Measuring The Circle:

Armed only with a Ring of Confidence, Bob looks towards the Fortean future.


SOME THOUGHTS ON THE PASSING OF WILLIAM CORLISS and ABOUT HIS LEGACY

As I put together the Fortean Times obituary for William Corliss [1], it provided much food for thought: on comparisons between him and Fort, on his Sourcebook ‘mission' and his method, and on what lessons they may hold for today's Fortean researchers.

William Corliss in his study, 1993

On his ‘bizarre history' blog, ‘Dr Beachcombing' - who called Corliss "the world's greatest living anomalist" - made direct comparisons with Charles Fort. "It is not so much the similarities between the two men as the differences that matter. Fort was a visionary and, despite his denials, knew it. Corliss had a sense of humour that only the non-committed can enjoy. Fort took reports wherever he would find them. Corliss tended to restrict his searches to academically accredited works. Fort was on the soft end of the humanities with prose to match, Corliss was a scientist with remarkable range and a usefully bland style. Fort was a one man Punch and Judy show who published five books and attracted disciples: ‘Forteans swarmed to him like settlers, he became a land'. [2] Corliss created a system of anomaly collection that transcended him and that will hopefully survive his death. It would be absurd to talk of Corlissians." [3]

The legacy of each of these two men is astounding, not just in their scope and extent, but their uniqueness and in sharing the necessity of a largely solitary, plodding determination in an area that few men have tackled in all of history. Consequently, attempts to compare the two are probably unavoidable but inevitably misleading. To call Corliss "the latter-day, and much more scientific, successor" to Charles Fort, as Arthur C. Clarke does - in his Astounding Days: A Science Fictional Autobiography (1990) - is an over-simplification. We simply have no way satisfactory of assessing these trail blazers because, in my view, their quite different approaches complemented each other and there is room for both. I take DrB's points in no particular order before I present Corliss' own view of these matters, including what he called "the genesis of the Sourcebook Project".

DIFFERENCES IN STYLE AND AUTHENTICITY
In his (Unexplained!, 2003), the encyclopaedist and UFO historian Jerry Clark described the tone of the Sourcebooks as "essentially conservative in outlook," compared to the general run of writers about anomalous phenomena, Fort included.

"Unlike Fort," Clark continues, "Corliss selects his material almost exclusively from scientific journals like Nature and Science, not newspapers, so it has already been subjected to a filtering process which would have removed most hoaxes and reports from obvious cranks." Technically, this is true; however, Corliss includes newspaper accounts - "I admit to weakening on rare occasions," he told me [6] - but only where they meet his criteria for the authentic voice of the primary observer; he also flags such a story as from a non-scientific source. Fort, too, gives primary material but, typically, delivers slices of it as filling in a philosophical sandwich and to illustrate one of his points.

Clark's parenthetical "not newspapers" might not have been meant unkindly but it is, unfortunately, close to the argument used by some militant ‘skeptics' to disparage Fort as a mystery-monger who can't be trusted because he got all his stories from newspapers. To any student of Fort's writing, this is nonsense. Before he began his great trawl through the newspaper files available to him, Fort found "rich pickings" in the works of the great authorities of his day and the debates about their ideas and discoveries. In my introduction to the John Brown edition of Book of the Damned (1995), I sought to point out evidence of Fort's close attention to orthodox sources. [4] Fort had noted "a general change in the editorial attitudes of scientific journals between 1860 and 1890, before which period they were happy to print notices from correspondents, usually first-hand observations or discoveries of some anomaly or other." Fort then adds that in his own references, citations of such serious publications as the American Journal of Science and the Report of the British Association become scarce after 1885.

Fort and Corliss had trudged, one after the other, down the same dusty, book-lined library stacks. Fort wrote : "I have gone into the outer darkness of scientific and philosophical transactions and proceedings, ultra-respectable, but covered with the dust of disregard." [11] On this intellectual adventure, I think Corliss and Fort were in perfect agreement. Corliss has been candid about the satisfaction the research gives him. "My greatest thrill," mused Corliss, "was in my forays through the long files of Nature, Science, English Mechanic, the Monthly Weather Review, the Geological Magazine, and like journals. There, anomalies and curiosities lurked in many an issue, hidden under layers of library dust. These tedious searches were hard on the eyes, but they opened them to a universe not taught by my college professors!" Fort would add: "I have plodded for more than twenty years in the libraries of New York and London. There are millions of persons who would think this a dreary existence ... but the challenge ... the excitements, the finds." Corliss nods: "The search itself is everything!"

