap.’”

But while alive, Ackerman continued to be a boundless science fiction enthusiast, who was unfailingly generous with his knowledge. “I regard myself as a sci-fi sponge that should be squeezed for information and anecdotes as long as I’m here. So while I’m still around, squeeze me,” he wrote on his MySpace page.

Early Life: Early love of science fiction

Ackerman was born Nov. 24, 1916 in Los Angeles. When he was 9 years old, he bought his first science-fiction magazine, Amazing Stories, at a drugstore in Hollywood and became obsessed with the genre. As a teenager, he founded the Boys Scientifiction Club and was part of the creation of Time Traveler, the first fan magazine devoted only to science fiction. He later joined a local chapter of the Science Fiction Society in downtown Los Angeles. As editor of the group’s fan publication, he published Ray Bradbury’s first short story in 1938.
During World War II, Ackerman worked as an editor at a military newspaper and afterward as a literary agent. In 1954, he coined the word “sci-fi,” after hearing the word “hi-fi” on the radio. By this time, he had also amassed a vast collection of science-fiction and fantasy memorabilia in his home, which he called the Ackermansion, which he began to show to the public in informal weekend tours.  Among his collectibles included a cape and ring Lugosi wore in the stage version of “Dracula,” the giant pterodactyl that came for Fay Wray in “King Kong,” and “Metropolis” director Fritz Lang’s monocle.

Later in his life, Ackerman was forced to sell parts of his collection to pay health and legal fees and moved to a smaller home, which he called the Acker Mini-Mansion. His wife Wendayne died in 1990, and he has no surviving family members.

Related Topic: Science-fiction writer and scientist Arthur C. Clarke dies at 90

On March 19, 2008, writer and inventor Sir Arthur C. Clarke died of respiratory problems and heart failure at his home in Sri Lanka. He was 90, and had been confined to a wheelchair by post-polio syndrome for the last 13 years of his life. Clarke wrote more than 100 books, in which he depicted space travel, supercomputers and other innovations that would later become reality.

Reference: Science fiction guide

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