That Riverside Whelan Exhibit

By John Hertz:  We’ve long known Michael Whelan was among our best.

He was first a Hugo Award finalist in 1979, for Best Pro Artist.  Next year he won that, and since then twelve times more, plus Nonfiction Book for his Works of Wonder (1988) and Original Artwork for The Summer Queen (1992), an unequaled 15 Hugos; 31 times a finalist.

He was Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at the 56th World Science Fiction Convention and (with Amano Yoshitaka) at the 65th.

He’s been voted Best Artist in 31 Locus Polls, most recently in 2016; 44 times a finalist.

He has 13 Chesleys (Ass’n of S-F Artists); 53 times a finalist.  More honors too.

Now the Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, California, is holding an exhibit of his work, as announced (with links) here.  It opened on February 11th and runs through May 25th.

That’s news.  In the wide wide world our graphic art is not well-known.  People familiar with Chen Ju-Yuan or Salvador Dalí or Tamara de Lempicka or Paula Rego or Andrew Wyeth aren’t acquainted with Michael Whelan.  He is not in the New York Museum of Modern Art, or the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

Vincent Di Fate’s superb and still indispensable survey Infinite Worlds is not on curators’ shelves.

The Riverside Art Museum is a pioneer in staging an exhibit of a leading S-F artist.

I went to the opening-night reception.  Here’s the banner outside the front door.  You’ll recognize the striking 1984 cover illustration for Asimov’s Robots of Dawn.

Whelan seems to have adopted the term alternative realism; see it on the banner.  It suits him.  It may be a good name for the mode of which he is such a master.  The greater the reality, the better the fantasy is elemental to S-F.

I found him surrounded by admirers – which was as it should be – wearing a Revolver necktie and answering questions.  When I remarked on the tie, a man said “Oh yes, old Beatles.”  I said “Old-fashioned is old-fashioned.”

The Museum has done well by him.  A gallery of 1,560 square feet (146 square meters) displays 54 pieces, some time-honored, some new.

The exhibit, and a Kickstarter commemorative book, are called Beyond Science Fiction.  This may be wise.

Before I went, I winced.  Did we need another apology?  Another variation on Robert Conquest’s theme “‘S-F’s no good,’ they bellow till we’re deaf.  ‘But this is good.’  ‘Well, then, it’s not S-F”?

Looking at the pictures I saw a different perspective.

Most of them were book covers (I’ll get to “palette gremlins” in a moment).  They were, they had to be, indeed they were proudly illustrations.  Whelan is an illustrator.

Kelly Freas would never let himself be named anything else; he declined artist (over my protest, among others), and viewed with suspicion what he more or less privately called “easel painters”.

Of course an illustration has to illustrate – which means shed light on.  It had better be good art – but what’s that? not that it means nothing: we’d not keep using it if we thought it meant nothing: but it’s fiendishly difficult to get a grip on.  Kelly Freas (that was his surname, folks) used to say an illustration has to make you want to read the story.

Superficial?  Maybe so, in a way.  If you think it’s only superficial, think again.

The best illustration (1) satisfies the illustrator (2) satisfies the author (3) sheds light on the story (4) makes people want to read the story – and, if you will, (5) makes the publisher think it will make people want to read the story.

Down that road is the possibility that the very best illustration, in addition to and without in the least failing (1-4) or (1-5), may also reach people who run into it apart from the story, have never heard of the story, don’t know there is a story, don’t know the picture they’re looking at is an illustration.

Does that necessarily follow?  I don’t know.  Ask again later.  But it came to me from pictures at an exhibition.

Of course read and story needn’t be literal.  A Kelly Freas picture was used by the band Queen.  Whelan pictures have been used by the Jacksons and by Meat Loaf.

In that sense I applaud the title Beyond Science Fiction.  Yes, maybe it’s a lure, maybe a needed lure to draw people who might not otherwise – I’ll say it – dare to come here and look.  Also I think it says These images are science fiction; certainly they are; we don’t hesitate [I hope] to say so; in addition to which and not failing it in the least they reach farther and are worthy for themselves.

That’s why they’re in the Riverside Art Museum.