Yes, there were also differences. Corliss, an educator at heart, chose to compile ‘sourcebooks' and deliberately rejected the idea of writing up his research in a popular style. He decided that unadulterated reporting of primary accounts of anomalies was important in convincing his target audience - scientists - and that his Sourcebooks would not be ‘more of the same' but "extensions" of Fort's books. "They differ from Fort's books," he wrote, "in that the original sources are usually reprinted completely, and are categorized and indexed. Thus, although they lack Fort's humor and philosophy, the sourcebooks are better for research." Both Loren Coleman, on his ‘Cryptomundo' blog [5] , and Ben Radford, psychologist and deputy editor of the science magazine Skeptical Inquirer [6] , agreed on this difference, and that where Fort editorialised, Corliss did not. Radford explained: "Corliss was a scientist, and as a scientist he recognized what many Forteans could not: that evidence and proof of strange phenomenon is best gathered, not from dubious anecdotes by anonymous sources, but by knowledgeable experts and scientists. He was genuinely curious about anomalies and saw them as part of science, not apart from it."

I think most Forteans would agree that named sources are more authentic and less dubious than anonymous ones, but probably argue about how one man's ‘dubious' is another's ‘anomalous'.
Fort, however, unlike Corliss, wrote for a general reader and he was looking for "the interaction of things" and examples of what he called ‘interconnectedness' and ‘continuity' - ie. phenomena which transcended or bridged orthodox categorisation. Fort saw a philosophical problem with boundaries and definitions; "Every definition," he suggested, "is only relative to other definitions which are, themselves, relative." [7] I imagine that this is the sort of nightmarish uncertainty that would make most practical scientists bristle.

Fort was not complete without a system of categories. By necessity, he had developed his own: pencilled notes in his own personal shorthand [8] on tiny squares of paper (carefully torn or cut from folded larger sheets) and filed in "a wall covered with pigeon-holes" (made form shoeboxes). His categories were not the hierarchies of precision that Corliss chose, but an eccentric and eclectic range of topics that were Platonic-style qualities or attributes. As Fort described it: "I ended up with 40,000 notes arranged under 1,300 headings, such as ‘Harmony', ‘Equilibrium', ‘Catalysts', ‘Saturation'," and so on. [9]

Fort's shoebox filing system, now in New York Public Library

These "1,300 hell hounds jibing", jibed only for Fort. They were private and raw research notes that he probably never expected the share with anyone else and might have done things differently if he had; but the resulting write-ups of them he happily served up to his public. Corliss, on the other hand, knew from the start that the credibility of his project lay in presenting the original testimony, intact and unadulterated by literary intrusions. In this regard, he wrote: "I believe my collection is unique. It transcends modern computerized data bases in its very wide time frame and its focus on the anomalous and curious." What Fort might have accomplished with the aid of the modern library systems and computers that were available to Corliss we shall never know ... assuming that he shared Corliss' interest in systemising.

I'd also like to add that, contrary to some critics - who apparently have not read Fort in any depth - he did research as far as he was able. Admittedly this was not ‘field' research, but he did, time and again, write off to folk mentioned in news stories and to the correspondent of various journals and papers to check their facts or get additional information. He also expressed regret that so few wrote back.

Fort's notes 1  Fort note 2

ON ICONOCLASM AND THE VALUE OF ANOMALIES
In his researches, Fort sought examples in which scientists had been wrongly arrogant and authoritarian about or suppressing new data or ideas, particularly when they were upholding an orthodox theory or, more seriously, a professional reputation. He was at his most observant - or sarcastic, depending upon your view - in Lo! , noting: "No scientist has ever upheld a new idea, without bringing upon himself abuse from other scientists. Science has done its utmost to prevent whatever science has done." [10] Later, and more wittily, in Wild Talents, he wrote: "Every science is a mutilated octopus. If its tentacles were not clipped to stumps it would feel its way into disturbing contacts." [11]

To some extent, Corliss agreed, as he believed a scientist had as much a duty to anomalies as to the regular data. He told FT, "Organized science should have been compiling such information over the past 200 years," he told us. "It is surprising that a Catalog of Anomalies does not already exist to guide scientific thinking and research. It is at least as important to realize what is anomalous as it is to recognize the well-explained facts of nature."

