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Charles Fort: His Life and Times
Compiled by Bob Rickard. Revision 7 June 1997. Copyright: 1979, 1997
NB: parts are unfinished works in progress.
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.
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).
[List of Fort's short stories - work in progress]
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 Dreiser, in an unpublished memoir of Fort, recalled: "It was so strange, so forceful, so beautiful that [..]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.
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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