I said I’d get to “palette gremlins”.  They are – I’ll quote Whelan,

small creations found in random shapes … errant fingerprints and paint smears … usually on a palette or the mat board I use to protect my drawing table….  I added a touch here and a brush stroke there until the abstract elements began to resolve….  Passage: The Red Step was suggested by shapes in the over-spray left from a complex airbrushing session….  when they spark an idea that leads to a larger work, it feels like a gift from my Muse!…  The point of it all, however, is to play with some paint – and see what happens.

One wall has a dozen.  One of them, Amethyst Fantasy, I saw was lent by Shaun Tan.

You know some of the pictures.  You have books they cover, or prints, or Infinite Worlds or one of Whelan’s own books – which I recommend – or you can summon them from Electronicland.  See the originals.  See them often and long.  Each medium is different.

Study originals.  Go to this exhibit if you can.  Bring what you have with you and compare.  Bring a sketchbook and copy them, or an easel (in a good cause, Kelly) and a paintbox; get permission.  Beethoven wrote out a Mozart string quartet; he was perfectly able to read the score, and he intended to write his own music, but he wanted to get into his fingers what Mozart had done.

And if you ask “What has Whelan done for us lately?” cast a Cottleston on this, “In a World of Her Own” from 2016.

Cottleston pie, that’s your eye – no, wrong slang – wait, I’ll have it in a minute – wait –

What’s Five Thousand Miles?

By John Hertz: My antennae tingled. It turned out Inoue Hiroaki was in town. He was Guest of Honor at Animé L.A. XIII, 27-29 Jan 17 at the Ontario Convention Center. Over 9,000 attended.

Chaz Baden started ALA, chaired it for years, and is now Chair Emeritus. With help from him and a host of others, a few hours’ driving time, and a few dollars at Registration, I arranged to meet Inoue-san on Sunday afternoon at 3.

To animé folk he’s the producer of Tenchi Muyou! (which I suppose we may call a franchise, an ongoing stream of animé, novels, manga, video games, soundtrack records – isn’t a Compact Disc a record? – radio, role-playing-game books, and whatnot).

Tenchi Muyo! means “Right side up with care” or “No need for Tenchi” – if you think you’re a punster, you ain’t seen nothin’ – and has been running over 25 years.

Also he teaches animé in Japanese university courses. He addressed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology fifteen years ago. I might say something about a list of achievements as long as your arm, but we’re talking about animé, who knows how long that might be?

To me he’d been the chair of Nippon 2007, the 65th World Science Fiction Convention, the first in Asia, the first in Japan. Fame, like obviousness, is relative – obviously.

I’d had a fair lot to do with that bid and that con, and was sent there (and brought back) by a one-time traveling-fan fund HANA (Hertz Across to Nippon Alliance; hana in Japanese is “flower” or “blossom”, a word much used in poetry) started by Murray Moore; you can see my report here (first half) and here (second half).

In earlier days of ALA I had myself been a feature on Sunday afternoons. But that’s another story.

“Where,” I’d asked Chaz, “is this meeting?” He said “I’ll work on that.” When I arrived, a Chaz-gram awaited me. A staffer said “You’re John Hertz! This is for you” and another said “I’ll take you there.”

Inoue-san and I rejoiced. I bowed, so he shook my hand.

The Nippon 2007 bid had formally begun in 2000. But you could say it began in 1957 – or 1927, the year Shibano Takumi was born.

I told Inoue-san on Sunday, “Nippon 2007 was only possible because of three giants: Shibano-sensei [“teacher”], Peggy Rae Sapienza, and you.” None was available for the Shizuoka bid. For 2017 my Helsinki friends beat my District of Columbia, Montréal, and Shizuoka friends. But another Japanese Worldcon may come.

Mason Beninger interpreted for us. We may have overloaded him. This had happened before.

At the 8th NASFiC (North America Science Fiction Convention, held when the Worldcon is overseas) Inoue-san, who was Animé GoH, joined Marie Cooley and me judging the Masquerade. He was very perceptive, but only because of the extraordinary interpreter Karahashi Takayuki could we manage any speed.

I’ll spare you other stories, like the time an interpreter from the Yokohama Tourist Bureau – oops.

Inoue-san asked how Peggy Rae’s widower John was doing. I said “Well; but his heart hurts.” Of course that’s true for all of us.

All around were animé folk, many in costume; signs, dealers’ tables; lines and clumps. It was the Exhibit Hall.