Here, then, is the real difference between Fort and Corliss; where Fort drew attention to failures of this duty, Corliss hoped to demonstrate to scientists the value of studying and learning from anomalies. He made point in most of his Sourcebook introductions with a favourite quotation from William James: "Anyone will renovate his science who will steadily look after the irregular phenomena; and when the science is renewed, its new formulas often have more of the voice of the exceptions in them than of what were supposed to be the rules."

What excited Corliss most was the prospect of stumbling upon some unexpected anomalous datum with the potential to destabilize paradigms and accelerate scientific change "The philosophical foundation stones of the clockwork universe are eroding fast," he wrote. "The idea that nature is in balance, that geological processes are uniformitarian, that life evolved in small, random steps, and that the cosmos is deterministic. The sheer abundance of anomalies is a driving force behind this change."

He added that "anomaly research, while not science per se, has the potential to destabilize paradigms and accelerate scientific advances." Forteans, by themselves, he believed, "may stimulate scientific revolutions but cannot carry them through." As examples, he pointed to Velikovsky, Wilhelm Reich and von Daniken, whose publicising of anomalies in orthodox thinking had "barely perturbed science". Besides, he added, their advocacy was distinctly anti-science and their authoritarian tone "un-Fortean".

"If there is one thing that Fort did not get across well," he points out, "it was an appreciation of the true extent of the anomalous data, the great bulk of which still ticks away like a time-bomb amidst dusty library shelves." It may represent only a tiny fraction of non-fictional literature "but over the centuries this is still a great deal." Again this point of difference is down to their different purposes. Throughout his four main books, Fort would stop and say, as an aside, that he had many more examples of this or that, as if to underline that this phenomenon was not a mere fancy but required serious attention.

Another comparison that might be made was elaborated by Tiffany Thayer in his introduction to the 1941 volume of Fort's ‘collected works', where he alluded to Fort as "a Titanic destroyer". Thayer, it will be remembered, saw Fort in a heroic, jeering mould, mounting a single-handed assault upon what he saw science as a deceitful, arrogant, ruthless, monolithic, authoritarian and morally bankrupt organisation. His Fort "roared at his subject" and "packed a belly laugh in either typewriter hand".

Of course some of us disagree with this view but, nevertheless, this is the rhetorical ‘straw man' image of Fort that some ‘skeptics' of today still like to employ in their critiques. Compared to that (in my view, wrong) image of Fort, Corliss was an opposite; a conservative (as Jerry puts it), a scholar and professional scientist who tackled head on the problematic task of classifying anomalies scientifically. In this sense it is probably more helpful to see Fort in the tradition of the great historians, geographers and explorers, who first sensitised the world to wondrous new things and ways of thinking; and Corliss in the tradition of the systematising scientists who followed them and brought order out of the chaos of observations, experiments and discoveries. Corliss built on and improved the ground that Fort first surveyed, and sooner or later another hero will build a science upon Corliss' foundations. We need all of them.

ON EXTENT AND METHOD, AND SOME RETICENCE
Let me give you an idea of the scope of Corliss' magnum opus. Corliss describes his ‘Catalogs' as "a massive hoard of scientific enigmas, paradoxes, and esoterica" ie. "some 50,000 items gleaned from a 30-year survey of about 16,000 volumes of science journals and magazines from 1820 to date". This compares directly with Charles Fort's own collections; at one point Fort had 40,000 notes collected over nearly 40 years from journals, papers and books published between 1800-1930. Mind you, Fort did, in a fit of depression, destroy his collection more than once - "because they were not what I wanted" - and begin all over again.

It is difficult to quantify just how much of his great project has been published; not only were Corliss' ideas about it changing and expanding the more he researched for it, it changed format several times. It began in 1974, with Strange Phenomena in a ring-binder, and by 1978 ten had been published. Overlapping this he began a series of six hardbound ‘handbooks'. The main series of ‘Catalogs' began in 1986, since when, out of a projected 35 volumes, at least 22 have been published, colour coded for the different scientific disciplines.

sourcebooks

There have also been two paperback collections of his newsletter Science Frontiers; the first volume, published in 1994, contained a sample of about 1500 such digests from the first 86 issues of his newsletter covering the period 1976-1993. The second, published in 2004, covers the period 1994-2004 and contains about 1200 digests. That's a rough rate of about 1000 a year, so when he died, he might well have had another 7,000-10,000 waiting publication from his newsletter alone. At this point we have only a sketchy idea of what Catalogs were ‘in progress'. In 2003, Corliss published another dense paperback - Scientific Anomalies and Other Provocative Phenomena ... which, this time, contained not anomalies, but a detailed laying-out of his category system: some four levels of 6,000 headings. In May 2008, he told me this had now expanded to 10,000 headings. [6]

