WHY FORTEAN?

Fortean Times - - Letters -

FORTEAN TIMES is a monthly mag­a­zine of news, re­views and re­search on strange phe­nom­ena and ex­pe­ri­ences, cu­riosi­ties, prodi­gies and por­tents. It was founded by Bob Rickard in 1973 to con­tinue the work of Charles Fort (1874–1932).

Born of Dutch stock in Al­bany, New York, Fort spent many years re­search­ing sci­en­tific lit­er­a­ture in the New York Pub­lic Li­brary and the Bri­tish Mu­seum Li­brary. He mar­shalled his ev­i­dence and set forth his phi­los­o­phy in The Book of

the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo! (1931), and Wild

Tal­ents (1932). He was scep­ti­cal of sci­en­tific ex­pla­na­tions, ob­serv­ing how sci­en­tists ar­gued ac­cord­ing to their own be­liefs rather than the rules of ev­i­dence and that in­con­ve­nient data were ig­nored, sup­pressed, dis­cred­ited or ex­plained away. He crit­i­cised mod­ern sci­ence for its re­duc­tion­ism, its at­tempts to de­fine, di­vide and sep­a­rate. Fort’s dic­tum “One mea­sures a cir­cle be­gin­ning any­where” ex­presses in­stead his phi­los­o­phy of Con­ti­nu­ity in which ev­ery­thing is in an in­ter­me­di­ate and tran­sient state be­tween ex­tremes.

He had ideas of the Uni­verse-asor­gan­ism and the tran­sient na­ture of all ap­par­ent phe­nom­ena, coined the term ‘tele­por­ta­tion’, and was per­haps the first to spec­u­late that mys­te­ri­ous lights seen in the sky might be craft from outer space. How­ever, he cut at the very roots of credulity: “I con­ceive of noth­ing, in religion, sci­ence or phi­los­o­phy, that is more than the proper thing to wear, for a while.”

Fort was by no means the first per­son to col­lect anom­alies and oddities – such col­lec­tions have abounded from Greece to China since an­cient times. Fortean

Times keeps alive this an­cient task of dis­pas­sion­ate weird-watch­ing, ex­plor­ing the wild fron­tiers be­tween the known and the un­known.

Be­sides be­ing a jour­nal of record, FT is also a fo­rum for the dis­cus­sion of ob­ser­va­tions and ideas, how­ever ab­surd or un­pop­u­lar, and main­tains a po­si­tion of benev­o­lent scep­ti­cism to­wards both the ortho­dox and un­ortho­dox.

FT toes no party line.

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