We marveled at this flourishing of one part of the Imagi-Nation while, in the United States anyway, there wasn’t much cross-fertilizing. I’d been one of the Masquerade judges who gave Best in Show to an entry based on Trinity Blood at the 64th Worldcon. But mostly They don’t come to our village and we don’t go to theirs.

Diversity takes a lot of work.

Still,

What’s five thousand miles
And two languages between
Fans who seek the stars?

On Another Tentacle

by John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1230; italics, parentheses after this, in original)  My exhorting my companions on the Left (Mike Glyer once said I have the gift of exhortation; I warned him I was taking that as a compliment) not to be so smug, self-righteous, arrogant about our opinions (see Van 1228) shouldn’t be taken to imply I think you folks on the Right ought to be smug, self-righteous, arrogant about yours.  Indeed you have trumped us (8 Nov 16).  But triumphalism isn’t good argument.  It isn’t good politics.  It isn’t neighborly.  And since you are fond of saying you, not we, are the true guardians of liberty, I believe I may add It violates your own principles.  Now is the time for you to be better preachers, teachers, reachers.  I’ve insisted “Democracy is not Give me what I wish no matter what but I can be outvoted” (Van 1224); however, as Samuel Johnson said, people “may be convinced, but they cannot be pleased, against their will” (Lives of the English Poets, 1781; Congreve); and lest you fall into the pit beside the road of victory, I remind you of a remark by Isak Dinesen (who called it the saying of the hero of a book read as a child, Out of Africa ch. IV pt. 5 “The Iguana”, 1937): “I have conquered them all, but I am standing amongst graves.”

To Pull No Strings and Buffalo None

By John Hertz: Say fans, what time is it? Nomination time!

It’s nomination time,
It’s nomination time.
Let’s have a balmy clime,
Send in what’s really prime.
Ignore what looks like slime,
Abet nobody’s crime.
We’ll make the Finns’ bells chime,
And sing out “That kind I’m!”
Let’s give a rousing cheer
’Cause nomination’s here.
It’s time to start the show,
So fans, let’s go!

Summer fall winter spring, may every thunder thud.

A Nonconformist Among Nonconformists

by John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1228)  May I, who voted for Trump’s opponent in the Presidential election, speak against the notion Trump’s supporters were “people … scared silly by the progress we’ve been making for the non-Christians, the blacks…. [who thus] don’t know their place anymore”?  I hear that often.  In an objection we on the Left are quick to raise in our defense, it’s dismissive.  It waves away any possibility that Trump’s supporters have any creditable basis for their opinions – which unsurprisingly those folk maintain we lack.  I think we on the Left have long been smug, self-righteous, arrogant about our opinions.  That isn’t good argument.  It isn’t good politics.  It isn’t neighborly.  It violates our own principles.  Trump cried Aren’t you tired of all those left-wing people’s telling you what to think?  Had we been better preachers, teachers, reachers, that would have been laughed down.  A well-known man in November 1963 was wrong, I believe, to say “The chickens are coming home to roost”, but perhaps that’s a lesson for us now.

Based on a True Story

by John Hertz: A seasonal poem.

Strange that I’ve become
A red-suited man with deer;
Nothing of Myra;
Truth to tell (what else?) I love
A time folk rejoice and give.


An acrostic (read down the first letters of each line) in 5-7-5-7-7-syllable form like Japanese tanka.  Santa Claus is in origin Nicholas (270-343), Bishop of Myra, then part of Greece, today part of Turkey; “Santa” is saint, “Claus” is Nicholas – I’d better not call it a nickname.  Stockings before the fireplace, and gifts that appear in them, are part of his story.  He died on December 6th.  Naturally he tells the truth, he’s a saint.

Kate of Kate Hall, praised in every town

Kate Yule. Photo by Janna Silverstein.

Kate Yule. Photo by Janna Silverstein.

by John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1227)

Take this of me, Kate of my consolation,
thy virtues spoke of, yet not so deeply as to thee belongs.

There was of course no question of “taming” her, nor was she in any way – I don’t even want to say it.  Nor for that matter do I believe Shakespeare thought so of women; the play is Sly’s dream, and Shakespeare as ever – see Love’s Labors Lost – the all-too-true satirist of male folly.

David Levine was her husband for 25 years.  I can’t speak for him; nor should I; nor shall I.  Nor do I measure myself with him.  He knew her more in every way.  I only speak for myself.