One of the interesting aspects of Scientific Anomalies, is that you can see whole sections of Corliss' structure on which he has not - yet - published. In particular, there is a final miscellaneous section (with an ‘X' code) which includes, "cold fusion; morphic resonance; chaos; gravitation; magic numbers; pi; primes; destiny; aliens; UFOs; crop circles; coincidences; hidden messages; nominative determinism; and humour." (my emphasis) In a letter to me, he expressed some reservations about "the sheer volume of UFO, cryptozoological, and parapsychological claims, etc, that must logically be considered Fortean. Only a small fraction of such material would meet my standards. I would hate to have my material mixed in with and identified with this sort of stuff and judged to be of the same value." My interpretation is that he was not worried by mixing such (selected) material into the Catalogs - otherwise why would he collect it? - but rather he could not afford to be seen showing a double standard (one for scientific anomalies and another for ‘Fortean' stuff). He feared it might undermine his years of patient work and the quality of his mission.

Corliss had no concerns that he would run out of material, even if he raised the bar on standards. In his opinion, "Fort merely skimmed off some of the cream ... not only is the foreign literature largely untapped, but little has been done with the last 50 years of anomalies, excepting for extensive files of newspaper clippings dealing mainly with UFOs and monsters." And as for new fields of knowledge: "Truly revolutionary data that Fort never imagined may come from radio astronomy, the cell nucleus, and the offices of psychologists."

CORLISS ON CORLISS
We know so little about Corliss' life that we are hugely grateful that he supplied an illuminating cameo to an early issue of Fortean Times. [12] Bill confessed to FT that "my own Fortean proclivities did not begin with Charles Fort", but rather with the Canadian geologist and creationist George McCready Price. He found Price's priceEvolutionary Geology and the New Catastrophism (1926), one day in 1951, among some second-hand books in Berkeley. "This was my first encounter with ‘outlaw science'. Price had collected many facts that he claimed undermined conventional geology and supported catastrophic hypotheses, such as the Biblical Deluge and worked contrary to the geological and biological philosophies set in motion by Lyell and Darwin. Once my mind was adjusted to the heresy of it all, I quickly discovered the Crehore atom [atomic origin of gravitation], the Drayson theory [a tilting pole causes catastrophes] and, finally, in 1953, in the University of Colorado library, the works of Charles Fort."

Interestingly, he is unapologetic about describing his "discovery of the Fortean world" as an illumination. "My first contacts with Fort were identical in psychic content to my first heady encounters with Baconian science. It took but a short while for me to realize that honest science and honest Forteanism are one and the same." He saw what many critics of Fort's work could not, that neither Fort nor his data were a threat to ‘honest science'. Corliss advocated a better attitude, one exemplified by a quotation from William James with which he prefaced most of his books. "Anyone will renovate his science who will steadily look after the irregular phenomena; and when the science is renewed, its new formulas often have more of the voice of the exceptions in them than of what were supposed to be the rules."

Corliss also explained why his Sourcebooks had a genesis different to that of most Fortean literature. "During the 1960s," continued Corliss, "I began to collect books and papers on the borderlands of science." Soon he realized that something ‘different' had to be done "if any of the enigmas being regurgitated ad nauseam in the literature were ever to be understood." He felt that almost all of these books and papers "advocated one hypothesis or another" - even the authors of syntheses of carefully collected data "saw the universe through his own particular set of glasses - and yet, "above all the isms and dogmas are the data, the supreme arbiters, the facts that do not fit the prevailing theories."

By 1972 he was clear on his purpose: firstly "the scope of the Fortean approach had to be broadened to include all areas of knowledge"; secondly "the scientific community must be brought in, for only they are more likely to come up with more answers than questions"; and finally "the older Fortean data had to be rescued quickly and organized". [12]

And so, he embarked on the sourcebook project, not least because it was financially achievable and could begin with a limited scope and expand both the number of categories and layers of data ... and "as most of the material came from scientifically reputable sources , scientists could not object strenuously no matter how anomalous the data." He was particularly pleased that, at the same time, this approach rescued and preserved "those tidbits of data that Fort considered forever ‘damned'."

