Another Great man has crossed to the other banks late last night. Forrest J. Ackerman, father of Famous Monsters of Filmland and adopted uncle to monster fans everywhere. His passing was not sudden as his health had been failing him and he knew his time was coming to an end in the mortal world. I would like to dedicate this week to the man who touched the Monster in all of us.
I am reposting a letter (previously posted on the UMA forum by Bobby "Toyranch" Beeman) penned by Forrest himself with is impending mortality on his mind.
IN CONTEMPLATION OF MY INEVITABLE DEMISE
Mothers Day 2003
AT MY AGE, 86 going on 87, it is crystal clear to me that I am nearer the end of my life than the beginning and the thought passes my mind more frequently than it used to before I nearly died twice in 2002 that I’m a mortal man.
Bob Bloch paved the way for the following ruminations with his remarkable revelatory article in the October 1994 issue of the now defunct prestigious slick paper science fiction oriented periodical, Omni. He stated bluntly: I’m going to die. Soon.—Thus absolving me of Harlan Ellison’s bitter accusation, “Bob was a very private person and he and his wife Elly resented your blabbing about his impending death at the World Science Fiction Convention.” Charles Brown reported that I broke the bad news “in unctuous tones.” Gay Haldeman congratulated me on my “gracious handling of the sad news.” So much for my exoneration.
Bloch said: “I think anyone who isn’t afraid of dying is crazy.” So in Bob’s estimation I’m crazy.
I wouldn’t be afraid of going to sleep one night, having no dreams and never waking up to know I was dead. On his death bed, Al Jolson breathed “I’m going!” I hope kind fate allows me long enough when I feel the end is near to record on tape “Science Fiction”, to die with my lifetime passion on my lips, then close my eyes and wait for my last breath.
Let me turn back the clock a moment and explain something that most of you probably aren’t aware of. When I was a helpless child, unable to protect myself, my well-meaning parents subjected me to 7 different Sunday Schools before I finally rebelled. When I reached the age of reason, at 15 I had an epiphany and became a born again secular humanist before we had an euphemistic term for atheist. I realized in intellectual clarity that “God” only existed in the immature beliefs of inculcated humans, that ALL religions were unworthy, unnecessary crutches, remnants from supernatural times. Time for childhood’s end.
Two Star Gods Fought
With ax and mace.
A spark flew into
The womb of space.
Space nurtured it
And gave it birth.
Now men fight on planet Earth.
Peace on Earth.
We sing it.
We’ve paid a million priests
To bring it.
After 2000 years
We’ve got as far as atom bombs.
Touched by the Holocaust, Wendy’s two brothers and sister-in-law gave up on God because He either gave up on them and millions like them or else He wasn’t the benevolent, all-loving, all-powerful Deity that priests and rabbis portrayed him to be. He either turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the suffering and extermination of impotent innocents or He didn’t exist. Same for a Czech friend, whose entire family was slaughtered by Nazis before her very eyes, then she was abducted and forced to be a sex slave for 6 years for Hitler’s henchmen. She bears the numbered tattoo of a concentration camp prisoner in case there are any Doubting Thomases that such things existed.
I’m convinced the colossal Cosmos couldn’t care less about the little specks of life on Earth called humanbeings.
Nothing has ever occurred in the ensuing 14 lustrums (7 decades, 70 years) to contravene my conviction.
Here’s the scenario. Quoting Bloch (I never knew this but suspected it) “The brain is technically alive for 3 or 4 minutes.” By prearrangement, a significant other will kiss my cooling lips and whisper in my ear, “Mi amas vin Kvari’—“I love you, Forry.” I will feel my eyelids being closed, I will hear a sobbing mixture of voices, “He’s gone”, We’ve lost him”, “How can we live without him?”, “Dear Forry, rest in peace”, “I’ll never forget you”, etc. It will be frustrating not to make a movement, utter a sound, but I know this is what I expected.
