Fun With Forrest J.Ackerman


Forrest J. Ackerman, "Mr. Science Fiction" and born in 1916, has been everything you can be in sci-fi and fantasy - editor, fan, publisher, collector, author, agent. His California home is a 70,000-item museum that the Smithsonian has called "one of the ten best private collections in the country." As an agent for over 40 years Ackerman has represented such writers as Olaf Stapledon and Isaac Asimov. Ray Bradbury said Forry came to his rescue when Ray was a starving author at 19. He coined the term "sci-fi" in 1954. He has written numerous books on the field, including the recent one at left. Probably Forry is most famous for writing and editing over 200 issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland, wherein he almost single-handedly saved from obscurity the horror film legends Karloff, Lugosi, and Chaney. His nicknames include Forry, Ackermonster, 4E, and Forrest J. Bean. 4E has known virtually everybody in science fiction, and is the most fun person I've ever known in all of science fiction condom. See for yourself......

(The following is excerpts from talks Forry gave at two conventions, one in Chattanooga, Tennessee at Deep South Con in April of 1990, the other in Roanoke, Virginia, at RoVaCon in October of 1991. His talks were divided into topics, and I have presented here essentially complete each topic I chose to include. The only omissions within the topic, indicated by ".....," were the result of occasional ramblings inherent in any spontaneous speech. Also, (?) means a previous word or small number of words is uncertain. Also, the headings of each section are my invention. Beast witches!)
Forry Ackerman Speaks:
"Come October of this year I've been a fan for 65 years and I feel like, well, I wasted the first 9 years of my life. But I feel like I'm a sponge to be squeezed while I'm still around here....I've got a little list here of people and places and things that I've been involved in that I think might interest you, some of the highlights and lowlights of the last 65 years since October 1926 when little 9-year-old me was standing in front of a newsstand and a copy of Amazing Stories jumped off the newsstand, grabbed hold of me and said, "Take me home, little boy, you will love me. One day in the distant year of 1990 in Chattanooga as thousands cheer you will find yourself addressing an audience of science fiction fans....."
Edgar Rice Burroughs: "Edgar Rice Burroughs was a man who gave us not only the Tarzan stories but adventures on Barsoom, his name for Mars....I had the pleasure of his company on three occasions in my life. And one time, knowing I was going to see him, I deliberately took along the three rarest Burroughs items that I had. In 1912, when his first story was published, called Under the Moons of Mars, which later on in hardcover came to be known as A Princess of Mars, he thought, 'This is such a weird, far-out story I don't want my wife and kids to be embarrassed by having my name on it. So he chose a pseudonym that was a double entendre, and he signed it "Normal Bean." Now, in 1912 a "bean" meant your head, your brain. In effect, he was saying, 'This may be a very curious, crazy story, but my head's on straight, folks.'

"Unfortunately, when the linotypist gave the byline they felt that "Normal" was not a normal name, that it must be(?) "Norman." And so it was published as by "Norman Bean," completely losing the pun of the name. Well, I took that along, and the original Tarzan of the Apes, and a story that was then rather infrequently referred to, called Beyond 30.
"And I asked him, I said, 'Mr. Burroughs, now just for once in your life could you sign this for me "Normal Bean"?' He said, 'Oh, I'll certainly be glad to, young man.' But there were a cluster of fans around him, and he got to talking, and before he knew it his hand wrote "Edgar Rice Burroughs" as it had hundreds of thousands of times before. So it was one down and two to go, so I said, 'Now, on this one...,' and he said, 'Oh, yes, sorry about that.' So again people distracted him, and before I knew it he'd written "Edgar Rice Burroughs." So my last possibility, I said, 'Now quiet, radio silence here, nobody breathe, don't say a thing, don't interrupt Mr. Burroughs, just concentrate.' So he started writing "Forrest J. Bean." (He said) 'Oh, what have I done?' So I said, 'Well, for you, Mr. Burroughs, I'll change my name.' So that's how it came to be known as "Forrest J. Bean."'