Forry Bio Due in November

Forry: The Life of Forrest J Ackerman by Deborah Painter (with a foreword by Joe Moe) will be released November 3, 2010 according to Amazon.com.

Forrest J Ackerman (1916-2008) was an author, archivist, agent, actor, promoter, and editor of the iconic fan magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland; a founder of science fiction fandom; and one of the world’s foremost collectors of sci-fi, horror and fantasy films, literature, and memorabilia. This biography begins with a foreword by Joe Moe, Ackerman’s caregiver and close friend since 1983. It documents Ackerman’s lifelong dedication to his work in both literature and film; his interests, travels, relationships and associations with famous personalities; and his lasting impact on popular culture. Primary research material includes letters given by Ackerman to the author during their long friendship, and reminiscences from Ackerman’s friends, fans and colleagues.

The 224-page hardcover with 88 photos can be pre-ordered from publisher McFarland for $45.

Painter’s previous book was Hollywood’s Top Dogs (Midnight Marquee Press, Inc., 2008) covering 100 years of canine hero movies. She has written articles for such magazines as Filmfax and Horse and Horseman. Painter is currently an environmental services director for REMSA Incorporated.

Further Down Underness

Aussiecon 4 has set the record as the largest Worldcon Down Under. The convention’s onsite newsletter Voice of the Echidna reports, “At the close of Saturday, there were 1649 pre-registered members on site, as well as 63 walk-ins so far. 142 Saturday Day Memberships were sold.” Even without aggregating the data into a proper warm-body count, attendance clearly exceeds Aussiecon 3 (1999)’s figure of 1,548.

Aussiecon 4 can also brag about its voter turnout for the Hugo race. Vincent Docherty wrote in Voice of the Echidna:  “After the record number of Hugo Nominations, we had high hopes about the voting numbers and we are pleased to announce that there were 1094 valid Hugo Voting Ballots. This total is the highest since the 2000 Worldcon, and second highest since 1988.”

Let’s see, what other stories can I pass on from the most excellent Echidna?

The First Fandom Hall of Fame awards for lifetime service to SF fandom this year went to:

• First Fandom Hall of Fame – Terry Jeeves and Joe Martino (tied)
• Posthumous Hall of Fame – Ray Cummings

The Art Show Awards were won by:

• Best SF: Sky Burial #1 by Wayne Haag
• Most Humorous: Sales Pitch by Kathleen Jennings
• Most Stylish: SF Adventure by Naoyuki Katoh
• Best 3D: Mask of Odin by Annette Schneider
• Best Miniature: T is for Trilobite by Marilyn Pride
• Special Award For Overall Excellence in a Body of Work: Shaun Tan

What else impressed me about Aussiecon’s newzine was reading that Echidna’s morning edition is prepared by Alison Scott — at home in London!

Now I’d better lift some news from another source before ending this post — for as you know taking from one source is plagiarism, from more than one is research…

SF Site says the Forrest Ackerman Big Heart Award was presented at Aussiecon 4 on September 5 during the Hugo Award ceremony to Australian fan Merv Binns.

And here are the Aussiecon 4 masquerade winners. (John Hertz was a judge — a fine choice, indeed.)

Heinlein Letter on Ebay

Robert Heinlein’s 1945 letter sympathizing with Forry Ackerman about the death of his brother, Alden, at the Battle of the Bulge was discussed here a few months ago. Now that letter has suddenly popped up for sale on Ebay.

Listed as coming “From the Collection of Forrest J Ackerman,” the letter is offered for $1200 by James Van Hise. Here’s a physical description:

Original two page letter sent to Forrest J Ackerman by Robert Heinlein dated January 28, 1945. Two separate pages, 8 x 10 1/2, original typescript. Excellent condition. Signed “Bob” and last sentence refers to Heinlein’s then wife Leslyn. Heinlein letters of this early vintage are scarce.

It’s quite the letter, Heinlein taking the death of Forry Ackerman’s brother as an opportunity to deliver a long, stinging criticism of “the way active fans have met the trial of this war.”

I’m not discouraging anyone from buying the item because of its historic value. Though speaking for myself, if I was inclined to pay four figures for an autographed Heinlein letter I’d be looking for more than “Bob” on the signature line.

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

How Did I Not Know This?

Letters of Note has posted Robert Heinlein’s letter to Forrest J Ackerman offering condolences on the death of his brother, Alden, at the Battle of the Bulge on New Year’s Day 1945.

