Love Letters From My Fan Club
by Forrest J Ackerman
“Ackerman, you are a basketcase of acrimony!” – famous prozine editor (via air mail special delivery) upon the occasion of completely misinterpreting my motive in calling to his attention an obscurely published criticism of his periodical. “As for Ackerman’s ebullition, I fear he can hardly be taken seriously in matters involving the criticism of imaginative literature." He once wrote me a letter with a very childish attack on my work – "he evidently enjoys verbal pyrotechnics for their own sake and seems so callous to imaginative impressions.” – An Elder God of the weird canon.
“What does this Ackerman guy know about weird and fantastic fiction? From the way he writes, he must be an unimaginative person unable to stretch his mind away from spaceships and foreign star clusters.” – Fan of the early 30s.
“Ackerman’s Folly” – Referring to the first issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND. The individual with the critical opinion was a fan 18 years ago, is now a pro.
“You are the greatest catastrophe that ever happened to Science fiction!” – Fan turned book publisher in the 50’s who objected to me as an agent “bugging” him once a year for overdue royalty payments for my clients he had published.
“Ackerman, shut up! – And get those damn Monster fans of yours out of here!” – Author to me at a World Convention when a group of horror film aficionados had clustered around at the back of a hall and were eagerly asking me questions.
“So you’re the Ackerman who writes those ridiculous letters to the magazines!” Followed by a punch in the stomach. This was my welcome to Fun City in 1939 when I was met at the other end of the train line by some New York fans of the day, including the 15-year old Cyril Cornbluth who was to die prematurely but not before making a serious mark in the sf world as an author of pessimistic power. I always thought of him as the Sci-Fi world’s Oscar Levant.
“Peculiarly ridiculous” – An author who loved the craft, Ackerman must be daft or an imbecile or a notoriety-seeking clown and knave” - Member of the Lovecraft Circle describing me at 18. At least he gave me the benefit of an or rather that drubbing me into the ground with “ands”.
“Since you take 10% of my money, I feel you owe me 10% of your time.”- Disenchanted art client. In other words, no agent could have more than 10 clients.
“Ackerman is young”- yes, I was, once, especially at 18 – “as proved by his tendency to regard ordinary civilized language as alien and incomprehensible.” Who would have believed that this egregious stripling would have burgeoned into the terror of the English tongue, the Ackermangler of the King’s lingo, the creator of telescopiancontractions, telepathicommunications, neologisms & novacious coinages, portmanteau words, the scourge of the Anglo-academicians, the promulgator of the dictum that “The Pun is Mightier than the Sword”, the presentime purveyor of monsteriffic bone mots from his lair in Horrorwood/Hollyweird Karloffornia, a compleat collector of Lovecraftales and the auctorial representative of Clark Ashton Smith in the penumbral days of his life!
Anonymous voice on the phone: “Ackerman, you’re a son-of-a-bitch and you’re going to die for what you did to Glenn Strange.” Glenn Strange was the actor, now deceased, who took over the role of the Frankenstein monster after Karloff, Lugosi & Chaney Jr. had played it. What I did to him was give him a big publicity break in the pages of FAMOUS MONSTERS and supply him with a number of free fotos, lobby cards & posters of himself in roles he had played. But the story persists to this day that I stole stills from Glenn Strange.
Glenn Strange as Frankenstein's Monster
“Do you know why Ackerman took that 8700 mile trip all over the country visiting monster fans? Where do you think he got all those great stills for the “Bride of Frankenstein” issue of FAMOUS MONSTERS?” Well, I sure as fate didn’t steal them from every kid in the country (or even the kids in the city) because the issue in question appeared several months before I took the trip! Time travel???
“Ackerman is a crooked agent.” – Editor of about a quarter a century ago who was convinced I was selling stories to Mexico and telling my clients the Mexican editor wasn’t paying. He was – his translators one-thirteenth of a cent a word. At my own expense and with the authorization of such authors as van Vogt, Evans, Beaumont, Bradbury, etc., I was implementing a Hands Across the Border Seminal Scientifiction Program. But the author (a prominent one) “bought” the editor’s story that venal Forry was a crooked agent.
