You won’t be surprised I first heard about this book from a review in Fortean Times.
Review: The Fortean Influence on Science Fiction: Charles Fort and the Evolution of the Genre, Tanner F. Boyle, 2020.
The price for the Kindle edition — $27.99 – was ridiculous. (Evidently, McFarland and other academic publishers think there are no non-academics who want to read their books.)
I’ve known about Charles Fort and his relationship to science fiction for 40 years since encountering Brian Ash’s The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Robert Holdstock’s Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. I’ve read Charles Forts four famous books. I’ve read Damon Knight’s and Jim Steinmeyer’s biographies of Charles Fort. I sought out the blatantly Fortean science fiction novels: Eric Frank Russell’s Sinister Barrier and Dreadful Sanctuary and James Blish’s Jack of Eagles. I’ve long known about the Fortean influence on Arthur C. Clarke. I’ve subscribed to Fortean Times for decades.
Was Boyle going to tell me anything I didn’t know?
Charles Fort was the father of what Boyle calls “maybe fiction” – all those “occult” and paranormal studies and personal accounts, all the hidden (and usually ancient) histories, and UFO abduction stories we’ve heard of, authors like Graham Hancock, Richard Shaver, and Whitley Streiber whose accounts we either believe, judge as innocent mistakes, or regard as works of insanity. These are tales we are asked to believe whether couched as academic works or autobiography.
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I’ve longed liked Gary Lachman’s articles in the Fortean Times. I’m also an admirer of his work, under the name Gary Valentine, with the rock band Blondie, particularly his song “X Offender”.
So, it was only a matter of time before I decided to read one of his books.
Review: Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius, Gary Lachman, 2001.
Lachman’s basic thesis is that several elements of the mystic 1960s led not just to the Summer of Love but the murders of Charles Manson and that the strains of thought that produced both go back to the late 1890s.
It’s an interesting story, but most parts of it were familiar to me already, and I’m not going to talk much about them. I am also not sympathetic to mysticism, the Summer of Love, or the spirit of the 1960s.
What I am going to talk about is the surprising amount of material in the book about writers and works of fantastic fiction and how they were connected to the mystic Sixties.
Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier’s not only wrote the very popular The Morning of the Magicians, but Bergier also wrote a letter praising H. P. Lovecraft that appeared in the March 1936 issue of Weird Tales. The Morning of the Magicians, published in 1960, had Fortean material and centered on mysticism, transcendence, mutation and the evolution of consciousness. It was a heady mix that drew from the zeitgeist.
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The Hollow Earth series concludes with a retro review from August 21, 2011.
Review: Lost Continents & the Hollow Earth: I Remember Lemuria & the Shaver Mystery, Richard Shaver and David Hatcher Childress, 1988.
Ever since I heard about the Shaver Mysteries in The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, I’ve wanted to read them. Deranged robots, “deros”, hanging around in Earth’s caverns using degenerate tech from an old civilization to corrupt a modern world? Sign me up!
Well, the experience of actually reading two of Richard Shaver’s “true” accounts of life in the past proved less exciting.
The dullness of most of “I Remember Lemuria” — seemingly, according to Childress’ rather sketchy details in his accompanying essay “The Shaver Mystery“, a 1948 book reprint of the first Shaver story “I Remember Lemuria!” from the March 1945 issue of Amazing Stories — reminds me of the typical utopian novel. Our narrator, one Mutan Mion, who inscribed his stories on metal plates for Richard Shaver to find, is a not very talented artist sent to Tean City for better education. Mutan is an ordinary man living in Sub-Atlan which is in the hollow earth beneath Atlantis. There he not only meets the love of his life, the “variform” Arl of purple fur, a tail, and cloven hoofs, but encounters an atmosphere of paranoia and fear as one of the Titans – humans unpoisoned by the sun and who continually grow in body and brain, wisdom and intelligence, throughout their life – is killed and another hints at a plot to overthrow the government. (Shaver ignores most of the consequences of this biological peculiarity of continual growth, but he does note that this world’s buildings have no roofs.) Continue reading →