Forry had a brother who died in the war?

It’s hardly shocking that another fan would be ignorant of a friend’s mundane relatives who passed away decades before the two of them met. But what if that fan has written dozens of news stories about the friend? What if that fan not long ago spent hours researching the friend’s obituary? What if that fan is me (coff coff) and the information is on a page I consulted in Harry Warner Jr.’s All Our Yesterdays?

His only brother, Alden Lorraine, was killed in the Battle of the Bulge on New Year’s Day, 1945. Ackerman published a memorial booklet in which he spoke with a simple eloquence, like a newly matured person.

Forry evidently had asked Heinlein to contribute to the booklet and the letter conveys Heinlein’s answer.

Alden Lorraine Ackerman died at the age of 21 while serving in D Company of the 42nd Tank Battalion of the 11th Armored Division. It’s entirely possible that his death is the subject of this entry on the unit’s webpage describing the events of January 1 (the only deaths specified that day) while the battalion was fighting its way to Bastogne to relieve the 101st Airborne:

Between 1930 and 2000, one enemy airplane bombed Rechrival three times scoring a near miss on one tank which was not damaged. However, two men standing near-by were killed. The rest of the night was marked with scattered artillery fire which did no damage. 

Heinlein not only said no to the invitation, he took the opportunity to tee off on fandom for its perceived failure to join the war effort. One of his milder statements is:

I know that you are solemn in your intention to see to it that Alden’s sacrifice does not become meaningless. I am unable to believe that fan activity and fan publications can have anything to do with such intent. I have read the fan publications you have sent me and, with rare exceptions, I find myself utterly disgusted with the way the active fans have met the trial of this war.

Of course, it should not be surprising that in 1945 Heinlein would feel that way toward any able-bodied person who was not in the service or doing war work. Therefore, the most remarkable thing about this letter actually is the warmth Heinlein expresses to Ackerman in closing (after attempting to persuade him to request a transfer to serve in Europe):

We are very fond of you, Forry. You are a fine and gentle soul. This is a very difficult letter to write; if I did not think you were worth it, I would not make the effort.

I was really surprised by this. Til now, all the stories I have ever heard were about the friction between them, such as Heinlein’s famous letter telling Ackerman to “Keep your hands off my property” after Forry sold Heinlein’s 1941 Denvention GoH speech to Vertex in 1973.

[Via Ansible Links.]

Ackerman Tributes Among Rondo Nominees

Online voting has begun for the 8th Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.

Nominees for Best Article of 2009 include two tributes to the late Forrest J Ackerman.

Steve Vertlieb’s “The Most ‘Famous Monster’ of Them All” originally appeared on his own Thunder Child site and was recently added to the newly-relaunched Famous Monsters website.

Daniel Kirk’s “How I Met the Man Behind Famous Monsters of Filmland” reminisces about the day Ackerman’s 1963 cross-country tour stopped at his house in Columbus, Ohio. His article ran in Scary Monsters #70.

Up for Best Book of 2009 is Bill Warren’s Keep Watching the Skies, American Science Fiction Movies of the 1950s, the 21st Century Edition, the revised and expanded edition of the classic film study.

Any fan can vote. Send an e-mail containing your name and your picks to David Colton (taraco at aol.com) by April 3.

[Thanks to Steve Vertlieb for the link.]

Takumi Shibano (1927-2010)

Rick Sneary, Roy Tackett, Takumi and Sachiko Shibano at the 1968 Worldcon, BayCon.

Rick Sneary, Roy Tackett, Takumi and Sachiko Shibano at the 1968 Worldcon, BayCon.

Takumi Shibano died January 16 at 8:06 p.m. (JST). The reported cause of death was pneumonia.

His life spanned the founding of Japanese fandom to the announcement of the Nippon 2017 bid. He was a guest of honor at two Worldcons, L.A.con III and Nippon 2007.

Japanese author Tetsu Yano, who Gene Van Troyer called Japan’s Robert Heinlein, said he could hardly imagine what would have become of SF in Japan if Takumi Shibano had not existed: “Thanks to his fanzine Uchuujin, we had a network that allowed us to meet, and I feel blessed that Shibano-san was here to create it. All of Japanese science fiction and fandom was born as a result.”

