The latest issue of Rue Morgue has hit the stands, and its cover story is a celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Famous Monsters of Filmland. Naturally, there is plenty celebrating the man behind the world’s first horror/SF magazine, Forrest J. Ackerman. Permit me, then, to take advantage of the occasion to do a little celebrating myself.
That Ackerman is the most important fan in the history of fantastic film is one of those facts so obvious as to hardly bear repeating; to do so is tantamount to announcing that the sun is warm. So rather than belabor the point, let me simply give a bit of historical perspective. Consider this passage:
“Meanwhile, a potentate of the neighbouring kingdom, the Effjay of Akkamin (also known to himself as an amateur critic), expressed his frenzied disgust at the technique of the combatants, at the same time peddling photographs of the fighters (with himself in the foreground) at five cents each.”
This caricature of FJA comes from the humorous short story “The Battle That Ended the Century,” written in 1934 by R.H. Barlow and H.P. Lovecraft (and reprinted by S.T. Joshi and Marc A. Michaud in H.P. Lovecraft: Uncollected Prose and Poetry 3 ). That’s right, our beloved Forry has been at it so long that 74 years ago he was being lampooned by none other than Lovecraft.
I picked up my first issue of Famous Monsters in the summer of 1976, the year that I bought my first horror movie book. The cover story was a preview of the forthcoming remake of King Kong. We all know what a disaster that 1977 film turned out to be, but that is neither here nor there. I moved beyond the Kong story quickly, sucked in by a Lugosi bio, a feature on Mexican monster movies, and, most of all, a horror/SF trivia quiz. For the better part of a the year that followed (though my memories, perhaps inevitably, are all of summer reading), I would haunt the magazine racks of the local drugstore, hoping for a the next issue. In those primitive pre-Internet days, and long before I could afford something so exotic as a subscription, landing an issue was a product of luck more than anything else, and after a half-dozen issues, my luck ran out (the store, I guess, stopped stocking the mag). But those few magazines were read almost literally to shreds, and fed my imagination for far longer than the time it took to peruse them. Then there were the Captain Company ads, with no end of monster toys and abridged Super 8 movies to drool over.
Ackerman’s association with the magazine came to a sad, extraordinarily unfair ending, but his legacy (ongoing, as he is still very much with us) is gigantic, incarnated in every monster magazine out there, print or web-based, explicit imitation of FM (such as Scary Monsters) or, like Rue Morgue, forging its own path, but one that was made possible by the Ackermonster’s pioneering efforts.
So thanks, Forry, for the nostalgia and the memories, and for what is yet to come.