Search This Blog

Sunday 8 June 2014

Fortean Nostalgia

This blog has been going for three and a half years now, since January 2011. When I started I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to be writing about, so I gave it the broad-ranging title of “Forteana”. But there are dozens of similarly titled blogs and websites on the internet, and most of them deal with the hot topics of contemporary Forteana much better than this one. The last time I talked about a current news story was in March last year (Bigfoot, Richard III and Outsider Science)... and even that story had its roots in the 15th century!

I may be the last person to notice this, but this blog is stuck firmly in the past. In recent months I’ve written about old UFOs (The First UFO Hoaxers), old Bigfoot videos (Patterson-Gimlin Film: Fake or Fact?), old comics (Hitler's Astrologer; Fortean Comics; Fortean Agent of SHIELD), old pulp magazines (Pulp Forteana; The Fortean Fiction of Robert E. Howard), old poltergeists (Creeping Coffins), old works of art (Monsters, Mystery and a Monkey; Satan, Sin and Death), old pornography (Two Geeks, a Chicken and Bigfoot), old poetry (The Waste Land), old TV shows (Cult TV and Autoerotic Asphyxiation)... and even plain old history (The Lost Tomb of King Arthur; Iron Age Oddities; Devon's Underground Secrets).

So I’ve changed the blog title to Retro-Forteana. That’s a more accurate description of the content, and (because it’s such an unfashionable subject) it isn’t likely to get confused with anyone else’s blog. It also means I can indulge in my penchant for nostalgia without feeling too guilty about it!

As you can see from the photograph at the top of the post, much of my nostalgia (as far as Fortean writings are concerned, anyway) is focused on the 1990s. One reason for this, as mentioned in Anomalous Progress last year, is that was the decade when I first started reading seriously about the subject. So perhaps it’s not surprising that I have a soft spot for the Forteana of the nineties, just as I have a soft spot for comics of the sixties and seventies (cf. The Marvel Age of Comics).

But there’s another reason why I’ve tended to lose interest in the ongoing Fortean soap opera since the end of the 20th century. The open-minded sense of wonder that used to characterize the subject has been all but swept away by anti-establishment cynicism. It’s now generally accepted that the U.S. government knows the truth about everything from Bigfoot and UFOs to ESP and Free Energy... and is systematically hiding that truth from the public at large. To me, that’s a depressing thought. It means the only really efficient way to research Fortean subjects is to become President of the United States... and since I’m not a U.S. citizen, that option isn’t open to me.

What’s that you say? Barack Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen either?! And they’re hiding THAT from the public as well?!! My goodness, we live in a complicated world!


Ross said...

No, you're not the last person to notice that this blog is "stuck in the past," because I didn't notice it until you mentioned it! I suppose only people who are hopelessly stuck in the present would complain about your "archaeological" (so to speak) orientation. Anyway, a lot of the "old" stuff you write about is science-fictional and futuristic (albeit now retro-futuristic), so you're not just about the past. Our cultural past offers a lot that hasn't been properly assimilated and valued, so why not explore it? RETRO-FORTEANA is a cool title and concept. Signing off...I'm going to go read some pre-1980s science fiction.

Andrew May said...

Thanks Ross - glad you enjoy the blog and your feedback is always much appreciated!

Tarquin said...

I think the point about the decline of Fortean interest is a valid one - personally I think it goes deeper than that though and since 911 (from a Fortean pov 911 itself may be a product of a larger process - certainly fundamentalism and the reactions to it are) there has been a shift to a literalist mindset across the board.

This means that 'nuts and bolts' UFO research is in the ascendancy and the slew of 'reality' paranormal TV programmes are from the same root - the idea that something TANGIBLE and LITERAL is findable.

The conspiracy fever is part of this too - the Government must know because we don't. It's the same literalist reductionism which can no longer tolerate the old Fortean deliciousness of 'nobody knows so let's have fun with as many possibilities as there are'.

Andrew May said...

Well said, Tarquin - I agree with everything you say. I've often wondered what caused this shift from sophisticated multi-layered thinking to a much more literal and unsophisticated mindset. I don't know the answer, but I'm guessing it has something to do with the internet!