Takumi, born in 1927, was the son of a Japanese Army officer. Following his father’s postings, Takumi attended schools in Taiwan, Tokyo and Manchuria. Upon finishing high school in 1945 he was drafted into the Physico-Chemical Research Association. There he learned the essentials of modern physics. After the end of WWII, Takumi attended the Tokyo Institute of Technology, graduating in 1950.

That same year he sold his first story, which appeared under the name “Kozumi Rei” (a wordplay on “cosmic ray”). He would later use that pen name as a novelist and translator of science fiction stories.

Takumi taught math for 26 years at Tokyo Municipal Koyamadai high school, from 1951 until 1977 when chronic asthma led him to quit teaching and become a full-time writer and translator. Among the works he translated into Japanese are Clarke’s short story “The Sentinel” and Larry Niven’s Ringworld and “Inconstant Moon.”

A colleague, veteran translator Hisashi Asakura, paid this compliment to his work in 1996: “Takumi Shibano has such a fundamental grasp of science that he understands the nature of the ideas that the writers have. If he has the slightest question about anything, he pursues the answer with total dedication, writing letters of talking directly with the authors. He’s peerless — a real role model for translators and authors.”

Takumi and Sachiko Takahashi married in 1954. They had two daughters, Miho and Minae.

Takumi’s fascination with SF first drew him to join the UFOs Flying in Japan’s Skies Research Group in 1956. As he explained in a quote run in the Nippon 2007 Souvenir Book, “It wasn’t that I was so enamored of UFO research, but that I was interested in those basic, fantastical science ideas, so I wanted to do SF.” The group was as close as he could get, but that would soon change.

At one of the meetings he threw out the idea of doing an extra issue of the group’s publication solely devoted to SF. Several members responded so enthusiastically they launched the first issue of Uchuujin (“space dust”) in May 1957. Uchuujin’s first issues were handwritten on mimeograph stencils, but it transformed into a typset publication by 1960. In later years, the zine’s best stories would be collected in five professionally published volumes.

Production of the magazine soon led to in-person discussion and the formation of Kagaku Sosaku (variously translated as Science Fiction Club or Science Creation Club), led by Tetsu Yano.

Takumi chaired four of the first six Japanese national science fiction conventions. He also helped establish the Federation of SF Fangroups of Japan in 1965 and served as chairman from 1966 until 1970.

He wrote several original juvenile science fiction novels, all published in Japan under his pen name Rei Kozumi: Superhuman ‘Plus X’ (1969), Operation Moonjet (1969), and Revolt in North Pole City (1977). He was also the principal author of The World of Popular Literature (1978), a nonfiction work.

Takumi was effectively introduced to American fans through the pages of Roy Tackett’s fanzine Dynatron. People became eager to meet him in person. LA’s bid committee for the 1968 Worldcon simultaneously ran a fan fund to bring Takumi Shibano to the Worldcon. Only the fan fund succeeded, consequently Shibano-san attended BayCon, the Worldcon in Berkeley, California.

He and Sachiko attended many more Worldcons through the years. At Denvention 2 in 1981 they appeared on stage during the Hugo Awards for the first time to present Seiun Awards to the Western sf writers whose translated works had won. (The winners are chosen by the Japanese national convention.)  It became a Hugo night tradition for the Shibanos or other Japanese pros to appear in ceremonial robes and recognize the winners.

Takumi won World SF’s President’s Award in 1984 and its Karel Award in 1991. He received a Special Committee Award from ConFrancisco, the 1993 Worldcon. And he was the winner of the E. E. Evans Big Heart Award in 1987.

Takumi, through his love of science fiction, achieved a rare bridging of cultures. He was a gracious man who warmly responded to anyone’s welcome and questions. Like Ackerman, to whom he is invariably compared, he was one of fandom’s early organizers who became an international ambassador of science fiction.

[Thanks to Atsushi Morioka, John Hertz, Glenn Glazer, Craig Miller and Peggy Rae Sapienza for the story.]

Update 01/18/2010: Adopted correction by John Hertz — the proper order of Takumi’s pen name is “Kozumi Rei.” Then, based on Petrea Mitchell’s suggestion (and a consultation with John) altered the spelling of the fanzine title to ‘Uchuujin,’ as the most accurate translation within the power of my limited coding skills….

Michael Jackson, Ackerman, and Chills

At Forry Ackerman’s memorial people were reminded that he made more than 200 cameo appearances in films. Doubtless the most-viewed cameo – by far! – was that of him sitting in a movie theater behind Michael Jackson during the “Thriller” music video.

