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I have been subscribing to 'Fortean Times' magazine - the self-professed 'journal of strange phenomena' - gosh, since about 2001, now but sadly I been finding that the quality of the contents has really been declining in recent years.
I did consider briefly the other possibility - that 'Fortean Times' has remained exactly the same and that I am - rather belatedly - growing up (by which I mean 'maturing in my outlook to the extent that I am no longer interested in tall tales of the supernatural, UFOs, etc.) - but having re-read through some of the stack of back issues I've accumulated over the years, no, I really think the magazine is in fact going down the pan, to the extent that now whenever each new issue of it arrives in the post, I resolve to cancel the £10 quarterly direct debit or whatever it is I pay John Brown Publishing to get this delivered to my house (though in the event, I consistently fail to get round to cancelling it.) The cover price if you buy 'Fortean Times' in the shops - if you can find it - I think it's only stocked in WH Smiths - is £4.25 per magazine.
In substantiation of my view that Fortean Times is not nearly as good as it used to be, let us consider the contents of the October 2009 issue, which I've arbitrarily selected as it was the nearest one I had to hand. I've had this issue for a while now as it is posted to us subscribers well before the beginning of each month.
We have a cover story and two - no, three - leading articles on mermaids. While I'm not 100% convinced that mermaids properly constitute a 'Fortean' subject in the first place, let's overlook that for the present. Fortean Times is overall a regrettably bloke-ish publication, and so they never stint from picturing images of naked (preferably naked, blood-soaked, dishevelled and screaming) ladies: at least this time including all the mermaids articles gave them a semi-justifiable get out for having pictured such a great variety of bare-naked exposed boobs and tits. Although the surrealist 'dis is high art, dis' pic on page 43 of a naked 'mermaid from the waist down', an armless beauty with the head and torso of a fish, I would argue was still a tad gratuitous.
What I am certain of is that a four-page fully-illustrated spread (this being the third of the mermaid articles), no matter how interesting the content, describing in detail how to MAKE your own artificial mermaid (from household items such as old coat-hangers, newspapers and PVA glue) has absolutely no place in a magazine of this type. This is not 'Practical Science-Fiction Prop Hobbyist Monthly', for godsakes.
Back to the October issue's contents. There was also the second installment of a two-part article that was begun last month on the Muggletonians, who were some kind of religious sect I didn't bother reading about last time round either (which, admittedly, was normal even in the days when I thought FT was 'pretty good' because they invariably included some pages of tedious, severely limited-interest, gabble) and that's it for the 'features' in the October issue of the magazine. On the subject of irrelevant content, near the back there's also a full page of densely-written text devoted to reviewing the computer games 'Ghostbusters' and 'Killing Floor' - reviews of 'Fortean interest' books, films and now computer games now being a regular feature of the magazine. I suppose the subject / content of these particular two games might loosely be described as 'Fortean' but isn't this stretching the point a bit too far? Are they really getting so desperate for relevant content?
Arguably. Because then there's a 'Blast from the past' article which basically describes (over two pages) a case that was detailed in a previous FT magazine, and yet another article (a one-page cartoon) relating to an annual meeting of FT enthusiasts - in this case the 'Weird Weekend'. A lot of space in the magazine lately has been devoted to such 'in-house' topics (UFO conventions; Fortean Times AGMs etc.) which, as they presuppose attendance at whatever gathering is being considered, or at least a personal familiarity with the speakers / other delegates at these conferences, have very little relevance to the casual reader.
'Regular' columns in the magazine include 'Strange Days' - this time round a pointless two-page spread on people who've lived to an unusually ripe old age around the world, and then the monthly 'Alien Big Cat Diary' - in which a load of people around Britain have evidently, once again, mistaken pet Labradors and domestic pussy-cats for large pumas / jaguars / panthers roaming the British countryside, and sent in blurry, indistinct photos of what they thought they saw in that field down the bottom last Wednesday night to prove it. The 'UFO files' and 'Ghostwatch' pages - well, the best that can be said of those regular features is that at least they concern legitimate 'Fortean' topics. Karl Shuker's 'Alien Zoo' cryptozoology column isn't featured this month, which is a great pity as often it is the only thing worth reading in the magazine, and at least he always includes some interesting content.