When my brain ceases to function and my consciousness evanesces, I will never know there was an individual named Forry Ackerman who loved science fiction with all his heart and nonexistent soul, that he read it, wrote it, collected it, agented it, joined clubs, received awards, attended more World Science Fiction Conventions than anyone else. He will never know he learned Esperanto, traveled all over the globe, welcomed over 50,000 fans into his home. He will never know he was an inhabitant of a planet variously known as Earth, Erde, Terre, Tero and other names in a multitude of languages. He will universe out there with billions of bonfires in the skies called stars. NOTHING will he know.
And what comes afterward among the living? MR. SCIENCE FICTION DIES headline in Locus, various Appreciations. Mundane newspapers give him attention somewhat less than Heinlein’s. Like Wendayne before him, a couple of weekends devoted to friends gathering and reminiscing about him. As time goes by, fans will occasionally visit his crypt and place red carnations in the vases there. He’ll appredciate it while he’s alive but will be unable to see or smell them. He’ll suggest photos be taken and sent to Joe Moe at Forry’s last address, and if his “Guardian Angel” receives enough of them he will print a page and distribute it to whoever may be interested.
Forry’s inert body will gradually molder away until nothing is left but bones once clothed with his flesh. Barring an earthquake, bomb or some unforeseen catastrophe , his remains will remain in his coffin beside his wife. A thousand years from now no one will know or care who Forrest Ackerman was. Maybe one day in the far distant future the very cement surrounding the crypts will crumble and his bones will join those of the dinosaurs before him.
But more immediately. He can imagine some annual award in his memory. Inclusion in a panoply of postage stamps (probably 50c First Class by then) in a sheet of commemoratives remembering important individuals in the development of Science Fiction: Isaac Asimov, James Blish, Hannes Bok, Ray Bradbury, Charles Brown, Edgar Rice Burroughs, John Campbell Jr., Arthur C. Clarke, Groff Conklin, Ray Cummings, Gerry de la Ree, Phillip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, Virgil Finlay, Hugo Gernsback, H.L. Gold, Martin Greenberg, Robert Heinlein, David H. Keller, Damon Knight, Henry Kuttner, David Kyle, Fritz Lang, Ursula Le Guin, George Lucas, Robert Madle, P. Schuyler Miller, Catherine L. Moore, Sam Moskowitz, George Pal, Raymond Palmer, Frank R. Paul, Julius Schwart, Mary Shelley, Steven Spielberg, Olaf Stapledon, Harry Warner Jr., Stanley Weinbum, H.G. Wells, Donald Wollheim, S. Fowler Wright, Jules Verne and who have I overlooked? Shame on me. Descriptions on the back of each stamp by John L. Coker III.
A statue of me may be erected in the museum of the Science Fiction Experience, or better yet an animatronic robot in my form like the one of Abraham Lincoln in Disneyland. A play or movie may be made about me (think of all the roles for Gernsback, Wells, Heinlein, et al, and the challenge for two actors to portray Ellison and Ferry in reel life as mean-spirited toward me as they were in real life.
Well, that’s about as far as my ego-orientated imagination can take me.
Soon ring down the imaginary curtain and all aboard for Final Blackout.
Sorry I won’t be seeing you Bob Bloch, Hugo Gernsback, Sam Moskowitz, Boris Karloff, war-lost brother Alden, Wendy and scores more in Never Never Land, but you won’t miss me.
My maternal grandfather died with a beatific smile on his face as though he were seeing angels or loved ones. 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.”
My blest wishes for anyone who may care to have them.
Please continue on over to Max the Drunken Severed Head's blog for more on this topic.
Goodbye, Uncle Forry: Famous Monsters Speak
And John's blog at Theofantastique :
Forrest J. Ackerman: Horror Fandom Icon Passes Away
Zombo's Closet of Horror
Dinner with Max Jenke
Gary D. Macabre