The consolation is that I ever knew Kate Yule at all (1961-2016).  How many people I meet or see or guess traces of who are less than she – or of whom I think no better for lack of knowing them!

And in this universe ends are also, like it or not, beginnings; and if the morning brings me grief, if I feel the sunshine puts me in my rotting place, there is glory in growing.

Can I speak to her?  Go ahead, tell me about apostrophes.

And wherever she was, whatever else it was, that was Kate Hall.

I mustn’t omit Mad magazine’s putting on a cover that 1961 was the first upside-down year since 1881, the last until 6009.

She was a faithful correspondent of my fanzine Vanamonde.  From her letters:

  • “Yes yes to … naming the LASFS [L.A. S-F Society] restrooms Disposed and Communicado [Phil Castora’s suggestion]….  I will fight for the honor of the misused apostrophe.”
  • “Do you think cows are presented with meadows neatly sorted?”
  • “I read the tamburitza as being from the Pandemonium region of SE Europe.”
  • “I commend to you A Fez of the Heart: Travels Around Turkey in Search of a Hat by Jeremy Seal.”
  • “German can use the subjunctive to indicate support for a cited statement – neutrality – or a strong desire to hold it at arm’s length and downwind.”
  • “You, age 10, performing magic tricks for an audience…. is as intriguing an image as Woodrow Wilson cracking up at Will Rogers’ jokes.”

She and her husband published the small but perfectly formed fanzine Bento.  A few years ago I sent

“Both” say each of them
Engaging in much bothing,
Not uncaringly
Touching, trying, exploring,
Omnivoracious and neat.

Here’s an adventure from 2002 – last palindromic year until 2112 (reprinted from Vanamonde 484).

     David Levine was in town for a Writers of the Future writing workshop; Kate Yule came along, both I believe attending the annual Writers and Illustrators awards ceremony.

On Thursday night I reached the LASFS Clubhouse just before they left.  On Wednesday morning I met Yule for dim sum at the Empress Pavilion, took her through the main public library down town with its headless pillars four stories deep and its elevators lined with catalogue cards, and since Cathy Cupitt had, we lunched at the Oaxaqueño restaurant Guelaguetza.  On Friday, Simon Rodía’s Watts Towers, which I’d never visited, then Al Gelato in Beverly Hills.

In a museum at the Towers was Glass Lace, an artform of mirror-chip pictures, by Judson Powell; there also live folk instruments collected by Dr. & Mrs. Joseph Howard.

Rodía built the three Towers, and a gazebo with a 38-foot spire, and a Ship of Marco Polo with a 28’ spire, evenings and weekends over 34 years until 1954, when he was 75 years old; then he went away, giving all to a neighbor, and never returned.  Three weeks after his death in 1965 the Watts Riots left his work untouched.

The Towers are 55’, 97’10”, and 99’6” high, with 5,000 joints among 150 horizontal bands, 50 external vertical columns, and large external loops.

After the 1994 earthquake, a restoration crew needed eight years because only a few workers at a time could use the scaffolding; Rodía used none, nor bolts, rivets, welds, a drawing board; he made these soaring, interlacing, mosaic things with pipe-fitter pliers, a window-washer’s belt, scrap metal bent by hand, wire and steel-mesh wrapping, mortar, glass green from 7-Up bottles and blue from Phillips Milk of Magnesia, tiles, sea shells, ceramic shards, designs hand-drawn or pressed in, and sly jokes, like a shape odd from the ground which you could see was a horse-head from thirty feet up its Tower, and exactly one bottle cap.

Yule thought of Gaudí.

At her death – it was National Poetry Day in the United Kingdom, but that wasn’t my fault – I sent

Know – what?  Who we are?
Ardent looking not sated, stopped,
Thoughts, acts, to join or team ready,
Ending now?  Only the flesh is dropped.

                                          

Both poems are acrostic.  The first is in 5-7-5-7-7-syllable form, like Japanese tanka.  The second is roughly like Chinese Regulated Verse: for the scansion, I try sentence-stress instead of the First Tone (Chinese has no sentence-stress), and ignore insubstantial words (omitted in literary Chinese); below, / marks the caesura, R the rhyme.

– – / – x x
x x / x – – R
x x / – – x
– – / x x – R

Rotsler Award Exhibit at Midamericon II

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Rotsler Award exhibit at MidAmeriCon II. Photos by Kenn Bates.

