Charles Fort was a researcher and writer of anomalous phenomena, a satirist, and a skeptic. He had the ability to entertain the reader by making the normal seem abnormal, and conversely, the abnormal seem normal. His writing style has been described as being a distinctive blend of mocking humor, with a penetrating insight, and a calculated outrageousness.
Fort was self educated by spending enormous amounts of time in the New York City Library where he would read scientific journals, popular science magazines, and other scientific literature. This dedicated study provided him with a thorough knowledge of what was going on in the world in general. He was a maker and keeper of copious notes, many of which survive to this day. He began his writing career as a novelist, but initially could not get any of his ten books published, probably because of his mocking writing style. Eventually one of his novels, “The Outcast Manufacturers”, was published in 1906. The book received good reviews but was commercially unsuccessful.
In 1916, an inheritance from an uncle allowed Fort to quit his various day jobs, and to become a full time researcher and writer. He then began to write two books, and entitled them Theory X and theory Y. Theory X dealt with the notion that Martians were controlling events on earth. The Theory Y book dealt with a mysterious and sinister civilization at the South Pole. The books caught the attention of, Theodore Dreiser, also a writer, and he assisted Fort in an attempt to have the books published. But no publisher showed any interest. A disheartened Fort burned the two manuscripts, not being aware that eventually he would become famous, and the interest in his destroyed books would have been significant.
But Fort was not one to give up quickly. He resumed his studies and his writing and in 1919 completed his next book, “The Book of the Damned”. The title referred to the damned data Fort collected, data for which science could not account and the data was thus rejected or ignored. Theodore Dreiser again helped Fort to get the book published, and it became successful, and was reissued several times. The most recent reissue was in 1999 through Prometheus Books of Buffalo, New York.
Fort went on to publish several other books including, “New Lands”, first published in 1923, and also reissued several times by Ace Books, “Lo!”, first issued in 1931, and reissued several times by Ace Books, “Wild Talents”, first published in 1932, and reissued several times by Ace Books. There also is a collection of his books published by Dover Publications in 1998. It is entitled, “Complete Books of Charles Fort”.
Charles Fort was born in Albany, New York on August 6, 1874. He was of Dutch ancestry and had two younger brothers. Fort’s father apparently was a harsh parent, as related by Fort in his unpublished autobiography. When he was 18, probably following high school, he decided to see the world, and traveled through the western United States, Great Britain, and finally South Africa. It was there that he became seriously ill with malaria, or some other related disease. He returned home, and was nursed back to health by his father’s maid, Anna Filing. He developed a relationship with Anna, and in 1896 the two were married. The two eventually settled in the Bronx, New York. Fort survived by doing odd jobs, but his focus was on reading, study and writing.
For a while during Fort’s research and writing career, from 1924 to 1926, he and his wife Anna moved to London, England, so Fort could peruse the files of the British Museum. Although Fort was somewhat of a loner, while living in the Bronx, he had developed a circle of writer friends, and it is through them that he probably came in contact with Theodore Dreiser, who ended up helping him to have his later work published. Fort was known as a witty individual, a character trait that clearly comes out in his writing.
In his later years Fort suffered from poor health and failing eye sight. He also became aware that his writings had developed a cult-like following. He did nothing to encourage it, but the cult-like following still exists today. For a while there was a Fortean Society. Anomalous phenomena, are now frequently referred to as Fortean phenomena. At one time there was a Fortean Journal, and a newsletter, entitled Fortean Times. At the present time there is a Charles Fort Institute: His Life and His Times. There also is an active blog file on the web covering Fortean phenomena and events
In 1932, when Fort was only in his late fifties, his health deteriorated. He distrusted doctors, and refused to seek help for his worsening health. He also was in the middle of completing his manuscript entitled, “Wild Times”. He collapsed on May 3, 1932, was rushed to Royal Hospital, in the Bronx. His publisher rushed to the hospital to show Fort the advance copies of his latest manuscript, “Wild Times”. Later that day Fort passed away, probably of leukemia. He was interred in the Albany, New York family plot. He had accumulated 60,000 handwritten notes which were donated to the New York Public Library, the place where he had done most of his reading, self-education and research.
Charles Fort, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Fort
Charles Fort: His Life and Times, http://www.forteana.org
Hegelian Philosophy + Ostentatious Prose = Charles Fort, http://www.amazon.ca/Complete-Books-Charles-Fort/dp/0486230945
The Book of the Damned, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_the_Damned
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