Newest Review: ... 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... more
Eight, even five years ago this magazine would've earned itself a much better review.
Fortean Times, The
Member Name: worst_trip
Fortean Times, The
Advantages: Does quite regularly feature some interesting stuff....
Disadvantages: ...but more and more often these days consists largely of pointless articles on old dross.
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.
Summary: Fortean Times seems slowly in decline