By John Hertz: Midamericon II was the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, held at Kansas City, Missouri, August 17-21, 2016. The 34th, now known as Midamericon I, was there in 1976.

The Rotsler Award, named for Bill Rotsler (1926-1997), is given annually for long-term wonder-working with graphic art in amateur publications of the S-F community. The winner is determined by a panel of judges, currently Mike Glyer, Sue Mason, and me.

Founded in 1998, the Rotsler is sponsored by the non-profit Southern California Institute for Fan Interests, Inc. At Loscon, the annual L.A. convention over the United States’ Thanksgiving weekend in November (Loscon XLIII was 25-27 Nov 16), the winner is announced and a sample of the winner’s work exhibited.

I try to exhibit all the winners to date at the Worldcon. Two exhibits I was particularly happy about were at Denvention III (66th Worldcon; Denver, Colorado, 2008), where Spike contributed those handsome black foam-core panels, and Lonestarcon III (71st; San Antonio, Texas, 2013), where volunteers helped me choose samples visually interesting to folks who might not know fanzines.

Elizabeth Klein-Lebbink contributed her electronic wizardry to the MAC II exhibit; also a fine design sense, and not being very active in the fanzine world she could temper my enthusiasm for reference jokes. For Chicon VII (70th Worldcon; Chicago, Illinois, 2012) she’d helped marvelously with an exhibit in honor of Diane Dillon and in memory of Leo (1933-2012).

With a few hours at Klein-Lebbink’s equipment — well, more than a few, actually — we were able to print a Rotsler Award exhibit on six-foot-long banners. I took them to MAC II and didn’t have to get dozens of images enlarged by photocopy, mounted on colored construction paper, and hung with binder clips from hooks set in pegboard panels.

The banners looked swell. Kenn Bates kindly photographed them.

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Loscon is hosted by LASFS, the L.A. Science Fantasy Society, oldest S-F club on Earth. I rhyme LASFS with joss fuss, but Morris Keesan said “That’s your dialect,” and Len Moffatt rhymed it with sass mass. I miss them.

SCIFI (of course that’s what the initials spell; despite the power of Forry Ackerman, pronounced skiffy) has among other things produced Worldcons, Westercons (West Coast Science Fantasy Conference), a NASFiC (North America Science Fiction Convention, held when the Worldcon is overseas), and the second (1992, hardbound) edition of Harry Warner’s history of 1950s fandom A Wealth of Fable.

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Artwork by ATom.

Artwork by Brad Foster.

Artwork by Brad Foster.

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Artwork by Kurt Erichsen.

 

4e = C

Forrest J Ackerman receiving Big Heart Award in 2006.

Forrest J Ackerman receiving Big Heart Award in 2006.

By John Hertz: With the hundredth birthday of Forrest J Ackerman real soon now (24 Nov 16; do you think we’ll manage to celebrate at Loscon XLIII? if you’re in town, come and find out), Karl Lembke suggested we might mark it with the expression 4e = C.

I said (Vanamonde 1221), “Someone proposing 4e (1916-2008) may now be traveling at the speed of light (which may seem paltry to those of us who believe human identity is essentially beyond space and time; he himself was an atheist) would more properly write 4e = c, to which I only answer he was a capital fan (avoiding digression into the work of Leonhard Euler 1707-1783).”

Lee Gold said, “4e = C would be asserting that he had reached 100 … or that he was a fannish Constant (and thus forever worthy of consideration), both perhaps at least as important in our calculations as the speed of light.”

For his 92nd birthday, which proved to be the last he lived to see, I wrote (Vanamonde 809)

Anything’s possible with 4e,
From monsters he loves ’cos they’re horri-
Ble, to distant suns,
And fandom and puns,
To writing the world’s shortest story.

There have been and I hope will continue to be many appreciations of him. Here’s mine (Vanamonde 853):

He seems to have been first inspired by a Frank Paul cover illustrating Hyatt Verrill’s “Beyond the Pole” on the October 1926 Amazing.

He rang Bob Olsen’s Beverly Hills doorbell and got an autograph, and cookies. In the fall of 1929 his first published letter was in Science Wonder Quarterly; from San Francisco, where he then lived, he wrote, “Although I am only twelve years old, I have taken a delight in reading the magazines you have published for almost the last four years. Let’s give Science Wonder Stories a big yell. Hip, hip, hip, hurrayyyyy.”

