Saturday, November 22, 2008

Forrest J Ackerman: a Martian Oddity

Later today, Ray Bradbury will lead a birthday celebration in a California bookshop in honor of his longtime friend and ailing sci-fi über-fan Forrest J Ackerman, who turns 92 years old on November 24th. For my own tribute, I've pulled a passage from the introduction to Martianthology (2003), in which Forry explains how his “A Martian Oddity,” a two-and-a-half page piece of short fiction originally published in Marvel Science Stories in 1950, made it into the anthology:
Several years ago when Barsoom made its closest approach to Jasoom (Mars to Earth in Burroughs’s language) I was invited by the management of the Griffith Observatory cum planetarium on the hilltop overlooking the now-sold Ackermansion and Hollywood to entertain and educate an eager audience as to how our neighbor world was seen through the imaginative eyes of Edgar Rice Burroughs (John Carter of Mars), Stuart J. Byrne (Tarzan on Mars), Ray Bradbury (The Martian Chronicles), HG Wells (The War of the Worlds) and other practitioners of the sci-fi genre.

This was before a rocket from Earth had actually visited the 4th planet and photos had shown it to be a sandy red surface pockmarked by meteor impacts, no life-sustaining atmosphere.

Gone the romantic canals, the mono-manned flyers, the six-legged riding throats, the Mars men who could remove their heads and protect them under their arms, charismatic princess Thora and Llana of Gathol, lashing swords thrusting through putrid hearts in their defense and honor.

For exotic/erotic visions of Mars we had to turn back the clock and turn the pages recording the imaginings of science fiction imaginers.

During the course of the lecture I read my short humorous story
A Martian Oddity,” the title an homage to Stanley G. Weinbaum’s watershed classic “A Martian Odyssey,” and was gratified to find my little farce greeted by a gale of laughter. I include it in this collection and hope it will similarly amuse you!
Happy Birthday, Forry! Best wishes for a healthy recovery.

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