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I read yesterday that Forrest J. Ackerman is dying at age 91. I haven’t thought about him in many years.
You will need to go back with me to fifth grade. I had a very kind, but very unusual teacher named Mr. Grossman. I’m sure Nana will chime in with some fond memories of him, but what I remember was this:
- horrible pea-green polyester clothes
- a blessed understanding that the “gifted” kids needed some space to do their own thing intellectually
- a very, very strange personal interest in cartoons, comics, and science fiction
It’s that last one that applies most to this story. If we could get our eleven-year-old selves to behave sufficiently throughout the week, on Friday we would have a treat: Mr. Grossman would cover the windows and play us old radio shows, including The Shadow. For school assemblies, our class performed old Abbott and Costello routines. I distinctly remember arguing with him about who was smarter: Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck.
Odd, you see.
One particular highlight of the year was a field trip to the Ackermansion. High up a winding road above Los Angeles, Forry had a home filled to the brim with science fiction memorabilia. And this was prime stuff: Bela Lugosi’s Dracula cape and ring, the original Maria from Metropolis, and even tribbles from Star Trek.
It was pretty much geek heaven, and I’ll hazard a bet most of my classmates didn’t get the appeal.
Ackerman was a founding father of science fiction. I have to look fondly on anyone who inspired some of my favorite authors (including Ray Bradbury, who seems like a founding father himself, and Marion Zimmer Bradley) as well as directors like Steven Spielberg.
He and all his wonderful weirdness will be missed.
(Now I’m outed as a complete nerd, eh?)