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Charles Fort: His Life and Times

Compiled by Bob Rickard. Revision 7 June 1997. Copyright: 1979, 1997
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CONTENTS
NB: parts are unfinished works in progress.


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AUTOBIOGRAPHY

    Sometime around 1900, Charles Fort finished his only autobiographical writing - a fragmented manuscript called 'Many Parts' - which concerns his childhood in Albany, NY, up to his late teens. This was rescued by Mr X and published in Fortean Studies , Vol.1, 1994.

[unfinished]

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FICTION

    Fort learned his trade as a cub reporter with a special interest in crime and before he began work on his 'Fortean' books, wrote a considerable number of short stories for newspapers and weekly magazines. Most of these are lost, except for 'A Radical Corpuscle' (reprinted privately by Sam Moskowitz, (1976), and a small number located by the dilligent Canadian Fortean, Mr X (real name) and reprinted by the International Fortean Organization - eg: 'The Giant, The Insect, and the Philanthropic-looking Old Gentleman' in INFO Journal (Jan 1994).

THE OUTCAST MANUFACTURERS
  • 1909, (31 March) B.W. Dodge, N.Y. Hardback.
  • 1988, Printed Heritage Preservation Society, Washington DC. Reprint bound in strange green lino! Includes a different version of the first five chapters from 'Pearson's Magazine'.

 

[List of Fort's short stories - work in progress]

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NON-FICTION

    In 1915 Fort began two manuscripts. One was called 'X' and explored the idea that life on earth had been controlled by events or beings from Mars; the other, called 'Y' , presented evidence indicating that a sinister civilisation existed at the South Pole. Neither manuscript has been found. Fort sent a copy of 'X' to Dreiser with the comment: "You have at least one thing to be thankful for - I might have begun with 'A'." Dreiser, in an unpublished memoir of Fort, recalled: "It was so strange, so forceful, so beautiful that [..] it was certainly one of the greatest books I have ever read in my life."

    Besides his journalism, Fort wrote 10 novels, only one of which - The Outcast Manufacturers (1906) - was ever published. [unfinished]

    Fed up with the patent lack of interest in his books, Fort burnt the manuscripts of X and Y and started work on what became Book of the Damned , which Dreiser bullied his own publisher to put out in 1919.

    Fort went on to write three more books of encyclopaedic diversity. After Book of the Damned came New Lands (1923) - written in London and largely a satirical attack upon the pomposity of astronomers, who, he accused, "were led by a cloud of rubbish by day and a pillar of bosh by night." In 1929 he returned to New York and began work on Lo! (1931), which introduced his idea of teleportation and the organic universe.

    Thayer recalled that Fort wanted the book to be titled 'God and the Fishmonger' in reference to the great fall of periwinkles at Worcester in 1881; Aaron Sussman suggested 'If the Time has Come' in reference to Fort's idea that, say, steam-engines can only be invented when the time is right (despite the basic observations being available anytime someone, in any earlier period, observed water boiling). Thayer offered 'Lo!', refering to another of Fort's themes, that of astronomers who calculate the reappearance of a new star or comet's return, point to the sky saying "Lo!" and then nothing whatever can be seen there. Thayer noted: "Fort agreed to 'Lo!' at first hearing.

    According to Fort's biographer, Damon Knight, Fort's friend Aaron Sussman pointed out a page of the proofs that was one line short. "Without hesitation, Fort picked up a pencil and wrote: 'One measures a circle, beginning anywhere.'"

    He finished Wild Talents on 20 February 1932, while he became seriously ill.. It dealt with occult or psychic abilities and was published posthumously, later that year, by his friend Claude Kendall.

 

THE BOOK OF THE DAMNED - (BOTD)
  • 1919, (1 Dec) Boni & Liveright, NY. Hardback.
  • 1971-2, Ace Books, NY. Paperback.
  • 1974, Abacus Books, London. Paperback.
  • 1979, Sphere Books, London. Paperback.
  • 1995, Fortean Times/John Brown Publishing. Paperback. First revised edition, by Mr X, correcting typographical and editing errors. Introduction by Bob Rickard. Index by Steve Moore.
NEW LANDS - (NL)
  • 1923, (8 Oct) Boni and Liveright, NY. Hardback. Introduction by Booth Tarkington.
  • 1972, Ace Books, NY. Paperback.
  • 1974, Sphere Books, London. Paperback.
  • 1996, Fortean Times/ John Brown Publishing. Paperback. First revised edition, by Mr X, correcting typographical and editing errors. Introduction by Jerome Clark. Index by Steve Moore.
LO! - (LO)
  • 1931, (9 Feb) Claude H. Kendall, NY. Hardback. Illustrated by Alexander King.
  • 1931, Victor Gollancz, London. Hardback.
  • 1972, Ace Books, NY. Paperback.
  • 1996, Fortean Times/ John Brown Publishing. Paperback. First revised edition, by Mr X, correcting typographical and editing errors. Introduction by John Michell. Index by Steve Moore.
WILD TALENTS - (WT)
  • 1932, (6 June) Claude H. Kendall, NY. Hardback
  • 1972, Ace Books, NY. Paperback.
  • Not yet published. New edition from Fortean Times/ John Brown Publishing. Paperback expected in early 1998. First revised edition, by Mr X, correcting typographical and editing errors. Introduction by Michel Meurger. Index by Steve Moore.
THE BOOKS OF CHARLES FORT - (BOOKS1)
  • 1941, (5 May) Henry Holt & Co, NY. Hardback. This collected edition was published for the Fortean Society. It comprises BOTD, NL, LO and WT, an introduction by Tiffany Thayer, and a clumsy index. There is some evidence that Thayer made dubious 'improvments' to these texts, which were perpetuated by the Ace paperbacks.
THE COMPLETE BOOKS OF CHARLES FORT - (BOOKS2)
  • 1974, Dover, NY. Hardback. A reprint of BOOKS1, substituting a new introduction by Damon Knight for Thayer's. Retain's the index from the Holt edition (one prepared by Mr was rejected). This edition was simultaneously published in Canada (by General Publishing Co of Don Mills, Ontario) and in Britain (by Constable & Co, London).


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Some of this information is taken from 'Copyrights of Fort's Works' by Ron Willis, in INFO Journal 48 (March 1986), p21.

Life & times of Charles Fort. Why we consider Fort important [in prep]

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