I never met the man who coined the term "sci-fi" and founded and edited the magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland, but it's safe to say that had I not made his acquaintance via the aforementioned publication, I rather doubt I'd be...well, sitting here writing this.Or rather, that I would have done all the things that led up to my sitting here writing this. Which is to say that there are probably more than a couple of cinephiles out there whose love of film grew out of an early love for fantastic film, and that in the '60s and '70s nothing fed a kid's jones for fantastic film like Famous Monsters. Ackerman's enthusiastic evocations of horror pics from the golden age could set one off on wild flights of fancy about the films themselves if you hadn't yet seen them. I vividly remember his in-depth article about the above-pictured Werewolf of London. I hadn't seen the picture before I'd read it, and I'm not sure if the picture itself would have taken such a tight hold of me when I did see it had I not read Ackerman's rhapsody first. Even today, watching the film has a peculiarly galvanic effect, and it's always tied to the recollected anticipation of actually getting to see it, which was roiled by the Famous Monsters article.
The treasure trove of arcana that spilled from the pages of every issue of that mag also constituted one of the very best escapes one had from the tedium and humiliation of life as a spindly, bookish, suspected-of-being-spastic grade-school outcast in '60s suburban New Jersey. Or at least so I've been given to understand.
In any case, I owe him a lot. He passed away today at the gratifyingly old age of 92. The Los Angeles Times blog has an excellent obituary, and I'm sure there are more than one or two of you out there with some thoughts.