Years later Olsen said, “In all my experiences with science fiction, I have never read, seen, or known anything that was so amazing as 4e himself.”

Forrest J Ackerman (1916-2008; no period after the J) went on writing to prozines, partly because his parents were more willing to buy issues that had a letter from him, a method which, like Michelangelo’s “I just get a chisel and cut away anything that doesn’t look like a Madonna and Child,” rests on a presupposition.

Linus Hogenmiller of Missouri saw Ackerman’s name in a prozine and struck up a correspondence, the first of thousands Ackerman maintained. By 1930 the two teenagers had started a Boys’ Scientifiction Club, which involved Julius Schwartz and Mort Weisinger, and resulted in The Time Traveller.

Soon came the Science Fiction League. Ackerman was a charter member. It tested members’ knowledge with a questionnaire. Asked who were the nation’s two most active fans, Ackerman replied “Remember our modesty.” This was listed as a correct answer.

A straight-A student in high school, he quit the University of California after a year and got work as a typist. He was a flame for Esperanto and, in English, for endless wordplay: he wrote under the pseudonyms Weaver Wright, Jack Erman, and Claire Voyant, and his own name took many forms, like his spelling and paragraphing, in what became known as Ackermanese.

He was part of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society when it began, and its fanzine Imagination and successor Voice of the Imagi-Nation. The LASFS adopted his colors, green and brown. His 1941 business Assorted Services, doing anything for anyone, is said to have been adapted by Heinlein for “We Also Walk Dogs” (1941).

Came the war; inducted in 1942, he moaned he would be inept at Army life, but made sergeant — adding the pseudonym Sgt. Ack-Ack (anti-aircraft guns were “A.A.”, under some phonetic alphabets “ack-ack”) — and editor of his base’s newspaper, which finished second in a contest of 2,000.

He attended the first World Science Fiction Convention (New York, 1939), where he began our costuming tradition by dressing as a Man of the Future based on the 1936 film Things to Come. He was guest of honor at the first international s-f con in London (1951), and was given the first fan Hugo Award (1953).

He coined the nicknames Chicon, Nycon, Pacificon, and the expression sci-fi — which he meant as a compliment, since at the time sound-reproduction technology had just improved to the point of being called high fidelity, or hi-fi. By 2002 his weekly open house, at his home the Ackermansion, had hosted 50,000 visitors.

He was a formidable collector: 300,000 books, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula ring, a meticulous replica of Walter Schultze-Mittendorf’s robot for the 1927 film Metropolis, a hallway of Paul artwork he called the Paulway. In 2001 a 75th-anniversary edition of the Metropolis novelization had an introduction by him. He saw the film a hundred times.

His first pro writing was “Earth’s Lucky Day” (1936) with Francis Flagg. In ten years as a literary agent his clients included Isaac Asimov, Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Ron Hubbard, Curt Siodmak, and A.E. van Vogt. Fifty of his own stories were published, including the world’s shortest (1973). His wife Wendayne’s knowing German led to an adventure of translating and publishing a hundred forty Perry Rhodan novels.

He had cameo appearances in two hundred movies. He more or less fell into Famous Monsters of Filmland, where for twenty years he was editor, writer, chief cook and bottle-washer, and blithe spirit, leading to more pseudonyms, Dr. Acula, the Ackermonster, and probably his widest fame.

Although he was an atheist, he was an angel. He got Bradbury to the first Worldcon, long before professional success, and backed his fanzine, among many others.

He met Walt Willis in Ireland and drove him across America, a punsters’ synergy we fortunately lack a full record of. He hosted Tetsu Yano for six months, visited Japan twice, and was one of only two foreigners to receive the Japanese Fandom Award; Takumi Shibano called him the greatest benefactor linking Japanese and United States fandom.

He and Walt Daugherty founded our highest service award, the Big Heart, Ackerman administering it until the millennium; in 2006 we could finally give it to him. He was at the 3,507th LASFS meeting, as was I but he had been at the first; it was our 70th anniversary; he took the gavel and brought us to order, a hyperbole which may be allowed.

For decades he was the first person any of us met at a science fiction convention. If he was wrong, that may now be true in Heaven. Ave atque vale.

This Was the Forrest Primeval

Ackerman Square sign installation. Photo by Michael Locke.

