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Articles
Things That Might Have Been
by Stephen Jones
 
2014
Les Edwards—One of the Gang
by Stephen Jones
 
2010
Edgar Allan Poe: Double Century, Double Bill
by Stephen Jones
 
2008
The Ackermonster and Me:
Forrest J Ackerman (1917–2008)
by Stephen Jones
My Friend, Chris Wicking
by Stephen Jones
Karl Edward Wagner Special Award Winner: Ray Harryhausen
by Stephen Jones
 
2007
Stephen Jones: Loving The Idiots
by Neil Gaiman
The Creative Spirit
by Christopher Fowler
 
2004
What Price Integrity?
by Stephen Jones
Three Weeks With the Undead
by Stephen Jones
 
2002
Growing Up in a World of Gods and Monsters
by Stephen Jones
 
2001
R. Chetywnd-Hayes: An Appreciation
by Stephen Jones
 
1996
A Fellowship of Fantasy: A Personal Reminiscence of The British Fantasy Society
by Stephen Jones
 
The Ackermonster and Me: Forrest J Ackerman (1916–2008) by Stephen Jones
 
Photo © 2000 Mandy Slater
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones, Los Angeles 2000
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones, Los Angeles 2000

As a boy growing up in 1960s Britain, I was not able to go see horror movies as you had to (usually) be 16 years or older. However, around the middle of the decade—at the age of 11 or so—I discovered Forrest J Ackerman's Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine in a local newsagents (issue No.36, to be precise).

I could now legally read about and look at pictures from films I could not yet go to the cinema to see (and many that had never been released in the UK at all!). It was a life-line for this young monster fan, and directly led to my forty or so years (so far) working in the genre.

 
Photo © 1985 Jo Fletcher
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones at a Halloween radio broadcast in Los Angeles, October 1985
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones
at a Halloween radio broadcast in Los Angeles, October 1985
 
Photo © 1993 John L. Coker, III
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones at the Famous Monsters Convention in Arlington, Virginia, May 1993
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones
at the Famous Monsters Convention in Arlington, Virginia, May 1993

For many years, my bedroom in my parents' flat in London was a mini-version of the famous Ackermansion. My house today still is!

I first met Forry in 1975. I was visiting Los Angeles for a week with my family and every day I called the Ackermansion, only to get a recorded message. On the very last day of our trip—resigned to never making contact before my flight left—I called one last time, and started leaving my usual message when Forry picked up the phone! He had been away at a convention (in Australia, as I recall) and had just got back—no doubt to a message machine full of whining calls from a monster fan from the UK. I later realised he must have been exhausted, but he still invited me over there and then.

My mother put me in a cab with return fare and I was there within the hour. Forry not only gave me a personal tour of every floor of his home, but he also invited me to lunch (to what many years later I discovered was his favourite restaurant—the House of Pies in Los Feliz, although it seemed impossibly exotic to me at the time). We were joined by several other people (the only one I can recall now was movie collector Ron Borst) and I simply sat there in awe of everybody and everything. Even more so when the waitress dropped an entire bowl of hot soup in Forry's lap! Maybe it was the jet-lag, but he took it all in his stride and even reassured the distraught young girl that he was okay. Afterwards, he put me in a cab and made sure that the driver knew exactly where to take me. From then on, Forry and I began corresponding.

I never got a "Wanted: More Readers Like . . ." picture in Famous Monters, but my girlfriend at the time, Jo Fletcher, did. However, having started writing articles and other items for film magazines in the 1970s, I sent a set report from the science fiction film Xtro to Forry for FM. To my delight, he accepted it. I was unaware of the problems happening with the magazine, so that by the time it appeared in FM No.191 (1983)—although Forry's name was no longer on the masthead—I still had the honour of having the final article (along with the set photos I had taken) in the last issue of the "original" run of Famous Monsters.

After FM went down, the following year Forry invited me to be the British correspondent on his new magazine, Monsterland. Until Forry's inevitable split with the crooks who published the title, it was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.

 
Photo ©2000 Mandy Slater
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones at the Dark Delicacies signing for The Essential Monster Movie Guide in Los Angeles, 2000
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones
at the Dark Delicacies signing for The Essential Monster Movie Guide in Los Angeles, 2000
 
Photo © 2003 Mandy Slater
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones at the former's new bungalow in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, 2003
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones
at the former's new bungalow in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, 2003
Photo © 2004 Mandy Slater
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones with the original armature for King Kong in foreground at Dark Delicacies, April 18th, 2004
Forrest J Ackerman and Stephen Jones
with the original armature for King Kong in foreground at Dark Delicacies, April 18th, 2004

The first of Forry's birthday parties I attended (his 70th) was held around the same time at the Biltmore hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where I found myself sharing a table with many famous names. I attended several others over the years, including his 85th (where much to my surprise, I received a certificate for the "1st Annual 4E Awards"). The most recent only a couple of years ago for his 90th.

I couldn't have been more proud than when Forry sent me a copy of the first (and, as it turned out, only) volume of his Monsters & Imagi-Movies (1985) and my name was among the "13 Imagi-Movie Aficionados" he dedicated it to!

In 1993 he very kindly invited me to be his guest at the Famous Monsters Convention in Arlington, Virginia, where he paid for my membership and hotel. I had an amazing time, and made sure I came back for the second one in Los Angeles the following year.

Despite living on different sides of the Atlantic, I've lost count of the times we attended the same convention or book signing. We also shared many mutual friends. I was lucky enough to visit him and his wife Wendayne at the Ackermansion on Glendower Avenue on several other occasions (even taking author Ramsey Campbell with me one time), and also called on him in his bungalow is Los Feliz when he was forced to sell the Ackermansion to pay for his legal costs in his case against the publisher of the revived Famous Monsters.

Forry was always too trusting of strangers and never very lucky in business. Yet the only time I ever heard him complain was when the city of Los Angeles went back on an agreement to purchase the contents of the Ackermanison. I can only say that we should all be ashamed that his original collection was never properly preserved together under one roof and Forry made lifetime custodian of all he had acquired for posterity.

I guess that the pinnacle of our relationship was when I asked him to write the Introduction to my 1999 book The Essential Monster Movie Guide. Some years earlier we had discussed the possibility of his introducing a book I was planning to do about movie robots, but the project never happened. So when it came to putting together EMMG, I couldn't imagine asking anyone else to do it. As I expected, he turned in a wonderfully comprehensive piece that made the whole project worthwhile. I can still remember Peter Atkins driving us both to the signing for the US edition at Dark Delicacies in 2000 and Forry and I did not stop talking for the whole car trip!

I had always hoped that we would work on more projects together. However, I am grateful for all the times we did come together. Without Forry, I would not have the career I have today. Over five decades he was a huge influence on my career—as anyone who complains about the awful puns in my own writing will readily attest to!

He was due to attend my own 55th birthday party in Los Angeles in November when I learned a few days beforehand that he was terminally ill and was only expected to last a few days. That he still managed to hang on for several more weeks to say goodbye to friends and colleagues, as well as celebrating his 92nd birthday, is a testament to his kind heart and strength of character.

I refuse to say goodbye. I have felt the weight of mortality too many times in recent years. Over the past decade too many friends and contemporaries have gone, and I simply cannot—will not—believe that one of the most influential people in my life will no longer be around.

But, of course, he will be. In all those magazines on my shelves. And the books. And the photos. And the letters (I kept them all). And—perhaps most importantly of all—in the memories like those above that I will pass on to another generation of imagi-movie fans, just as he did with me all those years ago.

Not goodbye Forry, but simply au revior . . . until we meet again.


Copyright © Stephen Jones 2008. All rights reserved.

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