Like many people of my generation and older who love monsters, one of the magazines that nurtured this passion when I was a kid was Famous Monsters of Filmland started by the late Forrest J. Ackerman. The magazine had its ups and downs over the years, but it is back, not only in terms of offering website content, but also in a new print edition set for publishing in the summer of 2010. This is good news for fans of the magazine from the past, and a new generation of fans who will discover it in the present.
Philip Kim, Senior Manager for Famous Monsters, shared a few responses to some questions in a recent interview.
TheoFantastique: Phil, thanks for making some time for us to talk. To begin, can you share how you came to appreciate horror and science fiction, and the original Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine?
Philip Kim: Silicon Valley in the 70's was the most incredible place on the planet. The amount of energy and technology that was developing was unreal. Science fiction became fact. I suppose I was a product of that environment. I grew up in San Jose watching Creature Features on Friday nights, Godzilla reruns on rainy Saturday mornings and playing D&D and building models. I spent a large amount of my preteen time and income at the comic-shops. Just couldn't get enough. I don't remember where it was but my first issue was in 1977, #137. I saw the Yearbook with all the Star Wars pics on the cover and had to have it. Much like Forry, I was a huge sci-fi fan. It was a valued part of my literary arsenal. Unfortunately, that issue was the beginning of the end for Warren Publishing.
TheoFantastique: For those who may not be familiar with some of the history, can you briefly sketch Forrest Ackerman's founding of the magazine, the legal problems for the publication that followed, and how you eventually came to be involved with the project?
Philip Kim: Okay, so a brief synopsis. 1958, Warren and Ackerman give birth to a phenomena. FM becomes part of our culture until it shuts down in 1983. There was much speculation about the reasoning for the demise. Warren Publishing had lost out to newcomers such as Fangoria, Starlog, etc. Some say that the move away from a painted cover to a more conventional photo cover had been the start...consequently this happened to be my introductory issue. Go figure. In 1993, a fan named Ray Ferry revived FM with Ackerman back at the helm. Between the conventions and the print, things were going well until egos flared. Ferry stopped paying Ackerman and Ackerman walked. Ferry continued to print under pseudonyms of Ackerman, which ended in a victorious lawsuit for Ackerman. Unfortunately, the settlement would never be paid. Ferry filed bankruptcy and seven years later, I was awarded the ownership after a successful bid through the bankruptcy courts. But the fun didn't end there.
TheoFantastique: What will your approach be for the new magazine? Will you attempt to blend the ways in which the original magazine dealt with its subject matter, coupled with new treatments of the topics to appeal to contemporary readers, or will you consider a different way forward?
Philip Kim: FM has birthed a lot of fans. These fans went on to do great things. All of them had an idea of how FM impacted their lives and career. This was the essence of the publication, to get aspiring creatives to reach their goal. To make fantasies and dreams a closer reality. FM wants to be a part of that again but our challenge is a new generation and an ever-changing landscape. Unlike a new publication, FM does not have the luxury of trial and error. Existing fans will expect a certain element of nostalgia; young readers will want current relevance. It's not hard to weave the two together if you have the people and the talent.
TheoFantastique: Do you think the web format for the magazine presents new opportunities not possible for a more traditional print publication?
Philip Kim: I can tell you that the Internet has forever changed print. The days of deadlines and breaking news are over for print. The web is where you get the news, rantings and social connections. The web gives you a connection that print could never do. But print gives you the longtail. Print becomes historical reference. Print gives you legitimacy because it is tactile and rich. A website without a print companion can disappear faster than it came in.
TheoFantastique: Every horror and sci fi fan loves a good trailer of coming attractions. Do you have any projects you're working on for viewers and readers that you'd like to share?
Philip Kim: I came to own FM during the production of two sci-fi features. The first is Radio Free Albemuth (a Philip K. Dick novel adaptation), which is still in post-production, and my second film which is Downstream. Downstream is an original story that I wrote. About three years ago, my hometown had lost power for 36 hours. The meat and milk went bad and we couldn't get on the Internet. I had never been without power for that long. I realized that our civilization is always 36 hours away from the Dark Ages. Downstream is releasing in a limited number of theaters around the country.
TheoFantastique: Phil, thanks again for your time and for sharing your great work.