Ackerman Square sign installation on November 17. Photo by Michael Locke.

By John Hertz: When I passed a storefront bearing a sign “Esperanto Inc.”, I knew it would be a good day for remembering Forrest J Ackerman (1916-2008).

If he were reading over my shoulder he might say “But Esperan-Test was Roy Test [1921-2009].”  Maybe he is.  They were among the happy few who in 1934 founded the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, oldest SF club on Earth.  Roy’s mother Wanda was the secretary; Forry called her minutes Thrilling Wanda Stories.  In an inspired pun he called SF fandom the Imagi-Nation.

Eventually we recognized as First Fandom all those who had been active at least as early as the first World Science Fiction Convention in 1939.  Forry’s first published letter was in Science Wonder Quarterly ten years earlier.

On November 17, 2016, the City of Los Angeles, as advertised, declared the four corners of Franklin & Vermont Aves. to be Forrest J Ackerman Square.  This was in District 4; Councilman David Ryu was there.  The ceremony was on the southeast corner, in front of Forry’s beloved House of Pies restaurant.  When he had to give up the Ackermansion on Glendower Ave. his real-estate agent was told “Get me something within a half-mile radius of the House of Pies”, and did.  Another Ackermiracle.

The Acker Mini-mansion. Photo by Michael Locke.

The Acker Mini-mansion. Photo by Michael Locke.

The City’s placards acknowledged 4e as “Mr. Sci-Fi”; he had coined sci-fi when high-fidelity audio recording was new and people talked of hi-fi.  He knew but was unconvinced by the sorrow some of us came to feel at the scornful use of his expression in the mass media.  His attitude might have been Don’t fight them, embrace them.  I never discussed it with him.  He wasn’t a fighter, he was a lover.

I also never discussed what he knew of Owen Glendower.

I was merely the first, by no means the only, person to remind Ryu’s staff there was no period after the J.  Forry had gone to court making that his legal name.  Replacement placards were promptly promised.  A deputy showed me the Council resolution had written it right.

Ackerman Square dedication placard (with erroneous period after the initial "J").

Ackerman Square dedication placard (with erroneous period after the initial “J”).

Most of the sixty standing on the corner, and all the speakers, knew Uncle Forry as the Ackermonster, for twenty years editor, writer, chief cook and bottle-washer, and blithe spirit of Famous Monsters of Filmland.  They spoke of his generosity — which he certainly had — and his turning focus from the stars to people behind the camera, make-up artists, technicians.  They thanked him for inspiring them to become professionals and to achieve recognition.

Some of the Ackerman devotees on hand for the dedication. Photo by Michael Locke.

Some of the Ackerman devotees on hand for the dedication. Photo by Michael Locke.

Half a dozen from LASFS were there too, including two on the board of directors and a former president.  No one had invited us to speak, nor indeed to attend; we came because we were willing and able (must be both) and it seemed the fannish thing to do.

LASFS delegation. Standing (L-R) Michelle Pincus, Gavin Claypool, Beverly Warren, Matthew Tepper. Kneeling (L-R) John Hertz, Debra Levin, Shawn Crosby.

LASFS delegation. Standing (L-R) Michelle Pincus, Gavin Claypool, Beverly Warren, Matthew Tepper. Kneeling (L-R) John Hertz, Debra Levin, Shawn Crosby.

It’s a proud and lonely thing to be a fan.  I’m not surprised that commercial science-fiction conventions run to six-figure numbers while our local Loscon draws a thousand.  The difference is in the participation.  Not much mental voltage is needed to imagine people must be either buyers or sellers.

Some fans do turn pro; if willing and able, why not?  Some pros develop careers as fans.  Some people are active as both.  Forry was.  But as Patrick Nielsen Hayden says, and he should know, in our community fandom is not a junior varsity for prodom.

And there was cake. Photo by Michael Locke.

And there was cake. Photo by Michael Locke.

Forry’s hundredth birthday will be in a few days, November 24th.  Buy a book — or write one.  See a movie — or take part in one.  Send a letter of comment to a prozine — or a fanzine (since you’re here in Electronicland you might as well know, and you may already, that you can find some fanzines electronically.)

Visit fans in another country, in person or by phone or mail.  Forry did all those.  To him it was all good.

Photo by MIchael Locke.

Photo by MIchael Locke.