Of the 80-odd pages of the magazine, a total of 16 full pages (in this I've included the back cover, inside and out) consist of advertisements - mainly for books, horror DVDs, computer games (and FT itself) - but there are also adverts for sex toys and adult internet (gambling?) sites, which I think is a bit - bad, really, for a magazine of this type.
Right. As I say every month nowadays, I'll give it one more month to improve and if 'Fortean Times' is this rubbish again I'm cancelling my subscription. Right. If Karl Shuker hasn't written anything for November's edition, that's it.
I started reading this monthly magazine many years back - my mum used to buy it on a regular basis, and I had a couple of favourite sections of the magazine I found amusing . Nowadays, I read it from cover to cover each month.
The word Fortean comes from the name of Charles Fort , an avid collector of strange news stories, particularly relating to the paranormal . Fort had a strong disregard for religion and science, branding them to narrow minded to allow for a lot of occurences. Fort was fascinated by tales of UFOS, aliens, ghosts and alien big cats , as well as alternative cultures and societies.
The magazine is a mix of things - articles debunking conspiracy theories, stories on alien big cat sightings, urban myths, showers of tadpoles - all sorts of strange and crazy things can be found here .
Some articles require a very open mind - such as articles discussing the existence of UFO's . Other articles are based on actual occurences , such as the showers of tadpoles, that while proven to have happened, can not be easily explained .
While the cover of the magazine is simple and uncluttered, usually a clear photograph with a big headline across the top and smaller headlines down the left hand side, the inside of the magazine can seem a little cluttered , with big stories running along the centre of the pages and smaller snippets lodged along the side .
My favourite sections of the magazine are the strange death section (which I instantly flick to upon opening the magazine) detailing the crazy ways some people manage to die . For example, a mexican man was enjoying sexual relations with a chicken in a cave, when part of the cave collapsed, pinning both the chicken and him to the ground . Lovely stuff.
I also like the section that copies real news headlines that were perhaps unfortunately, but amusingly worded - for example 'Minister Quits Over Brown Smears' which brings to mind slightly soiled underpants, or the slight worrying 'Organ Pulled out of Vagina' which just boggles the mind .
The larger articles in the magazine can cover some 4 pages on occasion, and are always well written and very balanced - the magazine doesn't, for example, attempt to convince you that aliens do or do not exist - it simply gives you the information and leaves you to make up your own mind .
Towards the back of the magazine are reviews of books , games and films , most of which are a little away from the mainstream. There are also a variety of advertisements for an assortment of products and companies - t shirts, jewellery, hydroponic supplies etc .
Overall, I enjoy the magazine - the writing is clear and intelligent, whilst being easy to read . The photos, while occasionally being a bit gruesome, illustrate the articles well, and there is plenty to make me think, as well as make me laugh.
At 4.25, I feel its a good price for a monthly magazine , as it will keep me busy for a good few days as I read articles then spend some time thinking about them . For anyone with an interest in the paranormal, whether a believer or not, I recommend this magazine .
I'll leave you with a short snippet from this months little 'Michael Jackson Conspiracies' section .
"Some bloggers suggested that President Ahmedinejad had Jackson killed in order to shift the world's gaze from the violent post-election clampdown in Iran . It certainly worked in terms of media both new and old, with everything from newspapers and TV to Twitter obsessing over the dead star to the exclusion of much else "
Go buy it!
Charles Fort, than man from who the term 'Fortean' derives, was an obsessive American collector of strange tales and anomolies in the early 20th Century. His philosophy was to subscribe to no particular belief system, and to see both religion and science as rigid systems that ignored any information that didn't sit comfortably with their world views.
This "damned data" was what Fort collected: tales of ghosts, strange lights, bizarre coincidences, falls of fish and frogs, and anything else reported in the press that was seemingly against nature. He was the first man to suggest UFOs may be piloted by beings from other worlds, and coined the word 'teleport'. His playful theories on the data included the idea of a Cosmic Joker, a supreme being whose sole purpose seemed to be to amuse himself by confusing and baffling the human race.
In the 1970s, Bob Rickard and Paul Sieveking started producing a magazine to help continue Fort's work. Originally titled 'The News', it was soon retitled 'Fortean Times' and grew steadily in popularity and readership. In the mid 90s, at the height of public interest in unexplained phenomena fuelled by The X-Files, the magazine became glossy and monthly, in the form which it still exists in today.
