Charles Hoy Fort – A Selected Bibliography
Department of English
University of Florida
|Charles Fort at his super checkerboard (c. 1930)
Source: Knight, 1970
Who was Charles Fort?
From about 1906 until his death in 1932, Charles Hoy Fort (b. 1874), a self-educated newspaperman, modestly-successful short story writer, unsuccessful novelist and inventor, and eccentric natural philosopher, spent nearly every afternoon in the public reading rooms of the British Museum and the New York Public Libraries.
He poured over back files of hundreds of American and European journals and newspapers, accumulating tens of thousands of handwritten notes on small slips of paper. These he kept in shoeboxes stacked against the walls of the modest Bronx apartment he shared with his wife Anna, and from them produced two now-lost manuscripts (Fort was given to periodically burning his papers) and four long, resolutely digressive and unsystematic books: The Book of the Damned (1919), New Lands (1923), Lo! (1931), and Wild Talents (1932).
In them, Fort catalogs eyewitness accounts of an immense parade of occult phenomena – impossible archaeological finds; spontaneous combustion of bodies; telepathy; telekinesis; teleportation (Fort coined the term); meterological and astronomical irregularities; unexplained noises, anomalous lights and appearances of cities in the sky; out-of-place animals and insects; falls of strange rains, living and dead animals, and improbable inorganic objects. Fort called these data a “procession of the damned”: experiences reported by creditable eyewitnesses but excluded by common sense and, more importantly, excluded from the casebooks of modern science. Fort called himself an “Intermediatist”, in contrast to the “Exclusionist” character of modern scientific thought. He may be more accurately termed the most radical of empiricists: he welcomed unapologetically capricious and fractious data, not in order to fine-tune or expand a prior model, but rather to challenge the practical worth of consistent models in a world whose phenomena plainly exceed them.
Wikipedia’s entry on Fort is a reasonably accurate survey of his life and significance.
Texts by Fort
- Fort, Charles. The Books of Charles Fort. Ed. Tiffany Thayer.
New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1941. First omnibus edition of Fort’s
four major works. Known as “BCF” among Forteans. Long out of print.
- Fort, Charles. The Complete Books of Charles Fort. New
York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1974. Second omnibus edition of Fort’s
four major works. Known as “CBCF” among Forteans. New introduction
by Damon Knight, but otherwise identical to BCF. More or less the “Standard
Edition” of Fort, and still in print. The Big Kahuna. Available in a modern reprint with a new introduction by Jim Steinmeyer: Fort, Charles. The Book of the Damned: The Collected Works of Charles Fort. Ed. Jim Steinmeyer. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher / Penguin Books, 2008.
- Fort, Charles. “Many Parts: Remnants of An Autobiography by Charles
Hoy Fort.” Fortean Studies 1 (1994): 8–49. Also
available at <http://www.resologist.net/parte01.htm>.
Only published version of Fort’s autobiographical fragment c. 1900. Edited by “Mr. X.”
- Fort, Charles. The Outcast Manufacturers. <http://www.resologist.net/ocmei.htm>. Fort’s only published work of long fiction. Edited by “Mr. X,” based on
1909 publication by B.W. Dodge and a partial serialized version published in Pearson’s Magazine.
- Fort, Charles. “Charles Hoy Fort’s Short Stories.”
Edited by “Mr. X.” Collected from versions published in several newspapers and popular magazines, 1905–10.
Texts about Fort
- Bennett, Colin. Politics of the Imagination: The Life, Work and
Ideas of Charles Fort. Manchester: Headpress, 2002. Idiosyncratic, vexing, evocative biographical and critical introduction
to Fort and Fortean thought by a major author in the field.
- Kaplan, Louis. The Damned Universe of Charles Fort. New
York: Autonomedia, 1993. Primarily excerpts from Fort’s published writings,
but includes significant and suggestive short introduction to Fort’s
“humorist science,” and a (less successful) essay on Fort’s
documenting of “wild talents” (telepathy and telekinesis).
- Knight, Damon. Charles Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained.
New York: Doubleday, 1970. The first full-length biography of Fort. Until the
publication of the “Many Parts” fragment in 1994, the only
published source of information on Fort’s life prior to 1900.
- Lenkov, Peter M. and Frazer Irving. Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained! Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2002. Lenkov and Irving’s beautifully-drawn, mordantly funny 3-issue comic book series. Fort as Indiana Jones, with young sidekick H.P. Lovecraft, dodge fish falls and battle a secret invasion of New York by otherworldly beings.
- Steinmeyer, Jim. Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural. New York: Tarcher / Penguin, 2008. An eminently readable and entertaining biography and excellent introduction to Fort and Fortean thought. Fort would not have approved of the book’s subtitle.
Scholarly Journals & Magazines
- The Anomalist. An annual journal (formerly print, now digital) devoted to “mysteries of science, history, and nature.” The daily “Anomalist Newsline” draws from English-language sources worldwide and makes for entertaining reading in contemporary Forteana.
- The Center for Fortean Cryptozoology Yearbook. Edited by Jonathan Downes and published since 1996, The CFZ’s annual collection of essays on cryptozoological matters tends to be uneven but is always worth reading.
- Fortean Studies. Irregularly published scholarly journal, currently on permanent hiatus after its seventh issue (2001). Essential reading for serious Forteans, and badly missed.
- Fortean Times.
Popular press monthly devoted to Forteana. Described by Wired
magazine as “possibly the most entertaining publication on the planet.” The highlight of every Fortean’s reading month.
© Terry Harpold. All rights reserved.