Forrest J. Ackerman is Dead

Posted by | December 6, 2008

If you’re under a certain age, oh, say perhaps 25, maybe 30, you might not know the name up there in the title. You might not care that he has died, or understand why I’m writing this post. That’s fine. None of us knows the names of all those who have touched our lives, and fewer still know how our lives have been touched.

I know this name.

Forrest J. Ackerman was a fan of horror and sci-fi the way NASA is a fan of things that fly and the Pentagon is a fan of things that explode. Not only did he promote the early and struggling genre of bizarre fantasy in film, he also defined it with his magazine, Famous Monsters of Filmland. His personal collection of sci-fi, horror, and plain weird genre memorabilia is perhaps the largest in the world.

It was through his influence that the fantastic was able to seize hold of the minds of a generation, and many genre writers, myself included, blame him for our strange obsessions. Without Forry, fantasy as we know it would be a thin and struggling thing, reduced to gnawing upon the mossy bones of Poe and Lovecraft. Our world, and our collective imagination, would have been darker and dryer.

So what’s that have to do with gaming? Turns out rather alot. Ideas are built on each other, one generation handing down their legends and visions to the next. Science fiction gave us ring worlds, mad artificial intelligences, and expanding alien empires. Gaming gave us Halo. Horror brought to us dark dreams of demonic gods, necromantic cultists, and lonely underworlds where the radio hisses with static. Gaming gave us Silent Hill.

More games than you could ever play find their beginnings in the rich genre soil that Forrest helped to till, and it’s thanks to his work and his unflagging enthusiasm that our generation grew up on myths beyond the cowboy on the plains and the trench-mud soldiers of WW2. The beasts and horrors and robots that populate our games and our culture might have been spawned from hundreds of books, movies, and campfire stories, but the monsters, like myself, deep beneath their foam latex skins they know this name. Even our nightmares shall mourn his passing.

Forrest J. Ackerman was 92.

You can read more about Forry at this Los Angeles Times article.

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