The subject range of Fortean Times probably spans more topics than any other British magazine. Its 'Strange Days' news section follows the Fortean tradition of collecting bizarre stories from around the world, and the rest of the magazine has in depth reports, short forum pieces, and readers' letters. Subjects include ghosts, UFOs, folklore, conspiracy theories, new science, religion and cults, urban legends, parapsychology, cryptozoology (the study of unknown animals), medical curiosities, coincidences and luck, archaeology, and anything else that seems to fit. Readers are left to make up their own mind, and the magazine toes no party line, sometimes printing features that wildly contradict views previously given.
From the magazine's move to a more mainstream newstand publication, there has always been a trade off between the more scholarly nature of some articles, and a more "shock horror" approach to some of the news pages, especially in devoting space to gruesome or bizarre photographs. Some feared it would move more in the latter direction when it became a stablemate of Bizarre magazine, but this was largely unfounded.
Although it possibly lacks some of the charm and depth as it did many years ago, Fortean Times is always a stimulating read, and it's hard not to learn something new and eye-opening with every new issue. Recent issues have perhaps seen a slight slump in quality, but there will never be another magazine quite like it.
I've been with the Fortean Times since way back at issue 31. Over the years since then it has got more glossy, but it still never ceases to amaze me. This latest issue is no exception. Fortean Times is a monthly mag founded in 1973 to continue the work of Charles Fort, who, in the early part of the 20th Century was among the first to speculate that mysterious lights in the sky might be from outer space; coiner of the term "teleportation", and chronicler of all that these days are considered the realm of "The X Files". The magazine continues his tradition of reporting "damned" phenomena in an objective manner. The "damned" covers a wide range, and in the pages of this magazine you'll find articles on such varied subjects as religious miracles, the latest happenings in UFOlogy, sightings of strange or out-of-place animals, and the weirdest cartoons in Christendom. Regular favourites include the "Strange deaths" column which details the many varied ways the human race can find to shuffle off this mortal coil. This issue is well up to usual standards. First up in the news section there is a report on how the Queen Mother's death led to a holiday park fire when the curse of the Koh-I-Noor diamond struck again; a reported 120 million year old map found carved in stone in the Ural mountains; a report of a family of nine children, all given up for adoption, who became close friends without knowing of their relationship and some great snippets on current advances in astronomy - including the interesting news that out towards the stars Pioneers 10 and 11 are slowing down. Not by much, but nobody knows why! There's more news on an American on trial for murder who believed he was back in time killing Adolf Hitler; news of man-made structures off the coasts of Malta and the Isle of Wight; the latest on the Roberto Calvi Itlaian masonic banking affair; how to fold a dollar
bill to see a representation of the Twin Towers burning; the origins of the stories about "The Curse of the Mummy" and the latest from the world of cryptozoology, including news on the search for a hairy man-beast in North East India. And all that is before we get to the main articles, the meat of the magazine. The first of the feature articles is a long piece on David Berkowitz, the "Son of Sam" murderer, who the writer Jon Vincent Sanders believes was not working alone, and was a member of a black magic underground in New York. I wasn't quite convinced by the article - it covered the history well, but didn't provide any strong evidence for the writer's theory. The second article, by FT editor Paul Sieveking, is the sort of thing the magazine does so well. It is a run down of the history of feral children - those brought up by cats, dogs or monkeys. The writer traces many stories from all ages of human history, summarises the main points succinctly, and provides an exhaustive list of references. This is the way research on so-called "Weird" topics should be done. The main article in this issue is a long profile of Sci-Fi legend Philip K Dick, detailing both his place in Fortean literature, and also his influence on current Sci-Fi cinema, particularly with reference to the latest blockbuster "Minority Report". Impressively, FT has garnered opinions on Dick from most of the big names in Brittish genre fiction, and some of them are very forthright in their views. There's also an investigation into Dick's very own "damned" life, including the super-intelligence VALIS that he believed he was in communication with. The rest of the magazine is taken up by a couple of short articles, including a look at some of the odder events of the Queen mother's life, an extensive letters section that's, as usual, entertaining and enjoyable, and a reviews section c
overing books on George Bush's connection to big business, Jack the Ripper, and seeing ghosts; a review of "Minority Report" and more of the brilliant cartoons that are studded through the mag. I write genre fiction, and this magazine is a constant source of ideas for stories, but above all else, it's the entertainment that counts, and FT provides that, consistently. Annual subscriptions to the mag are £27 in the UK, $59.50 in the US, or E37.50. See www.forteantimes.com for details, or ring 01454 642258 or fax 01454 620080 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Fortean Times is the best magazine on earth. It's a simple as that. Ask anyone who reads it, most of us are lifelong addicts from our first exposure. Some of us go as far as attending the yearly convention, for an even bigger fix of high strangeness. This publication just seems to inspire joy in it's readers, with it's non judgemental, totally open minded view of life the universe and everything. Though often mistaken for (and sold alongside) tacky ufo magazines and Sci-Fi junk monthlies, it really has a different view of the events (and non-events) it covers. I for one am fiercely protective of my back issues, as they represent a treasure trove of information on everything from science, religion, art, mental and physical health, nature, moral panics and media scares, hoaxes,freaks, fakirs and fakers. Go and buy it now.