ON THE ATTRITION OF OLDER RESOURCES IN LIBRARIES
What informed Corliss' last point (above) was his observation that in large library systems "all data, particularly from the 19th century and earlier, was sinking rapidly out of sight." It was not that it was being destroyed as with the great library at Alexandria or in the temples of pre-Columbian America, he noted, they were simply becoming unavailable. "Libraries are increasingly expensive to operate and the older books and journals are too expensive to place in modern information retrieval systems. In some libraries books more than 10 years old are sold or stored somewhere where they are not available to the casual researcher. Soon, I am afraid, the only readily available data will be those that conventional wisdom has deemed worthy of indexing, cataloguing and computerizing. Is this not as effective as fire?"

From my own experience as editor of FT, many times our inquiries after archived material from national and local periodicals, we were stymied by the admission that older files, sometimes older than five years, had been disposed of or were no longer kept. The explanation given often blamed a shortage of space, or staff or budgets.

At the same time, there had been an exponential growth of the amount of literature - "the last 50 years of Fortean data may far exceed all previous data," he wrote - it was suffering attrition in libraries. Partly due to increased costs, libraries were putting older material into storage or selling it off. This is one reason why he determined to collect and publish himself.

The problem is compounded when you go beyond English-language sources. Corliss said of his own work, "I have trawled through only a small fraction of the English-language journals. Untouched are thousands of books, monographs, doctoral theses, and foreign-language sources. Fort, felt the same, and when he came upon an exotic foreign source in English his delight was extreme: "I have resources. One of them is Al-Moghreb. Al-Moghreb is mine own discovery." [13]

WHAT'S NEXT?
On the first two important points made by Corliss for the attention of those of us continuing the general work, we can agree that the remit should be as wide as feasible; to be inclusive is the Fortean way. While there should be no bar to the types of subjects we research, Corliss is absolutely right that all branches of science are essential to the general enquiry; he may even be right that they should be the core of our enquiry. Corliss is the exemplar of the scientific Fortean and it will be difficult to find anyone with his combination of experience, training, knowledge, skills and time to pursue data collection on such a scale and to such a degree of rigour. Until then, of course, many of us must fill in the gaps as best we can.

On the third point - the attrition - of archive sources, there is mixed news. As paper archives and the access to them is dwindling, the number of electronic archives with internet access is increasing; slowly, but increasing. So too is the range of hardware and software tools which, with advances in imaging technology, internet networking and data storage, have made on-line searching much easier. Of the tasks that Corliss endorsed, we must concentrate on the following: the collection of data from older sources, newer sources, and foreign language sources, including those not included in the searches made by Fort and Corliss. In addition we must be systematic about our storage of such data and make it accessible to other researches, whether by indexing, cataloguing or other forms of publishing.

There are not many of us doing some of this work - by which I mean specifically archival research - and even fewer doing all of it. Besides a significant number of individual researchers the following groups of scholars have begun, each in their own way:

Magonia Exchange - Chris Aubeck's closed email forum for pre-1947 anomaly research was formed in 2003 to seek out reports of UFO-like phenomena before the advent of the first modern cases in 1947 - see http://postcardfrommagonia.blogspot.com/ - but has since found the collective interests of its members embracing more classically Fortean topics. Membership, by invitation only, has now passed 70 members, and includes academic historians in overseas universities to home-grown researchers, who search on-line news and periodical archives and pool their discoveries on the Yahoo forum, augmented with translations of foreign and archaic material. Not related to Magonia the UFO discussion periodical. Chris tells me that this September the number of posts will reach 14,000. Chris' own book (with Jacques Vallee) Wonders of the Sky (2011), which catalogues 500 reports of pre-1947 UFO-type reports going back into antiquity, demonstrates the quality of data emerging from this group. http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/magonia_exchange/

AFU - the Archives fur Ufologie group -- was founded in 1973, in Sweden, by Clas Svahn, Håkan Blomqvist, Anders Liljegren and a band of other Swedish ufologists. Initially they came together to collect UFO-related material and publications, but have branched out and now embrace cryptozoology, psychical phenomena and Forteana generally. Their efforts have been rewarded by an impressive expansion. Recently, Clas told me: "AFU is growing all the time. I have brought much of the BUFORA files there, a part of FSRs, Contact International and other British groups. We are now 350 square meters and 10 employees working full time. Mostly with scanning, cataloguing and indexing books and magazines ... And the good thing about AFU is that we are now getting money for keeping the employees from the local unemployment agency. Thanks to that we have bought a new server and eight new computers with scanners and have a solid economy ... All this makes it possible to help UFOlogists from all over the world, and other researchers, with information. It is really a dream come true even though we are just in the beginning of it all." Only a few weeks ago the late Hilary Evans donated to AFU his unique collection of books and periodicals, which was hauled back to Sweden by a fleet of cars ... more than five metric tonnes of it. http://www.afu.info/

CFI - our own Charles Fort Institute - www.forteana.org - was first mooted and endorsed at a Fortean Times UnConvention in 1999. and endorsed by with broadly the same aims as AFU and Magonia Exchange but with the focus on Forteana and with the additional aim of building a national collection and archive. CFI was particularly interested in providing education, research, publications and information services. Its progress has been hampered by lack of funds and people with time to spare. It has been the recipient of a small number of private collections, with others promised by way of bequests in wills, including my own. Resources are seriously needed for housing and cataloguing.