Now Michael Jackson’s sudden and unexpected death has elicited worldwide response, with some of the most-widely reported public expressions taking inspiration from that famous video, and renewed attention to the “Thriller”-themed tribute performed by Filipino prisoners in 2007.

Others have taken less savory inspiration from the video, like those at a local outburst reported by the New York Times:

In Los Angeles, hundreds of fans — some chanting Mr. Jackson’s name, some doing the ‘Thriller’ dance — descended on the hospital and on the hillside house where he was staying.

David Klaus observes: “So, outside the house in which he was stricken, and the hospital where he was pronounced dead, his fans were dancing the dance he created for his role as a zombie, an undead creature come back to a shambling semblance of life, which had climbed out of its grave. Even setting aside the poor taste, that’s way too creepy for me.”

At LASFS, They Mean It

LASFS’ unofficial membership policy is, “Death will not release you – even if you die.” And yes, they’re serious.

Someone suggested the late Forry Ackerman’s name ought to be removed from the list of advisors to the LASFS Board of Directors because he is, er, late. Another director was shocked at the idea. According to the minutes of the March 2009 board meeting:

Christian McGuire brought a motion that Forry Ackerman should not be removed as an advisor to the board: though he is dead death shall not release him, he just won’t be coming to coming to the BOD meetings and the Board can’t communicate to him but still he should remain an advisor.  Motion passed 8-2-0

Believe me, if they get any advice from him at this point they ought to listen!

Ackerman Auction Takes in Quarter Million

Forry Ackerman wearing Dracula ring

The last of Forry Ackerman’s Hollywood treasures went under the hammer on May 2. John King Tarpinian wrote on the Raybradburyboard, “The Forrest J Ackerman estate auction was about 2-1/2 hours long. It was standing room only plus phone banks and internet bids going on. Everybody in the room was over 50. Bela Lugosi, Jr. was in attendance. There were about 110 lots up for auction from Dracula’s ring to Forry’s BARCO lounger.”

Ackerman’s famous Dracula ring, originally worn by John Carradine in Universal’s House of Frankenstein (1944) and House of Dracula (1945), then by Bela Lugosi in Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), sold for $46,000.

A pre-auction debate about the Dracula ring was resolved in favor of its authenticity.

There had been no such controversy about Maria the Robotrix, an accurate and detailed full-size fiberglass replica created in 1976 by effects artist Bill Malone that went for $40,000, because its genesis was known. Still, I’m curious why Forry told Mimosa readers that his copy of Ultima Futura Automaton was produced by Walter Schultze-Mittendorf, the same person who created the robotrix costume for Metropolis. Wikipedia says there is a Schultze-Mittendorf replica in the Cinémateque in Paris-Bercy, and that the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle also has a replica (provenance unknown): I’m trying to find out if any of these replicas share a history.

Other items that brought top dollar: A first American edition of Dracula signed by Bram Stoker, Bela Lugosi, John Carradine, Christopher Lee and others went for $25,000. An autographed copy of Frankenstein, The Modern Man-Demon by Mary Shelley went for $5,500. The nude statue of Marlene Dietrich that Forry commissioned sold for about $9,000. The top hat worn by Lon Chaney in his role as a vampire in London After Midnight went for $27,500.

For more background about the best items in the auction, read Joe Moe’s outstanding article at Dread Central.

Forry’s Retro Hugo was part of a lot of six awards that went for $1,500, in case you ever wondered what the market value of a Hugo might be. (Not all that much, in other words.)

Tarpinian reports the Forry auction brought in $294,870. For exact hammer prices you can go to the website: LiveAuctions.com (registration required). ”Remember to add about 15% commission,” says John, who also asks, “I wonder how much it will cost to ship the BARCO lounger or the coffin?”

Not from Forry’s collection, but perhaps the highest price commanded by any item in the auction was the $70,000 paid for the original Creature from the Black Lagoon hero “Gill Man” mask from Revenge of the Creature (Universal, 1955). The mask had been in the Westmore family since the production.

P.S. The Forry Farewell shown at the end of his Egyptian Theatre tribute also is available at Dread Central.

Update 05/08/2009: The official press release for the Hollywood auction was distributed today. It appears after the jump. Note that prices include the “buyer’s premium” which is a percentage on top of the amount actually bid.

Continue reading