Life is so boring and predictable isn’t it? From cradle to grave life is just mundane event after mundane event. Childhood curiosity and imagination is seen crushed under sexual/hormone awakenings, money becomes our god. Science has the answers for everything and everything is under control. The News reports another conflict, another disaster a celebrity marriage (quickly followed by a messy divorce) Life just drags on with it’s daily grind. Is there no room for the out of place, the unexplainable, the bizarre and the outlandish? My answer of course there is. That’s why I say thanks to the writers and creators of the wonderful Fortean Times. A magazine that labels itself ‘The Journal of Strange Phenomena’. A magazine that proves that life is more than a string of predictable events tied together by the rope of society’s expectations. A magazine willing to examine, dissect and debate issues that the mainstream press normally rejects and trivialises as the ideas of crackpots and the insane. A magazine that acts as a monthly catalogue for all the strange events that prove that prove that life can be magical, poetically tragic, full of unbelievable luck and coincidence and more bizarre than Neris Hughes. A little bit of background for y’all. Fortean Times takes its name from the Charles Fort, an author famous for his writings on strange phenomena of all kinds. His books included ‘The Book of the Damned’ and ‘ Lo!’ which have both been recently reprinted by John Brown Publishing. Fort spent a great deal trawling through newspaper clippings looking for stories of the weird and wonderful and Fortean Times continues this obsession using new fangeled technologies such as the internet (I’ve heard it something to do with webs and is wide). Fort was also responsible for introducing new terms into the English language including the sci-fi spod’s favourite means of transport teleporta
tion. Fortean Times itself was founded in the year 1973 (a fine year) and continued the work started by Fort. Led by his dictum “One measures a circle beginning anywhere” and his sceptical belief about mainstream science summed up by the following statement. “Scientific explanations, observing how scientists argued according to their own beliefs rather than the rules of evidence and that inconvenient data was ignored, suppressed, discredited or explained away “. Since its humble beginnings as a Quarterly low quality fanzine, Fortean Times has moved from being a bi-monthly release to its current monthly full colour glossy incarnation. So what do you get for you money then? Well for starters you get a high standard of journalism and production which is wonderful to see in these days of typos (a crime I’m never guilty of : -P) and intelligent insulting reporting. You also get a magazine that is packed to the rafts with true stories and thought provoking articles. The format of Fortean Times is also nicely constant, with small changes only being made to the font and graphics design. Following a small editorial it’s straight into the world weird of Forteana. The first half of the magazine is filled with stories collected from the Internet and the world’s press. This includes breaking stories of UFO sites, ABC (Alien Big Cats to the uninitiated), visions of the BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary), lucky escapes and stranger deaths, weird science (sadly not about sightings of Kelly Le Brock), Karl Shucker’s Cryptozoology (study of rare, new, legendary and supposedly extinct animals). Add to this a topping of sideline reports on all kinds of bizarre events and humorous occurrences and your strange news pudding is finished. This is then followed by a series of longer articles that follow up from previous stories from the breaking news or deal with the re-examination of historical events and characters. Recen
t articles have dealt with the Pokemon Incident (how the broadcasting of an episode of everyone’s favourite cartoon supposedly caused mass fits and hysteria amongst Japanese children). A philosophical discussion about the beliefs of believers and sceptics. As well as examinations of the work and life of outsiders figures such as Albert Spears and Jack Parsons. The majority of these longer opinions deal with their subject matter with an open mind that is willing to question the issue without being bias to either side of the argument or excepting incredulous and unsupported opinions or evidence. Fortean Times then closes with reviews of all the latest books, games and films with a Fortean slant as well as a letters page. The review section is again excellently executed and the demolition job that New Age books receive is a joy to observe. The letters page acts as a forum for people to talk about their strange experiences, debate hotly contested topics and ask questions of others. It’s this input from the readers of Fortean Times that makes it such a joy to read. Not only is an example of a true democratic action, but it also nicely fits the Fortean approach that sees the truth as subjective and open to debate. Personally I can’t recommend Fortean Times highly enough. Sure it’s not going to be everyone’s kettle of fish or should that be rain of frogs. However if your at all interested in the weird and wonderful that happens on our planet then Fortean Times will be right up your street. Just approach with an open mind and your realise that the world is more than the mundane reality it sometimes seems to be stuck in.
