Meet the Forteans
October 18, 2004 3:48 PM   Subscribe

The 38th annual conference on Anomalous Phenomena is just around the corner. Or, if you're in Europe, there's Unconvention 2004 in just a few weeks. Forteans are the spiritual descendents of Charles Fort, free-thinkers with a sense of humour, open-minded skeptics (as opposed to these guys).
posted by lupus_yonderboy (9 comments total)
Just for the record, I'm not directly involved in either of these, but I will be at the Baltimore FortFest and I'd love to see you there, o Gentle Reader.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:52 PM on October 18, 2004

So open-minded = ignoring evidence, am I right?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 5:05 PM on October 18, 2004

Or not requiring any - both seem to work for the definition.
posted by John Smallberries at 5:24 PM on October 18, 2004

Not at all -- though there are certainly a lot of Forteans who are rather too open to new facts.

Charles Fort's methodology was to collect fairly bullet-proof evidence of anomalous phenomena and then poke merciless fun at other people's stupid explanations.

If a believer were writing about Betty and Barney Hill, they'd discuss how this was proof positive of aliens. A skeptic would dismiss the whole thing as completely lacking in firm evidence. A Fortean might well point out that the fact that this involved a "mixed race" (God, how I hate that term) couple, and is an ongoing theme in anomalous reports, perhaps going on to talk about "liminality". (RIP, Betty.)

While "truth" is certainly an important part of these reports, the sociological and aesthetic aspects are just as important.

The British have this suspension of disbelief particularly well mastered and that's why their Unconvention gets thousands of people whilst the American one gets hundreds.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:38 PM on October 18, 2004

Here's a terrific book that's very fortean: The Trickster and the Paranormal. Check out the intro here.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 5:42 PM on October 18, 2004

People who say they are open minded are usually actually describing a hole in their credibility. My intuition tells me this.
posted by srboisvert at 5:42 PM on October 18, 2004

While "truth" is certainly an important part of these reports, the sociological and aesthetic aspects are just as important.

Just so. To a Fortean, the meme is of interest whether a phenomenon is physically real or some collective imagining. A typical Fortean topic would be something like fox-dumping, that has strong sociological factors whatever the evidence may be.
posted by raygirvan at 7:11 PM on October 18, 2004

I've been a devotee of Fort's for years, and a regular subscriber to Fortean Times. It's refreshing to see him here in the blue. Thanks!
posted by moonbird at 7:38 PM on October 18, 2004

Yeah! Thanks for the husband and I may very well be there.

For the record, I'm 100% skeptic. I pretty much believe in nothing supernatural. But the Forteans are a good group, with a sense of humor and a willingness to say that sometimes there is no explanation for things. Just because it isn't a UFO doesn't make it swamp gas by default.
posted by JoanArkham at 4:51 AM on October 19, 2004

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