cover image Think to New Worlds: The Cultural History of Charles Fort and His Followers

Think to New Worlds: The Cultural History of Charles Fort and His Followers

Joshua Blu Buhs. Univ. of Chicago, $35 (384p) ISBN 978-0-226-83148-0

Charles Fort (1874–1932), the progenitor of modern supernatural studies, rattled the “iron cage of rationality” in the early 20th century, according to this enthralling account. Buhs (Bigfoot) argues that Fort’s unique brand of science-mysticism—he was best known for collecting and compiling newspaper clippings of inexplicable events and for promoting paranormal research—influenced several divergent but interlocking branches of art, politics, and culture. During Fort’s lifetime, his writings on metaphysics inspired avant-gardists and modernists—including Henry Miller and Ezra Pound—who adopted many of his habits of thought, according to Buhs, especially his skepticism of science, penchant for mythmaking, and search for hidden truths. After his death, his legacy fell to two acolytes who founded the Fortean Society: adman Tiffany Thayer and science fiction writer Eric Frank Russell. Buhs traces how, as Fort’s thinking grew ever more influential in the 1950s, inspiring both the golden age of sci-fi and UFO-mania, Thayer and Russell led Fortean thought in a less playful, more paranoid direction; they came to believe that the government was covering up the existence of the supernatural, helping to give birth to America’s robust conspiracy theory subculture. Buhs’s erudite narrative is jam-packed with minor and major 20th-century figures who he shows were influenced by Fort. The result is a lively alternative history of modernity. (June)