At the moment all three and a host of individuals are all pulling in the same direction but separately. My fervent hope is that we can all find a way of working together. Not only would we benefit from each other's experience, our collective numbers would underline the seriousness of our purpose. It's the only sensible solution to the scarcity of time and money, and would secure the legacy of Fort and Corliss. Let's make it happen!

~bR

PS -Since posting this, I have had a communication from Virginia Corliss, Bill's wife of nearly 61 years. She confirmed that the family will continue to offer -- for mail order from the Sourcebook Project address: Box 107, Glen Arm, MD21057, USA -- what of his books and newsletters remain in print. Of reprints, we may know later. Of the works in progress she says: "There will be no new publications now," ... but we can hope some way will be found in the future. Of his "library and masses of research material" she adds, "will remain intact." (Letter, 11 August 2011.)

NOTES

1 - My Corliss obituary appears in Fortean Times 280 (Oct 2011).

2 - I'd like to know where that quotation came from. It has an echo of Fort's opening passages of New Lands (1923) : "Land in the sky - that they are nearby - that they do not move ..." etc.  3 Sept: Dr Beach emailed me saying "the line of poetry is an adaption (sorry!) of a line of Auden on Edward Lear." I found the poem here, the last line of which reads: "And children swarmed to him like settlers. He became a land." Nice to know.

3 - Dr Beachcombing - http://www.strangehistory.net/

4 - Page 226 of the JBP edition, citing pages 239-240 in the Complete Books of Charles Fort (ie. ch.17 of Book of the Damned).

5 - http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoology/cryptozoology/

6 - personal correspondence.

7 - This foreshadows, remarkably, Karl Popper's observation in The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959) : "The old scientific ideal of episteme - of absolutely certain demonstrable knowledge - has proved to be an idol. The demand for scientific objectivity makes it inevitable that every scientific statement must remain tentative forever. It may indeed be corroborated, but every corroboration is relative to other statements which are, again, relative."

8 - Some of Fort's rough notes were published by Tiffany Thayer in the old Fortean Society journal, Doubt. An American Fortean, Carl Pabst, devoted himself to deciphering Fort's notes, painstakingly transcribing them from the scraps of paper now kept in the Library of Congress. Some transcriptions were published in Pursuit, the journal of SITU (the defunct Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained). "Pabst worked for over 20 years on this project before his recent death [1973] and had managed to catalogue all of Fort's notes up to the year 1856. The rest are still in shoe boxes - a crime against science if ever there was one," wrote Joseph Trainor, reprinted in his UFO Roundup (v.10, n28, 13 July 2005) [My emphasis, in the light of Corliss' statement that science really ought to be doing more about anomalies.]

9 - Fort's categories were first outlined by himself in a letter to the Chicago Daily News, written in response to a telegram query from the paper's reviews editor. This interest arose because of the enthusiastic review of Book of the Damned (1919) by the screenwriter/novelist Ben Hecht in the same paper a few days earlier, in which he announced to the world: "Henceforth I am a Fortean." A few other famous names of the day also raved about Fort's "curious genius", so the editor requested Fort to tell them a bit about himself. I have a copy of the review but, I'm sorry to say, can't find it right now when I want it.

10 - For a major study of the constant strife within science between the status quo and how it reacts to new facts and theories which threaten its dominance, see Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970). Kuhn shows how, almost reflexively, the new is given a hard time, sometimes resisted, ignored or even suppressed, until the force of evidence causes a ‘paradign shift' and a new equilibrium is reached.

11 - Throughout, my quotations from Fort come mostly from Book of the Damned (1919), Lo! (1931) and Wild Talents (1932)

12 - ‘The Evolution of the Fortean Sourcebooks', Fortean Times 7 p.18-19 (Nov.1974).

13 - Al-Moghreb is said to be the oldest English language newspaper in North Africa. It was established in 1937 and published from Morocco.

 

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