Ross said...

Well said, indeed, Tarquin, but I don't think we should rule out a priori the possibility that something TANGIBLE and LITERAL is findable in connection with the "paranormal." The view that "nobody knows" shouldn't harden into another dogma.

Andrew, it's very interesting to ponder the effects of Internet use (and computer use more broadly) on the human mind/brain. I wonder what the verdict will be in the long term.

Tarquin said...

@Andrew - it could well be the internet. I read some research somewhere about how it 'rewires brains' but I don't know about that stuff. It's odd how we seem to get stupider and more advanced at the same time.

@Ross - yes, dogmatism can strike almost anyone at any time. Need to watch out!!

It seems there is some tangible element to the intangibility, you're right. UFOs leaving ground traces allegedly and so on.

I guess if we find that things really are intangible - or Imaginal, as I would prefer - and we work out why then that knowledge would be a tangible intangibility! I'm putting my money on something like that...Fort would have loved it!

Andrew May said...

I think the "tangible versus intangible" argument has been around as long as people have been talking about anomalous phenomena. The thing that seems to have changed is that nowadays phenomena are often presented simply as "proof" of the writer's own particular theory, rather than as a mystery than can be interpreted in multiple ways.

When I blamed the internet for this, I didn't mean that it's changed the way people think, but that it's made it easier for ordinary people to broadcast their opinions to the world the moment they form in their heads, rather than having to jump over numerous intellectual hurdles first. In the old days, getting your ideas out to a wide audience meant either writing a book, or submitting an article to a magazine, or appearing on TV. That's a kind of self-selection process in itself. Writing a book is an ambitious and time-consuming undertaking that necessarily involves depth and/or breadth of thought in order to fill the pages. Submitting to a magazine would have involved access to a typewriter, and the ability to use it, which would have limited the demographic to people with a relatively high level of education. Appearing on television, in the days before reality TV, similarly discriminated against people on the fringes of society. It's absolutely great, of course, that the internet has given a voice to people who wouldn't have had a voice 20 years ago, but it does mean that the "collective voice" of humanity is now somewhat less sophisticated and less professional than it used to be.

I don't think I've expressed that in a very politically correct way! I might try to refine those thoughts and do a full blog post on the subject. I've already got one lined up for tomorrow, and I know what I'm going to write about next week and probably the week after that, so that gives me time to sort my thoughts out more clearly. And by that time I'll be an even older, even grumpier, grumpy old man!

Ross said...

Hmm...many books don't reveal much breadth or depth of thought on the part of their authors.

Voices from the "fringes" of society are sometimes quite sophisticated. In fact, many great ideas originate among "marginal" elements. There is often more intellectual vitality and moral urgency there.

I have no doubt that computer/Internet use does alter the human brain/mind (and, with widespread use, alters society). Stands to reason. The long-term evolutionary impact reamins to be seen. We are co-evolving with computers.

Ross said...

Let me add that I very much appreciated the breadth and depth of thought in your book THE PROMETHEAN GALAXY. I purchased the e-book at the Lulu site a couple of weeks ago, and I hugely enjoyed reading it. I recommend it highly to readers of this blog.

Andrew May said...

Thanks Ross! If you're able to give the book a rating on Amazon, Goodreads or similar that would be much appreciated as well!

Ross said...

I gave it a five-star rating at the Barnes & Noble site, and I wrote a short review. The review appears under the name "starmakers" (reference to STAR MAKER by Olaf Stapledon, one of my favorite novels). (By the way, the quotation marks in my written review were somehow converted into "&quot"s.) I really enjoyed the book, and I will be re-reading it. Quite a lot of fascinating material in its pages.

Ross said...

Another book on our relationship with our home galaxy (the Milky Way galaxy) that I would highly recommend is THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR: THE GALACTIC DIMENSION OF ASTROLOGY by astrologer and philosopher Dane Rudhyar.

Andrew May said...

Thanks very much for the review, Ross - and also for the tip, which I'll have to check out.