For anyone who is interested in the weird, surprising or off-beat, Fortean Times magazine is a definite must! It is a gateway into all of the off-beat, seemingly miraculous and peculiar phenomenon that occur with rather alarming reality in the world in which we live. I began reading Fortean Times a couple of years ago, and since then have not missed a single issue. I find myself couting down the weeks until the next issue is out on the shelves!!! The first time that I saw Fortean Times on the shelves, I was at first a bit put off by the cover of the magazine. I felt that it looked a bit sensationalist, much like some of the 'weird phenomena' popular press magazines available. However, on reading the magazine, I was in for an extremely pleasant surprise! It is not in fact, in my opinion, in the slightest bit sensationalist.The stories and features are generally presented in as unbiased a manner as possible, allowing you to form your own opinions on the subject matter. In most feature stories, a number of different or opposing theories or opinions on the subject are presented. The magazine in fact has the quality of an objective academic / scientific publication, being at the same time extremely vibrant and entertaining. Fortean Times magazine is full to the brim with stories of the weird, wonderful and unbelievable. It is divided into readily accessible categories, which make for a really easy and pleasant reading experience, enabling you to select exactly what you want to read about, and to leave out any categories that you may not be interested in. It has regular updates and follow-ups on previous stories featured, which allow for continual informative updates on special areas of interest. In addition it provides internet and book links for further study / information on areas of interest. Probably one of the things that I value most about Fortean Times is the way in which it serves as a networking resource. Throu
gh its classifieds and other adverts etc., it provides links to other web-sites, magazines, companies and resources. These have on a couple of occasions opened up new areas of interest for me, which I would probably never have discovered had I not read the magazine. I would recommend Fortean Times magazine will full confidence to anyone interested in the unexplained, or with a taste for the off-beat, or simply wanting something fascinating and entertaining to read!
The Fortean Times never ceases to fascinate me. It's full of weird and wonderful things that you would never imagine. Some of the items are so bizaare that I'm not sure that they are genuine. They are supposed to be! This magazine first appeared in the 1970's and has produced a selection of 'weird' books over the years as well as these very 'odd' magazines. The book that caught my eye was 'Weird Sex'. (Well it would, wouldn't it? And no I don't know if its still in print!) If you are interested in the unexplained, supernatural, beyond belief type of stuff you will love this publication. Its packed full of new stuff in each edition. The only thing that could be inproved is the quality of the production and design. There are lots of small pics and fillers inserted all over the layout columns. Its really quite 'busy' to look at. That makes it harder to read of course. Fortean Times has done full features on The Roswell Incident, Bermuda Triangle and lots of lesser known mysteries. If it defies the laws of science then the editorial team will love it. You can order back copies if they have them left over so if you have a particular interest you can always ask if they've covered it. At the present time this is all very weird stuff but Fortean Times might one day be the norm!!!! If you like weird things this is for you.
