Saturday, May 25, 2013

Before the Golden Age-Forrest J Ackerman

Forrest J Ackerman
Science Fiction Fan, Collector, Author, Editor, Agent, Publisher, Movie Projectionist, Actor
Born November 24, 1916, Los Angeles, California
Died December 4, 2008, Los Angeles, California

There will never again be a character like the irrepressible Forrest James Ackerman. He was born in and died in Los Angeles and was intimately tied to the science fiction scene in that city from the earliest days of fandom until his death just five short years ago. During those seven or eight decades, he amassed what was surely the largest private collection of science fiction and movie memorabilia in the history of the universe. He was a member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and as such knew Ray Bradbury, Henry Kuttner, Emil Petaja, Robert Heinlein, Jack Williamson, Fredric Brown, Leigh Brackett, Ray Harryhausen, and other luminaries. I suspect that when the young and very attractive Catherine L. Moore of Indianapolis paid a visit to Los Angeles in the 1930s, she and Ackerman met. Their collaboration for Weird Tales, the Northwest Smith tale "Nymph of Darkness," grew out of their acquaintance. It was Catherine's last Northwest Smith story and her last story for Weird Tales. [For a clarification, see the comments below.] Six months after it was published, she married Henry Kuttner in New York City. Ackerman went on to write more science fiction, plus scripts and magazine pieces. He also served as a literary agent for a number of writers, including Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, A.E. van Vogt, Curt Siodmak, and L. Ron Hubbard. His accomplishments and activities would fill volumes. Instead of filling volumes, I'll make an interesting connection: Ackerman's maternal grandfather was the architect George Wyman (1860-1939), an Ohioan most well known for designing the Bradbury Building in Los Angeles. If you think the Bradbury Building was named for Ray Bradbury, you're on the wrong track. That's not the connection of which I speak. Rather, Wyman designed the building based on a description from a science fiction novel, Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy (1887). In a weird aside, Wyman was encouraged to take on the project from beyond the grave: he and his wife were spiritualists. The connection is not yet complete. The Bradbury Building was a setting for the movie Blade Runner (1982), a dystopia to match Bellamy's Utopia in Looking Backward. Finally, the building was the setting for Harlan Ellison's "Demon with a Glass Hand" in the television series The Outer Limits. Mr. Ellison has lived in southern California for decades and contributed to Weird Tales in 1984.

For Weird Tales
"Nymph of Darkness" with C.L. Moore (Dec. 1939)

Forrest J Ackerman co-created (with Trina Robbins) Vampirella and wrote the first story for the comic book in which she appeared. The first issue, from September 1969, featured cover art by Frank Frazetta.
Text and captions copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley

3 comments:

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  2. Actually, there were three Northwest Smith stories published after the first appearance of "Nymph in Darkness" -- "Quest of the Starstone" (with Kuttner; NWS meets Jirel); "Werewoman," and the very short "Song in a Minor Key." / Denny Lien

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  3. Denny,

    What I wrote is misleading. "Nymph of Darkness" by C.L. More and Forrest J Ackerman was first published in Fantasy Magazine in April 1935. Weird Tales reprinted the story in December 1939. That was C.L. Moore's last story for Weird Tales. Six months later she married Henry Kuttner and moved on to better paying markets.

    Between April 1935 and December 1939, Weird Tales printed the following stories of Northwest Smith:

    "The Cold Gray God" (Oct. 1935)
    "Yvala" (Feb. 1936)
    "Lost Paradise" (July 1936)
    "The Tree of Life" (Oct. 1936)
    "Quest of the Starstone" (Nov. 1937) written in collaboration with Henry Kuttner

    There were two more stories printed in fanzines:

    "Werewoman" in Leaves (Winter 1938-1939)
    "Song in a Minor Key" in Scienti-Snaps (Feb. 1940)

    That's where the career of Northwest Smith came to its close.

    So, it was misleading for me to say that "Nymph of Darkness" was C.L. Moore's last Northwest Smith story. What I should have written is that it was the last Northwest Smith story published in Weird Tales.

    Thanks for pointing out the problem.

    TH

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