“Why did you hang onto my Hugo Award for a year and then, when I found out you had it, and asked for it, delay another month in delivering it to me?” (In case the anonymous author ever sees this and takes exception to this quote as not being verbatim, he may be correct, but I do not have the letter handy as I type these words – which are burned into my brain – but I think that it’s safe to say that the quotation is substantially correct.) I was being accused – but bitterly-of accepting an author’s Hugo in absentia, not informing him of it, keeping it for a year before he learned I had it, and then delaying several weeks in delivering it thru the mail after he had requested it. Well, it never happened, but it cost me approximately a hundred bucks & a lot of unpleasant emotion to prove my innocence. In the first place, I couldn’t have picked up his Hugo because embarrassingly, they weren’t physically present that year to be handed out – so I was reminded by long-distance phone call to London to the man who had been head of the World Convention that year. Secondly (but who needs a second with a first like that?) Franklin Dietz, who’s been taping the Cons since the time Alley Oop gave up chipping the reports on tablets of stone;- Franklin Dietz eventually played off the tape as the awards were announced and…naturally, there was no “California drawl” (the way my voice was described by an Anglofan after I visited London in 1951) saying, “I am honored to accept this Hugo on behalf of -.”
“I won’t rest until I see Ackerman in jail where he belongs- with John W. Campbell!” How Campbell got into the act or how I got so lucky, I’ll never know. Pronunciamento of a “litigational paranoid,” who died in an asylum in Germany, after dragging me before the Board of Equalization or something.
IRS: “You only reported $1000 income from the Greenleaf Publishing Co. [IMAGINATION] but they say they sent you $10,000!” “Well, of course! Don’t you understand? I’m an agent! I only keep a commission…and pass most of the money on to the authors!” “Oh! Say, this is an interesting collection you have here - mind if I look at it?” IRS agent later, just before leaving: “By the way, I believe we owe you $32.” Thank you – come back anytime!
You have some nerve, printing First Class on this package of 4th class trash you’ve sent me.”- Magazine editor of the 50's to me as agent.
“Ackerman, I’m mad at you. I’ve read my eyeballs out on this million words of junk you’ve sent me and there isn’t a word worth buying.” – Editor who had 3 or 4 titles going at the time. One man’s trash was another man’s treasure as I eventually sold a good deal of the material to other editors.
“I’m stony broke in the big glass jungle. You got any money for me?” I didn’t have, but for this client who I figured had such a big potential (and he did) I dug into my own pocket and aired him enough money to buy himself another week of time in New York. Seeing editors, I thought; seeking assignments. Instead, with my stake, he was shopping around for another agent. After he got one, he justified dropping me by writing a cantankerous, vituperous, excoriating 5-page letter (and those were the nice things he had to say about me) outlining all the things that were wrong with me as an agent. (Don’t you wonder sometime what I’m doing right to still be in business 30 years later and representing close to 150 names? Are you sure you’d like to read my autobiography – if I ever write it? And name names?
“Forrest Ackerman stole the METROPOLIS Robotrix!” I always believed the original, film-femmebot was blown to bits in the great Blitz of Berlin during WW2. It only recently came to my attention that I had actually watched (over 100 viewings at the time of this writing) my beloved “False Maria” burn up on screen in the climax of Fritz Lang’s Sci-Fi masterpiece. Fact is, I commissioned Bill Malone and crew to spend hundreds of hours to recreate her for me. I even designed the (never seen on-screen) back panel of the Robotrix myself!
“Forrest Ackerman is destroying Lon Chaney’s makeup kit!” One of the saddest days in my life came when an LA museum reclaimed the Lon Chaney makeup kit I had proudly displayed to thousands of fans for years. And all due to poor wording (not mine this time!) of an ad for a product I merely endorsed. A fan who had refurbished the kit for preservation, decided that rather than waste the makeup dust cleaned from the kit, he would manufacture a tribute Chaney ring with a speck of the residue makeup included. The ad read: “Own an actual piece of Lon Chaney’s makeup kit.” Fans were alarmed at the thought that I might be chopping the historic kit of the Man of 1000 faces into a mess of a million pieces! As a result of the controversy, the museum decided to reclaim the kit to languish in the obscurity of a cold dark vault.
A handmade poster (in very familiar handwriting) was nailed to my front door upon my return from my recent horrible hospital habitation: “Hurry up and die Forry Ackerman! You’ve been cursed.” Well, I’m still here, which leads us to the burning question; Would you buy a used curse from this fan? Say, I could arrange for an annual death-curse. I might live forever! At any rate, this terrible cruelty didn’t inspire Anger in me. Just pity for the person who delivered it.