I started reading this magazine years back as a fortean uninformed, and to this day I yearn for each new issue to appear in my postbox. This is the perfect magazine to get for your basic introduction to all that is fortean; By that I mean cults, aliens, modern myths, strange phenomena or anything that doesn't SEEM to be explained by science or nature. The magazine was founded in 1973 (the same year I was born, strange eh?), to follow in the footsteps of Mr Charles Fort, who, himself wrote a couple of great books ('The book of the damned', 'New Lands', 'Lo!' and 'Wild Talents' ) in the early 20th century. That was then and this is now, and now the Fortean Times is probably one of the best reads on the subject. The layout is a little crowded, small articles and photos randomly placed, but the aesthetics are of little importance once you get reading. I'm tragically sick when it comes to fortean stuff, so the first article I always read is 'strange deaths', I won't spoil it for you, just to say some people die in some very, very humourous ways. The magazine usually has three or four main stories, which are always in depth, well researched and unbiased (I actually used one in my degree thesis!).There are also a lot of small articles collected from world newspapers, and the magazine takes a lot of contributions from it's readers. The Fortean did a great spread on all that Roswell hype, and It was one of the only forums where Santilli's tape was actually analysed as everywhere else simply poo-pood it (understandably so). It also provides some great merchandise: Look out for the glow in the dark 'Alien Detector' t-shirts. Back issues are available for those of you that get addicted, as well as the superb 'Book of Wierd Sex'.
If you are looking for a magazine about strange phenomena but not necessarily the grotesque, 'Fortean Times' may be for you. This monthly publication is a fine mix of the irreverant and interesting that can embrace Alien Bloodsuckers, Crop Circles, New World Order Conspiracy Theory, Falling Frogs, UFO's, Weeping Statues, Winged Cats, Zombies and a myriad of other paranormal happenings from around the globe in one issue. It's openminded philosophy that sees science as theory, not fact, comes from the work of Charles Hoy Fort (1874-1932); writer, researcher, philosopher, and inventor of the term 'teleportation'. I have been an regular reader of 'Fortean Times' magazine for almost seven years now. If you enjoy the 'mad world' column of the Big Issue then you will love Fortean Times. It's not as laddish as Bizarre magazine, nor as exclusively intellectual as Nature. It's a kind of hot cocoa for the curious; with a dash of weirdness whisky to fortify the soul.
I've subscribed for some years now and still enjoy a good read of this magazine. Some articles are a bit strange. Some are a little boring, but basically the magazine manages a good balance of fun, silliness, education, information and discussion. It is split nicely with short, flickable articles at the front and longer ones at the back. Silly ones in the middle. There is also a section on book reviews and another for readers letters. I tend to ignore these and stick to the main articles. I like it!
I used to subscribe to Fortean Times. For some reason I let the subscription go and now I only buy it occasionally. Why on earth I don't resubscribe, I don't know. It's a fab magazine, full of interesting information, and when people visit my house and see it on the coffee table, they always pick it up and have a leaf through. Which is quite rude, really, as it might be nice if they had a conversation with me rather than treating my home like some sort of library. Anyway, imagine all those little stories that you read newspapers and magazines that don't really fit in. Fortean Times is full of them. Like fishes falling from the sky, cats that somehow walk the couple of hundred miles to their owners new home, people who are magnetic (literally!), people who have stigmata. There are also always articles about UFO's and Conspiracy Theories and stuff, but we're talking educated, balanced articles, and not sensationalist stuff. With the best letters section of any magazine, and great reviews of books, I can only say: why not buy it once and see if you like it. I reckon you'll get hooked. Available in most W H Smith's. Published around the 10th of each month.
I have been taking FT since it was a subscription only magazine and not available on the shelves of W H Smiths. It is a collection of news clippings and articles about all things Fortean, that is unusual, anomalous incidents. In true Fortean style they magazine tries not to judge the items reported nor guarantees their authenticity but to report and inform its readers. It is for readers themselves to assimilate the information and use it to inform their opinions, if the reader is also a true Fortean they will not come to any conclusions but accept the information for what it is. The subjects covered range from UFOs to ghosts to big cats in the UK to falls of fish to urban legends, and things between. You really need to read it to appreciate it, go on, buy yourself a copy.
The journal of strange phenomena is how tis magazine is described on the front cover. How very true. The subjects covered by the magazine are put forward in such a way as to make the reader think about things and make an informed decision. Fortean Times covers everything from strange showers to UFO's and strange creatures with everything else in between. If you are interested in strange happenings then this is the mag for you. I thoroughly recommend it.